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Bertie/Shaw project moves forward

WINDSOR – Excitement is in the air.

Half a dozen school administrators came before the Bertie County Board of Education during their regular monthly meeting Monday night to give an update on the school system’s potential future partnership with Shaw University.

In January, Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger, together with officials from Shaw University, first presented the idea to the Bertie school board of &uot;Grow Your Own Teachers.&uot;

In that plan, 20 Bertie High School seniors each year would be selected to attend a Shaw University Bertie campus – all expenses paid and while drawing a salary – with the requirement that at the time of their graduation from Shaw, they would teach at Bertie County Schools for no less than five years.

All five school board members appeared excited about the plan when it was announced in January and, along with various school administrators, they continued to show that same excitement Monday night.

BCS Assistant Superintendent Thomas Ruffin set the tone for the presentation with his opening remarks.

&uot;Exciting is the key word for the night. The vision for Bertie County Schools for the past 15 years, and still today, is that the learning environment will be exciting, involved and unified to meet the needs of students,&uot; he stated.

Ruffin added, &uot;Bertie County Schools are in a position to experience one of the greatest things in the history of the system. History is about to be made here in Bertie County and every one of you should be proud to be a part of that.&uot;

Kenneth Perry, BCS Operations Manager of Transportation and Maintenance, reported that Shaw is interested in the Southwestern Middle School site as their main campus and perhaps part of the C.G. White facility for later possibilities.

&uot;Shaw is ready to start refurbishing certain components of Southwestern, the science lab tables and the gym floor, having the Shaw logo put on it for when intramural sports are played. Also they’re ready to implement security around the site and seek approval for environmental permits,&uot; he stated.

Carol Atkins, BCS Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, told the board how Shaw is already planning complete courses of study for the program to begin in the fall.

&uot;Shaw has really taken off with the teacher training program. They have laid out complete courses of study for three areas already,&uot; she stated.

Atkins continued, &uot;When these students graduate (from Shaw), they will be fully licensed and fully certified to begin teaching our students.&uot;

She also reported that Shaw is planning on offering opportunities for dual enrollment and early college opportunities for students at Bertie High School and that there will be a full capacity for video conferencing for all of Shaw’s main classes from its campus in Raleigh.

Atkins added, &uot;They’re looking at this not just as a way of getting more students, but as a way to give back to the community who has given so much to them.&uot;

Carolyn Bazemore of the Human Resources department also addressed things from her end.

&uot;Our office is excited to partner with Shaw University, not only for the 20 students each year, but also for teacher licensure for current Bertie County Schools staff,&uot; she stated.

Apparently, Shaw is willing to assist in lateral entry programs, certification assistance for beginning teachers and helping current teacher assistants finish their training to become teachers.

&uot;They’re (Shaw) really serious about this; they’re not half-stepping. They’re ready to go,&uot; Bazemore said.

She added, &uot;Shaw’s partnership is an opportunity I hope we will take advantage of; it’s an example of what can happen when people work together.&uot;

BCS Public Information Officer Brent Todd noted the marked change in attitude among all in the school system since the project plans were first announced.

&uot;This has brought about a renewed vigor to teachers, students, staff, the community and government leaders… the potential for economic growth is unprecedented,&uot; he stated.

Finance Officer Pearline Bunch said things were feasible from the financial end.

&uot;The benefits we will get much outweigh the costs to the Board of Education… money will be saved on technology, equipment, staffing and opportunities for grant dollars,&uot; she remarked.

Bunch continued, &uot;I think it’s wonderful; it’s a great opportunity for our kids that we just cannot pass up.&uot;

After the presentation, BOE Chairman Rickey Freeman commented, &uot;We’re all excited about this. It’s history in the making and the bottom line is that the children will benefit from it.&uot;

The board has taken no official action on the matter yet but Zullinger told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Wednesday that a vote is expected in a timely manner, within the next couple of months for certain.

&uot;We’re watching our timelines and we’re all working diligently to get to the point where we can move forward because we’ve got a terrible need (for this),&uot; he stated.

Zullinger further said that he believes this type of thing – a partnership between a school system and a higher education university for the purpose of training teachers for that school system – has never been done before, making BCS possibly the first in the nation to embark on such a journey.

&uot;I don’t think this has ever been done before, anywhere that I know of,&uot; he noted.

Zullinger also said that none of the school’s current programs should have to be sacrificed in order to move forward with the project.

&uot;I don’t think we’ll have to reduce any of our current service levels to go forward with this. It’s not going to cause us to do anything to hurt any of the existing programs or extracurricular or academic activities; it’ll just be a reprioritization of how we’ve done things in the past,&uot; he stated.

Zullinger continued, &uot;The point that I want to make is that the trick to doing things different in public schools is figuring out how you can spend your money differently. If you can’t do that then you’re not able to do anything differently unless you’ve got your hand stuck out for more money. Good ideas should cause a reprioritization of how you spend money and that’s what we’re doing with this Shaw idea… we’re not asking anybody for more money.&uot;

Zullinger added that Shaw is looking into providing the students involved in the program with travel experiences to make them more well-rounded individuals.

&uot;Shaw is looking to have travel experiences, maybe even some international, for the students enrolled in this program.

I think it’s their intention to give these kids a real global experience,&uot; he stated.

The idea came about from a lunch meeting between Zullinger and Shaw University officials.

&uot;We went out to lunch and had a real open discussion around some of the challenges here in Bertie County and what Shaw could do to assist. We just struck a relationship and a compatibility chord that caused us to explore various ideas of potential partnership between Shaw and Bertie County, everything that has transpired since then was from that original conversation,&uot; he recalled.

The next regular meeting of the Bertie BOE is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 7.