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BCS budget calls for #036;680,000 for ‘Grow Your Own’

WINDSOR – The proposed partnership between Bertie County Schools (BCS) and Shaw University looks like it could happen, if the requested local funds are received in the budget for the next fiscal year as expected.

Just over $680,000 has been earmarked in the school system’s budget for the Shaw University partnership and its &uot;Grow Your Own teachers&uot; program.

While attending college with all expenses paid, the selected students would also be paid a full salary ($25,000) as employees of Bertie County Schools (BCS), and upon graduation from Shaw University they would be required to stay in Bertie County and teach for no less than five years.

Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger and Finance Officer Pearline Ashe presented the budget proposal to the school board Monday night.

Locally, the budget requests $2.75 million in county funds, 10 percent more than last year, including the money for the first year of the Shaw program. That project is something Zullinger has been working on almost since he began as superintendent last year.

It’s a collaborative effort between Shaw and BCS to take 20 of the best and brightest graduating seniors from Bertie High School each year and train them as teachers, which will likely be located at the former Southwestern Middle School.

&uot;This Shaw teacher cadet program could be one of the major educational innovations, not just for Bertie County but for all of North Carolina,&uot; Zullinger stated during his presentation.

He continued, &uot;I envision a K-16 school system intertwined with the university.

That’s extremely rare, if it exists anywhere.&uot;

The board voted unanimously to accept the proposed budget, which also included more funding for the More at Four program, a community hub computer lab in Windsor, and funds for &uot;Project Uplift.&uot;

Zullinger noted, &uot;This is the first real action to take place for making this (teacher cadet) program a reality.&uot;

On Wednesday, Zullinger went before the Bertie County Commissioners and presented the budget request.

&uot;We did all we could to get the dollars into the classroom and down to the kids, which is what it’s all about,&uot; he told the commissioners before his presentation.

Outlining the Shaw project, Zullinger noted, &uot;The reason for this is we have a hard time keeping quality teachers in the classrooms.

In just a few years, we’ll see that stabilize through this program.&uot;

He also detailed the Project Uplift program, in which 20 high school students who are not doing well will be put into an online learning environment that will allow them to advance further than they likely would have otherwise.

&uot;I think projects like these are vital community partnerships,&uot; Zullinger remarked.

Another request on the local funding list is expanding the More at Four program.

Through More at Four, four-year-olds attend a special school program during normal school hours.

&uot;If we can get these kids from poverty backgrounds into school earlier in a formal educational setting, they have the opportunity to do better,&uot; Zullinger stated.

Last, he outlined the plans for implementing a new community hub computer lab in the old Serendipity School building on County Farm Road in Windsor.

The Bertie County Family Resource Center, currently located in Lewiston, houses a community hub there, but plans are in the making for putting a similar, yet larger facility, in Windsor.

&uot;What’s important about this is we’ve got a lot of kids here who could benefit from this facility,&uot; Zullinger noted.

Concluding, he stated, &uot;The motto of the school system is ‘Together We Can,’ and each of these four things contemplates how that is possible; we need to be all about partnerships.

Ashe, addressing the commissioners, added, &uot;Thank you for your time and for all you do for the children of Bertie County.&uot;

The commissioners will take no official action on whether to accept the budget request until the entire county budget is voted on at the first meeting in June, but expressed general satisfaction with what was heard in the proposal.

&uot;I’m glad to see a budget we can possibly fund; in the past we have been presented with an impossibility sometimes… but this could work,&uot; stated commissioner Wallace Perry.

In the past, several commissioners have been outspoken in their support of the Shaw project.

For each of the last two budget years, the county has raised the amount given to the school system by 10 percent.

That same 10 percent increase was again requested this year.