High on parent interest lists: Quality teachers and local education options

Every parent wants the best possible education for their children, which highlights the positive options available for today’s families living in Plumas County.

In the Chester, Greenville and Quincy communities, families with school-aged children can opt to enroll their students in either of two public school systems: Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) or Plumas Charter School (PCS). There are other options as well in Eastern Plumas County.

High desire for quality teachers

With 348 students attending PCS and 1,850 enrolled with PUSD, the two school systems share many features, and a few important differences of approach, in their work to educate the county’s kindergartners through 12th-graders.

One thing they share is a solid commitment to hiring and retaining top-quality teachers who are passionate about their work and well qualified according to state standards — a promise upon which local parents depend.

In fact, local principals have reported that high-caliber candidates continually apply for teaching posts in Plumas County, a testament to the excellent education goals in practice here.

Are charter teachers licensed?

Recently, a parent expressed interest in understanding how the local schools allocate resources and what they require in classroom expertise. Does every teacher have to be licensed? Is there an exception for charter school educators?

The simple answer is that teachers earn their credentials from the state of California (in various categories) and no, there is no exception for charter-school programs focusing on standard state “core” subject areas such as  math, science, history-social studies, English language arts and literacy.

They must meet the same state requirements to provide credentialed teaching staff.

“There are many levels of credentialing that are completely acceptable when hiring a credentialed teacher,” explained PCS Executive Director Taletha Washburn, offering specific examples for the charter’s local sites.

At Plumas Charter School, there are 11 teachers with Clear Credentials; five teachers with Preliminary Credentials; three teachers with Intern Credentials; and one teacher who is employed on a Short Term Staff Permit (because the teacher is enrolled in a credential program).

According to Washburn, “These teachers are responsible for delivering all core instruction to students.”

Representing PUSD as the authorizing agency for the charter school, Superintendent Terry Oestreich concurred and said she confirmed with the district’s credentialing specialist, Kim Retallack, “that all of Plumas Charter School’s core teachers either have their appropriate credentials or are working on them.”

Instructional aides benefit classes

Additionally, PCS has several part-time instructional aides who work with students to augment classroom learning, both in general and special education.

The aides are not required to have teaching credentials because they work under the direct supervision, and at the specific direction of, the credentialed teachers.

Virtually all public school systems, PUSD included, make use of classroom aides in some way to offer one-on-one help where needed and to maximize teacher effectiveness.

Plumas Charter adheres to a student-adult ratio of 12-to-1, so each class typically has both a credentialed teacher and an instructional aide.

“We strive to keep the student to adult ratios (low) so students can get the attention and opportunities they deserve,” Washburn noted. “We are unique in that we choose to provide instructional aides for teachers who have more than 15 students in a classroom environment. This is a programmatic choice we make and is done so in order to provide more support and opportunities to students.”

PCS instructional aides working from 10 to 30 hours per week include three in Chester, two in Greenville, one at Indian Valley and seven at the Quincy sites (higher there due to the need for Special Education aides).

Extending classroom resources

Ask any local teacher or principal and they will tell you they are constantly looking for ways to better help their students succeed and enjoy school. Student support for academic success is high on their daily to-do lists at both PCS and PUSD campuses.

Quality instruction is high on parents’ lists, too, and that’s something the schools strive to offer in very specific ways, such as with core education subjects, and always with a goal of meeting state and federal requirements first and creatively meeting student-family needs at the same time.

In other areas, state guidelines allow schools to take advantage of local specialists with training and education in specific fields as a means to offer expanded educational opportunities that can extend learning outside the classroom.

In fact, California State Education Code spells out that charter teachers must have qualifications “equivalent to that which a teacher in other public schools would be required to hold,” and it also states, “It is the intent of the Legislature that charter schools be given flexibility with regard to noncore, noncollege preparatory courses.”

Well-rounded students have fun

Interest and enthusiasm for a range of subjects help students grow into well-rounded citizens capable of making informed decisions in life and adapting to changing conditions.

College admissions teams specifically look for well-rounded applicants.

To that end, public schools work to offer fun, creative education outlets beyond the 3 Rs — sports, technology and the arts just to name a few.

At PCS, the staff also includes seven part-time enrichment instructors who, like the instructional aides, are classified staff members.

These employees, (one each in Chester and Indian Valley, plus four in Quincy, one of whom also serves Greenville), work from 10 to 32 hours a week teaching subjects such as yoga, martial arts, music, art, drama, gardening and outdoor education.

The charter program does not employ these noncredentialed staffers to save money, as opposed to hiring credentialed teachers to lead these classes.

On the contrary, “PCS, in fact, spends significantly more funds (than required) annually in order to provide the support of instructional aides and the opportunities afforded by the enrichment staff,” Washburn explained.

Every PCS enrichment instructor has a bachelor’s degree in his or her subject area, the director said. They are specialized in their chosen field and, in some cases, operate a related business, such as teaching music lessons to other clients, etc.

“Our enrichment instructors are not required to be credentialed as they are offering enrichment activities that are outside of the core curriculum,” Washburn said. “These staff members are in addition to the many credentialed teachers we have.”

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