WATBLOG

MEET & GREET CALENDAR

9/27 Candler Feed and Seed – 1275 Smokey Park Highway Asheville – Free Hot Dogs and Live Bluegrass Music – 1:00pm to 6:00pm

10/3 – Cane Creek Community Center – 1370 Cane Creek RD Fletcher – 9:30am to 12:30pm or 1:00pm to 4:00pm

Check back for more opportunities.

WATMAN CAMPAIGN PLATFORM

As a member of the BCS Board of Education, this is what I want to accomplish during my 4 year term in office:

Fix a major flaw in the school’s crisis plan.  The plan is designed for external threats/attacks to the school.  There is nothing in place for behavioral, emotional crisis or handling temporary situations of extreme grief. All counselors, social workers and school psychologists will have interns. BCS will aggressively recruit them from local and regional university programs.  This will double the support staff and reduce the workload at no cost to the schools.

All curriculum designed and written by Buncombe County teachers.  The goal for our students is to surpass lower state standards and rank at a national level.  These will be reviewed by administration and approved by the board to insure quality and avoidance of political, religious or social agendas at least one multi-grade classroom for K-1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 in every elementary and intermediate school.  This provides a wider range of curriculum, eliminates social promotions, and allows students to progress at their own rate.  This is a proven way to narrow the achievement gap and provides educational equity for all student populations. Many students may be almost 1 year behind by the time the schools fully open. Adopting a year round academic calendar for a complete school year would enable them to catch up.

Begin discussion and planning for a performing arts school.  This would be based at one or more of our middle and high school campuses.  Parents want more choice.  This keeps those students in the BCS system. Begin discussion and planning on a vocational school in conjunction with AB Tech.  There are several options on how to organize this program.  Again, more choice for students and parents.

One of the primary goals of public education is to train our children to be American citizens.  American history classes will promote the idea of American exceptionalism.  The Declaration of Independence, Constitution (US and NC), and Bill of Rights will be the basis of this citizenship.  In order to promote cross-curricular learning, extended reading time will incorporate whenever possible, science, history and social studies at elementary, intermediate and middle schools.

Eliminate common core math instruction.  Redesign a math curriculum that has practical applications. Math that has actual applications outside of the classroom.  Parents, guardians, etc, will be able to assist their students at home.

Cursive writing taught in all 3rd grade classrooms.  This develops fine motor skills as a part of developing the whole child.

Advanced Placement to replace high school honors courses whenever possible.  There is evidence that just taking an AP class raises scores on achievement tests, regardless of success in the class.

Recruit Teach for America program as teachers and Americorps students as student aids.  We get some of America’s best and brightest to help our most needy students.  Employ one or more grant writers to generate extra funding for new and innovative programs.

SCHOOL UNION QUESTIONNAIRE

ACAE/BCAE Questionaire for Local Candidates for Public Office

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, why you are running for office, why you are qualified, and why you are the best candidate.

I am a retired teacher with 40 years of experience and a varsity coach from the Chicago suburbs.  I taught high school courses: AP Psychology, Psychology, Health Education, PE and was involved in the student discipline program as well as an adjunct faculty for a local community college teaching courses: Psychology, Sociology, and Education.  The high school where I was employed won the US Department of Education Blue Ribbon for Academic Excellence  three times. Consequently, I am intimately familiar with how a school can focus on educational excellence and realize the results. The high school experienced a shift in it’s demographic population over a short period of years from 80% white to 80% African-American.  Our test scores dipped for about 2 years and then bounced back because of a number of things we did to regain and maintain our high standards.  

I sponsored several after school clubs and I initiated and organized Project Graduation, an all-night, after graduation party for the entire senior class that has become a school tradition. This event encouraged the graduates to celebrate their achievements and eliminated the problem of underage drinking that so often accompanies this event.  The gymnastics team and the fencing  teams were under my aegis and we had much success.  Ten of my gymnastics teams competed in the state gymnastics championships, with 3 bringing home trophies, including a state championship.  A number of my athletes went on to compete in college.  Several of my fencers continued their fencing in college.

Since moving to the Asheville area in 2015, I have been substituting  in the Buncombe County schools.  My assignments have taken me to every high, middle, intermediate and many of the elementary schools.  I have worked in just about every curricular area.  I have had 2 multi-day positons in Art (6 weeks) and Math (1 week).

This past year it occurred to me that I could do much more for students as a policy maker, than as substitute teacher.  I concluded that the way for me to do this was to be at the source of decision making at the board level.

Based on my professional experiences as a career teacher and coach, I know I have much to offer the Buncombe County school system, as well as some potential solutions to problems and weaknesses I perceive in our schools.  At our interview I can go into detail some of my thoughts.

  1. Tell us about your experience advocating for public education either as an elected official or in other capacities.

In my role as a public school teacher, whether in casual conversation or more formally, in the front of a classroom, I have always advocated the importance and priority of a quality education for all students.  Because of my coaching obligations, I was limited to what I could do both inside and outside of the school day.

This is my first experience to run for a political office and I am very excited at the prospect of finally having the opportunity to do more for the education of our children at a policy level.

  1. How would you approach the disciplinary gap between our students of color and their white peers?  What is the appropriate role for SROs in our schools?

The simple answer is that there is only one set of expectations for all students.  At my high school, in the first couple of years when the racial change was occurring, we were inadvertently making discipline decisions based on the race of the student.  This came back to haunt us in various ways, particularly when dealing with fighting.  It was decided that we will administer one set of rules and consequences for all students.  There was a period of adjustment, especially with students new to the school.  Needless to say, things calmed down, and claims of being racist and unjust for the most part went away.  We also saw an improvement in student achievement.

We must be wary of being influenced by an implicit confirmation bias, as well as understanding that many of our students are coming to school from non-traditional households with that do not share our standards and expectations.

Even after working in the Buncombe County schools these past 4 years, I’m still not sure what the role and function is for the SROs.  Is it for school security, student discipline, immediate availability for emergencies, role modeling, all of these or only a couple of these?  At the school I came from, we had off duty police officers at all our entrances to the school to handle situations coming from outside and we had several  individuals who were non-police security to handle most internal disruptions and situations when help was needed. Having armed security on campus is very important in the event a violent situation were to occur for intervention as the first responder and as a preventative measure to deter potential offenders.    

  1. How do you see the role of your potential office in supporting families of marginalized populations, particularly in the areas of racial and social justice?

As a member of the board, we need to find a way to address the needs and challenges posed by students and families that are coming to school with attitudes, behaviors and expectations that result in conflictual situations.  It would be in the best interest for all, if each school had a staff member who is a liaison between the school and the family. 

 At this time we are severely deficient in being able to provide necessary staff in support roles to meet the needs of all our students.  I have a suggestion how we can increase the number of these support positions using interns, but if we are going to involve families outside of the school hours, there will have to be a significant increase in funding.  As a member of the board, it is my responsibility to look for and work for more funding to create these positons. 

 If you go back to my previous answer, eliminating separate sets of rules sets a standard that all must follow.  Having separate rules sets the stage for claims of racial and social injustice issues.  

The board of education is responsible for enacting and maintaining rules and policies that ensure that no student is being treated differently or being discriminated against. If a situation occurs, it should be dealt with at the local school level if at all possible.  In the event the board policies are being willfully or carelessly violated, then it would be the duty of the board to become involved.  In all cases, the board should be informed as to the progress and disposition of the situation in the event there is not a successful resolution. 

  1. Our students show a significant disparity in standardized test scores between black and white students.  How will you work in the legislature to address this disparity, and similar disparities in other school districts?

My priority and duty would be to the Buncombe County schools and not other cities, counties or the rest of the state.  That is the role of someone running for a state office.

However, closing the achievement gap is an issue that schools across the country have been wrestling with for decades.  And where there are success stories that other school districts have implemented, we should search those initiatives out for possible use.  I do not have the history of what exactly Buncumbe County schools has already put in place, what has or has not worked. I have some suggestions that I believe, could help to make a difference. These are not my original ideas.  I have known about these because these are programs that have worked in other school districts.  Bottom line; rising tide raises all boats-How do we capture a rising tide?

First, at every elementary, intermediate and middle school, we implement at least one multi-grade; K-1-2, 3-4, 5-6.  This allows students to work at their own pace, whether to catch up or to get ahead and avoids social promotion situations.  This keeps students together with their classmates and avoids a stigma when being held back a grade.

Second, we need to reconsider our school calendar.  This may be the time to consider a year round calendar.  The benefits of the flexibility of this will enable students who have fallen behind because of the COVID situation to catch up during the intersessions. I prefer the 9 week sessions, with 3 week breaks or intersessions and a 5 week summer break. 

Third, our curriculum is to be written by our teachers and not mandated down by the state.  Along with this curriculum is to encourage our teachers and students to vie for national standing, rather than settle for the lower state standards.

Fourth, we need to use more community volunteers to mentor and tutor our students, including  more after school academic and summer programs.

Fifth, we need to invest in more reading teachers to focus in on those students who have fallen behind.

Sixth, the funding may finally materialize for us to institute mandatory pre-K. All students will begin kindergarten with the similar educational and social skills.  This should also have a built-in method for building bridges with the parents of the preschoolers.

  1. How do you view the importance of specials classes, such as PE, art, music, language and media?

As a teacher of elective classes, Psychology and A P Psychology and a 40 year varsity coach, I absolutely support and advocate for these classes and programs.  In my opinion, these are non-negotiable and essential to educating the whole student.

  1. How do you view the role of Education Support Professionals in our classrooms and what is your priority I funding them?

 I have spoken to some degree about this in question #4.  When I am in classrooms, most often in the intermediate and middle schools, the challenges facing me are the disruptions coming from students that probably would be labeled as ADHDH, BD- behavior disordered and occasionally ED-emotionally disordered.  There is no program for these students that I am aware of, and interventions by counselors or social workers are few and rare.

There is no question that our schools need more support para and professionals.  There has been talk in the state legislature of allocating more money for these positions, but so far, nothing has been done.  This is a top priority to me.  As a member of the school board, I and we will do all that we can to pressure the legislature to increase funding to our schools.  Not having expertise in this area, I think a strategy we could pursue is to pursue funds already present in state and federal special education laws.  

  1. Do you support or oppose the use of tax credits, vouchers, and or any use of public money for private K-12 schools and why?

As a member of the Buncombe County board of education, I would strongly oppose any use of our available funding for private schools.  As I have already stated, our schools are significantly underfunded and any money being diverted to private schools severely damages our ability to properly educate our public students.

  1. What are your thoughts about the role of charter schools in public education?  Should charter schools be required to serve the same demographic as traditional charter schools?  (I think you mean public schools)

During my teaching career, the general geographical area had a great number of failing schools.  Parents wanted an alternative, since there had been no real effort to turn these failing schools around.  Hence, charter schools fulfilled and important role.

Here in Buncombe County, we do not have failing schools, but some parents want an alternative to their local school for a variety of reasons.  They do have the option to enroll their children in a private school, but they may not have the funds to pay the tuition.  Thus we have charter schools competing for our students.

As I understand it, many of the charters offer specialty programs  that attract our students to attend them.  Our strategy to bring those students back to our county schools would be to develop our own school within the school specialty programs.  We already have a STEM school.  How about a performing arts academy?  A vocational school, similar to the early college high school at AB Tech where our students graduate with a diploma and a certification in a vocational area?  We can be very innovative and creative.

The high school I taught at now has 2 schools on campus within the high school. A baccalaureate program for the top 75 students in each class and now a performing arts school; art, music and performing arts/theatre.  

Charter schools occur when local schools settle on being average and just maintain the status quo. Considering the art and music resources in our area, we can and should make use of these for the improvement of our county school system. 

  1. How would you characterize the current state of public education in North Carolina right now?  Please include your personal experience with our public schools.

As a relative newcomer to the state, I am not very familiar with school systems outside of our WNC area other than what I have read regarding state and national school rankings.  There are some exemplary schools in the state, but if memory serves, they are selective magnet and charter schools and possibly some private schools.  When a school can select their students, it is neither accurate nor fair to compare them to local public schools.

Here in Buncombe County, considering the various populations in our schools, we are doing a pretty good job.  I see the teachers working hard to keep their students progressing  towards the end of year tests. The lack of enough support staff is not serving the needs of students and too often teachers have to spend time dealing with disruptive students that take away valuable class time.

  1. What will you do as a public official to ensure that public education is a budget priority and local government provides adequate funding for high-quality public schools for all children?  Discuss your top priorities.

If I am elected, school funding will be one of my top priorities, including a plan for lobbying  these local and state politicians who control school funding.  We have to make sure we are getting all the monies we require and possibly increase to improve and not just maintain our programs.  Additionally, another one of my priorities is to hire at least one grant writer to find new and additional funds to underwrite innovative, creative programs as well as enhance current programs. 

Finally, I want to encourage our schools and staff to do great and notable things.  Improving the public’s perception of our schools will forge greater alliances to support the school’s financial needs.

  1. Please explain, how as a public official, you would specifically build respect for the education profession in order to help attract and retain the highest quality educators?

Recruit from top college education programs, masters programs and Teach for America candidates, become the schools of choice for student teachers and new teachers, recruit diverse teachers from HBCUs, encourage and fund teachers to present at conferences and celebrate those that do.  Become a school system that employs teachers awarded the “Golden Apple” award.

 To be respected as a professional, teachers must model the definition and perception of a professional.  We have to be seen as the education experts and not allow non-educators to control our curriculums and classrooms. We need to do a better job of publicizing the great things teachers, students and schools do both in and out of the classroom.  Publicly and with great fanfare, recognize teachers who are doing outstanding and notable things in their classrooms. Identify students who could become outstanding teachers, get them leadership opportunities and encourage them to consider a career in teaching.  We also may want to think about recruiting adults in other fields to switch careers and become educators. 

Unfortunately, teachers are not being paid a competitive wage and everyone knows this.  Our best and brightest are encouraged to pursue careers that pay significantly more than teaching.  This has been a concern and complaint before I began my career in education 45 years ago.  We must find a better way of promoting the intrinsic rewards of teaching, to have a better chance of attracting these students. 

The current salary schedule barely promotes a financial incentive to continuing one’s education.  We as a board need to find a way to encourage more teachers to pursue advanced degrees and national board certification.

  1. How do you expect to keep the safety of our students and staff as a priority in light of the health crisis we face with COVID 19?

Student and staff health and safety is always a top priority.  Hopefully, by the time I would take a seat as a new member of the board, the curve will have flattened and we will be back to full time attendance.  Now that we have experienced COVID, it will be interesting to see what the new normal will become as we face a new season of the flu and other contagious diseases.  (There are days I was in classrooms and felt that I was in a petri dish with all the coughing, sneezing and sniffling.) We will continue to have hand sanitizer and sanitizing spray and wipes widely available.  We will need to remain vigilant in the classroom and other areas regarding wiping down desks, counters and tables.  

There are new testing methods being developed which greatly reduces the turnaround time to 1 hour for getting results.  Taking student’s temperatures along with a rapid covid test hopefully identifies someone who’s sick quickly and isolate them before they have the chance to spread it to others.  And, once a vaccine has been made available, the Board will need to make a policy about whether or not vaccination will be mandatory. Beyond these and other common sense behaviors, we will have to wait and see what protocols we will need to follow. 

  1. What is your position on the funding of local supplements for teachers, administrators and education support professionals?

As I understand it, salaries are not negotiated with the board of education. Teachers, et.all are grossly underpaid in North Carolina.  As a member of the board, anything I/we can do to increase compensation to our educators and associated staff should be pursued.

  1. As a public official, how would you engage with BCAE, its leadership, and educators about education policy issues and using their expertise to inform your decisions if elected?  How can we expect to hear from you in response to our concerns and questions?

In my 4 years of working in the county schools, I have never heard or read anything about the relationship between the BCAE and the board, good or bad.  Not having to negotiate salary removes one of the major issues  that separates unions and school boards.  I view our relationship as collaborative and hopefully unified in pursuing our joint goals.  I would hope to have a relationship with all of the leaders of the BCAE where I could hear your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions.  We may not agree on everything, but we should be able to come to an understanding of each other’s positions.  I would prefer to talk informally first before we take things public at an open board meeting.  

  1. What do you see as the role and reputation of BCAE in advocating for our students, schools and staff?

As I stated in the previous question, I do not know anything about the reputation of the BCAE and how or what it has advocated in the past.  In my career, the role of the local union was primarily to represent the teachers.  They made sure due process was being followed in disciplinary matters and handled salary negotiations.

I look forward to being brought up to date at the interview.

  1. Do you have any other thoughts about public education that have not been addressed in the questionnaire?

This questionnaire is quite comprehensive.  At this time I don’t have any questions, but I do have a number of thoughts regarding our schools such as: school calendar, curriculum issues and additions, the crisis plan, math instruction, recruiting teachers, fundraising, community outreach, extracurricular participation, and increased use of interns.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS QUESTIONNAIRE

1. WHAT EXPERIENCE AND QUALITIES DO YOU FEEL YOU BRING TO THIS OFFICE?

I taught high school and college students over 33 years as well as being an extremely successful varsity coach of two sports.  The high school where I taught Psychology, Health Education, PE and coached was a 3-time Dept. of Education Blue Ribbon school.  I was an adjunct professor at a community college and taught Psychology, Sociology and Education courses.  The curriculums of the courses I taught were designed and written by me to best meet the variety of learning styles and educational levels of the diverse student population of both schools.

The past 4 years I have been working as a substitute teacher with the Buncombe County Schools.  I have worked at every high, middle, intermediate and many elementary schools. My assignments have been completely cross-curricular; from Art to Math, Band, Choir and Strings to Animal Science, Robotics and Intensive Intervention.  So, I have broad exposure to the schools, students, faculty, and staff which would translate well as a member of the Board of Education.

Based on all my experience, as a member of the school board, I will facilitate and collaborate discussions for policies and procedures that would keep Buncombe County Schools moving forward in a positive and successful direction.

2. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RESPONSIBILITY OF A BOARD MEMBER?

There are actually 5 basic responsibilities for each school board member.  They are all equally important and interdependent on each other.  These include:

Set the vision and goals for the county schools.  

Adopt policies that give the school board the direction to set priorities to achieve its goals.

Adopt and oversee the annual budget.

Evaluate and if need be, hire the superintendent.

Ensure that the county’s schools are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of our various communities.

3. WHAT ARE THE CRITICAL STATE FUNDING NEEDS FOR THIS COUNTY’S SCHOOLS AND HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THESE NEEDS?

Our schools are primarily funded by the state legislature and somewhat by local county and state taxes.  In order to receive our share of the tax dollars being spent on education, we need to be especially vigilant and proactive with our own local as well as other state legislators.  Unfortunately NC is ranked 37th (2019) in funding schools ($9865 vs. $12,756/student nationally).  We are ranked as one of the richer states and we have significant levels of poverty. I don’t foresee any significant changes in funding from the state.  Therefore BCS needs to look for other additional sources of funding that would include grants, donations and investments by businesses and corporations for innovative and unique programs to relieve some of the financial burden.

4. HOW WOULD YOU ACCESS TEACHER SATISFACTION IN THE COUNTY AND HOW WOULD YOU PROMOTE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?

My experience as a substitute teacher these past 4 years has shown me that many of the teaching staff have come back home to teach in or near the communities where they grew up.  The schools are part of their home and family.  This works in favor of the hiring process.  However, salaries are on the low end of the spectrum low and this contributes to an annual staff turnover around 12%.  I have had several assignments because a teacher had left before the school term had ended.  This is disruptive for the classroom and for education continuity.

To improve and increase staff morale, retention and professionalism, we have to find a way for teachers to become more creative and innovative in their classrooms.  They need to be more personally involved in developing the curriculum they teach. There needs to be more of an incentive for more teachers to become National Board Certified, a gold standard accomplishment for teachers.  We should also encourage our staff to strive to be presenters at state and national conferences because of their successful accomplishments in their classrooms. The BCS system could be the educational leaders in NC.

5. WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PRE-K?

Students who do not participate in Pre-K programs enter Kindergarten, in most cases, will already be experiencing the educational achievement gap.  They are certainly capable enough to be in Kindergarten, but their classmates who had the pre-k experience are significantly ahead of them with milestone skills.  Kindergarten is no longer a year of acclimating and socializing to get ready for first grade.  It is an academic year and 5 year olds are expected to have specific knowledge and skills that are routinely taught in the for-pay preschools around the county.

FD

6. WHAT ARE THE ISSUES IN RECRUITING AND RETAINING QUALIFIED TEACHERS?

When students look to choosing a career or vocation, income obviously is very important.  Just as important, if not more so, is doing something you are good at and deeply enjoy.  Unfortunately, in the Southern states, teacher pay has historically been much lower than in other parts of the country.  When you truly enjoy what you’re doing in your career, that satisfaction can temper salary issues.

The Board of Education needs to find ways to motivate, challenge, support and reinforce our teachers and staff to be educational experts and leaders.  To be the best at what they do in and out of their classrooms and schools.

Particularly with our unique location in the mountains, the BCS should be that school system education majors and teachers alike strive to live and work.  To become part of something very special and unique.  The BCS should be the place you want to start or finish your teaching career.