Censuring Was Not Good Enough For This School Board Member

Last week it became state-wide news when a school board member in Cabarrus County used a slur on a video conference for all to hear.

Her apology given in the form of a letter did not suffice for this teacher who has a child with intellectual disabilities and cognitive delays.

It seemed more like an explanation of why she said it that drifted off into an explanation of victimhood.

On Monday, that school board voted to “censure” her.

From the Charlotte Observer:

The Cabarrus County school board voted Monday to censure a member who didn’t realize her microphone was still on as she railed against the district’s remote learning plan and used a derogatory slur during a recent public meeting.

During the Sept. 21 board meeting, Laura Blackwell is heard, while off camera, agreeing with an unidentified person on the call who said young children should not be kept in front of a computer. She used a word that has been used to demean people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“This is the most r— thing I’ve ever seen. We have done so much detriment to these kids,” she was heard saying. She later apologized and some teachers protested this week, calling for Blackwell’s resignation.

And while the board cannot force her to resign, it did take some steps.

The vote also committed the board to participating in training about students with disabilities and if possible, to volunteering with the county’s Special Olympics program.

This is not enough.

She should still resign.

Actually Most Every Teacher Already Has An “Advanced Role” – The NCGA Forced Them On Us

In the summer of 2017, BEST NC released an op-ed on EdNC.org about Shamrock Gardens Elementary School and their use of “advanced roles” for educators. And the piece made reference to BEST NC’s Education Innovation Plan, a bit of which is outlined below.

best3

Advanced roles have been a hot topic before and has come back into the dialogue again as that idea of advanced roles was offered up in a recent debate between the two candidates for state superintendent by Catherine Truitt.

In fact, she called for it (almost as if she has been listening to ideas from BEST NC).

Here’s the problem – we already have advanced roles. All teachers are doing more than they did in the past not because they opted-in, but because that’s what has been forced on them. Add to that many teachers are teaching more students in more classes.

In a state where the teaching profession has undergone assault after assault from lawmakers, many in Raleigh pin their opinions of teacher and school performance on test results and financial bottom lines. They then craft policies that match those opinions.

So I want to ask a non-rhetorical question of Catherine Truitt: “What exactly is the job description of a North Carolina public school teacher?”

Then I would ask her, “So what advanced roles were you thinking about in this interesting construct of public education?”

These are by no means loaded questions or inquiries asked to create a nebulous web of answers that would cloud the actual debate. But if public education is to be the issue that defines another session of the NC General Assembly which holds the budget hostage over teacher pay,  that decides votes in a huge upcoming election year, and that all people already have some sort of stake in, then what the role of a public school teacher in North Carolina might need to be more understood.

Is it to deliver curriculum and teach mastery?

Is it to help students grow into productive citizens?

Is it to “teach” the whole child – intellectually, mentally, emotionally, etc.?

Is it to get students to pass standardized tests?

Is it to keep students safe?

Is it all all of those things and much more?

Below is a screenshot from the statutes of the General Assembly concerning the “duties” of teachers.

duties of teachers

They include a variety of “duties,” some more defined than others: discipline, “teaching,” reporting, provide for well-being, medical care, keep order, etc.

Now throw in some other factors and variables that have a direct effect on those “duties” like poverty, hunger, sickness, apathy, lack of resources, overcrowding, and respect for the profession. It makes those duties in the above statute seem a little more expansive.

So, what is the real job description of a public high school teacher in North Carolina that considers the defined duties, expectations, and realities of public educators? And are you willing to share that as a lawmaker who makes decisions on how teachers are resourced, treated, and viewed? If not, then you might need to educate yourself.

Because it sounds like we already have a lot of “advanced roles.”

And teachers are about to vote in about a month.

With some new maps.

This Combover Could Pay Two Teachers

Remember when Mark Johnson talked about how the teacher starting salary in NC was really good?

January 26, 2018:

During a question-and-answer session Thursday at the N.C. School Boards Association’s policy conference in Raleigh, Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s.

January 26, 2018:

But that $35,000 mark for a starting salary if you’re in your early 20s, that is really good, especially in some of our rural districts.”

Makes one wonder what Johnson would say about the news of the following?

That combover is worth two new teachers here in North Carolina.

And before Johnson or someone claims that it is Trump’s right to spend that much money for a service that is debatably worth it, then that person would need to convince me that a beginning teacher in NC with a salary of $35K is not paying more federal income taxes than Trump has in the last few years.

This Candidate Needs To Clarify Her Stance On Graduate Degree Pay For Teachers (Because Her “University” Is Saying Something Else)

In 2013, the NC General Assembly took away graduate degree pay raises for new teacher hires.

Pat McCrory was the governor of NC at that time.

Candidate for the office of state superintendent Catherine Truitt was for a time a senior education advisor for then Gov. McCrory.

Apparently her ideas on how to “improve” education aligned with his.

Now Truitt is the chancellor of Western Governor’s University of North Carolina, an online university that offers teacher licensure without ever going to a physical classroom for classes before a student teaching experience.

In fact, you can get a Master’s Degree from WGU in education.

Look at that small type.

For current teachers, a graduate degree or endorsement can help you specialize your career and may qualify you for a salary increase or lane change. 

May qualify you for a salary increase?

Wait. North Carolina does not do that anymore for teachers.

So, Mrs. Truitt. Are you in favor of restoring graduate degree pay raises for teachers in North Carolina and why are you allowing for WGU to promote a master’s degree in education as a means of obtaining a salary increase?

Seems a little disingenuous.

About That Apology From The School Board Member Who Used The “R” Word

What happened last week during a virtual meeting of the Cabarrus County Board of Education has already made many headlines across the state.

Yet, if you have not heard about it, a member, Laura Blackwell, responded to another board member with a derogatory term that is considered offensive without turning off her audio feed.

From the Concord Independent Tribune:

From another report form the same source:

Yes. It was offensive of her to use the word “retarded.” It was meant to be derogatory and demeaning in the context in which it was said. She is a school board member and that should not be used by a school board member in any capacity given that she has been elected to represent all school children no matter the obstacles some may face.

And she was elected to do this job which menas she wanted to be in this position.

Furthermore, there is an unprecedented pandemic going on that requires leaders to be even more like… leaders.

Petitions to remove her and open calls for her resignation have been plentiful and they are right to be made.

As a veteran teacher in public high schools, this would offend me as a professional. As a parent of public school students, this offends me.

And as a parent of a child with an extra chromosome and intellectual/developmental delays who has been called “retarded” and knows the intentions of the word, I am more than offended.

But it was her apology that really angers me. Why? Because it seemed more like an explanation of why she said it that drifted off into an explanation of victimhood.

“I want to take this opportunity to address the very unfortunate incident that took place at last night’s school board meeting. During one of the breaks, my microphone remained on and comments that were made in private suddenly became very public. Whether in private or public, I acknowledge my comments were insensitive and inappropriate.

“I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration. Although I never intended to offend anyone, I do realize that my words had the potential to cause pain and reinforce a negative stereotype. I deeply regret my choice of words and I sincerely apologize to anyone that I may have offended.

“The last 12 hours have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have received messages that have both questioned my integrity and my character.

“However, not to be overshadowed by hatred and political posturing, has been an overwhelming amount of loving support from so many of you that know my heart and believe in the work that we are trying to accomplish together. Because of each of you, tomorrow morning I will dust myself off and get right back to serving this community, our students, our amazing faculty and staff members and this country with the same level of passion as I had on Day 1.”

It reads more like she said, “I want to address something that was said” rather than “address a direct action on my part.”

“Comments” were not “made.” She actively shared her thoughts.

I allowed my immense passion for the welfare of our children and for serving this community to manifest itself through emotion and frustration.” What???? That reads more like “I so love these kids no matter their obstacles that my passion made me say something like this in a moment of time when I thought no one else could hear me.”

She didn’t blurt out these words. She saved them to be said in an arena she thought she could control. That’s not passion. That’s “I have used these words before, but made sure that they were not said in public because I know how people take it.”

“The last 12 hours of my life have been some of the most difficult of my life.” Imagine being in this pandemic without a job and a dealing with a government that refuses to offer more help.

“Overshadowed by hatred and political posturing?” Mrs. Blackwell forgets that her “insensitive and inappropriate” words certainly were not said out of love and in fact were in response to political actions taken by the state.

In 23 years of teaching high school English in two states and three large schools, I would say that I have heard the gambit of offensive language that comes from the mouths of teenagers. Inappropriate words can be said flippantly or directly in response to a lot of actions or things said.

But, it really has been a while since I have heard a teenager use the word “retarded” within my ear shot. Yes, most students I come into contact with know I have a son with Down Syndrome, but those same students have mostly discarded using that word as they see its power and its effects.

It says a lot when the only time in recent memory that I have heard with my own ears that word used as a derogatory term comes from a school board member during a public meeting who professes a “high level of passion” for public service as part of an election platform.

She should resign.

If This Man Is Elected, He Will Be On The State Board Of Education For Public Schools

This is not the kind of person who needs to be on the State Board of Education.

As a teacher in a public school, I am bound to keep my classroom as free of prejudice, racism, and other forms of discrimination as humanly possible.

I would expect that from an elected official who was to knowingly serve public schools on the SBOE.

An Actual GOP Bill That May Allow “Genital Checks” For High School Female Sports

Remember the bathroom bill constructed by then state legislator Dan Bishop called HB2?

One of the nebulous things about that bill was how gender would be determined if it needed to be checked on the spot. Not many people carried around birth certificates on their person.

Maybe the bill needed to have had a provision for genital checking.

Well, there is another bill that might allow for it, but instead of if being a state bill, it is national.

From lgbtqnation.com:

The bill would explicitly state that allowing transgender girls and women to compete with their gender in school sports violates Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex in schools, which is the legal theory the Trump administration is already using to threaten funding for school districts.

Loeffler’s bill, which says nothing about transgender boys competing in boys’ and men’s sports, says that “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” in girls’ and women’s sports.

But it is a little vague:

While Loeffler’s bill does not explain exactly how schools will determine an athlete’s gender, it defines eligibility for sports in terms of reproductive organs and chromosomes suggests that it may lead to similar examinations as the Idaho bill.

With the bill’s wording vague and federal funding on the line, schools could opt to require genital exams for all female athletes to prove they aren’t transgender.

With the bill’s wording vague and federal funding on the line, schools could opt to require genital exams for all female athletes to prove they aren’t transgender.

This Person Claims In The Last 30 Years “We Haven’t Moved The Needle On Student Achievement.” Well…

Funny to think that based on the research that Kris Nordstrom posts about here that there is a distinctive timeline that Catherine Truitt seems to ignore.

In a debate last week Truitt claimed that in the last 30 years “we haven’t moved the needle on student achievement.”

Let’s look at the last 30 years.

That would be 1990-2020.

What that research Nordstrom posted says is that in the years between 1990 and the early 2000’s we had growth in student achievement correlating strongly with more funding.

Bush was “elected” in 2000.

He pushed through No Child Left Behind in 2001. It began to really take effect in subsequent years.

The early 2000’s.

Then we had a recession that badly damaged funding.

The GOP took over in the NC General Assembly in the early 2010’s.

Pat McCrory was elected in 2012 and rubber-stamped the wishes of the NCGA.

Interesting that Truitt worked as an advisor to McCrory and as an assistant to Margaret Spellings, one of the architects of No Child Left Behind.

Maybe she should have said that we haven’t moved the needle in the last decade.

When we really haven’t been increasing funding for public schools.

Seven Truths About Teachers & This Pandemic That Are Intentionally Ignored

This one billboard says a lot about our current state of polarization.

Dan Forest - Service public - 4 504 photos | Facebook

And it communicates some very

  1. Schools are not closed.

School buildings are closed and campuses shut down for convening physical classes.

But “school” is going on.

2. Teachers do not want to always stay in Plan C.

Teachers want school buildings open. They want to see students as much as parents want to send them to school campuses.

They just want them to be safely opened.

This push to go straight to Plan A when schools are not even outfitted for safety with minimal amounts of PPE and other resources for various versions of Plan B.

To equate that teachers wanting schools opened safely and with plans that include teacher and site administrator input with “teachers don’t want schools opened” is erroneous.

3. A higher percentage of teachers are also parents than parents are teachers in public schools.

More teachers can empathize with what many parents are experiencing during the pandemic as far as remote instruction is concerned than the converse. When teachers speak about opening school buildings, MANY of them are speaking as parents as well.

4. If this state is going to push STEM related subjects, it would help if the lawmakers and policy makers who craft the testing mandates and curriculum standards actually believe and listen to science.

Talking to you Dan Forest.

And those people who keep having the CDC change its protocols and information.

5. A hybrid plan (B) many times creates much more work for teachers.

This is especially true if teachers are to give both in-class students and students in remote situations synchronous learning. Think of it as teaching the same numbers of classes virtually as you would in-person.

Without more time and energy and support to do so.

6. To say that learning has not occurred is ludicrous.

Some brilliant teaching has been going on these past few weeks (and last spring). But if someone wants to argue about “measuring” that learning with standardized tests, then they would need to convince a lot of people that those tests were actually accurately measuring student learning when there was no pandemic.

7. This situation is being exacerbated by the fact that it is a BIG ELECTION YEAR.

Public schools and education have always been a hot-button political topic. So has COVID-19.

Just put them together.

Dan Forest has. And he doesn’t even send his school aged-kids to actual schools when there is not a pandemic.

For Once I Agree With Catherine Truitt, But She Said Something In August 2019…

Yesterday both Jen Mangrum and Catherine Truitt provided insights to the editorial board of the News & Observer during an interview for each.

Below are two tweets from the education reporter for the N&O.

She threw Mark Johnson under the bus. Said he was not the person for the job.

She also was the person who stood on stage with Phil Berger last week to call for reopening schools fully. Phil Berger made sure that Mark Johnson was the most powerful state superintendent ever in NC’s history.

Catherine Truitt is aligning herself with Phil Berger. Either she needs to call Johnson a political puppet and the position he fulfilled one that was for Berger to exploit or…

Catherine Truitt needs to show how she would not be controlled by Berger.

And then she can comment on this:

She said nothing about Johnson’s capabilities back then. In fact, she was going to stay out of his way if he was to seek re-election.

Seems a little contradictory.

In that same EdNC.org report this was said by Truitt:

Truitt said that her work in classrooms, on education policy, at the UNC System, and now at WGU have given her experiences that would translate well to the role of state superintendent. 

“I think that these experiences and institutional knowledge, along with my relationships at the legislature and with the State Board, position me uniquely,” she said. 

But a couple of weeks ago she said,

image-33

Interesting.