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Teachers rally for Wood

Teachers and other educators rallied for state Senate candidate Rick Wood on Sept. 13, promising to become "Woodworkers" for the Democratic nominee running for the seat held for 12 years by Tom Apodaca.


The two-hour event drew 114 people, including a roster of 13 speakers who spent two hours lambasting the Legislature for its record on teacher pay, tenure, private school vouchers, classroom assistants and textbook funding.
Mary Louise Corn, who retired as the principal of West Henderson High School and serves on the School Board with Wood, told the audience that throughout her teaching career she felt "privileged that I got to be what I know I was intended to be."
Teachers had not always gotten the pay they wanted from the Legislature, she acknowledged. "But never in those 31 years of education work nor in the 12 years since I retired have I felt such an assault on public education," Corn said. "Even in the 1980s, when teacher salaries were frozen — mine was frozen — even at that time there was not this slander of public education like there is now. We can't let those with the loudest voices or the most money convince the people that our schools are failures. They are not."
Several speakers warned the audience that the challenger can win only if teachers rally the voters, especially independents and Republicans.
"I think the leadership in our North Carolina Legislature is counting on our teachers, our teacher assistants, all our educators, the parents of our children not to be very political," Corn said. "But I'm standing here to say we need to join that battle. We need to stand up for public schools."
School volunteer Kim Boyette said: "Why is this lifelong Republican standing before you? Why am I willing to work so hard to get Rick Wood elected?"
The answer, she said, was her daughters — one at Hendersonville Elementary School, the other at Hendersonville Middle School — who flanked their mom on stage.
Wood, a retired history teacher and coach at West Henderson who has been on the School Board for six years, said the Legislature had failed the public schools.
"To much fanfare, the leaders of the General Assembly said they had granted the teachers a historic 7 percent raise," Wood said. "They should have studied their math and their history a little bit. The raise was not historic and the math was fuzzy."
Because longevity pay was rolled into the increase, he said, the actual pay raise averages about 5½ percent. "It was shameful because it came at the expense of our veteran teachers that have gone for nearly a decade without a significant pay raise," he said. "In fact, a teacher with 29 years of experience this year will see a raise of $14.30 a month."
Senate leaders have stood by the 7 percent figure.
"The average 7 percent raises passed by the General Assembly will be on top of teachers' total compensation including longevity pay," Senate Leader Phil Berger said.
Wood vowed to limit his term of service.
"I also promise that I will not be a career politician," he said. "Further, I pledge to you today that if I am elected and I'm fortunate enough to be re-elected that I will serve no more than six years in the North Carolina Senate."