People Make the Difference
When students – even those deemed at risk and near the point of dropping out – realize that someone truly cares about them, the process of education becomes a whole lot easier.
That’s a deep-seated belief of Enoree Career Center Star Academy Director Terry Manigault, and it’s hard to argue with his success. Wrapping up his third year as director of two Star Academies (also Donaldson Career Center) in Greenville, South Carolina, Manigault has seen a lot of students come and go, but they all have at least one thing in common: “Kids just need to know that somebody cares.”
After that has been established, education can begin, so the key to success is getting the correct teachers hired into the Star Academy.
“You must make sure that you have a very competent staff,” Manigault said. “You have to have people who care about the kids. They have to be willing to change their paradigm, how they’re used to teaching.”
He goes one step further and makes it personal in carrying out the process for determining who will head up the Star Academy classrooms. “My number one question is, ‘Is it somebody I would want to teach my child?’ If it’s not, then you won’t be hired. Is it somebody I would trust around my child? Do they have knowledge of their content and know it well enough they won’t have to necessarily refer to the textbook? I start with these premises, and then we dig deeper.”
Such a rigorous and demanding review process has paid off at Enoree, where all teachers except one have been on board since the Star Academy was implemented.
Social studies teacher Patrick Jarrett appreciates Manigault’s candidness. “He is a great administrator. I enjoy working for him,” Jarrett says. “He gives feedback, positive and negative, which is good. He creates a positive environment, and he seems to care. He’s a great guy to work for. He’s got your back.”
Manigault says the students in his program are not just numbers, “they’re human beings,” so the adults who work with them should treat them accordingly. Likewise, student respect is critical, and Manigault has that covered with his expectations for student effort. For example, he recently sponsored an extra day for make-up work to allow students with grades of 75 or below an opportunity to catch up. Many students took advantage of the offering, which included a pizza lunch, and raised their grades.
Teachers join Manigault in the critical step of interviewing students who are interested in and qualify for admission to the Greenville Star Academies, improving the likelihood of success and ensuring that the program is reaching the types of students it’s designed to serve.
“We do an orientation with parents and students and then we interview students,” Manigault says. “I’m going to agree with what the teachers recommend, unless there’s a mitigating circumstance they may not know about. The teachers do have some ownership. I want them to have ownership of what’s going on at this school every day.”
A commitment to assembling the best possible teaching staff and then selecting the right group of students in need of academic acceleration has yielded positive results. About 60 percent of students advanced from eighth to tenth grade the first year of the Star Academy at Enoree. During the second year, that number improved. Manigault expects another increase this year.
“The key is to get the right teacher and then the right mix of students,” he says. “Then, the rest will take care of itself.”