School board to take up stipend for elementary teachers next month

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 11, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education heard from new Superintendent Dr. Kelly Withers on Monday night that she and staff are working on determining a fair and equitable stipend for K-5 teachers who are having to complete LETRS certification.

LETRS, or Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, is a training course developed by Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman, both literacy experts and consultants. It is for teachers who work with beginning readers and it not only instructs teachers in what literacy skills need to be taught, why, and how to plan to teach them, it also looks at the research behind what they are learning.

The program has become the newest trend in early education, with 23 states currently contracting with the company Lexia, which houses the training program. The program is long, often taking two years to complete and more than 160 hours of study, and it is not inexpensive.

But because the pandemic and online learning caused North Carolina’s reading scores for elementary students to plummet, the state decided last year to require the training in an effort to bring up scores and improve reading.

However, as Withers noted, teachers are already stretched in their time. The state has already set aside money to pay for the actual program, but counties are offering different levels of stipends for different achievements, ranging from $100 for completing a section of the course, to $2,000 for completing the training in full. The stipends also take into consideration whether a teacher does the training during regular hours, which may require a classroom substitute, or after hours in their “own” time.

Withers said Rowan has not yet determined an amount, but the board should be aware it will cover 460 teachers.

“LETRS is a requirement for our K-5 teachers and is connected to their licensure. It is a tremendous amount of work our teachers are putting in,” Withers said.”We are in Cohort 3 so the advantage is we can look around and see what other areas have offered.”

She said Kelly Street, director of early learning/literacy for RSS  is working to assess surrounding area stipends. She noted they have the data on most of the surrounding districts and Jerry Hunt from federal programs and Faith Lambeth, chief financial officer for RSS, and she are working together to find available funds.

“We want to be competitive,” Withers said, “and we want to recognize the work these teachers are putting in. We should have a recommendation for you if not at the next meeting then certainly by your next business meeting in November.”

“I just want to thank these teachers,” said board member Brian Hightower, speaking to teachers. “I work in Iredell County and we are not in Cohort 3 so I see the work they are putting in. I hope we can give you a little bit of money for the extra effort you are putting in. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s an awesome job and I appreciate you.”

“It’s worth noting the board has made it clear that knowing this was going to be an abundance of work, nothing additional would be asked of these teachers, and I hope that is true,” added board Chairman Dean Hunter.