Commentary, News

1. A stark reminder that the far-right still rules in Raleigh
Just when you think there’s a glimmer of hope that the flood of reactionary ideas in the General Assembly is finally slowing down and the abuse of the democratic process is waning comes a stark reminder otherwise, that folks running things in Raleigh are still far outside the mainstream of North Carolina and are willing to use almost any heavy-handed tactic to advance their far-right agenda.[Continue Reading…]
(Video: Click here to watch Rep. Cotham’s full remarks on HB465.)

2. McCrory’s folly? 
Grim anniversary reminds us that Governor’s proposal for offshore drilling is fraught with danger
In case you missed it (or maybe just tried to forget it), this week marks the fifth anniversary of an especially dark event in modern American history. Five years ago yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and injuring 17. Two days later, on April 22 (Earth Day), the rig capsized and sank. Soon thereafter, a torrent of oil started streaming in the Gulf – a phenomenon that did not stop for 87 days. It was the worst oil “spill” in American history. [Continue Reading…]

3. U.S. Supreme Court maps out the road ahead for the North Carolina redistricting case
Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court order sending the North Carolina redistricting case back for further review, though encouraging for the plan’s challengers and for voting rights advocates as well, came as little surprise to most legal experts.

After all, the court had done the same thing just a few weeks earlier in a redistricting case out of Alabama, finding in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama that the trial court had applied an incorrect analysis when upholding that state’s most recent redistricting plan.[Continue Reading…]

4. Censorship controversy, thin record spark concerns over McCrory’s State Board of Ed nominee
Governor Pat McCrory’s recent nomination  of J. Todd Chasteen to serve on the State Board of Education has raised the eyebrows of some western North Carolinians.

A Boone resident who appears to have a thin record of experience with public education, Chasteen was deeply involved last year in efforts to ban a book from a public high school English classroom in Watauga County. [Continue Reading…]

5. N.C.’s outgoing higher education leaders on how to keep both faculty and students on campus
UNC President Tom Ross and N.C. Community College President Scott Ralls were joined Wednesday by two state senators for a discussion on the future of higher education in North Carolina.

Ross learned he would be out of a job in January, in a surprise move by the UNC Board of Governors to find a new president that many suspect had political motivations.Ralls announced last week he was leaving his job of 7 years leading North Carolina’s 58-campus community college system for a job leading a Virginia community college. [Continue Reading…]

Commentary

Just as I was getting ready to begin a weekend of fun with my kids and even look forward to a bit of relaxation here and there, I read this blog entry (see below) by Lee Ann Meredith, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, which was reposted by the Washington Post with permission.

And then I remembered that for many teachers, including the ones I’ve visited as a reporter and the ones to whom I’m related, the weekend just means more time to catch up on the endless amounts of work that stretch before them—but with more pee breaks.

If you’re reading and comprehending this blog post, then you’ve benefited from having a teacher in your life. Take the time to know eight important things about them that they want everyone to know. And then give a teacher a hand this weekend.

1. We are well-educated and specialists in our field. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 52 percent of public school teachers have a master’s degree or higher.  Many teachers I know have more than one master’s degree with specializations such as reading or special education. We don’t stop learning when we become teachers either. We must reapply for our certificates with proof that we have continued our education and professional growth in our field. Grade-school teachers usually teach all subjects and we must have a strong grasp on the underlying themes. We are wildly knowledgeable in many areas.

2. We are communicators, quick decision makers, and creative problem solvers. Teaching is more than lecturing. It is often like being an orchestra director of beginning musicians. We have to be able to have a group working on task while sitting quietly with another small group of four of five pupils. We have to be able to create a working environment where a couple dozen people share an open space. It has to be done in a caring way that supports every child. This is not easy. Teachers might have to choose over Suzy’s bloody nose, Rupert’s hurt feelings, Trevor’s emotional, tear-filled crisis about a math problem, all while keeping the rest of the class at work. If you think this type of scenario never happens, think again. In primary grades some variation of this happens daily. (Two notes about this. First: Blood trumps everything, even vomit. Second: The crazier the situation is, the more likely a fire drill is about to occur.)

[You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong?]

3. We are realistic visionaries. We know what our students can do and we push, push, push some more to make them achieve. We celebrate successes and then push some more. We know where our kids are most likely to end up but we attempt to ratchet up the trajectory. We want our kids to beat the odds against them and we try to instill the tools that make it possible. Frequently, we have to hope that something we said one rainy Tuesday, or a hot day in May, made enough of an impact that it changed their most likely path. The joy of seeing a boy who ran on the fringes of a gang, now as a young man in the grocery store telling you that he is in college is breathtaking. Getting a Facebook message from a girl that had a drug-using mama telling you that you got her through those years, that makes it all worth while. I once heard that the most common request for a private investigator wasn’t spying on a cheating spouse but rather tracking down a favorite teacher. I don’t know if it is true but I love the idea of it.

4.We have personal lives that are completely ignored during the day. We simply don’t have a moment to spare when a class of twenty-some kids is in the room. In grade schools, we have bladders of steel because you cannot leave your class to go tinkle every hour or two. (I cringed every time I was told by a health professional to drink more water.) We come to work even when we don’t feel well because it is easier than taking a day off. Unless you are absolutely incapacitated you know the result of having a substitute in your classroom. We make up a year’s worth of doctors appointments in the summer break. We make all our business phone calls then also. We are with kids during business hours and don’t get to make phone calls with them in the room. If you believe we can do it the minute the kids leave for the day you need to read the next item.

5. We do more than “just teach.” Our paperwork load is tremendous. It is way beyond grading papers. We have to document most incidents that might be a reason for concern for all students. We have to document conversations with parents and guardians. We have to record any changes to routines for children who are struggling. This can include such simple things as how often I check in with a child or if I moved their desk. We have to keep track of test scores, comparing them to each other and to past scores. The movement to document every iota of data continues to grow in the current world of testing. Besides paperwork, we also need to meet with other teachers for planning. Oh, and don’t forget bulletin boards certainly need to be changed.

6. We frequently feel isolated in our classrooms. We spend large portions of our day as the only adult in the room. Even when you have an aid or a student teacher, you are simply too focused to visit. There is no water cooler conversation. Perhaps the best example of this was way back on September 11, 2001. With a second-grade class, the only way we got information was by quick whispered conversations while we were taking our classes to the bathroom. It wasn’t until I got home and turned on the television that I had a sense of what happened that day.

7. We are passionate about our kids. Many of us see our job as a calling, not a career. We think about our students’ problems day and night, often more than our own. We come up with ways to deal with a child’s difficulty with a skill while we drive to the grocery store. We devise that perfect lesson idea while walking the dog. I’ve been out of the classroom for three years and I still do this several times a day. I see a new book and want to read it to a class. I hear a new fact about whales and want to add it to the unit I created several years ago. It doesn’t stop. It is a lifelong passion.

8. We are the builders of tomorrow. Our job is creating the future citizens of our country. Yes, we work hard. Lots of people do. Unlike most careers, what we do though is not for today. It is for the future. We know that tests don’t create career-ready people. Basic knowledge and the skills to learn do. Being able to work and communicate with others does. We are willing to do the hard work. We are the planters of acorns, believing the mighty oaks will grow from our work.

 

Commentary

Loretta LynchThe national news site Politico has a new and interesting story that shines additional light on the new U.S. Attorney General, Greensboro native Loretta Lynch. The story is entitled “What made Loretta Lynch’s father see red,” and it features several candid comments from the A.G.’s father, 83-year-old Lorenzo Lynch) about his daughter’s rise and the obstacles she has had to overcome as an African-American woman raised in late-20th Century North Carolina.

Here’s a particularly poignant excerpt:

In elementary school in the late 1960s, Loretta took a standardized test and did so well that the stunned white administrators forced her to take it again. “At the time, we were just a few years out of this dual [segregated] society, so we were not as shocked,” says her father. We were used to going to the back of the bus, or front of the train.” His daughter was still living the injustice of the society, Lorenzo says, “but I don’t think she understood it, I think she just took it as routine.” As a child, she spent hours with her father, watching court proceedings in the local courthouse, and reading in the town library, which was only four blocks away.

Loretta Lynch endured the backdoor racism of low expectations all the way through high school; though she graduated at the top of her 1977 senior class, Durham High School asked her to share valedictorian honors with a white student. She won a full scholarship to University of North Carolina, her father says, but all she wanted was Harvard. She had seen the school during a family trip when she was a little girl and had declared: “I want to go there.”

Of course, Lynch eventually overcame the obstacles thrown up by the remnants of Jim Crow, but it hasn’t been easy. Moreover, as has been reported repeatedly in recent weeks, conservative forces in North Carolina (namely, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis)  haven’t stopped trying block her from getting where she wants and deserves to go. As the Politico story also notes:

Read More

Commentary

2013 DOJ logo CIRCLE-2--PMS313Don’t miss out on the 17th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards

When: Thursday, May 14, 2015,  6:00-9:00 p.m.

Where: William and Ida Friday Center, 100 Friday Center Drive in Chapel Hill

Each year, the North Carolina Justice Center presents its Defender of Justice Awards to honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work – legislative advocacy, policy research and advocacy, litigation, and grassroots empowerment.

CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS
CLICK HERE FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
Click here for photos from last year’s event.

THE 2015 HONOREES: Read More

Commentary
Source: www.aspca.org

Source: www.aspca.org

The North Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday with the misleadingly simple title of “Property Protection Act.” The bill has also come to be referred to as the “ag gag” bill because it is widely understood to be targeted at silencing those who would record and publicize disturbing images or sounds from facilities used to raise and/or slaughter and process animals.

Under the bill, employers can sue any person (including employees) who gain access to “nonpublic areas” of their premises and who then, without authorization, record images or sounds and then use those recordings to breach their “duty of loyalty to the employer.”

Defenders of the bill, which included widely respected progressives like Rep. Rick Glazier, argued forcefully that the language of the bill is drawn in a very narrow fashion so as to protect whistle blowers and others who would expose wrongdoing or illegal activity. And indeed, the proposal includes references (both direct and indirect) to numerous anti-retaliation statutes and includes none of the criminal penalties that were present in previous “ag gag” proposals.

It’s also easy to envision compelling scenarios in which employers would be rightfully aggrieved at the idea of employees secretly recording and posting to the Internet the contents of, say, staff meetings or private strategy sessions.

That said, the bill as written still raises serious and nagging questions about freedom of speech and the public’s right to know important information. For instance, it appears that under the terms of the bill, an employee who becomes aware of inhumane or unsanitary (but not necessarily illegal) food preparation practices could be sued, silenced and ordered to pay damages if she recorded a video of such practices on her phone and publicized the recording. Similarly, an office worker who, for instance, records and publicizes the fact that his boss keeps a noose in his office along with some racist posters and literature would appear to be potentially liable for damages. Read More