Know Your Role

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By Gary Hardie

If you are currently serving on a school board and do not see yourself as an educator, you should change your mindset about your role or resign. School board members who do not see themselves as educators are often excusing themselves from their number one duty, being the chief educators of a school district.

Sure, some of us were never teachers or administrators. We may not ever lead professional development, data reflection, or teach a lesson in front of a classroom, but we are educators who have an impact on the educational success or shortcomings of kids in schools. As such, we have to be held accountable for all kids in every school we govern as we determine the vision and direction of our school districts.

Recently, I was in conversation with two members of a school board who, when pressed on outcomes for black students in their schools, completely danced around answering the question and could not own up to the fact that black students were failing in their schools nor own up to the fact that is their responsibility to do something about it. Moreso, they could not name one step their district is taking to address this issue. One of them explicitly said, “I am not an educator” even though this person serves on the board. So, I wondered what this board member was doing serving on a school board in the first place.

School boards are responsible for hiring and evaluating superintendents, adoption, and oversight of the annual budgets, adopting policies and setting goals and priorities for the district. In doing so, the board and its members impact each classroom. As such, if there is something our students need, it is our job to respond to make sure they get it by directing the superintendent to respond to whatever concerns arise. If groups of students are struggling, the board has the responsibility and ability to ensure those students have the supports and resources they need to be successful. While board members are not able to do this work themselves, they certainly have an impact on whether or not this work gets done.

Many of my colleagues serving on school boards across the country do so, amicably, as they fearlessly face challenges to do what is best for all students in their schools. As often as we convene ourselves together, it is a pleasure to catch up with them, vent and give and receive updates on the work we have been doing in our schools. In conversations about their districts and their roles, I have not once heard them refer to any students as, "those students" nor have they ever not had an answer about a specific population of students when pressed about it. In the instance where any of us expressed a challenge we were unsure how to address, we reached out in search of those best practices and policies that produce the outcomes. That's what educators do; we search for answers that will make a positive impact on our students.

If communities recognize they have ineffective board members governing their schools, they need to hold these folks accountable by demanding they simply do their job and accept their role in educating kids. We cannot let anyone remain in power without accountability. So, ask questions, demand answers, and fight for action that produces the best outcomes for kids and schools.

Task Force Assembled

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For the third year, a task force will be convened to ensure that state testing is done in the best way possible.  The task force, convened by Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, will work on this assignment for seven months.

“We’re looking for testing reductions … but also setting a path toward (our) goals, which is a new test that’s aligned to new standards that really matter.”

Read more here

CAMPAIGN FOR SCHOOL EQUITY TO HONOR MLK'S LEGACY WITH COMMEMORATIVE COFFEE TABLE BOOK ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

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Campaign for School Equity (CSE) is pleased to announce plans for a new book that will highlight Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in education reform. Published by CSE with support from the National Civil Rights Museum as part of the yearlong MLK50 commemoration, An Education Dream will use interviews, speeches, and photographs to pay homage to Dr. King’s belief in education as a fundamental component of equality. The book will chronicle Dr. King’s efforts to place education at the forefront of the American civil rights movement, provide historical context for contemporary education advocacy, and profile modern endeavors to make Dr. King’s dream of equitable education access for all a reality.

Scheduled for release in January 2018, An Education Dream will include historical facts, anecdotes, interviews, and never-seen-before photographs of Dr. King; speeches by both Dr. King and other education advocates and civil rights leaders; an analysis of the state of public education in the U.S. and in Memphis over the last 50 years; profiles of significant milestones and achievements in education reform; and an evaluation of modern setbacks that will help shape tactics as the education reform movement continues. 

Visit www.educationdream.com to view the book website, and pre-order your copy today! 

 

Funds for Charter School Improvement

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Tennessee is awarding grants to improve charter school buildings.  Twenty-seven schools will receive $125,000.

“All of our students deserve to learn in an environment where they feel safe, supported, and set up for success.  These awards will allow for new and improved facilities where students can be challenged and provided an opportunity to grow and thrive.”

Read more here

The GOP Doesn’t Care that Teachers Buy Their Own Classroom Supplies

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By Shawnta Barnes

We give our blood, our sweat, and our tears.  We sacrifice time we should be spending with family and friends.  We spend money from our salaries, which aren’t up to par with other professionals with four-year degrees, to buy supplies for our classrooms and now the GOP wants to eliminate a benefit that helps us with that cost.  

The educator expense deduction allows teachers and administrators to deduct $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket expenses for classroom items or professional development.  The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) and Scholastic recently released studies showing educators are spending hundreds of their hard earned money each year to supply basic necessities to ensure students can learn.  Republicans stated they want to eliminate this deduction to simplify the tax system, but how does this help students who attend resource-strapped schools?

Each school has its own needs.  When I worked in one urban school, most of my students had supplies and the school was able to provide additional supplies I needed, so I did not buy much. When I switched to another school, 15 minutes away, I was in for a rude awakening.  I remember going to the office and asking for the supply form to request some paper, pencils and folders for students to track their own data as I did at my previous school.  The school secretary responded by laughing and then said, “Poor thing, I know you are serious. But if the students don’t bring it, we don’t have money to buy it.”  That school year, I spent my money on class novel sets, data folders, pencils, markers, etc. just to get through the year.   I also went online to DonorsChoose.org to obtain additional novels.  

Teachers should not have to panhandle on the street, create Go Fund Me or Donors Choose campaigns to get supplies and resources.  Why take away this tax credit when we know teachers will still have to continue to go into their own pockets?  Another benefit to teachers is being taken away without solutions being offered to solve the root cause of the problem.  Will this be another reason teachers leave the profession?  How are we going to stop the teacher shortage when we keep taking things away from teachers?