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Letter: Financial help alone won't attract teachers

To the editor,

I have to say I was more than a little disappointed to read that the task force created to improve North Dakota's schools thinks that a revamped student loan forgiveness program will attract teachers to rural areas.

Why not give them a competitive salary? Why not give them the health care coverage that is provided to most all other teachers across the country? That would go a lot further in attracting teachers than student loan forgiveness.

Also, if a rural school district is lucky enough to get a new teacher from outside the area, what does the task force plan to do to retain that teacher? Until I moved to Grand Forks, my children attended a very small rural school where just about everybody (faculty, administration, students, parents and school board) was related to each other in some way. If they weren't related, then they had been employed by the school for 20 or 30 years or more. I am sure it is the same in every rural school.

What does this have to do with retaining teachers? If the teacher ever felt he or she was treated unfairly or had a grievance of some kind, where would he or she go? The principal, who reports to the superintendent, who reports to the school board? If most, if not all, of these parties are related in some way or have all worked and lived together for several generations, the new teacher (the outsider) would receive little support and the situation would create an uncomfortable work environment. Thus, the teacher would not stay at that rural school for very long.

The task force should allow teachers employed in rural areas an avenue that bypasses local administration and school boards if that teacher has a grievance. That, along with a competitive salary and basic benefits, would help attract teachers far more than student loan forgiveness. If the districts don't have the money to do that, then they need to raise property taxes or close schools. It's that simple.

Kelly Stagnaro

Grand Forks