Editorial: School focus in right place

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 24, 2009

Laurels to local school systems for dealing with state budget cuts without cutting classroom teacher positions. That will help schools get off to a good start. Rowan-Salisbury, for example, welcomes some 20,000 students today with a complement of more than 1,000 teachers ó 26 fewer than last year, a reduction mostly due to decreased enrollment. Kannapolis City Schools expect about 5,200 students and have also held the line on teaching positions. The legislature dragged out the budget process so long that school officials were bracing themselves for the worst. Happily, the result was not as bad as many feared. The pared-down budget keeps schools’ focus on the right goal, maintaining quality instruction. Teachers will feel the pinch in supplies, extra activities and support personnel; it won’t be an easy year, from that standpoint. But education goes on, thanks to their hard work.
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Dart to drivers who try to scoot by school buses as they make their rounds. A car struck and killed a 6-year-old Raleigh girl last week after she stepped off her school bus. The 83-year-old driver of the SUV that hit the child said the bus did not have its lights flashing; other witnesses at the scene said otherwise. It breaks your heart. A family has lost a little girl just beginning her education. The driver faces penalties and will feel the guilt of this incident the rest of her days, if what witnesses say is true. Let this be a reminder to all drivers: It is illegal in North Carolina to pass a school bus that is stopped and has its red, flashing lights and stop sign activated. If you’re in too big of a hurry or too preoccupied to notice those lights, you should not be driving.
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Laurels to first-year teachers and the fresh optimism they bring to their jobs. We’re glad you’re here and hope you still feel that way in June. North Carolina has long stressed the need for the state’s colleges and universities to produce more teachers as the large Baby Boomer contingent reaches retirement. The state estimates a need for 100,000 new teachers over the next decade, with the current teaching workforce at about 12,500. Starting pay for a certified teacher in North Carolina is about $30,000 ó not a fortune, but certainly higher than the pay for beginners in many other occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the supply of teachers is expected to increase in response to reports of improved job prospects, better pay, more teacher involvement in school policy and greater public interest in education. Now it’s the jobs of mentors, administrators, parents and the community to give these new educators the support and encouragement they deserve.