Port City Daily – 2022 Candidate Questionnaire (BC Board of Education) Submitted by William Flythe
1.What are the greatest issues schools are facing? How would you work to fix them?
The greatest issues are: 1) Teacher shortage and pay, 2) Censorship of books and course content, and 3) COVID-19 responses. Solutions are given later in answers to the following questions.
2. How would you describe the current and past leadership’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic in schools? What is your stance on how the board should weigh public health into its decisions?
Although some Board members reacted publicly in a negative manner to Governor Roy Cooper’s guidelines (Toolkit), I supported the mandate. The health and welfare of students and school staff should be of utmost importance. Board policy should be based upon the public health recommendations. The Board violated its own policy on at least one occasion by changing its agenda and voting on a health-related issue that was presented in the “public comment” section of the same meeting.
3. What is your opinion on the district’s current salaries and staff morale? What changes would you advocate for, if any, and how so?
Teacher salaries and benefits are low, relative to those in an adjoining state (South Carolina) and county (New Hanover). Poor fiscal decisions by the state and county over the past 10-12 years have led to a teacher shortage and low morale. I would encourage our local legislators to increase teacher compensation (salaries and benefits) and bring back the Teaching Fellow Program. It would be suggested that Brunswick County schools consider a “teacher appreciation” program like “COP” (Collegiality Outreach Program) that the writer established while teaching at a local high school several years ago.
4. Are community members, parents and staff members adequately heard? How can the district improve?
Parents and members of the community have been heard but I am not sure about staff members. Based upon my experience as a PTA president, advisory council member, community volunteer (35 years with a STEM-related group), and science teacher, I suggest that these groups and other partnerships be used to give teachers and parents a “voice”. If you agree with me that members of the community should not have dictated what laboratory experiments were used in my chemistry classes, then the same courtesy should be extended to English teachers when they are creating a book list for students. Since many of these courses are not required for graduation, the general student population should not be penalized or handicapped because of objections by a minority of students or parents.
5. What needs to be done to make schools safer?
Implementing the MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) mandate that was proposed several years ago would address such issues as bullying, mental health, and homelessness. More nurses and social workers will have to be hired.
6. How comfortable are you with the way the district uses local funds?
I am generally comfortable with the way that the district uses local funds. However, I am not happy with the “formula” or policy in which funds are taking from public schools and given to private or charter schools that do not have to meet the same standards.
7. What do you think of Brunswick County Schools' current facilities? Do we need to build new schools to manage population growth?
The school system has excellent facilities because of the $150 million bond that I supported several years ago. Long-range planning skills developed during my five years on the Brunswick County Planning Board will be useful when explosive population growth will lead to the building of new schools.
8. Is there an additional issue or issues you think need(s) to be addressed during your term, should you win?
Attention will be given to closing the achievement gap between student groups. One strategy of BCS has been its support of a STEM organization that encourages minority students in grades 6-12 to consider careers in these areas.
William “Bill” Flythe, District 3 Candidate for the Brunswick County Board of Education April 14, 2022
Governor Cooper’s Budget Highlights (Schools) – May, 2022
Building on Success – School Summary
Providing a Sound Basic Education for All Students
North Carolina’s economy is only as strong as its public schools. The Governor’s budget provides resources and supports to help students catch up on learning and invests in educator pay to recruit and retain the best teachers.
The budget supports community-based solutions to help keep schools safe, initiatives to help students in crisis and school safety and mental health training programs. And it recommends ways to ensure every child has a highly qualified teacher in the classroom.
The proposed budget expands access to early childhood education by investing in the NC Pre-K program and high-quality childcare. The budget also provides grant funds for community colleges to host early childhood education centers.
Ensuring a Sound Basic Education
Recommendation - Provides $525.8 million to increase access to a sound, basic education for North Carolina’s children by fully-funding Year Three of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan, as well as studies called for in Year Two but not funded in SL 2021-180. Of these funds, $33.1 million develops a skilled educator pipeline and builds educator and principal capacity; $370.1 million provides fair and equitable distribution of financial resources; $19.9 million supports low-performing schools and districts; $89.7 expands access to high quality early childhood education for children from birth to age five; and $13 million creates a guided pathway from high school to postsecondary education and career opportunities. [Omitted Table 1 data]
The Governor’s Recommended Budget includes an additional $127 million for teacher and school administrator compensation increases beyond the $83 million plan increase shown above and an additional $75 million in local supplement enhancement to further increase teacher compensation.
Statement of Need • The constitutional mandate to provide a sound basic education requires stable, recurring funding. The Governor’s FY 2022-23 Recommended Budget uses General Fund and lottery receipts to fully-fund Year Three of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan and the nonrecurring Year Two items not funded in SL 2021-180. • The number of teachers employed in North Carolina declined by 5% from 2009 to 2018, even as student enrollments increased. The number of teacher credentials issued between 2011 and 2016 declined by 30% and annual teacher attrition is higher in North Carolina than the national average. As the workforce shrinks, teacher shortages are widespread, especially for teachers of exceptional children, elementary school students, math, and Career and Technical Education (CTE).1 • North Carolina–trained teachers are the most effective teachers and have the highest retention rates in public schools. The state needs to increase the number of in-state trained and credentialed teachers to 5,000 teachers annually to return the state to its former levels of teacher preparation.2 • Stagnant reimbursement rates, rising startup and operating costs, and recruitment and retention of qualified teachers are key obstacles to NC Pre-K expansion.3
Recommendation Detail • Increases the pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers by investing $4.7 million to expand Teaching Fellows eligibility to include any State Board of Education-approved educator preparation programs, broaden eligible certification areas, extend the reduced payback period to Fellows who teach in high-poverty schools, improve opportunities for talented minority candidates, and expand program support and enhancement. 1 WestEd. “Sound Basic Education for All: An Action Plan for North Carolina.” 2 Ibid. 3 National Institute for Early Education Research.” Barriers to Expansion of NC Pre-K: Problems and Potential Solutions.” 28 • Invests $3.9 million to offset the co-pays for students eligible for reduced price lunches in schools participating in National School Lunch Program. • Invests $6 million for schools to adopt a Community Schools model to address out-of-school barriers to learning. • Removes funding caps and increases funding by $146.9 million for the Children with Disabilities, Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund (DSSF), and Limited English Proficiency allotments to increase the number of at-risk students receiving supplementary funding and address the higher costs of serving specific populations. • Invests $89.7 million in early childhood education, including support to strengthen the pipeline of early childhood educators.
Expected Impact - Investments in these priorities are expected to have the following impacts: • Ensure all teachers receive at least a 7.5% raise over the biennium. • Support up to 535 additional Teaching Fellows with forgivable loans. • Provide up to 97,500 students with no co-pay, free school meals. • Increase NC Pre-K reimbursement rates by 19%, and administrative reimbursement rates from 6% to 10%. • Expand Smart Start services statewide and strengthen the Early Intervention program with increased staffing and professional development. • Expand the Child Care WAGE$ program statewide to improve pay for early childhood educators.
GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS – PoliticsNC (1/5/22) by Thomas Mills
Back when Democrats controlled the legislature, they threatened that if Republicans ever gained a majority, the GOP would harm public schools. Republicans angrily claimed that Democrats were using scare tactics and that Republicans were committed to “fixing” public schools. They routinely claimed that public schools were “broken” and that GOP policies focused on competition would set them straight. Now, after ten years of controlling the legislature, Republicans claim that public education is irreparably broken. If that’s true, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Despite denials, they have slashed per pupil funding while shifting funds to private and unregulated charter schools. As a result of GOP polices, teachers are fleeing the classroom because of poor pay and deteriorating working conditions. They have intentionally broken public schools so they can now claim that they should be scrapped. Republicans have started to refer to “government schools” as a derogatory term for traditional public schools. They’re trying to attach a stigma to public education while pushing for more funding for voucher schemes that drain both resources and talent from public schools. Their goal is to increase demand for private academies and charter schools that have little oversight despite being largely funded with taxpayer dollars. They will continue to shift money from schools that teach our most vulnerable students and put it into schools that teach kids from more privileged families. As I’ve written before, the GOP is pursuing a modern day Pearsall Plan. In 2018, I wrote, “The plan would allow students to be exempt from attending court-ordered integrated public schools and would allow for tuition vouchers for students in areas with integrated schools to attend private ones.” Today, the GOP claims money should “follow the student” instead of funding the system. They call it school choice, but it’s really an attempt to dismantle the public school system by shifting resources from schools that provide services and opportunities to our most economically disadvantaged children to ones that serve our more prosperous families. Fortunately, the North Carolina Constitution demands that “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” In other words, the Constitution requires that money supports school systems and does not “follow the student.” If the GOP wants to change the Constitution, let them try. I suspect a vote on a constitutional amendment would lay bare their true objectives of public schools. The GOP’s attack on our public schools is part of a pattern of reversing the progress made on civil rights over the past 60 years or so. Just like they have largely scrapped the Voting Rights Act, they are attacking society’s commitment to public education. It’s, in part, radical individualism. They don’t believe in the concept of public good. And they don’t believe that any government programs can improve the lives of our citizens. I believe they are dangerously wrong. Thomas Mills - Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com.
Pre-K Investment Aims to Set Children on Path of “Life-Long Resiliency” (StarNews 7/1/22)
Six new pre-K classrooms will open this fall to serve vulnerable children in New Hanover Co. The classrooms are part of a county-wide initiative to curb community violence through proactive efforts. The classrooms will serve 90 children throughout the county, prioritizing three- and four-year-old children living below 75% of the county’s median income level. …According to Public Schools First NC, children in pre-K programs make significant gains in language and literacy and set them up for success later in their education….A county administrator said that there is also a strong correlation between academic achievement and a student’s chances of committing a crime or going to prison. ….”If a child hasn’t learned to read by third grade, there is a higher chance they will fall further behind in school”. …Students will be admitted into the programs based on several criteria, including household income and homelessness. Families of military personnel, educational needs, developmental disabilities, chronic health conditions, and limited English proficiency. …Finally, officials are developing a program to encourage K-3 teachers in hard-to-staff schools to get their national board certification and receive the Science of Reading training.
Revised Gifted Program to Promote Equity and Inclusion (Star-News 6/29/22)
The highest caliber education programs at New Hanover Co. Schools have a race problem, with students from wealthier families far more likely to be identified as gifted than their peers from other racial and economic backgrounds. … A revised state program seeks to create a more inclusive space and decrease disproportionality in enrollment. According to statewide data from the 2019-20 school year, only 5% of Black students and just under 6% of Hispanic students were considered academically gifted that year, compared to more than 18% of white students and 25% of Asian students. An administrator outlined some changes New Hanover County Schools will implement to improve disproportionality in the academically and intellectually gifted program. The changes include additional training for staff on how to identify gifted students in underrepresented populations, training on looking at data to identify trends and gaps, and training on the development of underrepresented students. Others include improving guidance and consultation for high school students regarding honors courses, career goals, colleges, and internship and scholarship opportunities.
How We Are Miseducating Our Children (Tar Heel Voices/StarNews 11/19/19)
“Insanity,” said Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” What we are doing in public education isn’t working for many of North Carolina’s children. Since 2011, student scores among the 1.5 million k-12 public school students have declined. The founder of Success Academy Charter Schools says education is the largest domestic crisis in our nation and these scores demonstrate we are miseducating too many students. The chances for future success, either economic or academic, pivot on whether a child can read at grade level by third grade, yet North Carolina’s Read to Achieve initiative isn’t working. …Teacher training must change, however, for today’s environment. The curriculum needs improving, returning to the core of science, math, and reading. One of the foundation blocks at the charter school is that education is not democratic. We are not demanding enough rigor and discipline, from parents, students, teachers, and administrators. For a child to be a student in this school, the parent must attend teacher conferences, ensure their child does homework and gets proper rest. Children can’t spend up to six hours a day and excel in the classroom. Students need to learn there are consequences for not doing homework, for disruptive and disrespectful behavior and for not applying themselves. But lawmakers, regulators and administrators also need more discipline by not constantly changing education priorities, policies, and frequent distractions.
NC Politicians Hurt Students with A Teacher shortage (Your Turn/StarNews 9/12/21)
Many NC students are going back to school to find classrooms without qualified teachers. Because of a widespread shortage, schools are filling classrooms with substitutes, teacher assistants, and unlicensed instructors. ….Only 30% of NC students have a fully licensed math teacher. …For the 2021-22 school year, ..NC has a shortage of qualified teachers in all grades of math and special education and all core subjects in all elementary school grades. ..Students are less likely to learn to read with a substitute teacher who’s not familiar with the best ways to teach reading. ..We are letting our children down during their formative years. Our children deserve better. How did we get here? …For the last decade, NC state lawmakers have passed state budgets that underfund public education and undermine teachers. The average salary for a NC teacher is $10,000 below the national average. Experienced teachers are leaving the state and profession. College students are choosing other careers. Better pay would go a long way to solve this teacher shortage. New Hanover County recently doubled its local salary supplement for its teachers who are now some of the best paid in the state. …In its Leandro rulings, the NC Supreme Court said every child has constitutional right to a “sound, basic education,” and the state is not living up to its responsibility. Court-ordered improvement plans include placing a well-qualified teacher in every classroom. So far, the state legislature has ignored these rulings. …The immediate first step to ending this teacher shortage is adopting a state budget with better funding for public education.
Cooper Wants More School Funding (StarNews 11/30/21)
Governor Roy Cooper said that there is no excuse for the state legislature to fail to carry out the multi-year plan Judge David Lee approved, particularly for the next two years. The state coffers are overflowing with several billion dollars of surplus or unspent revenues. The separate Senate and House budget fell well short of the $1.7 billion in new education spending Cooper proposed through mid-2023 to meet a leg of the $5.6 billion remedial plan Judge Lee signed. …In the Leandro litigation, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the state’s children have a fundamental right to the “opportunity to receive a sound basic education”, but that the state had not lived up to that mandate. …The plan developed by Cooper and the State Board of Education aims to spend more than $5.5 billion in new education funding through 2028. The proposal includes funding improvements to help low-income students and those with disabilities. There’s increased pay for teachers, principals, and assistant principals, as well as efforts to improve teacher diversity and competency and child access to prekindergarten.
Some Worthy Suggestions So We Avoid Another Failed School Year (Tar Heel Voice/StarNews 9/21/21)
There’s no sugarcoating it: More than 50% of NC school children failed to achieve grade-level expectations last year. Test scores revealed only 45% of children passed state exams, compared to 59% in 2019, the year before the pandemic. The passing rate for Asians was 74%, 59% for whites, 34% for Hispanics, and 26% for Blacks. A national study found that the average school-age student lost 55 instruction days, almost one-third of a schoolyear! …Can we all agree this isn’t acceptable? This school year must be different. Here are some suggestions to make it successful: 1) Conduct a complete census of school-aged children to make sure they are identified and in school. …3) Assess each student’s level of performance throughout the year. 4) More counseling is imperative. 5) Every student must have a grade-appropriate electronic tablet, notebook, or laptop, along with instructions for using it. 6) Schools must have frequent contact with parents …to update them on student progress and problems. …8) NC must resolve to spend and use whatever means are necessary to achieve success.
Community’s Help Need to Stop Bullying, NHRMC Doctor Says (StarNews 10/17/19)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention says one in five high school students reported being bullied on school property in the past year. …The CDC says bullying is among the most reported discipline problems in public schools, with about 12 % of schools saying bullying happens at least once a week. …A NHRMC doctor said insecurities and people not standing up to say something drive bullying. Both the school and community need to be involved. Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It also increases the risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. …Parents and other caregivers should talk to children, believe them if they say they are being bullied and make sure they know they don’t deserve what’s going on.
The $50,000 Teacher Is Not the Entire Story - Greensboro News & Record Editorial (9/16/16). Governor McCrory and state legislators are campaigning on raising average teacher pay to $50,000. However, their overall treatment of teachers—killing extra pay for advanced degrees, eliminating the Teaching Fellows program, ending the promise of tenure for new teachers—has generated plenty of opposition in the profession. The NC Association of Educators had to go to court to protect career status (tenure) for teachers who already earned it. They won a unanimous ruling in the NC Supreme Court earlier this year. State spending for public education (per pupil) has been flat, while millions have been diverted to private schools through vouchers. Teachers have lost classroom assistants and still have inadequate funds for classroom supplies. Teacher pay includes supplements provided by most local school systems. The median salary—one half earns more and one half earns less—is lower. Two third of NC teachers may earn less than the average salary.
Teacher Appreciation – Editor, State Port Pilot (5/3/17). Recent survey results revealed that Brunswick County teachers do not believe they are supported by their superiors, are struggling with low morale and seem to be buried under endless paperwork. During Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s stop and consider what they go through during a school year—the required extra duties for which they are not always compensated, the discipline problems that disrupt and stall their daily plans, the mandatory meetings that take away from precious planning time.
Why I Am Going to Raleigh – Star-News Opinion (5/16/18). We are protesting on behalf of our students. We are demanding more per pupil spending—ranked 39th nationally. We are demanding more social workers, nurses, and guidance counselors in schools. In my school (Wrightsboro Elementary), we have students who are homeless and hungry whose mothers took drugs when they were pregnant. What I didn’t expect is that close to one-third of my salary would go to pay for health insurance for my family. Or that I would buy food for my students every day. See NCAE List of “Expectations”
Legislature Passes K-3 Class Size Fix – Star-News (2/14/18). After more than a year of superintendents and school boards asking for a fix, Republican leaders in the NC Senate announced a bill to phase in class—size cuts in K-3 grades over four years (K=18, 1st=17, and 2nd – 3rd=16 students from a maximum of 20). Brunswick County schools have already converted some computer laboratories to classrooms. HB90 also puts ~$61 million toward “enhancement” teachers in elementary schools—arts, PE, world languages, and other non-core subjects. Another sweetener was an $82 million allotment.
Some States Struggle to Make Preschool Available to Everyone – Seattle (12/27/17). Advocates say more universal programs are needed to address what they call an alarming increase in child care costs. Studies have shown that children who attend a high-quality preschool are more adjusted for the rest of their academic lives and have better outcomes (adults) from healthier lifestyles to higher incomes. One of the central goals is social development which will help children get adjusted to learning in a structured setting—important for low income children.
Board Adds Textbooks to County Funding for Brunswick Guarantee (BG) – Brunswick Beacon (8/17/17). Under B.G., students who were enrolled in a Brunswick County public school, private school, or home-schooled in Brunswick County throughout their high school education and earned at least a 2.3 unweighted GPA in high school can attend BCC tuition-free. The Board of Commissioners agreed to add up to $750 per year for textbooks.
Let’s Connect Students with Skilled Jobs – Star-News Editors (1/21/18). A member of the Leland’s Economic Development Committee said that Brunswick County could attract more manufacturers if it could supply the skilled workers they require. Both Brunswick Community College and Cape Fear Community College offer training programs for those types of workers. BUT THEY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUDENTS! Both schools hold recruiting events to try to attract high school students (tours of plants, school visits, etc.). Local employers are even offering financial aid for manufacturing students.
School Board, Teacher of Year Talk School Safety –Brunswick Beacon (3/15/18). Brunswick County Teacher of the Year said the main concern of some colleagues was students coming to them with issues that “go beyond that of the typical disruptive student.” She noted “We have a behavioral specialist at our school one or two times a week because her schedule is jam-packed assisting to other schools. We have a high need for someone to be there daily, to offer that help, that guidance that we need for these students. The Teacher-of-the-Year shared a prospective from a high school teacher, who echoed her sentiment that no good can come from having firearms in classrooms. A school board member talked about the Associate Superintendent’s emphasis on “Report, Don’t Repost”.
Bullying – State Port Pilot (3/14/18). The school district spokesman said employees are required to report a bullying incident immediately to a principal or administrator or face possible disciplinary action. Students and parents are strongly encouraged to report any incident immediately. Every school has at least one dedicated counselor to whom students can speak confidentially about issues including bullying. The dedicated school resource officer also has an open door policy. A spokesperson for Brunswick County schools was excited to rollout a new tool to combat bullying in March. Every school’s website will have a feature to report bullying online. Submitted information will include a description of what they witnessed, the parties involved, date, and contact information. A parent is using social media to share ideas and create a forum for parents and guardians to talk about such issues. She created a Facebook group “Enough is Enough!” Help put a stop to bullying in our children’s school. Compiled by William Flythe 9/27/18