Teachers in Cape Fear region prepare for rally in Raleigh

Published: May. 1, 2019 at 6:13 AM EDT
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SOUTHEASTERN NC (WECT) - Thousands of teachers, including hundreds from the Cape Fear region, will head to Raleigh on Wednesday for a teachers rally.

Brunswick and New Hanover County schools closed after hundreds of teachers in each district requested the day off.

According to the president of the New Hanover County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), between 300-400 teachers from New Hanover County are going to the rally. Brunswick County teachers said they believe more than 200 teachers from their district are going.

Pender, Bladen and Columbus County schools will be open Wednesday. The board of education in Pender County is allowing each school to send two staff members to the rally.

According to a spokesperson with Pender County Schools, the board of education’s discussion with district officials about whether or not to close centered around the 30 days students missed due to Hurricane Florence.

“District officials spent the following days working diligently to develop a plan that would support staff members who wanted to exercise their constitutional rights, while ensuring education would continue at all 18 district schools,” the school system said in a statement.

Teachers this year will march with goals in mind, some similar to last year’s rally. They’ll ask for more school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses, an expansion of Medicaid, for lawmakers to bring back retiree health benefits, restore advanced degree benefits, increase per pupil spending and for raises for non-certified staff members.

Those against the decision to close schools argued students already lost a lot of classroom time because of Hurricane Florence. Teachers said while they did think about that, they’ll do what it takes to advocate for their kids.

“I know what it’s like on all sides losing time — losing time as a student, losing time as a teacher — but this isn’t just for this year," New Hanover County teacher Lauren Gray said. “This is for many years from now making it better for everyone for 10, 15, 20 years down the road and even longer than that is the hope.”

Dallas Brown, the president of New Hanover’s chapter of the NCAE, said he believes last year’s rally was effective, but that more needs to be done.

“I know legislators say, ‘We’re going to give teachers this. We’re going to give teachers that,’ but we can’t really trust that," Brown said. "We’ve heard things before and in the past and what we’re trying to do now is (ensure) that they don’t forget about who we are and what we stand for.”

State Superintendent Mark Johnson told WECT while he respects teachers right to rally, he thinks closing schools is the wrong thing to do. He suggested teachers come to Raleigh during spring break. Teachers said they chose a school day for the rally to get as much attention as possible.

“While we receive criticism for rallying during a work week, it is important for lawmakers to understand the importance of educators in our state,” Brunswick County Teacher of the Year Claire Herrington said. “Teachers are the backbone of our schools. We simply ask our legislatures to listen to our concerns on behalf of our students, support staff and present and past educators," she said.

Teachers also said they don’t all have the same spring breaks across the state and it’s a statewide event.

“We wanted to make a statement. We want our children and our parents to know that we’re advocating for them and what better way to do that than right in the middle of the week," Brown said.

The march from NCAE headquarters to the General Assembly will start at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and last until noon. Organizers will then hold the rally from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in front of the General Assembly building. Teachers will then meet with legislators. Representatives Frank Iler (R) representing parts of Brunswick County and Representative Ted Davis (R) representing New Hanover County said they plan to meet with teachers Wednesday afternoon to talk about their concerns.

Teachers in New Hanover County will leave on two buses from the New Hanover County Government Center at six a.m. Teachers in Brunswick County will leave on buses from the Walmart at 5:15 a.m. and the Walmart in Leland at 5:45 a.m.

There will also be rallies on the corners of two intersections in Wilmington. Teachers organized those rallies for the corners of Market and Third Streets, and Oleander and College Road from eight a.m. to six p.m.

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