A Plan for School Funding:
Let’s keep it in the classroom and get back to the basic purpose of public education
We need to have an open and honest conversation about the purpose of our public education system. Public education exists to provide successful academic outcomes for all of our children. Throughout the 2020 school year, I closely observed and became involved in the NHCS system not only as a mother of three children but also as a former educator. We all need to refocus our efforts and conversations on making this the primary purpose of our school system. Changes in NHCS policy have simply created the illusion that we are focused on the success of our students, but what is lacking is revisiting the effects of these changes to ensure they have had the desired outcome. Lowering academic and behavior standards is not helping children or staff. As teachers, we know the best way to achieve student success is early intervention and support for each child.
Is it Parents vs. Teachers?
In 2020, a division between parents advocating for in-person learning for the children with others advocating for public school closures (for purposes other than placing children first) created a divide in the community that resulted in many families leaving our public schools to seek alternative education solutions. The reality is decisions made by our school board that kept children out of the classroom left many families and teachers frustrated, and those frustrations STILL exist to this day. In the last two years, we have had roughly 2,400 families leave the district to seek alternative schooling. In order to achieve the desired outcome of the best possible academic results for our children, we need the school district to work together with teachers and families to provide ample opportunities for engagement and ensure that students continue to grow academically. The school board must address these issues head-on and refocus their efforts back on the goal of improving our academic system as their top priority. This means funding should be allocated to in-class interventions, supporting schools and students with the highest risk of learning loss with targeted staffing and financial support from the district. Simultaneously, parents need to be actively involved in the school system and have access to the curriculum in order to create the best environment for student success. In addition, schools that lack parental involvement should be providing the community opportunities to work together and gain volunteer support so that more children can be supported. In 2020, NHCS had 26,000 students enrolled and now in 2021 there are 23,000+ students enrolled. Unenrollment speaks volumes that change is necessary to keep the academic competitive edge.
Moving forward, parents must be involved as they are critical and important stakeholders in their child’s education. All children can achieve greatness if they are challenged and motivated. New Hanover County needs to hold students accountable for achieving real and actual academic growth rather than changing the grading scale to give the false appearance that they are truly ready to progress on to the next grade level and the associated challenges. Let’s work together as parents to help our students and teachers achieve greatness. Accountability at all levels needs to happen, including from students, parents, teachers, administration, and the school board. The mission of New Hanover County Schools, in collaboration with our parents and the community, is to strive to provide children with an opportunity for a superior education in a safe and positive learning environment where they are prepared with the skills to succeed. Acknowledging deficiencies on a district level and then implementing a plan that ACTUALLY provides classroom support is crucial.
Staff members do not feel supported. Staff members have been reprimanded for speaking up, been told to “make it happen” to close the learning gap while no additional support or funding is provided, rather they are assigned mandatory training sessions instead. What does turnover look like in our district? How many job vacancies do we have? THIS is important. These early exits and increasing retirement trends are not one we should overlook, but rather a slap in the face of the hard realities that staff members are dealing with along with the burnout it is producing. This is not sustainable in the short or long term. Reallocating resources are necessary to help alleviate this stress on our teachers and staff.
Reaching out to community groups and volunteers to help identify and provide vital support for our kids will allow for more students to be successful. Teachers and staff are not solely responsible for child development. Their focus is on academic growth. The community can assist and as a district, we should provide opportunities that allow our New Hanover County community partners to assist in responding to our student needs.
How can we value staff?
Pay them well! First off, we all know staff should be paid better, so this should be one of the top issues. Staff are professionals, so rather than spending limited financial resources on purchasing third-party curricula and subsequently curriculum training for our staff, why not pay our professionals to write NHCS curriculum content and create a district web page for our curricula? The district can implement lessons that have differentiation, reteach, and accelerated opportunities. Providing opportunities for our teachers to highlight their talents would be beneficial for motivation, as well as allow a consistent quality education and accessibility district-wide at all grade levels, in all schools and provide clear lessons that parents can access and know what their child is learning. This would also provide transparency for all of our stakeholders.
Consistency in our staff and content will increase engagement with our kids along with staff not being burdened with constant curriculum changes. Having original content would allow for targeted improvements in standards our NHCS children are struggling with and open more efficient and effective opportunities for feedback from staff who are implementing it. In addition, providing parents with access to their child’s curriculum will result in MORE support for our students. This is and always should be the goal. Student success.
The purpose of education is to provide for academic advancement. While the state data requires subgroup information to complete “school grading”, how our district needs to accomplish this is implementing support in the classroom, focused on closing the learning gap. Staff and support staff, we the people of New Hanover County, appreciate the hard work you are doing and will continue to look for opportunities to assist. The reality is, the budget is limited and we need to refocus the budget back into the classroom, not creating additional layers of administrative bureaucracy that provide little to no value to our students, teachers, and classrooms. We need to focus our efforts on achieving smaller student-to-teacher ratios in schools with larger learning gaps.
This is why I’m running for the school board. We need to bring funding back to the classrooms to support our teachers and students. If you are also concerned about our children’s future then I need your support and vote on May 17. How can you help? Invite me into your home to speak with your friends and neighbors. Put out yard signs. Walk with me in neighborhoods, encourage your friends to go vote, and consider a monthly donation of $20.22 to make this year about you!