New money requests account for less than 2 percent of what Pitt County Schools is seeking for its 2021-22 operating budget, but the district hopes to use those funds to launch programs that will pay dividends.
The Pitt County Board of Education is scheduled to vote Monday to seek $42.9 million in county appropriations that would include about $780,000 in new money requests. Of that, $40,000 is to be used to create scholarship funds for principals and teachers.
Steve Lassiter, assistant superintendent of educational programs and services, said the district’s new teaching and principal fellow programs are designed to draw talented educators to Pitt County Schools.
“There is just a shortage of finding top quality leaders,” he said. “So we decided to take an approach and grow our own.”
The PCS Teaching Fellows Program, which is slated to begin next school year, will provide up to four graduating seniors in the district with scholarship funding to help them pursue a career in teaching. In exchange, the students would agree to teach in Pitt County Schools after graduation, although the number of years recipients would be required to teach has not yet been determined.
The program would be similar to the former North Carolina Teaching Fellows program in that students could use the tuition funding at a college of their choice. The General Assembly voted to discontinue the state program in 2011 but launched a new program in 2018 for students who plan to teach in STEM or special education fields. East Carolina University is not a partner school in the state program, which includes N.C. State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Elon and Meredith.
For the district’s principal fellows program, as many as five fellows will serve as assistant principals in Pitt County Schools while pursuing graduate studies at ECU.
“Our program is different from the original statewide principal fellows program in that, as a (North Carolina) principal fellow, you had two years that you had to take a leave of absence from work and pursue graduate studies full time,” said Lassiter, who went through that program himself in 2008. “Our approach is you have demonstrated such high quality leadership as a teacher, we’re employing you as an assistant principal while you’re pursuing graduate studies.”
The principal program, a partnership with the College of Education and the Department of Educational Leadership at ECU, is designed to cover tuition, fees, books, professional development and technology. The district has had 20 candidates apply and two were selected for the program.
Nearly $100,000 in new requests is to go toward a new career development academy. The school district is seeking funding to hire a biopharma career pathway coordinator to develop a career and technical education program that would function similar to the Health Sciences Academy. The biopharma program would be designed to help prepare students for careers in pharmaceutical industries within the region. No launch date has been set.
Pitt County Schools Superintendent Ethan Lenker said the program will be an extension of the Pharma K-12 program the district already has in place. The current, industry-led effort selects students to participate in training at the Pharmaceutical Services Network at Pitt Community College, where they learn oral solid dosage theory and manufacturing techniques.
“We are working with ECU, PCC, the ENC Alliance, the Pitt County Economic Development Commission and local businesses to grow Pitt County by strengthening our workforce together,” Lenker said. “It’s about creating more opportunities for our students and helping them discover and reach future goals.”