Thursday, May 1, 2014

AWatCon looks at the Primaries......BOARD OF EDUCATION RACE

The primary for the Board of Education will reduce the current number of candidates from eight down to six. From those six, the top 3 will be elected to the board in the November election.

Over the years, I have become quite discouraged with the lack of qualified, conservative candidates offering themselves for election to the BOE. We always have the usual gang of liberal teachers, college professors and school system bureaucrats who, for the most part, have never earned a salary that didn't come from taxpayers.  We rarely, if ever, see the level of experience and business acumen such an important position calls for.

It would be GREAT to see some candidates with SERIOUS business experience; some REAL sense of fiscal responsibility and, above all some DEMONSTRATED management expertise which would qualify them to serve on the board of directors for one of the largest employers in our county!

It won't be this year - this year is a year of compromise.
The Democrats
First, the Democrats. Since they are pretty much interchangable, suffice it to say that all of them are liberal Democrats, educators themselves, or married to educators and all can be counted upon as reliable lobbyists who will be quick to lobby for additional funding and will never offer any constructive cost cutting proposals.
All of them claim to love their children and favor education.

Well, that's a start!

The Republicans
There are two Republicans in this non partisan race. Jason Cornett. Jason is a 15 year law enforcement veteran...formerly a criminal investigator with the Watauga County Sheriff's office and currently with the ASU Campus Police Force. He has recently graduated from Victory Bible College and is answering his call as a Baptist Preacher.

The other Republican in the race incumbent BOE member Ron Henries. I have a high opinion of Henries as a human being - he has been generous with his time, given freely of himself in charitable endeavors and is, an "all around good guy". He is however, not a conservative in my judgement, nor have I seen any conservative influence on the current BOE for which I can credit him. Henries, probably lost a great deal of the Conservative Republican support when he voted against the parents who were trying to maintain their own sense of morality and  ideas of morally appropriate curriculum for their children in the great Watauga Book Controversy.

I respect Mr Henries for standing up for the position he believes in on that issue. Just, as I am sure, he will respect my decision to cast my vote for someone to represent me who is more likely to support my beliefs.

The Unafiliateds

 We next turn to the 3 unaffiliated candidates in this race.  Unfortunately, unless you know these candidates individually, there is little information available on them. One can gather some information from the candidate page of Dr. Tiffany Christian or  her facebook page.It appears that Ms Christian may have some legitimate business experience as she is apparently the owner of a small business..Gigi's Uniforms, here in Boone.

Little is known of the remaining two candidates, Josh Kannoy and Adam Trivette. I understand that both are conservative in their views, supportive of parents rights within OUR school system and people of high morale character.  In the HOPE that they will, at least, bring some differing opinions and conservative viewpoints to the School Board, they have my vote. I have found no Facebook pages or campaign pages for these two candidates. If anyone has a link to any such page, please share it here.


CONCLUSION

My prediction is that the 3 Democrat candidates will have no problem surviving the Primaries and, considering the strong ground game in place, will likely have, at least partial success in November. I  also believe that Jason Cornett is likely to survive and will stand a good chance in November.
Even in a non partisan race, the support of (and membership in) either political party is a huge advantage. It is clearly an uphill battle for any unafilliated candidate to prevail against a good candidate who has the benefit of a party connection. With Cornett, Kannoy and Trivette running as a slate (or at least sharing signage?) my guess is that Henries and Christian will be the two eliminated next Tuesday.That is how I will vote (Cornett, Kannoy and Adam Trivette for school board)

Henries could surprise me...the power of incumbency may be enough to help him survive.



 





29 comments:

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, Henries had intimated that he would vote to support the parents in the book controversy but then voted against them. There is a good chance that vote has cost him. I for one wish the candidates would let us know how they would have voted on that particular issue. I also wish that there had been more discussion of that here on WatCon.

Anonymous said...

Jason, Adam, and Josh have all stated that they would have voted against the book. They are the only 3 that have that view.

Retro1 said...

Another key education issue is the reforms passed by the recent GOP-dominated General Assembly. Two controversial policies stand out--vouchers for students from low income families to attend private schools and merit pay for teachers.

On merit pay, the new law requires local school boards to offer 25 percent of veteran teachers a five year contract with automatic annual raises of $500 IF they agree to give up their tenured status. Tenure itself would be phased out over the next five years.

The NC state teachers union is fighting this merit pay approach in the courts and at the local school board level. They have lobbied many school boards across the state, including Watauga County, to pass resolutions opposing this incremental attempt to implement merit pay.

Henries supported the resolution opposing this reform and was quoted at Sen Soucek's education forum last winter as saying that he did not believe the school board would be able fairly decide how to select the top 25 percent of veteran teachers to offer the five year contracts.

We need school board members who will support the educational reforms passed last year by the General Assembly.

Anonymous said...

REFORMS????? They were the opening paragraphs of an obituary for North Carolina's public schools.

Anonymous said...

"he did not believe the school board would be able fairly decide how to select the top 25 percent of veteran teachers to offer the five year contracts."

That is (sadly) probably true. It seems that we are unable to find people for these positions that have the ability to evaluate the performance of their subordinates and make management decisions.

Much easier to just give everyone a raise and pretend that all schoolteachers are doing a great job. No such thing as a poor performer.

Welcome to the public school system, where every teacher is above average!



Anonymous said...

"That is (sadly) probably true. It seems that we are unable to find people for these positions that have the ability to evaluate the performance of their subordinates and make management decisions."

What standard would YOU use to evaluate and ultimately arrive at WHO is in the top 25%?

The devil will be in the details. I'm really interested to hear from the regular commenters here how YOU would evaluate teachers if you were an administrator.

Retro1 said...

First off, I would take a good look at the teachers who apply for the five year contracts. The Union and and the education bureaucracy are fighting this approach to merit pay so hard that it may be difficult to get 25 percent of veteran teachers to apply and volunteer to lose tenure.

But human behavior is such that some of the best teachers are confident enough in their teaching ability that they would have no qualms about losing tenure. Also, those teachers that do apply will, by the very act of defying the Union and some of their peers, show they have initiative, courage and independence to be good leaders and role models for our youth.

Anonymous said...

Retro,
That reply did not answer the question at all. You're the administrator of, let's say WHS. How do you go about evaluating teachers and arriving at the top 25%? A lot of people here claim to know how they would do things differently. How? Details, please. And before the personal attacks start, know that I am a conservative who feels that there are a lot of poor teachers, but believe that the 25% law is a horrible idea.

NewGuy said...

anon,
If you think there is a "magic bullet" that will rank employee performance for you, you are, unfortunately, mistaken.

In the real world, managers make judgements every day in evaluating subordinates. They must consider how well the employee's contributions support the organization's goals. How effective is the employee in meeting the objectives of the organization? how does this employee's performance compare with his peers? How about the basic requirements of any position - Punctuality? Attendance? Effectiveness? Quality of work?....I what areas does the employee exceed what is expected of others in the same position? Where does he fall short? What areas need improvement? How do his peers rank his performance? His suboordinates?



It takes judgement to be a manager - and that's not always easy to find - that's why it pays so well!

Anonymous said...


New Guy,
I understand all of that, but the law requires that LEAs identify the top
25%, and then leaves that up to the LEA. People here have been vocal in
their support, but vague in the process, as are you in your response. I'm
asking you, or anyone, to demonstrate your familiarity with education and
explain HOW you, as an adminstrator, would decide upon the top 25%. If WHS
has 100 teachers, then 25 will be chosen to receive the extra money. What
differentiates between number 25 and number 26? Anyone care to take a stab
at this? This is a bad law. I know there are bad teachers, but are 75 out
of 100 bad and not deserving of a raise or bonus?

NewGuy said...

As I said, Anon., management will have to make judgements. It happens every day in the business world.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, New Guy, schools cannot operate on a pure business model. Anyone who claims otherwise is ignorant of schools. Do YOU have children in WCS schools?

Anonymous said...

The inability of anyone here to illucidite a clear model of teacher evaluation that could result in determining the "top 25%" speaks volumes about the law itself. You support something, but cannot explain how it is supposed to work. Isn't that what liberals do? Finally, I'm not sure that administrators have it in their job description that they must determine who is in the "top 25%" and receives an extra $500. They might do staff evaluations, but perhaps the Board of Ed or Superintendant must decide? I don't know, and the confusion contributes to the poor design of the law. Tenure is generally a bad idea as it does protect poor teachers, and there should be a way of firing bad teachers, but this 25% idea is bad and to be honest, I don't even know where it originated. Finally, having children in the school system here, I know quite a few good teachers who are actually conservative -- some have estimated that perhaps 25-30% of all teachers are conservative, they just stay quiet about it. It's really hard for them to remain conservative, given the overt hostility directed at them by conservatives. Do you really want ALL teachers to be liberal? What conservative would want to become a teacher, just to get shot at by conservatives?

Anonymous said...

Here are some of your suggestions:

"They must consider how well the employee's contributions support the organization's goals. How effective is the employee in meeting the objectives of the organization? how does this employee's performance compare with his peers? How about the basic requirements of any position - Punctuality? Attendance? Effectiveness? Quality of work?"

Punctuality and attendance? That's easy, but does showing up on time make a good teacher? How do you MEASURE a teacher's contribution to the organizations goals compared to their colleagues? How do you measure the "Quality" of their work? All of that has to be clearly spelled out to be effectively measured AND made known to the teachers so they will know HOW they will be measured. Without clarity, the law is a failure.

NewGuy said...

*sigh*

Anon, your inability to understand that managing subordinates requires more than a calculator, a matrix and a set of mathematical formulas and your refusal to accept that fact makes further discussion on this point futile.

Repeating yourself does not advance your argument.

My guess is that you are probably NOT in the top 25%.

Anonymous said...

New Guy,
(sigh) Your inability to respond demonstrates an ignorance of schools. You must not be in the top 25% of bloggers. People default to personal attacks when they are losing the debate and this is what you have done. I never suggested one use " a calculator, a matrix and a set of mathematical formulas" -- that was you. I simply asked you, or anyone, to suggest a method of evaluation for teachers. Once again, I am a conservative who believes school reform is necessary, but the 25% is simply a bad way of going about reform. I have children in both elementary and secondary schools. I have interactions with the teachers. I know that there are bad teachers, and there are good teachers. There should be a way of weeding out the bad without passing such a vague law that gives no guidelins on how to determine who is in the top 25%. You are very evasive in this discussion, because you know you'll be nailed as soon as you suggest a method of evaluating. I will post more on this later to expose the difficulties of this law. You will continue to support bad legislation simply because it was passed by a conservative legislature. As conservatives, we should encourage free thinking and not simply "fall in line" like the liberals do.

Retro1 said...

Anon,
Nobody's name calling here. There's a good chance that fewer that 25 percent of veteran teachers will apply due to peer pressure and Union opposition.

If 25 percent or less apply, then they should get the 5 yr contracts based on their initiative and courage to act independently. If more than 25 percent apply, seniority should be taken into account, a clean record (no disciplinary actions) and recommendations from their principal. Parental comment should also be solicited.

The principal would make recommendations to the school board, which could then seek comments from former students and parents of former students if more than 25 percent were recommended.

There's is no precise formula to be adopted. Just common sense evaluation procedures.

It wouldn't be perfect and could be refined each year. But it would be a lot better that the current system. Its basically an incremental approach to transitioning to full fledged merit pay.

guy faulkes said...

In addition to Retro's suggestions,the amount of improvement or falling behind of the individual students can be a factor for determining the 25%. This can be determined by a combination of test scores, grades, and interviews with students as to their attitude towards education.

There are many ways for administrators to determine this.

Anonymous said...

Retro,
What do you think this comment by New Guy was if not a personal insult:

"My guess is that you are probably NOT in the top 25%."

I like New Guy's comments and agree with him most of the time, but he descended to a personal attack when he couldn't keep up. I wasn't repeating myself, just pointing out that a vague law is normally not a good law by asking anyone to clearly explain how it would work in application. I'm of the mind of Coolidge -- it is more important to stop 10 bad laws than pass 1 good one. All of the suggestions made so far do nothing but point out how bad this law is. Let's review (I will paraphrase):

Give the contracts to the ones that ask, if it's less than 25% - my experience with teachers is that quite often, the ones that are convinced of how good they are are not the good ones. The humble teachers -- the ones who give credit to the students -- are normally the best. These people will not be so arrogant as to claim they are better than their colleagues and sign on. Besides, if we're talking about evaluating and rewarding the better teachers, that shouldn't be left to the teachers themselves. Don't most of you have poor opinions of teachers anyways? (Which begs the question -- did you go to school here? Did you have any teachers you like?)

Teachers with no disciplinary actions and positive administrative observations - that would most likely be most teachers. It wouldn't weed out many.

(I love this one) - There's is no precise formula to be adopted. Just common sense evaluation procedures. - That sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. A teacher winds up being excluded from the top 25% and brings a lawsuit against the school district, and it's discovered that there is no precise formula, just common sense. How do you defend that against a discrimination lawsuit? (Cont.)

Anonymous said...

Guy gets closer to the recent trends by suggesting: "the amount of improvement or falling behind of the individual students can be a factor for determining the 25%. This can be determined by a combination of test scores, grades, and interviews with students." I won't get too involved with a discussion on simple cost to local governments to do this, but a process like this would cost lots of money. Developing tests costs money. Who conducts the interviews and when? Do they get paid for that additional time? How do you assess teachers that teach subjects that are not tested, or do you develop tests for every subject. Here's where I think New Guy was intentionally avoiding giving a clear answer, because he was aware that there are serious problems with every method. If the academic subjects are the ones currently being tested, do they automatically get a "leg up" for the 25%? How do you measure the contributions of the auto tech teacher? Construction tech teacher? Special Ed teacher? Chorus, band, PE, computer technology, cosmetology, home economics teacher? Are math and science teachers more important than foreign language and construction technologies teachers? What standard do you use that can be applied equally to all the different teachers? Guy's answer moves us closer to the problem in looking at schools the same as business organizations. Businesses, generally, produce products. What is the product of a school? In a business, the finished product doesn't have the ability to influence its own creation, so the finished product is solely the product of the employee. In a school, the product (a student) has tremendous influence over its own creation. How do you compare the efforts of a teacher that works with remedial or at-risk students to a teacher who works with Advanced Placement students? How do you hold a teacher responsible for the achievment of a student that does nothing, skips school, has parents that are not involved, is more involved with their boyfriend/girlfriend than school. A business owner can fire an employee that doesn't perform. A teacher not only cannot fire a student who doesn't perform, the teacher is deemed a failure based in part on someone else's failure. Let's say a teacher has a class of 20 students. If 15 perform well and 5 fail miserably, who is responsible for the 5? Doesn't the 15 indicate that the teacher did their job in the class since they did well? Here's the hard, and simple, answer: the problem with schools isn't just the schools and the teachers (though they ARE part of the problem). Part of the problem is US. We do not make our kids do the work. We do not MAKE them get off the phones and internet and do their homework. Kids and parents don't value education or want to work for it. The easy answer is to blame only teachers and schools, because to look in the mirror might mean WE will have to get off of our butts and do something. It's a cultural problem, but it's better to have a scapegoat.

guy faulkes said...

It does not take special tests. Students already take tests/ Administrators should visit classes on a regular basis as they used to do and should methodically talk with students, paying particular attention to those students that exhibit a changes in performance above or below their norm as determined by performance in previous years. One does not have to interview ever student in every class.

The question is not whether the teacher is doing his job. It is How well is he doing his job. It is expected that the 15 preform ell because of their past performance. If they fall or improve from their expected level, you fins out why. You do the same with the 5.

I am somewhat surprised at the sudden concern Anonymous has about spending money on education. He is apparently fine with the idea of across the board raises for teachers. Rewarding bad teachers is a waste of money also. Like it or not, there are bad teachers. These are not scapegoats.

At the same time, there is not enough money to reward a good teacher.

He does make an excellent point about making kids do their work. This is called parental involvement and is necessary for optimum performance. However, a good teacher will make a difference.

Retro1 said...

Anon, RE the "name calling," I was referring to my posts. I agree, you took a low blow.

You have not addressed my assertion that fewer than 25% of veteran teachers will apply for the 5 yr contracts and give up tenure. Given the current political atmosphere and the hostility of the public education establishment to the GOP led education reforms, do you believe there will be a large number of teachers seeking the 5 yr contracts?

I disagree with your claim that poor teachers will apply and give up their tenured protection. And I still believe that those teachers bold enough to give up tenure should be rewarded.

You admitted that there is so much peer pressure to espouse politically correct positions that conservative teachers "stay quiet." One can only hope that they come out of the closet and apply for the new contracts. Certainly, those who do should be praised and rewarded. (cont'd)

Retro1 said...

Anon, In regard to teacher evaluation, you seem to have your own method: "The humble teachers -- the ones who give credit to the students -- are normally the best." I think we can come up with more objective criteria than that.

But lets admit that any evaluation of personnel will be subjective to a great extent. The criteria used for evaluation is not as important, legally, as the procedures followed for making the evaluation, which must be standardized. This means a well defined process for making recommendations and an appeals procedure within the local school system. Such procedural standards would greatly reduce legal liability .

And BTW, its irrelevant if we went to school here or have kids in school now. All of us went to school somewhere and most of us have had kids that have been enrolled in public schools. And, of course, anyone who lives here pays taxes to support the public schools.

So our opinions are just a relevant to this discussion as those who have kids in school now or who have attended local schools in the past.

Anonymous said...

Retro,
You do not understand one important aspect of the law-- ALL teachers lose tenure in four years, not just the ones who apply for the 25% status. I actually think this is a good thing. I ask if anyone here has kids in schools only to ascertain the level of familiarity with WCS schools and teachers, which I have found to be exceptional, or are you simply applying your pre-existing notion of teachers to a faceless group of people. If you regularly interacted with teachers, you might be more inclined to see them as individuals. I do not have a method, I am only trying to point out the many problems with this law, mostly due to the vagueness of the law. I don't have any idea how many teachers will voluntarily apply, but I am inclined to think it will be the ones within four years of retiring -- they could take the money, then retire. Guy, are you suggesting that we rely on teacher made tests and grades? If you have no trust in teachers, don't you think that the bad ones will just inflate grades or give kids the test as a "study guide" the night before? Good teachers will hold students accountable and fail those who don't perform and the bad ones might just pass everyone to look good. How can you trust that? I will say again, there are bad teachers. I did not like the teachers mobilizing to agitate for a sales tax increase for themselves. A lot of times, I have found teachers to be ignorant of professions outside of school and unaware that their salaries derive from tax dollars taken from other people who, quite often, make less than they do. I was livid over the House of the Spirits book issue and the boards ultimate decision. This is just a bad law, and no one wants to admit it.

Anonymous said...

Guy,
I never expressed support for across the board raises for teachers -- reread my comments. The recent lack of pay raises is an economic reality resulting from the recession and budget problems. I understand that. I am just pointing out that developing a common test like EOGs costs money. At the high school, lots of subjects don't have common state tests. If you want to use a test score to evaluate teachers (which I actually favor) then you will have to develop a PE test, an art test, a band test, a chorus test, an auto tech test, the list goes on. If you are going to attach teacher pay to test scores, then how do you compare teachers who teach tested subjects (math, english, science) toteachers who do not teach tested subjects, or do you believe that only the academic teachers should be considered for merit pay? If you rely on student interviews, could students who don't like the "hard" teachers begin to realize that they can hurt or sabotage those teachers by speaking badly of them? To me, testing is fine, but don't tie money to it. I like the idea of principals regularly visiting classrooms, but don't they already do that?

Retro1 said...

Anon,

I am aware that the law ends tenure in four years. But the political climate can change in four years. The Democrats will run of "supporting public education" and will make tenure a big issue. A new liberal governor and a more liberal General Assembly could forestall the current reforms.

It may be that the 25% approach is not the best way to go, but I still contend that it is much better than the current system of tenure. The advantage of the current approach is that it helps to ensure a smoother transition to the end of tenure. If the best teachers can survive and be rewarded without tenure, it could result in more public support for merit pay and other conservative backed reforms.

This business of personally knowing local teachers is irrelevant. Note that no where have I criticized individual teachers and in fact I have suggested praise for those teachers who apply for the new contracts. And you can't forget that these reforms apply to the entire state, not just Watauga County.

guy faulkes said...

Anonymous, you are going to have to explain to me how you can determine which teacher will get a merit raise instead of an across the board raise if you contend it is not possible to find the top 25%.

Anonymous said...

Guy,
Where have I said anything about a raise at all? My only contention all along has been that the 25% plan is vague and unworkable. It is a bad law, but no one here will admit it. Do you believe teachers deserve a raise? If you want to give teachers a raise, then why not utilize some of the ideas suggested here? Any teacher that has no disciplinary actions, positive evaluations,etc should have a raise, but to limit it to 25% makes it impossible to implement. If a teacher that has good test scores, hasn't been late or excessively absent, has positive evaluations and the respect of their students, if that teacher is excluded, look for a lawsuit. And this law will be difficult to defend. Turn this around. Do YOU believe 75% of teachers are not even deserving of a cost of living raise after so many years of no raises? There may be a lot of poor teachers, but I have a hard time believing even half are deserving of nothing. I believe they have become a target of opportunity for conservatives. We believe 90% are liberal, so we won't lose any votes and we get to pick on a political enemy. That's why I keep asking if any of you have kids in the schools. You would meet more than just the ones we read about in the papers. Honestly, the english teacher that assigned that controversial book would almost assuredly be one of the top 25% -- she has taught over 30 years and was selected as teacher of the year this year.

guy faulkes said...

If you are discussing the 25% issue, you have said something about raises because they are included in that proposal.

There is such a thing as fiscal reality, Anonymous. IF there is money available to give a raise to 25% of teachers, it should go to the best 25%. And yes, one can make a determination as to the performance of teachers. As to the remaining 75%, this would seem to be an incentive for them to improve their performance.

Do teachers deserve raises? Some do, some do not. Many if not most of the 75% do deserve some kind of raise, but you have to have the money before you can do this.

I have no opinion of he English teacher that assigned the "controversial" book to her class. She may be an excellent teacher or she may not. Thirty years of teaching proves nothing by itself due to tenure protecting bad teachers. If she deserved being teacher of the year, then it would seem she should be in the 15%. If she is teacher of the year due to it being a popularity contest or a political statement, she does not.

Hopefully the elimination of tenure will help correct the problem of poor teachers.