teacher housing comes to Hatteras in time for upcoming school year
Anyone who has driven down the Buxton Back Road recently has probably
noticed the rather large construction project that is underway by the
Cape Hatteras Secondary School soccer field.
It’s not another McMansion or some sort of shopping center. It’s a
housing complex that, when completed sometime in late July or early
August, will provide reasonably priced housing for Hatteras
According to Trip Hobbs, the Personnel Director for Dare County
Schools, the primary goal of the project—which has been in the works
for nearly three years— “is to recruit, train, and retain high-quality
teachers” for Hatteras Island’s two schools, Cape Hatteras Elementary
and Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies.
Annually, Hatteras schools have the highest turnover rate in the
county, a fact that Hobbs attributes to its remote location, as well as
the high cost and low availability of housing.
Put bluntly, Hatteras Island is a financial “perfect storm” for
teachers—particularly those who are just starting out or who are living
on a single income.
Teachers often have significant student loan debt, and then you factor
in low salaries. In 2009-2010, North Carolina ranked 36th in the
nation, with an average salary of $46,850 and starting pay at around
$30,000. Add into the equation the higher cost of living on the island,
and you get an economic environment that makes it difficult to attract
new teachers and retain experienced educators.
And that’s without even taking into consideration the relatively low
availability of year-round residences or the lack of year-round,
full-time jobs for non-teacher spouses or family members.
“That’s what drove this project,” Hobbs said.
In the fall of 2007, the school system heard about a state-wide
initiative that the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation (SECUF)
had started, which was aimed at funding the construction of affordable
housing for teachers.
“We immediately filled out the paperwork and put ourselves in position
[to receive funding],” Hobbs said.
Their quick actions paid off, and construction soon began on Run Hill
Ridge, a 24-unit complex in Kill Devil Hills. The $2.25 million
project, undertaken and completed in partnership with the Dare
Education Foundation, was funded entirely by interest-free loans from
SECUF, and the complex opened to Dare County teachers in August of
With the success of that program—33 per cent of newly-hired teachers
elected to live there in 2008, and 36 school employees currently reside
at Run Hill Ridge—the Board of Education turned their attention to
southward, seeking to offer the same opportunity to Dare County
educators living south of the Bonner Bridge.
Framing on the yet-to-be-named housing complex in Buxton began about
three weeks ago, and construction on the $1.4 million project is
currently moving slightly ahead of schedule, with completion slated for
around Aug. 1—just in time for the 2011-2012 school year.
The 12-unit complex will contain units identical to those constructed
in Kill Devil Hills. The 1,200 square-foot units will have
bedrooms, each with a full bath, as well as spacious closets, a full
kitchen, and an open living/dining area. In addition, they will be
fully furnished with appliances—including a full-size washer and dryer.
Rent will be set at $750 per month and collected directly through
payroll deductions. The units can house up to two adults and two
children, and for an additional, fully-refundable deposit of $350,
residents will be permitted to have pets.
These housing complexes are not only helping to attract and maintain
teachers, they will eventually help pump money back into the schools
The mortgage on the properties is held by the Dare Education
Foundation, a local organization dedicated to promoting excellence in
Dare County Schools through partnership with the community, so, once
the interest-free loans have been paid off, the rental income from Run
Hill Ridge and the Hatteras project will end up benefiting Dare County
students and teachers in some way.
Hobbs said he is currently accepting applications for residency in the
Hatteras complex. Though teachers will be given top priority,
full-time school employee is eligible to apply. There will be
standard, 12-month lease, and spouses, partners, family members, or
other adults are welcome to room with eligible school employees, but
they will have to fill out a separate application and will be subject
to a basic background check prior to approval.(School employees will
already have had a background check.)
“I can’t say enough good things about it,” said Jean Taylor, the
Secondary School principal, about the housing project.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity, especially for beginning teachers,” she
stated, adding that she believed that being able to offer affordable
housing to Hatteras Island teachers will absolutely help the schools
attract and retain highly-qualified teachers.
“I wish they’d had it when I moved down here,” she laughed. “That’s
definitely what I would have done!”
For information on the Dare Education Foundation, visit: www.dareeducationfoundation.org
For housing and application information, contact Trip Hobbs:
Hobbs, Personnel Director, Dare County Schools, 252-480-8888, ext.1919
or e-mail him at [email protected]