Guilford County wants to change teacher-funding rules for under-performing schools

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Michael Fuller and his son just got back from a school camping trip, so he has a new appreciation for the job teachers at Foust Elementary School every day.

"There's no way I could do that job," Fuller said. "I don't know how you do it. You're dealing with different personalities and who knows what."

Foust is one of nine schools Guilford County Schools is trying to turn around. The others include Bessemer, Cone, Falkener, Hampton and Wiley elementary schools and Ferndale, Hairston and Jackson middle schools.

The district has applied for what's called "restart" flexibility. Under state law, school districts can apply for under-performing schools to receive flexibility, similar to charter schools. Interim Chief Academic Officer Whitney Oakley says this will allow them to pay inexperienced teachers, who tend to work at under-performing schools, more money and will be an excellent recruitment tool.

"Every teacher needs a good coach," Oakley said. This application also opens the door to bring in "multi-classroom leaders" to oversee teaching methods across the school.

One of the issues at these schools is the teacher turnover rate. In Guilford County, the average rate is about 12 percent, but at those nine schools it ranges from 14 percent to 30 percent.

"Less than half of their students performing at grade level, it takes a certain skill set, it takes a willingness to stay and a willingness to improve," Oakley said.

If approved, Guilford County could boost teacher salaries between $6,000 and $20,000 for teachers who work at the nine schools. That extra money would come from the state, paying teachers closer to the state average.

"They need to, because putting up with these kids, after what I went through last night, they need to pay them even more than that!" Fuller said.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras has also included $200,000 of extra funding in her budget proposal, specifically geared towards teacher retention and recruiting in those under-performing schools. The school district is expecting to hear back from the state on the application in July.