DPI Bits for July 20

From DPI:

TO:        NC Public School Teachers
FROM:  State Superintendent June Atkinson
DATE:   July 19, 2007

     I hope that your summer so far has offered you the opportunity to
“sharpen the saw” and take some time to relax and reconnect with
family and friends. Later this summer at the start of school, we will
continue to face a number of challenges:  how to prepare students for
the 21st century demands, the ongoing need for better technology tools,
and the strong need for teachers to connect with each other in
professional learning communities. I encourage you to seek out reading
materials in this area.
              Regards,
              June Atkinson

In this Biweekly Teachers’ Message:
1.  State Board Meeting Highlights
2.  Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability Meeting
Summary
3.  NCVPS Update
4.  Southeast Middle School Teaching Team Wins National Award
5.  NASA Explorer Schools

1.  State Board Meeting Highlights – The State Board of Education met
Tuesday via conference call and approved recommendations from the State
Evaluation Committee on Teacher Education and job descriptions for
occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists. The Board will
meet again on Aug.4-5.

2.  Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability Meeting
Summary – The Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability met
Monday to continue gathering perspectives on the state*s assessment
program and to create a list of issues to be addressed at future
meetings. Members heard from parents from Durham and Wilson Counties who
raised concerns about the amount of time schools devote to the testing
program as well as the anxiety brought about by these assessments, the
need for rigor in schools and concerns about whether today’s students
will be prepared for 21st century economic demands. Cathy Boshamer, the
exceptional children director for Gaston County Schools and a Commission
member herself, spoke on behalf of Exceptional Children (EC) program
administrators about these students’ special testing needs and the
current state of EC testing in North Carolina. Members also heard from
NC Advisory Commission on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps member
Joseph Johnson who discussed some of the Commission’s ongoing work.
Director of the NC Center for 21st Century Skills and State Board of
Education member Melissa Bartlett briefed members on the capabilities
employers look for in students in an increasingly global marketplace.
Following public comments, members began creating a list of issues to be
addressed including test length, frequency, and type (content- or
skills-based). The commission will meet again on Monday, July 23.

3.  NCVPS Update – The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) has
over 10,000 enrollments to date and staff want to thank all the
superintendents and principals for their continued support. Fall
registration is still open, so we encourage you to continue to promote
the NCVPS as a quality academic resource for your students. Each school
will need to have a registered NCVPS advisor to assure that students are
approved for courses and are enrolled. Principals should contact NCVPS
Advisor Coordinator Barbara Poole at barbara.poole@ncvps.org for more
information about advisors and registration. Also, if you need marketing
materials to help promote the NCVPS in your schools, please contact
NCVPS Chief Marketing Officer David Edwards, at david.edwards@ncvps.org
for brochures, schedules, and posters or visit
http://www.ncvps.org/edcommunity.html.

4.  Southeast Middle School Teaching Team Wins National Award –
Congratulations to Don Fought and Jane Trace, teachers at Southeast
Middle School (Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools), for being one of four
teaching teams nationally selected for the “2007 Teams That Make A
Difference.” Sponsored by Pearson Prentice Hall and the National
Middle School Association, “Teams That Make A Difference” is an
awards program that identifies people who work to improve the education
and well-being of young adolescents. For 2007, “Teams That Make A
Difference” focused on outstanding teams that created a program,
activity, or strategy that focuses on student achievement or connects
students with their communities. Fought’s and Trace’s team
submission featured its cultural sister-school exchange program with
schools in Germany and Romania. They will present their program at the
national conference in Houston in November.

5.  NASA Explorer Schools – Applications are now available for
educators interested in joining NASA Explorer Schools (NES) during the
2008-09 school year. Teams composed of full-time teachers and a school
administrator will develop and implement a three-year action plan to
address local challenges in science, technology and mathematics
education for grades 4-9. Selected schools are eligible to receive
funding during the three-year partnership to purchase technology tools.
The project also provides educators and students with content-specific
activities that can be used within the curricula to excite students
about science, technology, engineering and math. Applications are due
Jan. 31, 2008. For more information, visit
http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/portal/site/nes/menuitem.3a9dc5f6e0302a448258f708c41a5ea0/.

If you’d like to review past Teachers’ Biweekly Messages sent to the
listserv group, just go online to
http://www.ncpublicschools.org/teachersarchive/

School lunch prices may increase: HPE

The High Point Enterprise reports school lunch prices may soon increase thanks to the state’s new child nutrition standards. This certainly will be interesting to watch.

See this excerpt:

The state’s new child nutrition standards have come at a price, and school officials say the cost to implement the healthier op­tions could be passed on to stu­dents. That could mean higher meal prices for students to help pay for lunch and breakfast that is healthier yet costlier to buy and prepare, Sharon Ozment, Guilford County Schools’ chief financial officer, told school rep­resentatives during a meeting this week.
Breakfast prices now range from 90 cents to $1, and lunches start at $1.60 and go up to $2 for students. Cafeterias are offer­ing more choices of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain breads are used for everything from hamburgers to hot dogs to sandwiches. Also, more workers – and money – are needed to pre­pare made-from-scratch items such as chicken pot pie and meat­loaf versus processed foods.

E.C. 🙂

School Discipline Task Force: The First Meeting, and Amos Quick

The News & Record’s Morgan Josey-Glover blogged the first GCS School Discipline Task Force meeting early this morning at GCS Central Office, a full report can be found here over at the N&R Chalkboard blog.  

Early barbs were thrown, this from Josey-Glover:

Grier said at many colleges, new teachers are not being trained how to deal with student misbehavior or how to de-escalate confrontations. Grier added that he also hears from students that they want classrooms to be safe, non-disruptive and respectful for teachers and students.

So is this another case of Grier blaming the teachers again? GRRRR!!!!

Josey-Glover blogs:

To review, the committee’s task is to provide to the Board of Education with concrete steps to:
1. Reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions of students;
2. Improve the relationship between law enforcement utilized in schools and minority communities disproportionately represented in arrest records;
3. Facilitate greater communication and understanding between the community, schools, parents, SRO officers and students;
4. Improve the classroom education component of the SRO program and increase the safety of campuses with an emphasis on the growing gang concern.

They will meet again next Thursday, same bat time, same bat channel.

***************************************

In a related story, the N&R’s Jeri Rowe had a heart-to-heart with Board member Amos Quick, the metroliner locomotive behind the Task Force. Quick feels disheartened that he finds himself going to way too many funerals for young men in Greensboro and is determined to make a change. Good for you, Amos.

An excerpt:

 “The stakes are very high right now. I’ve been to two funerals since last Thursday, and I can’t go to any more. God forbid, if I have to go to another funeral. It’s too much.”

In the past three months, our city — a perceived model of nonviolent integration decades ago — has seen four young men killed by someone with a gun: Eric Willis, 17; Kevin Womack, 19; Preston Angelo, 15; and the latest, Ernie Dixon, 16. There have been no arrests.

Remember their names. Because, here in Guilford County, in the midst of another hot summer, we should be sweating over what Quick calls a “crisis.” He should know.

Quick is 38, a 1986 graduate of Dudley High, a father of two teenage daughters. He sits on the Guilford County school board and works as the executive director for the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greensboro.

Today, he’ll begin steering a 23-member task force that intends to take on the behavior problems — suspensions, gang activity, you name it — that are killing education and opportunity at our county schools.

Meanwhile, he’s helping put together a yearlong summit that aims to help young African American men get the help they need, such as finding mentors and achieving academically. It all starts this fall.

He’s hoping to bring in columnist Leonard Pitts or basketball legend Magic Johnson to speak in September. But Wednesday, Quick wanted to speak for himself.

************************************

Good for you, Amos. If there’s anything I can do to help, call or e-mail me.

E.C. 🙂

No Parent Left Behind

Click here for an interesting upcoming conference in Winston-Salem, a “No Parent Left Behind” conference.

It’s on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Benton Convention Center. Learn about school readiness, testing, gateways, SAT prep, etc.

E.C. 🙂

TAs on the chopping block

Now we learn that teaching assistants are threatened in the new budget, according to this morning’s High Point Enterprise. Things are also in limbo because the state’s budget, which is days away from final passage, also presents possible cuts in TA positions.

Seems like this is deja vu…aren’t our TAs always threatened every year when we have to go through this same exercise?

Our schools NEED these TAs, and as Board member Darlene Garrett said last night, we do not need to be cutting classroom positions:

Board member Darlene Garrett wants the school system to direct cuts in other areas, including posi­tions at the administrative and central office level. She said the reading teachers are needed. “We shouldn’t be looking at anything that directly affects the class­room,” Garrett said. “We shouldn’t be looking at (cutting) teachers.”

Good for you, Darlene, in continuing to have the strength and desire to stand up for our front-line, rank-and-file employees.

The article also says:

In the meantime, school officials are looking at dif­ferent scenarios they could use to allocate positions. Superintendent Terry Gri­er said during the meeting Tuesday that budget reduc­tions from the state and lo­cal level make it difficult to maintain positions that are necessary to the class­room. The board has not voted specifically where it will make cuts, but they are inevitable and will like­ly come in the form of staff vacancies that go unfilled.
School officials also are looking at forfeiting 20 new middle school reading teacher positions the su­perintendent included in the 2007-08 budget. Hiring staff have put the positions on hold until school repre­sentatives make a decision on where to make cuts.

Not good.

E.C. 🙂

GCS School Discipline Task Force Members Named

The News & Record’s “Chalkboard” is reporting that the long-awaited GCS Task Force on school discipline has been named, and will meet for the first time this Thursday morning. Members include:

Board of Education Co-Chairs: Amos Quick and Alan Duncan
Central Office Liaisons: Eric Becoats, John Morris, Monica Walker

Task Force Members:
Chief Jim Fealy (High Point Police Chief)
Mark Jewell (President GCAE)
Terrina Picarello (PTO Council)
Uma Avva (Past GCS PTA Council Pres. & Parent)
Clay Coldron (Parent)
Martin Green (Ragsdale Parent)
Rev. Cardes Brown (Greensboro Minister)
Rev. Williams Fails (High Point Minister & Parent)
Joe Pass (Northwest SRO)
Clarence Roulhac (Smith SRO)
Yamile Walker (Hispanic representative)
Simon Be (Smith High student)
Linda Mozell (Dudley Parent)
Alan Parker (Southwest High Principal)
Sharon McCants (Kiser Middle Principal)
Rodney Wilds (Jackson Middle Principal)
Zabala Vigoya (Grimsley Student)
Donald Cooley (Andrews Student)
Kim Oakley (Eastern Middle Teacher)
Julie Kimsey (Ferndale Teacher)
Dawn Duppstadt (Northeast High Teacher)
Leslie Mise (Southeast High Teacher)
Shawn Watlington (Greensboro College Middle College Teacher)

I think this is a good cross-section of folks and a lot of good can be done. At least, is my hope that a lot of good can be done. Time will tell.

Past coverage on this task force can be found here.

E.C. 🙂

Supremes Rule

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against using race as a factor when issuing school student assignments was pretty significant in a number of aspects, despite the downplaying of the decision by the paid-by-the-hour GCS Board attorney Jill Wilson.

Wilson told the News & Record last week that GCS is part of the U.S. 4th Circuit, which already ruled sometime ago that race cannot be used as a factor is school assignments.

In my opinion, the “Sups” got it right. It’s long past time that in this new super-testing-No Child Left Behind era, every school needs to have the necessary tools to educate ALL of our children.

I read an interesting column over the weekend by noted conservative columnist Armstrong Williams. He makes the following points:

In this day and age, I think it’s ridiculous that we need to factor race to diversify our schools. It’s been over fifty years since the historic jury in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruled in favor of integration and helped spearhead the civil rights movement. If we still need to bus certain kids to certain schools based on the color of their skin, then Martin Luther King’s dream surely did not come true.

The fact is that we don’t need to take these steps anymore. Racism is not completely extinct – and perhaps it never will be – but it’s generally been wiped out for all intents and purposes. Look at the highest offices in our land and you’ll see many minorities holding important jobs. Check out the entertainment business and the sporting world and you’ll come across countless minorities earning great livings. Pick up a local paper or magazine and you’ll see interracial couples, integrated events, and diverse workplaces, schools, churches, and restaurants. The younger generation barely even notices race anymore. Walk into most schools across America and you’ll witness young kids of all races playing in the yard as if their grandfathers were too best friends. Just like the gay marriage issue, as the younger generations grow up, these old conflicts will die away. We don’t need to kill them by using forced integration methods and overarching laws in our education system.

The Supreme Court’s decision was the right one. Where people live, eat, worship, and send their kids to school, is their own decision. The government should stay out of our personal lives as much as possible. And in this case, not only was the government interfering with our lives, they were relighting a fire that was put out long ago.

Amen.

E.C. 🙂