Open Letter to Alan Hawkes of the Charter School Advisory Board in Response to His Comments About the “SOB’s” at the SBOE

Dear Mr. Hawkes,

An NC Policy Watch report from Billy Ball today (“Tempers flare among charter school supporters as state tightens vetting process“) showed that the new rift between the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) is still growing and seemingly fostering some ill will, at least on your part as a board member of the CSAB.

Thirteen days ago, the SBOE granted only eight approvals in a pool of 28 new charter school applications that the CSAB had presented for approval. The process is that the CSAB recommends acceptations of applications for charter schools and then the SBOE “signs off” on them.

In the past, it seems to have been a formality, especially when the cap on the number of charter schools was removed. But in a clear reversal of usual protocol, the SBOE practiced more scrutiny in giving approvals, and I along with many, many other public school advocates am grateful for that.

You made the following statement that really serves as a barometer for the magnitude of the SBOE’s actions. You stated as Mr. Ball reported,

“Don’t get me started about public charter school no-nothings (sic) on the NC State Board of Education,” Hawkes wrote in an email to Policy Watch this week. “The temerity and ignorance of those soulless SOB’s (sic) presuming to know better than the NC Charter School Advisory Board with its diversity of knowledge and experience in this area. If there is anyone who knows the good, the bad and the ugly about public school choice, it’s members of our NC CSAB.”

There’s some strong language there. In fact, you didn’t really state it. You spewed it. With some venom – venom that seems to be have been brewing for over twenty years.

A quick search on Google presented your LinkedIn account with enough publically allowed information about your background to verify that your crusade to promote charter schools seems more rooted in your resentment of “far-Lefties” having stolen twenty years of your life. It states,

“After Grand Island High, I began at Boston University(1968-1970). I got caught up w/Leftist protests, accepting every word from BU prof Howard Zinn as political gospel. I subsequently was required to leave BU. Fast-forward twenty years and with help from my kids & spouse, I picked books back up at Guilford College. With more maturity, perspective, & motivation, I found academic success second go around. Thank goodness to live in the USA where second chances abound for even former far-Lefties like myself. After being mugged by 20 years of reality, I found myself welcomed in as a political Neo-Con and finally a knowledgeable & responsible voter.”

Looking through the lens of your “background” at the quote in the NC Policy Watch report it seems that that resentment is still very much there. But when you state that the “SOB’s” presume to know better than the NC CSAB about public school choice, you actually verified that you are the one who lacks the insight of the ill effects of “choice.”

One of your charter school advocates, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, essentially helped people see the cracks in the armor of unregulated charter school growth when he received the report from DPI this past January that showed how charter schools were actually more segregated than public schools. He then demanded that the report be redone to show charter schools in a more favorable light. In fact, he was mad that the report didn’t have “a lot of positive things to say.”

Recently, Lindsay Wagner of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation wrote an expose on the charter school industry here in North Carolina that very much brought to light the inconsistencies of the “public school choice” movement that cloaks charter school growth which ultimately takes away tax payer money from allowing many public schools (that you seem to rail against) to be fully funded.

You may read that report here – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/07/28/failing-charter-schools-inadequate-screening-and-oversight-causing-big-problems-for-many-nc-families/ . I would not be surprised if many members of the SBOE read that same report and found its contents disturbing, considering they are responsible with distributing tax payer money.

In an election year that has public education as one of the primary issues, I am not surprised that the State Board of Education took more precaution in justifying more charter schools which really are just “public” when asking for state money, but operate “privately” after that money is secured to avoid any transparency.

Take for example The Greensboro Academy, a charter school where you serve as the president of the Board of Directors. If people look at the reviews for the Greensboro Academy, they will find it rated on GreatSchools with an overall score of 9 out of ten. That’s impressive.

But the website for the school says, “Our school is designed to eliminate the achievement gap and provide a public school choice to your family so your child is prepared for success in high school, college, and beyond” (https://www.nhaschools.com/schools/greensboro/en/Pages/At-a-Glance.aspx). Interestingly enough, when someone hears “achievement gap”, he/she usually thinks of the academic achievement of white students as measured against minority students. Greensboro Academy is over 80% white.

Ironically, the scores for the nearby public elementary and middle schools are literally the same (8 and 9), except they are much more diverse.

Furthermore, could you insure that all schools the CSAB recommends for approval have that same ability that Greensboro Academy does? Your school was established in 1999, when charter schools were heavily scrutinized to assure success. That’s one of the reasons that there was a cap on charter schools – to make sure that tax payer money was being spent wisely. Seventeen years later, we have no cap and a highly visible movement toward privatization being billed to tax payers. Tax payer money has not been spent well when it comes to charter schools. The DPI report showed it and Mrs. Wagner’s article articulates it very well.

But what really seems to be the hardest part to digest here is your harsh language and attitude toward others who are trying to look at the situation a little more soberly.

Now, if you were trying to infer that “SOB’s” actually means something besides “Sons-of- bitches” such as “Schools of Business”,  “Sets of Books”, “Shrimps on the Barbie”, “Silly Old Bears”, or “Side Orders of Bacon”, then it might not be perceived as being so harsh.

But that’s not the case. We all know what you meant. And it really seems incongruent with the very values you claim that the Greensboro Academy tries to instill through its “Moral Focus”.

Every month, Greensboro Academy has a “virtue” that it emphasizes. Here they are as listed on your school’s website – https://www.nhaschools.com/schools/greensboro/en/Our-Program/Pages/Moral-Focus.aspx.

  • August/September: Wisdom
  • October: Respect
  • November: Gratitude
  • December: Self-control
  • January: Perseverance
  • February: Courage
  • March: Encouragement
  • April: Compassion
  • May: Integrity

I can honestly say that your comment made in response to the decision of the SBOE pretty much nullified October, November, December, maybe April, and definitely May. August is up for review.

And if I had to make a prediction of what the SBOE might be doing with the next round of applications if you do not at least acknowledge their input and power along with a public apology, then I would say that the very people in the SBOE whom you call SOB’s will make sure that the CSAB will be SOL.

 

Sincerely,
Stuart Egan
Public School Teacher

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