Education

Rock Hill school leaders get creative to recruit, retain teachers. Here’s how.

Thousands of teachers march to SC State House

South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.
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South Carolina teachers, students and advocates marched to the State House to call on lawmakers to increase their pay and approve reforms that improve the state’s public schools.

As public schools work to fill open positions, Rock Hill school district leaders have approved bonuses for their employees.

District leaders announced Thursday a $1,000 bonus for certified staff and a $500 bonus for all support staff. Bonuses will be paid in the fall.

The district also is offering a $500 signing bonus for new math, science and special education teachers, areas of recruitment that have seen large demand across the state, said Mychal Frost, district spokesperson.

“We are committed to hiring the best teachers and, most importantly, retaining them once we get them,” Frost said.

Multiple schools in the York County region are increasing teacher pay amid a shortage of people entering the profession and an increase in those leaving education.

Rock Hill currently has advertised 48 full-time teaching positions, including three special education positions included in the district’s proposed $170 million 2019-2020 school budget, Frost said. The bonuses are included in the preliminary budget.

Rock Hill previously announced an increase in first-year teacher pay to a minimum of $39,899. The new base salary is above the national average of $39,249 and the South Carolina average of $33,148, according to 2017-’18 average starting teacher salaries provided by the National Education Association.

“Thank you for working on solutions to help keep good teachers in our district. It is very apparent that you all care about the culture and climate of our district. Please know how much we appreciate it,” a high school special education teacher wrote in a district-provided statement.

The statement was provided by Frost from an internal survey related to the budget.

“Thank you for addressing many concerns and doing something about them. I actually feel a little valued right now, which is something I haven’t felt since 2009,” a middle school science teacher wrote on the same survey.

Superintendent Bill Cook said earlier this month that the Rock Hill’s budget is designed to address the district’s goals, which include safety, teacher retention and student success.

“We want to have the most qualified, the best teachers, the best administrators working with our students,” Cook said.

According to a January report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA), South Carolina school districts reported 621 vacant teaching positions at the start of 2018-2019, a 13% increase from the previous year.

About 7,300 teachers left their S.C. classrooms at the end of 2017-2018, an increase of 10%, according to CERRA. Of those teachers who did not return, 27% went to another district in the state. More than 5,300 are no longer teaching in South Carolina.

South Carolina also continues to see a decrease in the number of students completing in-state teacher education programs, leading some districts to hire more international teachers, CERRA reports.

Rock Hill leaders also approved a 5% increase to all salary supplements, Frost said. District leaders previously stated the increase would apply to athletic coaches, but has since clarified that all employees who receive a supplement will see the raise.

A public hearing on Rock Hill’s budget is set for 5:30 p.m. June 10 at the district office, 386 E Black St. The board is expected to approve the budget on June 24.

Other schools also pay more

York Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Rock Hill, has approved raising new teacher pay to $40,000.

Chester County School District leaders announced May 24 the new minimum pay for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is $38,851, starting in 2019-2020.

Better pay is one issue thousands of educators highlighted during a March 1 rally at the statehouse in Columbia, The Herald previously reported. Teachers also are pushing for education funding, fewer standardized tests, smaller class sizes and a voice in education policies.

South Carolina lawmakers gave final approval earlier this month to a $9.3 billion state budget that includes a 4% pay raise for teachers and sets the starting teacher salary at $35,000, reports The State newspaper. Gov. Henry McMaster still needs to sign the budget into law.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.

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