August 5, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Ocracoke teaching center loses jobs and seminars

BY CATHERINE KOZAK



With two positions eliminated from the Ocracoke campus of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teachers, administrators are still unclear what the long-term impact will be of operating with 50 percent less funding.  

“At this time, I really don’t have any information,” said Regina O’Neal, Ocracoke campus coordinator.

O’Neal said that the remaining staff will travel together on August 15 to the western NCCAT campus at Cullowhee to attend a series of meetings about coping with shrunken staff and funds.  There are no plans to close either campus, she said.

 In the budget the General Assembly passed in June, NCCAT received about $3 million, half of what was appropriated last year.

Administrators soon announced cuts in 30 full-time and 11 hourly positions at the western campus, as well as a downgrade of three full-time staff to three-quarter time.

 The number of week-long professional development seminars scheduled this fall at both campuses --- arguably NCCAT’s most popular feature --- was slashed 75 percent.

On August 1, two food service technician positions were abolished at the Ocracoke campus. Along with an earlier resignation of another food service position, that leaves 10 staff in Ocracoke, O’Neal said.

When the Ocracoke facility overlooking Silver Lake opened in 2007, after a $6.9 million renovation of the abandoned Coast Guard station, O’Neal, an island native, was the first to be hired.

O’Neal said that 23 teachers at a time can be accommodated at the center, and most seminars have been booked to capacity, with a waiting list. 

Although teachers are fed and housed on campus, she said, many of them often come early or leave later so they can freely explore the island’s restaurants and shops. Others take advantage of unscheduled time to stroll around the village.

Six of the nine seminars scheduled this fall have been cancelled.

Even with teachers spending much of their time on the campus, NCCAT has clearly benefited the island’s economy, said Darlene Styron, a Hyde County commissioner representing Ocracoke.  Not only do locals work at the facility, there are others who provide such services as boat transportation, kayak tours, and fishing trips.

“Obviously, it’s produced jobs for Ocracoke,” she said.

But no shop owners are getting rich from teachers shopping in the village.

“They do some,” said Styron, who owns the Fig Tree deli and bakery and Sweet Tooth. “But it’s just like everybody else --- they’re not spending anything.”

Frank Brown, owner of Natural Selections, a retail shop, said that the center, which he called “fabulous,” is an asset to the community.

But Brown, the treasurer of the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, said that the biggest benefit to the island from NCCAT ---- besides jobs --- may be that the teachers go back to their homes elsewhere in the state and tell their friends about Ocracoke.

“And hopefully,” he said, “they’ll bring their families back and vacation here.”

Click here to read a previous story on NCCAT.

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