Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Perspective | Keeping our talent in N.C. schools

As a principal, it is a rare opportunity to interview and hire a candidate who seeks out your school because its approach aligns with their own innovative classroom strategies. When their current principal refers to them as an “edurockstar” in a reference call, you’ve really hit the jackpot.  

This dream scenario came true for me not too long ago when a fourth-year teacher came to my rural school from a neighboring state. Excited by the opportunities for professional growth, we were both thrilled for their new start as a North Carolina teacher. They were disappointed, however, to learn that by crossing state lines, their base pay would decrease and they would not receive additional compensation for their master’s degree. 

For two years, this teacher has remained at my school and became a part of our community. They continued to hope for salary improvements as they were forced to supplement their pay by working a second job during the school year and teaching summer school. 

Last week, this teacher, now a newlywed, came to me in tears. Faced with the reality of supporting a growing family, they are now forced to consider the possibility of moving to a new school across state lines, where their six years of experience and advanced degree would result in an immediate pay increase of $6,000. With no lure of great benefits, retirement, or salary to keep this young educator in our border county, this change would be well-worth the 10-mile commute. This teacher is a star, eager to stay in North Carolina but losing hope and seeking a more fiscally responsible change for their future.

I have to imagine that this is not a unique scenario, as 42 counties in our state border Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, or South Carolina. 

I remain hopeful, though, as the state House’s budget proposal includes teacher pay raises. A 16% pay increase would match the raise this teacher would receive with their potential move and perhaps convince them to stay. I, along with other principals in similarly challenging situations, fully support a significant pay raise for our educators. We must find a way to retain young talent; our students, our state, and our profession deserve them. 

I urge policymakers to look at bipartisan solutions to recruit and retain talent in North Carolina. Let’s start with increasing base salaries for all teachers and reinstating pay for advanced degrees. Let’s keep our “edurockstars” in our state, rather than drive them away. 

Donna Bledsoe

Donna Bledsoe is the principal of Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Surry County and the 2023 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. Before becoming principal of Cedar Ridge in 2015, Bledsoe served as a classroom teacher, instructional specialist, and assistant principal.