RALEIGH – As North Carolina schools are dismissed for summer break, educators are already hard at work preparing for the next school year.  From July 1-5, they will join more than 10,000 of their colleagues from around the country in Atlanta, GA for the 151st annual National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA).

North Carolina Association of Educators President, Rodney Ellis, explains what exactly the Representative Assembly is and what pressing issues educators will discuss.

“The Representative Assembly is the largest gathering of educators in the country, and we gather together to talk about issues that impact public education. This year our focus is primarily on putting students first, at the top of the agenda for education reform throughout this country, and we’re excited and looking forward to it,” Ellis says.

As for what he hopes to accomplish for North Carolina at the Assembly in Atlanta, Ellis says he hopes to develop policies that will influence the decision-making process in North Carolina and set the tone for nation-wide reform on various education issues.

A hot topic of those issues is school safety and gun violence prevention. Ellis weighs in on his stance on school safety and the proper measures to be taken, which he does not believe includes allowing educators to carry firearms.

“We think that we have to do more in terms of making sure that students receive all the mental health support that they need.  We have to make sure that we have other safety processes in place, and we certainly don’t need to add more guns on our campuses across the state,” Ellis says.

In public education, as in most topics of debate, it seems the bad news often takes precedence. Ellis, however, says he does have good news about North Carolina public education, especially the graduation rates.

“I think you have to begin with our graduation rate. I think it’s as high as it’s ever been, upwards of 80 percent.  I think that’s very positive.  I think that it speaks volumes for educators to be able to do so much more with less these past few years.  I think that a lot less focus on some of the bad things that are happening would benefit us as educators and benefit our school systems,” Ellis says.

As schools across the state are forced to deal with budget cutbacks, Ellis weighs in on what he would tell North Carolina’s elected officials about the one thing that educators need.

“I think the one thing that North Carolina needs right now is to make sure that we are fairly compensating educators in this state. It speaks volumes that North Carolina’s educators are currently ranked 46th in the country in terms of educators’ salary. Legislators need to make that a priority.  They need to make sure that we are able to attract and retain the best and brightest educators out there, and the only way we’re going to do that is to be able to offer them a comparable salary,” Ellis says.

For regular updates within the North Carolina Association of Educators, visit www.ncae.org.