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Trustees focus on teachers at board meeting
School Board - Derrick Proctor (W).jpg
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, Trustee Derrick Proctor (right) asks if teachers will still be able to present information to students in their own way if the Kershaw County School District implements a program called “Modern Teacher” to help further integrate technology into classrooms as Trustee Kim Horton DuRant listens. (Gee Whetsel/C-I)

The Kershaw County Board of Trustees saluted Kershaw County School District (KCSD) teachers during its board meeting Tuesday. Board Chairman Dr. James Smith shared his thoughts on “a world without teachers” during his report, noting that this week is Teacher Appreciation Week.

“There’s a little mind that is open and eager to be molded and shaped into a vital part of society,” he said. “There was a little heart beating with dreams and goals not yet even imagined. They came into the presence of a teacher, a teacher who cared, sacrificed and even faced disappointment with them and for them. Where would we be right now without teachers? Every teacher that you did not like or thought did not like you -- they all brought something out of you.”

Smith said he is grateful for his own teachers, who “pushed me, pulled me and challenged me to be the very best I could be. So not only today and this week, but every day and every week, teachers should be honored for their investment of heart, soul, mind and resources.”

During public comment, Anthony Bell, who ran for sheriff in November 2018 and has worked as a substitute teacher for the past few years in the district, told trustees Kershaw County has some of the best teachers in the county.

“These teachers work hard and diligently every day with their students,” Bell said.

He said the county’s middle and high schools have an in-school suspension (ISS) program so that students who cause problems in their regular classroom can be removed but not sent home.

“They stay at school in a separate classroom where they can continue to do their work throughout the day,” Bell said. “If you find a way to put this ISS program in the elementary schools, so these kids will not be sent home… That’s not the best way to serve these young kids. If you had someone who was at that school who could control those students and teach them to do their work, not only would it help their parents, it would also help that child. And it would help the teachers because they have enough on them as it is. If they have a problem child in their classroom, they can’t educate the other children.”

Bell said children “want discipline. I’m invested in this county and I’m working in this county… Give these teachers more avenues and more resources.”

During his report, KCSD Superintendent of Education Dr. Shane Robbins told trustees he hopes to provide elementary school teachers with “duty-free” lunches next year.

“That’s the least we can do,” Robbins said. “It sounds easy in thought, but in reality there’s a little bit of planning that needs to take place.”

Using Pine Tree Hill Elementary School as an example, Robbins said kindergarten through 5th Grade teachers currently average only 12-18 minutes of free time a day.

“We can change that to 32 to 48 minutes a day if we give them a 30-minute duty-free lunch,” he said.

The cost of providing three part-time cafeteria support positions at the school for two hours a day during the 180-day school year would be $13,500 for the entire school year, he said. The maximum cost to provide support staff at the district’s 11 elementary schools would be $148,000.

“Most of that would come out of the food service budget and would not affect any other line item,” Robbins said. “This is so doable for us and it’s a small investment to make in our teachers. It’s something I feel very comfortable that we can have drawn into the schedule next year. It’s one small step to take forward to demonstrate how much we appreciate our teachers.”

Robbins also briefed the board on the district’s transition into a “blended learning environment” using more technology.

“There has to be some training that goes along with it,” he said. “And that training is called ‘digital convergence.’ It’s something we’ve spent most of the year taking nibbles at and trying to provide opportunities for technical development to our staff.”

He talked about a program called “Modern Teacher,” which he said was designed to help educators and school districts as they make the fundamental shift from the traditional classroom toward a more modern learning environment.

“It allows us to track our progress and key benchmarks as we complete tasks,” Robbins said. “The goal right now is on the first instructional day to be able to provide our staff with a vision and what a blended learning environment means for our district.”

Dr. Burch Richardson, the district’s director of professional development, and Dr. Isti Sanga, director of instructional technology, presented board members with additional information, including three “Theories of Action” they developed to support technology integration.

Those theories are:

• If our team of educational leaders fosters a safe, healthy and nurturing environment then our students will fearlessly maximize their learning opportunities in every setting.

• If our team of administrative leaders empowers teachers with ongoing learning opportunities, exposure to evolving teaching and learning theories and practice through robust professional development, then our instructional faculty will be able to develop research-based teaching practices and learning opportunities that will significantly raise our students’ academic outcomes.

• If our instructional staff promotes and supports technology enhanced instruction, then our students will use new technology to embrace ownership and personalization of their learning and enhance communication, collaboration, research, problem solving and critical thinking.

Trustee Derrick Proctor said he wanted to make sure teachers will still be allowed to present information in their own way.

“We still want our teachers to be different and use their imaginations,” Proctor said. “We’re not going for a goal of teaching everything exactly the same way.”

Sanga said the “tools” the teachers are being given will be the same.

“How they use the tools is what will be different and unique… These new tools will personalize student learning because students learn at different speeds and ways,” he said.

Sanga said information on the transition will be presented to principals, teachers and parents at a later date

In other business:

• Trustees briefly discussed resolutions put forward recently by the S.C. School Board Association (SCSBA). The SCSBA split their proposals into a short list of legislative priorities and a much longer list of “statements of beliefs.” The legislative priorities include education funding reform, local district fiscal impact statements, local legislation, school start dates and retired teacher salary caps.

The statements of belief include a wide range of issues including how school boards hire superintendents and what role they should play in the hiring of other employees, district consolidation, how tax incentives for new industry should be used for education, elimination of the state’s Education Oversight Committee, full funding of education mandates, school bus privatization and teacher salaries, just to name some.

• The board heard an update on construction projects from KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith. He said over spring break, several paving projects were completed and a final inspection held at Doby’s Mill Elementary School. Overhead inspections were also held at Stover Middle School and the new Woolard Technology Center, which will replace the Applied Technology Education Campus this fall, Smith said.

“Some of the equipment is already being moved over to the new ATEC building,” he said. “The final inspection is set for July so we will have a lot of work left to do.”