The Columbus County Board of Education Monday heard comments from one member of the public concerning class size before going on to discuss agenda items including building plans and teacher certification changes.
Martha Bromell described to the board “a typical day” that she had spent with her grandson in his fourth-grade classroom at Evergreen Elementary School.
The 28 students were seated “wall-to-wall” in the room, she said, with aisles only “18 inches” wide. The teacher could not bend down to assist one student without “putting her backside in someone else’s face.”
“I know the teachers have objectives they have to meet,” Bromell said. “I believe (my grandson’s) teacher is a seasoned, good teacher, but to convey the (math) concepts she was trying to teach is almost unbearable and impossible.
“There are children in the classroom with ADD, ADHD and God knows what else. To try to teach them all in that environment is crazy. I don’t blame the teacher. The class size is so large she can’t give students what they need.
“I don’t know what can be done. I’m concerned not only about my grandson but about the others as well. I hope you’ll take consideration of whatever needs to be done.”
The board also heard a report by Cassandra Cartrette on the progress of the 28 beginning teachers in the county.
“These are teachers in their first three years,” she said, some of them from typical teacher-training college programs and others from the lateral entry program.
New teachers make up a high percentage of the county’s teachers, Cartrette said, and county schools can expect to see that percentage go higher “as older teachers retire.”
Lateral entry allows a professional with subject-specific knowledge to leave the business world and become a teacher without first going back to college for a long period. Participants gain teacher accreditation by taking courses during their first years in the classroom.
The good news, said Cartrette, was that new teachers under her supervision were not leaving the classroom after a year or two. “We have as many third-year teachers as we have first-year,” she said.
“That’s a good sign,” Board Chairperson Barbara Yates-Lockamy said.
Board member Randy Coleman asked whether the schools made a specific effort to recruit new teachers from among local residents.
“We try to recruit locally,” Cartrette answered, even if the individuals’ degrees were not geared toward teaching. “We want to keep our own.” This question led to a discussion of the state’s lateral entry program.
June 30, 2019 will be “the end of the lateral entry program with a three-year license,” Cartrette said. The “residence license” program that will replace it has not been fully revealed yet, but licensing “will be one year to the next,” she said.
Board members received the news with concern and questioned Cartrette thoroughly about what that change would mean for teacher recruitment.
“We already have a teacher shortage,” said Yates-Lockamy.
“Can retired teachers come back and teach?” Worley Edwards asked.
“As long as you don’t work more than 30 hours a week,” said Cartrette. She pointed out that, in certain circumstances, a school is allowed to employ non-state certified teachers for 25 percent of their positions.