#JustAskMe Actually Creates #GotAHellofALotMoreQuestions – About the WSFCS Teacher Supplement

By now many teachers in the WSFCS system have seen that video from May 10th concerning the superintendent presenting the school system budget request to the county Board of Commissioners where the issue of teacher supplements was brought up.

That original nine-minute video can be seen here:  https://youtu.be/M8HZuerdTE0.

Today, the Winston-Salem Journal ran a report about that video along with news of a video response by the superintendent to try and explain what actually may have happened.

After a video of a meeting between Superintendent Beverly Emory and the Forsyth County commissioners circulated on social media over the weekend, several educators expressed concern that the school district isn’t being aggressive enough in asking for more money for teachers supplements.
WS/FCS is one of the largest public school districts in North Carolina, but ranks 26th in supplements, according to data on the Department of Public Instruction’s website. With a budget vote expected at Tuesday’s school-board meeting, that gap is likely to be one of the most talked-about issues.
On Sunday, several postings of the video from the commissioners’ May 10 meeting included the hashtag #JustAsk, imploring the superintendent and school board to ask the county for money for supplements.
The video, running a little more than nine minutes, features comments from commissioners Everette Witherspoon and Don Martin, himself a former Forsyth superintendent.
“I hope that the school board actually asks for more money to deal with the teacher-supplement issue because we are behind,” Witherspoon says in the video.
“We’re not going to be asking you about it; you need to do the asking of us with a proposal or an idea or whatever,” Martin says.
Emory responded Tuesday with her own video, saying work has been ongoing behind the scenes between her, other district staff and the school board to find ways to improve the teacher-supplement formula and find a sustainable source of revenue for ongoing supplement improvements (https://www.journalnow.com/news/local/justask-to-justaskme-conversations-around-teacher-supplements-in-winston-salem/article_2c977317-f782-5edf-90a8-83ebaba4c8aa.html). 


The superintendent’s video seems to make the assertion that the original video is an edited and doctored piece of video. She states that it is “an edited piece of video that does not tell the whole story.” Actually, it is a shortened version of the whole. 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.

That original video is not doctored. It’s a good abstract of a longer piece. And it’s hard to take the commissioners words out of context in this situation.

But since the gist of the video was to answer the #JustAsk initiative with the #JustAskMe, then it would be good to get those questions out there.

The superintendent said that more was going on behind the scenes than meets the eye, but the questions about who made the video or when it was released are rather odd because it is public record.


May 10th. Just click. The website is owned by the government and is public: https://www.co.forsyth.nc.us/Commissioners/meeting_agendas.aspx.

The comment that “we have been looking at it (increasing supplements) since February” does not seem odd in and of itself, but that means there were nearly four months time in which the school board committee and the commissioners could have been talking about possible ways to work together to make this a line item budget request. It also begs the question about whether the entire school board was aware of what was happening in that committee.

Nearly four months. That’s almost half a school year.

Listening to the commissioners was like hearing someone who was amazed that the budget request did not have a request for the teacher supplements that were supposedly researched since February. The comments by the commissioners certainly do not lend themselves to be evidence that open communication was going on between the BOC and the BOE.

If increasing the teacher supplement was such a ‘huge priority,” then why did two people on the board of commissioners in the video linked above for the entire meeting have to bring it up during the budget presentation? Why was it not included in the budget request in the first place?

One of obstacles that was claimed by the superintendent was that the state budget had not been finalized by that May 10th meeting. But there are two things that need to be questioned there.

  1. The state budget is a biannual budget. It is laid out in two-year increments. Not that the state budget can’t be amended (unless you have a NCGA that goes nuclear with its budget approval), but one can get a sense of what the state is thinking about giving. This was the second year in that current cycle.

2. Also, in the time that out current superintendent has been in office, WSFCS has gone from 18th in the state teacher supplement rankings to 25th. In fact, we moved down many spaces just in the past year with counties going by the same information that WSFCS had and went ahead and increased teacher supplements and made them sustainable.



In an attempt to refer to the entire video, the superintendent stated she told the board that she may have to come back to them and ask for more help in reference to a possible change in the state budget. The obvious question then would be “Did she?”

The talk about the proposed sales tax increase helping to become a sustainable source of revenue to possibly fund higher teacher supplements is important. However, a budget request is exactly that – a request. While the board of commissioners cannot see all that a school board may need to fully fund a large school system, the converse seems to have truth as well: the school board cannot ascertain how a board of commissioners will be able to fund all initiatives. That’s why requests are made and open communication is involved.

The fact that raising teacher supplements was a big concern of the superintendent and the school board should automatically preclude that a request should be made. It should be asked for.

It wasn’t.

The fact that we as teachers will get a $300 NET bonus was interesting. Considering that the superintendent spent time in her video talking about how the system makes sure to spread the resources for all system employees throughout WSFSC, will that bonus be made to all teacher assistants and other staff members in our schools?

Also, if it can be determined to find out exactly how much to pay to make sure all people get exactly a $300 NET bonus, it would make sense that four months’ time would be ample to make a specific line item request to begin raising the teacher supplements.

As a veteran teacher who has followed county politics and local education issue, I do not believe that the original video was doctored or spliced or edited to present one person as a “villain” or expose any “friction.”

But I want tough questions to always be asked. And I want requests to always be made if it helps our system.  Even if it means that the answer is “no.”

Because if you are afraid to hear “No,” then you should not be in education. One of the biggest unwritten jobs of a public school educator is to turn “no’s” into “possibilities” and “I can’t” into ” I can.”