To The School Board Candidate Who Knows Nothing About How Schools Really Operate

Yes. The primaries are here.

And it seems like every political sign that I see on the sides of roads and at interchanges is for one particular race: the local school board.

Throw around terms like “CRT,” “learning loss,” “mask mandates,” “indoctrination,” and “transparency,” add to them some righteous anger, and you have some rather loud campaigns for the local school board that base platforms on weak foundations.

Because the entity that is the local school system is much more than the platitudes of a campaign can ever explain.

If you are running for school board because you think that school systems handled the pandemic incorrectly with virtual learning and mask mandates, then please bring your crystal balls to each school board meeting so that we can accurately know how to handle unforeseen and unprecedented crises that have not happened yet.

If you are running for school board because you believe that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) is not appropriate for schools, then please share your plans for getting a full-time nurse, more counselors, and more social workers in our schools in a hurry and please make sure that schools have the resources to make schools safer (maybe even do something about class sizes as well).

If you are running for school board because you want to stop the “indoctrination” of our students, then please come with concrete examples of what is happening because if I as a teacher could truly indoctrinate students as powerfully as some of the candidates running say that I can, then there would never be a late (or never turned in) assignment or a phone used surreptitiously in class.

If you are running to make sure that the right curriculum is being taught, then take that up with the state board and the legislature. With the number of high-stakes standardized tests that schools have to give each year and the absolute enormity of the standards of study being crafted on a yearly basis, claiming that teachers are “teaching” their own curricula is ludicrous.

If you are running for school board because you think there needs to be more transparency in what is done in classrooms, then start looking at the syllabi and online repositories that all teachers use for students to have. Technology and social media have not only made things more accessible, but have made classroom activities incredibly transparent.

If you are running for school board because you feel that the teachers’ union is running the schools, then please be reminded that NC is a Right-To-Work, At-Will state that has outlawed public employees to collectively bargain. That makes North Carolina one of a kind. It also has taken away due-process rights for teachers, graduate degree pay, and longevity pay for teachers. Add to that a court order to follow a funding plan that has been ignored by the state government (LEANDRO) and you might want to point your anger toward the real culprits in Raleigh. (Plus, you would be proving to many why they might need to join a teacher advocacy group).

If you are running for school board because you want to focus more on discipline in schools, then please bring in a plan to have more assistant principals be in schools to help handle those issues and more empowerment for teachers to enforce the rules.

If you are running for school board because you think we need to strengthen the integrity of high school diplomas, then start talking about how we should not use graduation rates as the overall measure of school success.

If you are running for school board because you think you can run it like your business, then maybe you need to see how public schools really work. Maybe try running a business like a school system and see if they are compatible. (They aren’t).

And if you are running for school board because you want to give schools “back to the parents,” then remember that everyone is a stakeholder in public education – EVERYONE. It does not belong to one group. It belongs to all people, most of whom do not have a child in the school system at present.

The loudest voices do not always represent the majority of voters and what you as a candidate say on social media is read by so many more people than you think.

And if you want to empower teachers, it might be good to explain how you will because as of this posting there are almost 20,000 teaching vacancies in this state.

There are maybe 95,000 teaching positions in this state.

And this school year is not over… yet.

(Oh, and teachers are also taxpayers and many of us are parents of students ourselves.)

If You’re Running For School Board And Do Not Have A Plan To Address This …

…then please just drop out of the race.

North Carolina has right under 100,000 statewide teaching positions, and according to this morning’s count on the TeachNC web page for vacancies , nearly 20% of those positions are not currently filled for next year.

So, what is your plan?

Imagine those races in areas that are rural and that do not offer much in the way of local supplements.

What is your plan?

Imagine those races in counties where the local school system is the largest employer (or second largest) and people are leaving for better opportunities.

What is your plan?

Imagine races in more metropolitan and urban areas where salary differences between teaching and other comparable occupations is so great that competing for new professionals is a one-sided battle.

What is your plan?

Imagine races in areas where the average tenure for a teacher’s career has shortened precipitously in the last 10 years and the average age for teachers is getting younger and younger by the year.

What is your plan?

Now come to the realization that many of the people loudly running for school board on “gaslit” issues are championing some of the very empty claims and ideas that are creating those vacancies in our classrooms.

Every school board candidate better understand that if you do not have a stable teacher force that is treated professionally, you do not have a public school system that will last.

Righteous & Reactionary Anger Is Not The Best Qualification To Run For School Board

In some school systems such as mine, all seats for the school board are up for grabs in this next election. Possibly nine new members could be leading the school system come next calendar year. The field for the WSFCS school board elections is 28 strong.

And the mudslinging and gaslighting that has occurred so far has attracted national attention. From the front page of today’s Winston-Salem Journal about a candidate forum held at a school last night:

If you really looked at the platforms of many of the candidates in this particular race (and I am sure in many other places), most of their reasons for running stem from a lack of satisfaction in how the pandemic was handled in our schools. They yell about learning loss and mental health issues that arose supposedly from masking and closing down school buildings as if those decisions were not made with the best possible information that science and medicine gave us at the time and before a vaccine was available that has worked remarkably well.

And while many people may be “done” with COVID-19, it is not done with us.

Some candidates are running on a refusal that the pandemic forced a group of leaders in an unprecedented time to make decisions when none of the choices were convenient.

Some candidates are not willing to address the mental health stressors that were already in society that were not caused by masks and closed buildings but were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Some candidates are screaming about indoctrination in our schools yet cannot point to one verified example in which there is institutional indoctrination except when using slippery slopes, all or nothing claims, and other logical fallacies.

Some candidates want to talk about learning loss as if it was caused solely by our response to COVID. Yet those same people will not talk about what stipulations and mandates the state has put on our public schools that take away from actual instructional time.

Some candidates claim they can fix problems that really involve the state and not the local system.

And many of those candidates have not offered one tangible solution within their cacophony of rhetoric that is plausible. They’ve spent all of their time and energy pointing fingers and making unfounded claims.

Those candidates also have the least amount of knowledge (it appears) of how a school system actually works, who is responsible for what actions, and how schools operate. And they sure as hell have not talked about what they would do about a teacher shortage that is going to do nothing but get worse throughout the summer months.

There are two candidates who possess more experience with public schools than a vast majority of the candidates combined, and they have not built their platforms on righteous and reactionary anger but on what they know can be done and can be advocated for. They know how schools work.

And they are not spending their time shouting at others, but looking for solutions to problems that we have never faced before.

That’s why I am voting for Stan Elrod and Richard Watts.

Even if they belong to different political parties.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week – You Feeling Appreciated?

It took our NCGA three years to pass a new budget. Still there is no movement on honoring the LEANDRO decision. And we are still reeling from an unprecedented pandemic which has altered the landscape of education for a time.

Plus there are school board candidates running on platforms that deny the veracity vaccines and science.

If people get vaccinated and stay vigilant.

For over two years, educators have adapted, invented, created, and constructed ways and means of helping students in unprecedented time that could never have been envisioned before. No standardized test could ever measure what educators and schools have done, yet we have a governing body that still insists on introducing bills and other edicts that do not honor our profession.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and many policy lawmakers in Raleigh seem to think that the best way to show appreciation for teachers is offering rewards.

What teachers and other education professionals really deserve is respect – especially after these last two years.

A reward is something that is given in recognition of someone’s service, effort, and/or achievement. One could get a reward for doing well on a project or completing a task. Some could look at a bonus check as a reward for accomplishing a goal.

To have respect is to have a deep feeling of admiration for someone because of his/her abilities, qualities, and value. It is understanding that someone is important and should be taken seriously.

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
  • A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
  • A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
  • A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
  • A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
  • A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.

And respect would also be making sure that teachers on the front-lines of education are a vital part of the discussions about what to do in the face of this pandemic and how we as a state should proceed as far as our students and schools are concerned.

We have seen what a lack of respect for teachers has done to our state in a short amount of time. Where we once were considered a flagship state system in the South, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a pay raise, I will tell my lawmakers that affording more respect to teachers, administrators, and teacher assistants could go a long in helping stop the attrition of teaching talent in North Carolina.

Why? Because if you respect something you will show it through your actions, not just your campaign speeches and vague promises.

And respect can work both ways. For those lawmakers who view public education as a priority and view teachers with respect, I will not only reward them with my vote, I would show my respect by supporting them throughout their terms.

Because a lack of respect is what is driving this:

Maybe Something To Consider Before You Vote For School Board Candidates

From an NPR / IPSOS poll reported last week:

“By wide margins – and regardless of their political affiliation – parents express satisfaction with their children’s schools and what is being taught in them.”

As a teacher, it is rather mind-boggling that in an age of heavy standardized testing, technological advancements that allow for remote monitoring, and more tightly defined curriculum standards that people are running for positions on school boards rooted in the need for classroom transparency and parental rights.

If any candidate is running for a school board position in North Carolina and does not see that our state public school system is grossly underfunded, then he/she does not deserve your vote.

Just look at their platforms and see if LEANDRO is even mentioned.