Education working group begins its work at ECSU
By Reggie Ponder
Monday, April 22, 2019
A panel established to encourage excellence in the Elizabeth City State University Education Department plans a thoroughgoing assessment of the university’s teacher education program.
Lynne Bunch, a former president of College of The Albemarle who co-chairs Education Working Group with former Albemarle Hospital administrator Jan King Robinson, said the panel believes education should be one of the premier programs at ECSU.
Interim ECSU Provost Farrah Ward, who met with the committee, said the university understands how important the education program is to the institution. While there’s a lot of talk about aviation science right now as the signature program of the university, education is at least a close second, she said.
“That’s what this region needs,” Ward said of training excellent classroom teachers.
ECSU Board of Trustees Chairman Harold Barnes, who explained that the panel is a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees, said the university historically has been known for producing great teachers. School systems from other states used to come to ECSU to recruit teachers, he said.
“We have kind of lost that along the way,” Barnes said.
Robinson said the goal is for ECSU’s Education Department to be “the premier institution in the northeastern part of the state.” The department also needs to become a research and data source for rural schools nationwide, she said.
Bunch said it’s a concern that local school districts start the school year with numerous teacher vacancies.
“We believe it is a crucial part of ECSU’s mission to meet this need,” Bunch said.
Robinson and Bunch both said local school districts need to be involved with ECSU in the effort to strengthen the education department.
The first step for both the department and the committee, Bunch said, is “to look at where they are.”
“Let’s look at our program from top to bottom,” she said.
Robinson said the education department should have a global vision that considers not only what works across the county but also what is working in classrooms in other countries.
Robinson said the committee is looking to Ward and Chancellor Karrie Dixon to make a recommendation about who should conduct the initial assessment of the education department. Selection of the assessor is a “critical first step,” Robinson said.
Ward noted that the recently started strategic planning process for the university will shape ECSU’s overall vision for the future. Robinson and Bunch said their plan is to continue the conversation about the education program “in tandem with” that planning process.
Bunch and Robinson said ECSU needs to look at what other schools are doing to achieve excellence in their education programs.
“What we want you to know is that you have the board’s support,” Bunch told Ward.
ECSU staff will be driving the assessment and improvement process, with the committee providing advice and counsel, Robinson and Bunch both said.
Barnes agreed with that approach, noting, “We have to be very careful to stay in the balcony and not on the stage.”
Robinson said the committee also needs to think about who else should help with the panel’s efforts. Certainly a superintendent of a K-12 school district in northeastern North Carolina — ECSU’s service territory — should be part of the committee, she said.
Robinson said she believes Dixon has identified an assessor, and that person needs to meet with the committee.
Once the new provost is named, that official can recommend others who might need to be included on the committee, Robinson said.