An ongoing teacher shortage continues to be a serious issue for school districts across the nation, trustees of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 were told at the board's September meeting.
In his legislative report, Trustee Vernon Stephens, the board’s vice chair, said the board has been a "staunch advocate” for public education, recently earning an award from the South Carolina School Boards Association.
He said the board should continue its advocacy in the area of teacher shortages and that “it’s time to have a discussion on doing things differently.” The shortage is an issue that has been going on “year after year after year,” he said.
Trustee Susan Gleaton said the problem is always a topic of discussion at regular school board conferences. She noted that District 5 currently has about 11 vacancies and that Robert Grant, chief Human Resource Services officer and his staff have done a “wonderful job” of filling positions.
However, the issue is eventually going to reach a critical point for school districts, Gleaton said, and District 5 should appeal to state legislators for more visas to allow more foreign teachers to work in the U.S.
“Now is the time to look at it," Gleaton said, and “not wait until the moment is here.”
Stephens said if the issue is not dealt with now, “we’ll get a workforce that is not prepared and ready.”
“It’s time that we change how we do business as it relates to education,” he said.
Stephens also commented on the ongoing process of the consolidation of Orangeburg County’s three school districts. He said all eyes are on the county “from the Statehouse to the courthouse” as the process goes on.
“The light is shining on us, and we’re going to do it right,” he said.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:
- Trustee Samuel Farlow asked about the issue of overcrowded classrooms and inquired if the district had received information on the matter from the district’s school principals.
Superintendent Dr. Jesse Washington said head counts were made at the 10th day of the school year, and “we have made a few adjustments.”
Grant said two full-time employees were added as part of the adjustments.
Farlow asked specifically about kindergarten classes at Marshall Elementary School.
Washington said the district could look at the situation again and make any necessary adjustments.
Farlow also asked about the district advertising for a social worker position. He asked if other districts had similar positions.
Dr. Cynthia Cash-Greene, head of instructional services, said the new position will be funded through special revenue dollars and is needed to help students deal with lifestyle and personal issues.
“It’s warranted here,” she said.
- Donnie Boland, head of finance and operations, reported on the budget through the month of July. Revenues were about $253,000 and expenditures came to about $2 million, which is typical for this point near the beginning of the school year, he said.
- After discussion, trustees approved two action items. First, the board approved a revised policy and its accompanying administrative rule for content recovery and credit recovery. The revision was to bring the policy in line with state requirements, said Dr. Jerome Davis, executive director of secondary schools.
Content recovery is an intervention while a student is taking a course. It allows a student to retake a quiz or test before the student fails the course. However, it is on a pass/fail basis and doesn’t allow the student to improve their grade point average.
Credit recovery is allowed when a student fails a course within the 50 to 59 point range. The student can retake the course and the end-of-course testing and possibly improve his or her GPA.
The second action item was local board-approved courses. The district will be offering what are referred to as innovative, elective courses in middle and high school. At Clark Middle, students can choose to take courses in environmental science, forensics, introduction to television production, introduction to video production and meteorology. At Orangeburg-Wilkinson High, students can study ear training and sight singing, musical conducting, music history and Music Theory I and II.
The middle school classes are non-credit exploratory classes, but the high school classes earn Carnegie credits toward graduation, Davis said.
The district will be developing similar and possibly different course offerings at other schools within the district, he said.
- Cash-Greene attempted to give a data overview, relating to district students’ scores on the S.C. Ready and S.C. PASS tests, which she said were not embargoed for public release. However, Stephens stopped her and asked if the district could schedule a work session after all of the testing data is free of embargo so district officials and trustees could discuss the results in depth.
After discussion, the board agreed to hold a work session to discuss the data at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Clyburn Center.
- The board approved revisions to several policies, adding updated non-discrimination language to each. All policies were updated with a phrase relating to non-discrimination and equal opportunity as it relates to pregnancy, childbirth and related health issues.
- The board entered closed, executive session to discuss personnel recommendations and personnel matters. Returning to open session, they voted to approve the matters as recommended by Grant.