Teacher foundation concept gets attention
- crew from Detroit Public TV films Maple Valley High School teacher Andrew Barna as he tells students about how to prepare for job interviews. (Photo by Taylor Owens)
The idea of a teacher foundation to support educators with such issues as mortgages, student loans and day care for their children is a concept bringing attention to Barry County.
Maple Valley Schools Superintendent Katherine Bertolini, who is developing the idea, is currently working with the Barry Community Foundation to kick-start the initiative.
With low enrollment and state funding, Maple Valley is struggling to retain faculty. Out of the school's approximately 60 teachers, 15 are new this year.
Bertolini's idea for a teacher foundation could be a way to keep more teachers in the district.
She was at Central Michigan University earlier this year, talking to their placement specialist about her idea, when she learned that Detroit Public TV was working on a documentary about the challenges facing rural school districts.
The CMU specialist put her in touch with the film crew.
“I think what they really liked was to try and do something out of the box,” Bertolini said. The crew also interviewed Barry Community Foundation President and CEO Bonnie Gettys, and is planning to film at school districts in Elk Rapids and Bellaire.
A three-person crew filmed class and interviewed Bertolini, along with two teachers, elementary veteran Matt Powers, and first-year Maple Valley teacher Andrew Barna on Tuesday.
The focus of the documentary is rural districts. Bertolini said the crew is taking a balanced approach, between what makes rural schools special and what makes them challenging.
“I think it was fun for the kids to have an opportunity to see something like that happening around them,” Bertolini said. The film crew was impressed with Maple Valley students after watching them in class, she said.
“I was really proud, that was a nice thing to hear about your kids.”
One of the premieres for the documentary, which will be about 30 minutes long, will be screened at the Maple Valley High School auditorium toward the end of the year.
Producer Sarah Zientarski-Smith said it will air on Detroit Public TV early next year, and afterward may be shown across the country. A previous documentary on Latino students and faculty aired in other areas like Texas and Washington, D.C.