New virtual learning program coming to Muscogee County schools. How it will work

Years before the coronavirus forced schools to figure out how to remotely teach students, the Muscogee County School District started planning to operate a virtual learning program.

Superintendent David Lewis had made that part of his 10-year strategic plan when the MCSD board hired him in 2013 from Polk County, Florida.

Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved the superintendent’s recommendation to hire a director for the program.

Stacy Martin, an English language arts teacher at Double Churches Middle School, was promoted to lead the program as it debuts at the beginning of next school year.

Martin referenced MCSD’s mission and vision statements when she told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “I believe we have an opportunity to create an exceptional online program where our students are known, valued and inspired to achieve unlimited potential.”

Lewis told the L-E he recommended Martin out of 17 applicants and five interviewed candidates.

“Mrs. Martin has extensive and varied experiences as a high school and middle school classroom teacher, high school assistant principal and CTAE director, as well as online instruction and programming,” Lewis said in an email.

“During interviews, she conveyed the knowledge base, characteristics, leadership and creativity deemed essential for the planning and development of our district’s start-up virtual franchise,” Lewis said. “This was further corroborated through reference checks making her the consensus choice of the interview team.”

Director’s qualifications

Martin has been an English language arts teacher since 2020 at Double Churches Middle School, where she chairs the ELA department and serves on the school’s leadership team.

According to her resume, she has years of experience in education, including as a supervisor at the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy and serving as assistant principal and director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education at Dawson County High School.

She taught English and graphic communication at Harris County High School and also worked at Mountain Education Charter High School as a career specialist and tutor.

Martin earned a specialist’s degree in school leadership from North Georgia College and State University in 2011; a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from Troy University in 2008; and a bachelor’s degree in English with teaching certification from Columbus State University in 1994. She graduated from Harris County High School in 1984 and attended MCSD schools Clubview, St. Elmo, Richards, Arnold and Columbus.

Program’s details

According to MCSD’s plan, the program’s estimated start-up cost is $182,000 and grows to $1,058,000 in the third year of operation with a targeted student enrollment of 350 by then.

A blend of synchronous and asynchronous online classes will be offered. That means some of the instruction will have a teacher interacting with students on the screen at the same time, and other parts of the program will have students working on their own time.

The weekly instructional model for MCSD’s program will have four days synchronous and one day asynchronous.

During the first academic year of the program, 2022-23, MCSD plans to offer the following courses:

  • Ninth grade: literature, algebra I, physics, American government/citizenship, personal fitness/health, Spanish I and electives based on registration.

  • 10th grade: literature, geometry, biology, world history, Spanish II and electives based on registration.

MCSD plans to expand the program to eight and eleventh grades in 2023-24 and sixth, seventh and twelfth grades in 2024-25.

Proximity Learning, based in Austin, Texas, will provide the teachers during the program’s first year and part of the second year. According to its website, Proximity conducts classes in more than 30 topics for more than 200 schools in 20 states.

Initially using teachers from Proximity will allow MCSD teachers who want to work in the program to receive the required professional development and online-teaching credential. The program will be completely staffed by MCSD teachers starting in its third year.

No student registration procedure for the program has been established.

“That information has not yet been determined, which is the purpose of hiring this position now so they can be the point person for the program’s development,” Lewis said.

Director’s goal

Martin wants MCSD’s program to “set the standard” for virtual learning as it offers students “more choices, flexibility and ultimately, higher learning with post-graduate success.”

To do that, she intends to be a servant leader.

“My door is always open,” she said. “Teachers are empowered not only to innovate and design learning opportunities for students, but they must also be encouraged to extend their professional capacities and make the virtual classroom environments more personalized, engaging and enjoyable.”

Students must be at the center of all decisions, Martin said, “where the focus is on mutual respect for one another, and a curriculum that encourages innovation, risk taking, critical reflection and positive relationships.”