A Year Ago in Titan History – Another 111 Miles Dominated

This Sunday will be the baccalaureate service for seniors at West Forsyth, and I am honored to share in that celebration for many reasons.

One is because West is graduating another stellar group of young people. Another is because it is a time for positive reflection on accomplishments done.

But I would be remiss if it did not remind me of last year’s West Forsyth’s Lady Titan Softball Team who like this year’s Ladies Soccer Team also traveled 111 miles to Raleigh to bring home a trophy for our school.

It is not ironic that the softball team had to “weather the weather”, so to speak, as the soccer team had to. Ask anyone who was present for the first game of the series and had to endure the rain and the elements to see if we could sweep that day. They understood just a little of the anxiety that accompanied the wait those ladies gracefully weathered. They had to travel back home in most cases because the state commission cancelled the game and rescheduled for Sunday, the day of last year’s baccalaureate.

So, that senior-laden team went another 111 miles and won the state championship on a Sunday afternoon. The seniors who had wanted to go to baccalaureate had to miss service. They were too busy representing the school elsewhere.

Besides, God was present there in Raleigh as well.

And like that soccer team that won this year, that group of ladies on last year’s softball team were family. They had lost games, won games, improved, handled setbacks, practiced, attended classes, and in many cases grown up together – for years. Plus they were led by great coaching.

And the crowd that traveled the 111 miles on both days would have kept traveling because that’s what family does for each other.

Many of those ladies who graduated from last year’s softball team were the first to congratulate this year’s soccer team and boys track team for state championships.

Family.

111

Robbing Peter to Pave For Paul – Rep. Jon Hardister’s Misguided Amendment for Charter Schools

Robbing Peter to pave for Paul.

That’s what a recent amendment from Rep. Jon Hardister would do. According to the News & Observer,

A budget amendment from Rep. Jon Hardister, a Greensboro Republican, cuts $2.5 million in road maintenance money to provide grants for charter schools that serve low-income students and want to provide student transportation – a service that many charter schools don’t offer.

“If a student’s on free and reduced lunch, it can be harder for them to get to school,” Hardister said (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article153682054.html).

hardister

Hardister, a former board member of the Greensboro Academy Charter School (which now has Charter School Advisory Board member Alan Hawkes on its board of directors), has not been shy about his championing of “school choice.” Along with the Opportunity Grants, the Achievement School District, and charter school cap removal, Hardister has been a leading voice in offering “reforms” that have not shown any empirical evidence of working on a broad scale.

So, it is not surprising that he offers this amendment. But his quote above gives another glimpse into the disconnect that many in Raleigh suffer from when it comes to low-income students and academic achievement.

Hardister said, “If a student’s on free and reduced lunch, it can be harder for them to get to school.” That’s true.

But if a student is on free or reduced lunch, it can be harder for that student to learn. Period.

Beginning his fourth year in the state House, Hardister has watched his own political party craft social policies and voted along party lines on the very issues that affect why so many students are on free and reduced lunch to begin with.

Ironically, Hardister serves an area in Guilford County that literally borders the infamous 12th congressional district that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court for racial profiling. In fact, it was considered one of the top ten most gerrymandered districts in the nation by many watchdogs. That charter school he was a board member of? Yep, it’s in that 12th district.

It seems that if Rep. Hardister really wanted to make sure that kids who were on free and reduced lunches had a better chance for a quality education, he would have spoken loudly about how the very students who fit that description in his hometown and their families had their voices muffled because of the GOP’s redistricting efforts to place minority voters in the same voting areas.

And since Hardister is an ardent supporter of vouchers, he probably subscribes to the standard party mantra that “parents know best where to send their kids for school.” Give those parents a voice in voting and they may choose that what’s best is that the state fully fund public schools where their kids already have transportation and are already part of the community.

Did Rep. Hardister stand against recent budget proposals that literally wiped out a quarter of the operating budget for the Department of Public Instruction? No. But he surely knows that while DPI is far from perfect, many rural counties with high populations of free or reduced lunch students depend very much on DPI’s services.

Did Rep. Hardister question the further investment in the Opportunity Grants when there still is a lack of oversight of the schools that take vouchers? Did he read the report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University that showed how flawed the voucher system really is all the while voting on budgets that brought down the per-pupil expenditure for traditional public schools?

Did Rep. Hardister consider that the budgets he greenlighted made the state’s public university system more expensive for the graduates of our high schools? NPR did a report just yesterday that talked about how the dwindling investment by states like NC in their university systems is actually preventing more low-income kids from going to college. And after the catastrophe of Betsy DeVos’s first 100 days in office, the promise pf getting a student loan that could actually be paid off in a reasonable amount of time disappeared.

Did Rep. Hardister even fight to expand Medicaid for those in the state who have students in their families that receive free or reduced lunches? Hungry students have a hard time learning. Sickened ones do as well.

So this amendment to take money from the transportation budget to make sure that some of these charter schools can transport students to and from school seems more like lip service from a politician. Because if Rep. Hardister really wanted students who received free or reduced lunches to succeed in school, he would do everything in his power to make sure that those students did not have to get on a bus already hungry or sick.

But if those students did come to school hungry and sick, why not fully fund the public schools and give them the resources to combat the very needs that plague these students. More teaching assistants, guidance counselors, nurses, counseling, before and after school programs would help, but that would require investment. Is he willing to do that?

If Hardister is keen on helping kids, then he would invest in the very things that helped them.

And if education is the road to a better life in both the literal and metaphorical manner, then Hardister better not take money from the “road” budget; he should be adding money to it.

Evaluating the State Superintendent – Mark Johnson’s Job Performance According to the Rubric

super

It is no secret that the powers-that-be in the General Assembly have attempted to enable the new state superintendent of public schools with enough power so that he can blindly champion their reformation causes.  This seems to be in line with the market–driven, business-plan approach to public education that the state government in NC adopted under McCrory’s administration, and it continues suffocating a public school system that was once considered progressive and strong.

When Mark Johnson entered office as State Superintendent, he called for a sense of “urgency” and announced a “listening tour” to gather new ideas to present this summer for implementation to repair an “outdated” education model.

However, he seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be the educational and instructional leader for the state, even if his actual background and experience in public education is minimal.

That lack of educational background is showing itself – very clearly. Five months into the stagnating tenure of Mark Johnson as state superintendent, most high school teachers are finishing another evaluation process in which they are subjected to a series of measurements on standards defined by rubrics. If we are to take to heart this idea of urgency and accountability, then should not the very person who is the instructional leader of the state, the “educational leader” as he proclaims, not be subjected to the same evaluation system as the very teachers he says that he is working on behalf of?

Yes, he should.

In North Carolina, system superintendents are evaluated by a process that highlights seven different standards. According to the North Carolina Superintendent Evaluation Process Manual (2007) they are rated as follows:

  • Not Demonstrated:
  • Developing:
  • Proficient:
  • Accomplished:
  • Distinguished:

If system superintendents are evaluated by such criteria and they directly report to the state superintendent, should it not be transferrable to the state superintendent in the same manner, but instead of looking at the local school system, look at the state school system? It would mean changing only a few words, but the spirit and meaning would be the same.

Except, there would be one more rating for the state superintendent because more is at stake. We would still have Not Demonstrated, Developing, Proficient, Accomplished, and Distinguished, but there would also be:

  • UnreMARKable

Standard 1: Strategic Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents create conditions that result in strategically re-imaging the state’s vision, mission, and goals to ensure that every student graduates from high school, globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and prepared for life in the 21st Century.  They create a climate of inquiry that challenges the community to continually repurpose itself by building on the state’s core values and beliefs about the preferred future and then developing a pathway to reach it.

The part where it says “climate of inquiry” is especially curious given that Johnson seems to shun answering questions at all or giving statements. When the state Senate released its budget proposal a couple of weeks ago, Johnson was asked for a statement considering that his department (DPI) was targeted for a 25% cut. His staff told news outlets that he would be unavailable for interviews all that week.

Consistently unavailable for inquiry does not lend itself to leading. Not many communities outside of the GOP chambers of the North Carolina Genera Assembly seem to have had any audience with him. That’s not creating community; that’s alienating people.

Possible artifacts include:

·         District strategic plan

·         School improvement plans are implemented, assessed, and modified

·         Effectively functioning, elected school improvement teams

·         Superintendent’s performance plan aligned with state and local strategic priorities and objectives

·         Staff can articulate the district’s direction and focus

·         Student performance data

·         Student achievement and testing data

 

Actual artifacts include:

·         A few quotes in news outlets.

·         A video for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

·         News that there were visits to some place on the listening tour, but no concrete details of what was discussed.

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 2: Instructional Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents set high standards for the professional practice of 21st century instruction and assessment that result in an accountable environment.  They create professional learning communities resulting in highly engaging instruction and improved student learning.  They set specific achievement targets for schools and students and then ensure the consistent use of research-based instructional strategies in all classrooms to reach the targets.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) are sometimes called Professional Learning Teams (PLT’s). The word “team” here is curious because as a state superintendent, Johnson is part of the State Board of Education.

He’s suing them. They are suing him. Now that’s collaboration!

There is still no word on “specific achievement goals” – must still be on that listening tour.

Possible artifacts include:

·         District strategic plan

·         School improvement plans

·         Professional development plans based on data (e.g., student  R performance, results of the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey)

·         Student performance goals

·         Student performance data

·         Use of formative assessment to impact instruction

·         District instructional evaluation program

Actual artifacts include:

·         A few quotes in news outlets.

·         Talk of talk that there might be a plan

·         Otherwise, the sound of crickets.

 

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 3: Cultural Leadership

Superintendents understand and act on the important role a system’s culture has in the exemplary performance of all schools.  They understand the people in the district and community, how they came to their current state, and how to connect with their traditions in order to move them forward to support the district’s efforts to achieve individual and collective goals.  While supporting and valuing the history, traditions, and norms of the district and community, a superintendent must be able to “reculture” the district, if needed, to align with the district’s goals of improving student and adult learning and to infuse the work of the adults and students with passion, meaning and purpose.

By definition, the State Superintendent of Public Schools is the leader of public instruction. On http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/statesuperintendent/, Mark Johnson is described as,

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson was elected to the post in 2016. His career in education began at West Charlotte High School where he taught through Teach for America before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Superintendent Johnson served as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education and was legal counsel at Inmar, an international technology company based in Winston-Salem. Having served as a teacher, an education leader, and as a father of a young daughter soon to start school, improving education in North Carolina is a personal mission for Johnson.”

What that description does not tell you is that he prepared to be a teacher for five weeks through TFA, spent only two academic school years in the classroom, and never completed one full term as a local school board member. In fact, much of that time as a school board member, he was campaigning to become state superintendent. That’s not a glowing resume for a “connection with traditions” in public education.

And it’s hard to “reculture” something if you are not present and available.

Possible artifacts include:

·         Climate survey data

·         NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey results

·         Teacher retention data

·         Student performance data

·         Awards structures developed by the state and schools

·         Community support of the state

Actual artifacts include:

·         The sound of crickets, but very much looking forward to the results of working condition surveys.

 

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 4: Human Resource Leadership

Superintendents ensure that the district is a professional learning community with processes and systems in place that result in the recruitment, induction, support, evaluation, development and retention of a high-performing, diverse staff.  Superintendents use distributed leadership to support learning and teaching, plan professional development, and engage in district leadership succession planning.

Human Resource Leadership? Simply look at May 30th’s report by Alex Granados from EdNC.org entitled “House budget highlights tensions between education leaders” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/05/30/house-budget-highlights-tensions-education-leaders/).

Here’s the first part of that:

“While the public waits for the House to unveil a full budget, including its proposal on teacher pay, the portions of the House plan released last week highlight a rift between education leaders in the state. 

A provision of the proposed budget would give State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson funding to hire 10 positions that would report directly to him and would be exempt from the State Human Resources Act.

When asked about it during the State Board’s Every Student Succeeds Act work session today, Johnson said the reason why he needs those employees in his office is clear. 

“I’d refer you to the ongoing court case between me and the State Board,” he said. 

Johnson is party to a lawsuit over legislation passed during a special session in December that transferred some of the State Board’s power to the superintendent. That suit will be heard in late June. One of the powers Johnson gains under that legislation, should the legislature’s move stand, pertains to who he can hire and fire. Currently, he is able to give input on some hires but the State Board has the final say.

“I did make that very public affidavit because that kind of sets forth what’s been going on in this department,” he said.

In that affidavit, which is part of the lawsuit, Johnson lists his grievances about the State Board’s hiring process and is critical of the process the board uses to hire for new positions. He lists specific instances where the Board refused to vote on a candidate he recommended, choosing instead to create committees to review potential hires. In the case of the position of chief financial officer, Johnson makes clear in the affidavit that the person the Board ultimately hired is not who he would have chosen.”

That’s not leadership.

That’s whining.

Possible artifacts include:

·         Student performance data

·         State strategic plan

·         NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey results

·         Number of teachers with National Board Certification and graduate advanced level licensure

·         Teacher; school executive; and staff diversity, recruitment, and retention data

·         Record of professional development provided staff and an assessment of the impact of professional development on student learning

·         Leadership development plan

·         Copies of professional growth plans for school executives

·         State plan or policy defining the role of teachers in making or participating in making resource allocation decisions, such as the use of time, budgets, and other resources, to meet the individual needs of each student

·         State leadership succession plan

Actual artifacts include:

·         Still, very much looking forward to the results of working condition surveys.

·         Might want to see what happened to the graduate degree pay

·         Might want to see retention rates, especially of teachers with experience

·         What leadership development plan?

·         In fact, what is the plan?

 

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 5: Managerial Leadership

Summary:  Superintendents ensure that the district has processes and systems in place for budgeting, staffing, problem solving, communicating expectations, and scheduling that organize the work of the district and give priority to student learning and safety.  The superintendent must solicit resources (both operating and capital), monitor their use, and assure the inclusion of all stakeholders in decisions about resources so as to meet the 21st century needs of the district.

Read explanation for Standard 4. One can’t display managerial leadership if one has to have the General Assembly craft legislation so that he can say he is a leader.

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 6: External Development Leadership

Summary:  A superintendent, in concert with the local board of education, designs structures and processes that result in broad community engagement with, support for, and ownership of the district vision. Acknowledging that strong schools build strong communities, the superintendent proactively creates, with school and district staff, opportunities for parents, community members, government leaders, and business representatives to participate with their investments of resources, assistance, and good will. 

Again, read explanation for Standard 4.

Rating: UnreMARKable

 

Standard 7: Micropolitical Leadership

Summary: The superintendent promotes the success of learning and teaching by understanding, responding to, and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, ethical, and cultural context. From this knowledge, the superintendent works with the board of education to define mutual expectations, policies, and goals to ensure the academic success of all students.  

Actually, this one is tricky because it says “influencing the larger political, social, etc.”

The problem is that Johnson is totally being INFLUENCED by the larger “political, social, legal, ethical, and cultural context.”

Possible artifacts include:

·         Parent, community, and staff survey data 

·         Teacher, school executive, and staff retention data

·         Ability to confront conflict and build consensus

·         Shared decision making

·         Outreach efforts

·         School board policies

·         Minutes and reports

·         Superintendent’s performance goal

Actual artifacts include:

·         Still, still, still very much looking forward to the results of surveys.

·         House Bill 17

·         Affidavit

·         Senate budget allots $300,000 to pay legal fees to sue state school board

·         Senate budget allows for 5 positions to be funded for Johnson

·         House budget allows for 10 positions to be funded for Johnson

 

Rating: UnreMARKable

So we have as a result:

Standard Rating
UnreMARKable Not Dem. Developing Proficient Accomplished Distinguished
1 X          
2 X          
3 X          
4 X          
5 X          
6 X          
7 X          
OVERALL X          

 

This is not what we deserve in North Carolina.

Measure That – What If Every School Sent Its Yearbook To The North Carolina General Assembly?

yearbook

With the insistence of people like Sen. Chad Barefoot to send “data” to the General Assembly concerning how money is spent and how resources are being used, why don’t schools also send them a copy of their yearbooks.

Around this time in many schools, yearbooks are being distributed to students and others who early in the school year purchased what some might call a keepsake.

But yearbooks are more than that. They are living artifacts that capture the very pulse of a school that no test or state report card could ever hope to measure.

My school’s annual this year is over 500 pages of vibrant, colorful, living memories put together by a talented group of students who came up with a vision, a theme, a business plan and met multiple deadlines to create a product that will never lose its value.

In fact, it will increase.

That business plan means the selling of ads and determining price points because like so many other activities within public education, in order to have them, you must pay for them yourselves. And that’s exactly what these students do; they create something that will always be cherished. They will work during lunches, before and after school, and on weekends. They will attend every event possible to ensure that it is chronicled. It’s simply data in its purest form.

In a school of over 2000 students, it can be a rather herculean task to make sure that all students, faculty, and staff somehow get represented in the yearbook, but to think that it is just about printing a copy of everyone’s school picture is shortsighted.

Yearbooks capture the culture and spirit of a school.

Snapshots, clubs, activities, extracurricular, sports, profiles, dances, homecoming, trends, facts – whatever defined that year bundled together in one volume.

When I graduated high school over half my life ago, I was on the yearbook staff. Instead of digital cameras and computer programs, we had rubber cement and layout pages with typeset. Pictures were developed and then selected and cropped with scissors.

I still look at my old yearbooks at least once a year when I go back to the house I grew up in. Memories flood back. Games replayed. Conversations revisited. Friends reacquainted. A glimpse of actual hair on my head. And I realize that the kids now are wearing what was in style back then.

As students finish the year with exams and state tests that will eventually correspond to numbers and rankings in the eyes of many a lawmaker, I am tempted to send a copy of this year’s yearbook to Raleigh.

You realize there are those blank pages in the front and the back for the notes and the “signings.” What if every student wrote something for the General Assembly in their copy of the yearbook?

Then I would ask them to find a way to measure the effectiveness of the school according to what is presented in the pages.

They would not be able to.

Some things just can’t be measured.

If Donald Trump Sampled R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” Without Giving Credit

 

Instruments tuning in an amazing way.

Piano comes in like pushing aside the leader of Montenegro to get in front.

Begin singing.

 

“Nighttweeting”

Nighttweeting can happen any night.

The photograph in the cover of a book I never wrote
shows much less hair than I comb over now.
Every late tweet reveals a disconnect with what’s real
Still it’s so much bigly.

Melania slapped my hand while visiting the Saudis
Approval rate is low.

Nighttweeting comes in chaotic times.

I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like I’m trying to hide
The fear of getting caught
Colluding with the Russians.
They’ve taped me while naked.
Can these things just go away?
That’s why I fired Comey.

Nighttweeting, Remembering that night
When I got fewer votes
My thumbs are getting tired
And I only have these two
Side by side in twittersphere here on my own account
The dim tide of my mind
Could not stop my nighttweeting.

Thought that ruling the world
Would be easier
Than selling the Trump brand
Yet all laugh quietly
Underneath their breath

Nighttweeting

This phone screen reflects
Every pursed lip a reminder
Nighttweeting
It’s my diary.

The only thing I read.

REM nightswimming

Shakespeare and the Achievement School District Staged in North Carolina

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

-Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, II, ii

“A turd by any other name will still smell the same.”

-some t-shirt I saw on the internet

Although the North Carolina House presented a more palatable budget proposal for education, it bears repeating that almost anything presented in proximity to the senate’s disastrous pitch would sound better. But there are some particular peculiarities obvious in the House’s budget.

One such convenient action involves the Achievement School District (ASD), a reform initiative that was passed last year.

mediaroom_2nd-year-results-198x153

A recent WRAL report stated,

“The Achievement School District bill was passed during the 2016 General Assembly short session. At the heart of the legislation is the creation of a district which will include five low-performing schools from around the state. The schools, which are yet to be named, could be turned over to for-profit charter operators” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

The model for the ASD is based on what the state of Tennessee implemented about six years ago with Race to the Top initiative monies, and the results of that experiment have not yielded great dividends.

In fact, last August the Tennessee ASD was reported to have failed an audit and be forced to go under control of the Department of Education out of Nashville. From an August 17, 2016 Times Free Press report:

“Even as Division of State Audit accountants’ examination was still underway this spring, the state Department of Education, which had allowed the ASD to operate independently, informed the Comptroller’s office in April that it had staged an intervention and seized control over the ASD’s “fiscal and federal processes.”

As a result, the functions were transferred from Memphis to Nashville with a turnover of the ASD’s financial staff. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s staff told auditors they were hiring a fiscal director, fiscal manager, accountant, account tech, federal programs director and federal programs manager” (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/aug/17/state-audit-documents-chaotic-financial-operation-tennessees-achievement-school-district/381759/).

And now there is news that there are enrollment problems as well – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/28/the-enrollment-problems-that-plagued-asd-schools-in-turmoil-theyre-not-unique/.

And don’t forget that there has been a major slashing of staff for the ASD in Tennessee – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/05/04/tennessees-achievement-school-district-cuts-team-overseeing-direct-run-schools/.

Cutting staff should not be a surprise with many school initiatives if they were initially funded by Race to the Top monies; however, if there was success with the ASD, then would Tennessee not continue to budget it fully?

But here in North Carolina, we have lawmakers so bent on re-forming schools that learning from the mistakes of the past with others is not part of the West Jones Street curriculum. In fact, without even having really seen any results of the North Carolina version, we have near-sighted legislators willing to invest more into it because it will work in their minds.

Reality is far different.

But as Sen. Chad Barefoot said in January of last year (2016), “Our state is totally different than other states. Not every state is organized like we are” (http://wunc.org/post/nc-senate-passes-charter-school-takeover-bill#stream/0).

And North Carolina is very organized. It takes a lot of planning, structure, and preparation to create gerrymandered districts with “surgical precision” according to the courts and an unconstitutional voter ID law that still affected outcomes in 2016.

One of the ways that North Carolina is making sure that it does not repeat the mistakes of Tennessee is to simply rename it.

Consider the aforementioned WRAL report from this past Friday. It states that the recent house budget proposal:

“The legislation also gave districts that participate in the ASD the opportunity to pick up to three other low-performing schools in their districts to join an Innovation Zone. Schools in this zone would have charter-like flexibility but would continue to be managed by the school district.

The House budget changes the name of the Achievement School District to the North Carolina Innovative School District (ISD). It also adds a provision that says, if a district participating in the ISD has more than 35 percent of its schools identified as low-performing, then all of those schools could become part of an Innovation Zone should the district elect that option.1

However, another provision initially said that, if a low-performing school in an Innovation Zone does not exceed growth for two continuous years, it will be forced to join the ISD. That means those schools would no longer be under the control of the district and could be turned over to for-profit charter operators. Those provisions together could end up increasing the number of schools that become part of the ISD” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

Not Achievement, but Innovative.

Not ASD, but ISD.

Not Datsun, but Nissan.

Not Time Warner, but Spectrum.

Oddly, a change in name does not mean a change in the product. In fact, the use of the word “Innovative” in the new name is neither innovative or accurate.

It is still a borrowed failed idea that will take public money and put it into the hands of for-profit charter companies by people who have found many ways to force public schools to survive on less.

New name. Same stench.

 

 

Remember, You’re The Titans

I imagine most of you have seen the movie Remember the Titans about a public school in Virginia the 1970’s being desegregated and how its football team became a vehicle for positive change.

I watch it every chance I get. There’s a hopeless romantic still inside of me that likes a feel-good movie that actually is based on real events. That and my aunt who is an actress is in it

It’s rather neat to see her on screen and say, “Hey, I know her.”

titans

We play a clip from the movie before football games that has Denzel Washington’s voice giving a pep talk to his players.

It sounds cliche’, I know. But if you remember, that was an actual team from an actual small town in the south and the local public school was a fundamental part of those kinds of small towns like West is to Clemmons.

West Forsyth is one of those few remaining schools in our area that can be claimed by a small town. It has been that way for three generations. All of 27012 feeds into West along with other surrounding areas of course.

So what happens at West happens to the town. And we are the Titans.

If you remember, the team from the movie as they walked into the stadium after warmups had a dance that brought them together.

Sound familiar?

And that team became family, albeit in a relatively short time.

You ladies are a family. Anyone who watches you play sees how you pick each other up, celebrate each other, and refuse to let setbacks keep you from achieving. And you instinctively understand that the power of the team as a whole is more than the sum of the individual parts put together.

Any competitor would have been disappointed in circumstances that would lead to having to play away from a home field advantage on campus, but what you ladies proved this past Thursday is that when you are with family, you are always home.

You ladies are family, so no matter that color of jersey you wear, you are the home team.

There will be a lot of people from your hometown traveling 111 miles to come see you play tonight on your “home” field. There will be parents, friends, coaches, students, teachers, and others who may have never kicked a soccer ball in their lives there to watch you play.

And there will be many more following from their homes via social media, texts, phone calls, internet, etc., but expect a crowd there at our Raleigh “home” field.

There are not many public schools in the state outside of metropolitan areas that have caused powerhouse programs to travel all the way to Clemmons, NC to play in state championship playoffs for multiple sports.

Tonight is no different. Even though the other team is traveling ten short miles, they still have to get into a vehicle and drive over to a field that tonight for a few hours will actually be part of the 27012 zip code – your home field to be exact.

There is no need to tell you that the other team will “remember the Titans.” They’ll know. You will leave it all on the field tonight.

Just remember that you are the Titans and there will be a very large family gathering tonight.

At our home field.

With the coolest flag of any school.

Your Yuck, His Yum – A Musing With Malcolm

Mustard and Ketchup

Batman and Robin

Coffee and Cream

Beans and Rice

Baseball and Hot dogs

West Forsyth Titans and 111 mile drives to Raleigh

Raleigh lawmakers and public school advocacy – well, maybe not

and…

Pancakes and Ranch Dressing?

At least to this little man.

​We are sitting at a restaurant, specifically Stratford Station Grill. Malcolm loves seeing George. Great food and they treat my kids like their own.

He gets pancakes. I get chicken souvlaki with a side salad. He has syrup. I have ranch.

He sees an opportunity and makes it work for him.

I didn’t need all of the ranch anyway.

 

111 Miles To Raleigh – The Prophetic Words of a Football Coach

I am convinced that some of the most unsung heroes in our schools are our coaches. They not only teach students inside of classrooms; they teach them outside of classrooms.

Those same coaches take the blame when teams do not win or compete as they are expected to. They deflect credit when teams win.

But they always talk about “team.” They use collective pronouns – “we,” “us,” “our.”

And they motivate preparing students not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and in many cases spiritually.

It happened today. Our girls soccer team was displaced from their home field in a state semifinal game in the state playoffs. Weather canceled two previous scheduled games and field conditions dictated that we go play on a neutral field fifty miles away against a very good team on a different turf.

What does a good coach do? Finds a way to motivate players and keep players focused on the task at hand. That coach finds the obstacles, removes them, and then tells the players to execute. He gets them time on a different surface. He keeps them focused when delays occur. He puts the team in situations where they can learn and prosper.

Sometimes he gets a guest speaker to help motivate them.

So in steps the football coach, a colloquial master who understands that words placed at the right time can be heard for a long time afterwards.

He tells the ladies that it’s about “111.”

“Think about it. 111.”

“It’s 111 miles from here to Raleigh.” Raleigh is the final goal. It’s where one plays for the state championship.

wstoraleigh

If they take care of the business at hand, then they get to travel that 111 miles to play for a ring. No need to be on the home field. The field they were to play on was the same dimensions as the home field with “two small goals on each end.”

“You just got to put the ball in their goal more times.” 11 girls on the field at a time working for just 1 more goal than the other.

Then 111 miles.

And so after a regulation game, two overtime periods, “sudden death,” and penalty kicks these young ladies get to go to Raleigh.

To be accurate, that’s 2 forty-minute halves, 2 ten-minute overtime periods, 2 five-minute sudden death periods, and a non-timed penalty kick session. Let’ call that penalty kick session the last minute.

40+40+10+10+5+5+1 = 111 minutes

Miles from Clemmons to Raleigh = 111

Players on the field at one time = 11 working as 1

In that crowd were the head coaches and assistant coaches of at least 6 different sports to support those ladies. If numbers serve correct, approximately 10% of the teaching faculty was at that game on a night before exams started.

And they would have stayed for another 111 minutes if needed.

I wish some lawmakers in Raleigh could have seen that before they started measuring how good public schools are in their eyes.

But there is one measurement I can surely tell folks in Raleigh is hard and true.

111.