Through a newly created cooperative effort, GWISD high school welding, math and physics students this fall will take some courses from Beeville Independent School District instructors.
GWISD welding students will take their classes in Beeville; math and physics students will be taught via a video conference with a Beeville teacher.
Superintendents of both districts are keen on the idea.
“There’s such a push to save money after the reduction in state funding,” says BISD Superintendent Dr. Sue Thomas. “This is one way to do it.”
For Ty Sparks, superintendent at GWISD, the program with BISD solves what is becoming a continuing problem: finding teachers with sparse housing in an oil boom.
The George West system will pay BISD a nominal fee, Thomas says, but explains that the amount is far below the cost of hiring a teacher.
Welding classes will be at BISD. “You can’t teach welding over a video conference,” Thomas notes.
Sparks intends to have his welding instructor accompany the George West students when they attend class.
“We might even team up for contests,” he says.
But Thomas is quick to point out that in the exchange program, the students will be able to maintain their own high school identities.
The idea of the teaching exchange stems from a consortium of principles she formed while working in Aransas Pass. The current program is the result of a conversation a few weeks ago between Thomas and Sparks.
Thomas hopes the exchange is just the beginning. “I’d like to work with George West students to take dual credit hours,” Thomas says, who also wants to see the program expanded to include additional districts such as Sinton.
She says that a few years ago, she made similar offers to school districts in Pettus and Skidmore, but they showed no interest.
To illustrate another benefit from such an exchange, Thomas cites the possibility of a teacher not having enough students to fill a full day of classes. Adding students from another district might make a difference.
“You always want the kids to have the best opportunities,” Sparks emphasizes.
“The more you can do for the kids, the better,” Thomas adds.
Teaching by video conference isn’t anything new for GWISD. Sparks says some of his students have taken courses from a teacher in Three Rivers.
“It’s a good idea, as long as you have a good connection, enough bandwidth and a teacher who knows how to teach over video.”
The districts plan to conduct a test within the next week.
If the test is successful, Sparks plans to take video-conference teaching a step further.
“We will record the sessions,” he says, “and put them on our website as podcasts.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.