By Jesse Wood
Jan. 15, 2013. Leaving much to be read between the lines, Barbara Kinsey, one of the three new Watauga County Board of Education members elected in November, read a prepared statement at the school board meeting on Monday night.
First she offered a late Happy New Year and positive wishes to students, faculty, staff and administration before delving into “perceived problems in our county’s school system” that the school board candidates heard through emails, rumors, letters, phone calls and one-to-one direct conversations during the campaigns. These were perceived problems, Kinsey added, that “reached a crescendo” by the time the election was finished.
She talked about concerns of teacher’s who feared for their jobs, administrators who felt that “mountain folk” were beneath them and much more.
Before reading her statement, she assured those present that her words did not reflect the opinion of the school board. However, she said that she was certain several members, if not all, would whole-heartedly agree with some of the statements.
By Barbara Kinsey
Read at School Board on Jan. 14, 2012. Three of the board members here tonight were elected in the recent Nov. 6 election. All of us had begun to hear rumors, receive emails, letters, have telephone conversations and direct one-to-one conversations with Watauga County educators and citizens. These communications concerning problems, or perceived problems in our county’s school system, reached a crescendo by the time the election was over. Every single one of us had promised that transparency would be a major priority if we were elected. I am here, then, to bring these issues to light and to let all of you know who have corresponded with us, that WE HEAR YOU, and we want to bring resolution to these concerns. I believe I can speak for ALL board members when I make that statement.
- I do not have to tell you that Watauga County Schools have consistently been one the top school systems in North Carolina in academic achievement and many other areas. One of the major reasons why that is true is the incredible quality, educational background, and experience of our amazing teachers. Understanding that history, it was astonishing to me when I began to hear that teachers did not “want to be recognized” for stating concerns because they “feared for their jobs.” They were told that if they did not feel comfortable implementing certain policies, teaching techniques, etc., they should “look for another job.” Watauga education has never operated that way. if teachers (or administrators) have disagreed over policy, programs, etc., they have TALKED to each other and LISTENED to each other. In other words, COLLABORATION has been the key at all levels of Watauga Schools.
- Several other educators shared with me that they were told that all the elementary schools in the county should be on the same grade-appropriate lessons on the same day, etc., etc., so that the county would have a more organized and uniform system of delivering education. An administrator also told me that we need to minimize the “little cultures” which exist out in the school communities to assure that proper education is in place. I would suggest that the unique cultures which exist in our school communities are exactly what causes learning to be personalized and allows schools to share their cultures with other schools.
- We are being told that we need to move faster toward “paperless communication.” I agree to a great extent, but Dr. Kafitz said so wisely in the December board meeting that we should move slowly and experimentally in getting the iPads out to students in elementary grades. Most of you are aware that not every household or even every community in Watauga County receives Wi-Fi, fast Internet, etc. I am the perfect example of that. I live in Stony Fork, and I cannot receive my materials for board meetings because I am still receiving Internet by DIAL-UP!! So the real head of Watauga County Schools, Jennifer Combs, prints mine and puts the pages in a notebook. I hear rumors that another board member is about to start building a home in Stony Fork, so hopefully we can help to move cable companies to get the necessary cable in place so that all of us can be in the 21st Century!
- One of the concerns expressed to me by Watauga educators is that, in the past months, they have felt that they were being spoken “down to” by administrators as though “mountain folk” aren’t quite “up to speed” or as “educated” as others. Probably one of the “‘problems” for administrators coming into Watauga County Schools is that Watauga educators – for over twenty years – have been trained that teachers and administrators must work side by side for significant education to occur. The old top-down military model of education disappeared decades ago, and with its disappearance, came the understanding that everyone – parents, teachers, principals, central office staff, board of education – must be working side-by-side to create the atmosphere of educating our children and young people.
- Dr. Warren, you will appreciate the model I would like to see in our minds: the old well at UNC – Chapel Hill. Think of the dome at the top of the structure as our children and our teachers. Holding up that dome are the columns that reach all the way around – with each column being the same height and diameter. Those are our principals, assistant principals, and central office staff. Forming the floor are the Superintendent and Associate Superintendents. Way down at the bottom is the Watauga Board of Education. What are those of us at the bottom doing? We are supporting the top -the children and teachers in the classroom! I believe that the relationship between students and teachers is a sacred one. If given the opportunity to bloom, that relationship is awesome and dynamic. One might argue that such a paradigm is upside down. THAT IS THE POINT! The children are the purpose for being here and the rest of us are SUPPORT PERSONNEL!