By Rebecca Gaunt
Cobb County teachers will have the chance to earn an advanced degree at no personal cost under Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s new teacher retention plan called Georgia’s BEST (Building Educator Success Together).
Ragsdale shared the details of the partnership program with University of West Georgia at Thursday’s school board work session, where it was approved unanimously.
UWG will cut tuition and fees by 50% for the 500 Cobb teachers who apply and are accepted to the program. The remaining cost will be completely covered by the district in exchange for a commitment to teach at CCSD for an additional three years after completion.
Successful applicants could start as early as this summer. If the program is successful, Ragsdale said he intends to renew and expand it.
The board approved $500,000 from surplus funds to go toward the program.
In response to educator complaints, collected by the Georgia Department of Education Teacher Burnout Task Force, that college courses sometimes duplicate material from professional development or are taught by instructors long removed from K-12 settings, Ragsdale said the program would be streamlined to fit the needs of CCSD teachers by hiring experienced Cobb teachers and administrators as part-time UWG faculty. This will allow the embedding of Cobb-specific topics such as CTLS (Cobb Teaching and Learning System).
The CCSD instructor will be provided a professorial coach by UWG.
“We will establish a process for determining programs in which we have the highest need, such as special education and leadership, and an application and evaluation process for all eligible employees,” Ragsdale said.
Board member Randy Scamihorn suggested adding a stipulation that would preclude first-year teachers from applying, but Ragsdale said he saw the program as a recruitment tool and “the better package you can present, the better opportunity we have to get those top-tier graduates.”
“We have worked extremely hard to recruit Georgia’s strongest educator workforce and we need to retain that investment,” Ragsdale said.
Leroy Tre’ Hutchins, a former UWG student, spoke enthusiastically about the plan.
“For us to partner with that institution alone allows me comfort in what we’re doing here,” he said, calling it one of the premier education colleges in the state of Georgia.
“The fact that we don’t have to drive an hour to Carrollton to participate in that world-class education is going to be critical for our educators,” Hutchins said.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.