Dear Local School Boards, How Are Your Schools’ Ventilation Systems?

Lost in the sadistic irony of Phil Berger, Dan Forest, and Catherine Truitt’s “argument” to fully open schools this fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is that there has been talk of placing a bond referendum on the ballot in 2020 for school construction.

In fact, it really has been Tim Moore who has given more vocal energy to this idea. From the N&O a couple of Decembers ago:

“Education is what matters most to families and businesses — to the private and public sectors alike — and North Carolina is poised to build on historic commitments to our schools with another long-term investment in capital construction for our rapidly growing student population,” Moore said in a press release.

The rich irony of Moore’s initial statement above deserves its own book, but it acknowledges something brought out by Gov. Cooper’s spokesperson later in the report.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper previously proposed a similar education bond and also supports this push, spokesman Ford Porter said Thursday.

A school bond could relieve crowded, aging schools and ensure students across North Carolina get a quality education and opportunities to succeed,” Porter said in an email.

Aging buildings. Overcrowded schools.

Berger, Truitt, and Forest want to send all students back into those same aging buildings and overcrowded schools.

Have you ever walked through a school and wondered if every room had a window(s) that could help circulate fresh air when needed? I have taught in rooms that had no windows at all. Some classrooms I have taught in had only one which makes hard to circulate air.

(And it’s about to get cooler outside. Flu season is also approaching.)

Then walk through a school and just check the HVAC system and its ventilation patterns. As a teacher, I have never had the power to control the thermostat or the fan settings of my classroom. I’ve had to call in a request for an alteration to be performed at a central location.

And I am not sure if it is fresh air that is coming through my vents when the system does turn on in my room.

Or if it filtered well.

Nothing Screams “Don’t Want Teacher Input” More Than A BOE Meeting During The School Day

Union County has a school board meeting today. AN OPEN SESSION.

Notice the time the meeting was called for: 10:30.

That should be about 2nd period in my school. For some elementary or middle schoolers in a crowded school, that could be nearing first lunch.

Certainly teachers would be that time.

It is a school day.

Onslow County had one yesterday. For ACTION, DISCUSSION, and INFORMATION.

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

There they voted on a schedule to put kids back in schools.

Of course, no teachers could be there.

They were teaching.

So why have these meetings in the middle of a school day? Could it be to make sure that teachers could not offer comments or give input?


Name The Only State “Agency” To Not Get Longevity Pay, Graduate Degree Pay, Or A $15/Hour Minimum Wage

Teachers in North Carolina are among the only state employees who do not receive longevity pay.

And bills to reinstate it have been introduced and crushed in committee – by the same people who took longevity pay away in the first place.

Classified public school employees are among some of the only state employees to not make a $15/hour minimum wage.

From a 2018 N&O report:

And teachers are among some of the only state employees who are paid on a set salary schedule that does not carry a “minimum” and “maximum” pay range for experience and market viability.

From a recent salary plan report for NC:

What are CRR, JMR, and ARR? Well there is a “dictionary of career-banding terms.

Oh, and there’s the MMR:

But those things do not apply to teachers. There really is no market for teachers outside of public schools that is sizable enough to compare, so the state gets to treat teachers differently. And they have.

When the market looks at advanced degrees and training as worthy of pay raises or increases in compensation, then the state would have to look at how it can “recuit” and “retain.”

But in the case of teachers, they took away graduate degree pay bumps.

To go along with no more longevity pay.

And that $15/hour minimum wage for classified school employees.

Imagine what that does for recruitment and retention.

Mrs. Truitt, If You Are Going To Run For State Superintendent And “Tout” Your Record In Public Education, Then You Need To Answer For These.

No Senate budget in the state of North Carolina has been released in the past without Phil Berger’s approval. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest shares many of Phil Berger’s beliefs on what should happen with public education.

And Catherine Truitt stood on a stage with both last week in agreement with their outlook on public education.

If Phil Berger and Dan Forest had their way:

  • Schools will still be judged by the 80/20 formula where the %80 is achievement. NC is the only state where achievement is over half of the formula.
  • There would be no graduate pay restoration.
  • There would be no longevity pay restoration.
  • There would be no Medicaid expansion.
  • There would be no minimum wage for school employees.
  • There would be more money for vouchers.

If Catherine Truitt does not think so then she can prove it otherwise. But just look at the voting records of people in her party and you will see that Berger controls the rank and file. And if she wants to make the argument that a post like this is targeting a certain political party, then it sure is. But this is not the party that my grandparents knew. This is the party that has drifted from its roots of supporting strong public schools in this state and done what Phil Berger dictates.

The thing is, Catherine Truitt would simply rubber-stamp the wishes of a Phil Berger and a possible governor in Dan Forest.

Truitt claimed in a recent debate with Jen Mangrum this month,

“Of the two of us, I’m the only one who actually has direct experience working with the governor’s office and the State Board of Education and local superintendents, and the UNC system and the community college system office.”

What she is talking about is her time as a senior education advisor to Gov. Pat McCrory, working in the office of then UNC-CH president Margaret Spellings, and recently the chancellor of Western Governors University online campus here in NC.

Remember that Spellings was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind and that WGU was partly financed by the NC General Assembly to get its foot in the state – a state that already had a fine university system.

That resume was built in the last ten years.

And in the last ten years, these things have happened to public education – its schools and its teachers / staff.

  1. Teacher Pay – Manipulated raises to make it appear that the “average” teacher salary raise is higher than “actual” raises.
  2. Removal of due-process rights – Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.
  3. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed.
  4. Push for Merit Pay and Bonus Pay – The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition.
  5. Health Insurance and Benefits – Simply put, health benefits are requiring more out-of-pocket expenditures, higher deductibles, and fewer benefits. Legislation has also taken away retirement health benefits for those who enter the profession now.
  6. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) – Seen as a union and therefore must be destroyed, the North Carolina Association of Educators has been incredibly instrumental in bringing unconstitutional legislation to light and carrying out legal battles to help public schools.
  7. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – Like other states, we have too many. Such a revolving door makes the ability to measure data historically absolutely ridiculous.
  8. Reorganization and a Weakening of the Department of Public Instruction – It all started with HB17 that was “passed” in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly after the 2016 elections and before the new terms began.
  9. Less Money Spent per Pupil – When adjusted for inflation.
  10. Remove Caps on Class Sizes – The math is simple: more students per teacher.
  11. Jeb Bush School Grading System – This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement.
  12. Cutting Teacher Assistants –  NC has lost nearly 7500 teacher assistant jobs in the last ten years.
  13. Opportunity Grants – Opportunity Grant legislation is like the trophy in the case for the GOP establishment in Raleigh. It is a symbol of “their” commitment to school choice for low-income families. But it is the least transparent system in the nation.
  14. Charter Schools – Many charters abuse the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and simply do not benefit students. Especially in rural areas, uncontrolled charter school growth has been detrimental to local public schools.
  15. Virtual Charter Schools – There are two virtual charter academies in NC. Both are run by for-profit entities based out of state. Both also have rated poorly every year of their existence.
  16. Innovative School District – Only one school is part of this ISD which has its own superintendent and was really was never wanted in the first place.
  17. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – At last report, teaching candidate percentages in undergraduate programs in the UNC system has fallen by over 30% in the last five years.
  18. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Once regarded as a model to recruit the best and brightest to become teachers and stay in North Carolina was abolished because of “cost”. Yes, it was reintistited, but as a shadow of its former self.
  19. Class Size Chaos – It was never funded by the NCGA.
  20. Municipal Charter School Bill – Passed as a local bill, it now has gone statewide to literally allow for segregated schools.
  21. A Puppet of a State Superintendent – If someone wants to make an argument for how great a job Mark Johnson has done, then I am ears.

There is more.

Too many kids are hungry and poor in this state. ALEC style reforms have not worked. Veteran teachers are being ignored.

The graphics below chart actual data during the time that Phil Berger has been leader of the NC Senate.

graphFrom the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s report on top ten issues in NC education.

View image on Twitter

Source: Kris Nordstrom

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Image result for nc virtual charter school performance grades
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Would like to see Truitt provide an explanation for each one of these.

So, How Underpaid Are Teachers In NC?

It’s called the “teacher pay penalty” in the Economic Policy Institute’s recent edition of its report on teacher pay in comparison to other college graduates.

While the national average almost hits 20%, here in North Carolina it is greater, so much that it puts NC 44th in the nation out of 51.

And, yes it does represent a “dip” from last year’s findings (for 2018).


The report makes mention of that and does have a notion of why that may be but reading the report might offer some more insight in the overall trends.

Remember, it was not long ago that Phil Berger and his office “praised” an NEA report that he cherry-picked data points from to declare:

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His “claims” in that were debunked here.

Ironically, those claims by Berger do not even try to account for the fact that NC is #2 in the Southeast in teacher pay penalty.

Behind Virginia which has to contend with Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive places to live in the entire United States and home to many high-paying jobs.

“Hero” To “Coward” In Six Months? Nope. I Am Neither.

The year 2020 is all but guaranteed to reside in the mind and memories of the public school educators well after their careers in teaching are over.

At least parts of two school years will involve a virtual component or highly stressful in-person situation within a pandemic that is not anywhere under control and an election year that has already politicized school reopenings.

The goal of schooling is learning, but ironically while many are bemoaning that too many schools are “closed” we are really seeing how this six-month stark alteration of life is teaching one of the most most powerful lessons any “student” could learn.

And that lesson is that too many people in society who offer loud opinions and are capable of affecting conditions really do not understand the complexity of public schools and the obstacles that public schools and its educators face on a daily basis.

It’s not so odd then to see how in March teachers were heroes in the eyes of so many. Now, many are cowards in those same eyes.

In March, the state quickly shut down school buildings in the state due to a few known cases of a virus. That alone probably saved lives and staved off transmission. Then we had to enter the world of remote instruction literally overnight. No real preparation for it; no professional development.

Literally overnight.

In March and April, teachers and school leaders were being hailed as “heroes.” In August and September, many of those same people have become “obstacles” to those who want to fully reopen school buildings.

This is just from today on

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

In March and April, closing school buildings became a way to allow the federal government to take quick action to help control the spread of a virus. In August, the federal government wants schools to open to cover up its dismal response to COVID-19.

This is the most recent tally from Johns Hopkins:

But here in North Carolina, we get this:

And a press conference that put out no plan and “expert” medical advice from a nurse who is not currently working in hospitals and has been homeschooling her kids for years.

Her explanation was that teachers have great immune systems.

In March, we needed protecting. Now, we are told just deal with it?

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Why that change of heart? Fear, ignorance, electioneering, profit, desperation? A combination of some or all?

What these past six months have clearly showed us is that too many in our society do not truly understand that schools are more than just buildings and that our public school system is a common good that should be invested in and more respected.

And as the desks are being moved around in my building to accommodate social distancing, I still have not received any PPE, masks, hand sanitizer, or even direct instructions on how to proceed if and when we go to Plan B.


Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Until people realize that:

  • teachers and administrators are human,
  • teaching is an art – not a science,
  • school is more than academics,
  • teaching is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing,
  • there has to be investment in educational infrastructure,
  • the school / society relationship is more fluid than many realize, and that
  • public education really is political,

Then this idea that teachers were heroes in March but cowards now will continue to spread.

There are teachers in this state who literally are teaching both in-person students and still required to provide synchronous instruction to those students whose families have elected to begin this school year remotely. That could mean teaching one class section as if it were two. But there were no new hours in the day created.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

There are teachers in this state who had to learn new online platforms and try to master new resources during the summer without synchronous professional development and at their own expense and on their own time.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

There are school systems that have stipulated different parameters for grading and student work and expectations that differ greatly from what would happen in a typical school year which require more work and time to maintain.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

And for most every teacher in a school operating under hybrid or remote learning schedules, the expectations of classroom management have been morphed to include aspects that are simply out of the control of any teacher.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Add to that the fact that communication with students and parents have more obstacles attached with remote learning as this pandemic has exacerbated the connectivity divide in this state not to mention the economic woes that many face.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Teachers have been on task so much since last March that today feels like March 192nd rather than September 12th.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

I was doing my job the best I could for my students in March. And in April, And May. And June. And July, And August. And September. Still am today.

I wasn’t a hero for that. I was being a teacher.

But, I sure as hell am not a coward now for still being a teacher. Especially when I am measured by this:

Which includes this:

Open Letter To Catherine Truitt. Do You Agree With What Was Said At That Press Conference?

Mrs. Truitt,

You are not an elected official. As of now you work in the private sector and are running for the office of State Superintendent.

But you were a central participant in a press conference with both the Senate Leader and the Lt. Gov. concerning opening all of the schools fully in this state. That alone communicates that your position in opening schools seems to fully align with the positions of the people who also spoke.

So when Lt. Dan Forest says he does not believe in the use of masks, do you agree with him?

“I don’t think that there’s any science that backs that up,” Forest said of wearing face masks.

Forest also said the state shouldn’t require students and teachers to wear face coverings in schools.

It’s not just a passing rhetorical questions. This public school teacher wants to know – DO YOU AGREE WITH HIM?

What about what Phil Berger said about Cooper and NCAE and virtual learning?

The school reopening debate has taken on a partisan tone at the national, state and local level.

Berger said “very little learning” is happening virtually. He blamed Cooper’s decision on listening to NCAE.

Do you believe those statements? Even when you help run a virtual college campus? DO YOU?

And when a nurse who does not serve in a hospital and does not even send her children to physical schools says the following, do you agree with her?

Michele Morrow, a Wake County parent and nurse, said teachers have a ‘great immune system” and shouldn’t worry about returning to classrooms. She said those teachers who are immune compromised should be teaching online classes and not delaying students from returning to school.

“If you’ve been a school teacher for years, you have the immune system of steel because, just like healthcare workers, you are around children all day long who aren’t the best at covering their mouth or nose when they sneeze or cough,” Morrow said. “They’re not good at washing their hands after they go to the bathroom.”

Really. DO YOU?

All This Was Just A Political Stunt To Fully Open Schools: A Berger, Forest, & Truitt Production

Today, it was further proved that electing Catherine Truitt as the NC State Superintendent would be handing the power over our state’s public school system to Phil Berger.

Just like what happened with Mark Johnson.

It was also shown today that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is pulling any stunt possible to make himself the state governor. A man whose job attendance record would have him fired in almost nay other job in this At Will and Right to Work state wants to fully open up all of the public schools in the state using the “world as an example.”

At a press confernece in Raleigh, Phil Berger, Dan Forest, and Catherine Truitt all made a baseless overture for opening schools.

The News & Observer opened its report with this:

North Carolina Republican leaders, joined by a group of parents, demanded Wednesday that families be given an option for full-time, in-person instruction at schools.

Few, if any, of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students are getting daily face-to-face classes at the start of the school year. Senate leader Phil Berger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and GOP state superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt said Wednesday that they intend to mobilize people across the state to pressure Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to give parents the option of in-person, full-time school. They held a news conference at the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh.

Funny that these three are trying to open up schools statewide when so many local school boards voted to go remote or go to a rigid Plan B version when they had a choice to use a hybrid approach.

Below is a map from Dane West, who kept direct tabs on each LEA in the state and their plans for reopening school buildings. 

Most of the LEAs in Sen. Berger’s district were on remote plans because the local school boards voted it that way. But Berger knows better. Not just for his district.

But for the whole gerrymandered state.

Maybe if he could demand his district to open up first?

What’s also funny is that some of the bigger college campuses are totally remote. High school graduates who are paying tuition to attend school on rather big campuses were sent home. Public secondary schools are a little more crowded and easily allow for more transmission.

It’s also ironic that Berger talk about virtual learning in such negative ways in this report.

“Virtual learning is a slow-motion train wreck,” Berger said at the news conference. “It’s a slow-motion train wreck from which Harvard’s public health experts are telling us that some children will never recover.”

The man who was standing next to a woman who leads an ONLINE college campus and who just recently extolled the values of the for-profit virtual charter schools “quoted” Harvard, the same place that said,

Some proponents of reopening schools across the U.S. have argued that children infected with the coronavirus either won’t get sick at all or will recover quickly. But Williams said it’s important to think about the health of the entire community—because science suggests that kids, particularly older ones, can transmit the coronavirus at roughly the same rate that adults do. “This is not the kind of disease where it’s only about the individual that’s positive,” she said. “It’s about breaking the cycle of transmission to vulnerable individuals.”

Here’s where we are in NC right now according to WRAL.

Forest offered vintage Dan Forest politics: a plan with no specifics.

“As governor, I would open the schools. That would be the plan,” said Forest, the Republican running against Cooper.

Forest did not offer specifics about reopening schools. “You really don’t need a plan. You can follow people that are doing this all over the world,” Forest said.

He might want to pay attention to what actually is going on around the world.

It was interesting that Catherine Truitt was not really quoted or featured in the report except for this:

Forest and Truitt also said that state health officials should be more concerned about the anxiety, depression and addiction among students during remote learning.

Again, Truitt is a chancellor of a college that is virtual.

Or “remote” if you want to use that word. Plus, her campaign seems to run alongside that of Forest.

But it’s what the nurse who was brought in to bolster the argument to open all schools without a plan said that really made this press conference a stunt.

Michele Morrow, a parent and nurse, said teachers have a ‘great immune system” and shouldn’t worry about returning to classrooms. She said those teachers who are immunocompromised should be teaching online classes and not delaying students from returning to school.

“If you’ve been a school teacher for years, you have the immune system of steel because just like healthcare workers, you are around children all day long who aren’t the best at covering their mouth or nose when they sneeze or cough,” Morrow said. “They’re not good at washing their hands after they go to the bathroom.”

Children are not good at “covering their mouths or noses when they sneeze or cough?”

Children “are not good at washing their hands after they go to the bathrooms?

So let’s put them all together anyway and create more carriers?

It would mean more to hear from an actual school nurse or even a medical expert from one of the medical schools in North Carolina. Two are in the Triangle area near Raleigh. If Berger and Forest want to quote Harvard, why not just go down the road to UNC-CH or Duke or ECU’s medical school even Wake Forest?

But if we want to just stay with Harvard, then…

Some proponents of reopening schools across the U.S. have argued that children infected with the coronavirus either won’t get sick at all or will recover quickly. But Williams said it’s important to think about the health of the entire community—because science suggests that kids, particularly older ones, can transmit the coronavirus at roughly the same rate that adults do. “This is not the kind of disease where it’s only about the individual that’s positive,” she said. “It’s about breaking the cycle of transmission to vulnerable individuals.”

And she might also want to make sure that all of those front-line healthcare workers have been infected and been affected by the virus sustain her claims.

And as a teacher, I sure as hell have not seen Berger and his cronies offer anything like what healthcare workers have as far as PPE.

Happy Birthday to Malcolm – Another Year of Awesome

Malcolm turns 13 today.

Yes. He’s now a teenager.

So a “Happy Birthday” to a kid who:

teaches everyone how to live in the present,
honestly tells you how he feels,
reminds me that special needs actually applies to everyone,
changes clothes three times a day because, well, because,
perfected the art of the smile,
calls me by my first name,
dances even when he is sick,
laughs infectiously,
eats ice cream with the respect good ice cream deserves,

and who takes every stereotype, crushes them in his hands, and throws them away because he does not believe that anyone is standard or average.

There’s a cake coming your way today, buddy.

Malcolm’s Minions – A Chance to be Ultra-Cool And Help Some People

On September 26th, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem will be hosting its annual Buddy Walk.

This year it is virtual. Walk where you can. Still helps people!

For those who are not familiar with the Buddy Walk, here is the blurb from the website:

The Buddy Walk® was created by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in 1995 to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome.

It also raises funds for the DSAGWS to help with programs and services for families who have members with special needs.

We are hoping that Buddy Walk will again be held at West Forsyth High School next year where it has been held for the last eight years.

While you may not be able to hang out with the cutest red-head with blue eyes who just happens to be genetically enhanced for this event, you can still help by sponsoring.

Malcolm’s team is called Malcolm’s Minions. The link is

Thanks for considering.

And if you need a little more motivation, then: