Chamber hears Bromwell’s goals

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/DCPS
Public schools Interim Superintendent Dave Bromwell spoke to members of the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 17

CAMBRIDGE — Schools Superintendent Dave Bromwell shared his goals and challenges with members of the local business community on Sept. 17 during a Dorchester Chamber of Commerce lunch. Among the top issues faced by the county’s public schools are teacher retention and the needs of trauma-affected students.

Also important, he said, is learning the needs of businesses, many of which will employ Dorchester’s graduates.
“I’m looking forward to serving all of you, hearing your wants, concerns and needs. You will get a return phone call from me. And I don’t think I’ve turned down anyone who wanted to meet with me, as well.”

He said he wanted to work with Chamber leaders to ensure “that bridge from Dorchester County out to the workforce is where we need it.”

That goal is all the more challenging after the county’s loss of many teachers in recent years — 55 three years ago, 78 two years ago, and 88 last year. A salary survey shows a big part of the reason, he said, noting that while Dorchester teachers start at $42,000, in neighboring Caroline County, they make $48,000.

Maybe even more problematic than not getting the rookies right out of college is the way new teachers and administrators get a few years of experience and training here, and are then lured away by superior salaries in other districts. Because Dorchester’s tax base is lower than nearby counties’, it is difficult to raise teachers’ and administrators’ salaries to a competitive level.

Even considering the modest raise Dorchester’s teachers received this year, “We are still last in the state for teachers’ starting salaries,” Mr. Bromwell said, adding that he and others are trying to find ways to raise pay here.

There’s some good news, though ‑ it seems that many of those who left want to come home. Of the teachers and administrators who went to other counties in the last two years, “Just about every one of them has already contacted me,” Mr. Bromwell said.

One of the challenges they face, in addition to regular classroom instruction, are the needs of children who have been traumatized by their experiences at home or elsewhere outside of school. Many of Dorchester’s students have experienced abuse, neglect and hunger, which adversely affect their focus on classwork or behavior in school.

Mr. Bromwell said employees of the district will receive training on how best to deal with traumatized young people. As an example of the challenge and reward of working with such young people, he recalled a young man who recently graduated from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School.

The teen’s behavior had been troublesome, largely because he was expressing his anger at his father. But with the proper attention and support, the student made it through his senior year.

Though the student had little contact with his father, he hoped he would attend graduation. The father did not. After the ceremony, then-Principal Mr. Bromwell went back into the auditorium to check on things, and saw the young man standing alone.

“He busted out in tears,” Mr. Bromwell said, when he realized that his principal was there to support him, even when his own father was not.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be at Maple Elementary School on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m.

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