What is the North Carolina Education Corps? (Part 2)

N.C. Education Corps logo

RALEIGH — Earlier, North State Journal reviewed a program created to fill a staffing void created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is the North Carolina Education Corps (NCEC), which recruits and trains volunteers to work with districts and the families they serve with a variety of tasks.

The first article on NCEC looked at who is running the organization, for what purpose and how the program was being funded. This installment looks at the application process.

To apply, the minimum age to participate is 18 and those applying should have at least a high school diploma.

All school employees and volunteers must undergo a background check in order to interact with students in North Carolina schools. For NCEC members, background checks are to be completed by the hiring school district. Smith said that those checks “may vary” either by district policies or by position, using the example that “administrative positions may be less rigorous than those positions that include interaction with students.”

As of mid-December 2020, Smith said that there were over 1,100 applicants submitted through Indeed.com and 649 official applications through the NCEC website. Of the 649 applicants, 205 have master’s degrees or doctorates. He also said that an equal number of applicants didn’t finish or haven’t yet finished college.

“It’s a beautiful array of North Carolinians responding to the call to action, and we’re thrilled to receive such a quality response after launching the corps member recruitment campaign only a month ago,” NCEC’s program director, John-Paul Smith, told North State Journal. “Having said that, it’s important to note that, while we are helping with recruitment, ultimately the local school districts review the applications we share with them and they hire Corps members whom they want based on each local school district’s needs and hiring policies.”

Per email updates from NCEC, the application deadline is extended to Feb. 28 due to openings in several districts. The previous deadlines were Dec. 7 and Feb. 20. Districts seeking to fill spots for spring and summer include Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Halifax County Schools, Wake County Public Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) wants to hire 70 K-2 literacy tutors to work up to 25 hours a week in person starting Apr. 1 through July 31. CMS says they will be paid approximately $19 an hour. CMS also wants to hire 35 contact tracers that can work remotely.

Halifax County seeks four tutors to work in person, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is looking for 20 tutors to work in person.

Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) is North Carolina’s largest district with nearly 162,000 students, 19,385 employees and 10,320 teachers. According to NCEC, WCPSS still is looking to hire up to 30 K-2 literacy tutors to work in person starting in April.

In response to a records request filed on Jan. 1, 2021, WCPSS said that 81 candidates were sent to the district by NCEC. Only 65 of the candidates met WCPSS’ “initial screening requirements.”

“No one has been hired yet or has even gone through the hiring process for WCPSS. WCPSS approved candidates were e-mailed on December 18 and informed they would need to complete & submit a WCPSS Application for Employment (including all the components we require for any applicant) as soon as possible,” WCPSS communications director Tim Simmons wrote.

Simmons also indicated HR Staff is reviewing names of candidates to see who followed through in completing a WCPSS application. He said that candidates approved for WCPSS hire will then be assigned to a school to work with students.

In addition to applying to NCEC for members to support the district, WCPSS has also made a public appeal for individuals to apply to be substitute teachers. The district created a substitute recruiting campaign called “We Need You; They Need You,” to “encourage parents, retirees (including retired teachers) and those who support public schools to consider serving as substitute teachers.”

North State Journal reporter Shawn Krest was an NCEC applicant. Krest has 10 years of college-level teaching experience and lives in Wake County. He went through the application process in 2020 and was approved by NCEC; however, he was then rejected by WCPSS and was told there were “no opportunities near me.”

“It was a very simple application. Like a few simple background questions, a short answer (75 words) ‘why do you want to do this’ question, and you had to do a 6-minute video answering three other short answer questions,” Krest said about the process.

Krest, who has a child in the district, told friends on social media he thought he was initially rejected by WCPSS “because I’ve been critical of them in voicemails, emails & on Twitter.”

Even though he had been approved by NCEC, Krest said he had to repeat the process to apply for the new Wake positions.

For weeks after his initial rejection, Krest received emails from NCEC about the application process. Confused, Krest emailed the NCEC team and asked if these were new positions and if he needed to reapply.

“Thank you for reaching out. Your confusion is merited!” NCEC team member Alison Martin wrote in response to Krest’s inquiry. “NC Ed Corps and our partner districts learned a lot in the first round of reviews. We are excited that Wake County was able to secure roles and funding for more positions for the fourth quarter. While you were not selected for the first cohort, I encourage you to apply again for the specific position in Wake County here if you are still interested.”

As of the publishing of this second installment, Krest continues to receive NCEC emails and was finally accepted to be placed in a position in Wake County pending a background check.

About A.P. Dillon 1313 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_