From #JustAsk To A 16 Million Dollar Mistake – Of Course Teachers Are Angry

And they should be angry.

Remember that in September 2018 a video come to light concerning a May 2018 in which then superintendent Dr. Beverly Emory presented the school system budget request to the county Board of Commissioners and the issue of teacher supplements was brought up.

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

In September of 2018, 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). 

Fast forward a little over three years, two more superintendents, a global pandemic, an extended budget approval process by the state, more gerrymandered districts, and unfounded attacks on the teaching profession and we in our district finally receive news that local supplements will increase significantly. It might have kept teachers from leaving the district or even the profession altogether.

Yes, local supplements mean that much.

And then this:

That specific report in the Winston-Salem Journal stated,

Superintendent Tricia McManus said in a message to the district’s certified staff on Thursday night said that because of the calculation error, the amount the school board had approved was roughly $16 million dollars more than what had been budgeted for local increases.

This teacher got that message on Thursday night at the dinner table using the speaker phone as my family was finishing our meal. In all honesty, I thought it was to announce a possible delay with the temperatures below freezing and chance of precipitation.

That message was a gut punch. Teachers have every right to be angry.

For MANY reasons.

First, the timing. It is the new year. It was the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol. It only reminded me and others of the division in our country, but it reiterated how much public schools and teachers have been thrown into the middle of that “fight for the soul of our country.”

Secondly, there was a validated expectation that the local supplement was official and ready to be instituted. The school board had already voted and approved it. The numbers were published. Teachers and the their families were already budgeting that increase for various expenses.

Next, it seems to be yet another way that teachers and public school educators have been victimized by neglect. This North Carolina General Assembly has not been kind to teachers for over 10 years. This state has a teacher shortage, a teacher candidate shortage, a rise in early retirements, and ever increasing expectations placed on public schools to fulfill duties with less resources.

This state is at a precipice when it comes to public education. If you think this year seems to be rough as far as teacher retention is concerned, next year will be worse.

Lastly, there is that trust issue. It was eroding before this bit of news. That process just got “ramped” up many times over.

Local supplements are not one-time bonuses. It is part of the salary for teachers. Bonuses are non-recurring and are taxed as gifts. Raises in local supplements are recurring and effect retirement. The news we received about a clerical error did not just affect this year, but all years if not remedied.

If there is one thing that teachers have shown and somehow extended in abundance throughout the last two years, it is grace. Adapting to what this pandemic has done to schools and the effects on our students and families has been one of the most taxing experiences (physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually) any teacher could never have imagined going through.

Hard to keep extending grace in situations like this.

If the last two years have shown our country anything, it is that schools are about so much more than academics. They are a fabric that holds communities together. But schools and the people who make them work must have foundational supports from officials in Central Office, local politicians, and school boards

When those supports become unstable or are not carefully maintained, then we all suffer for it.

This system already has too many vacancies.

I sincerely hope that this school board and our school system officials can restore at least some of the trust that was lost this past week.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s