ECS announces partnership, certification pathway with NMU

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 14, 2022

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EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe Community Schools has entered into a partnership with Northern Michigan University to provide a pathway to teaching certification for district staff members.

At the June 13 Eastpointe Community Schools Board of Education meeting, the board approved the allocation of $500,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to support the online pathway to certification program.

The district will pay NMU tuition for eligible candidates to achieve their teacher certifications in exchange for a three-year commitment to teaching in ECS after certification.

“Employees who already have a bachelor’s degree can pursue secondary certification in a core subject area,” a district press release states. “Current paraprofessionals can pursue a bachelor’s degree with a certification in learning disabilities.”

During the meeting, then Assistant Superintendent Christina Gibson, now superintendent as of July 1, discussed the program. Also part of the discussion was Joe Lubig, NMU associate dean and director of education, leadership and public service, who spoke about the program virtually.

“We jumped at the chance to work with Eastpointe. We heard great things from colleagues at the (Michigan Department of Education),” Lubig said. “We’ve been placing student teachers out of our immediate area across the world for student teaching for 16 weeks for about 50 years. We feel really confident in what we are doing. We feel very confident that we can support your needs at Eastpointe, so thank you for the opportunity and the consideration.”

Gibson said the half million dollars would support 40 people in the pathway program. The program will cover tuition but not registration fees or course materials.

“Northern Michigan is offering half off of tuition if the district funds the pathway,” Gibson said. “I think it ends up being about $400, and the normal graduate credits are $800.”

The program name will be Step Up to Certification. The district will offer two pathways to certification, and all the coursework will be online.

“One will be a paraprofessional to learning disabled pathway. For those employees who are existing paraprofessionals in our organization but might be a few credits shy of getting a bachelor’s degree … they will be able to enroll in Northern Michigan University and take courses to complete their bachelor’s degree,” Gibson said. “Then the district and Northern Michigan would have a pathway for them to obtain a learning disability certificate. As you know, our area of need is in special education. We also have a high need for certified staff at the secondary level.”

The second pathway is for anyone in the program with a bachelor’s degree who would be seeking certification.

“Both of those programs will involve teachers being mainstreamed into the existing pathway that Northern Michigan calls their Step Up to Certification,” Gibson said. “We have also negotiated with our teachers union. The teachers union and our legal counsel have developed a contract that would require that an employee, who the district funds for tuition, would stay with the district for three years after certification.”

The district will be hiring the staff while they are completing their education.

“Each employee will be on a different pathway,” Gibson said. “It’s going to depend on how many credits they have and what kind of certification they are hoping for. The district would choose if these are candidates that we want to continue to invest in.”