Mark Johnson and the Word “No” – Following the Money

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” – Betsy DeVos, 1997.

“These are things I have learned from my own experience. If I disagree with the policy, I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ to anyone who gave me money.” –Mark Johnson, 2017.

“Bulls*%$t” – Me, 2017 after I read the previous statement by Mark Johnson.

A recent article in the Raleigh News & Record has shed some more light on the power that money plays in buying influence within the now lucrative business that privatizing public education has become.

In “Here’s how much charter school backers have spent on NC campaigns,” Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, and David Raynor wonderfully “follow the money” that has been pouring into the coffers of lawmakers and officials who make decisions on charter school funding.

DeVos’s quote above has become rather famous since her contentious confirmation as secretary of education. And it is rather blunt and honest. But apparently Mark Johnson is in a little denial as he takes a “little offense” at the thought that his influence is being bought.

Why? Because if he was not afraid to say “no” to anyone, then we as a state would have heard many more “no’s” coming from him.

  • When DPI’s budget was cut by the very General Assembly that is extending him unchecked power over the public school system, did Mark Johnson say, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When he said that “local leaders know what we need” for their local schools, did Mark Johnson tell the people pushing for charter takeover with an ISD, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When a lobbying group like BEST NC and lawmakers covertly produced a new principal pay program that is obviously flawed and punishes veteran school administrators, did Mark Johnson say “No!” to them?

    No, he did not.

  • When promoting saying that he would curb the use of testing in the state, did Mark Johnson change the amount of testing in the state’s ESSA report or the rampant rise of the ACT in measuring student achievement by saying “No!” to lawmakers?

    No, he did not.

  • When the state released its school performance grades, did Mark Johnson challenge the use of the grades because they do nothing but report how poverty has stricken schools by saying “No!” to their use?

    No, he did not.

  • When the DACA was undercut by Trump and Sessions, di Mark Johnson defend NC’s “Dreamers” and say, “No!” to its potential effects?

    No, he did not.

  • Has there ever been a time where Mark Johnson has openly said “No!” to any of the very lawmakers whom he says he might have a disagreement with?

    No, there has not been.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever told the General Assembly “No!” to taking more money out of the budget for public schools to place in a voucher program that has not yielded a positive outcome?

    No, he has not.

  • When the state “fired” several public education officials with a wealth of experience like Martez Hill, did Mark Johnson say “No!” or even ask “Why?”

    No, he did not.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever publicly questioned the actions against teachers and the education profession by Phil Berger or Tim Moore?

    No, he has not.

In fact, in looking at all of the “special interests” represented by the very people who have made the contributions to people like Johnson, Dan Forest, and Jason Saine in promoting NC’s investment into for-profit charter schools, there has not been one time where Mark Johnson has said “No” to whatever they were seeking.

But that doesn’t mean that Mark Johnson has not said “No” to people.

When pressed for details about how he would “innovatively” change NC education, Mark Johnson did not give any. That’s like saying, “No.”

When asked by Greg Alcorn to comment on DPI’s budget cuts in a state board meeting, Mark Johnson deliberately skirted the question. He in so many words said, “No.”

When teacher advocacy groups like NCAE have asked Johnson to come and clarify his positions, he has refused. He said, “No.”

With a record of compliance and non-action that Mark Johnson has displayed in his tenure that has already lasted the equivalent of a school year, his claim that he is not afraid to say “no” to anyone who has given him money is rather weak.

In fact, if anyone asked this educator if he believes what the state superintendent says in his statement in the article in the N&O, I would say, “No.”

And I would say it publicly.

Why Service Work Matters For High Schoolers And the Rest of US

October 15th is rapidly approaching and I am busy rereading drafts of recommendations for those students who have deadlines for early decision applications and scholarship awards. This year, most early decision recs are being sent to UNC-Chapel Hill, my wife’s alma mater. Some to App State’s Honors College. A couple to USC in Columbia. One to my beloved Wake Forest.

I am also honored to write a few for Morehead-Cain and Park scholarship consideration.

A transcript can say many things about academic achievement and course work mastered. Test scores can be sent easily. Numbers can be measured against other numbers.

So, when I write a recommendation I try and write about what kind of service work a student may have performed. It helps paint a better picture of a student and an even better image of a person who is committed to community.

This past month, West Forsyth played host again to the Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network’s Buddy Walk. It is the biggest event of the year and its most vital fundraiser. In the years that it has occurred at West, nearly $400,000 has been raised to help families of children with special needs, specifically Down Syndrome. I am in one of those families. My son, Malcolm, happens to be “genetically enhanced.”

I get to recruit the student volunteers for this big day, and literally about an hour ago I looked at the volunteer sign-up sheet. Almost 250 students from West volunteered and came to help.

250.

That’s nearly ten percent of the student body came out to help other people.

Our country talks of deficits, usually in quantifiable ways like money and materials and even time. However, the biggest deficit I believe we have as a country is a deficit of empathy. We simply have forgotten to empathize and put ourselves in the shoes of others.

But when you see as a teacher, parent, taxpayer, voter, and concerned citizen over 200 students from one school going out of their way on a Saturday morning to help some families like mine with some special kids, then you see how that deficit can quickly be eliminated.

I will write about that all day long on a recommendation because service work matters to us as a society. We never know when we will need it for ourselves.

Just tonight West had a fundraiser for two adopted schools in Texas and Florida drastically affected by recent hurricanes. Students wanted to help other students. In a span of about two hours, a bunch of students raised several hundred dollars for some other students because they wanted other school families to be able to stay together the way these kids bonded with each other tonight.

It would take several hands with many fingers to count all the ways that students in many high schools are performing service work that is not necessarily documented on some time sheet to fulfill a requirement that might make a college application look good.

If a student cares about his/her community, then that student will find a way to help. That action to help creates a bond and whittles away at the deficit of empathy. It creates community. And it shows that we adults could learn a lot from these students.

In fact, we need that desperately.

That and it makes writing a lot of these recs so much easier.

A Thank You to North Carolina’s Educational Journalists – But Not on Rob Bryan or Darrell Allison’s Behalf

I am sure that former state legislator Rob Bryan and current PEFNC leader Darrell Allison are not very happy with some of the educational journalists in NC who dedicate themselves to uncovering and exposing things hidden which affect so many openly. That is especially true in the world of public education and the “reforms” that have been surreptitiously crafted to purposefully benefit a chosen few.

I am forever grateful to all of these educational journalists. They are helping save a public good.

635898975639098870-576976519_journalism

The News & Observer out of Raleigh has published three separate, yet related articles this week that have been nothing short of superior. The work of Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, David Raynor, and T. Keung Hui has shed much needed light on the actions of a greedy minority. They should be thanked and supported.

The three articles are:

“A rich donor’s money backed NC’s charter takeover law, and his school network expands” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).

“Why NC charter schools are richer and whiter” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178022436.html).

“Group tied to rich donor who backed NC school takeover law now wants to run those schools” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178169451.html).

With an impending selection of a school or schools to be taken over by the Innovative School District, these three articles highlight the incestuous nature of what is deliberately happening in the world of education reform here in NC, especially the last one listed which profiles a particular group that is proposing to be the charter group that will take over the ISD school(s).

Per Bonner and Hui:

A company tied to a wealthy Libertarian donor who helped pass a state law allowing takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools is trying to win approval to operate those schools.

Achievement For All Children was among the groups who applied for state approval to run struggling schools that will be chosen for the Innovative School District. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, who is a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina.

The company was formed in February and registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA, a charter network that Bryan founded. The board of directors for Achievement for All Children includes former Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who introduced the bill creating the new district, and Darrell Allison, who heads the pro-school choice group Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

That’s beyond disturbing. Rob Bryan is the legislator who literally constructed the ISD (then ASD) initiative behind closed doors while representing Mecklenburg County. He has a rich benefactor from Oregon who ironically shares his last name helping him become the very recipient of a governmental contract he established.

Rob Bryan’s background in education was outlined on his  website, http://www.friendsofrob.com/about. It stated,

“Raised by a teacher and an engineer, Rob spent his first two years after college participating in the Teach for America program. In a low-income school in inner-city Los Angeles, he saw firsthand the problems created by non-innovative, bureaucratic districts unwilling or unable to change. Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.”

There is a lot of information there. Bryan’s tenure in the classroom, while admirable, was not long at all. Most teachers in NC went through more time training to become a teacher than he spent in the actual classroom. He worked in a poverty-stricken inner-city school, the same kind of schools he helped label as failing with a Jeb Bush style grading system that he helped create. Furthermore, while in office, he actually helped foster an environment that keeps those poverty-stricken schools under the foot of government by lowering per pupil expenditures and vilifying veteran educators.

And then he created a bill and with the help of a loaded committee became willing to siphon money to charter schools run by out-of-state private entities for which he now works and may potentially profit from.

That is a pile of manure of the most putrid stench.

To further add to the incestuous nature of the proposal by Achievement for All Children, it includes on its board of directors Darrell Allison of PEFNC. He is the megaphone for “school choice” advocates in the state and a strong proponent of the Opportunity Grants.

If this becomes a reality, Allison will literally be taking money away from public education through multiple avenues: vouchers for private schools and money to finance an ISD district that will be paying his company to run a school that is probably unwilling to be taken over. And Allison, like Bryan has cloaked himself with ambiguity: Bryan hasn’t spoken to the press yet and when Allison speaks he seems to not be clear. Consider this post on the use of vouchers – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/31/a-third-person-open-letter-to-darrell-allison-and-the-pefnc-why-hide-behind-the-ambiguity/.

In that post, the work of Lindsay Wagner is referenced and shows how a great journalist can ask the very question that deserves an open answer. It also shows that a “non-answer” screams louder than one that is straightforwardly given.

In a political climate that often screams “FAKE NEWS!” and constantly berates the freedom of the press, it just might be the journalists who save the day. Those who report on the educational terrain here in North Carolina are doing great work and providing an invaluable service.

Even if people like Rob Bryan and Darrell Allison don’t think so.

A Failing Charter School, An ISD, and a Rich Privatizer in Oregon – The Ingredients for “Innovation” in NC

Mark Johnson has been preaching “urgency, ownership, and innovation.”

Well, we have an urgent matter that someone needs to own very quickly and show some innovation and we seem to have all of the ingredients for a solution already in place.

Consider:

  1. The new NC Innovative School District “needs” to take over failing schools in order to turn them over to a privately-run charter company (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/05/list-schools-eligible-isd-cut-four/).
  2. John Bryan, the Oregonian founder of the TeamCFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).
  3. Heritage Collegiate Charter in Bertie County, NC just had its charter revoked for poor performance (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/09/charter-advisory-board-recommends-revocation-heritage-collegiates-charter/).

While some may see a school about to close its doors, an ISD about to take over an unwilling public school, and someone in Oregon continue to spend a lot of money to own schools in NC, “innovative” people see an opportunity being granted (pun intended).

Let the Innovative School District take over the Heritage Collegiate Charter and let John Bryan finance it all.

HCBC

The ISD district will have its school to start with that is obviously failing; a charter school will not have to go under and disappoint the reformists, especially those who are financed by PACS donated to by John Bryan; and, finally, John Bryn will own more schools that are charters in North Carolina.

But what might be most beneficial in this “innovative” is that it will not cost taxpayers money.

Wonder what the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would say about that.

(I)ntruding on (S)chools (D)eliberately – Why There is Nothing Innovative About NC’s ISD Reform

Last week’s State Board of Education meeting saw a potential list of schools to be considered for the new NC Innovation School District whittled down to four.

The ISD Superintendent, Dr. Eric Hall, made his presentation to the SBOE answering questions and doing what he is expected to do: his job. And to all accounts that favor the use of the ISD, he has been doing well.

But no matter how “well” he is doing his job, it still does not cover the grossly intrusive nature and the glaring apparent contradiction that is North Carolina’s version of the “Achievement School District.”

This has been tried before in other states, most recently and most notably in Tennessee. Simply “google” Tennessee’s experiment to quickly find how unsuccessful that initiative was. State leaders who championed the use of the ASD here promised that it would be different in our state because, well, because….

If one looks at the time-line, the care, the money, and the soft kid gloves used to handle the selection of schools, then one can easily see that NC’s version of instituting an ASD really shows how North Carolina’s General Assembly and SBOE have weakened public schools. It almost seems that if any institution needs to be taken over because of its performance, then it would be a certain building on West Jones Street.

Consider the following:

  1. The word “innovative.”

Shakespeare had his famous Juliet say, “…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Simply changing the name from ASD to ISD does not automatically alter the outcome. It still smells as “sweet” or in this case, pungent.

Handing over community schools to charter control is simply not innovative. It’s privatization. Looking to “for-profit” charter chains to bring “new ideas” when the very constraints that are holding back many of these “low-achieving” schools could be remedied by better treatment from Raleigh to the very populations that feed these schools is not innovative. It’s creating a situation that gives the appearance of a need from outside sources so that someone may profit.

  1. The State Superintendent’s mantra of “local control.”

If the control for power for NC’s public schools goes in favor of the NCGA and Mark Johnson, then Johnson will have control over the ISD. Yet, is it not Johnson who ran a platform that emphasized local control of schools? From an interview with WUNC in May of this year (http://wunc.org/post/qa-nc-superintendent-wants-give-schools-flexibility#stream/0):

“ But there is the distrust between people in Raleigh and out in the local school districts of whether or not that may be happening.”

“This department in Raleigh needs to be a place that is seen as a department that supports schools in the local districts, not tells schools what to do. “

With this particular “innovation,” what Raleigh is actually doing is telling systems what to do. Leaders may be saying that schools have a say in whether they want to be a part of the ISD, but look what happens if schools who are chosen for the ISD refuse to become part of the ISD – close down.

From WRAL on Sept. 18th:

“Once the state board selects a school for inclusion in the ISD, the local board of education that runs the school has two options – agree to relinquish control of the school or close it down” (http://www.wral.com/durham-johnston-schools-ask-to-be-excluded-from-nc-s-new-innovative-school-district/16948299/).

That’s not local control. That’s overreach.

  1. No one wants to be a part of it.

There is no indication that any single school on the list of prospective schools to be taken over by the Innovative School District wants to be a part of it.

Not one.

Again, not one – even after meeting with officials representing the ISD.

  1. Possible one school district?

After last week’s meeting with the State Board, it became apparent that it might be possible that the NC ISD has for the first year only one-school.

That’s a one-school district with one superintendent making $150,000 to run it with the unwavering support of the state superintendent, the state board, and the General Assembly. That school district will get every resource possible to make it work.

Imagine if every school in the state got that kind of support.

  1. Proving that poverty affects schools.

Alex Granados from EdNC.org this past Thursday published a report entitled “List of schools eligible for ISD cut to four.”

In it he articulated the selection process for the ISD school list.

Originally, he said he had a list of 48 schools based on the criteria set out in legislation. First, his team removed all schools that had school improvement grants which might be affected by joining the ISD. 

“We removed those schools because we know that they’re on a path, and they have additional resources, and we don’t want to see anything happen to those resources,” he said. 

That brought the number down to 41. Then his team removed all D schools, leaving them with only the F schools. Then they removed all F schools that met academic growth last year. 

“If they met growth, the hope is that the needle is going to start moving in the right direction,” he said. 

That left him with only F schools that did not meet growth last year. Then his team looked at the two years prior to last year. If the schools had met growth in those two years and also had a D, he said his team gave them the benefit of the doubt. 

Finally, they looked at the schools in the districts where 35 percent or more of the schools qualify as low performing. Those are the districts where all the schools could join the innovation zone if a school was chosen for the ISD. That brought the list down to six schools, two of which were removed at the meeting (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/05/list-schools-eligible-isd-cut-four/).

If ever there was a correlation to poverty and student achievement, this list shows it because these schools were measured by the Jeb-Bush style grading system that literally shows that most every school which has an “F” school performance grade is one that services a population with high levels of poverty.

Even DPI’s recent report on school report cards grades and poverty yielded the following graph:

poverty table

DPI is run by Mark Johnson who is controlled by the General Assembly and may soon have control over the ISD process. That’s the same General Assembly which brags about a state surplus while lowering per pupil expenditure, expanding vouchers, and refusing to expand Medicaid. Oh, and they cut DPI’s budget drastically without the state superintendent fighting it.

That’s not innovation. It’s proof that the Innovative School District is yet another attempt at weakening the ties between the community and its schools to create a veiled appearance that the state needs to step in and do something that will profit someone else.

The State Superintendent and the Elephant in the Room – Mark Johnson’s Refusal to Drive the Bus

State Superintendent Mark Johnson has mentioned many times that he draws upon his “years” of teaching as casting perspective in his new role as the leader of the public schools.

And as an “instructional leader,” he should know that questions asked in any “class” should be answered in a straightforward manner with honesty and integrity.

That is what makes the situation that occurred in his October monthly report to the State Board of Education so unsettling and disturbing.

The exchange between Greg Alcorn and Johnson after the presentation definitively displayed how unqualified Johnson truly is in leading the state’s school system. Why? Because Johnson is not acting like a real teacher.

From WRAL’s report entitled “State board member asks NC superintendent to address ‘the elephant in the room,’”

But after 11 minutes of good news stories from the superintendent, state board member Greg Alcorn wanted more.

“I appreciate the good news, but the elephant in the room is the budget cuts,” Alcorn said.

“I’d like to request, Superintendent Johnson, that if possible next month you put a couple things on your presentation that will help us with our clarity and consistency of message,” Alcorn said. “One is the budget cuts and how we’re handling that from your perspective, being able to hear as much as we can on that.”

Alcorn explained that the board also wanted to hear the superintendent’s thoughts on principal pay and how state lawmakers are handling that topic.

“You’re the face and the voice for the state … and I would encourage you to take this precious time to be able to support those two things so I can be in unison with you,” Alcorn added. “Please help us with that.”

Johnson listened quietly, then pulled his microphone in close.

“Yeah. Thank you for that feedback. I’m sure you’ll make the same request of Chairman Cobey for his (monthly) report,” Johnson said, and pushed the microphone away, ending the conversation (http://www.wral.com/state-board-member-asks-nc-superintendent-to-address-the-elephant-in-the-room-/16996539/).

If Mark Johnson was a real teacher, then he would address any “elephant” in his classroom because it is disturbing the progress of the class. In fact, addressing elephants in the room is the job of any teacher because of the “urgency” involved.

When you choose to become a teacher in a public school, you choose to be the person to whom the toughest of questions are asked inside of a classroom setting. And the answers a teacher gives to inquiries concerning the curriculum, the climate of a class, or the actions of a student will always be heard, especially the ones that are not given but are dismissive.

Furthermore, in this day and age, those answers may be communicated quickly to others through social media and technology, hence this report.

Imagine having a student challenge an answer in class or a point of view. A real teacher offers an answer and acknowledges the questions asked.

Johnson once chose to become a teacher. Then he chose to become the leader of schools, at least in name. But this episode says that he again chooses not to lead by action.

Earlier in that meeting he even presented a picture of himself as the person in the driver’s seat of a bus.

Johnson bus

He even jokingly said, “”For some reason, they let me get behind the driver wheel. Luckily, the bus was not turned on.”

Yet, as the metaphorical driver of the entire school system’s bus, he is responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, running, and financing of the “bus.” When he is asked if the “bus” has enough “gas” to make all of the “stops,” he needs to answer. Urgently. But yet….

What Johnson did was to purposefully not answer the question. It’s like the teacher who deliberately ignores a student’s request or inquiry because it might expose a lack of preparation in the lesson planning.

So why does Johnson do this? Because he refuses to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

It is not what a real teacher would do. It’s not what a real leader would do. It’s not what someone elected to state office should do.

 

What if Schools Could Operate Like the NC General Assembly – A 10-Point Lesson Plan

As the North Carolina General Assembly comes together in Raleigh for another of its patented “special sessions,” public school advocates are looking for lawmakers to make several “fixes” to rather ill-conceived initiatives like principal pay, class-size mandates, and the Innovative School District.

However, as leaders were trying to gather members into their caucuses to go over hidden agendas, it struck this teacher how inefficient schools would be if they were operated in the manner that the General Assembly has allowed itself to be run.

In fact, if schools operated the way this particular special session has operated so far, then there truly would be need for “reform.”

  1. What if schools could meet whenever teachers felt the need? Forget the stipulation that public schools are budgeted for a 180-day school year and most every state assessment and measurement tool is already set in stone on a calendar. But if teachers could call their own “special sessions” or “special classes,” then we could meet outside of the allotted school calendar and not even worry about the extra costs to taxpayers.
  2. What if teachers did not have to disclose a syllabus or a lesson plan to administrators or other school stakeholders? That would mean that teachers could go into “sessions” with ulterior motives that would never be known to those who attend class.
  3. What if teachers could just teach to the students they favored and leave the others devoid of the opportunity to learn? Considering that many in Raleigh’s GOP establishment would rather craft law and policy behind closed doors without open debate and collaboration from all representatives and senators, this would be widely used in schools.
  4. What if schools didn’t have science classes and environmental studies? It would seem appropriate in this scenario because the GOP-majority has literally ignored the effects of fracking, coal ash spills, and GenX in the environment.
  5. What if schools did not have to communicate to parents and guardians on the progress of the students? No need for progress or report cards or those pesky conferences. It isn’t as if the current GOP establishment is actually being transparent.
  6. What if schools could at any time redraw its zones to make sure that the “right” people were slated to go to that school? The gerrymandering of districts would be a great model for this. And those parents who wanted to challenge those boundaries at the school board meeting? That’s no big deal. The gerrymandering of the judicial system happening in Raleigh could be duplicated on a local level.
  7. What if schools did not have to disclose financial records or be transparent on monies spent? There are a couple of lawmakers in Raleigh under investigation (rather weak investigation at that) for not disclosing financial reports.
  8. What if schools could enact reform measures that did not have any real research and vetting done beforehand? All one would have to do is look at the ISD initiative that mimics the failed Achievement School District in Tennessee and see that is not just a possibility but a real pattern.
  9. And what if schools could have spokespeople to deliver erroneous information to cover up blatant ineptitude and partisan schemes such as the statement below?

    classize

  10. And what if schools could decide how much money they should receive and use for resources? No need to expound on that.

These are just ten. There are surely more.

But if schools could run themselves like the North Carolina General Assembly operates, then we would never “fail” in our own eyes.

Just in the eyes in of the very people we are supposed to serve.

Mess With The Bull, You Get The Horns – Defending Durham Schools

“Local leaders know what we need.” – Mark Johnson, Sept. 29th, 2016 in debate with Dr. June Atkinson.

Mess with the bull, you get the horns.” – Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar

Hit Bull, Win Steak.”  – Sign in the greatest minor league park in the country, the DBAP.

When Mark Johnson said his words, he was trying to get elected to an office that he has proven very ill-fitted for. Despite attempts to qualify himself, Johnson has chosen to be rather more “private” than public in his short, court-dominated tenure as the leader of DPI.

Apparently, claiming to trust local leaders to know best was only a political maneuver because right down the road in Durham are two schools which are on the final list to be taken over by the ISD (Achievement School District). Those schools are slated to be placed in the hands of a charter school chain that is privately held and more than likely an out-of-state entity.

That does not sound like allowing “local leaders” being allowed to do what they need.

Kelly Hinchcliffe reported for WRAL in an article entitled “Durham school board prepared to ‘fight,’ won’t let state ‘take away our schools’,”

Durham Public Schools’ leaders said Thursday they are prepared to “fight” if the state tries to take control of any of their schools and hand them over to charter school operators. But state leaders say they don’t want a fight, they want to partner with the schools and communities.

Two of Durham’s schools – Glenn Elementary and Lakewood Elementary – are on the state’s shortlist of low-performing schools being considered for North Carolina’s new Innovative School District. They are being considered because their performance scores are among the lowest 5 percent in the state (http://www.wral.com/durham-school-board-prepared-to-fight-won-t-let-state-take-away-our-schools-/16981246/).

Reading reports from Durham about their fierce determination to defend keeping their schools in their local control seems to be what exactly Johnson would have praised on the campaign trail. But that was then.

In May (according to another Hinchcliffe article in collaboration with EdNC’s Alex Granados), Johnson actually communicated that one of his priorities was “Achievement School District startup funds” (http://www.wral.com/-fighting-the-status-quo-inside-the-combative-world-of-nc-s-new-public-schools-chief/16918014/).

Durham can change those schools around. And it does need some time. But even Mark Johnson has seemed to change the definition of urgency. Just look at the interview attached to the aforementioned article.

Chairman of the State Board of Education, Bill Cobey, said ,

“There is reason to believe that they’ve had plenty of time to deal with these failing schools. I would hope that, as we go through the process, they would be willing to accept the fact that maybe we need to try to something different (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/09/25/state-board-ed-chair-potential-charter-takeover-schools-plenty-time-make-improvements/#sthash.mnTgti87.DIjG0x4p.dpbs).

What time frame does he mean? Is he referring to the time frame of the last five years with the seismic change in how our General Assembly has treated our public schools, especially the ones affected by high rates of poverty? If Cobey was writing an argumentative paper, he would need to clarify himself more with evidence and analysis.

If you have lived in North Carolina for any amount of time and visited the Triangle region, you might be aware of the absolutely beautiful revitalization of downtown Durham. Go to a Bull’s game. Go to a performance at the Durham Performing Arts Center, or stroll through the American Tobacco Historic District or even Duke Gardens and you will see how a community rejuvenated itself without redefining its roots and core values.

They can do the same for their schools if the powers that be get out of their way and do what they are supposed to do like fully fund schools and help communities.

In Sept. of 2016, Mark Johnson actually said the same thing, but with different words.

And a totally different intent.

There is a group called Defend Durham Schools that is gaining traction and support. They need more. You can read about them here – http://defenddurhamschools.org/. The website says,

The “Innovation” (formerly “Achievement”) School District leadership is claiming that “we had our chance to fix these schools.”  But we know better.

The General Assembly has repeatedly underfunded and sabotaged public schools and based the majority of their agenda on heavily flawed standardized test scores. We need to focus our efforts and money on strengthening public schools, not forcing our neighborhood schools into private hands with no local accountability.

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There are also links to many resources that are worth the read, the study, and the digesting. Please consider visiting the sight and helping in any way. And visit Durham.

If Johnson stands by his comments, he would actually support what Defend Durham Schools is trying to accomplish.

A leader stands by his/her words.