SCPS partners with VCU to address teacher shortage

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Southampton County School Board voted 7-0 on Oct. 10 to form a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University to implement the Teachers for Tomorrow program, described as a long-term solution to the division’s teacher shortage.

Gwendolyn P. Shannon

Vice Chair Christopher Smith Sr. was not present at the meeting.

“Southampton County School Division, as well as many other rural school divisions in Virginia and across the country, have been faced with a teacher shortage,” Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed said while addressing the board. “In Southampton County School Division, one of our long-term solutions to the teacher shortage is creating partnerships with neighboring colleges and universities who can assist us in filling those needs.”

Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn P. Shannon said, “We have begun talks with Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as Virginia State University, regarding our mission of growing our own teachers.”

Shannon noted that Harris-Muhammed has been instrumental in forging these partnerships.

“She is here tonight with a representative from VCU to talk about the moving-forward process of this partnership and our next steps,” Shannon said.

Harris-Muhammed announced that SCPS has been selected to partner with VCU to fill the gap of teacher vacancies “by building our own pipeline in Southampton County School Division while preparing our students to enter in the field of education.”

She added, “It gives me great pleasure and honor to stand before you to introduce two exciting educational partnerships for our school division…”

Kim McKnight

Dr. Kim McKnight, director of the Center for Teacher Leadership at VCU, shared details on the two partnerships with the board.

“We are so excited to start Teachers for Tomorrow, where you will have high school students that will then come back to Southampton to be teachers,” McKnight said. 

She noted that the second initiative is the RTR Residency Program, formerly known as Richmond Teacher Residency.

In this partnership, money will go to pay for a future teacher to go to graduate school.

“From there, they’ll work alongside a (Southampton) mentor teacher for a full year — from the first day of teacher work week until the last day of school — while they’re getting their degree,” McKnight said. “And then in exchange, they’re going to stay in Southampton for three additional years.

“(RTR) retention data after 12 years of being in Richmond, Petersburg, Chesterfield and Henrico is over 80% are still teaching after five years,” she added. “And our favorite statistic is 99% of our mentor teachers say that being a mentor made them a more effective teacher.”

She introduced the other two VCU representatives at the school board meeting, including the recruitment coordinator for the RTR Residency Program, Sabrina Evans.

“She’ll be here when we’re trying to recruit future teachers for you all in Southampton,” McKnight said.

Shannon noted that VCU has sent SCPS “an agreement for $50,000 to be used for some of these initiatives. So thank you all so much.”

School Board Chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn expressed her excitement for the partnership.

“And as Dr. Shannon said, we’re also looking to form a partnership with Virginia State University, again working with Teachers for Tomorrow so that we can encourage young people to choose teaching as a career and come back to Southampton County to teach,” she said.