Much has been said about a video that has been circulating online this past week concerning a May 10th, 2018 meeting of the Forsyth County, NC Board of Commissioners in which the school system superintendent made a ceremonial presentation of the the school system budget request to the board and the issue of teacher supplement was brought up.
When I first started in this school system out of grad school, WSFCS had the fourth best teacher supplement in the state. It is now 18th. WSFCS remains the fourth largest school system in the state.
This meeting also took place on May 10th six days before the March and Rally for Public Education in Raleigh that brought over 20,000 teachers from around the state and many more advocates to join them. Over 40 school systems closed down that day as so many teachers had taken legally allowed personal days to attend.
Literally a handful of days after the superintendent made this presentation, she announced that WSFCS would be one of those school systems.
Before you can pass judgement, look at this video, a nine-minute excerpted portion that highlights the discussion about the state of teacher supplements in the WSFCS system.
That video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/M8HZuerdTE0.
One could watch the entirety of that meeting here: https://www.co.forsyth.nc.us/Commissioners/AlternateAgenda.aspx?AgendaID=317&MeetingDateTime=May%2010,%202018. But it doesn’t change anything about the nine-minute version or take away from its presentation. In other words, nothing gets diluted from what happens in the shorter version with the added context.
One could also consider what has happened in school board finance committee meetings before and after May 10th. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the board of commissioners’ invitation to simply ask for funds to cover a teacher supplement raise has never been brought to the entire school board for consideration.
With the large demonstration on May 16th (exactly four months ago today) already ramping up, the concerns of teachers about conditions in schools (including salaries), was in the forefront of any many school officials on May 10th. Every superintendent in the state and every school board must have already been keenly aware of the issues that teachers had with the NCGA’s treatment of the state public school system.
And what you see in this video is the county commissioners literally begging the superintendent to “ask” for funds to increase the teacher supplement in the WSFCS system. It’s as if they were begging the superintendent and the board chair (also in attendance) to ask for the funds to move the teacher supplement level in the system back into the higher rungs of the state.
They never asked.
They never asked.
In the four months that have passed, they have not asked.
In fact, if what many are saying is true, many of the school board members who were not in attendance at this May 10th meeting were never made aware of the county commissioners offering to help with teacher supplemental pay.
Watch that video again if you can.
Did it not seem that the two people on the board of commissioners who are prominently shown knew as much if not more about where teacher supplemental pay in the system ranked in comparison to the rest of the state than school officials who were present. Those commissioners saw the immediate importance of doing something about that in May of 2018 rather than waiting until the next budget cycle to start talking.
Did it not seem that the superintendent was erring on the side of being “polite” with the county commissioners rather than going in and asking for the funds that she and the school board would need to fulfill all of their endeavors? Teacher supplemental pay has been a topic of discussion for quite a while.
For all of the talk about economic recovery in this state from Raleigh and from the current POTUS, how come public education in this state (and other states) still has to fight for funds to adequately fund our schools?
Because public education usually is one of the last public goods to recover from an economic downturn.
That’s why any superintendent and school board in this state have to be willing to fight for anything to help public schools, especially financial resources. And in this video, it seemed that the county commissioners were asking the superintendent to “fight” for more funds to help with teacher supplement levels.
And they were going to allow the superintendent and the school board to “win” that fight.
That board of commissioners has a former teacher and a former system superintendent that sits on its bench. The other members have a vested interest in how our school system is able to recruit and maintain great teachers.
It has been reported that the system will be giving WSFCS teachers a $300 bonus at the end of this year and then try and “ask” for the funds to raise teacher supplements next year.
But it was right there ready to be done in May. Four months ago.
And even a taxable bonus does not take away from the fact that there was an incredible breech in communication and the obvious withholding of information that occurred. How could teachers not be disturbed by a school board chair and a super who did not follow through with asking for more supplement for teachers when it was handed to them on a silver platter? And why does this feel like a trend?
A bonus is a reward; a raise in supplement that could have happened so soon and has been a sticking point for many in this system is respect. Most teachers want respect not a reward that feels like it should help soothe rough edges in an election year when a one-time payment is meant to cover the fact that an overall investment in teachers was not given.
Now again consider that there are school board members who did not know about this “offering” until the past couple of weeks as this video has begun circulating. What does that say about the cohesiveness of the school board and the superintendent?
But what is probably the most shocking aspect about this whole situation (besides the fact that every school board seat is up for election) is that this directly involves teachers. Not a school building. Not a new curriculum. Not moving students from one school to another. Just teachers in a profession that seems to be more and more under the microscope. A profession that is seeing fewer candidates in the teacher preparation programs in the state.
What would a highly capable teacher candidate who is thinking about coming to the WSFCS system think of this?
All of these questions are not of the rhetorical kind. They deserve answers.
Specifically from a small number of people.
That and school board meetings are about to become rather well attended.