What is renewal?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

By Rita Foil

Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles about the renewal school district opportunity. They are written by Rowan-Salisbury Schools employees to keep the public informed about the process and to answer questions that may arise. Articles run each Thursday in the Education section. 

So what is this renewal I’m hearing so much about?

There are many questions about Rowan-Salisbury Schools becoming the first and only district in the state to be designated as a renewal school system and how this will make our schools better.

Folks are hearing that it is a good thing, but many are not sure what that implies. So while this is exciting, it is understandable that this unknown creates an atmosphere of questions and uncertainty.

• More local control: Simply put, renewal gives us more local control on how we operate our schools.

For years, traditional public schools in the state have been bound to laws on how districts must spend money, hire teachers and test students and when to start and end the school year. We will now have the freedom to make decisions that best serve our children and our communities right here in Rowan County. These flexibilities are already given to charter schools.

• Teachers are the leaders: Public schools have fallen under the one-size-fits-all laws that seem to have steered away from empowering teachers in the classroom to provide the instruction that best grow our children. Teachers are the experts, and they will guide the decisions on how renewal will unfold in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Teachers will be the leaders, designers and creators of instruction.

Each school in the district has a teacher-led design team. All the teams are gathering together today to learn and train on the renewal school system framework so they can begin the work at their individual schools.

• Hiring: We will be able to hire teachers outside the state classification of being highly qualified — a four-year teaching degree.

First, understand that this means we are increasing the instruction our children receive in the classroom. For example, we can now hire professionals with expert experience to teach a class during the day in areas such as dance, engineering or coding — something that was not possible before renewal. This flexibility means we are elevating and expanding the knowledge we give our children instead of limiting it.

• Funding: Traditional public school districts are provided money that is separated into categories on how it must be spent. Now, we will receive our state funding in one lump sum, and we will be able to decide how the funds will be distributed into categories so we can best use the money we receive from the state.

• Calendar: Finally, we have the opportunity to create a calendar that will best meet the needs of our students, parents, staff, communities and the designed curriculum created by our teachers. This may mean that some teacher-led design teams could decide to start and end the school year earlier — allowing exams to be completed before Christmas break — while other teams may decide not to make any calendar changes at all.

We intend to continue to provide articles each week on our renewal process and to keep you informed on our progress. We have so many possibilities to change the way we serve our children. As part of the first district in the state to be designated a renewal school system, we are excited and ready for the challenge to be leaders in transforming education.

It’s a beginning. A major step in the direction of truly personalizing learning for each child that will guide them into discovering their interests and potential in becoming successful and contributing citizens.

We hope it is the beginning that will lead the way for other districts across North Carolina to become a renewal school system, too. We believe it is what is best for all our children.

Rita Foil is public information officer for Rowan-Salisbury Schools.