Friday, December 9, 2022

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Vacancies at Broadview so hard to fill, school board OKs contract to hire online teachers

Categories:

Alamance-Burlington school board members voted unanimously, 7-0, during their latest meeting to approve a $268,800 contract with an online education staffing company to hire “virtual” teachers at Broadview Middle School, which has been unable to fill teaching vacancies in core subjects this school year.

ABSS deputy superintendent Lowell Rogers told school board members at their latest meeting that the contract with Chicago-based Elevate K-12 will provide five virtual “teaching slots” that will be equivalent to five full-time teaching positions. “These will be a pilot to ensure students in these classrooms will be supported with instruction,” Rogers told the board last week.

A classified (or hourly, non-certified) online facilitator also will be in the classroom to assist students and serve as a contact person for parents, Rogers explained.

Left to right: school board member Tony Rose, superintendent Dr. Dain Butler, board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves, and vice chairman Patsy Simpson.

The cost for the contract with Elevate K-12 will be funded by two pots of federal stimulus money that ABSS received for Covid-19, including a third stimulus package, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III), which in part had been earmarked to help students overcome so-called learning losses experienced as a result of the yearlong statewide school shutdown and subsequent move to online instruction during the pandemic.

- Advertisement -

Caswell County schools contracted with the same company to fill teaching vacancies at its high school (Bartlett Yancey Senior High), while Granville County schools hired Elevate K-12 to fill vacancies in one of its middle schools, Rogers told the board last week.

“So we’re going to have a classroom full of kids, and teachers on a screen, is that what I’m hearing?” asked school board member Ryan Bowden.

Rogers confirmed that’s how the program will work at Broadview Middle School. “This is not something we’ve tried before,” the deputy superintendent acknowledged, but told the board that he’d spoken with Broadview Middle School principal Nicole Lancaster, who he said “feels like this will relieve some of the stress that’s within the building.”

The $268,800 price for the contract will cover “12 periods that would be from 45 to 60 minutes each and six periods of 76 minutes to 90 minutes, five days a week,” Rogers said during the school board’s work session. A certified teacher will be online delivering instruction, while the certified facilitator will be in the classroom to assist students, based on Rogers’ description to the board.

Broadview Middle School currently has 26 teaching vacancies, of which 13 are in math, social studies, P.E. and other “core” subjects, Rogers told the board. Broadview was selected for the program because it has it has “the higher number of vacancies,” he said.

“I think it’s an excellent idea to at least try to get some help at that school,” said outgoing board member Wayne Beam, who didn’t seek reelection this year.

Other board members were less enthusiastic.

“I know the problems we’re having putting teachers in front of our students, in terms of recruitment, and hopefully we’re still working diligently to fill our classrooms with bodies,” school board vice chairman Patsy Simpson said during the work session. “[But] we just went through Covid and two years of online, with the teacher, and it was a disaster. And now we’re going to take one of the lowest-performing schools in our district and we’re going to set these kids, again, in front of a computer – is that right?”

“For now, yes,” Rogers responded, “but at the same time we [will] continue our recruiting efforts.”

ABSS began the current school year with more than 100 teaching vacancies across the school system, according to figures that ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler cited during an earlier discussion with the board.

The North Carolina School Superintendents Association reported in August of this year that there were more than 4,400 teaching vacancies across all 115 N.C. public school systems this year, based on a survey it conducted late this summer.

Other N.C. public school systems are also using creative approaches to address their teacher vacancies. For example, the Edenton-Chowan school system is also using virtual teachers, as well as co-teaching, in which teachers effectively double-up, teaching in their own classrooms, while simultaneously teaching another classroom via a lives-stream (or online), according to multiple news reports.

During last week’s discussion, Simpson repeatedly voiced concerns about the long-term impact that using online teachers will have on academic performance at Broadview Middle School.

“I promised myself – I took my meds and everything; I’m going to calm down – but I’m going to make my point,” the school board’s vice chairman said. “It goes back to this redistricting thing, the question [of] why we are having such a difficult time at the schools [with] predominantly black and brown children. It’s been proven that a lot of teachers don’t want to go to what they perceive as the ‘bad schools,’ and we as a board are still not doing anything to address it.

“We know, scientifically, that is not the best way for our children to learn,” Simpson said, referring to the negative impact on academic performance that state education officials have attributed to online instruction amid the statewide school shutdown due to Covid-19. “Why are we in this predicament, and why does it have to be a school that is majority free-and-reduced [price] lunch students?

“There are so many things that contribute to us being in this position,” Simpson continued.

“Now we are going to have the students at Broadview sitting in front of a computer – which we know didn’t work – because we can’t find certified teachers. That really does bother me tremendously, but I do understand. Somebody just said, ‘well it’s better than not having any.’ That’s the kind of attitude we don’t need – we need to figure out why did we get in this position, and what can we do to fix those situations. This didn’t happen just this year; this has been an ongoing problem that we’ve had for many, many years. And people, such as I and this board, have done nothing to address it. That’s my personal opinion.”

“Would you like for us to offer this to another school?” Beam interjected. “I’ll bet they’ll take it, even if they are majority-white.”

“One of the strategies we have tried is to have a video on social media that takes people into Broadview Middle School [showing] it’s a great place to work; it’s a great place to learn, with some great kids,” Rogers told the board. “To show inside those doors, I think, is very powerful as far as our recruiting; that’s the message I’m trying to get out, so as people are graduating college – come to Broadview; it’s a great place to work.”

“Now we are going to have the students at Broadview sitting in front of a computer – which we know didn’t work – because we can’t find certified teachers. That really does bother me tremendously, but I do understand. Somebody just said, ‘well it’s better than not having any.’ That’s the kind of attitude we don’t need – we need to figure out why did we get in this position, and what can we do to fix those situations. This didn’t happen just this year; this has been an ongoing problem that we’ve had for many, many years. And people, such as I and this board, have done nothing to address it. That’s my personal opinion.”

– School board vice chairman Patsy Simpson

“Would you like for us to offer this to another school?  I’ll bet they’ll take it, even if they are majority-white.”

– School board member Wayne Beam

 

“Broadview is one of our most at-risk schools.  I think everyone in this community knows that. There’s an [imbalance] there that we’re trying to reverse. But the reality is we’re down to our wits end as to what we can do.”

– ABSS Superintendent Dr. Dain Butler

“I can’t disagree with Ms. Simpson – Broadview is one of our most at-risk schools,” Butler explained during last week’s work session. “I think everyone in this community knows that. There’s an [imbalance] there that we’re trying to reverse. But the reality is we’re down to our wits end as to what we can do. I met with Ms. Lancaster and [ABSS chief academic officer Revonda Johnson] yesterday; we had a three-hour meeting, I think, about what we can do. If I could find the teachers, I would go get them, but they’re not there.

“I want this board to know we’re trying,” the superintendent elaborated. “This is an option; another option we are trying to do is to reach out to high school teachers, who could come and sign a contract and teach at Broadview Middle School on their planning [period] so we have a teacher of record. Is that the best-case scenario? Absolutely not, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.

 

Superintendent says class sizes amplify staffing challenges at Broadview
“The last one [option] – to give you some idea how severe this is – we may have to come to you with an A/B-day schedule because of the number of vacancies we have at Broadview,” the superintendent added. With an A/B-day schedule, students typically attend school on alternating days.

“It’s 13 core teachers,” Butler said. “You do the math on that: we’re pretty much missing a whole grade level of teachers. I want the public and this board to know it’s on our mind; we are talking about it. We are going to do our best [to fill those vacancies]… I believe the students need more intensive services.” But in order to hire teachers for Broadview, he said, “We have to have smaller class [sizes and] support them financially. This really is a stop-gap; it’s not perfect. We can’t kick this can anymore.”

ABSS public information officer Les Atkins told the newspaper this week that the class sizes at Broadview Middle School average 18 students in the sixth grade; 25 students in seventh grade; and 16 students in eighth-grade classrooms (see chart).

School board members voted 7-0 at their work session to approve the contract with Elevate K-12, which is scheduled to run through the end of the 2022-23 school year.

Must Read

Southern Patriots notch best basketball start in eight years

By Bob Sutton Special to The Alamance News Across the first seven nights of its season, the Southern Alamance boys’ basketball team experienced plenty of drama. And...