Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

Receiving constructive and “unconstructive” criticism is an inescapable reality when one writes a blog or puts out opinion pieces about public education in various media. But whether that feedback is presented as an argument to inquire, assert, or demean, it does further the conversation.

In many instances it exposes the many myths concerning public education. And those myths need to be debunked or at least exposed because when speculation becomes gospel, students and schools suffer.

One of the more common arguments reformers and critics of public education offer is that schools would function better if they operated more like a business, especially when it comes to fiscal policies and employee retention.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every one of the assertions about adopting a business model in public schools that I have encountered always places the schools in the scope of a business. Maybe that paradigm needs to be shifted. If you want to truly envision a business model in schools, you might want to view all angles of the argument.


Therefore, I invite you to try and see if you could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because you’re not even comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing apples to rocks.

Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited. If you are a public school, then every cent, every resource, and every line item is open to scrutiny by a variety of inspectors. Be prepared to be constantly audited and have those findings be available and open to interpretation to people outside of your business, even when those people may not know how your business operates.

Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM. Furthermore, there would no negotiating on salaries. In fact they are all set, not by market standards or demand of talent, but by the government. Furthermore, the salaries of all of your employees will be fodder for politicians and the public alike, especially in election years.

You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share. Actually, you won’t have stockholders. You have stakeholders. And everyone is a stakeholder because they pay taxes. And stakeholders have voting rights. You constantly have to answer to these stakeholders except everybody – EVERYBODY – is your stakeholder. In essence, you answer to everybody, even the homeowners and properties owners when they see that the value of their homes and property might be closely tied to the schools that service the area.

Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business. These aren’t the rules and regulations or laws established by governing bodies, but rather curricula and other evaluation systems that are placed on your business by people who really have no background in your field.

You will not get to choose your raw materials. If your business makes a product, you do not get to negotiate how your materials come to you. You do not get to reject materials based on quality. You must take what is given to you and you must produce a product that is of the same quality as a business that may have choice materials. That is unless you are a private school. But they get to charge money. Your business doesn’t.

Be prepared to have everything open to the press. You are front page news, not only for the good, but for the negative, and all things perceived as negative.

You will not get to advertise or market yourself. Unless you are a magnet, charter, religious, or private school, you will not get to target potential students. At least you save on marketing expense.

Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded. If you can name a traditional public school that does not have to raise funds in some way to pay for needed resources, then I will gladly retract this assertion.

Your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business. In fact, you will only get to have your doors open for 180 days (or equivalent hours). That’s the law. Even when the demands of being successful pile upon themselves like the responsibilities of teachers grow, you only get that 180 days. If more time is needed, you do not get to incentivize with overtime pay. But don’t worry about that. Your employees will already be working those extra hours – that is if they are like teachers.

You will have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians. That’s right, you will have to call the parents and caretakers of all of your customers when they do not get their products or when they do use those products correctly.

And finally you will have to understand that YOU WILL NOT MAKE A MONETARY PROFIT. Why? Because you are not a business any longer. You are now a public service.


The Pilgrimage Of Douglas High School

The students at Douglas High School are on a pilgrimage.

It has gained a lot of momentum.

And as our country begins to see the younger generations start to assert their voices, many in Washington D.C. are having a hard time letting those new leaders “take a turn” at deciding what their country should be like.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s rather stunning lack of true leadership during the CNN town hall meeting in Florida on February 21st showed not only the glaring disconnect between lawmakers and their constituents; it showed the two-faced nature of many politicians and their loyalties.

This two-faced characteristic is sometimes linked to the Roman god named Janus, who is shown with two faces. Overtly, many like Rubio seem loyal to those whom they supposedly represent. This is what they show publicly. In reality, it seems like Rubio and company are really loyal to those who fund them. This is what they display through their actions, or lack of action.

In the English language, there are words that can have multiple meanings denotatively and connotatively. Sometimes those meanings can be in complete contradiction to each other. These specific words are called “contronyms” or “Janus words.”

R.E.M. ‘s song “Pilgrimage” plays with one of those Janus words: “clip.”

They called the clip, a two-headed cow


“Clip” can mean to attach something to another object like using a paper clip or clipping two things together. It can also mean to cut something off like with fingernail clips.

In “Pilgrimage” that “two-headed cow” could be the divide between the very two elements that separate those young activists from Douglas High School and the politicians like Rubio who aim to keep the status quo. And one of those heads is literally calling out the other one for its hypocrisy, its “hate,” and its “broken lips.”

The word “pilgrimage” itself suggests a spiritual quest, mostly one that is a physical journey to some holy place for fulfillment of the soul. And starting with a trip to Tallahassee and the Washington D.C. and culminating with various pilgrimages outside of schools to show support of gun control laws, what is happening is the beginning of spiritual quest for the soul of this country being led by those taking their “turn.”

Most of the politicians who stand in the way of these young leaders and their pilgrimage use a pharisaical façade of holiness and religious piety. They use double-speak explain their actions in terms of freedom to have arms. They literally are “speaking in tongues.” That outward and vain show of religious expression is covering up an empty morality, one that makes the world “take a turn for the worse” and allows us to “keep our hate.”

There definitely is momentum. These young people are taking their “fortune.”

And making sure that the political status quo “will not last.”



Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune

Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck with pilgrimage
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worst
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, a two-headed cow

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune

Speaking in tongues, it’s worth a broken lip
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck with pilgrimage
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worse
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, a two-headed cow

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Pilgrimage, pilgrimage

Speaking in tongues, it’s worth a broken lip
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck
Rest assured this will not last
Take a turn for the worse
Keep your hate, clipped and distant
Keep your luck, two-headed

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Pilgrimage, pilgrimage

The pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune
Take a turn, take a turn
Take a fortune, take a fortune



A Thank You to the West Forsyth Ladies Basketball Team – You Were and Still Are Absolute Warriors


No true competitor wants to end a season with a loss and a small note from a fan will not really ease the sting of a close defeat.

Actually, it’s one of the many things I respect about your basketball team.

But in so many ways you didn’t lose tonight. And while it may not feel that way because of the score, the way, manner, and fortitude you showed tonight was beyond description. It was exemplary. It was simply awe-inspiring.

I am not writing this post to try in any way to lessen the outcome tonight. But I will tell you that you were absolute warriors tonight. From start to finish. You played your hearts out and you played so well. There is nothing more that I as a fan and invested Titan could have asked from any team.

You never backed down. You never gave up. You always looked to do the next right thing on the court and you did it with the very elements that have defined you all season long – heart, grit, toughness, and commitment to team.

You have to be a special group to have that many people come to see you miles away from campus on a weekday to watch you play.

Those same people would have traveled twice as far if needed.

For the seniors, thank you. For the juniors, thank you. For the sophomores, thank you. For the freshmen, thank you.

Malcolm and I already have season tickets for 2018-2019. We are already looking at High Point University’s schedule next year too.

Because you keep up with family.

And make no mistake – that opposing team tonight certainly will remember the Titans.

west forsyth3





Let Them Remember That You Are The Titans


I have posted this before. And the message hasn’t changed.

That team you will play tomorrow night is a very good team. They did not make it this far not being one.

So are you. Actually you are more than a very good team. You’re OUR very good team.

While this may not be an actual game at Simpson Gym, there will be people like myself who will be yelling and cheering for you as loudly as if we were on our home court.

And yes, the jersey will be a different color, but it still says “West” on the front and “Titans” on the back.

So I want to say the following again in hopes that you remember that you are the Titans.



We play a clip from the movie Remember the Titans before football games that has Denzel Washington’s voice giving a pep talk to his players.

It sounds cliche’, I know. But if you remember, that was an actual team from an actual small town in the south and the local public school was a fundamental part of those kinds of small towns like West is to Clemmons.

West Forsyth is one of those few remaining schools in our area that can be claimed by a small town. It has been that way for three generations. All of 27012 feeds into West along with other surrounding areas of course.

So what happens at West happens to the town. And we are the Titans.

“Family” is a word that you have been using to describe yourselves. It’s on social media and Twitter. It’s also why there is only one name on the back of each jersey to remind you that you are a team, a “family.”

You ladies are a family. Anyone who watches you play sees how you pick each other up, celebrate each other, and refuse to let setbacks keep you from achieving. And you instinctively understand that the power of the team as a whole is more than the sum of the individual parts put together.

Any competitor is disappointed in a loss or less-than-stellar performance. But since March of last year, you have been preparing for this part of the schedule, the season after the season. The real season.

A house is where you keep your belongings. A home is where your family is. Sometimes it is a physical place, sometimes it is metaphorical, but it is always an awareness that you carry with you and keep open for those you care about.

You ladies are family. Have been for a while. Those who cheer for you have seen it. Those you have played against more than know it.

So no matter that color of jersey you wear, you are the “home” team.

There will be a lot of people from your hometown and school to see you play on your “home” court. There will be parents, friends, coaches, students, teachers, and others who may have never played a basketball game in their lives there to watch you play, hopefully for many more games.

And there will be many more following from their homes via social media, texts, phone calls, internet, etc., but expect a crowd at your “home court,” whether it is Simpson Gym or some other hardwood floor.

Baskets are still 10 feet high. Jump stops still will work. Driving to the basket still makes others play defense.

There is no need to tell you that every other team will “remember the Titans.” They’ll know. You will leave it all on the court.

Just remember that you are the Titans and there will be a very large family gathering when you play.

On our “home court.”

Play to win. There is no room to play to not lose.

And as always, it is a joy to be a part of West.

I Agree With the State Superintendent on This, But…

In the wake of the Douglas High School shootings last week, those in the position to affect changes in our public schools and how those schools can be more prepared to combat potential problems need to show leadership and take a stand – for public schools.

It is heartening to see State Supt. Mark Johnson issue a statement about arming teachers with firearms that says stands in agreement with almost every teacher I have heard from.

johnson guns

Yes, it is imperative to find ways to keep students and teachers safe.

But I hope some of the conversations that the state superintendent has as he works with the General Assembly include arguing for stricter gun laws so that military-style guns do not get in the hands of someone so easily.

I hope it involves asking for more resources to help our ratios of nurses, guidance counselors, and school psychiatrists currently in public schools.

I hope it involves giving teachers more time and money for professional development that teachers and students help create and lead and have time to actually utilize.

I hope it involves making sure that teachers have the time and flexibility to work more with students individually by funding more teacher positions and teacher assistants without the General Assembly making i a political game.

I hope that it includes state lawmakers actually having to visit public schools to get a better sense of what happens in the very places they claim they know so much about.

I hope Mark Johnson does follow through with what he says.

And I hope he is not afraid to actually listen to the very teachers AND STUDENTS he supposedly is going to help relieve the “burdens” of.


Douglas High School and the Fight Against Dystopia

If you walk into my daughter’s room, you will see that she has amassed quite a collection of books. They are not for decoration. They are for reading.

And re-reading. Just look at the spines if you need evidence.

Among the bookshelves are her Harry Potter books, tattered from consistent use for over ten years, and multiple series like Divergent and the Maze Runner. In fact, on Friday she went to the theater to see the last Maze Runner movie just released. Today we went to the book store for her to purchase the next book in that series.

I believe that most young adults who read what may be called dystopian literature find worlds that they would work very hard not to be actualized.


My daughter is not one to dwell on what the future might pessimistically hold. She is one who knows what she does not want the future to be like.

She reads the news. She keeps up with current events. She volunteers. She speaks her mind.

She is aware.

While we have certainly had conversations about the massacre at Douglas High School this month around our dinner table and around the house, she probably has had as many chances to talk about it in venues her mother and I are nor present at. And that’s a good thing. I want her talking about issues like that and feel comfortable forming her own opinions and seeking the viewpoints of others.

She is not that far from being 18 years of age. She will then be able to vote. She will be able to buy cigarettes. She will have been old enough to legally drop out of high school. She will be old enough to enlist. In some states, she could legally buy an AR-15.

Many young ladies will have become mothers at 18 years of age.

But she already has a voice and has a vision of what she would like her world to be like. And she is witnessing young adults her age start to use their voice to affect change in their country and in their world in a very direct manner.

When I walk in the halls of the school where I teach, I come into contact with young adults who as experts of their own lives have experienced events and challenges that would simply baffle the middle-aged man writing this post.

Yes, our schools need more guidance counselors. more social workers, more security, more psychologists, and more resources. We need a lot of things to help make sure that what happened in Parkland, FL is not repeated.

Our schools also need to remember that students have voices. We need to give those voices authentic audiences.

When you are a teacher who views the profession as a calling and an avocation, then you know you have a love for what you do and the connections that you have with people day by day help build the humanity of the world you actualize.

I wonder if the teachers at Douglas High School have any idea how much in awe teachers like me are of their resilience and their dedication. Even more so, I am in absolute astonishment of what kind of school culture they are helping to establish when the very students who have survived this horrific ordeal have the voice, support, and the drive to instantly take action and make sure that something like this does not happen again.

It’s as if these young people have read those same books on the shelves of my daughter’s book cases, lived through an ordeal that would break me in so many ways, and fought to avert a future that would allow this to happen again.

It’s as if they have been given opportunities to speak for themselves in classes, been allowed to question things, and given chances to develop and show leadership.

Great schools are not defined by walls and physical boundaries. They may be identified by a mascot or certain colors, but what defines a school is the community and culture that pulses there.

A school is defined by its people.

And they are growing and strengthening that community by reaching out over state lines, age differences, and political affiliations.

What is happening in this country right now is not directly from a book, but it sure will be written about in years to come.



Heart, Grit, Toughness, and the 6th Man

At this point in the playoffs, every team is a good team. Every team has deep talent. Every team is more than athletically capable.

In what was the last game on the Titan home court of the season, what was shown in the third round game are the ingredients that win games when both teams are immensely equipped to score points.

Heart, grit, and toughness, and some help from the 6th man.


Playing through foul trouble, weathering a run, not getting some calls, and other intangibles are the marks of those very “stats” that never make it into the stat sheet.

Heart, grit, and toughness, and some help from the 6th man.

Having all the talent in the world can win a few games, but when it is married to heart, grit, and toughness, you will not ever “lose” a game.

Going through an entire season never losing a game on your home court, including the playoffs, is a remarkable feat. What made last night’s win (among many others) even more special was the crowd.

There were parents. There were cheerleaders. There was the dance team.

But there were faculty members. Every administrator was there. The head coaches of other teams were there. Community members who just support West were there. Students were there. Even people who do not know all of the rules of a basketball game were there – Standing, cheering, lending support, and letting the team know they were there for them.

And give credit to the other team. There was no quit in them and their fans were as passionate about their team.

If anyone ever doubted the fabric of what makes a school so vital to the community then he/she could have attended last night’s game and had all doubts removed. The tweets and messages shared by the team and the coaching staff about how much they appreciated people coming to see them play for the school shows not only a love for a sport but the pride in representing a school and appreciating encouragement from their community.

People make it work.

Nice to see a lot of people for both schools last night.


It’s Game Day, GameDay, #GameDay

No matter how you spell it or say it, there is a game today.

A big one.

The one that these ladies have been preparing for since the end of last season. Of course, every game is the one they have been preparing for since last season.


If you are in any fashion a West Forsyth Titan fan and are able, come to Simpson Gym tonight.

If you are a fan of basketball and you are able, come to Simpson Gym tonight.

And if you need any reassurance that public schools are a cornerstone of community, then come see a “team” show you that success does not always get measured on a stat sheet just like in academics.

Malcolm’s already dressed.

North Carolina Should Not Allow the ACT to Have This Much Power Over Our Schools

A little over two years ago, an extended editorial appeared in newspapers across North Carolina concerning public education. I happened to read it in the Winston-Salem Journal.

It was written by Walter McDowell, a board member of BEST NC. McDowell, a former executive with Wachovia, talked of the dire need to transform education in North Carolina. You can read that op-ed here:

In short, McDowell told the state it had a huge problem and that his consortium, BEST NC, was mapping a way for our transformation. He called it “Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision.”

“Recently, Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision was launched. It was developed with input and collaboration from education, business and policy leaders from across the state. Excellence outlines a shared vision to make North Carolina’s education system the best in the nation by 2030.

Inspired by this vision and the important work of our educators, the 115 business leaders who compose BEST NC will continue to work with the education community, the governor and the General Assembly on high-yield investments and systemic strategies that will dramatically improve students’ educational experiences in our state. It is our hope that our elected leaders see from this report that elevating educators must be at the top of the list in those discussions.”

It is always nice to think that we educators are being “lifted” in the eyes of the public, but McDowell used as one of the measures to qualify our state’s dire circumstances the state’s average ACT scores.

He said,

“Then, shortly before the budget passed, North Carolina received news that we are still last in the nation in college and career readiness as measured by the ACT exam. There could be no greater urgency in North Carolina than solving this education crisis.”

I responded to McDowell’s argument with a rebuttal. It was published in the 10/17/15 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. Specifically, I responded to the use of the ACT as the barometer of the entire health of the NC education system. I argued,

“North Carolina is one of only 13 states (in 2015) that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take that exam, which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement and is administered on a school day on which other activities and classes take place. Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores” (

But now in this school coming year, the ACT is about to become the most “important test” that will be given in all of North Carolina high schools. That is thanks to CCRGAP, or the Career and College Ready Graduate Alignment Partnership.

It cannot be helped that taking out a “C” and the “G” from the acronym gives us “CRAP” was not noticed.

According to Section 10.13 of S.L. 2015-241 (and a presentation found created by the NC Community Colleges),


What this is saying is that if any high school junior does not make a certain score on the ACT (or its particular subject areas), then they must go through remediation during their senior year using a curriculum chosen/designed by a local community college but delivered by the high school teachers within already prescribed core courses.

In short, teachers would have to take time in their already crowded and time-constrained classes to deliver more curriculum.  No extra time will be given. Curriculum standards for the actual classes still have to be met. Why? Because there will be a test for them.

Debate over what scores will be the threshold for whether a student must be remediated maybe just starting. What was reported to this teacher in a professional development workshop was the following:

GPA of 2.75 -or- 18 on English and 22 on Reading (tentative)

If you don’t know how an ACT score is broken down, then:


You can access that chart here:

What CCGRAP (as told to my school system’s English teachers) is saying is that all students must get at least 40 or 41 of 75 questions on the English section correct and 26 of 40 questions correct on the language portion to avoid remediation.

I have not even mentioned what happens with math.

That’s a high bar for all students. I repeat, a high bar. If you do not think so, then take the test yourself in a controlled situation. For students in North Carolina public schools, that administration will happen on a school day when they have other classes. Of course, many will succeed, but we are talking ALL students.

However, according to some sources, students can escape remediation if they have a high enough GPA. But some administrators have reported being told that it is not an “OR” but an “AND” when it pertains to ACT scores and GPA requirements.

The ACT just got a lot of power over our students.

Interestingly enough, State Superintendent Mark Johnson delivered an interview with and WRAL. In it he talked about “teaching high school students that college is not the only path to success” (

But we’re about to let the ACT, a college-ready testing tool, determine the lot of all students during their junior year.

Yes, the ACT is considered a test of knowledge and how much a student has learned. But many studies do show that the ACT is as flawed in being concretely certain in a student’s ability to do well in college as the SAT. In fact, many studies show that grades and GPA are a better indicator than standardized tests. Here is some fodder on that:

Also, ACT scores seem to have a greater correlation to students’ household income levels. Consider the following:


That’s from a Huffington Post report. Yes, it’s a left-leaning publication, but it is using only data points here that are really hard to refute (

We have in NC another rather good indicator of the effect of poverty in public schools. It’s called the School Performance Grade. The correlation between schools that scored “D” or “F” and high poverty levels is astounding.

The state of North Carolina pays for the administration of the ACT to all high school juniors during valuable class time on a regular school day. That’s a lot of money going to ACT. Furthermore, classroom teachers are having to administer the ACT as well as play “catch-up” with students because of the missed class time.

Let’s go further than that. If a student does not get a high enough score, that student will then have to be remediated with a curriculum designed by someone else by that a teacher who possibly gave the ACT and lost class time because of it who still has to teach the already prescribed curriculum to a large number of students in the same class period and classroom.

Oh, and DPI had their budget slashed by the General Assembly.

Oh, and we have lower per-pupil expenditures now than we did in the past when adjusted for inflation.

  • So, what does our State Superintendent Mark Johnson say about this in regards to his platform of less standardized testing?
  • Is this what Walter McDowell and BEST NC had in mind?
  • Is this really what we want for our students and schools?

Those are not rhetorical questions.

#AllIn #Allthetime

The attitude and culture of a team means everything and it starts with the coach. When players believe in a coach, when the coach believes in the players, and when the players believe in each other no matter what they contribute, then something incredible happens.

Great teams have a cohesiveness, a bond, a shared existence, and a desire to play the game together.

Watch the bench when someone makes a play on the court and you will get an idea of the focus of an entire team.

Watch the attentiveness of the team when a time out is called and the coach is in the middle of the huddle drawing out a play or a scheme.

Watch how many players run up to a teammate when that teammate takes a charge or makes a hustling dive to gain possession.

Then you will get an idea of how much investment the team has in the team.

Follow the twitter account for the Titan Women’s Basketball Team and it uses the hashtags #allin #allthetime. It’s what they say when they break huddle.


And it suits them.

Not many teams can bet a quality opponent three times in one season.

Not many teams can beat a quality opponent who has reached the second round of the state playoffs of the largest classification in the state three times in one season.

These ladies have done it twice this season.

Another 32-minute run of selfless hustle, heart, and total “buy-in” to the team.

See you Saturday.