Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The Berkeley County School District is focusing on school safety, improved communication, growth and fiscal responsibility.
That’s the message Berkeley County School Superintendent Rodney Thompson delivered to Berkeley Chamber of Commerce members during a recent address at the Redbank Club in Goose Creek.
Thompson delivered similar information at a recent school board meeting, although this presentation was more geared toward the business community and preparing future generations to be prepared to go to college or into the workforce.
Thompson said he’s been working with local law enforcement to keep schools safe and that the district will have twice as many security cameras by the time the new school year starts in August.
The district has grown by about 1,000 students in the last year. Thompson compared this with an Easter Sunday church service at a 1,000-capacity church when 1,100 people show up. He said you can’t turn them away.
New schools are on their way, and older ones in need of serious repair will be renovated. Major renovations will take place at Goose Creek and Cross high schools as well as Marrington Middle School.
“If you own a home or vehicle that’s over 20 years old it will require maintenance,” Thompson said.
In order to be fiscally responsible Thompson said the district has increased its reserve fund: “It’s important that as we go into building phases that we keep 17 percent in the reserve fund,” he said. “If a hurricane or natural disaster strikes our employees could stay on the payroll.”
Thompson said learning is not the same today as it was five, 10 or 15 years ago. He said the district is making learning relevant and teaching skills in high school that will be used in the real world.
Chief Academic Officer Kevin O’Gorman followed Thompson at the podium to tell the audience about teaching common core skills.
O’Gorman said that in first grade students are learning while on the job. Multiple choice test questions no longer have one correct answer; students must now pick all the correct answers, even if three of them are correct.
O’Gorman said the district will no longer focus on skill sets the business community doesn’t need. “We need to create assessments that apply to the real world,” he said. “Relevance and relationships keep kids in school.”
Students need to know that what they’re learning in ninth grade will be applied to what they’re doing two years after graduation, and that students need to identify with a teacher, coach, guidance counselor or school club.
“You’ll see kids interested in what they’re learning,” he said. “They’re not just sitting there like drones in desks taking in information like I did when I was in high school.”
BCSD Community Engagement Coordinator Amy Kovach said the workforce in the Lowcountry mirrors that of the state. She said the governor’s office put out an integrated work plan that says 43 percent of the workforce has low-skilled jobs, meaning they don’t need a high school diploma.
These workers earn about $440 per week if they’re lucky, she said. “That’s the maximum they can earn.”
About 30 percent of workers have a high school diploma and make on average $767 per week in jobs such as retail and as bank tellers, according to Kovach.
She said 11 percent of the workforce has a two-year college degree, which takes their earning potential up to $1,038 per week.
She said there are significant economic opportunities for the workforce through additional training and education.