RSS hosts leadership symposium for the Carolinas

Published 12:10 am Saturday, March 19, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Superintendents and representatives from nearly 16 school districts in the Carolinas gathered at the Wallace Educational Forum Thursday to discuss implementing blended learning.

Rowan-Salisbury hosted the professional development session, which was run by Discovery Education. The event was the first of its kind in the Carolinas, Rob Warren, director of education partnerships with Discovery Education said.

Superintendents and representatives came from places like Swain County, Mooresville and Columbia, S.C., to network, share challenges, and solve problems.

“For us, it’s all about fostering a safe, comfortable collaborative environment for district leadership,” Warren said.

Every district had a different approach to technology integration — and were at different stages — from Mooresville Graded Schools, which have been one-to-one for eight years, to Rowan-Salisbury, which began the transition a year ago, to Florence Public School District One, which has not yet begun the transition.

On Thursday, the superintendents held roundtable discussions, were introduced to virtual technology as a learning tool and heard from speakers like Terry Grier, superintendent of Houston Independent School District. They discussed challenges, roadblocks and strategies for success in an increasingly digital world. And Friday morning, the visiting superintendents toured Rowan-Salisbury schools.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said the day was enlightening, and she learned that Rowan-Salisbury’s path to a blended learning environment is not unique.

“This is challenging for all districts,” she said.

When it comes to blended learning and implementing technology in the classrooms, every district will run into a wall – whether it’s funding, leadership or lack of support. For Rowan-Salisbury, it’s time.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Moody said.

The professional development and learning required to fully integrate technology into classrooms takes a lot of time – and time is a rare resource for full-time teachers. Moody said the system does what it can. Often, that involves applying for grants to fund summer learning opportunities.

“We try to find ways to give them these opportunities,” she said.

It takes time, but Moody said Rowan-Salisbury is on the way. As teachers grow more familiar with a one-to-one learning environment, they’ll begin to explore and use the technology to the fullest, instead of just seeing it as a replacement for paper. She’s seen the seeds of that sprouting, and is excited to see what growth will occur in the next year.

“With some time, we’ll get there,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.