Faculty and staff at Western Carolina University have been seeing higher paychecks since July following the N.C. General Assembly’s passage of a budget that includes an across-the-board raise of 3.5%. Coupled with the 2.5% raise included in the previous budget enacted Nov. 18, 2021, that’s a 6% increase in less than a year.
With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, school systems across North Carolina are struggling to fill a wide range of positions. Schools in the western part of the state are no different, and every school system in The Smoky Mountain News’ coverage area has several positions still open.
As the completion of Haywood County’s 2022-23 budget draws near, it’s becoming apparent that inflation, the tight labor market and ever-increasing health care costs are conspiring against the county to the point of potentially impacting staffing, especially in public safety.
Sylva Fire Department is requesting funding from Jackson County for the salary of additional paid personnel in the split paid, volunteer fire department. At a March 10 commissioners meeting, Sylva fire chief Mike Beck made his case.
A month ago, Haywood Emergency Medical Services Director Travis Donaldson pleaded with Haywood County commissioners to adjust schedules and raise staffing levels. Last Monday, commissioners gave Donaldson what he’d been asking for, in a unanimous vote.
A comprehensive assessment of Haywood Emergency Management Services completed in 2019 suggested that aggressive shift schedules put employees at greater risk for sleep disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.
In the midst of the third school year affected by COVID-19, school systems are keenly aware of the stress the pandemic causes for staff. Teachers and support staff alike have left their positions in record numbers as the occupation changes at breakneck pace, and Swain County Schools is doing what it can to identify obstacles to recruiting and retaining teachers.