Teachers union calls for participation in survey

by Amy Kingsley

While March Madness reigns in Greensboro, the NC Association of Educators is planning a march to promote school awareness of another sort.

Organizers are planning a march for March 7 to raise awareness of a teacher’s working condition survey to be conducted on March 27. The rally will start at 4:30 p.m. at First Horizon Park and participants will march about a half-mile down Eugene Street to the Guilford County Schools central offices for the school board meeting at 5:30. Participants will don red to show solidarity.

The survey focuses on the support services and environmental conditions of Guilford County teachers. A previous survey in 2000 generated only a 28 percent response rate. The results of that poll indicated that Guilford County schools lagged behind the state average in the five areas of teacher empowerment, facilities and resources, time, professional development and leadership.

‘“Teacher working conditions are an indicator for student achievement,’” said Mark Jewell, the Guilford County Association of Educators local president. ‘“Also, teacher’s impressions of working conditions often reflect actual conditions.’”

Working conditions affect teacher recruitment as well as student learning, Jewell said. Improvements are needed to keep the school district competitive with those in neighboring counties.

The association is also advocating raises for both teachers and classified staff members like custodians, cafeteria workers, maintenance technicians and bus drivers. Many classified employees have not received raises for years and struggle to meet basic needs on their salaries, Jewell said.

In addition, the association has been working to raise teacher salaries to compete with other large school districts. Their goal is for Guilford County teacher salaries to be in the top three in the state. Right now, the district ranks around number five.

‘“The county already committed $1.5 million to supplement salaries,’” Jewell said. ‘“But we know they are going to need to commit about $4 million more. It’s important because Forsyth County keeps matching every raise we get here.’”

‘— by Amy Kingsley