YOUNGSVILLE ACADEMY IS NOT ALONE

Charter school in Pamlico County also mandating staff go to school

When news broke earlier this week that the charter school Youngsville Academy was mandating that their educators return to school, it spread like wildfire among educators. When WRAL put the story on the evening news, it spread throughout the state. The whistleblower from that school was identified based on their voice, and has been put on leave. As Justin Parmenter notes here via OSHA and WRAL, “it is illegal for employers to terminate employees for reporting unsafe working conditions.”

Since writing about Youngsville Academy, I have learned that they are not the only charter school in the state of North Carolina to be mandating that their educators report to work.

The culprit, is Arapahoe Charter School. According to their website, Arapahoe Charter School enrolls approximately 550 students in grades K-12 from Pamlico County in four surrounding counties.

Sources (who will remain anonymous to protect their job) say that,

“We have to work one day a week at the school. However, the school is open everyday from 8 am to 3 pm. On Mondays the K-5 teachers work all day, Tuesdays the middle school teachers work all day, Wednesdays the high school teachers work all day and Thursdays they have elective classes staff there doing work. The TAs have to work everyday from 8 am to 3 pm doing miscellaneous jobs and have even been assigned to clean our fire house where inventory is kept. Students and parents come to the school during various times to pick up materials and work packets. One of the teachers was written up for staying at home with her two children on a “workday”.

Yes, in the midst of a global pandemic, teachers are being written up to care for their children. In fact, for the first TWO weeks after Governor Roy Cooper closed North Carolina public schools, employees were required to report to school every single day. The educators at Arapahoe are afraid to publicly speak out saying,

“No one can say anything because we are at will employees and the governors orders leave the decisions up to the local school boards and administrators”

Who can blame them, after what the whistleblower from Youngsville Academy is now going through?

School closings began on March 16th. March 17th Arapahoe had what has been described as an “over capacitated staff meeting.” While I do not know if that the staff meeting was over the 100 people maximum that was set by Governor Roy Cooper at the time, it is obvious that staff did not feel safe.

Questions were asked of Chief Executive Director, Chris Watson. Questions that according to staff went unanswered,

“What does an “optional day” mean to us currently at ACS? Does it mean that we have the option [original emphasis] to come to work from school or remotely from home? Does it mean that if we do not come to work during our “shift” that we will have to use our annual leave days? If we have prepared lessons and resources for students (virtually and on paper) over the past few days, do we have the option [original emphasis] to work from home and be available to our students and parents via email while completing the work document that you discussed? Can you please define “Optional Work Days” [again original emphasis] for us? Is this your decision as a Director or the ACS Board of Directors’ decision.

What defines “to the extent feasible” for ACS employees? … In the same respect, who or what defines “safe work environment”? Does this take into account the many teachers who have their children with them on a daily basis due to the current conditions in the country? Does this take into account the staff members who may be dealing with compromised immune systems due to illnesses, pregnancy, recovering from surgery or prior illnesses, or any other medical condition?”

After Governor Roy Cooper’s March 27th Stay at Home Order, Mr. Watson followed with another all staff email saying,

“For purposes of the Executive Order, educational institutions, including preK-12 public schools, are listed as essential business.”

He went on to say,

“In addition to the above, social distancing requirements set forth in the order now require everyone to do the following;

a. maintain at least six (6) feet distancing from other individuals;

b. wash hands using soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible or the use of hand sanitizer;

c. regularly clean high-touch surfaces; and

d. facilitate online or remote access for customers if possible.”

School leadership has not offered any rationale for making staff go into the building in the midst of a global pandemic. While in the building, minimal time is spent preparing packets for those students who do not have internet access. That’s it.

Arapahoe Charter School, Chief Executive Director Chris Watson, and the Board of Directors are risking the lives of their staff and community.

And for what? Control?

Teachers at Risk: Youngsville Academy

Youngsville Academy is forcing teachers to go back to work during the Coronavirus pandemic.

4/8 Update: According to WRAL, a teacher who spoke out has been put on leave. It is doubtful that this is the last we have heard of this story.
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Well that did not take long. Leave it to a charter school to be forcing its staff to be going back during a pandemic. The culprit? Youngsville Academy, located in Youngsville, Franklin County, North Carolina is forcing their teachers to go into school on Thursday, April 9th to begin online teaching. Yes, you read that correctly.

Despite the Governor Roy Cooper consistently telling people to stay home if they are able, the educators at Youngsville Academy are being forced to choose between their job or their life. According to the WRAL report, educators without childcare are being told to bring their children.

What part of social distancing do they not understand? They are apparently taking temperatures before people enter, which sounds good in theory. The reality is that approximately 50% of all people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

Teachers lives are being put at risk. Why? I’d say ask the leaders over at Youngsville Academy but they refused to answer questions from WRAL.

I’d be surprised about something like this.. but should we really be surprised? This is just another example of ills that charter schools are inflicting on society.

Oh, and the demographics? Youngsville Academy is another charter school that is exacerbating school segregation. 85% of their students are white. Youngsville Elementary School, just down the street? 52% white.

Ascend Leadership Academy

North Carolina’s newest segregation academy is in Lee County

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post warning public education advocates to look at the record of politicians instead of just their political party. This was in part due to the fact that the Mayor of Sanford, North Carolina is a Democrat who took part in a photo op at the first charter school in Lee County, Ascend Leadership Academy (ALA). Having worked in Lee County Schools for two years I was confident that I knew the demographic breakdown of the school district, approximately 33% Black, 33% White, 33% Latinx with upwards of 66% of those students dealing with poverty at home.

So naturally, I found it suspicious when much of the promotions that ALA put out featured majority white students. I specifically remember making the remark to a friend, “The only classes that we have that are that white are our AIG classes.” Yes, I recognize how problematic that statement is, the truth of that statement was undeniable then, and it would not surprise me if it was still true this school year.

Luckily for us, but unluckily for the segregationists, it is easy to test that hypothesis because they have to report demographic data to the state. The data is quite appalling.

Of the 163 students that attended Ascend Leadership Academy in grades 6-8 last year,

  • 32 (19.6%) were Black
  • 25 (15.3%) were Latinx
  • 1 (0.6%) were Indian
  • 1 (0.6%) were Asian
  • 4 (2.45%) were 2 or more races
  • 100 (61. 3%) were White

61.3%. That should be considered insane. But are we truly surprised?

Just for kicks, after this I went and looked at the data for students classified as EC. There were 12 students in total. A grand total of 7.36%.

Charter schools, as described to us, are supposed to represent the communities that they exist in. ALA certainly does not do this, not even close.

Charter schools are supposed to perform higher on standardized tests correct?

Let’s compare ALA to the rest of the schools in the county looking at that incredibly flawed measurement from the state.

  • East Lee – D (53 reading, 51 math and did not meet growth)
  • West Lee – D (59 reading, 50 math and did not meet growth)
  • Sanlee – C (62 reading, 59 math and met growth)
  • Ascend – D (58 reading, 52 math and did not meet growth)

Even by the flawed measurement from the state of North Carolina, Ascend Leadership Academy has shown no ability to outperform the other schools in Lee County.

Seems to me the only thing it is truly doing is making sure that white parents can send their kids to school with less students of color.

What Can We Learn From West Virginia?

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for lessons we can take from this latest battle.

As I type this, the West Virginia Senate has just finished debating and voting on an education bill that will allow charter schools to enter the state. The famously independent West Virginia had been one of six states that did not have charter school legislation.

This means we are now at a point in this country where only five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont are still without charter school legislation.

The legislation passed today is similar to the bills that caused the educators of West Virginia to go on strike twice, once each year for the past two year. It is telling that this time, the West Virginia legislature sought to pass the bill when school was not in session. How best to get around a teacher strike by bringing the legislation up for a vote when school is not in session? Charter schools are particularly unpopular in West Virginia with 88% of West Virginian’s disagreeing with creating charter schools. It should not surprise anyone then that a proposed amendment to the bill when it was in the West Virginia House to allow the people in individual counties to vote on whether to allow charter schools in their counties was defeated.

Public education supervillain, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos even got in on the action tweeting:

West Virginia has an opportunity to improve education for all & put the needs of students first. Looking forward to seeing bold moves to offer robust options like charter schools & ESAs and support great teachers. Let’s get it done @WVGovernor, @SenCarmichaelWV & @SpeakerHanshaw!— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) May 31, 2019

It should be noted that all Democrats serving in the West Virginia Senate voted against the bill and that they were joined by two Republicans. So it goes that the privatizers of education win another battle in another state. As educators, it is easy for us to grow despondent over the continue attacks on our profession and the lives of our students, especially as the advocacy that we do, we do in addition to our full-time job.

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for a lesson or lessons that we can take from this latest battle. Truly speaking, the easiest lesson is this. In order to beat the privatizers we must beat them at the ballot box.

We need to continue to fight for all of our students and explain to their families why and how our fight is also their fight. That what we do, we do for them.

We are committed to making sure ALL our students are successful, in 2020 we need to make sure that our legislators are dedicated to the same commitment.