PITTSBORO — A new collaboration between Chatham County Schools, Central Carolina Community College and UNC-Chapel Hill — Teach Chatham — intends to address the current teaching shortage in the county by providing additional opportunities for district high schoolers to study education for free.
The CCS Board of Education unanimously approved a letter of intent for the program at its meeting last Thursday.
“UNC, as well as CCCC, wanted all parties to have a letter of intent, before we put more time and energy behind writing the more formalized MOU (memorandum of understanding),” said CCS Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services and Instructional Support Dr. Amanda Moran (formerly Hartness). “There are not that many programs like this across the state — we know of about three. So we think that this would be a really nice, innovative approach to be able to grow our own.”
The program’s main goals are to develop a pathway for Chatham high schoolers interested in education as a career, provide scholarship opportunities and job placement security for interested students and to create an accelerated pathway for obtaining an education degree. If funders can be identified, the program’s overview document says, Teach Chatham would also aim to fully fund each participating student’s four-year education degree program.
Under the preliminary partnership agreement, CCS would cover the fees for student participation — including courses and textbooks — allow high school counselors to assist with selection of courses and course credit processes and provide access to school facilities for course offerings and meetings associated with the program, if needed. CCS would also partner with UNC to create mentorship opportunities and provide UNC and CCCC staff access to student information as needed.
As of now, the program wouldn’t incur any additional costs for the district, Moran said. The cost of college courses and books would be covered with existing dual enrollment funds and participating students would be eligible to receive the Chatham Promise scholarship with CCCC.
“Donors may be sought to assist with the coverage of the final year of the program,” said the district’s agenda concerning Teach Chatham. “The goal would be to assist students in getting three years paid in full. In the event donors are found, students would be required to teach in Chatham for a specific number of years.”
Under the proposed agreement, UNC and CCCC each agree to collaborate with one another to provide pathways into UNC’s initial teacher licensure programs, among other things. CCCC will assign specialized advisors for program participants; UNC will help create mentorship opportunities and seek funding to offset application fees that could be a barrier to enrollment.
“The program would allow students who are interested in pursuing a career in education to begin that transferable college credit while still attending high school,” Moran said.
Across the UNC System, she said enrollment in undergraduate education programs is down over 41% since 2010. There are about 86,000 teachers in the state, she said, and the state must hire about 10,000 teachers every year.
“But our actual UNC systems, public and private combined, are only producing about 3,000 of those teachers,” Moran said. “So we know that if we want to fill these positions that we will have in the future, we need to grow our own.”
After getting approval for the non-binding letter of intent from the board, the district’s next step is to develop a more comprehensive memorandum of understanding with UNC and CCCC. The district will also work with its attorneys and human resources department to clarify how certain goals of the programs will play out.
The first cohort of Teach Chatham high school students is set to start in fall 2022, the partners said in the letter of intent.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that this is turning out to be the case,” board member Jane Allen Wilson said at Thursday’s meeting. “I’m just so thrilled and just thank you for all the work you’ve been doing.”
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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