Research by Robert Marzano and others in "What Works in Schools" underscores the direct link between high quality teaching and high levels of learning.
The Beaufort County School District is constantly seeking to recruit, hire, develop, mentor, support, retain and promote the best teachers, leaders and staff to serve our 19,800 students. We have points of light in every school and department.
Our goal is to ensure points of light occur in every classroom, every day, by serving children with the highest quality educators and serving schools with the highest quality systems and support staff.
Recruitment: Quality recruitment is key to quality teaching. We advertise online and in print both regionally and nationally for highly qualified candidates. We typically hire about 250 teachers per year; however,because74 positionswere eliminated in 2009 and we had fewer employees retire than usual, we hired about 150 teachers for this school year.
We attend recruitment fairs at colleges and universities throughout the Southeast, along the east coast and into the Midwest seeking candidates. We target historically black colleges and universities to ensure our candidate pool is most diverse. We also advertise in Texas and other targeted areas to recruit educators familiar with Hispanic culture and language.
An educator career fair is held here in Beaufort on a February weekend each year to develop an all-star applicant pool of effective teachers and school leaders. In 2009, over 250 educators attended the Recruitment Fair, an increase over the 175 who attended in 2008. One of the challenges we face is recruiting and retaining teachers in high-need areas, such as science, mathematics and special education. We are working with colleges that have strong programs in these areas to identify candidates as they complete their degrees and to also place student teachers from these programs in our schools.
We invite community members to serve as ambassadors for an excellent school system by sharing news of this year's recruitment fair scheduled Feb. 20 at Bluffton High School.
Development: Teachers can't teach what they don't know. Literally hundreds of professional learning opportunities are provided during the year, focused on building capacity in literacy, numeracy, technology integration and curriculum alignment.
For the past two summers, the Beaufort County School District has provided an intense week of learning for educators, called Summer Institute. During this week, we bring high quality trainers to work with teachers in areas that student achievement data indicate need to be strengthened.
In 2008, over 700 educators attended Summer Institute; in 2009, the attendees grew to 900. In 2010, because ofbudget
constraints, Summer Institute will be three days instead of five; however, we maintain a firm commitment to providing professional development here at home during the summer to give our educators an opportunity to reflect and learn.
Technology training centers are also now in place in two locations in the county; teleconferencing is available in seven sites. Using technology to save drive time, educators can share best practices and ideas more readily. Grant funded math and science coaches join literacy coaches in providing side-by-side professional development in elementary and middle schools.
Mentoring and Support: Nationally, about half of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. The school district's first-year teacher mentoring and induction program, recognized by the state as an outstanding support system for new teachers, has assisted in making surethe district's new teacher corps is supported and developed in those initial years of entering the profession.
Encouragement, training and on-site support are provided by a team of mentors in our new office of Certified Staff and Teacher Quality. On-site support is also provided for novice school leaders by outstanding retired principals. Strengthening the effectiveness of educators in the job setting is key to growing a culture of continuous improvement.
Promotion: Building our own leadership core is also an important initiative. Being successful with rural Southern children requires a sensitivity to cultural backgrounds and challenges facing children of poverty. Fifty percent of Beaufort's children qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
In 2007, more than 50 teachers graduated with master's degrees in gifted education through a school district partnership with Converse College, bringing gifted strategies to many, many classrooms.
In 2008, the district partnered with the University of South Carolina to begin a master's degree program for a cohort of teachers interested in becoming school leaders. In 2009, a partnership with the University of South Carolina Beaufort and Clemson resulted in the Call Me Mister program being brought to Beaufort County. This innovative program prepares African-American gentlemen as elementary teachers for the school system.
Last year, an intense, yearlong training program, called the Greenhouse Project, was developed to solidify the learning base of assistant principals in preparation for principals' positions. Staffed by a retired superintendent, this project is an example of how the school district taps talent locally to strengthen effectiveness.
The Lowcountry is known for beautiful marshes, beaches, estuaries, and wildlife. Our greatest natural resource, however, is our people.
Our people care about the sustainability of our beautiful land and waterways and about the sustainability of our youth and their education. Preserving culture while building knowledge and skills strengthens us as a community and ensures a viable future, economically and socially.
A strong community is characterized by a strong school system, staffed with the most effective thought-leaders and dream-stretchers.
Valerie Truesdale is superintendent of the Beaufort County School District.