21st Century Students: Technology

The 21st Century requires a labor force that is fluent in the use of technology. Therefore, it is imperative we introduce our students to the value of using technology as a tool for learning. This is one reason for the development of STEM. Not only can it be fun, it will provide skills that will long outlast the K-12 Experience.

I wish it were that simple. An education system should have a firm understanding of the needs of the 21st Century workplace before developing and implementing a technology program. In the Dec 31, 2019 Port City Daily article below it looks as if the county is doing just that. However, there is one glaring issue.

Most businesses and educational institutions run their technology systems on the Microsoft Windows platform and not the Apple OS. While good for some of the more creative and artistic careers and industries, it is not practical to attempt to implement a second platform for students and later members of the workforce to learn.

If we are going to use taxpayer money to investigate ways of improving our community and education system, we need students to learn the systems they will be working on once they graduate. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money and draws more criticism from our constituency.

Working smarter is always better than working harder. Let’s be smart, investigate technology our students will actually use when they leave the schoolhouse for the workforce.

Field Trip: New Hanover leaders to visit Apple headquarters eyeing tech improvements in schools, workforce

 

Your Child Matters: Restoring Trust in Schools

When I was teaching at one of the local middle schools, one of the biggest obstacles I ran into was trust. Parents and students, especially those who came from poor neighborhoods, did not trust schools. This wasn’t because of safety issues, but the feeling they themselves had been failed by the system. I often heard “I didn’t learn anything and going didn’t help me.”

Looking back, I couldn’t blame them. While time and resources were being spent on students who participated in programs that highlighted the school, before testing meant something, those who struggled were given busy work to pass them on to the next grade. Unacceptable.¬† If we are going to restore integrity to New Hanover County Schools and its Board of Education, we need to restore trust in those who may have lost it in public schools. We need to send the message “Your child matters, regardless of address or ability!”

Teaching: Recruiting and Retaining the Best

The last 7 years has shown a steady decline in veteran teachers and an annual increase in teacher vacancies. Many cite teacher pay and the need to increase the salaries. While this is true, nobody wants to work for any amount of money if they aren’t respected as the professionals they are. At the local level, our hands are tied as to salaries for teachers. We depend on the county and state to fund those. However, we are not powerless.

There are ways we can demonstrate that respect teachers so rightly deserve. One very real way of demonstrating that respect is to institute a local level of due process. I want to reinstate career status for teachers. Other counties have done it, it’s time New Hanover County join them. Our teachers put their hearts and time into their profession. They sacrifice their free time, often at the expense of their families, to create lesson plans that wow our students every day. When elected, my very first action for our teachers will be to introduce a policy in which our teachers with 5 or more years in New Hanover County Schools are granted Career Status. Teachers who enter our system as beginning teachers and out of state transfer teachers will have the opportunity to earn Career status after 5 years. Teachers with 5 or more years of teaching experience in North Carolina will have the opportunity to earn career status after 1 year.

If we are going to recruit and retain the best teachers, we have to show them we value their service. We need to reinstate career status in New Hanover County Schools.

RESPECT: It Ain’t Just a Song by Aretha!

We all want it, most of us have earned it. Yet, there are many who believe that educators do not deserve it. There are others who think parents do not deserve it. Worse, there are many who think students do not deserve it.

Let’s face it, the success or failure of our system depends primarily on our students’ performance on whatever assessments they are given. As an educator, I have always tried to have a sincere respect for my students and their parents. Were there some who made that difficult? Absolutely. However, often, there were mitigating circumstances that gave me a better insight to what the source of that difficulty. Eventually, I would win most of those over. How? Respect.

This needs to go both ways. Our educators deserve that same consideration. They shouldn’t have to worry about how to make ends meet. They shouldn’t have to worry about healthcare or retirement. They shouldn’t have to worry if their supervisor will harass them over some issue or another. If all shareholders respected each other equally, communication would improve, performance would improve and educator, student and parent moral would improve.

As Aretha sung “I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone. Ain’t gonna do you wrong ’cause I don’t wanna. All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…”

Demonstrating Growth

When I was in high school, there was a sign above the door to the Big Room (A large study hall area) that read something like “Acquired knowledge is worth much, knowledge learned is priceless.” In the 2020-2021 school year, there will be no NCFE’s, EOG’s, or EOC’s. A new accountability model will have to replace them.

We have the opportunity to replace those tests with a curriculum and assessment model that will demonstrate mastery  throughout the curriculum . Imagine a learning environment that your child thrives in both learning and curiosity.

Our Classified Staff: Is $15.00 Per Hour Enough?

Is it about pay, is it respect or is it both? There is no doubt that our classified staff needs to be paid more, but are they getting the respect they deserve? The NCAE calls classified personnel Education Support Personnel,classified employee sounds so sterile, so give them a classification title that is worthy of the important work they do. That work deserves to be recognized and respected. While they may be doing most of the hands on work outside of the classroom, they take pride in what they do and how they do it. Their employers and certified professional staff should not be treating them as anything less than the valuable partners they are.

Each member of our hourly staff makes a significant contribution to our children’s education. They are feeding them, maintaining their buildings, directly helping them in the classroom,or members of our critically short staffed transportation personnel. Part of the respect they deserve for that work is a living wage. Does a gross paycheck of $400 a week make ends meet for a family of 3 or 4? Maybe in West Virginia or Mississippi, but not in Wilmington, NC! Raise their pay to $15 per hour and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. If NHCS’ administration would do this, perhaps that critical shortage of bus drivers will improve.

Calling All Educators!

We have a diverse population in New Hanover County. We need classroom teachers who are representative of those populations. However, how do we do that when state and local funding for teachers has either been restricted or expanded beyond capabilities? The answer is to look at alternative methods to attract teachers who know the struggles of their students as they had lived through those struggles themselves. I want to reach out and work with pro-equity organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations that will help promote and provide incentives to increase diversity in the teacher corps of New Hanover County.

There are no laws that prevent us from reaching out beyond our current funding structures and we have to think outside the box to combat these very real problems that exist in our schools. We can do it and I am asking for you to support me so I can spearhead this venture that will benefit our students most in need of support!

Reaching for the Star: Every Student’s Opportunity for Success!

A friend and fellow Democrat recently shared an article comparing the student achievement at one of the downtown charter schools to Snipes, Freeman and Gregory Elementary Schools.

As an educator with certification in school and district administrative levels, I am well versed at looking at and desegregating the data presented to get a clear picture of what can be very confusing numbers.

I am currently looking at the statistics of those schools and schools with similar achievement statistics across the county and develop a strategy the board can employ to help those schools improve their statistics.

Every child in New Hanover County deserves an equal opportunity to be successful both in and out of the classroom. I am committed to ensuring that opportunity.

The Learning Team

I believe a great education starts with a great learning team. That team consists of the school, the parents and the child. When this triad works together, children are successful. However, when any part of it breaks down, children struggle and often will fall through the cracks. Let’s have a conversation on how we can strengthen this triad in New Hanover County. I’d love to hear your thoughts.