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School Board member asks colleagues if they've failed students

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A New Hanover County School Board member recently raised his concerns with his board in a unique way.

Yesterday Dr. Derrick Hickey asked the school board if they think they have failed the students of New Hanover County. Hickey says this was part of a spirited debate that started over a one-percent increase in teacher bonuses.

Hickey was one of two board members who disapproved of reinstating a $23 a month teacher bonus. He felt the money could have been used to save teacher positions at a time when money is tight.

"We're talking about $23 a month from a bonus that would have allowed the teachers to keep 20 of their colleagues employed in the classroom teaching students," Hickey said. "A win-win for everybody."

Hickey says he thinks the board should reassess what is important, like the children in the county school system.

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Hickey: I'm bored of board menbers

Bonus? A bonus is given for exceptional service or a job well done, usually at the end of a year or season or sales campaign.

I think you might be referring to what's correctly called the local supplement. The purpose of the local supplement is to entice individual teachers to stay. It is dedicated to teacher retention; it is not part of a general fund or other category.

It is an effort to cut losses where teachers decide to go to another district that pays better. Because pay is determined by the state, it's up to local districts to use a supplement to increase retention and keep teachers.

Because some schools/school districts are turning over at a 20+ % rate, the supplement is one stopgap.

The governor has already eliminated step increases. These aren’t what are usually called raises. The steps are what a teacher gets for each year of experience or for each year he or she stays; that’s retention. Teachers in NC are entering a third year w/o steps.

Then there was a furlough for which many teachers still have not been compensated, and comp time was dismissed as well. Teachers would get comp time for working sports gates or filling in for a teacher’s class here and there. It couldn’t be used to leave instructional time, but still, it had its reward.

What used to be 10+ teacher workdays was eventually and thankfully cut to about 5 a couple of years ago; five is plenty; ten, far too many. Now, it’s zero. Zero workdays. Even when teachers had workdays they were scheduled wrong. Other states schedule workdays on the last day of the marking period to give teachers an opportunity to calculate grades. Generally, it would be a 1/2 day instruction for students and teachers would use the second 1/2 to complete grades. Very convenient when it's done right and for its intended purpose. Yet, it no longer matters; there are no workdays.

The state found a way to get five more instructional days, and that's a good thing, without having to compensate teachers; that's a bad thing. You see, they still have to get grades done, and it still takes about a 1/2 school day times 6 marking periods equals three days plus no opening day to set up classes,nor a closing day to clean your class. That's five days right? Very wrong. Very wrong, indeed.

Cheers to New Hanover Schools for increasing the supplement to retain teachers. You can find each district's local supplement for different categories of employees at the DPI website.

But do call it what it is—the local supplement. It is not a bonus.

And now, let's talk about journalism: first, Ramon Herrara wrote "Hickey was one of two board members who disapproved of reinstating a $23 a month teacher bonus." Mr. Herrara, simple copyediting would reveal that most readers would want to know the name of the other board member. Not good journalism. Then Mr. Herrara mentioned "spirited debate" without going into any details: simple details like who, what, when, where, how, and why. It's written journalism; it's not the quick one sentence story that TV demands so the anchors can engage in cringe-inducing happy talk. When you put your news on the internet, Mr. Herrara, you have plenty of time and space. Why not use it to your advantage?

A step increase isn't a pay raise?

What a convenient interpretation!

Hmmmm....let's see....does the amount of your take-home pay rise? Why yes, it does....or did.

Do banks and credit unions consider it when making a loan to people in such structured tiers? Yes, they do.

If you go to Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune, Cherry Point, Seymour Johnson or Pope Air Force Base, will the service men and women tell you they receive a pay raise every two years? I'll let you answer that.

So basically you haven't received a raise in three years. Welcome to mean ol' reality. I work in corporate America and I haven't received a raise in four years, plus they did away with the annual bonus that constituted an additional ten to twenty percent of my salary.

The money is simply not there. It's not in the public bank account, it's not in the private sector's bank accounts, and it is most assuredly not in the individual taxpayer's bank account. We have been on a drunken spending spree for fifty years and the bills are finally due. We end the insanity now or we join Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy on the nightly financial news....only our splash will be much bigger and everyone will get wet.

We can't continue to bankroll the lazy, the ignorant, the scammers, and the general life mis-managers while funding education, highway maintenance and construction, parks, and a million other deserving projects. By the time those kids arrive on your school's doorstep, the money that should be in your paycheck has been blown on Medicaid, reduced or free housing, EBT cards, TANF and a dozen other ways we continue to subsidize (and encourage) failure. Imagine how much they could pay you if we didn't have to feed breakfast and lunch to children who should be getting fed by their parents. Half this country pays no income taxes at all, and half of them are gleefully sucking the system dry.

Now, do you wonder why you folks are losing the debate on educational funding? The rhetoric that is coming from teachers, school administrators, and the union is falling on deaf ears because your message is nothing more than, "Continue the madness. Give us what we want."

You won't say anything about where your money is being diverted.

You'll support reneging on a promised TEMPORARY tax increase, but you won't call for limits on Medicaid. You want those step increases reinstated, but you won't demand time restrictions on Section 8 or public housing. You won't tackle the thorny problem that many people who are on public assistance have more disposable income every month than a teacher who works forty hours a week. As a group, you exist in a vacuum and pretend that all those bottomless wells of red-ink aren't related.

I don't want you underpaid any more than I want to be underpaid. The simple fact, however, is that at both the federal and state level we are wasting billions every year, trying to shield people from the economic reality of the life they have chosen. It affects you directly, me indirectly, and gets solved quickly or there won't be any school to report to every day.

All I can say is...

Bravo...Bravo...Bravo!!!