Gender Specificity: HB2


       "Section 1.1.......Local boards of education shall establish single-sex, multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities

        Section 2(b)......Local boards of education shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility that is designated for student use

                  to be designated for and used only by students based on their biologic sex                                          [emphasis added]

        Section 2(c)....Nothing herein shall prohibit local boards of education from providing accommodations...upon a request due to special circumstances"


For generations, our schools have structured their facilities and programs around the sensible idea that in intimate settings, male and female students should be separated. Therefore:

1)   HB2 is our state law and should be faithfully and enthusiastically executed in all Henderson County schools

2)   There being no legal requirement to the contrary, membership ongender-specificathletic teams should be available only to students of the corresponding biologic gender.

3)   If a student requests individual consideration, the school principal should meet with the student, his/her parents, and professional consultants to discuss the student's requests. The principal will then decide if reasonable accommodations can be made without infringing upon the convenience and privacy rights of the other students. 

Added August 26, 2016:  One lower court federal judge (Texas) says HB2 is OK; another lower court federal judge (Virginia) says it's not. A third judge has enjoined the US Department of Education from withholding funds from schools despite the 4th Circuit ruling. These are narrow cases where the rulings or injunctions apply only to the plaintiffs in those cases. The next step is a trial now scheduled for November, but it won't be the last step. 

Opinion:   None of these rulings (or any other thus far) are binding on us. We'll stay the course until the issue is properly decided. 

Elementary School Class Size       The 2016 NC General Assembly has lowered class size mandates for K-3. The new (unfunded) mandates are 18 students in a kindergarten class, 16 in a first grade class, and 17 in second and third grade classes. There was no provision for overcoming the shortage of teachers or how to fund the new expenses. Several of our elementary schools have classes way over those numbers because of teacher shortages.

Opinion:  We should view these mandates as a laudable goal, not necessarily a requirement. The cost in personnel and facilities is hard to justify.

New Money -- WITHOUT NEW TAXES       Our schools could do a lot more for the students if they had more money. Taxes are not the only way to raise money -- public schools are permitted by law to solicit and accept donations and grants. All of the charter schools and private schools in the county seek donations, and some achieve impressive numbers. In addition, there are many, many foundations interested in supporting innovative ideas in education (see "I Like Doc").   

Opinion:  The School Board should consider hiring a part-time development professional(read "fundraiser" and "grant-writer") to explore new sources of income for the public school budget.

School Safety and Security       Since the tragedies at Columbine and Sandy Hook and many lesser incidents at other schools including the school shooting in Anderson, SC in September, the safety and security of our children and teachers in school has become a legitimate concern. Currently there is a deputy sheriff ("resource officer") in each middle school and high school during school hours. These officers are an organized unit within the Sheriff's Office, with a full-time supervisor who studies incidents in other cities and conducts regular training for the resource officers. In addition, sheriff's patrol cars make frequent visits to all school buildings and grounds in the course of their regular rounds. The middle schools and some of the elementary schools keep their doors locked and have an audio-visual doorbell entrance system at the front door, but it's far from foolproof.  The high schools have no physical security system because high traffic and multiple entrances and buildings make it impractical. The students at the new school building at Blue Ridge will have magnetic swipe cards, but it won't be long before many of those cards are in circulation. There are only a handful of surveillance cameras in the whole system.

Opinion:  We have a patchwork plan with too many holes. Why isn't anyone worried about this?  The School Board and the Sheriff should jointly convene a working group representing government, school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and the public safety agencies, augmented by outside security consultants if necessary, to design, recommend and implement a state-of-the-art school security system. 

The case for home rule          Education is supposed to develop children's individual abilities and give them the tools to make their own way in the world. We seek to prepare students for whatever they may choose, and for a future that none of us can even predict. The more standardized the curriculum  becomes the more it stifles talent, creativity, curiosity, the appetite for learning, and students' sense of self-worth. I've seen brilliant young people feel they were anything but brilliant because their individual approach to adding value to the world couldn't be measured or rewarded by standardized tests sent from Raleigh or Washington. Einstein said, "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree it will live it's whole life thinking it is stupid". 

Our teachers are professionals who contribute their own creativity, intelligence and experience. They understand their students, their students' families, the local culture, the school and its values, the other teachers, the available facilities, the academic demands of their subject and what their students need to learn, and blend all these variables into a homemade stew that differs from subject-to-subject and classroom-to-classroom. The stew will only come out right if you're here in that classroom; long distance bureaucrats don't get it.

Opinion:  As long as the final product is judged by a fair assessment of accepted standards, the local School Board is the better judge of how and whether the goals are achieved. 

Missing programs:  The best schools in the world do this; why don't we ??       For a moment let's pretend that everything you know about public education -- the politics, the strange funding, the endless rules, the reasons our schools don't work as we want them to -- suddenly became changeable. Pretend the barriers to change suddenly disappeared. What could we and should we be doing differently? The question drove a bipartisan group from the National Conference of State Legislatures to study some of the world's top-performing school systems. Their report was released on August 3 and is titled "No Time To Lose: How To Build A World-Class Education System".  There were their three principal findings:

1)  The youngest learners need the most help     Research shows that pre-school, when done well, has a profound effect on children's lives, but too often it's done badly or not at all. The top performing countries invest in early education. Canada and Switzerland and many other countries offer free, full-day kindergarten to 4- and 5-year olds, with measureable effects that continue through high school and college. We need pre-K.

2) Teachers need to be better    We need a re-imagined and professionalized teacher workforce. It starts when future teachers are still students in colleges of education. Too many training institutions "don't give a damn what a school district wants or needs" (Howard Stephenson; Utah). In top-performing countries future educators are trained in the best, most selective universities. In our schools when new teachers enter the classroom and suddenly face a different reality, too often they are left to work in isolation. In Finland and Japan and elsewhere, a new teacher's first assignment is to a team-teaching model where they constantly observe veteran teachers while they are themselves being observed, fine-tuning new skills in real time, like interns in a hospital. This model emphasizes individual improvement, not accountability. We need to help our new teachers become our good teachers.

3) Career & Technical Education (CTE) should not be marginalized    CTE offerings (formerly Voc Ed)  should fit the needs of the modern economy, with care not to prepare students for the jobs of the past. CTE also has a perception problem because it is considered a second tier for students lacking academic skills. In Hong Kong and Singapore and Sweden CTE is viewed as a path to education, skill development, and full employment. CTE should be well-funded, academically challenging, professionally staffed, and aligned with real workforce needs. As the Balfour Education Center re-invents itself at BRCC, these could be it's goals.

Opinion:  Like the book says, there's no time to lose. The Henderson County School Board should always be looking at what works in other places, willing to profit from the experiences of others, never satisfied with the status quo, and seeking constant improvement in our own schools.  


                                                                          Too many people want to make sure tomorrow is just like yesterday    --Steve Jobs (Apple)