New Hanover County Board of Education votes to make masks optional, Kraybill becomes chair

The New Hanover County Board of Education held a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, voting on several important things and discussing a budget that included raises for teachers and staff. 

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education held a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, voting on several important things and discussing a budget that included raises for teachers and staff.

The board elected Stephanie Kraybill as the new board chair in a 4 to 3 vote. Judy Justice, Stephanie Walker, and Pete Wildeboer were the dissenting votes. Walker was also nominated by Justice as the new board chair but did not receive enough votes, Justice and Walker were the only supporting votes.

Stephanie Walker was elected vice-chair after being nominated by Hugh McManus in a 7 to 0 vote. There were no other nominees.

The board voted to combine the call to the audience for agenda items and call for non-agenda items, followed by the presentation from the health department on the COVID-19 update then the vote on the mask mandate.

The board voted 4 to 3 to make masks optional, except for federally funded programs and on buses as required by federal law.

Board members Nelson Beaulieu, Stephanie Kraybill, Hugh McManus and Pete Wildeboer voted in favor of making masks optional.

Stefanie Adams, Stephanie Walker and Judy Justice voted against the measure.

Before the meeting began, the North Carolina Association of Educators held a press conference outside the Board of Education Building. The budget presentation outlines a raise of $14 per hour starting pay for non-certified staff for the fiscal year 2022, then $15 in the fiscal year 2023. NCAE is asking for a minimum starting wage of $17 per hour, saying their current wages and even the proposed raises would not be a livable wage.

Patrice Tierney has been an educator for more than 20 years and took on a job as a teaching assistant at New Hanover High School after retiring as a teacher. With a master’s degree and two decades of experience, she says she makes about $13.50 per hour and relies on food pantries to make ends meet.

“You’re going to lose a lot of qualified, loving, caring people because they can’t afford to be here. They’re going to be leaving for jobs that will pay their bills and leaving a job that they love,” Tierney said. “The children love them, the teachers need them, everybody needs them and they’re going to be leaving because they can’t make a living, they can’t pay their bills.”

Ultimately, the board approved the salary schedule as presented. This gives teaching assistants and other support staff a raise, but not as much as they had hoped.

 

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