$5M grant to build leadership skills in Marion County teachers

MARION, SC (WBTW) – Marion County School District leaders hope a multimillion-dollar grant will help train and retain teachers inside school classrooms.

In May, News13 reported that the school district was set to lose about 70 teachers to retirement, higher paying jobs in different counties, or teachers exploring a different career.

Marion County School District Superintendent Dr. Kandace Bethea hopes the $5 million grant will keep teachers in the district.

“When teachers know more, students know more,” explains Dr. Bethea. “Every day when I get up I’m touching some child’s life.”

Dr. Bethea has worked in education for more than two decades and says the district has been working for months to find resources to help teachers develop their skills. The district and surrounding areas struggle to recruit and retain teachers because counties in other parts of the state can pay a higher salary.

“It’s a challenging career,” admits Dr. Bethea. “We have to make sure we are supporting teachers and giving them the resources and access to the professional development they need.”

The grant will give teachers a leadership plan and more training by giving teachers the opportunity to attend conferences around the country, bringing leadership instructors into Marion County schools for on-site training, and helping teachers build a networking system to share educational ideas that have developed success stories. Since teachers will be required to do more, the grant will pay teachers for the training they complete as a salary stipend.

District Public Relations and Special Projects director, Deborah D. Wimberly,  believes the grant will make the district more competitive.

“This grant gives us the ability provide a higher level professional development along with the compensations that larger districts do but unfortunately small rural districts, unfortunately, do not have the resources to do such,” explained Wimberly.

Former Marion County student Daniel Legette says the grant sounds like an investment into the teachers.

“Our teachers, they have a lot to deal with our students as far as, behavior wise,” explains Legette. “Then you have certain students that have a hard time teaching them whereas certain students just catch on.”

The grant will last five years. Each year the district will evaluate how student test scores are impacted.

“When you see that kid that struggled have that glimmer of success, it just does something,” states Dr. Bethea. “That’s when you know you are a true educator.”

The district administrator will begin training in November; teachers will begin in January.