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Fayetteville NAACP Candidate Forum

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Warning – long post alert!

Hi all, Michelle posted yesterday after the NAACP Candidate Forum and gave an excellent analysis of the event. I’m so glad she did that; I was hoping to do it, but, frankly, I was wiped out. Events like that are not really in my comfort zone!

I was pleased at how professionally run the forum was. They did a great job. Most of the questions were thoughtful, though some of them did not really have a satisfactory answer. For instance, there is no easy answer to the question that was asked about school discipline. It’s frustrating, but there are no magic bullets.

As a candidate sitting on the panel, I saw a few things that affected me that Michelle didn’t mention. The first was in response to a question that was asked about CRT. It appears current school board members are not well versed in how CRT ideologies have been weaved into our NC education standards. Some candidates spoke out in favor of what they believe is CRT and some denied it is being taught in our schools. There were only a few who recognized CRT and the dangers of it in our schools. CRT is not the teaching of American history and equal rights for all. It is a deliberate program of instruction to teach students to construct a social, cultural, racial, gender and sexual identity to confuse and divide our children. This is a big issue for many, and for our board not to be well versed on this issue is unacceptable to many of the parents and teachers I have spoken with. I’ll reiterate my position on this issue: there is no place for such divisive, identity-oriented education in our schools, our leaders must not turn a blind eye to it, and it interferes hugely in our urgent goal of teaching students to be highly proficient in the core subjects of reading, writing and math.

Next, a question was asked about the NC Teachers Working Conditions Survey. I found it interesting that all the candidates agreed that teachers need better support and pay, as do I, but, here’s my questions: who reads these surveys; do teachers feel safe enough to respond truthfully, and has the teacher body experienced any greater sense of career fulfillment as a result of these surveys? It seems nothing changes. I think teachers need a better vehicle to voice their concerns, and as I stated at the very beginning of my campaign, I will meet routinely with teachers, as well as parents, in a safe environment where they can voice their real concerns to me as a board member, and that I will advocate for their position as fiercely as I can. I think administrative hires and positions are potentially siphoning funds and would love to see a line-item version of the budget to see how these positions have grown in comparison to teacher pay.

Lastly, my biggest concern is a question that was not asked. Nobody raised the issue of the mandatory school closures, mask mandates and vaccination campaigns that derailed our schools and seriously harmed our children during the previous 2 years. This is the biggest issue that we face, and we are, and will be, reeling from the effects of this school board and administration’s decision. The harm to our students, especially black and brown students is well documented, and we need to fully understand the damage done. In May of this year, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University published a comprehensive research report titled, “The Consequences of Remote and Hybrid Instructions During the Pandemic.” This was their finding: “Using testing data from 2.1 million students in 10,000 schools in 49 states (plus D.C.), we investigate the role of remote and hybrid instruction in widening gaps of achievement by race and school poverty. We find that remote instruction was a primary driver of widening achievement gaps. Math gaps did not widen in areas that remained in-person (although there was some widening of reading gaps in those areas.) We estimate that high-poverty districts that went remote in 2020-21 will need to spend nearly all of their federal aid on academic recovery to help students recover from pandemic-related achievement losses. Within school districts that were remote for most of 2020-21, high poverty schools experienced 50% more achievement loss than low-poverty schools (e.g., .46 v .30 standard deviations in math) (my emphasis.)

Additionally, NC Department of Instruction March 2022 report “Covid-19 Impact Analysis of Lost Instructional Time” found similar results: “Gaps widened between economically disadvantaged students and all other students, especially in reading in grades 4, 6, 8 and 5th grade math, and pre-existing disparities have increased.” (my emphasis)

One last study from https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/consequences measures the impact in many areas: interrupted learning; poor nutrition; confusion and stress for teachers; parents unpreparedness; challenges improving distance learning; gaps in childcare; high economic costs; strain on health care systems; rise in dropout rates, increased exposure to violence and exploitation; social isolation; and challenges in measuring and validating learning.

This failure of our school board to protect our children, to sacrifice their learning and their futures, to respond compassionately and openly to parents’ concerns, to cede their decision-making authority and responsibility to an un-elected County Health Director, and now to dismiss it as old news that we should just move on from is absolutely unacceptable. Remember when board members and school officials say the pandemic hurt our students, it was not the pandemic, but the poor pandemic-related decision making that hurt our kids. Not one board member has spoken out, none has suggested that the board should take a good hard look at what happened and find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and even now, many board members and school staff continue to send an alarming message to students and parents by continuing to virtue signal by mask wearing and distancing themselves from the public they serve. I am not looking for punishment for the elected officials who inflicted this damage on our children (except by the voters holding them accountable,) but I am demanding that we recognize the harm, and that we take better measure to correct it.

I am glad I participated in this forum, and I was able to learn a lot about the concerns of the community. I hope we can make a positive change going forward by bringing fresh faces and fresh ideas to this board. I also made a friend whose ideas I think are similar to mine, Jacky Brown, and she’ll get one of my votes. I was encouraged by some of the other newcomers and hope their ideas can make a real difference.

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