“As you know, Teach for America has been in the news lately, and I just wanted to bring you all up to date,” Lembeck said.
Lembeck was referring to media reports of Cobb Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, who has come under criticism for an attempt to hire Teach for America candidates without first running it by the Cobb Board of Education.
School board Chairwoman Jill Mutimer asked Lembeck how teachers who come through the Teach for America program are different.
“The difference is they haven’t had a formal education on how to be a teacher through their college experience,” Lembeck said. “They’re students who are very, very strong students that come out and say they’re willing to teach at least a couple of years.”
They also are certified by the state as “highly qualified” and have taken the standardized test for teachers called the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators.
Board member Tom Cheater asked if such teachers were prepared to take over a class on the first day of school.
“From what we understood when we met with them, they’re ready to get into a classroom,” Lembeck said.
Board member Irene Berens asked what the cost was to hire them, to which Lembeck answered that the school system would pay the Teach for America organization $8,000 each teacher over the course of two years for training. Marietta would also pay the teacher a beginning teacher’s salary.
“But we’re already paying science and math teachers a signing bonus to come and work for us: $1,000 a year for three years,” Lembeck said.
Board member Stuart Fleming gave the program a glowing endorsement.
“Teach for America I think has gotten a little bit of a bad rap based on some of the school systems across this country that they have gone into, but the actual teachers … are tremendously qualified individuals,” Fleming said. “Whether or not they’ve been trained historically as teachers is another subject, but these are from Brown, these are from Yale, these are from folks who want to make a difference in the world in which they live in and are not driven by money, so I’m fully supportive of the process and going down the path to explore it.”
Mutimer asked if such teachers only remain with the system for a few years.
“Some of them stay longer,” Lembeck said. “Some of them really choose to stay because they find that this is gratifying. For many reasons people choose to dedicate some of their early years to higher purposes in their mind. Why do people go and join the Peace Corps and stay in another country for several years? It’s just something they are deeply committed to.”
Lembeck said the organization contacted her in December and asked to meet to tell her more about the group. Lembeck said she told them at the time that Marietta rarely begins school with teacher openings, and if it does those openings are limited and specific in the areas of math, science and special education. Even so, the group invited her to attend a Teach for America job fair on March 23.
“I’ve not negotiated with them,” Lembeck said. “I’ve not committed to anything with them, but I do think it’s worth checking into.”
Mutimer said she supports the move.
“Well, we want you to hire the best teachers wherever you find them. That’s what I want,” Mutimer said.
Lembeck said she would give the board an update on what she thought of the candidates at a future board meeting.