Dear Supt. Truitt – About That Rather Empty “Note Of Praise For Our Teachers”

Supt. Truitt,

I read the open letter to teachers you recently posted on EdNC.org entitled “A note of praise for our teachers” and I tried to appreciate your words during this Teacher Appreciation Week.

You are right; this school year has been like no other. This pandemic has been unprecedented. Teachers and other educators have been incredibly taxed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

But as the years in my public school teaching career continue to increase, I tend to measure good wishes and well-meaning intentions that a week like this invites against those actions and words heard and seen throughout the rest of the school year.

And I am having a hard time being able to match your words in this nice open letter to teachers with previous statements and stances.

There was the repeated use of the words “you” and “yours” to introduce laudatory statements and give teachers possession of successful outcomes of these past 14 months.

  • You all became technology experts overnight and immediately transitioned your classrooms into entirely virtual places for teaching and learning.
  • You created new ways to captivate your students and engage them from behind a screen. 
  • You found new methods to help students you often could no longer see in person. 
  • You improvised and did whatever it took to ensure our students continued to receive the best education possible. 
  • You understood the unique social and emotional needs of your students.
  • You played a major role in providing a sense of stability and certainty when our students so desperately needed it.  
  • You juggled hybrid and in-person learning. 
  • You juggled a new schedule with alternating A-days and B-days. 
  • You created an environment that put students’ needs ahead of adults’ needs. 
  • I want you to know that I have heard from so many of you during these last few months — your stories, your concerns, and your successes. I have also seen you — I have seen you remain steadfast in your commitment to our students, to your students. I have seen you push yourselves on behalf of students and their well-being. I see you being a source of light and life for so many.

When I read those words, it is very hard to not remember other words you have said, words that you could have said, issues that you could have addressed, and actions that you have done and not see more than a stark contradiction.

Literally one year ago today you penned this op-ed: “Cutting through the noise of education reform and COVID-19.”

TruittCOVID191

You were the chancellor at that time of an online university and in that op-ed you stated, “We were not prepared for remote learning despite a decade of innovation initiatives and pilot projects spanning Democratic and Republican administrations, and general agreement within the education community that personalized learning enabled by technology is a good thing.

Would you agree with that assessment now?

In the summer when you were campaigning, you posted these messages on social media:

But literally weeks later before our biggest spike in COVID cases at a fall press confernece in Raleigh, you, Phil Berger, and Dan Forest, 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.

From that press conference came these nuggets:

“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.

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

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.

Oddly, you did not refute them. You could have. You should have. But you didn’t.

In November you made rather unfounded claims about “learning loss.”

That interview took place on Nov. 22nd. Click here for the link. That interview was on a Sunday. The week before we were teaching. The day after we were teaching. Schools were not closed. Just the buildings. But you were running for office and you had to have a narrative.

Then right as the new year started in January, you helped pen these words in an op-ed on EdNC.org this past month with Eric Davis from the State Board of Education:

“Conducting testing is an essential part of a student’s educational journey,” Superintendent-Elect Catherine Truitt said. “As an educator and parent of two public school students, I believe the more knowledge we have of our children’s progress the better.”

When you and Eric Davis co-wrote that op-ed you also said:

Part of our recovery from COVID-19 is assuring we have appropriate measures in place to determine with certainty the academic and non-academic needs of our students. Testing allows us to determine the appropriate steps to help students meet their educational goals. We continue to explore our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year. However, federal testing and accountability measures can be waived only by the U.S. Secretary of Education. At this time, no waivers from the current secretary are forthcoming.”

Did you ever apply for them? Did you continue to actively and openly “explore our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year?”

Have you have ever acknowledged the LEANDRO case and its findings?

That editorial appeared on WRAL.com that took State Superintendent Catherine Truitt to task about her commitment to the Leandro decision in the wake of a fast-tracked bill to bring more “science of reading” into elementary classrooms.

That editorial began,

In her first opportunity since becoming state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt missed the mark.

She chose to take a partisan side-seat with the leadership of the General Assembly instead of standing up for the children of North Carolina and the State Constitution.”

It then stated,

“She should be in the forefront – out ahead – in pushing the legislature to adopt the comprehensive plan that has been developed by bringing together the various parties in the Leandro court case in to meet the State Constitutional right to give every child access to a quality education.

There’s nothing secret about the Leandro plan. It was put together through a court order and overseen by Superior Court Judge David Lee. It has had a very significant public airing, subject to review by the defendants including the State Board of Education and the plaintiffs – the students who have been denied access to a quality education and the several local school boards.”

Your campaign was financed in great part by people who seem to be working against the very teachers you were praising this week in the recent perspective.

Over two-thirds of the campaign contributions reported for the second quarter for your campaign came from donors whose actions and interests run totally antithetical of supporting public schools.

Two donors represented an out-of-state for profit charter school chain.

Two represented the private entity that controls the surreptitious algorithms that produce EVAAS scores and then calculates damaging school performance grades. Remember that bit about “exploring our options to waive punitive accountability measures for the 2020-21 school year?” You literally took money from those who calculate those punitive accountability measures.

One donor was a recent chariman of ALEC.

One was a chancellor of a private online university that received monies from the state to start up in NC. That person was you.

And have you in any way responded or commented on the task force that has been set up to intimidate teachers with charges of indoctrination?

And have you openly said anything about bills targeting transgender students and efforts by many conservatives to root out supposed attempts to indoctrinate students with Critical Race Theory?

Have you even engaged with teachers who belong to NCAE which represents more teachers than any other organization in the state when you yourself have supposedly endorsed another “teacher alliance?”

And then there is what you said as an advisor to former governor Pat McCrory.

The person who commented about school reopening and virtual platforms and local control but stood next to people who preached harmful policies seems antithetical to the person you are trying to portray yourself as in the recent praise of teachers.

The person who took money from privatizers is in direct contradiction to the facade of this latest attempt to praise public school teachers.

The person who wrote the May 3rd letter for Teacher Appreciation Week wants to portray herself as someone who wants to listen to all teachers.

The Catherine Truitt I have come to witness is not like that.

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