With a focus on teacher recruitment and retention, Vance County Schools, based in Henderson, N.C., has joined the national Opportunity Culture initiative to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. In 2017–18, Vance will begin implementing Opportunity Culture models in three elementary schools: Aycock, Zeb Vance, and Dabney. These schools will act as “incubators of innovation” for the district to later spread Opportunity Culture into more schools.
Vance has about 500 teachers, and it serves more than 6,500 students, of whom about 62 percent are black, 13 percent Hispanic, and 20 percent white, with 74 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Vance has struggled with teacher turnover and higher pay supplements offered by nearby districts.
Two N.C. foundations awarded grants to a partnership between New Leaders, Public Impact, and the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) to implement Opportunity Culture in Vance and Edgecombe counties and provide training for teacher leaders and school principals. The funding supports temporary transition costs; all teacher pay supplements are funded sustainably through reallocations of regular school budgets.
Public Impact will support Vance County Schools in designing new teacher-leader roles and school models, New Leaders will provide training and support to develop teacher-leaders, and NELA will provide professional development to teacher-leaders interested in becoming a principal.
The Belk Foundation is providing $450,000 over three years for the work in northeastern N.C. counties, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awarded $100,000. Additionally, Vance County Schools was one of six districts to win a state competition for districts to create advanced roles, generating a $125,000 grant.