The Orangeburg County School District is partnering with Voorhees University to help fill classroom vacancies.

The partnership will provide 30 individuals with two pathways to become certified during the 2023-2024 school year.

The individuals will have to commit to teach in the district for three years.

There will be an initial focus on certification in math and science.

One option is for a certified teacher to take a 14-month, 36-hour program through Voorhees to obtain a master’s degree and certification in other areas.

The partnership will not cost the school district or program participants and will be funded by Voorhees, OCSD’s Human Resources Director of Certified Personnel Dyisha Taylor said.

“If a teacher is certified in elementary, through this program he or she may have the opportunity to get certified in an alternative area,” Taylor said.

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The program will be offered to teachers and support staff members who have degrees but may be interested in obtaining a master’s degree.

The program will provide participants with virtual support sessions to encourage interest in the program.

The second free option will provide individuals not interested in going through the 14-month program the ability to take a certification path only and not receive a master’s degree.

“We all know that finding math teachers, science teachers, social studies and English teachers – those are difficult positions to fill, but we have some elementary teachers that now that they have been doing it, they love math,” OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said.

“This is an opportunity for them to get a master’s degree and move into one of those hard-to-fill math vacancies and then we can hire an early childhood elementary because they are easier to find than those specialty areas like mathematics,” he said.

Foster said the district’s human resources department has been tasked with looking at a succession plan and the average age of the district’s math teachers. The 30 slots will be filled based on the needs of the district.

“We have to be strategic on how we do those things and try to backfill so when we have a high number of math teachers in secondary exiting, we have individuals in the pipeline that we can push in there to fill those difficult vacancies,” Foster said.

He praised the innovation of the district’s human resources department in filling the district’s vacancies.

Certification areas in the program will include:

• Middle-level math

• Middle-level science

• Secondary biology

• Secondary chemistry

• Secondary math

• Secondary physics

• Special education multi-category

Additional content areas are available based upon request.

All program participants will receive a science, technology, engineering, math/computer science micro-credential through Voorhees.

OCSD Coordinator for Retention and Recruitment Dr. Sharon Hampton said an information session has already been held between university and school district leaders.

The selection process for the cohort will be done in August.

The program will be kicked off in September.

Foster said the program will allow teachers an opportunity to receive a pay increase with their advanced degree.

In other matters, trustees unanimously approved the district’s code of conduct. School officials say there are no significant changes to the code.

Prior to approval, trustees discussed the need to make sure that parents and students understand the expectations found in the district’s code of conduct.

Discussion also revolved around the importance of school security and the clear bag policy procedures.

Foster said data will be gathered and shared with the board and public on how effective the school bag searches have been in reducing violations.

The board will also seek to change the student expulsion appeal process from a 5-day to a 10-day appeal to better align with the district’s code of conduct policy.

Trustee the Rev. R.L. “Poppy” Brown said the key to improving conduct is in the home.

“Parents, we need your help. We need your help with your children,” Brown said.

Foster acknowledged OCSD has challenges like other districts, but said the school district has great teachers and great students.

“We are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination,” Foster said. But students are “not running rampant.”

“That is so far from the truth. Our teachers bust their butts day in and day out. We have some successful and bright spots that will blow your mind. We have beautiful children and an outstanding staff,” he said.

In other business:

• The district gave unanimous first reading approval to a policy providing paid parental leave for teachers when they welcome a new child via birth, adoption or fostering.

• Trustees gave unanimous second and final reading to a policy related to employee credit card use.

Some employees have district credit cards, but there’s not a concrete policy in place related to credit card usage. The policy was sent down by the South Carolina School Boards Association. Foster said a handful of employees have credit cards.

“There has been no misuse of credit cards,” Foster said. “This is a matter to continue to get better and firm up policies and practices in this regard.”

• The district will hold its convocation Wednesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. in South Carolina State University’s Smith-Hammond-Middleton Center.

• Foster thanked everyone for another successful school year. The district graduated about 700 students.

• Foster encouraged parents to continue to engage their children in the “spirit of learning” during the summer.

• Trustees recognized the success of student athletes from Lake Marion High School, Bethune-Bowman Middle High School, Edisto High School, Branchville High School and Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

• Trustees recognized Edisto Elementary School’s Briana Berry as the 2022-2023 Rookie Teacher of the Year. Berry’s class has demonstrated academic progress, with 150% typical growth in iReady results.

• OCSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Andress Carter-Sims was recognized for her service. She will be retiring from the school district.

• OCSD Assistant Superintendent for Operations Bob Grant was recognized for his service to the school district. Grant will be leaving to work for a Columbia school district. The June meeting was his last.

• The board approved its 2023-2024 board meeting calendar. The board will continue to meet monthly. Trustee Mary Ulmer was opposed.

• Trustee Idella Carson requested public comment be moved closer to the start of board meetings rather than the end.

“It is not fair to keep the public in here to end of our board meetings,” Carson said. “We are breaking policy.”

Chair Ruby Edwards said she intends to keep the board meetings as they are, but she is willing to discuss the matter at a later time. Edwards said the public comments were placed at the end of meetings to allow the public to comment on matters brought up during meetings.

• There will be no school board meeting in July. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at 102 Founders Court in Orangeburg.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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