The Leadership Columbia Advisory Board, an alumni-based committee, organizes nine full-day class days, an orientation and a two-day retreat for the class. These class days focus on timely topics in our region ranging from economic development to criminal justice.
On Tuesday, December 13, the LC17 class had Education Day, below is a post by current candidate, Stephanie Frazier:
“Practice active listening. That was my self-imposed assignment as I entered the doors of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority House on USC’s campus on December 13. It was Education Day for Leadership Columbia, and I was committed to digesting the thoughts and opinions of my classmates and presenters. As a higher education administrator, conversations about college readiness, access and equity, advisement, teacher training, and accountability are far from foreign. Still, it is always exciting to learn from and listen to others outside of the microcosm that I navigate daily. I applied to Leadership Columbia in an effort to expand my professional network and explore the many changes taking place in my hometown. More importantly, I am seeking additional ways to proactively connect higher education with business and industry. Every class session has introduced new partnership opportunities, prompted self-reflection, and offered substantive information on initiatives taking place across the Midlands. Education Day was no exception.
The Superintendent for the SC Public Charter School District spoke zealously about closing achievement gaps among SC students and placing emphasis on college as an access point to networks and power. In order to cultivate college-ready students, teachers must embrace innovation, demand high expectations, and adopt the belief that each student has an inherent ability to be great. I believe that this is a solid framework for success, conceptually. Yet, presentations throughout the day highlighted challenges that threaten this framework inside and outside of the classroom. The Deans of Education at USC and Benedict talked extensively about teacher preparation programs, as well as the continuous shortage of teachers, and the need for teachers to do more with less.
Despite the challenges presented, I remember that even the thinnest pancake has two sides. There are, indeed, some wonderful educators across the Midlands who would seemingly do their jobs without pay. This was evident by the presentation from the SC Teacher of the Year. Her presence was a reminder of that sometimes you must leave your environment in order to more effectively enact change. We certainly need teachers like Jennifer Wise in the classroom on a daily basis. However, voices like hers are critical to discussions about policy development, research, and funding. Even simpler, voices like hers are critical to informing novices about education in general. Amidst animated stories about her students, blackberries, fractals, and mutual exclusiveness, Mrs. Wise provided our class with information about many pertinent initiatives including Teacher Cadet, Read to Succeed, and the Francis Marion University Center on Poverty.
Also critical is the importance of educational partnerships, particularly as we prepare students to be successful after high school graduation. The Executive Director of Housing at USC affirmed the need for collaboration if we want to efficiently meet the needs of today’s students. In my opinion, that includes creating stronger educational pathways for students – from high school to two-year, to four-year. My heart skipped a beat when one of the guidance counselor panelists indicated that the majority of her students started their postsecondary careers at Midlands Technical College. [Steps on soap box] Across our 16 technical colleges, we educate nearly 60% of all undergraduate students in South Carolina. Approximately 11,000 K-12 students took at least one dual enrollment course during this past academic year. Furthermore, we have hundreds of youth apprentices at businesses across the Midlands and state. Transfer agreements exist with many institutions including USC, Clemson, Benedict, Claflin, Columbia College, and the Medical University of South Carolina. I could go on, but, I’ll stop there [Steps off soap box]. My point is that there is great work being done to make higher education accessible and affordable for our students. My heart belongs to the SC Technical College System, but I’ve learned that there’s room at the table for everyone.
In essence, Education Day presented fruitful discussion about this multi-faceted concept called education. The class left with many questions, and a better understanding of some of the challenges facing educators at all levels. We also left assured that there are a lot of good things happening in our state, and across the Midlands. As an educator, I took this as a challenge to continue practicing active listening and to lessen the disconnect among all stakeholders. I suspect that my classmates took this as an opportunity to become even more inquisitive – to explore avenues for learning and public involvement through school improvement councils and school boards, or volunteering with educational organization. Kudos to the planning committee on a job well done.
Final Grade: “A” :)”
Stephanie Frazier, Leadership Columbia Class of 2017