Sumter's education leaders learn state policy processes

2 of 17 fellowship members from Sumter School District

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Two Sumter School District administrators are getting an inside look at how education policy is developed in the state and also seeing best practices at work in public education through a state fellowship program this year.

Anita Hunter, principal at Mayewood Middle School, and Karen Buffalo, assistant principal at Alice Drive Elementary School, made their comments Tuesday about participating in the S.C. Education Policy Fellowship Program through the state School Improvement Council.

Hunter and Buffalo are two of only 17 educational leaders in the state who were selected for the fellowship this school year.

According to Hunter, educators take part in a state application process annually for selection and submit a letter of goals they would like to achieve through the fellowship.

This year's fellowship program members include other principals and assistant principals from across the Palmetto State, a few district-level administrators, the 2018 S.C. Teacher of the Year, individuals from the state School Boards Association and the Palmetto State Teachers Association, and a state legislator, Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster.

The program meets one day per month for 10 months (September through June) to learn more about how education policy is implemented and passed by lawmakers in the Statehouse and how educators can get more involved in the legislative process, Hunter said.

Many educators are not aware of how the policy process works and find it hard to get engaged, she said.

"I don't think educators so much are involved in the policy process who work with students on a daily basis," Hunter said. "I think this is a great opportunity to even push ourselves and encourage each other to get more involved in it because these policies affect our jobs and the students we work with daily."

Given vast technological changes and increasing workforce skill requirements on the part of business and industry, education policies and assessment standards are ever-evolving in recent years, according to Hunter and others.

To date, Buffalo said she has learned various strategies educators can utilize to affect policy in a positive way, such as connecting with community leaders, local school board members and even state school board members.

Hunter and Buffalo said it's been an invaluable experience that can allow them to be a better resource to classroom teachers in their own schools.

Fellowship program members are also learning some best practices in public education from across the state, such as an after-school partnership program currently underway in Greenville County Schools.

"We are learning what other counties are implementing and possibly bring those resources and ideas back here, if we can implement them," Buffalo said.