DeKalb School Board approves superintendent’s teacher residency programSuperintendent Dr. Devon Horton presents update on his 90 day plan for DeKalb County Schools. Photo by Sara Amis
DeKalb County, GA — At its Oct. 17 meeting, the DeKalb Board of Education began moving forward with the Teacher Residency Program.
The program seeks to provide more hands-on training for those who wish to become teachers in DeKalb. The hope is that this will provide a path for qualified, passionate staff to support the teachers that are already in place, as well as aid in recruiting new teachers to the district.
In the meeting, the board approved contracts with the firms DeKalb County School District is planning to partner with to design the program.
Frontier Educational Consulting Services is a firm that has already been working with the district to help design the program, and a new, not to exceed $120,000 contract with an expanded scope of work was needed to continue what the district called the firm’s “key” role in the development of the residency program.
Next was a two-year contract not to exceed $814,900 with Middle Georgia State University. MGSU will be the university partner and will be the institution that provides a master’s degree for 100 Residents upon completion of the program. The first cohort will start January 2024 through December 2024 and the second will start June 2024- June 2025.
There also was a two-year not-to-exceed $788,050 contract with BloomBoard Inc, a company that helps design these sorts of training programs and finally another two-year not-to-exceed $367,555 contract to Cushion Employer Services Corporation for the administrative services that will underpin the program once it begins, such as a web-based platform, prescreening behavioral analysis assessment, virtual interviews and marketing.
School Board Member Dr. Joyce Morley voted against all three contracts, saying that BloomBoard, which has a mostly white executive team, was unable to create systems applicable to the mostly Black DeKalb County School District.
Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton responded, saying that the way BloomBoard’s programs are designed, most of the experience comes from actually being in the classroom. Dr. Horton explained this means doing “groundwork” or working with teachers that are in place, learning to better serve students by actually serving students.
Dr. Morley also asked about the search process for these partners, suggesting misconduct on behalf of Dr. Horton, particularly in selecting BloomBoard Inc, a company he has worked with in the past.
Responding to Dr. Morley’s accusation, Dr. Horton went further than acknowledging he had worked with them in the past, saying it was his previous experience that made him believe BloomBoard was the right fit for helping to implement this program in DeKalb.
Dr. Horton said they were “phenomenal” and “awesome.”
Dr. Horton said, “Being a leader who has worked across different organizations, when I find a talented company we can work with, I want to bring them on as a partner because our children in DeKalb County deserve it”.
In other news:
— Chief Academic Officer Stacy Stepney gave a presentation about Academic Skill Centers. These Academic Skill Centers will provide 30-min sessions during the school day for Math, Literacy and English Language Arts with added support for executive function skills. Stepney said the goal was to create spaces that facilitated student buy-in and run a program that isn’t disruptive to the school day.
There will be 20 centers and 100 schools, serving children between the 26th and 50th percentile on the fall Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and/or by low performance in the specific domain focus areas.
This is a new program DeKalb will be starting soon, based on findings that high-touch small group tutoring is one of the most effective ways to serve children who aren’t doing as well as they could be in school. The projected budget for the project is $3.3 million dollars, some of which is for setting up the rooms. The tutors will not be teachers, as there was a desire to keep this off their plate. Instead, the district is looking at retired teachers, college students, and, eventually, high schoolers from the same system who are succeeding in their studies.
Stepney said the goal is to create a program that feels like “we are doing this with them, not to them.”
Multiple school board members said there are many things that affect a student’s ability to do well in school, and that this wasn’t the only step that should be taken to ensure student success.
– The school district changed over the payroll system and reported on how the process had gone.
Chief Financial Officer Byron Schueneman reported that the district looked at the smaller subset of 2,300 12-month employees to gauge how the new system was being implemented. About 280 reported issues, with about 175 of those issues being issues logging in. Schueneman reported that he was aware of three people who had an actual issue with payment or not receiving their money, and said that the district is quickly working to get these issues resolved.
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