UNION — State Rep. Mike Anthony called on teachers to rally together during a meeting on Saturday morning.
Delta Kappa Gamma — a professional honorary society of women educators promoting excellence in education — met at Foster Park Elementary School on Saturday morning for breakfast. The guest speaker for the event was Anthony, who is a former educator himself.
“Educating our children should not be a partisan issue,” Anthony said. “It shouldn’t be about Republicans or Democrats.”
Anthony discussed what he called a divide in the state — money vs. education for children.
“I’m sick and tired of people being elected to these positions who have never been in a classroom,” he said. “They (legislators) don’t understand what you’re going through. They don’t understand the makeup of the classroom.”
Anthony passionately spoke about the evaluation of teachers, pointing out that the profession is a subjective one and teachers should not be rated or given letter grades.
“How many evaluations have we had?” Anthony asked the room, mentioning evaluations from the past such as PET, UTEP and ATP.
“And how many of you teachers have been asked for input? That’s where we mess up.”
Anthony suggested that teachers should be evaluated by other teachers.
“Let Charleston teachers come up here and us go down there,” he said. “Who knows better than teachers? It’s not simple to evaluate.”
Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall — who was also present Saturday morning — weighed in on teacher evaluations.
“Teacher evaluations are difficult to define,” she said. “The current ADEPT model is a sound one. Some teachers’ performance can be measured by achievement gains of students. Many teachers instruct in fields or grades that are not tested by South Carolina, however. The method for performance tracking for such subjects in the new model has no answer at this point.”
Anthony said he also supports common-core standardized testing since currently, the rigor of standardized testing varies from state to state.
“Why compare state to state until we have one test?” he asked.
Anthony also said he is a big proponent of year-round school — an idea in which school would be in session for nine weeks, then out of session for three weeks, giving students and teachers three-week vacations throughout the year rather than one longer vacation in the summer. He said that back when legislators were looking at the idea, they received protest from people in the Myrtle Beach area who began a “S.O.S. — Save Our Summers” campaign.
Anthony said that being a former coach, he believes people need to be motivated. He suggested that during year-round school, students who do not pass could be required to come back for remediation during two of their three vacation weeks, which he believes would serve as major motivation.
Anthony also touched on other problems in the school system. He mentioned that Act 388 benefited Union County with a windfall of $2.5 million, but tied the hands of local school boards. Woodall offered explanation of Act 388.
“Act 388 basically limited tax increases on the operations side so when we had budget cuts recently, we could not adjust taxes,” Woodall said. “Union has declining enrollment. To raise operations revenue, a district has to be a growing one.”
Anthony did point out positives, however, as he praised the employees of the Union County School District.
“Dr. Zais said his jaw dropped over what’s going on here,” Anthony said. “Y’all need to be patted on the back, too.”
Anthony was referring to Zais’ visit to Union County Schools on Dec. 4 during which he made stops at Monarch Elementary, Foster Park Elementary and Sims Middle School. Zais remarked that Union County proves that poverty does not prevent academic success.
“We have never used that as an excuse to lower our expectations for student learning and achievement here,” Woodall said.
Before he closed, Anthony revisited his original point — that education of children is not a partisan issue. He referred to educators as a “sleeping giant” in terms of voting, pointing out that 30 percent of teachers in the state were not even registered to vote during the last election.
“If we as teachers rallied together, we could determine who is serving in this state, just by the numbers,” Anthony said. “Our problems are not going to be solved until we understand and motivate our teachers that they are the ones who can make it happen. The priorities we set cannot be in ideology — we’ve got to be more focused on our own community.”
“Don’t vote for an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ — vote for your best interests as a teacher,” he added.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.