July 11, 2017 10:39:53 AM
Columbus Municipal School District's board of trustees approved hiring 13 new teachers during its regular meeting Monday evening, many of whom have little to no teaching experience and three who are still awaiting certification.
Five teachers will be added at Columbus Middle School, two at Stokes-Beard Elementary, one at Cook Elementary, two at Franklin Academy, one at Sale Elementary, one at the Columbus Success Academy and one at Columbus High School.
"I think it's good to start the school year with a teacher in the classroom and filling some of the vacancies we have in the district," said board president Jason Spears.
Spears said the new hires will replace teachers who retired or were released from their contracts at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Upon the superintendent's recommendation, the school board declined Monday to release four additional faculty from their contracts because Spears said they did not meet criteria for release.
CMSD released 10 teachers from their contracts last July. Two of those teachers met "hardship" criteria, and the remaining eight asked for exemptions from district policy to be released from their contracts early.
Board member Currie Fisher voted to approve the new hires Monday but said she is concerned with their lack of experience.
"I think we need to recognize what we're looking at here, the people that we're bringing in," Fisher said. "When we look at the fact that our children are not up to national standards, to put it gently, and we're bringing in people fresh out of school who have not had experience, who are not certified -- some of them are pending certification -- I think we need to recognize the quality of people we're putting before our children to instruct them."
Superintendent Philip Hickman argued that because of many students' environmental circumstances, teachers find it harder to stay in the district because he said it "takes a lot to educate our children."
"I think at that level of intensity people are coming in, and they're earning their stripes," Hickman said. "They're becoming better teachers, and then they choose to move to a less stressful area because you cannot come to our district and just come to the classroom and teach and not stay a little bit longer, not carry the weight of the emotional toll that you have once you become connected with your children and you see that they're not eating or that they're coming to school dirty or that they're coming to school without their hair combed."
The superintendent said the school board has challenged his office to work on improving the culture of the district, and he said that extends to the surrounding community.
"Our solution is still to invest in professional development," Hickman said. "We have to make a one-year teacher look like an eight-year teacher in one year."
He added his staff is gathering feedback from teachers leaving the district to help determine instructors' need.
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