I am compelled to respond to Dr. Mark Murphy’s letter published in the High Country Press on Aug 10, 2022. I am a member of the Watauga Board of Education, but this is my personal response; I do not speak on behalf of the board.
In his letter, Mr. Murphy advances a number of general fears, primarily voiced in more extremist information-entertainment venues, concerning “woke political indoctrination and/or critical race theory and identity politics.” Allow me to provide some factual context so that your readers have specific information to make their own judgments.
On April 11th, Dr. Murphy and another person spoke to the Watauga Board of Education during public comment expressing the same fears shared in his editorial letter. Dr. Murphy also made formal Freedom of Information Act requests on April 11th and June 3rd on these same matters. There were clarification emails from Dr. Murphy on April 26th and June 23rd. In all instances, Dr. Murphy was acknowledged and provided responses to his requests within a few days by the Watauga County Schools administration.
After the April meeting, I received relevant materials from the superintendent and visited classrooms in each of our schools. It is my opinion that our teachers are professionally following instructional standards in content selection and delivery. Dr. Murphy identified NewsELA as a particular instructional resource of concern. NewsELA provides a very large number of resources across a wide range of topics, authors, and genres. The materials are well vetted as they are used in 90% of schools, by 2 million teachers and 25 million students nationwide, including many home, private, and charter schools. The NewsELA website is very transparent about their material selection process. And it’s important to remember that NewsELA is not a curriculum but just an instructional supplement.
Watauga County Schools welcomes any parent to speak with their child’s teacher if they have any concerns at all about what their child is learning. The strong and personal relationships between our schools and our families have always been and remain today an important part of the backbone of our community. Our teachers are education professionals. They have earned and deserve our respect and trust.
Lastly, while Dr. Murphy may lament that our schools teach more than “the three Rs,” we are required by the NC Standard Course of Study to teach 12 content areas that also include Science, Arts, Career Technical subjects, World Languages, and Healthful Living among others.