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Teacher rally prompts cancellation of classes

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A woman holds up a sign that protests large class size as she marches with other teachers to the State Capitol on May 16, 2018, in Raleigh. The N.C. Association of Educators is planning another march and rally on May 1 in Raleigh.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, April 19, 2019

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will be closed May 1 because of a teacher protest march slated to take place that day in Raleigh.

“Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools leadership has been closely monitoring the volume of potential and current call-outs for the Day of Advocacy on May 1. In anticipation of a major disruption to the operational day due to absences among classroom teachers, instructional support, bus drivers and cafeteria staff, May 1 will be an optional workday for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools,” district officials said in a written statement.

The change will not require a make-up day for students or teachers, the statement said. Athletic programs will continue May 1 as scheduled. Parents are urged to contact their school administrators if they have any questions. 

However, Edgecombe County Public Schools will operate as usual that day, said Susan Hoke, communications and community relations coordinator for Edgecombe County Public Schools.

For Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, this means that students will miss class today and all next week for spring break. The following week, they will return to school for two days before missing another day for the teacher protest. End of grade exams begin less than two weeks later.

So far, Wake County Public Schools, Durham Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Lexington City Schools are among other school districts in the state that have already canceled classes for May 1 for the protest. 

This year’s teacher protest in Raleigh is being organized by the N.C. Association of Educators, an advocacy group based in Raleigh. 

Association President Mark Jewell said it's critical for educators and supporters to participate in the May 1 Day of Action, according to a post on the organizations Facebook page

“The stark funding needs of public schools are why state lawmakers need to take bold steps to prioritize public education in North Carolina,” the post stated. “Join us on May 1 for our day of action as we hit the streets of Raleigh in our sea of red. We will march for our students, our schools and communities as we advocate to make each of those better for the people of North Carolina.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has asked educators to choose another day for the event that would be less disruptive, expressing concerns that closing schools would undermine classroom instruction and hurt students who rely on schools for meals.

“The protest organizers should choose a non-school day,” Johnson said in a statement. “The legislature will be in session in Raleigh for at least another three months, a time period that spans dozens of days students are not scheduled to be in school, including spring break and summer break.”

Last year, more than 40 school districts representing 60 percent of North Carolina students canceled classes on May 16 as teachers staged a demonstration demanding higher per-student spending, greater pay for educators and a moratorium on school choice options.

At this year’s march, educators are demanding even more from legislators, according to the NCAE website, including: 

■ Providing enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses and other health professionals to meet national standards.

■ Creating $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, a 5 percent raise for all non-certified staff, teachers and administrators and a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees from the system.

■ Expansion of Medicaid services to benefit the health of students and families.

■ Reinstatement of state retiree health benefits eliminated in 2017 by the General Assembly.

■ Restoration of the advanced degree compensation raises ended by the General Assembly in 2013.

Information from the Carolina Journal News Service is included in this report.

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