Phil? Tim? Mark? Catherine? So, How Would You “Instruct” Teachers On How To Talk About Ukraine?

With the onslaught of bills concerning what is taught in our public schools and the shrill tones that many in Raleigh use when debating classroom curriculum in this election year, no doubt that the events happening in the Ukraine are weighing on the minds of a lot of students.

When a school board meeting is overrun by parents presenting false accusations over pieces of cloth covering mouths at the same time as a country is being invaded by a maniacal madman, how am I as a teacher supposed to allow students to “speak” freely about these world events?

When Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay in the country and fight for their land and there seems to be no complaints whatsoever, but here in America we see full tantrums from grown men at stores screaming about how mask mandates impinge on their freedoms, how am I as a teacher supposed to allow students to “speak” freely about these world events?

What if a student poses a question about the need to openly carry assault weapons in public?

What if a student asks about having important government officials be the first to the front lines to stand alongside those fighting to defend from an actual aggressor? Would you go Tim? Phil?

At least we know Mark has a gun.

Students ask those types of questions.

And what if a student brings this interesting dilemma up in a classroom discussion?

Maybe that student even references this specific “hissy-fit” from last week’s school board meeting for his school system.

This teacher knows how each of you want to micromanage what is said and done in the classroom. Lots is going on in the world.

We need some of your expert guidance.

Word For Word: The NC Script For “Bonds For The Win”

It starts about 44 and 1/2 minutes in to the February 22nd, 2022 WSFCS School Board meeting. A blonde-headed lady approaches the lectern during the open comments section and begins reading.

It’s a script from here:

And she starts just the way it reads.

Violation of Your Oath of Office: You have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of North Carolina  and the Constitution of the United States of America. You have failed to uphold both of these constitutions. We live in America and are free to live our lives without restrictions, abuse and unlawful mandates from elected government officials. Mandates are not enforceable laws. As an elected public servant you have no jurisdiction or authority to create or enforce mandates.

Practicing Medicine Without a License – You and everyone employed by this district such as teachers and administrators have engaged in the practice of medicine without a license, which is a violation of state law.  You’re recommending medical procedures, vaccination, with a wholly NON FDA approved product, that is licensed under an EUA.  Meaning it’s experimental and cannot be advertised at all, per federal law.  And you have NON doctors recommending it to children – with NO informed consent.  How can you give informed consent when the ingredients in these vaccinations won’t even be released to the public until August 2022?

For a review of the “Bonds For the Win” movement, look at this NBC.com report.

“Bonds For The Win” Or “Law & Order: School Board Meeting”

To say that last night’s school board meeting was rather interesting would be an understatement.

In the two years since this pandemic has altered the reality for communities and our schools, no place has seen as much vitriol spewed as the rooms that hold school board meetings. As mask mandates are being lifted and rates of transmission waning and vaccinations rising, it seems there should be some relief being felt.

In actuality, this junction has become another launching pad for misplaced anger.

During last night’s WSFCS School Board meeting, a man who was part of a bigger concert of people approached the members without invitation to present a large box of documents. He was attempting to “serve” papers.

From Fox 8 News:

From the morning’s Winston-Salem Journal:

The board’s meeting on the mandate veered quickly from contentious to unruly when a man crossed over a roped area where board members sit and was escorted from the room by security as some members in the audience jeered.

As the man continued to shout, causing disruption in the board chamber, Board Chairwoman Deanna Kaplan was forced to call for a five-minute recess in an effort to restore order. That upset some people in the audience, with one man yelling: “The patriots are coming!”

Another phrase that was heard in that meeting was “Bonds for the Win.”

Bonds for the Win is an organization that attempts to file baseless claims against school district insurance policies in hopes of bullying them into submitting to the group’s will. All of this under the veneer of “saving the students.”

NBC.com ran an interesting expose of the group.

But the scare tactic has become a familiar one. A growing number of school districts across the country are facing similar challenges from parent activists who have adopted strategies and language that are well known to law enforcement and extremism experts who deal with far-right “sovereign citizen” groups in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League call it “paper terrorism.”

The parents’ strategy is simple: Try to use obscure and often inapplicable legal claims to force a school district to make a policy change. And while the claims have no legal standing, they have been effective at spreading confusion and wasting school districts’ resources, even though the paperwork doesn’t require a formal legal response.

The parents and activists have organized through a new group called Bonds for the Win, which is named for a financial instrument at the heart of the pseudo-legal effort. The group’s members have spent the past two months bombarding school administrators with meritless claims over Covid policies and diversity initiatives. These claims allege that districts have broken the law and therefore owe parents money through what are called surety bonds, which government agencies often carry as liability insurance.

That’s exactly what happened last night in this school board meeting.

Bonds for the Win’s claims are not legitimate, according to education officials, insurance companies and the FBI. But even though the group has won no legal battles, it has already celebrated some successes in overwhelming districts with paperwork, intimidating local officials and disrupting school board meetings. 

Add the recent CRT hoaxes, book banning efforts, and claims of indoctrination in schools and marry all of them to the already polarized political situation in our country and you get what happened last night occurring all over the country.

Here’s another angle on that “legal tactic” attempted last night.

Imagine what this is teaching our students.

Extending The School Day In WSFCS Will Not Solve Anything

With a looming mask mandate decision on the horizon and vacancies still very high in all sectors of the school system, the decision to start tweaking the bell schedule in WSFCS is ill-timed and neglects the very obstacles that really stand in the way of our schools.

On the school system website is an explanation of the proposal and the reasons why they would be “helpful.”

Before thinking about “normalizing” instruction time with the extension of school days, maybe it would be better to fight for smaller class sizes. Being able to maximize time that we already have with students in classrooms by not being so stretched out for resources and affording individual attention would be far more beneficial. Extending the school day just places more on the backs of teachers for a longer period of time.

More planning days? You can’t extend the number of days we go to school as it is pretty much cemented in statutes. Does this mean Early Release days? They don’t work as well as one would think. There are still extracurriculars and schedules of parents and guardians tend not to have those days built in.

Hard to have class scheduling flexibility if the existing classes are so big and resources stretched thin. Extra time does not create scheduling flexibility. More teachers teaching more classes with the same number of students do.

How about petition the state to be able to start the school year earlier in August to allow for more days to be built in for making up missed school days? We could even have exams for fall semester before the calendar year ends.

How about changing high schools back to a seven period day? That would give much more flexibility and time for teachers to plan. Attention spans for students would also improve.

And that streamlining of transportation? This system doesn’t even have enough bus drivers to accommodate the demand now.

The Hypocrisy of School “Transparency” Bills

From the front page of the Winston-Salem Journal this morning:

House Bill 755 was filed last April. DURING TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK.

Senate Bill 700 was also filed last April. DURING TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK.

Post everything that is used and the sourcing of all of these materials? So that people can make judgement without the context and measure those materials against their own personal bias and viewpoints?

Oh, right. For transparency’s sake.

Remember this? It’s still going on.

But we already have this on the books in NC:

Yep. Transparency.

So, Did Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Watch The Super Bowl Halftime Show?

It was a classic game – no Tom Brady, big plays, lead changes, fourth quarter heroics, and hopefully the best set of commercials you will see in a given year.

The Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event annually in America as many who do not particulalry follow professional football come to watch the spectacle that the Super Bowl has become.

And there is the halftime show.

For the first time, hip-hop was the focus for the halftime show with icons Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and surprise guest 50-Cent performing. Of course many of the students who go to our public schools watched the game and that halftime show. Those performers are foundational legends in the music industry reaching back three decades. Parents of students were coming of age listening to these stars.

If you listen to their lyrics, the settings of their stories, and the context of their songs, it is hard to not think as a teacher all of the energy and focus many politicians have exerted to shout a narrative about indoctrination, CRT, and the non existence of systemic racism.

One person in particular comes to mind: North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson – he of the Indoctrination Task Force (F.A.C.T.S.). He also has been very vocal about his belief that there is no systemic racism.

Remember this?

“I don’t believe in systemic racism.”

-MARK ROBINSON, (then) CANDIDATE FOR LT. GOVERNOR

To be exact, those words are within this larger context from a virtual debate between Robinson and his opponent, Democrat Yvonne Holly aired by Spectrum News on Sept. 19th, 2020.

“I don’t believe in systemic racism. I don’t believe that systemic racism would allow two black people to be standing here running for lieutenant governor or allow a black man to be elected president for two terms.”

“Systemic racism is not the problem. The problem is we have is far too many communities ruled by lawlessness.”

In a year when the Black Lives Matter movement took shape and the 1619 project was published it seemed rather hard to look at Robinson’s words and agree with them.

This teacher believes that there is systemic racism. That halftime show last night certainly showed how much Robinson’s intentional ignorance still flies in the face of reality – a reality that students, parents, and teachers already know and are trying to combat on a daily basis.

Think about it. Mark Robinson, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Emeinem, and Mary J. Blige are all around the same age. They have lived through the same national events, seen some of the same things, and lived in the same country.

And who has the bigger audience and exerts the most influence?

Is it because they are relating a true perspective of what has happened in our country and still occurs?

So, You Want To Blame Teachers?

Think of all of the factors that affect how well public schools can operate.

Now take all of those factors and divide them up by who is responsible for them: elected officials and teachers.

Here is the distribution:

Actually there is one under the teachers column.

If you want to blame teachers for the current status of public education, then you are blaming the wrong people. If anything, teachers and other educators in our public schools are the ones keeping our schools working.

These Past Two Years Have Shown Us That Local School Board Elections Are That Important For Every NC School System

Throughout North Carolina, every local school board is wrestling with not just how to negotiate coming out of the pandemic. They are having to deal with problems fueled by partisan-fueled emotions.

They are even having to consider this whole “CRT” discussion and the banning of books.

school-board-elections

I do not envy anyone having to fulfill the role of the local school board official. When those elected servants campaigned to be on the local BOE, navigating a pandemic probably did not weigh into possible obstacles. I have been teaching for over 23 years; I never thought I would have to go through what has happened these last couple of school years.

But I am again assured that one of the most important offices for which anyone can place a vote is for the local school board, and 2022 is another big year for many local school board elections.

Communities are learning in a rather serious manner that each election for each seat on each local school board is of vital importance.

Of all the 2018 primary political signs that were spread throughout the city where I reside, at least three in five dealt with the local school board elections.

This was not an anomaly. I cannot remember a time in an election cycle in which the majority of roadside political signs of local and state office did not refer to the school board elections. Those elections are that important because so much is at stake.

The largest part of a state’s budget tends to be toward public education. A major part of a school board’s (city or county) identity is how it helps students achieve within what resources and funds are available. In North Carolina, where a state general assembly tends to pass more fiscal responsibility to LEA’s (think class size mandate), a school board’s calling to help all students achieve must be met by those who truly understand what best helps schools and students.

This prolonged pandemic has exposed that raw reality.

No wonder school board elections are so important.

At the heart of a school board’s responsibilities are supporting a selected superintendent, guiding the creation of policies and curriculum, making sure there are adequate facilities, and seeing that budgetary needs are met.

And in a state that had no new budget for three years and an NC General Assembly always wanting to “reform,” the fight to have the proper facilities, resources, and budgetary supports is even more difficult.

AND THERE IS THE SAFETY OF STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS.

That means understanding what students, teachers, and support staff need. That means understanding how schools operate and how they are affected by mandates and laws that come from Raleigh and how Raleigh’s actions in this pandemic have affected state services. And when policies that are handed down from the state that may not treat the local system favorably, then the school board must confront those in Raleigh and help fight for what is best for the local students.

Consider that before we had a pandemic we had a per-pupil expenditure rate that was lower when adjusted for inflation than before the Great Recession. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had a lack of textbook funds and overcrowded buildings and state mandates for testing that took many school days away from instruction. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had the funding of unproven reforms like an Innovative School District and vouchers. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had the growth of unregulated charter schools.

All of that brings to light what might be one of the most important jobs that a school board must undertake: it must be willing to challenge the state in an explicit and overt manner on matters that directly affect their local schools.

In a state where almost 1 in 4 students lives in poverty and where Medicaid was not extended to those who relied on such services, schools are drastically affected as students who walk into schools bring in their life challenges. If student achievement is a primary responsibility of a school board, whatever stands in the way of students being able to achieve becomes an issue that a school board must confront.

So, is the person whose name is on a political sign for school board candidacy willing to fight for our schools even if it means confronting Raleigh’s policies and its reactions to the pandemic?

That might be the first question I might ask of any candidate for local school board – the first of many.

This State Board Of Education Member Is Resigning For Hypocritical Reasons

Todd Chasteen came to the State Board of Education in 2016 having been nominated by then Gov. Pat McCrory. Ironically, the senior education advisor to McCory at the time was current State Superintendent, Catherine Truitt.

Maybe that is not ironic.

Today, it was reported that Chasteen was resigning from the State Board of Education citing “activism.”

In February when the board passed Social Studies Standards by a slim majority, standards that many of us concluded, and thousands of parents agreed, were unproductive, regressive and unhelpful to the students of this wonderful state, it became more difficult to see where I could add value,” Chasteen wrote in his letter. “The trajectory away from what some of us believed actually helped students, away from education towards activism, became much more likely, if not inevitable.”

Activism? That’s rich coming from Chasteen.

In 2015, Mr. Chasteen was vetted in a report by Lindsay Wagner when she worked as the education correspondent for NC Policy Watch. Her April 24, 2015 report entitled “Censorship controversy, thin record spark concerns over McCrory’s State Board of Ed nominee” spoke loudly when considering that he was in all probability to be appointed to the empty Northwest NC vacancy.

Chasteen’s efforts in banning a book called The House of the Spirits from a Watauga County classroom garnered a lot of media, especially when it was revealed that his boss at the time, Franklin Graham, was also actively trying to have it banned as well. According to Chasteen the book was simply a vehicle for promiscuity. He said,

“If the Bible contained the 59 sexual references and the graphic, descriptive detail of The House, my kids would not read the Bible, nor would I. Mr. Mckay stretched to find a few violent, non-descript stories in the Bible of 1500 pages. The House, 59 depictions in 430 pages, a pattern, pervasive vulgarity, and very descriptive. The Bible, as non-graphic, does not say that King David enjoyed “the dark, hot, juicy cavern of her _____.” This is not a mere nuance. The reading of the Bible does not produce sensual arousal.”

Wagner continued in her article,

“Todd Chasteen appears to have strong connections in private, religious education.

His wife, Kim, runs a private Christian school in Boone called Grace Academy. And Chasteen is a proponent of home schooling, having served as a government instructor for High Country Christian Home Schoolers.

Chasteen’s bio for HCCHS says he “has a passion to help ground and prepare our students against an onslaught of liberal views that they may face in higher education, and to be able to convey the subject matter with academic freedom.”

Has a “passion” to work “against an onslaught of (different) views?”

Sounds like “direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.”

An activist put on the state school board resigns because of supposed activism?

Apparently.