MOREHEAD CITY — County public school teachers were busy sorting books and supplies Tuesday, which was the first official day for teachers and staff to report for the 2022-23 academic year.
With rising costs, many of the 575 county teachers reporting back to classrooms said they would not have the supplies they need without the generosity of parents, community members and others who donate through the Amazon Wish List program and other donor sites.
“With inflation, I think a lot more people are wanting to help teachers,” Beaufort Elementary School first grade teacher Kendra Johnson said as she unpacked two boxes filled with supplies she had received from people who donated through the Amazon Wish List program.
Beaufort Elementary School first-grade teacher Kayla Walton agreed.
“We go through glue sticks, pencils, tissues and other things like crazy,” she said. “This year I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of parents. I have a trunk full of stuff, and it’s amazing. Every day during the summer, it seemed I was getting a slip from the post office notifying me I had packages waiting.”
Morehead City Primary School second grade teacher Alicia O’Brien, too, said she depends on the program to provide supplemental books and supplies she uses throughout the year. She added that someone had started a Facebook group, Carteret County Support a Teacher, where educators can list their names and provide a link to their wish lists.
The wish list program involves teachers posting their needs on Amazon, and the public being able to purchase items from the list for the teachers. The lists are updated by teachers as the supply needs change throughout the year.
“Sometimes a parent might ask me what I need or how they can help, but at the time I can’t think of a clear answer,” O’Brien said. “But with the wish list, I can post things as I need them, and people can just go and look at the site.”
Morehead City Primary School second grade teacher Carla Starnes, who is in her second year of teaching, said she too quickly tapped into using the wish lists to meet classroom needs.
“I know the summer before I started teaching, I probably spent $3,000 out of my pocket to make sure I had everything I needed,” she said. “A teacher told me to post a wish list, and it’s a big help. Even with inflation and everything else, I was amazed how parents want to give. There’re also businesses that help. I think it’s an opportunity to be part of a classroom.”
While teachers were preparing classrooms, they talked about the excitement of seeing students return on Aug. 29.
“I’m so excited,” Starnes said. “Last year I had the best group of students. I think each year it’s like getting Christmas gifts. You get a new group and get to know their little personalities and their gifts.”
Beaufort Elementary School teachers said they were especially excited about getting a School Resource Officer in their school as part of a move by the county and municipalities to fund SROs for every public school in the county, including elementary schools. According to county and municipal leaders, all SROs have been hired, with the exception of one for Newport Elementary School and one for Tiller School, a charter school in Beaufort. Town leaders expect to have those positions filled by the time students return to classrooms.
As for a new SRO at Beaufort Elementary, Walton said, “I’m really excited to have a full-time SRO and having them interact with the kids on a daily basis. It will be positive for the school and community and make the kids feel safe,” she said. “The fact that every school will have an SRO has been a long time coming, and it’s amazing. It speaks a lot about our county commissioners, board of education and municipalities that they want to put our kids’ safety first.”
Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson said he’s not only excited about getting SROs in each school, but glad to see teachers returning back to classrooms.
“We are very excited about the return of our teachers and support staff for this school year,” he said. “Throughout our new employee orientations, administrative preparation meetings and welcoming employees back to school, I have sensed a renewed excitement for a brand-new school year to begin. Our staff members are dedicated to keeping our level of excellence intact as well as charting a new course for the year ahead.”
A countywide employee celebration will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 at Glad Tidings Church to welcome employees back.
Even as officials prepare to open schools, they are still in the heat of hiring new staff to fill positions. As of Aug. 16, there were 10 teacher vacancies, with the majority being exceptional children teachers.
Of bigger concern is the need for a large amount of teacher assistant/bus drivers across the county. As of Aug. 16, there were 24 teacher assistant vacancies. The school system employs teacher assistants to drive buses.
Dr. Jackson said the school system works throughout the year to recruit teachers, assistants and others to the district.
“Our human resources department works throughout the year to recruit quality educators and support personnel,” he said. “From attending job fairs to creating and distributing marketing materials, we enjoy getting the word out to interested applicants across the state, region and beyond that CCPS is a great place to work.”
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email [email protected]; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.