Letters from readers, June 23

Jun 20, 2014

Stick with MedWest

To the editor:

In reference to the article on changing sports medicine contract providers, as a parent of a student athlete at Tuscola High School, I am immediately concerned by even the suggestion.

My son will be a junior at Tuscola this year and has played football both his freshmen and sophomore years.

First let me say that we at Tuscola are truly blessed with having Jenn Mroz on staff and on site for almost all athletic events throughout all the sports seasons, including practices.  I am not sure there is anyone at Tuscola that is more hardworking or more dedicated to their job than Jenn.

During the course of my son’s sophomore year he sustained a broken wrist during practice.  It was determined on the field that he should go for X-rays, and I took him to the ER at MedWest.

Upon arrival he was quickly taken back for X-rays and the “break” was confirmed.  He was seen by Dr. King, the wrist was immobilized in a sling, and we were back at the school to break the news to the coaches before practice was over.

I felt the treatment he received both at the ER and during subsequent follow ups with Dr. King was top notch.  He healed in time to play at the end of the season.

While I understand and appreciate that our school officials are continually trying to improve the systems and procedures, it is my strong belief that the sports medicine contracts should stay local with Medwest.  Just like Dear ol’ Dad always says, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”!

Ed Donnahoe

Waynesville

 

Thanks for helping the Pigeon Center

To the editor:

On behalf of the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center’s board of directors, I would like to thank the Haywood County Commissioners for their support and positive vote to fund the center’s roof replacement through the county’s capital projects fund.

The commission’s action will provide for design, bid and rebuild of the center’s badly leaking roof, which has been a problem for some time. We look forward to working with county personnel to accomplish this project as soon as possible.

In the meantime, center personnel and volunteers will continue to focus resources on community-based services benefitting a broad spectrum of Haywood County. We begin our summer enrichment program June 23 and are accepting as many as 50 children. We provide a safe, supervised environment with instruction in math, reading, arts, crafts, music, computers, gardening and field trips and welcome all economically disadvantaged children of any race and ethnic background.

The backing we receive from individuals, organizations and churches throughout the area enables us to offer our services and we sincerely appreciate this broad-based support.

Lin Forney, coordinator

Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center

Where were you?

To the editor:

Yesterday afternoon (June 16), as graduates of public schools and as grandparents of students in our Haywood County schools, my wife (a retired public school teacher’s assistant) and I attended a rally at the courthouse in support of strong public education and in equally-strong opposition to the systematic “quitting” of quality public schools by our current state government.

Given the threat to this basic institution in our county and state, we fully expected hundreds of persons to be present: parents, grandparents, guardians, foster parent, teachers, school graduates, as well as community leaders, who recognizes the value of an educated citizenry.

Imagine our disappointment when only a few dozen showed up. Given the critical importance of quality basic public education, where were those of us who should be gravely concerned. The mass absence was telling.

Admittedly, many have valid reasons: work, pressing home care, illness, maybe not knowing about it.

But, where were the rest of us, most of whom attended pubic school, had children or family who attended and now look to our schools to give our children in our county and state the quality education they so desperately need and deserve?

There are things you can still do both to support and defend quality public education.

1. Sign the petition going to Raleigh on behalf of quality pubic education by computer at http://aimhighernownc.com.

2. Write legislators and our governor urging them to give strong support to our public schools and oppose all proposals, however neatly packaged that don’t make quality education readily available to every child.

3. Give active support to candidates who strongly support truly pubic education for all.

4. Vote for candidates you know are committed to quality pubic education for all children and youth.

I am   a champion of quality public education for all. As a prison ministry volunteer, I meet so many who were denied quality education, not because our schools failed, but because society in general and families in particular failed to ally with the forces in the community that could make a difference. Strong, quality public school is one of the most promising allies.

R. Bruce Pate

Lake Junaluska

Comments (12)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 20, 2014 16:51

Mr. Pate: I see your passion for public education.  Recently a Republican criticized Haywood County for shorting the public school system millions of dollars.  The "defense" from that criticism that during a recession, it was ok to short the school money.  Did you know the school system was shorted?  Did you protest when that happened?  Where were you when that happened?  Are you equally or comparably frustrated at our county government as you are with our state government?  Why or why not?



Posted by: Ron Rookstool | Jun 21, 2014 09:43

Mr. Pate I think your article was well written and factual, particularly based on the response from the Haywood County Commissioners and the school board stated. During times of recession when revenue to the county is down, all have to share in the sacrifices to keep the county in the black.  During times of recession is not the time to raise taxes to help cover lost revenue. I believe the state government has done more damage than the county could ever do to not only the education system system but to so many other issues like not expanding medicaid, voter ID, trying to transfer Asheville's water system (without even considering reimbursement), fracking, providing tax relief to the rich while broadening the sales tax, etc.

I look forward to your OPED posts and you seem to always be right on the money.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



Posted by: John C Sanderson | Jun 21, 2014 12:47

I offer my apologies to Mr. Pate for failing to be present at the recent rally on the courthouse lawn. I will, however, make it a point to go online to sign the petition. I will also continue to do what I can do to advocate for support of our public education system. Additionally, I want to thank him for his consistent voice of reason and for his passionate concern for our community. I, too, always look forward to reading any comments Mr. Pate shares with us.

 

On the other hand, I am growing increasingly tired of the incessant nit picking coming from someone else. So, what is it this time, Mr. Lilly? Oh, I see. You would like to undermine Mr. Pate's position by pelting him with irrelevant and inappropriate questions about his knowledge of and/or concern for the recent accusations coming from a local political gadfly. Obviously, you don't know Mr. Pate at all, and I think it would behoove you to read what he has to say, think about it, and then act (or not) as you see fit. But you need to stop playing like you are the Grand Inquisitor, especially given the fact that your inquisition is based upon unsubstantiated claims and the false equivalency your questions suggest exists between the role the state and local government play in education in NC.

 

A few points:

First of all, you inject partisanship into the conversation inappropriately. A "Republican criticized Haywood County..." No, a Resident of Haywood County "criticized..." Political party affiliation has absolutely nothing to do with anything in this matter, so why even bring that up?

Next, you make the indefensible leap from citing one person's very questionable accusations to positing them as accepted fact. NO, Mr. Lilly, there is no factual basis for your assertion that Haywood County Schools were "shorted," if by that you mean that the school system was unfairly or secretively denied funding that was allocated for its use. It has been established quite clearly by representatives of the School Board and the County Commissioners that the reductions in funding coming to the school system in the past were agreed upon by all parties, and they were necessitated by a struggling local economy - "a recession," if you will. No one was cheated. No one was "shorted." Times were hard, and anyone with a lick of sense knows that we can't always get what we want.

Finally, you do know that the bulk of funding for education in NC comes from the state, and you know as well that local funds are derived primarily from property taxes - right? You should know, as well, that Haywood County ranks 21st out of 115 school systems across the state in the local financial support it receives for schools, when the county's population and per capita income are factored in. So, why should anyone be outraged at what Haywood County has done, and continues to do, for its public schools? Trying to focus outrage at our local government in this matter is simply wrong, Mr. Lilly, no matter what you or anyone else may try to say. Funding for public schools is primarily the job of state government, and that is where we need to focus our efforts, and our outrage.

 

Let me say in closing that you have every right to post whatever you like on this forum, I suppose. But I would encourage you to try to gain a bit more understanding of who you are talking to, and what you are talking about, before you go into Grand Inquisitor mode. Legitimate questions and suggestions should always be encouraged, but nagging efforts to find fault where none exists are tiring and ultimately counterproductive. That, sir, is my humble opinion.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 21, 2014 15:44

"First of all, you inject partisanship into the conversation inappropriately." -- The entire point of Mr. Pate's comments revolve around an online petition sponsored by a democratic activist.  As I have said before, only when politics is taken out of the discussion about how to fix education can it get better.

 

(http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/aim-higher-now-petition-arrives-in-waynesville/1199392#1199880)

 

A Republican advocated that the county should have given the school more money per the formula.  That's fact.  The county admitted there was a deviation from the formula.  That's fact.  The circumstances about how that occurred and to what extent is unclear.  And that part is irrelevant to my point: is the petition about education or politics?  Is the desire for more money for public schools only valid when Republicans are the target to protest?  If the logic is that we deviated from the formula during a recession when funds were short, can the same argument be made when our budget needs balancing?  Why or why not?

 

"try to gain a bit more understanding of who you are talking to, and what you are talking about..."  -- I'll do my best.  I see how my inquiry could upset those who are sensitive to the politics involved.  I meant no offense to Mr. Pate, whom I do not know.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 21, 2014 17:44

To emphasize my statement that the entire petition is political (that I did not "inject"), this website is run by the same folks that sponsor the petition referenced by Mr. Pate:

 

http://www.progressncaction.org/

 

Indeed the petition and those that sponsor it are partisan.  On the flip side, school choice: there is organization for that.  But for some reason we don't hear about it in this forum.  As the below youtube thing says, it's not a Republican or Democrat thing.

 

http://youtu.be/CE5hBwC1fGU

http://pefnc.org

 

If we want to have an open and honest debate about why (if) the public schools need more money, make the discussion about how to fix schools.  If NC funds an average of $8,400 per student and the average class size is 20, that represents $168,000 (of "revenue") in each class!  If the average NC teacher salary is $31,000, then where the heck is the other $137,000 per class?!  Until someone is held accountable for why teachers get only 18% of the "revenue", reform won't work.  Who or what gets the other 82%?  Could the argument be that public schools are being funded "enough" but those in charge of the school money might need to be persuaded to prioritize what is REALLY important to education: teachers?



Posted by: Gary Arrington | Jun 23, 2014 10:51

"If the average NC teacher salary is $31,000, then where the heck is the other $137,000 per class?!"

 

$31,000 is NOT the average teacher salary in NC...it represents approximately the average STARTING salary in NC. The actual AVERAGE salary of all teachers is $46,605. (http://www.teacherportal.com/salary/North-Carolina-teacher-salary), or almost 28% of the revenue using your figures from above. (Other sites list the average salary at approx. $45,900, but still significantly more than $31,000).

 

So where does the rest of the revenue go? Well, let's see...health insurance, state retirement, worker's compensation, bus driver salaries, bus maintenance, gas, vehicle insurance, custodians, building maintenance, utilities, property & liability insurance, text books, classroom materials, food, cafeteria workers, special needs staff, security, librarian salaries, library books and resources, administrative salaries, sports programs, music programs, security, and probably a whole host of other things.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 23, 2014 17:01

"The actual AVERAGE salary of all teachers is $46,605" -- Good point.  Still, that's $121,395 PER CLASS of something other than a teacher -- which should be the primary role in a public school.

 

One way to look at this: If you put 20 students and a teacher in a field and tell the teacher she can have $168,000 if she were to teach all the children, could she do it?  Forget all the "regulation", the "standardized tests", the "administration", and any "mandates" -- just that she is to teach all 20 students so that they all have equal opportunity to learn to the best of their abilities.  I'll bet any teacher would take that deal and be happy about it.  Sure, she'd have to think and plan how to rent space and arrange transportation and provide "the basics" -- but she'd have enough left over to be well-compensated.

 

Another way to look at it... Public schools are funded twice as much per pupil than private schools.  If you (poof) make all schools perform like a private school. (I dunno -- wave a magic wand or something.)  All of a sudden the public school system spends HALF as much and performs like private schools do.  If our government keeps funding schools at the same level, that would mean there would be a large chunk of money there to -- I don't know -- pay teachers better?  (A gross simplification I admit, but in principle, private schools prove quality education can be done for less.)

 

Another perspective to consider.  I worked for a company who designed and built things for state universities.  Long ago, those universities started building lavish dorms, huge parking decks, gourmet cafeterias, and pools and gymnasiums that inspired awe.  It was kind of a joke -- no longer are the state colleges selling an education.  The cost of tuition was exceeded by room and board -- the education is just a perk for living on campus.  If teachers in public schools take 28% of the total funding, what are we REALLY funding?

 

Not saying this is a problem in Haywood... but I knew a NC school system that had a TV station, a paid public relations staff, a legal team, and a professional lobbyist team.  That was just the on-the-surface things that seemed out of place to me.  Who knows what was buried in various levels of budgets -- but the same symptom was prevalent: teachers complain about not enough of the budget making it down to them.  And those teachers also sign the petition without critically thinking about maybe, just maybe there is enough money if it were just spent more wisely.  I think this is more symptomatic in large cities in NC -- but that's where the bulk of the state funding goes, right?

 

In my opinion (and opinions are what this whole forum is), we ought to find a way to well-fund things in education that work.  Effective teachers get paid well, ineffective ones do not.  Effective schools are well-funded, ineffective schools do not.  Effective county school administrations have more influence over education, ineffective county school administrations do not.  Lumping everyone into an all-for-one-and-one-for-all makes it very hard to differentiate what works and what doesn't.  A state-wide petition makes Haywood County no more credible than Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  Embrace Haywood as one of the top 20% in the state. 

 

Break away from the bottom 20% that is the focus of the legislature's attempts to de-fund.  Stand alone and desire to be recognized as the top 20%.  Ask legislators to provide school choice in Haywood County and then say loud and proud that Haywood has more people choosing public school than at least 80% of the rest of the state.  That would be a rallying point for all political persuasions.

 



Posted by: John C Sanderson | Jun 25, 2014 13:54

A few responses to Mr. Lilly's comments seem in order. Responding to all of his comments would require a level of diligence and free time that most of us don't possess, but I'll try to address at least some of them.

The existence of "politics" (i.e., the efforts by groups and individuals to gain power and influence) is a reality of life, Mr. Lilly, and I'm sure you understand that. There are "family politics," "business politics," "church politics," and "partisan politics" - just to name a few. I will just mention again, briefly, that it is you who brought partisan politics into this discussion when there was no need to do so. Why not bring the gentleman's religious affiliation or ethnicity into the discussion? They would be just as relevant to the incident you cite as the fact that he is a registered Republican - and they would ALL be totally IRRELEVANT. Also, I would suggest that your citing of these accusations against local government officials by a serial complainer like Mr. Miller is likewise irrelevant to the issues Mr. Pate addresses in his letter.

Finally on that general topic, I want to strongly encourage you to stop "spinning" the facts into inaccurate statements. Mr. Miller did not "advocate" for the schools (and the school system even took issue with his claims). He accused a public official, Ms. Davis, of dereliction of duty and unprofessional conduct, and he demanded her resignation or her dismissal. He merely used this funding formula "issue" as the vehicle for lodging another complaint against Haywood County government. And once again - and for the last time - there is no level of uncertainty about what happened. Everyone involved KNOWS what happened: The school system received less money than this VOLUNTARY formula would have suggested....because that level of funding would not be available unless property taxes were increased. Nothing underhanded there. Nothing nefarious. Nothing providing PARTISAN gain. So, enough with this.

Now, as to your claims that this petition, and the group behind this petition, have political goals in mind, I would ask: So what? Yes, it would be an ideal world in which "politics" was not involved in all efforts at governance - from running a state government to running a local church - but that's a pipe dream. “Politics” exists in all phases of human activity, and I am confident that will always be the case. It’s seems obvious to me, furthermore, that those in the NC legislature who are pushing vouchers, charter school expansion, elimination of teacher tenure, and other actions that many of us see as being detrimental to public education are acting in a very unified and predictable POLITICAL manner. The fact that those who stand in opposition to those policies are acting "politically" should come as no surprise to anyone. I would simply add that there is a lot of difference between the level of blind, lockstep political partisanship that exists - quite regrettably - at state and national levels today, and the minimal amount of political partisanship that should exist at local levels of government.

To reiterate my suggestions from before, I think it would be in your best interest to fully inform yourself about these issues before making comments that are perhaps inaccurate, only partially correct, or consisting of little more than questions and “what if” scenarios. I have to say, as well, that I found your suggestion that individual teachers and their students be placed “in a field” with X amount of dollars to be pretty comical. I have to assume that you were being ever so slightly hyperbolic and tongue-in-cheek with that suggestion, but I think you were, in fact, suggesting that teachers are the key players in improving education. I won’t take issue with that, at all, and I will continue to advocate for teachers to receive higher pay, improved benefits, and the level of professional regard they deserve in our society. That said, however, it is silly to suggest that one teacher with 20 students and $121, 395 (an all but arbitrary figure, by the way, derived from faulty calculations based on inaccurate and overly simplified information) in his/her pocket would be able to replicate the course offerings, the expertise, the co-curricular opportunities, the specialized and general support services, and so on that our public schools as currently configured are able to offer. Sometimes, Mr. Lilly, your arguments are roughly akin to those offered in the occasional debate about the number of angels capable of dancing on the head of a pin - perhaps mentally challenging and interesting to consider, but essentially irrelevant and meaningless in the real world.

In an effort to help you avoid some of the inaccuracies you have been guilty of in the past, I offer the following link to an informative report, “Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget,” compiled by the NC Dept. of Public Instruction in February, 2013.

http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/fbs/resources/data/highlights/2013highlights.pdf

If you take the time to read through this report, which details, among other things, where NC public educational funding comes from, as well as how it is dispersed, hopefully it will help you formulate criticisms and suggestions that are at least based on accurate information.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 25, 2014 15:34

Thank you, Mr. Sanderson.  It will take me a while to digest what you offer -- but I will.

 

"fully inform yourself about these issues before making comments" -- In fact, I make comments (welcoming debate) to become "more informed" and I appreciate your opinions/experience/perspective to help me with that.  Would you say that Mr. Pate is "fully informed" and therefore qualified to present his opinions?  Could we find someone "more informed' than Mr. Pate that would therefore be able to tell Mr. Pate that he should not make comments?  Or does "fully informed" mean "agree with your opinion"?

 

Ultimately, you and I would likely agree on one thing: the teacher/student interface is where education occurs.  Improving that interface would therefore improve education.

 

In my line of work, we have something called "root cause analysis".  For that to occur, you have to really get down to accurately determine what caused a problem.  Too often people treat the symptom and not the problem.  I don't think the root cause of the education problem is a lack of funding by the legislators.



Posted by: Doris Hammett | Jun 25, 2014 20:14

To: R. Bruce Pate

Lake Junaluska

 

Thank you for your editorial in the Mountaineer of June 23 and your specific advice of things that a person can do in support of education before the General Assembly.

Although Haywood County will be affected by the decisions of the General Assembly, we have little influence of what those decisions will be.  Haywood county people will be the means by which we can make our schools the best to serve our students.

That must begin with the parents and their interest in their children’s school, teachers, instruction materials and activities. The National Great Schools (whose mission is to inspire and support families to champion their children's education - at school, at home and in their community, a national non-profit based in Oakland, CA, with programs and offices in Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and Indianapolis) rate community involvement in schools.  On a scale of 1 to 5, Haywood only has four schools with a top rating of 5:  Bethel Elementary, Central Elementary, Haywood Early College and Pisgah High School.  Haywood has three schools with a rating of 3: Canton Middle, Waynesville Middle and Tuscola High School. 

Community involvement and support does not cost money.  We can do that so next year we will make the difference.  We can have all our schools rated 5 for community involvement. With community support and interest, we will start our assent to better educational environment and more learning for our students.  Start with your plans this summer.  Be there when school starts in the fall. 

Doris B. Hammett, MD



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 26, 2014 07:35

         I also would like to give my support to any and all who chose to support OUR public schools. We the people have been thru this before. In the State of Virginia, Patrick Henry at the request of conservative preachers put forth a bill to tax all the people of Virginia in order to pay for "The Teachers of the Christian Religion". George Mason asked James Madison to create an opposing bill. So he did. Madison's Remonstrance and Remembrance Against Religious Assessments in Favour of the Teachers of the Christian Religion in which Madison listed 15 reasons why no taxpayer should have to pay taxes in support of anyone else's religion was publicly posted along with Henry's proposal for a year. Madison's Remonstrance was overwhelmingly supported and Henry was not re-elected. This is OUR Founding History. It is important. The N.C. Constitution supports it by placing restrictions on use of public money for private and/or home schooling.

               As a long time supporter of the cause of Liberty and the equal protection thereof I see any attempt to divert public funds from OUR public schools to support so-called "school choice" as direct attacks on US. Not just an immediate attack but one that would challenge the basis for OUR Founding upon which much of OUR Founding Documents were based, taking out OUR base of support for Liberty itself.

 

          C.Z.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 26, 2014 09:20

"That must begin with the parents and their interest in their children’s school, teachers, instruction materials and activities." -- Once, there was a PTA organization that I think was supposed to tackle that issue.  I've been around PTAs enough now to suggest many of them have lost their way.  Wouldn't it be great if PTAs spent as much time and energy getting parents directly involved in their children's education as they did on membership drives, fundraising, pizza parties, and even getting involved in politics?



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