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ONLY ON 3: Teachers say pay, opportunity have them following former NHHS principal to Georgia


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Former New Hanover High School principal Todd Finn is leading a new high school in Georgia, and his staff this fall will have many familiar faces.

Finn has hired six former colleagues currently teaching in New Hanover County and nearly a dozen more from North Carolina. So why are they following him to the Peach State?

Some critics say former Finn is poaching his old school, but teachers leaving North Carolina to join Finn in Georgia say that could not be farther from the truth.

"I'm not an egg, nor am I an elephant, so I can't be poached," New Hanover High School Science Department Chair Michelle Huffman said. "I am an adult, and I make adult decisions for my family."

Huffman says the decision she and her husband made to follow Finn to Hampton High School in Henry County, GA, was an easy one.

"I would be making a huge mistake, and my husband would be making a huge mistake to walk away from this opportunity," she said.

She's one of 18 educators, including Finn, leaving the state for Hampton. Another, Jonathan Perry, who currently commutes from his home in Fayetteville to teach special ed at New Hanover High because he admired Finn after working with him before, says he does not want to leave. He says he's being pushed out.

"My children were born in North Carolina. I really don't want to leave North Carolina," Perry said. "That is not what I wanted to do, but the opportunity was such that if I'm gonna do better for my family and as a man, I have to go."

Perry says he's an educator, and he can do simple math. Even a promotion in North Carolina would be a loss compared to teaching at Hampton.

"It's almost a $17,000 pay increase for me to go from North Carolina to Georgia," he said.

Money's not the only reason. Some teachers we spoke with said they believe in Finn's educational philosophy.

Finn says some members of the New Hanover County School Board did not like his style.

"Wilmington called me the polarizer, but down here, I'm the personalizer," he said.

And personally he'd like to see more of his former colleagues follow his lead.

"I'll tell you what: a year from now, I've got my eye on some science teachers, and I've got my eye on some math teachers that we really want to go up and see if we can bring them to Georgia as well," Finn said.

Finn is also hiring two former New Hanover colleagues who now teach in Onslow County.

Before coming to Wilmington, Finn was principal at West Bladen High School, but he says he did not have any luck getting teachers to leave that school.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


U gliness B egets U

U gliness

B egets

U gliness

N o

T eacher left

U nscathed

U nfortunately B ad

U nfortunately

B ad administrators

U rge

N eophytes

T o abandon

U rbanity

Why did this former

Why did this former principal send this "news" back to Wilmington? Ego? Good for his self esteem? Who cares? Why did he make a point to reach for NC teachers to go to GA? Ego? Good for his self esteem? Who cares? Move on Finn and quit taunting us. Grow up!


The faculty photo taken on the lawn in front of New Hanover High School in the fall of 2011 reveals the faces of 143 educators. Educators who eagerly awaited their first paycheck. Strike that. Educators who eagerly awaited meeting their new students and who eagerly waited to hear more about the "new" vision for New Hanover.

"Six" former colleagues from New Hanover are allegedly following Finn to Georgia. Of the six, three were Finn followers (read: Finn is having no luck getting any MORE teachers to leave West Bladen). In 2011, they were yet to be hired at New Hanover. Of the six, three are pictured in the 2011 photo. Of the three, two left to pursue other jobs (Onslow County) before the end of the 2011-2012 school year (technically leaving Onslow rather than Hanover). Of the three who were pictured that year, one is still employed by New Hanover County Schools. ONE.

Of the 143 educators in the photo, 54 others left New Hanover. What are they doing? Not following Finn.

Did 54 educators with an average of 15 years experience each leave because of Mr. Finn's ideas? No. It can be said that Finn has some great ideas (he could sell the idea of raising taxes to Republicans). Did they leave because they don't put children first? Come on, have you seen the paychecks? Did they leave because money was more important than all else? At least 18 made lateral moves in North Carolina (in the county or to a county nearby) to continue doing what they love - shaping the minds of our children. Did they leave because they feared the children? Teachers? Please. Did they leave because they couldn't work with a new administration? The current principal was here when some of them started.


Did they leave because of a single issue? A grudge? A chip on the shoulder of the man who would be king? Did they leave because they had the gall to stand up for what they believed in even if it meant disagreeing with the almighty Finn? Did they leave because disagreeing meant the end of personal contact with their principal (and the rest of the administration)? A simple disagreement? We can still work together, right?

Did they leave because they believed they could find an administration that would honor the relationship above the narcissistic belief that one mind has all the answers? Did they leave because they were the umteenth person guaranteed the same money to pursue their classroom dreams only to find the money was promised to someone else? (Spent.) Did they leave because they were sick and tired of being sick and tired? Did they leave because grades EARNED by students were "officially changed on transcripts" months after the class had ended... without so much as an acknowledgement? Did they leave because they could no longer help the children if they couldn't help themselves?

Did they leave because their movements were being scrutinized by the man who spent hours watching video recordings of the FACULTY? Did they leave because the "open door" of the administrative office in a PUBLIC school was locked? (Access Denied.) Did they leave because of the window tint which was placed on the same office? Or the sign on the door that said the office was closed - day after day? Did they leave because they were told not to put mail in each others' mail boxes? (All mail must be delivered by an administrative assistant.)

Did they leave because they were looking to shake hands and move on, but all they found was a clenched fist?

Did they leave because they now understood the "new" vision for New Hanover?

54 to 1. Ball's in your court, "George."

Thank You

Thank you. Well written and absolutely true.

Clown Sighting

Steve Lee: Since you were an English teacher allow me the pleasure of spelling something out for anybody who has the grotesque misfortune of reading your comments.

You. Never. Worked. For. Todd. Finn. Ever.

So the next time I need to undergo heart surgery from someone who's not a cardiologist, I'll be sure to give you a call. In the meantime, stick to things you know like running a fledgling coffee shop and being a cancerous malcontent.

Congratulations. You were a forgettable teacher then, and you are a monumental clown now.

"Steve Lee - Engaging in buffoonery with anything New Hanover High School related since 1996."

Steve Lee at no time in his

Steve Lee at no time in his career obtained a degree in School Administration. Steve Lee has never served in the capacity of a school administrator or in the office of a superintendent. Therefore,Steve Lee does not have the credentials or the training to access the job performance of a principal at any school let along a principal he has never worked for. I can think of know other adjective that fits him better than clown. Kudos to a well thought out response to an ignorant post.


U ask me to follow
U are the decider
No opinion but one. Please
Tell me what to think, and
Understand -- I am hopeless without U.


George? You write JUST LIKE MR. FINN!!!!!! Is that really you crazy Todd?


Grits, although I appreciate the compliment, I would like for my opinion to be valued as much as you would, therefore passing my points and counterpoints off as those of this departed principal serves only to devalue my two cents. Inded this stand is to comment on the flight of teachers to GA, not a guessing game as to who is whom. I am certain your name probably isn't Grits, If so, how unfortunate, and unhealthy. Carbs and butter are a recipe for disaster. If I were playing this game, I would guess that you are a teacher or former teacher who disliked Mr. Finn because he held you accountable, or as you would say, played favorites. In fact, your post sounds like that of a Mr. Finn hater, referring to him as "crazy Todd". Therefore I assume you are one of the the 30 or so still gnashing their teeth that he and a large group of teachers escaped the draconian practices and principles unique to Wilmington public education and left you behind to feed off of each other. As for this topic, Grits, do you have an opinion or something of value to contribute?


"Over the decade from 2001–02 to 2011–12, in
constant dollars, average salaries for public
school teachers changed -2.8 percent.

Wyoming (18.4%), District of Columbia (14.4%),
Massachusetts (14.1%), North Dakota (11.9%),
and Montana (10.6%) had the largest real
increases in salaries during that 10-year period.

Thirty-two states saw real declines in average
teacher salaries over those years, adjusting for
inflation. Those with average salaries declining 5
percent or more: North Carolina (-15.7%),
Indiana (-10.1%), Illinois (-8.7%), Virginia
(-8.7%), Michigan (-8.1%), Florida (-7.3%),
South Carolina (-6.9%), Georgia (-5.9%),
Washington (-5.9%), and Colorado (-5.5%)"


Good riddance to bad rubbish! They are all a bunch of cry babies anyway. I say pay raise for ALL state employees not just the teachers. ALL state employees have not had a raise in seven years and should be paid better and also receive back pay and raised to where they should be. Teachers are no more important than anyone else in our community! Do your job and if you don't like it I'm sure we can find someone else to do your job for you. ALL public servants is exactly what it means serve the public. Be good citizens, pay your taxes and be nice to one another.

ahhh I see

So anybody that tries to do better for themselves and their family is "bad rubbish" and a "cry baby"? While I don't disagree that there are deserving folks across the board as far as raises go this is a very childish thing to say about teachers, or ANYBODY looking to better themselves.

You ever take a job for more money there "Stupid Old Man" or have you accepted min. wage all your life? Yea... thought so....

"Guest COMMON Tater"

Apparently you have the brain of a COMMON Tater! Through my life I had to yes take min. wage and unemployment but yes I have accepted jobs with lower pay for the satisfaction of peace of mind. You on the other hand sound like a money grubbing yuppie that went to college, got a degree and did nothing with it. Even all of the so called engineers at GE make mistakes and pretty much are stupid when it comes to common sense. This is something that you have no concept in! Just like your moniker "Common Tater". Hah, hah, hah! You make me laugh out loud! Either love it or leave it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No one should be surprised

"Be careful with whom you attach your sails to" writes one poster. "Who cares about Todd Finn?" writes another. And lastly, this from another commenter: "You're going to need that $17,000 and then some if you want to survive the jungle in GA."

Those statements are interesting, but let's just look at some random facts in no particular order about North Carolina, Todd Finn, and even the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County.

The fact is NC ranks 46th in the nation in teacher salary. It also ranks 49th in educational spending. Teachers haven't had a raise in NC for what is going on seven years. NC pays its teachers $10,000 less than the national average. Average teacher pay has dropped 16% over a 10-year period when adjusted for inflation -- worst in the nation. The latest bit of news concerning education in NC? A sanitation worker in Charlotte, with no bachelor's degree, now makes more than a starting teacher in North Carolina. Not a teacher? Don't worry. North Carolina's got you covered as well with a state that ranks #41 in pollution, #43 in economy, and is ranked in the top 5 for states that do the least amount with taxpayer dollars.

And as for Wilmington and New Hanover County? Where to begin? Let's start with education and we'll work our way from there. Your school board, which succeeds in making every superintendent it hires irrelevant, has gone through by last count at least 15 principals in roughly the last 10 years. New hires, re-hires, interims, you name it and the county has done it. That's an average of nearly 4 principals per high school in 10 years.

That leads us back to the question, "Who cares about Todd Finn?" As the dozen or so principals before him would likely say -- "No one." At least not in New Hanover County, where this school board makes even the Oakland Raiders, L.A. Clippers, or Cleveland Browns (insert nightmare pro sports team here) look like a bastion of stability. Sure sounds like a great school board to work for, doesn't it?

So let's look at the numbers: Todd Finn leaves for the chance to open a new school built with a $40 million bond and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, gets a $30,000 pay raise, and takes 18 educators from NC, including 6 from New Hanover County. The answer to the poster's aforementioned question is quite simple: Georgia cares. And those in North Carolina, and in Wilmington, continue to allow these things to happen.

Speaking of Wilmington -- the place that seems to remind me of when you finally break up with someone and soon after wonder why you were ever with them in the first place. These are just some of the tidbits about the area: Road conditions are some of the worst in the state, gang violence escalating, highest auto accident rate in the state, nearly half the residents of Wilmington are renters, and not too long ago the city ranked 10th on a list of the drunkest cities in America. There's more, but if you live there you already know about the traffic, the lack of good jobs, and the cost of living that is crippling a good portion of the area's residents.

I say congratulations to Todd Finn and any other person for that matter that chooses to better their lives elsewhere. As New Hanover County and North Carolina have painfully shown its residents, be careful with whom you attach your sails, indeed. And as for decision makers in Wilmington? The beaches and 8 minutes of air time in Iron Man 3 only get you so far. Try paying people wages that accurately reflect the area's inflated cost of living, provide more than service industry jobs, get a handle on your gang violence, value education, and demand accountability from your school board.

It's a long to-do list, and quite frankly one I'm not sure Wilmington and/or North Carolina is prepared to tackle. Good luck.

Todd Finn is a Pied Piper

Pied Piper as metaphor:

1.a charismatic person who attracts followers that offers strong but delusive enticement
3.a leader who makes irresponsible promises

From-Merriam Webster definitions

Oh Steve Lee

If these folks are following a pied piper, does that not make them mindless children or rats? I'd say that is an insult to teachers, Mr. Lee. Are you implying that 18 educators with masters and doctoral degrees fell under the spell of a pied piper? What promises are you aware of they this piper made, Mr. Lee? Perhaps, the promise of a 40 million dollars building, the backing of the Gates foundation, a higher paying state, and the chance to work with a man they actually like is promise enough? Perhaps Mr. Lee can expand on the promises he claims were made, as I'd be curious as to whether or not he has specific information to back his claim.

6 months has passed....

Seriously Steve Lee. I am tired of you fixating on Todd FInn. You are a disgruntled retired teacher who never even worked for Mr. Finn. Last I checked you were still burning coffee and living vicariously through the other individuals of who are not interested in seeing NHCS progress. Let's look at the facts. The recent story regarding Mr. Finn was about what NC is not doing for its teachers and how that is forcing highly qualified educators to seek employment elsewhere. If NC does not watch itself this story will be the norm across the state. As for you and the "Finn haters"...well it has now been 6 months since his departure to a better opportunity. Why cant you and others let it go? Why cant you focus on what is important......our youth. They are the ones who will suffer unless the state decides to make a change. The only thing I can say.....I am grateful that educators like yourself are no longer in the system. Because people like you still don't get it and I am not sure if you ever will.

Sad State of Affairs....

Indeed it is a sad state of affairs when Steve Lee and his ilk - after having failed a generation of our children - can conspire to run off a dedicated educator with a passion for excellence and the energy and work ethic to move public education out of the ditch that Lee and his kind left it and frankly would rather keep long as the Steve Lee's of the world have exist, the future of public education in our country - certainly in our area - will be no better than ditch it sits is indeed a sad state of affairs.

What we have here is an epic failure of all levels of our system. A failure at the educator level in that the status quo is not only acceptable, but preferred. A failure at the Superintendent level by not provided the support and authority that progressive and innovative administrators with a passion for excellence require to succeed and in that the educators are empowered to believe that the status quo is not only acceptable but preferred. A failure at the Board level by not empowering and holding the the Superintendent to do the job for which he was hired as well as.....nevermind, it is useless. What young gifted administrator with is going to want to relocate his family to NHC after this debacle???? None....we stuck with what we have....thanks Mr. Lee

You sound very ignorant

You sound dumb. I had Mr. Lee and I must say his class was one of the most educational and influential classes I've ever had in all my years of being a student. Mr. Finn was my principal my senior at NHHS and it was the best year of all my high school years. He understands and identifies with his students. He's not a robot that just sits behind a desk and commands things to happen. He interacts with his students, he's not afraid to let his students explore their creativity. Students need interaction incoporated with authority. During his time at New Hanover supention rates dropped extremely, but that's not talked about right? Yes teaching has changed and so are times. All the people commenting on this post wouldn't know a positive educator from Adam or Eve because they're so stuck in the past. Wake the hell up and realize that you wasting your time being angry and just accept the fact that these teachers have made their decision and in my opinion it's the right one. You're getting paid to do what you love in a fashion that you would love to do it. Not just waking up for a paycheck. Are y'all really mad because teachers are leaving or are you mad because someone has come in and changed your perfect little school system. He didn't do what you all wanted and now you're mad because people are actually behind what he stands for. And to the childish and petty teachers who hung his picture in the bathroom and put it on Facebook, grow the hell up. You're worst than some of the students you call yourself teaching. You people kill me. Quick to judge but don't stop to look at your own shit , which you don't have together. Get a fucking grip and get over it.

You nailed it. A

You nailed it. A former/retired teacher who looks back to the good old days and believes that education worked then so it should work now. What Steve Lee doesn't get is that students today are not what they were five or even ten years ago. Students need to be taught by creative teachers who are supported by an administration who understand how students learn the most effectively. I can see Steve Lee know lecturing for half the class and then handing out worksheets to each student to work on in class. Mr. Finn understands that education has changed and is going to lead Hampton High School so that it is the beacon on the hill so to speak. If you polled every student Mr. Finn has taught when he was in the classroom or led a an administrator the results would be a landslide. Steve Lee I doubt many of your students remember who you are or what you even taught.

Don't assume what you don't know.

With all due respect, your argument is flawed. Your agreement is based on the assumption that Steve Lee is a is an ineffective and uninspiring teacher, which couldn't be further from the truth. As a former student of Steve Lee and a 2013 graduate of NHHS, I have experienced both the teaching of Steve Lee and the tenure of Mr. Finn. Steve Lee was one of the most memorable teachers for me at New Hanover. The lessons he taught us on effective communication and expressing ourselves were invaluable. Outside of the general curriculum, I still apply the proverbs he taught in that class daily. A perspective on life as fulfilling and unassuming as Steve Lee's is something I strive for every day.

As for Mr. Finn, he oozed charisma and reenergized the school. He increased school pride and school spirit. However, power corrupts. He used his power to push his agenda for the school, even though many disagreed with his view. He attempted to weaken the esteemed Lyceum program so his own "Apollo Academy" could gain traction. His policies also created a toxic environment for teachers that did not share his agenda. Not mentioned in this article is the scores of teachers and administers who retired early or fled to other schools to escape this environment. While Mr. Finn was a fantastic orator and had some great ideas for the school, his abrasive personality prevented the views he had to come into fruition.

After all things considered, I would say Steve Lee's metaphor is spot on. Who is Steve Lee, by the way? I think I was taught by him, but I've forgotten everything he taught me. Students have changed. Clearly he doesn't possess the ethos to comment on this matter.

Sorry to bust your bubble;

Sorry to bust your bubble; Mr. Lee taught me Advanced English in 1995 & I certainly remember him.

Steve Lee taught my Creative

Steve Lee taught my Creative Writing class in the spring of 2002.

good luck!

Congrats to all the teachers, that have decided to leave for a better opportunity. I am sure it was a difficult decision for some. It is disappointing as a resident of NC that our state does not value you the way other do. Great job govoner, keep it up!

nc vs ga

I moved to GA. 2 years ago and now I am moving back to NC. Racism in GA. is like being in the 1960's. The crime is horrible. The traffic is horrendous. Atlanta is spreading into the suburbs and brings all the crime with it. You're going to need that extra 17,000 and then some if you want survive the jungle in GA. Just don't burn any bridges when you leave you might need to cross them again.

Racism, horrible crime and

Racism, horrible crime and horrendous traffic... sounds a lot like Wilmington.

Nothing is keeping you here... allow mw to suggest the use of I-95N or I-40W. Both are generous and expeditious avenues of exit to destinations that may better suit your needs!

So, o'matic, you're telling

So, o'matic, you're telling me that there are no racism, crime or traffic problems in Wilmington? Or do you simply have some obnoxious compulsion to tell people critical of your precious podunk here to leave?

I agree with o'matic. You'r

I agree with o'matic. You'r welcome to join the exodus from this Podunk town to, if you like. Racism, crime, and traffic problems are not found in Wilmington, but all over the country. Maybe you don't even live in ilm?