​    ​ A middle school music ensemble at


Common Core        Common Core started as a simple list of what graduating students ought to know in English and mathematics.  It was developed by educators for the National Conference of Governors in response to criticism from the business community that high school graduates as entry level employees lacked competency in these fields. Things got off track when the federal government changed the list to a curriculum, extended it to all grades K-12, and then tried to compel states to adopt the curriculum by linking adoption to federal funding ("No Child Left Behind"). The Feds raised the ante again with the "The Race To The Top" competition, which added compulsory testing to qualifying for federal grants. As usual, the cost of implementation has exceeded the grants.

Opinion  As a list of what graduating students ought to know, there's nothing inherently wrong in the Common Core standards. The essence of Common Core has been incorporated into the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.

What must be resisted is a national curriculum which deprives school boards of local control, deprives teachers of use of their best judgement on how to teach their classes, and compels students to take national tests. Both the national curriculum and the anxiety-producing compulsory testing that is driving students crazy and forcing teachers to "teach to the test" should be abolished or ignored.  

Dress Codes        Dress codes are useful guides for students and parents, but engender considerable controversy because of differing tastes and sensitivities of parents, and are considered intrusive by many students.

Opinion:   Boundaries have to be set, and dress codes are a proper function of school administration. The code should be age-specific and school-specific, and should reflect the collective views of students, parents and teachers. School principals should have an advisory group in which students, parents and teachers are fairly represented and which recommends the dress code to the principal, who has the final authority.

Class Size        The relationship between class size and student achievement has been the subject of scholarly debate forever. Smaller classes may not be the magic bullet many intuitively believe them to be. Current class sizes are reasonable; further size reductions would require massive outlays of funds for more teachers and more facilities, with no provable effect. 

Opinion:   Current state mandates should be repealed, since the 115 school districts in North Carolina are vastly different. Absent evidence to the contrary, local school boards should have the authority to tailor class size according to district- and individual school-based factors, and to grade level, academic subject, student capability, facilities and available resources.

The current average student-teacher ratio of 14:1 and average class size of 20 in Henderson County should be preserved.  


Computers for Students --  Dollars and Sense



           ISSUES  IN  EDUCATION, P. 1.

Johnson Farm, Christmas 2015

                    Photo courtesy Pascack NJ Public Schools

backpacks. As a school system we are failing our students by not using computers in school. It should be our first priority. Just as we provide textbooks to students, it's time to enter the 21st century and recognize that the whole world is now computer-based. Many school districts nationwide have done this long ago, including our neighbors in Transylvania, Buncombe, Rutherford, and Polk counties, and Asheville City schools. Student computers change everything -- what is taught, how we learn, how we teach, how we communicate, how to ask a teacher a question outside of class hours, how to access the vast world of computer-based resources,

          Photo courtesy of HCPS

Welcome to the digital age. Unless you're a student in Henderson County. Here we still do our work on paper and lug 40 lb 


and on and on. And in the background is the need to graduate computer-literate students ready to take their place in higher education or employment. If we don't fix it our children will struggle to find a place in the global economy. 

Last year the School Board requested $1.5M for the purchase of computers for every high school student, but failed to make the case to the County Commission. The infrastructure and teacher training to support computer-based learning is in place and has been for a year, so we are wasting precious time. No more arguing. No more discussion. The world has changed, learning has been transformed, the wisdom of the world is in your lap or on your desk, and it is absolutely essential that every student have and use a computer in school and at home every day. The School Board went back to the County Commission this year with a plan to gradually acquire computers over the next four years, only the first year of which was approved.

Opinion:   Too little, too late. There's no reason to stretch it out for four years. The price of the computers has dropped from $450 to $278 and probably will continue to drop, making the device-acquisition part of the plan half as expensive as it was last year and twice as do-able. If we wait until 2021 technology will be lost to one entire high school generation and two middle school generations. We may even see a new Hendersonville High School before everyone in it has a computer.  

This is just a money problem; no one thinks computers are bad. This is everyone's problem. Every parent in Henderson County should demand 1) that the School Board submit a plan which puts a computer in every student's hands this year, and 2) that their county commissioner vote for computers today !!  

If the County Commission does not approve the funds, I will personally and relentlessly pass the hat to every person, business, club, and church in the county until the money is raised to get our kids what they need and should have.