By Jymmi Jacobs

Dr. Edward Jadallah, Dean of the Spandoni College of Education set the tone for a September Board of Visitors (BOV) meeting by introducing three new initiatives for the 2011-2012 academic year. Dr. Jadallah summarized the purpose of the meeting as one to establish a guiding framework for the year so that the BOV could form committees to put these ideas into motion. The three initiatives focused on a research center, educational forums, and global awareness.

The proposed Center for Educational Research and Evaluation will seek to improve the academic achievement of students in schools and districts across the region by systematically conducting research on learning and teaching practices, developing and implementing professional development models based on context specific research findings, and by disseminating the findings to educators and policy makers. The center will also schedule and organize a quarterly public Educational Forum Series on topics directly related to current research projects. The series will invite experts, policy makers, local educators and community members to present, discuss and debate contemporary local, state, and national educational issues. It is anticipated that the first Educational Forum will be held in early October and will focus on Early Childhood Literacy.

Tom Raub, Director of the Literacy Alive program, spoke to the Board of Visitors on the first initiative and identified how the Waccamaw Community Foundation may be willing to provide support. The initiative will partner with the Center of Research & Evaluation to establish a community wide awareness of illiteracy in the Horry County Area. The coalition will present a highly visible new community focused on literacy and will provide support to enhance communication, align efforts, increase resources, ensure accountability, and promote the best practices in literacy education.  “We are the catalyst- fostering the community, we are here to preach 100% literacy by 100% community involvement,” said Raub.

The literacy plan will consist of five phases. The first phase, accessing the community is scheduled to begin in October. The Literacy Powerline experts will use the Center for Research and Evaluation to maintain a longitudinal database of information gathered from surrounding counties and provide literacy research for the Horry County Area.  After assessing the data, literacy experts will move quickly into Phase 2 designed to establish goals and priorities by initializing a community wide plan.  The initializing plan for Pre-K-12 and higher education will reach out for support from parents, civic groups, health care, and faith based organizations.  Community involvement will become the focus for Phase 3 and a literacy coalition who will work to foster accountability and finish out Phase 4 and 5 by implementing and sustaining the county wide literacy plan.

Drs. Nancy Ratcliff and Cathy Jones provided the BOV with the second presentation that was based on early childhood education. They praised the SCOE Early Childhood Program for its superior performance in candidate engagement. This program is designed to allow students to spend three weeks in a school interacting in a real world teaching setting. Through the program, interns are now broadening their interest in wanting to shadow schools in the Georgetown area.  “The program is growing, but we have just tipped the surface in Early Childhood Education,” said Ratcliff.

The third focus initiative was presented by Dr. Darla Domke-Damonte, Executive Director of Global Initiatives at Coastal.  This initiative will focus on the awareness of study abroad programs for education majors by developing incentives to encourage students to study abroad through Coastal’ s study abroad program.  Dr. Domke-Damonte stated that a survey of a college wide quality enhancement study showed 72% of students are interested in study abroad, but only 40% were likely to do it.

Dr. Damonte encouraged the Spandoni College of Education to help change this statistic by allowing study abroad programs to fulfill college degree requirements. Other possibilities include shorter study abroad programs within the United States, more opportunities for grants, potential for graduate program involvement, and cooperative partnerships all of which could increase student’s engagement in study abroad programs at Coastal. “With a lowered cost, we can increase impact and drive that same impact into future generations.”

The Board of Visitors along with others left the meeting with a clear understanding of the task at hand for the upcoming school year. In closing, Dr. Muriel O’Toole, Chairperson of the Board of Visitors, insured the Spadoni College of Education full support with all of the identified initiatives.

The Board of Visitors is looking forward to becoming very involved with several of the Educational Forums that will be scheduled throughout the 2011-2012 Academic School year.