McCrory visit lauds Sun Valley Elementary achievement

Jun. 03, 2014 @ 04:49 PM

Students at Sun Valley Elementary School are voracious readers, as was demonstrated over the summer when they read for about 6 million combined minutes. They were the second-highest school of the 53 countries that participated in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge in 2013 and first in the state. 

Gov. Pat McCrory and the First Lady Ann McCrory donated 100 books to the school and visited Monday to present them and congratulate the students. 

He told them that across the state more than 60 percent of students entering the fourth grade cannot read at a fourth-grade level, while at Sun Valley Elementary School, more than 70 percent of students entering the fourth grade can read at that grade level.

"I read every day," one student excitedly told the Governor. Students cheered and promised they would read and work to finish in first place after this summer.

McCrory turned to policy and told the teachers and gathered administrators that he intended to fight for teachers and teaching assistants in Raleigh. 

"We're working for you right now," he said. He said they were working to find the best long-term plan for teachers to be able to have a career in teaching, instead of it being a stop-over. He said they were working with teachers to develop a career plan where teachers get pay raises throughout their career, looking at performance, leadership and looking at what degree they hold and in what subject area. 

"I don't support a plan that impacts teacher assistants," McCrory said. 

The recently-passed Senate budget would impact teaching assistants and offer a pay raise, in exchange for a teacher's career status. McCrory said Union County could lose roughly 100 teaching assistants. 

"We want to keep as many (teaching assistants) as possible," he said. Especially in the early years where students benefit more from one-on-one attention, he added. 

He also said they intended to fight for funding for textbook funding and a long-term plan for continuous pay increases for teachers. 

McCrory recalled his days student teaching in Rowan County. 

"I was so nervous teaching," he said. "I was sweating bullets." 

He laughed as he remembered running out of material to teach after about five minutes and wondering how to fill the rest of the class. 

"I'm envious of the skills you have," he told the teachers and teaching assistants. He added that he knows how hard it is, because he has tried it. 

Superintendent Mary Ellis thanked McCrory for helping teachers. 

"An education is something no one can take away...ever," she told the students. 

She cheered with the students about the second-place finish and encouraged them to work to come in first next year, leading a "We're number one" chant throughout the room. 

After the program, McCrory said in an interview that over the next few weeks he will be advocating for a long-term career plan, working with teachers to find something more long-term and sustainable. 

"Everything's a big priority," he told reporters. He said the economy and education were especially priorities. 

"I'm going to be fighting for textbooks, (teaching assistants) and long-term pay raises," he said. 

He added that he had made his thoughts about the Senate budget known. 

The Senate voted on their $21.2 billion budget shortly after midnight Saturday morning. The budget included pay raises for teachers, if teachers who currently have career status, commonly called tenure, relinquish their status. A recent lawsuit over career status resulted in a permanent injunction against a law that removed tenure for all teachers. The budget also removed state funding for teaching assistants in second and third grade classrooms, though kept funding for teaching assistants in kindergarten and first grade classrooms. 

The 2015 budget will be negotiated with the House and ultimately sent to the Governor's desk for approval.