ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County is leading the way for the state when it comes to new educational methods, according to a state education official.
At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, North Carolina Virtual Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Rachel McBroom held Bladen County up as a paradigm for the rest of the state.
“We’re excited about what is happening in Bladen County,” she remarked. “When we have districts struggling with high-flying students, I give them Dr. (Tanya) Head’s email. We want the rest of the state to replicate the intentional and thoughtful attempts of Bladen County to meet the needs of all students.”
McBroom commented on the difficulty faced by districts like Bladen County that may have only a handful of students at one school advanced enough to take higher-level classes. The small number of students at one site renders impossible the idea of hiring one teacher to educate them, which is where Virtual Public School comes in.
Through VPS, students enroll in online classes taught remotely. VPS is not a school, but an educational supplement, so its students are not enrolled full-time, and the organization does not confer diplomas. Students are still enrolled in their home schools, and their home district pays VPS for each class in which the student is enrolled.
VPS employs 700 full-time contract teachers, 64 percent of whom have master’s degrees, and 43 percent of whom have National Board certification.
“There is a misconception that online classes are easier,” McBroom informed the board. “Just as ask anyone who’s done them, and they’ll tell you different.”
The idea is growing in Bladen County. In VPS’s inaugural year, 79 classes were taught to Bladen County students. In 2014-15, the number grew to 148 classes, and in 2015-16, a total of 184 courses were taught remotely.
When McBroom highlighted the $349 fee districts pay to VPS per student for each course, board member Alan West brought up the idea of utilizing the program for teaching vacancies that exist in the system, or for classes that have long-term subs.
In other action, the board:
— Recognized Bladen County Teacher of the Year Patsy Moffat from Elizabethtown Middle School, and Principal of the Year Deborah Guyton from Bladenboro Primary.
— Heard a presentation from Sgt. Gary Turlington, a Bladen County sheriff’s deputy who is in charge of security for the system. Turlington informed the board of recent active shooter drills, and told them upcoming training in explosives would be taking place this summer at West Bladen.
— Approved $95,547 to be paid over four years to upgrade and replace the technological security system used by the district. The current program expires in June and is no longer eligible for upgrades.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be Monday, June 12, at 6 p.m.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.