UNION COUNTY — Monarch Elementary School would get an assistant principal, the CATE Center and Student Services would get full-time directors, and a new student-teacher ratio in the classroom would be implemented under a plan proposed by the Union County School District Superintendent for the new school year.
In a presentation to the Union County Board of School Trustees during its February meeting at Sims Middle School Monday evening, Superintendent Dr. William Roach presented the board with an overview of changes he is proposing for the district. The changes, which would be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year, include:
• A standard student-teacher ratio of 21.5 students per teacher in each classroom.
• The hiring of an assistant principal for Monarch Elementary School.
• Restructuring the position of CATE Director to focus exclusively on the development of the Career Center instead being divided between the center and Union County High School.
• Upgrading the Director of Student Services from part-time to full-time to allow the director to more fully oversee the department and the services it provides.
In presenting his proposal for a student-teacher ratio of 21.5 students per teacher in the classroom, Roach pointed out that the district has not had “a consistent, student-teacher ratio in years.” Roach pointed out that the last standard student-teacher ratio the district had was implemented 15 years ago. He added that the ratio the district implemented at that time is no longer in use as the student-teacher ration varies from school to school.
“It is all across the board,” Roach said in an interview about the proposed changes Wednesday morning.
Roach said that the ratio set 15 years ago is not being adhered to in large part because of the changes that had occurred in the district since then, in particular the consolidation of the district’s three high schools. He said that these and other changes had resulted in the moving around of students and teachers resulting in the great variance in the student-teacher ratios in classrooms throughout the district.
In his presentation to the board, Roach said that “setting a standardized ratio provides consistency, efficiency, and stability of staffing.”
Roach reiterated this Wednesday, saying that “we just want to have some consistency,” explaining that by having the 21:5 students per teacher ratio as the standard, principals would be able to divide their students bodies accordingly and determine the number of teachers they need to meet that standard. He said the ratio would also provide stability for students who, as they go from class to class throughout the school day, would have the same number of classmates in each classroom. It would also benefit teachers who would have the same number of students in each class throughout the school day and be able to devote the same amount of time and attention to each student in each of those classes.
The number of students per teacher per classroom is set by the State of South Carolina which Roach said permits classrooms of up to 35 students per teacher.
“We’re nowhere near there,” Roach said.
In his presentation to the board, Roach said that all the district’s schools would be held to the new standard with the exception of Lockhart School. He said Wednesday that the system would also be flexible enough to accommodate those classes at other schools which might not have enough students in them to meet that ratio, such as perhaps an AP class. Even with this flexibility, however, Roach said the standard would be maintained in most classrooms with students, teachers, and school staff benefitting from the consistency it would provide.
Roach also proposed the hiring of an assistant principal at Monarch Elementary School which he said is needed and has been requested by the school’s principal.
“Monarch Elementary needs an assistant principal,” Roach said Wednesday. “Right now, if the principal is out a teacher must be in charge or matters put on hold until the principal returns and some matters can’t be put on hold. They have people there who can do it, who can be in charge, but when a teacher has to fill in for the principal you are taking them away from their jobs. When that happens the children in their classrooms lose instructionally.”
Roach pointed out that since becoming superintendent he has visited the district’s schools to observe them in operation and determine how best to help them perform their functions. He said he had noticed that the school did not have an assistant principal and brought this up with the school’s principal, Mickey Connolly, asking if one was needed and was told it one was absolutely needed to ensure that someone is in charge should he be absent without taking a teacher away from their students.
Roach also recommended that the position of CATE Center director be restructured so as to be able to give their full attention to the Career Center and developing the programs at the center and the partnerships in the community it needs to fullfill its mission of preparing students for the realities of life after high school.
“At CATE we are moving toward having a 21st century graduate who is college and career ready,” Roach said Wednesday. “In order for them to be college and career ready they have to have world class knowledge and world class skills.”
Roach pointed to a “Profile of the South Carolina Graduate” developed by the SCASA Superintendent’s Roundtable and the SC Chamber of Commerce which states that “World Class Knowledge” includes:
• Rigorous standards in language arts and match for career and college readiness.
• Multiple langugages; science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM); arts and social sciences.
The profile states that “World Class Skills” includes:
• Creativity and innovation
• Critical thinking and problem solving
• Collaboration and teamwork
• Communication, information, media and technology
• Knowing how to learn
The profile also lists “life and career characteristics” such as “integrity, self-direction, global perspective, perseverance, work ethic, and interpersonal skills.”
Roach said the knowledge, skills, and characterists outlined in the profile are what the CATE Center seeks to impart to the students taking its courses. To do that to the degree required, however, means the CATE Director must be able to focus exclusively on the operations of the Career Center and not divide their time between the center and UCHS as is now the case.
Under Roach’s proposal, the CATE Center director would no longer be part of the administrative staff at UCHS but would instead be full-time at the center itself and focus on “moving our Career Center forward both educationally and in the community.” He said the director would work to “build internships and business partnerships to help students meet the Profile of a South Carolina Graduate.”
Roach said that internships and partnerships with businesses and industries in the community are vital to achieving this goal as they can provide students with training for and experience of the workplace of the 21st century they need to prepare them for life after school. It also helps business and industry get the educated, trained, and experienced workforce they need to successfully compete in the globalized and increasingly high-tech economy of the 21st century.
In addition to developing internships and relationships with business and industry, Roach said the director will also be responsible for strengthening ties between the center and the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College and USC Union; getting involved with business groups in Spartanburg and Union counties; oversee the curriculum and vision for the center; and observe the center’s teachers.
“That’s a full-time job,” Roach said.
At the present time the Director of Student Services is a part-time position, but Roach proposed that it be made full-time so that the director “can be a problem solver full-time and help alleviate stresses in other departments.”
In his presentation to the board, Roach listed the wide range of duties of the Director of Social Services including:
• Ombudsman for parent concerns
• Meets with parents, teachers, and principals to help resolve issues
• Oversees safety drills (fire, weather, etc.) and maintains records
• Oversees the schools’ and the district’s emergency managment plans
• Compiles and files report on school emergency plans to the South Carolina Department of Education
• Oversees CPR training for staff
• Maintains AEDs at all schools
• Oversees district bullying prevention and reporting (and provides information to principals/faculites as needed)
• Compiles threat assessment guides for harm to self or others (in progress) and provides information to principals/faculties as needed
• Approves out of zone requests
• Mediates out of zone appeals
• Mediates appeals to discipline consequences (other than expulsion)
• Reasearches and applies for grants as appropriate
If the position becomes full-time, Roach said these responsbilities would be added to the position:
• Schedule and conduct expulsion hearings
• Oversee truancy prevention and truancy court
• Develop a method of “restorative justice” for our students and providing information to principals
• Work with neighboring counties and local authorities to establish “truancy court”
• Work with local media to present positive school safety (and other) initiatives
The board took Roach’s proposal as information only and took no vote on it as Monday’s meeting.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.