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Tackling the digital divide and teacher retention in rural communities

North Carolina spends about $30,000 per inmate in the state, and yet the per-pupil funding in North Carolina public schools is only a fraction of that, according to Doris Terry Williams, senior fellow at the Rural School and Community Trust. 

“So when we say there isn’t money to do what needs to be done, all right, we are not telling ourselves the truth,” she said. 

Williams launched the discussion about rural communities at the “Advocacy Day for Making Rural School Districts a Priority in North Carolina.” The event was hosted by retired Congresswoman Eva Clayton at the Department of Public Instruction and brought together a host of politicians, policy experts, education leaders and others for conversation about the issues affecting rural school districts. 

In addition to comments from legislators and other policy leaders, the event included panel discussions on the digital divide and teacher retention in rural communities. 

Below is the first panel discussing the digital divide moderated by WUNC reporter Leoneda Inge. The panelists include: 

  • Representative John Szoka, District 45
  • Calvin Jones, Warren County School Board
  • Verna Lalbeharie, DPI Director of Digital Teaching and Learning
  • Johnathon Foster, Sandy Grove Middle School Teacher

Next, another panel tacked the issue of teacher retention in rural school districts. Inge continued to moderate, and rounding out the panel was: 

  • Julie Kowal, BEST NC 
  • Kelvin Edwards, Northampton County School Board
  • Gerry Hancock, Low Wealth Schools Consortium
  • Mark Jewell, NCAE

The event wrapped up with further comments from policy leaders and discussion amongst the day’s participants. After the conclusion of the day’s events, audience members left to meet with legislators or state officials. 


Editor’s Note: Gerry Hancock is the Chair of the EdNC Board of Directors and Publisher of EdNC. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.