NEWS ALERT: Principal Dunn Passes Away at conference

DEVELOPING…

From a News & Record Staff Report: A Guilford County principal died Tuesday while attending a principal’s conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, school officials and friends said.Leslie Dunn, 47, had been promoted in January to prepare the new E.P. Pearce Elementary school to open this fall.

Before that, Dunn had served as principal at Bessemer Elementary for five years. The district named her Principal of the Year in 2004 for her work turning around Bessemer, which had been on a federal watch list for poor performance on state tests.

E.C. 🙂

Ronald McNair…or Reedy Fork…Reexamined?

On tomorrow’s GCS Board meeting agenda:

As reported at the May 24, 2007 board meeting, pursuant to our procedure on the naming of schools (FDCA-P), the project team working on the new Reedy Fork Area Elementary School put out a recommendation for naming the school Reedy Fork Elementary School.

After reviewing the materials and hearing from members of the public, the board voted to propose the name Ronald McNair Elementary School at Reedy Fork.

In keeping with the procedure, the board proposed name was posted on the district website for a period of public comment and feedback.  Sixty-eight additional public comments from the community on the name have been received. The comments can be summarized as follows: 

  • 62 in favor of Reedy Fork Elementary School
  • Four in favor of Ronald McNair Elementary School at Reedy Fork
  • Two comments related to the opinion that a school should be named according to the location and community

Upon final approval of a name, staff will move forward with appropriate efforts regarding signage, etc.

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This entire issue has created a massive firestorm among advocates who desire to honor an individual versus those who seek to preserve the name of a rapidly-growing area of Northeast Greensboro.

Both sides of the issue have made well-thought-out and well-considered points to their arguments. Both sides are to be respected. But where I’m from originally, many schools are named after individuals. I realize that schools named after areas or compass directions play a major part in this area and that’s fine. But there’s also no harm in honoring an individual who has made a significant contribution. I think the two can coexist peacefully.

It may be time for the current school naming policy to be reexamined in light of recent events.

E.C. 🙂

GCS Budget Battle: Social Workers Threatened

UPDATE BELOW… 

It’s not the top-heavy administration downtown that’s threatened to get any lighter, nor is Dr. Grier’s salary…it is the lonesome school social workers that will be examined (and possibly threatened) at tomorrow night’s GCS Board meeting (click here for the full agenda).

Check out today’s News & Record for this story…an excerpt:

The district’s more than 60 school social workers visit homes and connect families with agencies that provide everything from counseling to food to shelter.Superintendent Terry Grier told board members in an e-mail last week that eliminating 40 social workers would save about $2.6 million.By Tuesday, he was looking at a much smaller number, less than half that. But he wouldn’t say how many or what types of jobs could be cut.

The board will meet Thursday night, and balancing the budget will be a priority.

Oughta be an interesting meeting.

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UPDATE, 4:41PM, 6/27/07: The N&R’s Chalkboard reports that Chief Finance head Sharon Ozment (Oz) sort of danced around the mulberry bush when questioned by N&R education reporter Morgan Josey-Glover about tomorrow evening’s meeting regarding the budget-redo. By the way, Oz makes $145,000 and change (according to the recent Rhino Times Salary Survey story)…go figure! That’s pretty good for a bookkeeper!

E.C. 🙂

Davenport Has Spoken

Local commentator and periodic News & Record columnist Charles Davenport frequently tells it like it is.

This past weekend, in his most recent column, it was no exception. It is a fabulous read, and I’ve posted it here, I hope he won’t mind.

Keep it simple, stupid: Reading, writing and arithmetic

“It would be nice for us to once, just once, value education the way we need to for these children.” –Guilford County Schools Superintendent Terry Grier

Spokesmen for the education establishment would have us believe that public education—a failure by any objective standard—can be salvaged by ever-increasing infusions of cash. The “underfunded” mantra has been chanted for so long that many of our fellow taxpaying citizens believe it. They are mistaken.

Dr. Grier’s remarks suggest that those who dare to question his recently-submitted budget for Guilford County Schools do not value education. This is obviously false. But county taxpayers do expect GCS to be accountable. That is, if the schools are failing to teach the fundamentals—and many are—then perhaps our elected officials should scrutinize GCS budgets more closely. And cut them liberally.

Most of us outside the community of professional educators would agree that the objective of public education is to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Yet GCS squanders incalculable time and money on initiatives irrelevant to its mission. For instance, according to Dr. Grier’s budget proposal, the system’s “core values” are diversity, empathy, equality, innovativeness, and integrity. The first three have absolutely nothing to do with education, and innovativeness has probably done more harm than good. Professional educators, it seems, disagree with the rest of us about the purpose of public schooling.

Little Johnny will probably lack the skills necessary to read the new Harry Potter book next month, but at least we know GCS is “developing a culture where our employees identify with and understand the feelings of our students and parents and their colleagues.” That’s the important thing, isn’t it? At least Johnny’s parents, schooled in the core value of empathy, will understand why their son can’t read, can’t get into college, and can’t get a job after graduation.
Under the core value of equality, Dr. Grier’s proposal states that GCS is “a school system where everyone is appreciated and judged based solely on their contributions and performance.” (Standards and equality are incompatible, aren’t they? But never mind.) In the spirit of equality, then, let us consider the recent performance of GCS.

Last year, 61 percent of Guilford County elementary and middle schools fell short of their goals on state ABC’s of Public Education and federal Adequate Yearly Progress exams. On writing tests given in the 2006-07 school year, only 57 percent of Guilford County 10th-graders were rated “proficient.” Scores at troubled Smith High fell 17.2 points, and less than 25 percent of fourth-graders at Washington Elementary passed the test. The biggest disgrace, however, took place at Kirkman Park Elementary, where only 4.2 percent of students are proficient in writing. GCS is a demonstrable failure.

Still, Guilford County Schools, like clockwork, has requested a 10 percent increase over last year’s budget. Never mind the system’s performance. Said Dr. Grier two weeks ago, “We’ve cut and cut and cut. What do you cut?”

Well, I am not a professional educator, but it seems rational to cut the things that do not have anything to do with the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. For instance, because about half of our students are illiterate, one could eliminate the $106,000 Dr. Grier has requested for a Mandarin Chinese Program at four schools. If our kids are illiterate in English, why confuse them with alien tongues?

One could easily trim $234,000 from the budget request by denying the system’s request for four new “diversity specialists.” They have nothing to do with the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Likewise, jettison the proposed new social workers and “intervention specialists,” which would save the taxpayer $350,000.
Another wasteful expenditure is “GCS Connects,” in which teachers and staff mentor troubled kids as a means of reducing suspensions and drop-outs. Aborting this redundancy would trim $1,555,060 from the proposed budget. Good teachers double as counselors; many inspired and motivated me more than any “intervention specialist” or counselor ever could.

Finally, administration could probably be cut by about 20 percent. Administrators have nothing to do with the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Every position that is redundant, unnecessary or pernicious should be eliminated.

And what’s this $453,695 for “additional specialists and planning time”? The schools have too many “specialists” already, and teachers have about two months of “planning time” every year. If your job is outside the education establishment, march up to your boss tomorrow morning and demand two months off for “planning time.” Good luck.

Charles Davenport Jr. (www.cdavenportjr.com) (daisha99@msn.com) is a freelance columnist who appears in the News & Record on alternate Sundays.
From the (Greensboro, NC) News & Record of Sunday, June 24, 2007

E.C. 🙂

Smith Gets SMOD

Smith High School will join Andrews, Dudley, and High Point Central in implementing a “standard mode of dress” (SMOD) beginning in August. See today’s News & Record. See this excerpt:

Smith will require it for freshmen only as part of the phasing in of a reform that divides the students into small learning groups, said principal Noah Rogers. All students will wear uniforms by 2010.

“Most of the parents were already familiar with (standard mode of dress),” said Donny Brown, who served as PTA president last year. “It didn’t raise their eyebrows.”

Acceptable attire: black shoes, khaki pants and shorts, and polo shirts and dresses in green, gold and white.
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With a strong emphasis on discipline and code enforcement, hopefully it will work. We shall see.

 E.C. 🙂

Layoffs Threatened

 “They did us no big favors,” Supt. Grier said of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, who passed a lean-and-mean school budget at a raucous County Board meeting last Thursday.

Dr. Grier is threatening to slash vital positions as a result of that newly-trimmed budget. See this past Saturday’s News & Record for more.

Layoffs. Not good.

GCAE chief Mark Jewell is asking GCS to slash Mission Possible: “That has not been a popular program with educators,” he said in the N&R article.

Board member Deena Hayes does not support cutting classroom positions:
“I definitely don’t want to see any shifts in the classroom,” Hayes told the N&R.

BUT…look at what else Hayes is saying, in this article:

Hayes sees the budget crunch as an opportunity for the board to get a fiscal check-up. That means evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs before expanding them and looking further into the future to see if the district can afford certain administrative positions.

“I’m not sure they’re having the impact to justify having all of the programs,” Hayes said, mentioning literacy programs as an example. “We just keep doing the same thing over and over again.”

Thank you, Ms. Hayes, for visiting my website, because this is a campaign position of mine…to evaluate the existence of programs, and cut what’s not working. Imagine the savings…wow!

Have you noticed that we go through this same song-and-dance year in, year out? The GCS Board takes about 2-3 months to conjure up and pass a budget they KNOW will not pass the County Board, then the County Board puts on their own Dog-and-Pony show, slashes the GCS budget, the GCS board and Grier & Co. cry foul, bad-mouths the County Board publicly, threaten layoffs, etc….

My friends, there’s got to be a better way to do this annual budget salsa…and I’m all ears, because this makes little sense to keep doing this same song-and-dance every year. GCS needs to be more fiscally prudent, and the County Board needs to do a better job of being more conscious when it comes to our children–yes, they need to take a certain amount of responsibility (and blame) for this yearly silliness.

The only thing this accomplishes (or should accomplish) is to rally citizens, make them angry and make them want to vote them ALL out of office: school board, county board, ALL OF THEM.

Once again, the children of this county get the short end of the stick. They don’t deserve it, not one bit.

E.C. 🙂

Grier Bad-mouths CoCo’s Over Budget

UPDATE BELOW… 

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From today’s GCS Friday Spin:

Commissioners Slash District Budget

Last evening, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved a county-wide budget that significantly reduced funding to GCS for the 2007-08 school year.  In statements made during the meeting, Commissioners did not include education as one of the basic services of the county.  They under-funded our operations budget by $3.5 million; did not provide requested additional funding to address school safety issues; did not restore the $3 million they cut from our capital outlay budget last year; and, took $4 million of the district’s $8 million in state lottery funds to repay previously acquired debt service and are holding the balance as a possible Eastern High funding source should the future bonds fail.  They also postponed placing the district’s construction bond referendum on a county-wide ballot until May 2008. 

This action will result in the Board of Education having to make painful cuts to its budget and could result in the district cutting positions.  Our system’s budget is approximately 85 percent personnel and benefits.  That leaves little room to recover $3.5 million in non-personnel areas.   Please call me at 370-8992, should you have questions.

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Hmm…I wonder if the County Board is being more meticulous at the dollars funneling in and out of Central Office and is scrutinizing that more this year.

I’m not happy with any position (especially a front-line position) being cut. But perhaps it’s a wake-up call to take the budget back to the drawing board and make changes necessary that ultimately will put the children and front-line teachers first in Guilford County.

Just my $.02 worth…

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UPDATE, 6/22/07, 2:52PM: apparently, there were a lot of fireworks at the County Board meeting; FOX-8 has complete coverage (with video) here.

E.C. 🙂