FAIRFIELD COUNTY — The Olde English Consortium is a behind-the-scenes organization working to help improve schools in nine districts including Fairfield School District. While many may not have heard of the Consortium, plenty have reaped the benefits of its work.
OEC Executive Director Michael Fanning discussed some of the incentives that large school districts have that may not be available to smaller districts for various reasons. One major source of assistance available to larger districts is the ability to employ lobbyists.
While that would be an inefficient use of funds in places like Fairfield and Chester, the OEC has found that with strength in numbers there is less need for lobbyists.
Fanning, knowing this, has worked to facilitate meetings and bring together the various entities.
“If nine school districts and two universities work together and meet with their legislative representatives together, you don’t need to hire lobbyists,” he said. “There is power and strength in numbers and it doesn’t cost any money whatsoever.”
School districts in South Carolina vary wildly from one to another in terms of population, demographics, and revenue. Greenville County School District, the largest in the state, includes around 70,000 students while the Fairfield County School District is currently around 3,000 students.
When it comes time to purchase textbooks and equipment, the larger school districts in the state will have more funds and be able to order in bulk which often equates to reduced rates.
This puts smaller districts at a significant disadvantage. This is where the Olde English Consortium is able to step in and provide assistance. By coordinating with several districts to pool resources, they are able to get the lower average cost of the large school districts and provide better efficiency in spending.
Fairfield School District Superintendent Dr. J R Green discussed the benefits the Consortium provides both to his district and surrounding ones.
“It provides an opportunity for districts to come together to do more things than they could do individually,” he said.
Another challenge smaller districts face is specialization among staff. In a large district, there may several educators qualified to teach numerous languages, but in smaller districts the languages offered can often be limited due to staff.
By again pooling resources, these school districts are able to reach out and either find a staff member to teach a course or get a current staff member the training and certification required to teach a course that was previously unavailable.
Green said the district had benefited especially from professional development opportunities. Whether the development is for teachers or administrators, the collaboration has proven beneficial.
“I can send elementary principals to all those other districts and we can bring in various people to provide opportunities that we may not be able to do as individual districts,” he said.
Education is another powerful tool the Consortium is helping to provide. Many educators are interested in furthering their own education in pursuit of providing more information to students or further their career in the education field.
By bringing educators together across nine districts, the OEC is able to partner with colleges such as Winthrop to provide continuing education, often at reduced costs. This education is also targeted to district needs so that current issues can be addressed.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.