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DEEL aims to help students by supporting educators

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Felicia Martin, left, and Jennifer Counterman participate in reflective conversation, during a teacher training workshop at the Pitt County Schools Facilities Building in Winterville Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

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By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 16, 2018

Improving student achievement by supporting teachers — both financially and instructionally — is the aim of a new division in Pitt County Schools.

The program, called the Division of Educator Effectiveness and Leadership, hired 16 full-time support staff and moved into its offices on Charles Boulevard in mid-May. Now that DEEL is fully up and running after years of development and revisions, it has tabbed more than 50 facilitating teachers to collaborate with other teachers in schools across Pitt County to find “problems of practice” in the classroom.

In the end, it hopes to successfully implement what it calls the “R3 initiative” — which recruits, retains and rewards teachers.

Facilitating teachers look for solutions to problems identified at the school-level that may negatively affect a child’s learning environment. Seth Brown, director of Educator Support and Leadership Development, hopes that by identifying counter-intuitive teaching practices, facilitating teachers can collaborate with other teachers to find a more effective course of action. 

“We have to figure out what doesn’t work because sometimes knowing what doesn’t work means we stop wasting money on it and we’re able then to become more efficient,” Brown said. “You have to have an investment to be able to try to focus on what doesn’t work so that we can then learn what does work.”

DEEL, which was designed and is directed by Brown and Thomas Feller, the director of Professional Learning and Leadership Development, uses a hodgepodge of aspects implemented in other programs nationally. It received a five-year, $16.2 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant and a four-year, $4.9 million state Teacher Compensation Model from the State of North Carolina in 2016.

Other local funding also has helped support the program and Pitt is the only county in the state where every school is a part of the program.

DEEL’s mission to recruit, retain and reward the best teachers in the county is supported through training programs and achievement bonuses. Funding lasts until 2021, giving PCS an exemption for the state’s K-3 class size reduction mandate that has handcuffed some schools around the state.

Right now, there are 54 facilitating teachers working, according to Feller. They are qualified teachers who have National Board Certification or have earned their master’s degree.

The additional responsibilities, which includes implementing new strategies and tracking results in their own classroom to then tweaking  strategies accordingly, means additional pay. They make a supplement of 15 percent of their salary ad are expected to propose their own ideas for their research.

“We don’t pay people just because we like them,” Brown said. “We pay them because they have some level of expertise.”

Feller said individual schools ultimately decide what educational aspects need tweaking, using feedback from principals, teachers and facilitating teachers to decide what is most important.

Right now, literacy has been tabbed as the top priority, he said, but the spectrum ranges from infusing literacy in music to preparing high school students for the ACT.

“Our job really is to support them in the process,” Feller said. “In terms of the instructional expertise, the strategies that you do, they’re are the ones that have that. In that sense, it’s a partnership.”

Generally speaking, DEEL is still in its infancy, though Brown and Feller have spent years designing the program and working with the state to acquire the funding.

The program’s website states that it hopes that have 97 such teachers across the county in the next school year, increasing its impact in PCS. Both Brown and Feller agreed that changes can happen to the program, too. Some things can tweaked and they described the process as “learning as you go.”

Ultimately, they just want to have the most effective model in place for teachers, in the hopes that it creates a measurable impact — be it test scores or growth. DEEL just got a mid-year review that soon will be presented to the Board of Education.

“Things are good,” Brown said. “The teachers are learning a lot. They’re starting to see success trickle down.”

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.

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