Cooper to Educators: “Good luck!”

Governor choose plan B for all

I should have seen this coming. Really, I should have. Especially back on July 1 when the decision was made to postpone setting out what districts should do to start off the school year.

The decision has been made and Plan B is how we will enter into the school year. My confidence in the Governor has absolutely cratered.

Here’s some of my initial reactions and questions from the Governor’s press conference.

  1. The plan mentions making sure that there is a place to isolate kids who present with symptoms. Does this mean we are already admitting that students will take dayquil in the morning and then be sent to school?
  2. We are being told to limit the sharing of classroom materials. Where is that money going to come from? Educators already spend hundreds of dollars on supplies.
  3. What happens when a student refuses to wear a mask because their parent is an anti-mask person?
  4. What happens when a student loses their mask halfway through the day?
  5. Will I be getting paid more for all these extra jobs I’m going to be expected to do? (We know the answer to this one)
  6. Why were we forced to watch a PR ad for the AAP missive that was roundly criticized by educators?
  7. Do we really think kids are going to learn good social skills while being yelled at to wear their mask and stay 6 feet apart by terrified teachers?
  8. Will I lose my job after 10 days knowing that the NCGA will not be addressing funding from the ADM?
  9. How dare you make us go to school after someone tests positive?

I’m sure that there are more questions, but that’s all I can think about now while my blood boils. I was floored. Absolutely floored. That we received all of these platitudes from the Governor of how amazing we are and how we will make this work. Oh? Really? How? Because as it seems right now, my students and I are about to be used as lab rats for the government.

But don’t worry, local districts and businesses can provide more PPE.

Before the NC GOP thinks that they’re off the hook here. There’s criticism for them too. They have tried to place us all back into school for the first 5 days. Every. single. person. They have refused to put a NURSE in the building every day. They have also contributed to this dangerous mess we find ourselves in.

To top all of this off – 20% of all cases in Wake County where I live and teach are for people ages 10-24 as of 7/14. Kids can be in high school until the are 21 years old.

I’m scared. I’m wondering – do I need to have a will drawn up? How do I do that?

The union for educators in North Carolina, NCAE, has called on all educators to sign the following petition. I encourage you all to do that. I also encourage you all to fight like hell for our safety.

RUNNING SCARED

Privatizers nervous after NCAE elections

Well that didn’t take long. North Carolina privatizers are already scared of the new NCAE leadership. Here’s the disgraced former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

Killing teacher raises.. huh. Woodhouse here conveniently leaves out that the “raises” that the NCGOP were offering were miniscule. That the 3.9% raise that they were talking about was over TWO years. That even the number of 3.9% was a nice math trick as it included the step raise that was already baked into the salary schedule.

Not sure where Woodhouse gets his 5% of teachers number here. I seem to remember the privatizers pointing to payroll deduction numbers at some point. That is disingenuous as most teachers do not use payroll deductions, a legacy of when Woodhouse’s North Carolina Republican Party made attempts to remove that ability. Woodhouse’s claim of a 5% raise for all teachers is certifiably false. First, it’s rounding up from 4.9%, second that was reliant on the General Assembly overriding Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. A bribe. Then there is the sticky fact that large swaths of teachers in North Carolina would not have received a raise. As a BT3 this year, I would have received a raise of 0.0%. I’m not alone. In fact, anyone who had been teaching between 0-15 years would not have received a pay raise.

You would think that the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of all people would recognize that everything is political. Teaching is political. A well-educated populace is political. Teaching future generations to carefully analyze sources is political.

Since the racist, whitelash response to the election of President Barack Obama led to their take over of the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion, North Carolina Republicans have done everything in their power to demonize and destroy public education in the state. The expansion of charter schools and voucher programs has led to the acceleration of segregation in our society. Through racial gerrymandering, they have attempted to bake in their majorities and isolate the populace that would throw them out of office, preventing pro-public education candidates from being elected.

Keeping Governor Roy Cooper in the Governor’s Mansion and flipping the North Carolina General Assembly would lead to sustained change in our state and very positive changes for NCAE members.

Accomplishing this would all but assuredly lead to our ESPs across the state earning the $15 minimum wage that all other state workers earn. I imagine that it would lead to the implementing of the recommendations put forth by the Leandro Report put out earlier this year to fully, equitably fund public education. Electing pro-public education candidates would even potentially lead to a new cap on charter schools, which would hamper the attempt of privatizers to destroy out public schools.

Maybe if I was Woodhouse I would be scared too. What you’re seeing in NCAE is a true grassroots movement of community organizing. Not the astroturfing that led to the Tea Party movement in 2008, or the far right ReOpenNC movement now.

NO RAISE

Bill put forth in the NCGA is another slap in the face to North Carolina educators

Another day, another screw you by the legislature in Raleigh. The always brilliant NCGA has decided in their infinite wisdom to give public school workers in North Carolina a raise. Not one penny.

Many of you probably know what this means, but let me break it down for you just in case.
– This means that the starting salary will be staying at $35,000.
– This means that veteran educators still do not even get a step raise.
– This means the pay scale still tops out at $52,000.
– This means still no advanced pay for an advanced degree
– This means our ESPs still will not earn $15 per hour like other state employees.
– This means the statewide bus driver shortage will continue.

I’m angry. You should be as well.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

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.

One Month Before School Starts: 7,228 Job Openings

And I bet it is even higher.

Corrected as data from Beaufort County, SOUTH Carolina was used instead of Beaufort County, NORTH Carolina. My apologies.

Need to tip my hat to the folks over at SCforEd for this idea. They are looking at the openings across South Carolina in public education each week leading up to when school starts. I am not sure that I’ll be doing updates like they are, but I thought it would be interesting nonetheless.

As of July 23rd, which is approximately one month before school starts for most traditional calendar schools there are 7,228 openings. The list is below. I’m including ALL open positions, because as we know it takes all those positions to properly support our students. This includes coaches, substitutes, transportation, administration and central office people as long as they are listed through the same platform as teachers.

On another note, I’d even suggest that the number is even HIGHER than what I was able to find, many districts will post the same position name for multiple openings.

Congratulations to Clay County, y’all have the least with only 1 opening.

I have five ideas on how to help fill some of those positions:

  1. Enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards
  2. A $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, admin, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees
  3. Expanding Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families
  4. Reinstating state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017
  5. Restoring advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013
District NameOpenings – 7/23
Alamance-Burlington184
Alexander County9
Alleghany County 5
Anson County8
Ashe County8
Asheboro City28
Asheville City89
Avery County5
Beaufort County48
Bertie County15
Bladen County26
Brunswick County66
Buncombe County89
Burke County25
Cabarrus County185
Caldwell County Schools21
Camden County Schools4
Carteret County Public Schools25
Caswell County Schools27
Catawba County Schools77
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools127
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools295
Chatham County Schools77
Cherokee County School District5
Clay County Schools1
Cleveland County Schools19
Clinton City Schools12
Columbus County Schools19
Craven County Schools127
Cumberland County Schools313
Currituck County Schools43
Dare County Schools21
Davidson County Schools128
Davie County Schools31
Duplin County Schools22
Durham Public Schools242
Edenton-Chowan Schools14
Edgecombe County Public Schools27
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools75
Elkin City Schools4
Franklin County Schools53
Gaston County Schools207
Gates County Schools2
Graham County Schools3
Granville County Schools62
Greene County Schools9
Guilford County Schools450
Halifax County Schools26
Harnett County Schools70
Haywood County Schools30
Henderson County Public Schools85
Hertford County Public Schools37
Hickory City Schools12
Hoke County Schools73
Hyde County Schools15
Iredell-Statesville Schools81
Jackson County Schools36
Johnston County Schools296
Jones County Schools7
Kannapolis City Schools52
Lee County Schools85
Lenoir County Schools53
Lexington City Schools35
Lincoln County Schools72
Macon County Schools7
Madison County Schools13
Martin County Schools16
McDowell County Schools26
Mitchell County Schools13
Montgomery County Schools21
Moore County Schools70
Mooresville Graded School District45
Mount Airy City Schools4
Nash-Rocky Mount Schools66
New Hanover County Schools92
Newton-Conover City Schools22
Northampton County Schools14
Onslow County Schools190
Orange County Schools75
Pamlico County Schools7
Pender County Schools110
Perquimans County Schools12
Person County Schools30
Pitt County Schools105
Polk County Schools17
Randolph County Schools110
Richmond County Schools32
Roanoke Rapids Graded School District11
Robeson County Schools0Says 110 but big budget issues here
Rockingham County Schools129
Rowan-Salisbury School System137
Rutherford County Schools43
Sampson County Schools12
Scotland County Schools31
Stanly County Schools57
Stokes County Schools24
Surry County Schools30
Swain County Schools15
Thomasville City Schools7
Transylvania County Schools27
Tyrrell County Schools15
Union County Public Schools80
Vance County Schools27
Wake County Public School System536
Warren County Schools18
Washington County Schools10
Watauga County Schools24
Wayne County Public Schools117
Weldon City Schools17
Whiteville City Schools3
Wilkes County Schools38
Wilson County Schools96
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools210
Yadkin County Schools6
Yancey County Schools14

New Twist in IStation Controversy, Gun Amendment Not Offered

Amendment Allows Local Control for Reading Assessment

Update: SB-438 as amended would force districts to use local funds if they want to choose a different reading tool, other than IStation.

One of the wonderful things about moving to live in Wake County is being only about 15 minutes from the NC Legislature. As a politics nerd, being so close to where the decisions happen is going to be quiet enjoyable.

The call went out today from the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action to go to the meeting of the NC House of Representatives and wear red. This was to make sure legislators knew that gun control advocates were watching as it was expected the Representative Larry “Give Teachers Guns” Pittman (R-Cabarrus, Rowan) would offer an amendment to a School Safety Bill to allow teachers to carry guns. This is despite the fact that surveys have shown approximately 88% of teachers do not want to carry a gun themself, of have their colleagues carry guns.

What I did not expect to witness was Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell, Orange) offer an amendment to SB-438. This amendment allows for local school districts to choose a reading assessment tool of their choice, and still use the state funding that they would normally receive.

While saying that this does not have much to do with the widespread complaints of DPI’s choice of IStation for our youngest students, it seemed as though the amendment would allow for local districts to keep mClass if they wanted.

After some back and forth with Rep. Horn (R-Union), the amendment passed with all House Democrats voting in favor, along with some Republicans.

This is something to follow as the bill goes back to the Senate. It will be interesting if the Senate allows the amendment to stay in the bill or not.

The actual reason many of us were there was in regards to SB-5 on School Safety. Before the session started, many House Democrats waved to those of us sitting with the Moms Demand Action group as we were all in red. After, the Speaker recognized the group and the chamber applauded. Talk about surprised.

In between though, Rep. Pittman’s amendment was not discussed or voted on by the House. Checking twitter told us that it had been pulled from the calendar, meaning it was not going to be voted on at all.

Was it calls from constituents that kept the amendment from being offered? Was it those of us wearing red in the gallery? I do not know, but I cannot help but feel the actions of people throughout the day, and our presence that evening made a difference.

Time will tell as the bill itself is still on the calendar meaning there is still the opportunity for Pittman’s amendment to get added tomorrow when the House comes back into session at 1pm.

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.

Reflecting on the ECE Conference

Through working with our state and local affiliates we want to work to provide the support that educators need to survive the early years in the profession.

As I sit here at the airport in Houston waiting for my flight to take me back to Raleigh, I figured now was as good an opportunity as any to reflect on my experiences over the last few days at NEA’s Early Career Educator Training and Strategic Planning Session.

First of all, can we talk about POWER and ENERGY? Y’ALL! It was so powerful to be in a room full of people from ACROSS THE COUNTRY. The energy that educators spanning the country from Maine to Florida to Texas to Arizona to Oregon to Wisconsin was remarkable. NEA brought educators from across the entire width of the country together in Texas.

The focus was on Early Career Educators (ECEs), and right away my mindset was challenged and changed. Prior to this weekend, whenever I thought of ECEs, I automatically thought of those educators ages 21-30ish. NEA staff on site was intentional in reminding us that ECEs also may include those people who have entered into education as a second or third career and to not exclude those who we may automatically assumed were veterans. I also appreciated how NEA made sure to intentionally include ESPs into the conversation because they are vital to the success of our students, schools and communities.

An interesting thing was to see how different states were in different parts of the journey to develop strong systems to support ECEs. There were states like Ohio, with O.N.E, who have been working on developing this for multiple years now, which by the way I recommend checking out. On the other hand, there were states like us in North Carolina who are just now launching our ECE group within our state affiliate of NEA. It was incredibly powerful to see those more developed groups like ONE continuing to work on crafting their message and develop new supports for their educators.

The energy y’all was just amazing though. All of us that spent the weekend in Houston were there because we know that we need to make changes to better support educators newer to the profession and either we want to be the ones to do it, or someone else thinks we can be. The data shows that educators are increasingly leaving the profession for hobs with higher pay and that are perceived to have more respect. Through working with our state and local affiliates we want to work to provide the support that educators need to survive the early years in the profession while also fighting to get the resources that we need to be able to successfully do our job.

Everyone was fired up all weekend. We gained tools and strategies to take back to our states to help recruit, support, and retain ECEs. We formed connections with other ECEs from across the state who we can continue to learn from as we go to our separate states. Those connections will be incredibly powerful and I am so excited to see the actions that all of us take.

Our ECE group in North Carolina is called SYNCED, Supporting Your New Carolina Educators. I am incredibly excited to work with this group to help support ECEs across the state of North Carolina. Connect with us on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Spread the word to other ECEs across the state so they can get plugged in!

Teacher Appreciation Week: Here’s what this teacher wants

Update: This post was originally created in May of 2019. Unfortunately, we have seen none of these changes. This is still what I want for Teacher Appreciation Week.

Tomorrow starts Teacher Appreciation Week! Some teachers will no doubt be taking advantage of everything from discounts at retail stores to free food at restaurants. Others will be inundated with gift cards to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Target. Still others might receive a small, handwritten note or just verbal kindness that actually means more than anything that can be bought with money.

We do not become teachers for the gifts that we may or may not get this week. That being said, those gifts we might get are nice.

If we are being honest though, if someone wants to actually show their appreciation for teachers this week here’s a list of things that would do that, specifically in North Carolina:

  1. A government who actually supports my profession, not one that does a terrible job at hiding their hatred for it
  2. Enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards
  3. A $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, admin, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees
  4. Expanding Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families
  5. Reinstating state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017
  6. Restoring advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013
  7. Funding for smaller class sizes
  8. Funding for textbooks and/or technology such as chromebooks
  9. A renewed cap on charter school expansion which is draining money from our public schools and exacerbating segregation.
  10. Ending the grading of our public schools based on asinine test scores
  11. The end to high stakes standardized testing
  12. Funding to complete much needed maintenance on our aging buildings
  13. A salary that will allow educators to not need to work multiple jobs to support a family.
  14. Restorative practices that will help students stay in school instead of continuing the school to prison pipeline.
  15. Calendar flexibility that fits our local needs.

Is this everything? No, but it would be a good start.

An Open Letter to Those Who Vote Against Closing Schools for #AllOutMay 1

You have shown your true colors.

Dear Local Board of Educations,

This letter began as thoughts swirled in my head in the hours after my local board of education here in Lee County voted to alter the 2018-2019 school calendar to make May 1st an optional teacher work day in response to the amount of public school workers who had put in for the day.

The conversation in the lead up to the vote in my county swirled around the safety issue that had been created by the amount of substitutes that were going to be needed for the day and the fact that there was the very real chance that students would be put in danger on the morning of May 1st if (or when) people called in sick.

I’ll be honest. I understand why you do not want to close. It’s close to testing. While most everyone these days can agree that testing is harmful to students it is still a large factor in our choices because of the pressure put on districts to get our students to succeed on them. Personally, that pressure we feel is part of why I will be in Raleigh on May 1st.

That being said, with the amount of leave forms that have been turned in over the past month or so, that was not the discussion that was being had at this meeting.

The discussion as mentioned before, came down to safety.

Safety for our students.

At that point, your personal feelings about the politics about the day, which have been and will continue to be discussed ad nauseum, do not matter. Your sole concern should be safety.

So why is it.. that when your Superintendent and head of transportation tell you that they are not comfortable with having school on May 1st, would you still vote against turning it into an optional work day?

That was the case in my district. The vote was 5-2 in favor of the calendar change.

To the 2 votes AGAINST the change.. if you had won the vote, then what? Did you think that far ahead? Or did you just want to score cheap points with your base, which is increasingly shrinking?

You lost any moral high ground you may have perceived that you had when it came to talking about the safety of our students.

You say that May 1st is political theatre. I disagree. That being said, your vote against changing the calendar was political theatre. The difference? May 1st has a good chance at making positive change for our students. Your vote, just showed how out of touch you are and how political you have made the Board of Education.

May 1st, I will be rallying to support our students and school systems who desperately need help.

When you are up for re-election, I will be rallying voters to vote you out.

In a way I should thank you, for you have shown your true colors.

Sincerely,

Dane West