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Teachers will need extensive qualifications

A new school on Charleston's West Side means more than a new building.

The curriculum at the "school of the future" will be so different that teachers will need extensive qualifications.

Those qualifications, and not seniority, took a front seat in the selection of teachers for the new Edgewood-area elementary school, said the school's future principal, Henry Nearman.

"There were qualifications that were unique to our new school and through various processes teachers had to provide evidence that they met these requirements," Nearman said in a phone interview.

Nearman is currently the principal at J.E. Robins Elementary School. J.E. Robins, along with Watts Elementary School, will close once the new school opens in 2014.

The new school is designed so teachers can provide more project-based learning. While first and second graders will remain in traditional classrooms, students in grades three through five will split time between larger rooms intended for group work and smaller rooms intended for presentations.

The new design and curriculum weighed heavily in the new qualifications for teachers. There are 15 explicit qualifications teachers needed to meet, and 13 are unique to the Edgewood-area school, Nearman said later in an email.

To work at the school, teachers needed knowledge of technology, online teaching and "blended learning," the combination of face-to-face and Internet-based instruction, according to a job posting Nearman provided.

Teachers must be able to facilitate whole group, small group and independent study activities, the posting states. They also must incorporate problem-based learning - a small-group strategy that relies on students learning through problem solving.

After implementing these concepts, the teachers are expected to analyze data and adjust the curriculum to improve student understanding.

The job description also calls for an understanding of Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

A list of more than 60 responsibilities and performance criteria are included in the job posting. These are identical in all postings for positions in Kanawha County elementary schools, Nearman said.

Even with the additional qualifications, teachers are required to attend three separate training sessions this summer and more next summer. Because this training will be so extensive, Superintendent Ron Duerring said teachers were required to commit to stay at the school for three years.

Generally, teachers are not required to stay at a school for more than one year, he said.

"I think people who were just really interested in (working at the school) were probably pretty qualified when they applied for that reason," Duerring said.

Of the 46 positions created for the new school, 90 percent have been filled, Nearman said. No additional pay comes with the unique qualifications, he added.

Seniority taking a back seat to specific job requirements is one of several recommendations that are part of a pilot project the school system is pursuing for schools on the West Side. The county school board recently approved the project, with some features potentially taking affect as soon as next school year. 

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843, or @Dave_Boucher1.


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