Camden eyes more local teacher development options


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 24, 2019

CAMDEN — The Camden school district plans to expand the number of local professional development opportunities for teachers next school year.

This year, Camden is using six early release days to offer professional development for teachers. Half of those days are being used for school-based professional development and the other three are for districtwide professional development, Camden County Schools Chief Academic Officer Yolanda Anderson explained during a recent meeting of the Camden Board of Education.

Anderson said the plan is to continue that pattern in the 2019-20 school year, offering three school-based professional development days and three days for districtwide professional development. The plan is to use six early-release days for that purpose, as in the current school year.

But new next year will be the opportunity for teachers to propose professional development workshops they would like to lead in a special area of expertise. That will increase the total number of options for workshops for teachers, Anderson explained.

The topic of professional development for teachers came up during a school board discussion on proposed school calendars for the 2019-20 year. One of the recurring questions about calendars is whether to have early-release days, how many to schedule and when they should be scheduled.

But Camden Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell asked an even more basic question of board members at the meeting: “What is your vision for early release days?”

Board Chairman Christian Overton said early release days were started before he joined the board. Overton said his understanding is that early release days in Camden started as a way to enable teachers to participate in professional development opportunities locally without having to travel to out-of-town workshops.

Offering professional development locally was seen as a way to “get more bang for our buck,” Overton said.

Ferrell noted that this year the early release days have been used for professional development. He said that when he arrived in Camden in late 2017 and began his “learning and listening tour” the number one thing he heard from teachers was that they wanted more professional development.

The board is expected to vote on the 2019-20 school calendar in April.