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.

North Carolina Has a Severe Teacher & Teacher Candidate Shortage – Raleigh Deliberately Created It

Think of these actions over the last ten years in North Carolina as far as public education is concerned:

  1. Teacher Pay 
  2. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  3. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed 
  4. Push for Merit Pay 
  5. “Average” Raises
  6. Health Insurance and Benefits Changes
  7. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) 
  8. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests 
  9. Less Money Spent per Pupil When Adjusted For Inflation
  10. Removal of Caps on Class Sizes 
  11. Sacrificing of Specialties in Elementary Schools
  12. Jeb Bush School Grading System 
  13. Cutting Teacher Assistants
  14. Opportunity Grants 
  15. Unregulated Charter School Growth 
  16. For-Profit Virtual Charter Schools 
  17. Innovative School District 
  18. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program And Now Its Smaller Version 

Then we had a pandemic and more talk of “reforming” public education and the its teacher pipeline.

This is what we have now:

That’s just teacher vacancies ss of this morning.

Every Local School Board Should Allow A Public School Teacher To Serve

Many have asked me over the years if a teacher can be a school board member and still be in the classroom.

At least in my LEA, one cannot. Many teachers over the years have run for positions on the school board, but each has had to stipulate that he/she would step away from the classroom to serve.

That should not be the case. If anything, CRT hoaxes, indoctrination witch hunts, and other conspiracy theories have shown that many school boards are not really listened to teachers.

People can say that a teacher is too involved in the school system to view it from different angles and through diverse lenses.

They would be wrong.

Teachers are voters. Teachers are parents of public school students. Teachers are tax payers.

Teachers know the school system well. From the inside out.

That perspective has largely been missing from many school board meetings.


And it’s desperately needed.

Dear School Board Candidate Running For These Reasons…

Yes. The primaries are fast approaching.

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 over 16,5000 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.)

Local School Boards Should Not Be Partisan

Yes, public education is political. But it does not have to be partisan.

Yet, in the last few years, more and more local school board elections are becoming partisan races steering school systems by a GPS system based on political dogma and controlled in Raleigh rather than what is best for the local school system.

My own school system, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools is a partisan board and many, including myself, see that as an obstacle in fully helping our schools.

Below is from an article in Education Week dated in December of 2017.

The volatile mix of partisan politics and school board elections is on full display in North Carolina.

The Republican-controlled legislature in the last five years has systematically flipped the election process for more than a quarter of the state’s 116 local school boards from nonpartisan races to ones in which candidates are identified by party affiliation.

Depending on whom you talk to in this politically purple state, it’s a historic shift that could lead to much-needed transparency, upend board-member relations, or shrink black and Latino political representation in a racially and ethnically diverse state.

The push toward partisan school board elections in North Carolina has gained momentum since 2013, shortly after the federal government loosened the reins on Voting Rights Act restrictions under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder decision, and after Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature. The state now has 35 school boards that will be elected on a partisan basis—at least 10 of them added to that pool by lawmakers this year alone. 

At one time on the WSFCS school board were two people who never were elected to such a position. One of them actually became the Vice-Chair before he was defeated in the primary when he actually did run for that office.

What had happened was that two people had resigned / left and because it was a partisan school board, the party affiliation of the member leaving got to dictate who came on board as a school board representative.

Currently, about a third of the LEA’s in NC are partisan. EdNC.org just put out a map showing those districts in the spring of 2021.

That EdNC.org aricle also has a list of those that are partisan and the election term dates in a link..

Later in that aformentioned EdWeek article it states,

The state’s Republicans say having local school board candidates identify by party affiliation on primary and general election ballots is simply an effort to make sure voters know candidates’ stances on polarizing issues such as school integration, vouchers, and which restroom transgender students should use.

But North Carolina Democrats counter that party politics will only bring to local school board meetings the sort of partisan rancor that’s dominated federal and state politics in recent years.

“I believe people should look at the qualities of the individual and determine if they have a heart for education,” said Bea Basnight, a Democrat and the chair of Dare County’s board of education, which will hold partisan elections for the first time next year. “We put our party affiliations aside when we walk through the door because it’s about the children.”

I agree with that statement by Basnight.

The only affiliation that a school board member should have next to his or her name is that he or she is pro-public education.

Hey NC! Want To Recruit & Retain A Vibrant Teaching Force? Do (Or Undo) These 20 Actions.

Before any discussion about a new path for teacher licensure and teacher pay takes place (espcially coming back from a pandemic), maybe look at what should be “undone” that put this state in the postion it is in now.

Before we even think about something as ludicrous as this –

– we should do the following:

1. Move Teacher Pay Kept To The National Average

2. Reinstate Due-Process Rights 

3. Reinstate Graduate Degree Pay Bumps  

4. Reinstate Retiree Health Benefits For New Teachers

5. Stop Merit Pay

6. Reinstate Longevity Pay 

7. Restrengthen Health Insurance and Benefits 

8. Stop Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) 

9. Stop The Revolving Door of Standardized Tests 

10. Place Caps on Class Sizes 

11. Stop Relying On Amorphous Measures Like “Graduation Rates”

12. Stop Using A School Grading System That Weighs Test Scores Over Growth

13. Hire 10,000 Teacher Assistants 

14. Stop The Read to Achieve Initiative

15. Stop Unregulated Educational Savings Accounts 

16. Stop The Opportunity Grants 

17. Cap The Number of Charter Schools 

18. Revitalize The Teaching Fellows Program And Expand It To ALL UNC-system Campuses

19. Stop The Frozen Salary Scale For Years 15-24

20. Follow Through On LEANDRO Decision

A Syllabus For Those In The NCGA And Other “Reformers” Who Want To Change What Students Read

There is a reason that we read serious works of literature. And others can say why much better than I can.

  • “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “We read to know we are not alone.”— William Nicholson (often attributed to C.S. Lewis)
  • “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.“—Mark Twain (supposedly)
  • “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. “– Mortimer Adler
  • “I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles W. Eliot
  • “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” – John Naisbitt

When I teach AP English Literature and Composition, I attempt to put together a syllabus that offers students exposure to a wide variety of literary styles, but also a wide variety of experiences that show students that the lives led by characters often mimic the lives and trials that real people have faced or will encounter. Think of it as an archeological dig into history where we can actually feel, experience, struggle, and rejoice in life events that shape humanity and then use others experiences to guide our own actions and choices.

And we can learn from literature as well about what can work for our society and what has not.

Therefore, I put together a syllabus for the current iteration of the North Carolina Assembly and those lobbying hard to alter curriculum because of narrow-mindedness this school year in the hopes they might learn to understand how others see the same world through a very different lens than they do. Because if anything, literature has taught me that I have no monopoly on knowing how life “should” be lived.

I would never put many of these titles on a typical high school reading list, but if you are an elected official or are trying to publicly sway what should or should not be available to students, you should be mature enough to read these works knowing that they carry weight, gravitas, and meaning.

Happy reading!

  • Most all of the plays of Shakespeare. I’ll just get that out of the way.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville – to learn how a maniacal, egotistical pursuit to something could very well lead to one’s downfall.
  • Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky – to learn that while some believe they are above the law of man, they are not above the law of God (or kharma).
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – to learn that the fear of free thought is the fear of other people’s gifts and views of the world.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – to learn that the role of women in society should be fashioned not by traditional standards but by their own standards.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – to remember a time when racial divides ruled our land and still has its grips on our state.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – to learn that the American Dream is really elusive and that no matter what you do to obtain it, it is out of reach for some because so many variables are out of control.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – to learn how many in society are relegated to stay in a socio-economic class because social mobility is harder than we really admit. Also, we should always remember that those who have developmental delays are as deserving as any other person.
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers – to remind ourselves that humans can be really bad for the environment.
  • Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole – to learn that heroes come in all sizes and shapes and from all backgrounds.
  • July’s People by Nadine Gordimer – to reflect on a societal dynamics that hopefully will never exist
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – to learn that some who align themselves with the church or the teachings of Christ do so for personal profit and social gain.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce – to learn that one day can last a very long time.
  • Anything by Toni Morrison because she is Toni Morrison.
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – to see how our personal histories may be more intertwined then originally beleived
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – to learn that people can learn about others and change their views about race and creed.
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – to see that multiple people can see the same event in so many different ways and have different versions of the truth. Oh, and Addie’s chapter is the best chapter in all of American literature, according to my erudite uncle, and lets us know that the dead still speak.
  • Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – to learn that nature is more powerful than man, but that man is part of nature.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – to gain perspective on what it is to be of a different race, ethnicity, or culture in this country or be brave enough to hear someone talk about it.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – to see where we could be headed if we do not change our ways, and a reminder of what we would do for our children if we had to.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – to see what happens when we forget cloud the lines between science and morality.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel – to realize that religion does not always define spirituality.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – to understand that religious fanaticism can cloud our abilities to really help others
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – to learn that war is hell.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – to learn that when objectively look at government we oftentimes see a true confederacy of dunces.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon – to learn that those who seem different are not really disabled, but rather differently abled.
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – to learn that being transgender is not about an outward appearance, but rather an inner realization.