Like all meetings of Board of Commisssioners (BOC) it was publicly announced. You could have attended the meeting. It was held in the Pardee lobby April 24th at 6:00pm, and it was pretty quick so would not have spoiled your day, unless you happened to notice that you were suddenly missing $111,450,000.
Here are the complete minutes of the meeting:
CALL TO ORDER AND WELCOME
Chairman Mess called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance.
An informal joint meeting of the Board of Commissioners, UNC Healthcare President Gary Park, and the Hospital Corporation Board of Directors was held in the lobby of the Henderson County Hospital Corporations’s Pardee Hospital.
The Board of Commisssioners gave final approval on the motion of Chairman Messer of the Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement with the Henderson County Hospital Corporation and UNC Healthcare.
The Board of Commissioners, UNC Healthcare President Gary Park, and Hospital Board of Directors Bill Moyer all signed the agreement and made brief remarks.
That’s it, the whole thing. What’s that you say? What was in that little ole’ Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)? Oh, nothing much really. You remember that County hospital we used to have; Pardee? Pardee Hospital is, excuse me, was our county hospital, overseen (haw haw haw, pardon me please, I couldn’t help it) by the BOC. The BOC used to appoint all the members of the Henderson County Hospital Corporation Board of Directors. The MOU says that the Henderson County and the Hospital Board will equally share 50% plus 1 of the Board members while UNC Healthcare may assume up to 49% control by notification to the County and Hospital Board that they wish to. On April 23rd the BOC was 100% owner of your Pardee Hospital. On the 24th they/we controlled about 25%.
Pardee has been the object of a lot of shenanigans along with some awfully good basic management over the past several years. Some (the Hospital Board) claimed the shenanigans were due to politcal meddling. To others (taxpayers) it looked more like politcal indifference and cowardice. There had been talk about selling the hospital. Never much that I recall about giving it away. Some said it was worth a lot of money. Our hospital is profitable, largely thanks to it’s Board and some to recent CEO Jay Kirby. Many profitable businesses, including hospitals, are valued at somewhere around 100% of the money they take in annually.
The hospital’s projected revenue this year is $148.6 million. So how much did UNC Healthcare pay for their 49% share? And the Hospital Board for 25%? With our $111,450,000 plus $1.39 we can get a cup of joe at Mickey-D’s. That’s about it. It’s surprisingly (maybe not so) easy to give away that kind of maney. Jay Kirby was hired to look after this stuff. The Hospital Board was appointed to check up on Kirby; and the BOC was elected to oversee the Hosital Board. Hey, Kirby, Moyer, Messer, thanks. What were you guys thinking about? Notice that the BOC vote was unanimous. Messer and Young have long been off the reservation with this kind of mal-administration. If you have a problem, get rid of it and damn the cost. Last year they gave up collection of our automobile taxes because that state promised, cross their tiny little hearts, that they would collect it better and always give us all the money. The vote was 4-1, in case you were going to remind me that I was there then. I had thought better of Edney, Hawkins, and Thompson. Pass the alka-seltzer, please, I’m feeling broke. On second thought guys, I was just kidding. Now about Edneyville Elementary and all its problems; oil heat and all. It is just right for my daughters and their families – how about it?
Today is day 13 of waiting for the timely response to our request for all county fourth and fifth grade English tests. The book on whether Jones and gang are holding out for the end the school term is now 2-11 on stalling, 1-4 on politically motivated, out of ink is 30-1, and we- just-forgot is the long shot at 200-1. This storm is going to be around for a while so waiting it out in the bunkers is going to get uncomfortable.
I was watching the news early one morning this week and saw a member of the United Auto Workers (UAW) speaking about how the unions, who were four-square behind him, now oppose Obama’s signature “achievement”, Obama-doesn’t-care. He is employed and paid by the Ford Motor Company but he said he worked for the UAW; entirely typical for the world of unions. We don’t know if Mr. Kinsey at Glen C. Marlow Elementary is a member of the National Education Association (NEA), the national teachers union, styled here in North Carolina as the NCAE, but his willingness to despicably exploit our nine year fourth graders for union purposes makes the issue of his membership irrelevant.
If you review last week’s paper or online at www.tribunepapers.com/hendersonville where we show a photo of the first page of Mr. Kinsey’s test/quiz, notice how professionally it was produced with a nice border. Of course anyone can do this now with the simple tools available. The Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) says the test paragraph was simply the editorial from the May 5th Fatz Café newsletter. But it clearly is not and looks like it is from just the same source that the Fatz Café newsletter likely used; NEA talking points on Gov. McCrory’s attempt at sensible cost control. In the version used in Mr. Kinsey’s class, the call for lobbying the governor and the numbers on the proposed spending reduction on this so-called test are in bold letters so you don’t miss the real message, Mr. Kinsey’s or whomever. Shameless really isn’t nearly strong enough.
Actually I doubt it’s just the work of Mr. Kinsey. It is possible, but more likely that HCPS staff produced this propaganda sheet as a fourth grade test, system wide; and even more likely that this was done by the North Carolina NEA and distributed all over the state. If anyone from Buncombe or surrounding counties has a fourth or fifth grader who got this or a similar test we would like to hear from them.
This incident at Glen C. Marlow is just an example of the willingness of HCPS to propagandize and indoctrinate our children rather than teach them; it demonstrates the fact that Superintendent Jones’s administration has no bottom to the depths it will stoop to, to apply political pressure on local and state politicians for ever more of your taxes rather than teach a little, instruct just a small amount, and lovingly guide rather than shamelessly use our children. Is it any wonder that anyone who cares about their children, and can, gets their kids out of government run schools? The rest who are stuck with state controlled schooling have to hope for the best and count on the natural resiliency of children. And where is the Board of Public Education (BOPE) in all this? You know, the gang you elected to oversee the HCPS teaching and spending? Where indeed?
At the May BOPE meeting, “Chairperson” Bazzle, long-time, Board and union member Corm were joined by members Holt and Edwards for (if you ever attended a bowling league banquet with trophies for at least half the members you would recognize) May’s helicopter drop of recognition certificates. As always it was shame that, some truly remarkable achievements by some students were lost in a sea of the routine and ordinary things given to current, or soon to be, voters that should have been recognized within individual schools; but of course their parents also vote.
I failed to recognize earlier the very unusual event that occurred at that HCPS/BOPE tax consumers budget hootenanny and picnic. While six BOPE members did everything except pass out pom-poms and noisemakers to cheer for a 10% increase over last year’s spending, new member Josh Houston questioned the lack of detail and open discussion of the budget and VOTED AGAINST IT, apparently for those reasons. It was the first time in anyone’s memory that any BOPEer had voted against an HCPS budget, and judging by the drawn-up reaction of chief Bazzle and the five little (not so) braves, Houston should watch his back; while voting taxpayers should make a note. Next year Holt, Edwards, and Vice Chair-perdaughter Maurer have to decide whether to face the voters.
It seems that at least one Fourth Grade teacher in at least one school in Henderson County has used an English test to suggest that students contact the Governor to lobby against cuts to funding for assistant teachers. A photo of the first page of the test is in the illustration. Fourth graders, nine year old children for crying out loud! The Governor’s budget would reduce the amount of your STATE tax money for assistants by 50%. That’s the way it’s presented by the Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) , and as far as it goes it’s accurate, but as so often in school funding discussions the HCPS position is deliberately misleading. HCPS says the tax spending reduction will eliminate the money for 77 assistants. From what they say it seems that 77 is half the teaching assistants, but there are 269 assistants on the payroll paid for from all tax sources, Federal, state, and local. Here are some numbers we will discuss more next week.
Avg assistant pay – 31,005
X 44 – 1,364,220
X77 -- 2,387,385
X269 – 8,340,345
Look for these numbers during budget talk.
So the real proposed reduction in assistants is at most 28%. And HCPS already has several backup plans to make adjustments to work rules and schedules so that the reduction would be as little as 16%, about 44 assistants. But why do we have teaching assistants at all? Do we need to reduce their number by 44, or by 269? During all the years I worked no manager ever hired me a work buddy; someone to share the load in my job so we could take turns doing the work while the other did something else. Did you? They tell us they need assistants to keep order at least in the lower grades. I’ll bet if you are over 50 and a public or parochial school veteran, your 1st grade teacher didn’t have an assistant and still kept good order.
But oh yeah, back then you had a desk, not a place on the floor. It was in a row one behind the other and was one of four or five other rows just alike. I was proud of my 1st grade desk. It was the first thing outside the family that was mine. It was for sitting and looking up front and paying attention to the one lonesome teacher transferring a part of our culture and its knowledge to the next generation. One of the most telling photos I’ve seen about our “education” system shows a Chinese girl, you know, one of the young people from the country that finished first in all three phases of international schooling tests while Americans were 17th, 23rd and 31st. She was not sitting cross-legged on the floor grinning at a video. The look on her face was intense focused determination. But I’ll bet she would say she was having fun and that the fun was in the learning. She was at a desk, in a row, bent over her paper, pen in hand looking up at and listening to her teacher. To her, schooling was obviously serious and important, not a form of play.
But that sort of thing is a throwback to dinosaur days; days when we actually had a culture to take pride in; when we wanted to impart the knowledge developed by millions over millennia so that the kids would have a base of understanding that they could begin to expand upon. Yeah, those were dinosaur days indeed; before the genius of the socialist John Dewey became the accepted wisdom and teaching became “educating”. We’ve all moved on from those old ways; haven’t we? A passage below from Dewey’s The Child and the Curriculum, 1902 suggests at least one source of the chaos that is American schooling in 2013. It also contains the implication of an frightening kind of indoctrination that is far different than the transfer of stored knowledge to the next generation and much more suited to unrepentant recruiting of 9 year olds to lobby for keeping and growing the union rolls. In an early, and almost readable, example of the professional gobbledygook now nearly universal with academics, Dewey writes: “...as representing a given stage and phase of the development of experience. His (the teachers) problem is that of inducing a vital and personal experiencing. Hence, what concerns him, as a teacher, is the ways in which that subject may become a part of experience; what there is in the child's present that is usable with reference to it; how such elements are to be used; how his own knowledge of the subject matter may assist in interpreting the child's needs and doings, and determine the medium in which the child should be placed in order that his growth may be properly directed. He is concerned, not with the subject matter as such, but with the subject matter as a related factor in a total and growing experience.”
The essence of Dewey is that the central point of education is the contribution of the child not the adult teacher; that the child brings everything to the process that is important and the job of the teacher is to repackage the curriculum to suit the child, as if the “experience”, and knowledge of his learning needs, of each six year-old kid is perfect and unassailable, and that she can accurately and effectively address this 25 times a day, day in and day out. It is simply a utopian fantasy. Dewey inspired “educators” don’t teach, resist testing, and ask the student to clarify. Teaching, testing, and clarifying got us from Lascaux to the Sea of Tranquility and back, and it is 111 years past due to file Dewey’s dreamy utopia with the Alchemists and Astrologers and to leave education behind - for teaching.
Superintendent Jones says he “is gathering all the facts” and is certain this was an “isolated incidence”. (Could he be considering an IRS or State Dept. job?) The reported teacher, Mr. Kinsey of Glen C. Marlow, did not return our call by press time. I’ll be checking on the testing for you. This is my request hand delivered to Mr. Jones on May 17th: “Please provide, identified as to which school, separate individual copies of all and each of the English tests given to fourth (4) and fifth (5) graders in each and all of the county elementary schools since January 1, 2013. Thank you for your cooperation.” We know that in the age of twitter and even ancient technologies like e-Mail, that the Superintendent can communicate with all 4th and 5th grade teachers in seconds and ask for copies of their test and quiz files in hours. They know the law requires them to comply in a timely way. Today is day 6 of timely. I’ll report back to you on what I find.
“Our work force (1,622) here (Henderson County Public School (HCPS)), unlike private organizations our size is constantly fluctuating.” This was stated at the HCPS budget workshop by the retiring Finance Director Kerry Shannon as she began her presentation. Mrs. Shannon is a dedicated public employee, and a more than capable public finance officer, and she should not be personally faulted for a statement that flies in the face of the facts, as any small business owner with 16 employees, let alone 1,600 can tell you. The nature of public managers is generally that they have little experience in the private economy that pays the public bills; that they really don’t know what it’s like to have to manage your own business. Or they have forgotten what they knew in the press of overcomplicated public money management. The attitude can take hold quickly as I remember a young soldier saying after three DAYS in the service, and in all seriousness, that civilians just didn’t understand us.
The HCPS administration is working on this year’s turnover report which results we will pass along when available. In the meantime, last year among local teachers, 94 left, or about 10.5% of teachers. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that nationally all state and local public employee's turnover for the period of Feb. 2012 – Feb. 2013 was 16% versus 37.6% for private employees. Private turnover seems to be more than twice as much as public and nearly four times as much as last year’s county teachers. Most private workers understand the turnover issue more clearly than our public employee brothers and sisters. The data bears out the intuition that once hired, public employees seldom stray to the private economy. It is simply a matter of security. As long as you cause no embarrassment and mostly abide by the law, a job is yours until retirement. Higher turnover is just one of the insider misconceptions and union-induced anti-excellence attitudes on display at the workshop.
One of their priorities that gathered lots of comment and unanimous support was to give all non-classroom employees a raise to equalize their supplements to the same percentage as teachers were given 2 years ago by the County Commission. More tax money will be required. Board of Public Education (BOPE) member Holt said to her this is non-negotiable. Member Mary Louise Corn allowed that we “must treat all employees equally” with no individual or class recognition. That’s the union mentality open and obvious. Keep your head down, do as you’re told, don’t speak up, and big sister and brother will take care of you. Heaven for-fend that we reward subversive non-conforming excellence with more than an atta-girl. Neither Holt nor Corn mentioned the many out-of-work and short-hour Henderson county private workers who will be asked to pay the supplement raises.
The perfect master slave relationship between the Superintendent’s Administration and the BOPE is beyond bizarre. Superintendant Jones still sits at the head of the BOPE meeting table. Case in point, and really just a small one among many; one of the items presented at the workshop was the planned purchase of 35 portable recharging carts for iPads/laptops, each of which having a capacity to store and recharge 30 devices, at $2,800 each totaling $98,000; half to be bought this year and the rest next. There wasn’t a single question on this, or indeed ANY other spending item. The only comments were cheerleading and whole-hearted agreement; almost as if they were all in this together. Oversight? They never heard of the word. Questions to public managers would be, as County Commission Chairman Messer, CEO Kirby (next week), and “Chairperson” Bazzle like to say: “micro-management”.
But here is a tiny example in a $115 Million dollar budget, of what could be had with just a 12 seconds of oversight if the BOPE would risk being accused of micro-managing, or in other words, doing their job. The price of those recharging carts seemed high to me, so in 12 seconds by my watch, I located a highly regarded cart available from at least two respected education system vendors, each with a capacity of 40 units for $1,285 each without even negotiating a better price for such a large purchase as 35 units. The capacity for 40 devices versus the limit of 30 in the items presented could get the job done with 27 units; 27 at 1,285 would be $34,695 instead of the $98,000 as presented, saving $63,305. Probably could do better with a whole half a minute of oversight. Of course lifting a hand and taking 12 seconds is a lot of effort just to save $63,305; after all it isn’t their money. Why bother? Nobody is looking. And even if distribution among the schools requires that they actually have 35 units, they can be had for no more than $44,975, still saving more than half the money at $53,025, and have extra capacity to expand without further buying. One may wonder, why those the particular units chosen and why that vendor? Not if you are a BOPE member though, they no no-thing and don’t want to know. This doesn’t mean there is anything more to this waste than simple uncaring dereliction on the part of the HCPS and BOPE, but then there hasn’t been any investigation either. The county purchases between $10-25 million dollars worth of goods and services annually. The Technical Director called just ahead of deadline and reported that the he could not recall the vendor for the computing devices, usually Apple iPads and Dell laptops, or the carts or their brand, but would look the items up and e-mail me.
Maybe taxpayers need someone to oversee this BOPE’s overseeing of the HCPS? The rest was sadly and typically for this derelict, union-thought dominated, blind, deaf, mindless, inert and totally subservient BOPE, pretty much the same.
I think that is name of the NC House bill 488, isn’t it? It forms an “authority”. An authority is a state created body to control local resources or functions. Authority members are unelected (in fact the wording prevents elected officials from serving), and unaccountable to the local people who are being “authoritied”. It is one of the darlings of Agenda 21. Authorities are one of the favored methods of implementing “the collective”, without elections. Tough appointed by officials in each political domain, they operate like faceless IRS rule makers, at their own will and whim. And when a rule is made that the public raises Cain over, count on the pols to wave their arms about, point at the authority they appointed and cry out that it isn’t their job.
Local management may be messy, like elections and other inconveniences to the do-like-I-say gang’ wishes, but it insures that local needs are met as the locals want. Make no mistake. The state is taking effective control of water resources in Henderson, Buncombe, and Madison counties. The way I read the tenth Amendment is… but why listen to me. Read the whole thing for yourself. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. The word “or” means that the people and states are equally empowered. Stay tuned; more counties will tumble down this drain, unless…
This column is not about the cost of education in government schools, but about its value. It is not about teacher competence; nine hundred teachers are no less competent than nine hundred bank tellers. We believe that they are generally more competent since almost all teachers, at least at the beginning, take that work with highest ideals of preparing the children for the future. It’s only after the union dominated system pounds the teachers into the mold and discards those who refuse, that the fire of inspiration is snuffed out. I once heard a teacher talking about how she despised her job, but “only had eleven years until retirement”. I wondered how great that eleven years would be for her – and her students. This column is about value, and even more, about priorities, than the cost or spending in our school system.
We can forgive a lot of inefficiency and waste if the schools produce education in our children; not political indoctrination but preparation for them to challenge the best from anywhere in the world and take their place among them; a place that they will have earned. We have demonstrated that schools are not now, and have not been for some time, doing this, their fundamental work. We have reported that in a triennial international testing in 2009 American 15 year olds rated 17th in reading comprehension, 25th in science, and 31st in math, behind Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Poland.
We should do no less than demand that our children be taught so as to be able to compete in a world where ideas are far more valuable than physical strength; and where nimble minds are grounded in solid science, math, and comprehension and are instilled with the ability to focus resources on those ideas that will define who succeeds and who fails. Quick minds, with the freedom to work out the ideas that seem to have the best chance at success, will truly define those who own the future. None of this is happening in our schools today.
As for the school system, the past will continue to belong to those who do like we have always done; who follow the rules and who group people together rigidly by job titles, race, ethnicity and other ways which do not allow for, recognize or celebrate individuality. The ways in place today are arbitrary, and discourage meaningful recognition for teacher excellence with financial reward. The past, in short, belongs to labor unions, governments and other organizations that operate with the same kind of top down mentality where the most grievous sin is not failing to produce results, but failing to follow the guidelines. George Will, in the Washington Post wrote: “The three R’s — formerly reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic — now are racism, reproduction and recycling: especially racism. Consider Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. It evidently considers ‘instruction’ synonymous with ‘propaganda,’ which in the patois of progressivism is called ‘consciousness-raising.’ Wisconsin’s DPI, in collaboration with the Orwellian-named federal program VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America; where the ‘volunteers’ are paid), urged white students to wear white wristbands ‘as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband.” We would like contact from any parents who hear of such things in our schools.
Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) system has 23 elementary, middle, and high schools and the Early College High School. HCPS reports that there are 933 active classrooms. There are 929 people classified as certified classroom teachers. That matches up pretty well. But there are others in the system who also hold teaching certificates. There are 269 certified assistant teachers, 15 assistant principals and 23 principals, presumably also certified, and 131 more with various titles who are designated as certified. So about 1,344 people are qualified and reasonably capable of teaching, or about 1 for each 10 students. I would think this would put to rest any serious claims of a teacher shortage.
The total direct pay for these is $68,844,131, averaging $51,233. That leaves a balance of 276 (exactly 12 for each school) non-certified people being paid $16,943,957, or an average of $61,391 ranging from the Superintendant at $183,599 to a Custodian at $28.8 thousand. Some other highlights include, 16 Speech Pathologists for the 23 schools, that’s right, sixteen at an average of $53,371. There is a Child Nutrition Director at $98 thousand and an Assistant to the Director at $77 thousand. Twenty Cafeteria Managers average over $38 thousand, and an Energy Czar at nearly $58 thousand. Total direct pay to 1,620 full time employees is over $85 million.
A recent Board of Public Education (BOPE) meeting was marked by a flurry of worry over how to identify substitute teachers and how to have them efficiently and promptly available when needed; with 269 full-time Assistant Teachers on staff. What better work for them can there be than teaching in substitution for an absent teacher? Talk about contracting and paying substitute teachers is nothing short of ridiculous. What possible use can substitute teachers be other than padding the personnel roles on the taxpayer’s back. A lot more can be said about the problematic personnel policies and a studied incompetence in staff management at HCPS, but it is hard to top a situation where 933 classrooms are staffed by 929 teachers and 269 assistants but we still have hire substitutes when a teacher is absent. Aren’t the assistants on staff much better prepared to substitute in the schools they work in every day, than people who are not in schools daily?
Where there is a union mentality dominating, you have featherbedding; a term used to describe practices like those once demanded by railroad unions insisting on firemen (coal shovelers) and conductors on freight trains for decades after diesel power made firemen nothing more than traveling companions for locomotive engineers. Conductors on freight trains had just as much to do as diesel “firemen”, but the staff cost per each train was two people too many; and HCPS franticly searches for substitute teachers while 269 assistants busy themselves on duties more important than substitute teaching. On the railroads, these practices eventually were stopped.
We have written in this space about the cavalier HCPS attitude toward school security. Recent pressure by a parent brought the promise of task force on security; so far a promise unfulfilled without even the public announcement and assignment of responsibility to an HCPS representative(s). We have written about the pathetic performance of American high school students against the world without out any serious rebuttal or plan from HCPS. Our school system and the rest across the country is largely controlled by state and national forces. These include not just Federal Departments of Education (DOE), but the National Education Association (teachers union). The union lobbies for rules that require a scattered and divided definition of duties in order that many people are required to perform the duties of a few. Our BOPE/HCPS does not oppose this. HCPS comes up with a new education program-a-month from the Feds, the State or their own creativity. But keep in mind that if HCPS and BOPE are constrained by outside forces, they volunteered for them by accepting the regulation-wrapped money, and tied the ropes that bind them with their own hands.
In order to get the money that the taxpayers would never pony up without local oversight, they happily applied for this grant and that subsidy and continue to use the state and national governments to hamstring us, the taxpayers and our children with the required indoctrination and almost anything except solid academic discipline. Our use of the term taxpayer excludes those whose entire salary is from taxes. They have an entirely different view of the public spending that the rest of us think, given the state of education, is out of control.
And we mustn’t fail to include the contribution of parents who demand that their children succeed regardless of actual performance, and refuse to support, and sometimes seek the dismissal of teachers who demand excellence; parents who demand that the trappings of excellence instead of the hard work required to achieve it, be the focus of schools. If parents don’t back good teaching where they find it and demand academic excellence from their own children first, the schools will never be able to throw off the political priorities and concentrate on education. Personally I cannot bear and will not sit complacently by the decline in our schools, and I refuse to believe I am alone in this. I know citizens, parents, teachers and students want the best, but none of it will get any better if we are not willing to get up and demand it. That means yelling “STABLEMUCK” at the tops of our voices until it is cleaned up.
We look forward to a thorough public dialog on solutions to this and many more crises in our schools. The BOPE generally meets and takes public comments every 2nd Monday. The next meeting is April 15th. Meetings are in the auditorium on the right end of the HCPS Administration Building at Fourth and Buncombe Streets.
The first thing you notice on entering the Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) Administration building is that the reception space is filled with photographs. The walls on either side contain photos of ever sport played in elementary, middle and high schools; some are posed pictures, but most are action shots. They are really good work. There are also a few photos of band and orchestra, presumably the students. I didn’t see any identification on any of them. Music and sports are important aspects of developing well rounded adults, but then it dawns on you that there are no photos of scholars; nothing at all that suggests academic achievement or excellence. The Administration and Board of Public Education (BOPE) members always have excellence in academics on their lips; they just don’t display any evidence of it on their most prominent walls. We can only hope that at least a little pride in learning might one day find its way to the lobby of the HCPS Administration Building, but perhaps given the Lisa Edwards’ led BOPE defense of the poor performance of young American scholars in world competition, it won’t happen, at least not while Ms. Edwards and rest of this BOPE serves.
The BOPE April 15th meeting led off with the usual awarding of certificates. This month there was at least some connection to academics, in that they were for extracurricular language competitions and area, state and national wins for our high school journalists and yearbook writers. Especially impressive were the awards for the West Henderson newspaper, cited as among the top 20 in the country, and national recognition for the yearbook as well. We hope these awards get as much public recognition in the lobby of the HCPS building and the schools as in the BOPE meeting.
School Security Problems Are All But Solved
The time of fear and trembling is over; our esteemed legislators in Raleigh are sending us psychologists, psychiatrists and councilors to secure our schools as the HCPS anxiously waits with panting breath and pounding hearts for the new money and people. They will soon be on the way. There will be money to hire them; but not to pay their second year salaries of course. That will be our Henderson County privilege, or a state tax increase. I’m sure the first security thought of each of us is what school counselor or psychologist we would want to have with us if confronted with an armed evil madman. Of course there will also be money for new police as school guards. Why do so many opposed to arming willing and able school people not also oppose police in the schools? What is it about police that makes anti-arming folks comfortable? That’s right. Its guns! But only in hands of government, never law-abiding citizens. By all means let us not arm willing people already on staff, when we can hire more, possibly, union eligible people. After all, the legislature has made it OK for public employees to join a union in right-to-work North Carolina. And if these police are HCPS employees we may have armed union employees before you can say pay-your-dues-right-here. After all who would buy a firearm to protect his own family when he can hire a government security service? We will soon have to expand all our schools to make room for the endless hordes of those who don’t teach and are not students. For even more discomfort with government guards, read what Machiavelli has to say about mercenaries in “The Prince”.
Actually, in response to our writing these last few months on the sorry state of security in our schools, HCPS heard a presentation on an electronically controlled entry system. Even BOPE members seemed to recognize that such a system is just the first ring in a series of increasingly stronger rings of defense around our children. A determined mad or evil person would be slowed down by the system, but stronger rings would need to back it up. The product and accessories displayed would, to be useful and effective, end up costing in vicinity of $6,500 per school. The BOPE led by “Chairperson” Bazzle and Member Corn, decided by consensus to implement a one school pilot at Bruce Drysdale which is currently undergoing renovation. They will ask for $100 thousand in the next budget to extend the implementation to all elementary and middle schools. We hope they will concentrate the effort in those younger grades. High schools, most with more than one building, are both more complicated to defend like this and harder to attack, being filled with strong young men (Flight 93).
What has happened to the Security Task Force? No one mentioned it at the April Meeting. Even the mother who asked for it has decided to limit her concern to her own child’s school. Is it possible we are about to be treated to a massive misdirection worthy of David Copperfield, consisting of hugely increased spending on hardware and of course lots more people, rather than a coherent review of our sorry security practices? Bet on it. No reflective thinking; no citizen involvement or hearings; no community involved standards. Just spending and hiring – endlessly; it’s just all cosmetic crap and empire-building; all for the children of course; for security; except the only ones who seem to benefit are security toy vendors and all our new employees; just more fetid swamp water from their Wake County headwaters. I guess the Task Force is to be saved for after the tragic security breach. Ben Franklin warned that those willing to trade freedom (managing our own money) for security will get, and deserve, neither.
by CHARLES COOK AND TERRENCE MOORE: “As the Texas legislature convened last month, a coalition of anti-testing organizations, including Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, promoted a plan to gut the state's tough new high-school graduation standards. Instead of passing 15 end-of-course exams, a student would graduate by passing two or three. More than 800 Texas school boards have adopted a resolution to water down requirements.”
Eight hundred school boards!? Remember Texas in your prayers. Here at home, managing a system of more than 20 schools is quite a task these days, what with Federal and state mandates, with and without the money attached to get it done. Every source of funds other than local taxes comes with strings, directives, regulations, rules, and reporting requirements. The County Commission counts on the Board of Public Education (BOPE) to oversee HCPS. Our HCPS, and so many others, have committed to all these requirements to gain access to the money, often borrowed in the name of taxpayers.
One of devious games played with us recently was the stimulus money dangled in front of our HCPS a couple of years ago. It was earmarked to pay just the first year, only the first year, salaries of new teachers. HCPS, with its twelve month limit on foresight when it comes to money, took the stimulus and hired the people So where did we get the money for second and third year pay? Of course you know! HCPS could have refused the stimulus; they could have recognized the burden it would place on taxpayers for the futures of our new employees, who had not been justified to the people of the county, just hired with the wonderfully “free” money.
Our schools are always under pressure from the National Education Association (NEA), the teachers union, though it is really a union for most all education system workers. There’s the $25 million in dues paid by North Carolina members to lobby in Raleigh for costly additional spending by counties that favors union members. Then there are the rules that goes along with federal and state funds; that’s no picnic. But it’s OK with the school systems because with all the requirements there is very little serious oversight from the far away governments, only forms to fill out.
If we paid for running our own schools locally we’d make darn sure that the money was spent on education rather than lunch box inspection, collectivist indoctrination, and body mass testing. We’d be sure they studied the unique history of our great exceptional country and its Constitution and Bill of Rights, rather than the joys of government and non-profit employment. Greenspan’s elder brother always said: beware of centralized experts; where you and I have brains, they just have an appetite for your money to use for their starry-eyed plans to change or ignore human nature.
We have a single payer system in K-12 education. It’s the three level government pyramid of indoctrination. We need a multi-payer system; parents, all of them, not just of the kids “at risk”, but yes, for all the kids at risk, because it is all of them are, as long they are stuck in government schools. It is that simple; it’s this simple.
Step One is parents choosing schools and school management transferring the tax receipts according to parents’ choices.
Step Two has parts in parallel. The first is a five year phase where 20% of tax receipts from Federal and state sources are transferred to the control of parents directly the first year, 40% the second year, and after five years parents will control all the public support of schools. The second part is a reduction in actual Federal and state revenue by 20% of the amount of respective education subsidies. This means a dollar for dollar reduction in government subsidies and revenues from individual taxes, while maintaining tours at the Whitehouse and Statehouse. This must include all direct and indirect subsidies whether or not through a Department of Education in Raleigh or Washington. As with part one, the tax reduction is 40% the second year and so on.
Step Three has each of the 3,033 American counties and assorted other school districts increasing local taxes to make up whatever part of the lost Federal and state funding that seems justified to people of each district.. These taxes will be in the open and subject to our oversight. Then they will be our schools; we will control the costs and be prepared to take care our own. Can’t be done you say; never happen you say. I guess you’re right; 3 million farmers wouldn’t have a chance against 12 million in an empire with the strongest military in the world, unless, of course, they decided to do it. Like every difficult task it looked impossible until just before they decided to do it.
With school financial support 100% locally paid by parents, schools would be managed perhaps by a rotating board of taxpayers in cooperation with successful principals measured by parental support. There would be no use and no work for the central administration of schools, school boards or a Federal Department of Education. And the undoubted reduction in per pupil spending, after unloading all the current overhead, would release such a torrent of economic activity as to absorb all the people, and many more, doing those soul deadening administrative overhead jobs in K-12 education from Main Street to K Street to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Is this the devolution of power from Raleigh’s and Washington’s soviet mausoleums of education spending to the kitchen table? You bet and a hundred years late, and long past time to put deep in the ground, “Progressive” education theories with their support of massive bureaucracy and its top-down, central rule making. We won’t make progress in education until we bury Progressive thinking.
We have looked at the financial data sent by Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS). It isn’t ready for use in our reporting. Last Monday I delivered a detailed list of changes and additions needed to present a simple understandable set of HCPS financial summaries for your understanding. They insist it be in a letter; I delivered it in person Monday, March 11. Keep that date in mind. There is also an odd discrepancy of 48 people more listed than reported previously by HCPS. We will see if HCPS can help us; and we’ll report on the progress of the response from them. Not surprising, a first look seemed to show that the vast majority, roughly $85 million out of $110 million is for people; it’s a jobs program; as always wherever unions like our NEA hold sway. We will dig out some more information ASAP whether or not we get a response by then.
The Tribune hopes you will discuss with your friends and neighbors, some of these ideas, and some of your own, to contribute to solving the K-12 crisis; share your thinking with the task force and with us here. If you have private concerns on school issues including school security, that need to be aired publicly, contact me with complete confidence in our respect for your privacy at: Bill@tribunepapers.com or BillOhSee@gmail.com or call 828 890-0412.
The March meeting of the Board of Public Education (BOPE) began, as usual with awards, marking the beginning of the spring trophy season. This month it was student athletes and band members. Two to five or six young musicians were singled out from the middle and high schools, along with several state champion wrestlers. The most outstanding young man holds both the first and second place in all-time county undefeated streaks (54 & 52) at his weight. His principal echoed the sentiment of anyone who has ever competed: “If I wrestled at your weight young man, I would eat my way to a higher one as quickly and regularly as I could.” A power outage interrupted the awards for a couple of minutes. It wasn’t the only shortage of power on Fourth Avenue last Monday.
BOPE member Lisa Edwards took her comment time to cite, while complaining of some media reports comparing our fifteen year-olds to “other countries” kids, an unnamed test done in 1998, and another unnamed and of unknown date, whose results showed American students of some unspecified age, doing not as badly versus “Asian people” as they did on the 2009 PISA given by the OECD. She also said that in whatever it was she cited, said that Americans did better than “Asians” on more complex math problems. That seemed awfully weak, pretty desperate, and “not as bad as” is cold comfort at best. But at least five (5) board members joined in head bobbling agreement with the “wonderful news”. I can remember a time when it was commonly believed that while some certain athletes might excel at running and jumping, and throwing, they could never be quarterbacks, or pitchers, and catchers which requires higher mental faculties; and, of course, they could never manage teams and certainly not be President.
That is just the kind of brain-dead, bobble heads in the sand that we don’t need overseeing our children’s education. Ms. Edwards and her bobbling colleagues might, before dismissing the US’s poor performance on the PISA, consider first, that 30 countries beat us in math; it isn’t just “Asians” who are out-teaching and out-school managing us. We were trounced by those international power players, Latvia, Estonia, and Luxemburg too, along with 27 others including not a few Asian countries. Second, the Chinese invented imperial governance, the first organized long distance trade, written language, blue water sailing, gun powder, and observational astronomy, and seem to have us surrounded in the cyber war that is going on right now. Richard Strothers writes of the supernova of 185CE, that Romans merely wrote sketchy reports of “celestial portents” while the Chinese, who carried on court-sponsored systematic observations of the sky and recorded and reported them, made detailed records of the “guest star” of 185CE in the Book of Han during that dynasty. Ms. Edwards, et al, might consider a rethink of any careless dismissal of “Asian” computational and organizational abilities.
The Judge Speaks On Security in School
Emily Cowan, mother of three and Judge of District Court 29B, came before the BOPE at the time for public comment. She made an emotional appeal for the formation of a task force of citizens and system representatives to develop a well thought out set of policies, procedures and plans to fit each of our schools. She had the passion of a worried mom and the determination of a committed officer of the court. She cited how her daughter has been told to stay in her classroom if there is trouble, and related how that was the plan at Sandy hook also. She said her daughter knows to obey the adults and will stay as told right through the muzzle flashes.
Cowan reminded the BOPE that 17 kids were killed in the library at Columbine 20 minutes after the first shot was fired, because there was no plan to evacuate or dispersal directions. Sitting still and hoping for the best is not what adults would do confronted with an evil killer. They would leave at, if you pardon the expression, a dead run. But our schools are more worried about being sued by a mom whose kid trips while running away and skins her elbows, than a room full of shot up kindergarteners. Judge Cowan noted BOPE member Mary Louise Corn was quoted in the Mourning paper as saying “We can never make the schools perfectly safe” and “Chairperson” Bazzle is reported to have said, apparently without irony, that he is; “Dead set against allowing guns in schools.”
Corn’s implication is that we shouldn’t spend too much valuable time on this. That is a dangerous complacency that courts a tragic future. If honestly airing the topic is too tough for anyone, they need to take the very real possibilities more seriously; and remember that nothing between heaven and hell will be sure to stop armed evil men except armed good men and women; trained, willing, and able. Superintendent Jones said as much on Monday, that we needed a long conversation about armed people in schools and that they had to be trained. He will get little disagreement on that from serious people. The conversation has started; the task force will be formed with Judge Cowan as the first volunteer. Nothing should be off the table except thoughtless complacency and empty claims of what we are already doing. The subject demands a serious fresh beginning and thorough, thoughtful and complete consideration. Evil and insanity visits elementary (have you noticed too that the brave adult killers choose little children?) schools and other “gun free” places run by ‘feel good’ idiots. Police friends have told me that in securing one’s house he should look at it and think like a burglar. That seems like good advice.
We will discuss the school finance and security ideas again after we have reported on the spending by our schools the last five years and on this year’s proposed budget. The Tribune hopes you will discuss with your friends and neighbors, some of these ideas, or some of your own, to contribute to solving the K-12 crisis, share your thinking with the task force and, if you wish, pass them along to us. Task Force contact information should be made public soon.