Goodbye: Several NHS teachers are searching for opportunities elsewhere, leaving students unsettled

Several NHS teachers are searching for opportunities elsewhere, leaving students unsettled


Photo by Provided by Amanda Giordano

A group of NHS forum members gather in front of the school to show their support for #RedforED. “Our team has been working very hard with the district to come to an agreement that corrects the teacher pay issues here in Noblesville,” teacher Amanda Giordano said.

The discrepancy between the paychecks of Noblesville employees’ and those of their colleagues in neighboring districts has played a major role in the loss of several popular teachers. These educators were some of the most beloved teachers in the building, instructors who genuinely cared about their students and were easy to connect with. In the midst of this change, many NHS students are curious as to why their favorite teachers —and in some cases, their friends—are leaving.

On the first day of school, senior Aubrey Rudy felt a twinge of sadness when she walked past the classroom that used to house her favorite teacher. “I just feel bummed that someone I was used to seeing every day isn’t there anymore.. I went to [Spanish teacher John] Ayars’s room for two years,” Rudy said. “It’s a shame new students won’t know what [he] brought to the student body as a role model and teacher. So many people have become better learners because of him but also better people.”  

And she was not the only one who noticed the absence of several familiar faces this year.

After Noblesville Schools’ recently passed referendum, some funding was designated towards safety and mental health of staff and students. The majority of the newly appropriated funds was earmarked towards raising teachers salaries. But it was too late for teachers like Ayars.

Ayars left NHS over the summer for a significant raise at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. Although Ayars had been in the Noblesville Schools system for seven years, he also noted he has a family of five to care and supply for.

“My wife works full time as well which covers the nearly $33,000 gap between my annual paycheck and what I need to provide for my family,” Ayars said.

Stephanie Fotiades-Troyer, a former NHS English teacher, also left for HSE following the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

“I did my student teaching at Noblesville when I was 21 years old. I taught for five years before staying at home with my children.  I went back in 2007 as an English teacher and later English department chair,” Fotiades-Troyer said. “In total, I had over 16 years of official teaching at NHS. [However,] I received a significant raise in salary [to move to HSE].”     

One of the big reasons students begin to change their mind about school are the special relationships some are able to make with their teachers. Many of the teachers who left Noblesville in recent years had those connections. And many students say Ayars and Mrs. Fotiades-Troyer were some of these teachers.

“[Ayars] really cared about his students. I definitely would not consider him just my teacher. He was a really great role model and a really great support system,” Rudy said.

Junior Ian Montarsi is a former student of Fotiades-Troyer. Montarsi had Fotiades-Troyer for English 10 his sophomore year.

“I loved [Fotiades-Troyer’s] class, it was probably the best experience I’ve had in English. She was energetic, which I liked because I had it 2nd block, so its first thing [in the morning] you’re tired and she wakes you up,” Montarsi said. “She’s funny, makes jokes, jokes around with everybody.”

Rudy and Montarsi not only think of Ayars and Fotiades-Troyer as their teachers, but as people who genuinely wanted them to succeed in not only education, but in life as well.

“Even though we had grades and stuff to do and tests to take, he was still, at the end of the day, [asking] ‘How are we feeling?’ ‘Are we okay?’… what can he do to make our lives better?” Rudy said. “That kind of involvement isn’t seen all the time, but it’s certainly appreciated and it made the environment something that I enjoyed so much.”

“[Fotiades-Troyer] was really nice to me, I really enjoyed talking to her just in general. If I saw her in the hallway, I would stop and talk to her,” Montarsi said. “She’s just super-nice and fun to be around.”

Ayars’ and Fotiades-Troyer’s concernfor their students and passion for teaching allowed them to truly connect with their classes. But despite having those connections at Noblesville, Ayars says has a family he needs to provide for, and leaving was his best option.

“I simply was unable to stay in a district like Noblesville if I were able to make five figures more working equidistant from my home,” Ayars said.

Teachers, like any employee, give a variety of reasons for a job change. In Fotiades-Troyer’s case, her answer was simple: “Money,” she said.

Noblesville Schools Associate Superintendent David Mundy says the corporation acknowledges the issue and is trying to find a solution.

“In recent years, we’ve been very concerned that our average teacher salaries have fallen to among the lowest in the area. This situation needed to be addressed immediately or we could lose strong teachers to surrounding school districts who could pay them more,” Mundy said.

“Fortunately, the Noblesville community voted to pass our recent referendum designed to address teacher compensation, as well as safety enhancements. The additional funding this referendum will bring in will allow us to pay our teachers competitively again,” Mundy said.

The issue of low salaries wasn’t unique to just Ayars and Fotiades-Troyer. The Noblesville Teachers’ Forum recognizes the problem as well.

“[The Forum] represents teachers’ interests locally, state-wide, and nationally. Locally, we serve as the teacher’s voice with administration and the school board,” Amanda Giordano, the Forum’s president, said.

In addition to being the President of the Forum, Giordano teaches pre-calculus at NHS. Last year, she and several other members played an active role in passing the referendum to increase teacher salaries.

“Many [teachers] volunteered time by making phone calls, knocking on doors, wearing ‘Miller YES’ shirts, promoting the referendum on social media, and working the polls,” Giordano said. “Our team has been working very hard with the district to come to an agreement that corrects the teacher pay issues here in Noblesville.”

Although the referendum was approved by Noblesville voters, the forum and its members continue to be active in advocating for teachers. One of those members is Forum Vice President and NHS English teacher Allison Haley.

“Often, our career is undervalued, and it is important that teachers unify to fight for teacher rights so our students have the best education,” Haley said.

Haley notes that on Wednesdays, when teachers wear their red #RedforED t-shirts, several students ask what they’re for.

“For teachers, the #RedforED movement is fighting for a voice in shaping education policy, salaries that allow us to stay in education without multiple jobs and opportunities to lead and learn. For students, the #RedforED movement is fighting for classrooms that are conducive to learning, access to counselors and social workers and class sizes that allow educators to know all their students’ names,” Hayley said.

Indiana State Representative Ed DeLaney has played a role in advocating not only for increased teacher salaries, but also for equal education among all schools. As a member of the Indiana House’s Education Committee, DeLaney knows the importance of education funding.

“The number one issue, in my view, is the lack of commitment of the super majority to [fund] traditional public schools. What I believe is, they’re so focused on virtual schools, charter schools and vouchers for private schools,” DeLaney said. “They have neglected the traditional public schools where 92% of our students go.”

DeLaney also believes that the state should put more funding in public education than they have in the past.

“We [have to] find other ways to fund. One is to pull more dollars from the state. It costs money, but it can be done. The other thing is [to] take some responsibilities away from the schools,” DeLaney said. “I’m suggesting that we look at paying for the whole counseling system. I think the state [should] pay for that. I don’t think the school district should.”

Along with teacher wages, $1.57 million of Noblesville Schools’ referendum is designated to improve student mental health, an issue DeLaney feels must be addressed.

“Mental health is real important. Your counselors are overwhelmed in most schools. They should have 250-300 kids, [instead] they have 400-600 kids to counsel in high school. We could take that load off of them,” DeLaney said. “We can do some things and most of them are pretty obvious. But only if we’re committed. And we’re not committed.”

DeLaney hopes to make a real difference for all schools in all areas, regardless of their economic status or identification.

“I think you should ask yourselves, ‘What can we do to create equity, and not create fantasy?’” DeLaney said.

Students at NHS this year know all about how reality is impacting the people they see in their classrooms and in the halls.

“If we’re not able to keep great teachers then I don’t think we’ll be able to keep great students,” Rudy said.

Additional reporting by Jenna Schweikert