Poaching Teachers

The Winston-Salem Journal had an article today about the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School Board meeting last night.  According to the article the school board is concerned with the fact that we’re losing math teachers to neighboring Guilford County due to Guilford’s practice of offering bonuses to teachers who agree to teach in underperforming schools.  According to the article Forsyth is getting by with "lateral-entry or unlicensed interim teachers to teach several math classes" and they still have a couple of vacancies.

What’s interesting is that Guilford’s program was highlighted in a New York Times piece earlier this week which caused Greensboro-based journalist Ed Cone to post a piece questioning why he read about the program in the New York Times and not in the Greensboro News & Record. I left a comment on Ed’s post pointing out an N-R article about the incentives back in April of 06 and a subsequent article in the Journal this April highlighting Forsyth’s concerns with losing teachers to Guilford due to incentives.  So while Ed’s post had more to do with the N-R being trumped on a local story by a national paper, it offers an interesting look at the issue from Guilford County’s perspective as well as Forsyth’s.

Another commenter on Ed’s post was the education reporter for the N&R and that reporter was asked by yet another commenter if the N-R reporters collaborated with the Journal reporter who did the April 07 story on the incentives article.  Not surprisingly the answer was "no" but it got me to thinking that this could really be a great story if explored from both sides. 

Obviously Guilford’s incentive plan has been an issue for at least a year, but before Forsyth County officials start their own incentive program I’d at least like to know how many teachers Forsyth lost to Guilford before they make that move.  In other words will the Journal or the N-R offer up an article showing how many teachers Guilford poached from neighboring school districts, or how many young teachers just out of school opted for Guilford over Forsyth thanks to the incentives?  Another way to frame the question is "What’s the return on investment for incentives and are they a stop-gap fix or a long-term situation we’ll have to live with for years to come?"  From Guilford’s perspective what happens if Forsyth adds incentives; do they up the ante?  From Forsyth’s perspective are we sure we want to get in the arms race, and if so what’s it going to cost?  Forsyth just passed a bond to pay for school expansion and renovation so where’s the money going to come from for incentives if they do get into the arms race?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this would seem to be exactly the kind of story that newspapers traditionally have sunk their teeth into.  They can get into more depth than the local TV and radio outlets and the issue is one that local residents pay attention to, so it should be a pretty easy editorial decision.  Although the Journal and N-R are ostensibly competitors the reality is that the Journal covers the western Triad and NW North Carolina for the most part and the N-R concentrates on the eastern Triad.  Sure there’s some overlap (Kernersville for instance), but since both have had to trim staff maybe it would make sense, as Jim Caserta pointed out in his comment at Ed’s site, to share some common resources and then put their own market-centric spin on the final stories.  The Journal could handle all the Forsyth interviews and data gathering and the N-R could do the same in Guilford.   

What’s that saying? Oh, yeah: Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Then there’s that other saying: When pigs fly.

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