About Catherine Truitt’s Nov. 22nd Interview On Fox

Catherine Truitt is over a month away from actually being in office and as the chancellor of a private online university, she has not been a part of the decision making in reopening schools in North Carolina.

There is no doubt that she is in favor of reopening schools (as she puts it “a local decicion), but it is interesting to hear her claims.

50-70% learning loss. Most parents want kids back in school according to polls. Only listening to CDC guidelines.

Click here for the link.

That interview took place on Nov. 22nd.

Would love to see her data on that learning loss since there is no historical precedent to measure it against.

Would love for her to reread the CDC guidelines. In fact, they may have changed yet once again.

Would love to see those “polls” and how well they reflect the socioeconomic makeup of NC.

And I would like to know why she seems so enamored with New York’s teacher union. She is in North Carolina. As far as unions go and collective bargaining is concerned she is probably the most enabled anti-union state super in the country.

Wait, she’s not just the super yet.

And our positivity rate on testing is nearing 10%. NYC closed their schools at 3%.

You Want To ReOpen Schools? Then Make These Tests Mandatory & Waive Those Others

Yes, there are many experts who say that we should reopen schools in this pandemic but many people who quote them forget that part of that is closing down restaurants and bars.

Community spread is community spread. Schools are part of the community. And it isn’t like we are doing any testing in schools to see how many symptomatic people are on campuses.

My school system sends every teacher back to the buildings tomorrow. Of course many of those teachers are apprehensive. And the push to get students back into schools here is to make sure that they take in-person mandatory standardized tests.

It is hard to count how many times a professional or collegiate game has been cancelled and/or postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests. Those student-athletes and professionals get tested for coronavirus everyday.

How many school systems do that for their students and FOR THEIR TEACHERS?

Coronaviruses research, conceptual illustration. Vials of blood in a centrifuge being tested for coronavirus infection.conceptual illustration

How come COVID-19 tests are mandatory there but not for schools?

How come federally stipulated standardized tests are still mandatory for schools, but providing coronavirus tests for teachers is not?

Funny how in January the state and local districts will have many tests ready to give. In some cases multiple times. But this outbreak already “tested” this state, one where Medicaid was not expanded, rural hospitals have been jeopardized, and many remain uninsured.

The idea that teachers could be assessing student “achievement” the very first days students arrive on campus when many of those very students and their families may not even be able to have their own health “assessed” is not that far-fetched.

And not one time have teachers been told that they can get free multiple tests for the coronavirus.

Makes one reassess how important some testing is and how unimportant some is not.

The Very Test That DeVos Uses To Stigmatize Public Schools Will Not Be Administered This Year, But That Won’t Stop Betsy

Remember that when we talk about Betsy DeVos we are discussing a person whose confirmation hearing in 2017 when selected for her post was not only a disaster but proved to all education experts that she had absolutely no idea about education. In that hearing:

  1. She did not know what IDEA was – the Individuals With Disablilties Edcuation Act – and that it was a federal mandate that covers all schools.
  2. She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency when it came to student achievement.
  3. She would not commit to keeping from privatizing public schools.
  4. She talked about needing guns to defend schools from bears but would not back up “gun-free” zones in schools. Bears killed exactly zero students last year. She said that to Sen. Murphy from Connecticut, home of Sandy Hook
  5. She never really admitted to the fact that she and her family have contributed tens of millions of dollars to efforts to privatize public schools.
  6. She has not given over all documents for the ethics committee.
  7. 10 of the 12 Republicans on the HELP committee have received financial contributions from her.
  8. She smiled to damn much. It simply looked manufactured.

And this past April:


From that very report from The Hill:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday expressed her displeasure with the U.S. history and geography test scores released this week as part of a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The 2018 assessments — administered to 42,700 eighth graders in 780 public and private schools across the nation — showed a drop in both U.S. history and geography scores, while civics scores stayed the same from 2014.

“The results are stark and inexcusable. A quarter or more of America’s 8th graders are what [the National Assessment of Educational Progress] defines as ‘below basic’ in U.S. history, civics and geography,” DeVos said in a statement.

Interesting that many of the students tested in this sample were not public school students or that many students do not have an in-depth knowledge of many things on the test because those topics may only be glossed over in the curricula that varies across the country.

But she gave so much credence to that NAEP test that is administered by the NCES.

It’s not the first time that DeVos has held on to NAEP scores as a benchmark of learning in America.

This was a tweet from her in March of 2018 concerning NAEP scores just released at that time:

DeVos tweet 2

Interesting that this week NCES has postponed giving the NAEP this year because of the pandemic. From Reuters:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “the nation’s report card,” previously had been planned to be held at the beginning of 2021 for hundreds of thousands of fourth and eighth graders in the United States.

“I have determined that NCES cannot at this time conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law”, NCES Commissioner James Woodworth said on Wednesday.

“I was obviously concerned about sending outsiders into schools and possibly increasing the risk of COVID transmission”, he said.

The very test that DeVos has used as a backbone to her arguments that public schools are failing is not being administered this year for two distinct reasons: its “validity and reliability” during the pandemic would not “meet the mandate of the law” and the “risk of COVID transmission.”

But DeVos will not give waivers to states to opt out of federally mandated tests in many cases this January.

That’s what happens when you put a punitive privatizing non-educator in the office of Secretary of Education.

One Thing You Can’t Get On Black Friday (In This Pandemic): Enough Substitute Teachers

I work in a school system that has over 80 schools, 50,000+ students, and according to the official school system website “employs more than 7,200 people, including about 4,200 classroom and part-time teachers.”

There are supposedly around 1000 substitute teachers on the official sub list in the county.

That does not mean that there are 1000 people ready to go to any school on any day for any amount of time even when there is no pandemic. Those who serve as substitutes can accept whatever openings that are offered.

Some only want to sub in elementary settings or strictly be in high schools. Some only will sub in certain schools because of travel issues. Some will only sub on certain days. Some will only take the job if it is for certain subjects or even teachers.

Today’s COVID-19 Dashboard has these numbers for my school district:

That means according to this VERY CONSERVATIVE data list, nearly 5% of the school system’s staff is already in quarantine.

When reopening plans have been shared in different systems there seems to be one common denominator: they have been planned with the most ideal situations in mind.

Conditions will not remain “ideal” for the plans being rolled out.

Many colleges spent the entire summer coming up with various ways to keep the spread of the coronavirus at bay during the first part of the school year. Classes were both remote and in person with social distancing. Large open spaces were provided for students to be able to stay distanced. Use of “revival” tents with WiFi were common and the weather was nice enough to promote more open air events.

Yet some of those schools sent students home within weeks: students who were high school graduates and were old enough to be considered adults.

Now many systems are looking to open up buildings to hybrid Plan B variations or full reopening Plan A for elementary, middle, and high schools right after the holidays.

Most public schools in the state do not have the resources to even outfit teachers and staff with proper PPE.

The weather will get colder soon. Flu season is already ramping up. Kids change classes. Hallways could still get crowded. And most people do not have the kind of health insurance that a president gets.

So, how deep is the substitute teacher pool and how willing are people on that list to take a job in a school where a teacher or students have been told to stay home and quarantine?

It “sure as hell ain’t” 1000 in this school system. Why would a substitute want to come to work at a school where the person he/she is replacing is being quarantined for something that very well could have been contracted there?

And what is a school system prepared to do for a substitute who is forced to quarantine because of possible exposure on the job?

And considering that many students will still opt to stay home for remote learning, the teaching force will be stretched thin to accommodate instruction on more than one “campus.” Are 1000 substitute teachers even trained to deliver material virtually and in-person at the same much less be able to work with the technology?

Some things to consider.

Because I know that this one is not available.

A Substitute-Teacher Culture Leaves Students Floundering - Market Brief

“As God as My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly” – What WKRP In Cincinnati Says About School ReOpening Plans

“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” – Arthur Carlson, General Manager of WKRP, a fictional radio station in Cincinnati.

It’s Thanksgiving , and I just watched this episode again and it makes me laugh at how it wonderfully pens human nature which tends to be full of lofty, sometimes monetarily-induced, intentions but short on planning.

Even the theme song is memorable.

Baby, if you’ve ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP.

That, and my mother-in-law thinks it is the funniest show she has ever seen. She can start explaining it and then becomes unintelligible from laughing at herself in mid sentence.

That immortal quote came from one of the best episodes of situational comedy ever to grace the airwaves of prime time television. It’s from the “Turkey Away” episode from 1978.

The show itself centers on a lovable and dysfunctional staff at a radio station that struggles to maintain a viable share of the listening market. It was a perfectly cast ensemble featuring the iconic “Johnny Fever” (Howard Hesseman), “Venus Flytrap” (Tim Reid), Less Nessman (Richard Sanders), Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson), and Gordon Jump as Mr. Carlson.

The aforementioned episode concerns an elaborate marketing stunt that is high on expectations but low on research. Mr. Carlson wants to have a “turkey drop” dispensing free turkeys to families at Thanksgiving by dropping them out of a helicopter. The station would then have it’s own news reporter, Less Nessman, cover the story.

Makes sense – the thought of helping people with providing turkeys and getting great publicity. A no-lose situation. You can see that episode online here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/322 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zuj3dwZl64 .

Nessman’s reporting of the turkey drop is priceless. What was supposed to be an act of goodwill toward men turned into an aviary apocalypse. According to Nessman, the live turkeys were falling “like bags of wet cement” upon the unsuspecting people below creating a cacophony of confusion and literal tower of Babel.

A plan with good intentions executed without proper vetting.

It reminds me of the push to reopen all of our schools to students in this recent spike of infections due to the coronavirus.

When medical experts and others start pointing to the “real science” of how schools are not supposed to be places where the virus is spread and that schools are the safest places people can be, they sometimes forget that its not the fear of that science that scares teachers.

It’s how the decision makers are looking at the science to make plans for reentry into schools.

Even the most recent report on my district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that there are enough educators in quarantine to staff 2-3 full elementary schools in the district.

It’s like throwing live turkeys out of a helicopter.

And if one looks at the dashboard close enough, it is apparent that the biggest outbreak is in the district offices. That’s interesting considering that’s where the plans for reopening are being made and issued to schools.

More flightless birds thrown out of a flying machine.

Furthermore, there is that contradiction in society where many people screaming to open schools are the very same people that are being told right now to please follow the mandates.

It’s hard to keep schools safe when they exist in the very same towns and cities where people are not wearing masks, keeping socially distant, or practicing safe protocols.

Beware of more birds!

What is really dropping are not actual turkeys but our guard against a still very dangerous pandemic. There is no vaccine available yet. There is no widespread testing for teachers and staff. The weather is getting colder. And there is a holiday season where the urge to be traditional will outweigh the duty to stay safe.

But putting all of these teachers back in schools again with current trends and timing sounds like bags of… well, you get the picture.

And I say that with God as my witness.

Heroes in March Then Cowards in November. Actually, I Am Neither.

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

At least parts of two school years will involve a virtual component or a highly stressful in-person situation within a pandemic that is not anywhere under control in 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 November, many of those same people have become “obstacles” to those who want to fully reopen school buildings.

This is from today on CNN.com:

Heroes in March. Cowards in November.

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 wanted schools to open to cover up its dismal response to COVID-19.

This is a recent tally from Johns Hopkins:

But here in North Carolina, we get this:

In March, we needed protecting. Now, we are ignorant.

Heroes in March. Cowards in November.

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

What these past eight 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 barely received any PPE, masks, hand sanitizer, or cleaning supplies.


Heroes in March. Cowards in November.

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 November.

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 November.

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 November.

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 November.

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 November.

Teachers have been on task so much since last March that today feels like March 264th rather than November 23rd.

Heroes in March. Cowards in November.

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. And October. And November. 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:

Dear Mark Johnson: Do At Least One Good Thing Before You Go

Mark Johnson has well over a month still in his term and while we could spend entire days discussing the magnitude of how poorly he did his elected duty, he can end his tumultuous term by doing one good thing for our schools and students: act to negate the use of federal and state mandated standardized tests for this semester.

No matter what Betsy DeVos might say as her even more embarrassing tenure as Secretary of Education, she is gone in January. Applying for a federal waiver now and receiving a “NO” from her office does not mean that having a waiver request on file would not have sway with the next Secretary of Education whose agenda is surely to try and undo many of DeVos’s policies immediately.

DeVos’s “NO” can be overturned.

Johnson could make a public stand by saying that NC will not give standardized tests in December and January despite what the feds may say. That public statement would at least be in line with his “local control” of education mantra that he has being trying to scream for years now.

Or Johnson could decree that any standardized test given this semester can only count 0.01% of a final grade and 0.0001% of a school’s performance grade.

He could even sign this petition by NC Families For School Testing Reform:

About The Doctor’s Opinion: Using Science Without Leadership Is Our Biggest Concern

I am no medical expert. I am no scientist. I do not know the responsibility, stress, and burden that medical professionals are really carrying with them right now as the country begins to experience this recent surge of a new virus.

I can’t even imagine what the past 8 months have been like for hospitals.

What I am is a public school teacher and an advocate for public schools.

Admittedly, I was a little taken aback when I initially read the words spoken by Dr. Christopher Ohl in today’s report on his comments about school reopenings.

I felt that someone who was at a Wake Forest Baptist presser on behalf of the hospital and medical school should not have inserted an admittedly personal opinion in that arena. I felt that his words did more to polarize the situation than it did in offering clarity and guidance.

It’s also hard not to read these words as a teacher who wants schools to open safely and feel as if you were targeted.

People protesting the reopening of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are showing a lack of understanding about science, according to Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

…”Quite frankly, there’s a group of people that have been extremely vocal, and they’ve developed kind of a life of their own and a crusade against opening schools,” Ohl said. “There’s a lot of misinformation, disinformation and ignorance of science, quite frankly, in that group. And that will keep groups from reopening in Forsyth County unless they start thinking about it a little bit more.”

Ohl said the pressure from groups opposed to reopening will likely prevent older students from returning to school in Forsyth County in the current school year.

Ohl did not name any specific groups but he appealed to them to “look at real science.”

It is easy to instantly react and demand that Dr. Ohl present us what the “real science” is or what specifically the “misinformation” might be. Not doing so seems to cast more doubt.

But, after a little time to think and digest, I am not angered by his words or his stance or how he may have presented them.

Why? Because he is not an expert of public schools and there is a stark difference between not wanting to reopen schools and wanting to reopen schools safely. I do not think that Dr. Ohl admitted that qualification. Furthermore, it isn’t just the science that teachers are concerned about – it’s the use of science by those in power to make decisions and the real lack of leadership.

In short, there is a lack of trust in this school district. Furthermore, those teachers who are in that particular group Dr. Ohl seems to be referring to in his comments know well that if science is really applied, then a plan could be constructed that honors the science. The plan this system has in place mutates more than a renegade virus and seems to be predicated more on anecdotal data than anything else. I don’t think that’s looking at real science.

Dr. Ohl comments about our society’s decision to open bars and restaurants before opening schools brings up another point.

In his address, Ohl echoed what many others have said about school closures — that keeping them open should have taken precedence over opening bars, restaurants and fitness centers.

Noting he was making a political comment, Ohl said he was speaking as a scientist, doctor and parent, not as a representative of Wake Forest.

“These are play areas for adults, but we won’t open our schools?” Ohl said. “Shame on us as a society. What’s important?”

Makes one think what Dr. Ohl said when those institutions were opened before schools this past fall. I don’t seem to recall. But it creates another layer in this probe applying real science against desires: Are schools as safe now with “play areas for adults” open than they were before those playgrounds were opened? Teachers think about those things.

Furthermore, we are in a leadership void. Not many districts around that are of our size looking for another superintendent to replace one who only stayed for a little over a year and would not have gone to another district without already being in the job hunting arena for many weeks beforehand.

And many would agree with me in saying that our current Board of Education has a very difficult time working with each other.

So, yes there is science. And there is leadership. And there is trust.

Then there is this:

No two schools in this district of over 80 campuses are the same. We have large schools and small schools. We have schools that are all housed in one building. Some in many buildings. We have old school buildings. We have fairly new buildings. We have elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. There are some schools that are Pre-K through 12. There are alternative-setting schools. There’s even an early college. We have schools that draw students from high tax bases. We have schools that draw from high poverty areas. Schools have different student bodies that serve communities with various socio-economic backgrounds.

Now add environmental factors out of our control like the fact that winter is approaching. There’s no historical data about how the country has done with COVID in conjunction with the flu season. Think of the different landscapes and terrains two schools that are only miles apart could have. Think of the state of the ventilation systems from room to room, building to building, school to school. Think of how many windows a school building has. Think of the width of the hallways. All of them.

No two schools are the same.

It’s hard to see headlines in the local paper or on the news about school closings due to the virus and not think think that could happen in other places.

Gospel Light has a student body less than most every public school in our district.

Name another school that draws from a higher tax base in the district. If it hits there, then what about other schools that do not have as many resources?

Additionally this:

Calvary Nov. 11 letter to parents

And then there is this Oct. 26th report from the Raleigh News & Observer:

We had a candidate for Governor this election cycle this past October in the only debate between the final two candidates who said that there had been no outbreaks in private schools. How many people believed him?

Not only are there the reports of schools and districts closing because of outbreaks, there are studies that show children can spread the virus.

Superspreading predominated, with 5% of infected individuals accounting for 80% of cases. Enhanced transmission risk was apparent among children and young adults, who accounted for one-third of cases. 

India has certainly seen its share of COVID cases.

North Carolina seems to be seeing quite the surge itself.

And it seems that the authority that is the Centers For Disease Control keeps changing its own guidelines specifically reference to schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has quietly removed controversial guidance from its website that pushed for schools to reopen in the fall and downplayed the transmission risks of COVID-19 to children and others.

The documents, one of which was reportedly written by political appointees outside of the CDC, stated that children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults and that children are unlikely to be major spreaders of the virus.

The CDC removed two guidance documents from its website in late October with no public announcement.https://f4118d4625bc2c87da397b17ed46c48b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

When reached for comment, a CDC spokesperson said, “Some of the prior content was outdated and as new scientific information has emerged the site has been updated to reflect current knowledge about COVID-19 and schools.”

I do not envy the position that many medical experts are facing right now. And the toxic dialogue that has stemmed from reaction to Dr. Ohl’s public op-ed has created more division when we so need more unity (especially after this election cycle). Dr. Ohl’s knowledge and work is so needed. He is still a needed leader in my opinion.

But as a teacher in this school system, I want schools to open up safely which is starkly different from the “keep schools closed” mantra that is being so flippantly slung around. I wished Dr. Ohl’s words were not presented as they were because it has temporarily created a more polarizing environment where opposing viewpoints can cherry-pick words and phrases to add to an arsenal.

And I wished that Dr. Ohl could distinguish between what he calls a group on a “crusade against opening schools” from a group who not only has to worry at how policy makers look at “real” science but protect students and teachers from decisions being made by a body that has not earned either the trust or the respect from those who really make schools work.

When A School Board Member Wants To Pit Parents Versus Teachers

Forget that there is a pandemic going on and that an even bigger surge of infection is occurring right now.

Forget that this state has not funded adequately for safe reopenings.

Forget that it is a virus and a horrible national response that is the cause of all of this.

Forget that it seems that school board members in our district seem more interested in getting reelected next year than dealing with science this year.

Forget that this district can’t seem to keep a superintendent.

Forget that a recent rise in COVID infections among elementary school teachers and personnel most definitely has something to do with reopening schools to kindergartners and first graders and that the school system has gone out of its way to absolve itself of any culpability.

Forget that there are people on the board who without any conclusive data but just the hint of distant possibility closed down a school in a matter of hours over possible contamination but wants to reopen schools while an actual certifiable viral pandemic is happening and still growing.

Forget all of that.

But do not forget that when a school board actively asks parents to write other board members to counter the insights and concerns of teachers, it is a gross misuse of power.

Do not forget that this is pitting teachers against parents and stoking division.

Do not forget that this is the epitome of what an elected public servant SHOULD NOT DO.