Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Your children. Not mine.

Last week, WCPSS Chairwoman Christine Kushner wrote an article for UNC-Chapel Hill's Morehead-Cain Scholars website. (Yeah, that's a mouthful in itself.)

Her article is titled "The real crisis in public education, and how to fix it".

First of all, "The real crisis"? High and mighty much?

Anyway... I wrote a Letter to the Editor to the News & Observer in response to Ms. Kushner's ridiculous and insulting claim that it is the parents of Wake County that cause her and our school system such heartburn.

As it hasn't been published (yet), I thought I would share it with you here. Enjoy.

Submitted Nov. 7, 2015:

WCPSS Chair Christine Kushner has proudly announced that it is the parents of Wake County who are hurting the public school system. Yes, you. And me. And every other caring parent who has chosen to stay with the public school system yet stands up for their child. According to our School Board, you are a horrible person and simply messing things up.

Kushner condescendingly claims in the article that "individual choice" is the real crisis in our schools. She berates and belittles parents for basically being good parents. She hates parents who make decisions that best serve their own children without considering the "common good". Hates them.

So, it is a little surprising to find out that Ms. Kushner chose to send her child to one of the most exclusive publicly-funded high schools in NC. That's right. She made an "individual choice" for her child's education. A choice that was made, I would assume, based on what was best her family and her child - because I don't see how sending her child to a limited enrollment high school with a highly competitive admission process that is fully funded by the state (including tuition, room and board) helps the rest of us.

Apparently, the common good is your problem to solve...with your children - not hers.

What a patronizing hypocrite.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You should be outraged.

According to WRAL, a student brought an unloaded gun to Apex Middle School last year. Not only did he threaten other students with the gun, he also "...pointed the gun...and pulled the trigger".

Then, according to the parent of one of the victims, this student said: "Don't tell. If you do, I have the bullets in my backpack and you'll be next."

Yes, this happened at Apex Middle School. Yes, last year. And, yes, according to the article, our WCPSS School Board and their "policies" have allowed this student back into the public school system. Worse, they have assigned this student to the same high school that his victims attend.

Do your children attend Apex Friendship High School? Are you aware that this student is lurking your hallways? Will this student be reassigned to another high school in our community? Will our School Board member, Susan Evans, ever notify us or our community? Or is she too busy chasing her political dreams

I'm outraged. You should be too. Here's my reaction. And, if you're pissed off like I am, here's their email addresses: WCPSS Board of Education 

(And don't forget to include the elusive and secretive Supt. Merrill)

Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Kushner & Supt. Merrill,

It is absolutely reprehensible to read about this situation that occurred in my community - and my schools - from WRAL. 

Considering the climate we live in today and the incidents that have occurred in schools across the country, it is completely unacceptable for this information to be withheld from parents. To add insult to injury,  your so-called policies have allowed this student back into the public school system to attend the very same school as those he threatened. There is no indication that any other actions by the Board or the superintendent have or will be taken regarding the safety and protection of our children from this student. For God's sake, he brought a gun, PULLED THE TRIGGER, and then threatened to bring bullets the next time. When is the next time? Are you waiting to react after the fact?

I demand answers as to why we, as parents and as members of the Apex community, were not notified of this when it occurred last year. I demand to know why this dangerous student is allowed back into our schools after, as School Board member Keith Sutton says, "they have served their time" with a one year suspension. I truly empathize for the parents of these victims who have been ignored and lied to by this School Board. I am outraged and ashamed at each and every one of you.

Allison Backhouse
Apex, NC


Monday, August 24, 2015

What's the question; what's the answer?

In 2009, the parents of Wake County spoke. They elected a majority on theWCPSS School Board who supported the end to the mindless reassignment of their children. These School Board members bravely broke the mold after decades of diversity busing. Busing that not only adversely affected the education of suburban students but was eventually proven by WCPSS itself to have no positive impact on the education of the poor students targeted for those long distance assignments. After a few immediate and key resignations and retirements, many doors were opened to the changes needed in our school system.

The assignment policy was amended. Diversity goals were removed. An emphasis was placed on the educational needs of students and the involvement of parents. After years of mandatory year-round assignments and families split by school calendars, choice was resurrected. The ’09 School Board members ran on a platform of providing the necessary resources to students – not busing students for diversity under the guise of a better education. Their policies promoted stability, community involvement, and predictability in assignment in their attempt to create a school system that was responsive not critical.

But that didn’t last long.

Some were outraged at the very thought of removing diversity as a goal in assignment. They did all they could to create and spread fear around our community of what could happen. They painted their own message in the media of resegregation and the isolation of minorities. In 2011, a new majority-Democratic Board was elected to save and restore diversity.

So how is it that just last week the N&O published in an article that states the number of high-poverty schools has more than doubled under the direction of the new School Board? Let that sink in….more than doubled – from 18 to 46. Twelve WCPSS schools now have populations of more than 70% low-income students. There were none under the ’09 Board.

The current School Board has had five years to undo the changes they deemed as “destructive” and “racist” and yet have chosen to do absolutely nothing. Not only have they not taken any action on the changes made back in ’09, their inaction and apathy have done more to make their fears a reality than anything else. And their friends - who raised a ruckus and feigned concern about the “loss” of diversity - are now silent and uninterested because their Democratic friends are faithfully leading the charge.

Or are they?

The N&O editorial this past weekend addresses this issue. It questions these numbers but it totally misses the mark. The question we should be asking is not “Do we pursue diversity or do we let segregation return?” That is a lazy, simple-minded question and only serves to create the same fearful rhetoric we heard years ago.

What we should be asking is “What can we do to improve education for every child in Wake County?” It’s a tough question with many answers and just as many opinions. I agree that we are at a crossroads as a county and community. But diversity is not it. There are so many others ways to improve education and address the needs of our students than assignment. There are better conversations to have. Our crossroads is ensuring we don’t go back to the way it was.

Although our current School Board has managed to create a school system that reflects exactly what they claimed they were against, we simply can’t let the diversity pendulum swing completely back.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Snow Job

Spring Break is gone. Well, most of it. Families were blindsided by WCPSS with a complete reversal decision announcement on Saturday about the winter weather make up days.

Parents are angry. So far, over 7,500 parents, teachers, and students have signed a petition to show how angry they are. Many families have long-standing nonrefundable travel plans. Many were looking forward to this one of very few opportunities to be together for the week.

I understand their anger. And their frustration. But let's make sure we understand what we really should be angry about. It's not about Spring Break. It's about why and how we lost Spring Break.

In a nutshell, this is the epitome of bad governance.

Let's begin by understanding that the 2014-2015 school calendar has built-in make up days. According to the WCPSS website: March 23, June 9, June 10, and June 11 are the Teacher Work Days "Available for Weather Make up".

Board Chair Christine Kushner and Supt. Merrill first told us that June wouldn't be used and our children would be attending school on Good Friday and two Saturdays in order to provide "quality instructional time".

What a load. Last Friday was originally planned as an early-release day. It was extended 2 1/2 hours to a full day to make up for one of the missed snow days. But then... it was delayed 2 hours again due to ice that didn't happen. Where did that "quality instruction time" go?

And what about the day WCPSS waited to cancel school until after a few buses hit the road? That "quality instruction" isn't being made up at all.

Enough of that, let's talk about the governance issue.

On Tuesday, March 3rd's work session, WCPSS staff recommended using Good Friday and two Saturdays. Go to 46:55 mark of their work session.

At the 55:25 mark of the Board work session, Supt. Merrill clearly supports use of this option as a way to protect Spring Break for families.

At the 58:00 mark, Cathy Moore asks for support of this staff recommendation and Chair Kushner responds "You have consensus support of that recommendation."


Even the so loved WCPSS Twitter account tweeted:

(They're not so sassy anymore, are they?)

So, what could possibly have happened between Tuesday and Saturday? That's the big question.

An even bigger and more concerning question is... why the quiet announcement on a Saturday? Since the Board wasn't scheduled to meet, who made this decision to use Spring Break days?

What's the point of having a public discussion and "consensus approval" from the Board about the make up days if they're not going to follow it?

Why include input from staff and communicate this to the public if they are just going to run roughshod and make up their own rules without any transparent discussion?

I understand staff met again on Friday and Saturday to discuss this. What influenced them to convene again to discuss a different option? Who was at that meeting? Was the Board involved? If so, how? I've asked for minutes from this meeting but there are no minutes taken at staff meetings.

Did WCPSS violate the public records law by deleting records from Twitter and Facebook about previous discussions and decisions?

And where in the world is Supt. Merrill? Mr. Mustache didn't even show up to defend this decision in today's press conference. Instead, he sent Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore to do his dirty work. Coward.

So many questions...

But, again, this isn't really about Spring Break. Losing Spring Break is simply the result of bad governance, a lack of transparency, and a Board that does what it wants to do, regardless of policy.

I'm just hoping those 7,500 people will remember this next election.