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

Doug Miskew, Mark Johnson, and Istation

Were political donations a factor?

If Istation thought that by sending cease and desists to public education advocates would scare others, they were wrong.

Richard Collins

I decided to look into Istation’s CFO, Richard H. Collins. I first looked at the campaign finance records and noticed right away that he has donated thousands of dollars to Republicans nationwide dating back years. Many of those donations were to state level Republican parties, but not to the North Carolina Republican Party. NC Senator Thom Tillis received a donation from him to the tune of $2,600 in 2014. The Republican National Committee received two sizable donations from Mr. Collins in 2016. One of $30,000 that was reported on 6/20/2016 and another of $3,400 on 9/27/2016. Now, there are many people who donate thousands of dollars to Republicans, but what is interesting is that on March 30, 2019, Senator Tillis received another donation of $952.38 from Mr. Collins. This will be important later.

Doug Miskew

Now, early in the controversy regarding the Istation vs. Amplify, it was mentioned that Istation’s lobbyist was Doug Miskew so I decided to do some digging around to see what I could turn up regarding him. If Richard Collins donates lots of money to national Republicans, than Mr. Miskew donates plenty at the local North Carolina level. He has donated heavily to North Carolina Republicans over the years with the most recent being $500 to the NC Republican Party in 2016. In 2014, he donated a total of $5,500 to Thom Tillis aligned groups. He also donated $500 to Phil Berger’s son’s campaign for NC-06 in 2013. Remember Mr. Miskew for later as well.

Theresa Kostrzewa

After seeing the donations for Mr. Collins and Mr. Miskew I then looked at the mClass side and Amplify. Theresa Kostrzewa seems to be the NC lobbyist for Amplify and does not appear to have made any donations to North Carolina Republicans and very few nationally. The CEO of Amplify, Larry Berger (no relation to Senator Berger as far as I know), has not donated any money to Republicans according to FEC records and in fact has donated a couple thousand here and there to Democrats over the years.

Mark Johnson

Now, if you have read Justin Parmenter’s post from July 15th you might remember that he looked at the documents that were released related to the FOIA requests. Parmenter noted that the evaluation team selected mClass in December of 2018. They met again on January 8th where Superintendent Mark Johnson made a big speech about, “freeing up more time for teachers to teach and the need to provide them with the right tools. ” Even after this speech, mClass was the choice of the majority.

On February 19th, Superintendent Mark Johnson, held that private event that had many educators angry. This included many of us were not invited along with those who had been uninvited from the event to hold a tweetstorm online. Guess who was invited? Doug Miskew and Theresa Kostrzewa.

Jonathan Sink

Less than a month later, on March 8th, the general counsel for the superintendent, Jonathan Sink, told the team that the procurement process was being cancelled. Jonathan Sink had previously been Deputy General Counsel and Policy Advisor to Speaker Tim Moore. Mr. Sink has since moved on to be the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

What really changed between January 8th and March 8th? Did Mark Johnson speak to Doug Miskew at the February 19th event? What about Theresa Kostrzewa?

Kieran Shanahan

The head of the firm that is sent out cease and desists to Justin Parmenter, Amy Jablonski, and Chelsea Bartel is Kieran J. Shanahan. Mr. Shanahan is also well-known in North Carolina Republican circles as he previously held the position of Finance Chair for the NC Republican Chair. He was a delegate to the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Republican National Convention and was the head of the NC Department of Public Safety under Governor Pat McCrory.

The kicker? Barely three weeks after the procurement process was cancelled there is a donation receipt to NC Republican Senator, Thom Tillis, from IStation CFO, Richard H. Collins, for $952.38 on March 30, 2019.

Everything that has been uncovered through the FOIA requests seems to point to this being a dirty process that Superintendent Johnson seemed to want to end with IStation winning the contract. Were political donations a factor?

Teacher Appreciation Week: Here’s what this teacher wants

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 (I have literally zero for my 7th grade social studies class) 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