Dr. Janice Poda, Senior Director of the Division of Teacher Quality for the South Carolina Department of Education concluded her testimony today by noting that "you can not hold a person down unless you stay with them." Her testimony was an analogy to South Carolina’s treatment of the plaintiff districts. Dr. Poda elaborated on this analogy by stating that the failure of South Carolina to educate its children results in "another burden on our society and our state because we don't have a system that helps them be able to be gainfully employed and to work as a productive citizen in this state." Dr. Poda went on to state that she is very concerned about the state's failure to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a minimally adequate education.
When discussing the reasons for the students' failure to receive that opportunity, Dr. Poda again stressed issues related to teacher quality. Specifically, that the teachers in the plaintiff districts are not provided the type of training and on-going support they need. "Some of the teachers go in and they give it their absolute best effort on a daily basis", said Poda, but the teachers "are not equipped" and properly supported to educate these children.
According to Poda, it is the students who suffer as a result of this failure. Poda testified that the failure to properly train and support the teachers "impacts [the students] ability to learn and [their] ability to be successful in life."
Following Dr. Poda’s testimony, former Dillon 2 teacher Bill Johnson took the stand. Johnson taught mathematics at Dillon 2 for twenty-two (22) years before taking a similar position in Horry County. When asked why Mr. Johnson left Dillon 2, he said that he had to think of his wife and family and the additional Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) a year was more then he could pass up. But after arriving to teach at North Myrtle Beach Middle School in Horry County, Mr. Johnson received more than a Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) raise. Mr. Johnson testified that upon arriving at school he found supplies and resources that were not available to him in Dillon 2. His new school provided calculators, computers and laser printers for his students to use in their lessons. Johnson also stated that he had significantly fewer students to teach, while receiving more support from the administration and fellow staff members. As a result, he testified that these advantages enhanced the teaching and learning experience for both him and the students. Moreover, if it had not been for the training and support he received from his school, the advanced technology and tool in the classroom would have sat on the floor of the classroom gathering dust.
At the conclusion of Mr. Johnson's testimony, Ms. Polly Elkins took the stand. Ms. Elkins is now the Director of School Reform for Dillon 2, but for the last three years, she served as Principal of East Elementary School. East Elementary has a high percentage of children living in poverty and a growing number of Hispanic children who do not speak English. Mrs. Elkins's testimony will continue on Thursday, followed by Peggy Stafford, Principal of South Elementary School in Dillon, and Blue Huggins a teacher coach in Dillon.