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.

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?

Schools Must Close

New low in disrespect towards educators.

From the March 13, 2020 WRAL 6pm newscast, “Every person will be affected by this different.”

We do not truly know how many people in the state have coronavirus. Testing is limited with Mecklenburg County, NC (home of Charlotte) for example having only 3 tests available a time. Despite this, the only public schools planning to close for Monday are Durham Public Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and Orange County Schools.

Wake County has the vast majority of the cases of coronavirus in North Carolina, and yet Wake County Public Schools are still planning to hold classes on Monday as of right now.

The most common response has to do with the amount of students who rely on school for breakfast and lunch. That kids are much less susceptible to the virus then adults. Fair. This is all true and teachers have been talking about how schools have plugged holes in society for decades now.

When is enough? We ask, almost demand, educators to sacrifice so much for our students. For the most part, we do it, knowing that no one else will. We already ask too much of the adults in our schools. Risking their health to this extent (potentially even their lives) is too much.

The advice has been given that if teachers are at-risk with health conditions that make them more susceptible they should get a doctor’s note and put in for a substitute. Who is going to pick up that absence? As it is, our schools are struggling to get substitutes for absences. Barely a day goes by that teachers are not force to cover for colleagues that are absent, and that is without a worldwide pandemic.

Major league sports have been cancelled. DPAC has cancelled their shows (belatedly).

From the USA Today,
“Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington and Alabama have ordered all schools closed. The governor of Kentucky has recommended closing all schools in that state. Major metropolitan districts in Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas have also shuttered.”

Schools in New Jersey are also starting to shut down, seemingly by the hour. Churches are shutting down. Even Patagonia is closing.

Despite a federal, state and many local state of emergencies.. North Carolina? Nah.

Districts in North Carolina (including my own district – WCPSS) must close down. We must flatten the curve. We must be proactive, not reactive. Before it’s too late.

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.