A group of superintendents across Texas recently released a report on the state of rural schools. The report identifies challenges specific to these schools, like teacher recruitment and isolation, and offers best practices to meet them.
Nivens is also a member of the Rural Schools Task Force, which produced the report.
...on the recommendations from the Rural Schools Task Force: One was kind of a grow-your-own program — so starting at the middle school, high school level. Train students and put them in an environment where they start learning about the teaching profession and then they make a commitment to go to college and major in education.
And then you make a commitment to those students that when they graduate with a degree in education, they come back, they're guaranteed an interview. Especially in a rural setting, they're probably guaranteed a job because we always want students to come back and pour into their community.
It's great when you have a building full of students that graduated from that building. They're familiar with the traditions, they're familiar with the community, and it just makes it all around better experience for everybody.
...on schools in small districts playing a larger role in community life: [Community ISD] represents four separate communities and towns, and so the school is actually the glue that pulls everybody together. We've made a very intentional effort to make sure that we expose our children to events and activities that they can get involved in. So our communication, my visibility and everything has to be the best it can be to make sure everybody is on the same page.
...on the recommendation addressing community and teacher isolation: In a large school district, for instance, you may have three different teachers that teach Algebra I. Education is a very collaborative profession, and so those algebra teachers can all talk, they can collaborate, they can talk about best practices.
But in my school district, I have one teacher that teaches Algebra I, and so she doesn't have the access to her peers that also teach Algebra 1. So that isolation is simply [not having] that collaborative piece with people that do the same thing I do on a daily basis — not just teach but teach my subject. We try to address those issues as far as distance learning and professional development opportunities for teachers as well."
Roosevelt Nivens is the superintendent for Community ISD and member of the Rural Schools Task Force.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Read the report