Carroll County Schools, like many school districts across the nation, is actively exploring innovative strategies to attract new teachers and retain existing ones. One such initiative available to educators in Carroll County is the “First Time Long Time” program, a collaborative effort with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC). Teachers are offered a minimum of $1,000 in tuition assistance through this program.

First Time Long Time is available to those enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program, such as those seeking an alternative route to obtain a teacher certification, as well as classified staff who are pursuing a teacher certification.

“The growing shortage of teachers is becoming more severe by the year so we have to do whatever we can to recruit and retain teachers,” said Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Jonica Ray. “The cost of going back to school to get another certification is very costly. We are constantly seeking out new funding sources and tools to be able to support our teachers.”

OVEC offers approximately $20,000 to Carroll County Schools. Ray then notifies employees who are eligible for the assistance. Those who accept the tuition support commit to enrolling in an accredited teacher education program, staying with the district for three years, participating in monthly Zoom meetings and attending a one-day summer conference.

This is the second year Carroll County has participated in the program. Last year, only four employees took advantage of the opportunity. This year, however, 16 employees are utilizing the tuition assistance.

The OVEC funds can benefit teachers participating in both Option 6 and Option 9 programs. Option 6 includes people who already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a non-teaching major, but have decided they would like to pursue a teaching certification. These future teachers become provisionally certified for four years and teach while obtaining their certification.

Option 9 is an alternative path to an education certificate that is gaining steam in Carroll County Schools. This is specifically targeted to Instructional Assistants (IA). They can complete a bachelor’s degree and initial teacher certification in a three-year period while working in a non-teaching position in the school district, according to Ray.

Kala Garrett, employed as an IA at Kathryn Winn Primary is pursuing her degree through the Option 9 program. “I’ve wanted to go back to school for quite some time, but could not afford to quit my job to do student teaching,” she said. Garrett is attending NKU and praised their staff for the support she has received. She encouraged any IA considering a teaching degree to pursue this option.

A fellow IA at Winn, Briannah Isaacs, is also working on her degree while maintaining her job. “The biggest benefit to Option 9 is that I get paid for some of my clinical hours required by my college because I am already in the classroom,” Isaacs said. “I walked these halls as a student over 15 years ago, now I walk as an assistant. I will soon walk as a teacher after learning from the best mentors.”

Carroll County Schools currently has Option 9 partnerships with Northern Kentucky University, University of the Cumberlands and Campbellsville University. This video from NKU discusses their program and features Garrett. Paraeducator Pathway Info

On top of those opportunities, the district has recently purchased 100 credits from 240 Tutoring to provide teachers who are taking the Praxis exam an online support platform. This provides teachers free access to online study materials to help them prepare for the mandatory test.

“These exams are expensive to take and difficult to pass so this is just one more level of support we have chosen to offer,” Ray said. “There is no such thing as investing too much in your people and we are doing everything we can to ensure that every classroom has a certified teacher.”

Anyone interested in pursuing these opportunities should contact Ray at 502-732-7070 or