Commentary

Veteran teacher: We must integrate our schools

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out this fabulous essay by Wake County school teacher Katherine Meeks that was featured on the main NC Policy Watch site. In it, Meeks, who has taught in a high poverty school in Charlotte and a lower poverty school in Raleigh, explains why socioeconomic integration is absolutely essential if we want to save our public schools. Here’s an excerpt:

“This is the story of my experiences teaching at two vastly different schools and the systemic problems of socioeconomic inequalities I witnessed:

  1. CMS: 90% free and reduced lunch; extremely low performing; rated “F”
  2. WCPSS: 20% free and reduced lunch; high performing; rated “A”

At the first school, we were flooded with monetary resources, technology, and additional school personnel.

To serve 900 students, we had five administrators, a school resource officer, two security associates, two behavior management technicians, two in-school suspension teachers, two “Communities In Schools” staff, three instructional facilitators, a full-time beginning teacher coordinator, a CTE coordinator, two counselors, and a social worker. We had a technology device for every single student. Class sizes were lower than average.

Despite these supports, I worked 12 hours a day to complete the most basic parts of my job and working conditions were far below what I would consider professional. I witnessed an unfathomable amount of violence and on more than one occasion felt personally unsafe. There was a culture of fear for everyone involved: fear of theft, fear of violence, and fear of multiple kinds of abuse. When teachers were absent, students were most often covered by stretching current staff because substitutes did not want to work in the unpredictable and sometimes hostile environment. Read more

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The late, great Julius Chambers

Julius ChambersThe tributes to civil rights hero Julius Chambers (whose funeral will take place tomorrow in Charlotte) have been pouring in from many places. Click here to read Monday’s Charlotte Observer editorial.

Another one worth your time is this one by veteran Raleigh journalist and commentator Barlow Herget:

Julius Chambers passing by

There’s a scene in the classic movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird” where the black Reverend Sykes is sitting in the segregated balcony of the courthouse at the end of the trial.

When Atticus Finch is leaving the courtroom, Mr. Sykes rises as do all the blacks.  He tells Finch’s tomboy daughter Scout who is sitting with the minister to stand.  She asks, “Why?”

“Because your father’s passing by,” replies Reverend Sykes.

All North Carolina should rise at the “passing” of Julius Chambers. Read more

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New Obama court appointee: A positive sign for NC?

With the in-state news so universally dreadful this week, a body is forced to look elsewhere to find some shreds of hope.

Here’s at least one non-NC item that might even portend something good for our state: Today, President Obama appointed an excellent lawyer named Jane Kelley to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. As you may or may not already know, the Eighth Circuit is headquartered in Kansas City and covers seven Midwestern states: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Here’s another fact about the Eighth Circuit: In the history of that court, there have been 57 justices. Of that number, 56 have been men. We’re not making this up. 

The President’s selection of Kelly will make it two out of 58 — still awful, but, hey, 3.4% is better than 1.8%. It’s a start, anyway.

And what is the implication for North Carolina, you ask? Read more