4/29/16 ABSS chief: Rhetoric could cause harm

ABSS chief: Rhetoric could cause harm
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 4/29/16  
Reprinted with permission.      

   As expected, representatives of the Alamance Branch of the NAACP and the Alamance-Burlington Educators Association asked the school board to take a vote on three resolutions that were pulled over supporters’ adversarial tone.

   “Since February, we have been in contact with the school board and Dr. Harrison about drafting and hopefully passing three pro-public education resolutions. These resolutions were recently pulled because the leadership felt they were taking an adversarial path,” Ariel Hogarth — social studies teacher at Eastern Alamance High School, vice president of the ABEA and co-leader of the Schools Our Students Deserve campaign in Alamance County — said at the school board’s April meeting this week.

   Two of the resolutions would call upon the Legislature to increase per-pupil funding for public schools statewide and replace the A–F grading system of schools. The third opposes the proposed “achievement district” the General Assembly is considering, which would take over five failing schools around the state.

NAACP, ABAE resolutions

  • The School Board calls upon the General Assembly to raise additional state revenue in an equitable fashion in order to avoid regressive tax shifts to counties.
  • The A–F grading system should be discontinued and replaced with more detailed report cards that include useful and detailed indicators, including data on college and workforce readiness, and school effectiveness in closing achievement gaps.
  • The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education opposes legislation in North Carolina that establishes an achievement district that removes local control, local accountability, or local oversight over public schools.
   Alamance-Burlington School System Superintendent Bill Harrison said he recommended pulling the resolutions, though he agrees with them, because of the rhetoric coming from supporters.

   In the weeks leading up to the meeting, NAACP leaders criticized Gov. Pat McCrory and local legislators Sen. Rick Gunn and Reps. Steve Ross and Dennis Riddell at a press conference April 11 for their voting records on public education, and April 16 in a Times-News guest column by Noah Read, secretary of the local NAACP.

   “Our state and legislative leaders McCrory, Gunn, Ross and Riddell have ignored their constitutional duties,” Read wrote.

   “I don’t think the resolutions themselves were adversarial. I think some of the comments about some of the individual legislators, who have been open and honest and straightforward with us, is what struck the adversarial tone,” Harrison said at the meeting. “Our resolutions addressed the entire (General Assembly), but public comments at the press conference and again in the letter to the editor addressed local individuals, and our connection to ABAE and the NAACP ties us together.”

   NAACP President Barrett Brown said he understood the board needed to work with the legislators, but his organization should take a stand.

   “Our job as an advocacy group is to call a spade a spade and hold people accountable for the votes that they cast, and we will continue to do that,” Brown said in his three-minute statement during public comments. “Whether people’s feelings are hurt or not, we should all be focusing on what’s best for the students of this district.”

   Harrison said he spent four years as chairman of the N.C. Board of Education working for the governor and with the General Assembly before coming to ABSS in 2014.

   “By the time I left Raleigh in 2013, the Democrats and Republicans couldn’t speak to each other, and it’s kind of at that point right now,” Harrison said. “I see a very partisan divisiveness in our nation and our state that I don’t see in Alamance County.”

   Board member Patsy Simpson said she never liked resolutions.

   “This is a nonpartisan board, a nonpartisan position, and it puts me in a position where I have to basically publicly state or vote on something I consider to be very private,” Simpson said, though she said she wanted the ABEA to know she agreed with the resolutions. “Based on the record, our governor is not very supportive…,and very clearly all you have to do is look at the voting record of the representatives, and unfortunately that includes those of Dennis Riddell, Steve Ross and Sen. Rick Gunn, and clearly their beliefs in terms of supporting those initiatives in the resolutions, their votes speak for themselves.”