Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disappearing teachers: View from Myers Park High

As parents and educators lobby to save Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from budget cuts, a co-president of the Myers Park High PTSA decided to show local legislators exactly how cuts play out at one school. Margaret Marshall's e-mail (below) provides the kind of close-up glimpse that's often missing from talks about state and county budget cuts.

If you have examples of other interesting public-school lobbying efforts, send them to ahelms@charlotteobserver.com so readers can see what's going on across the area.
-- Ann Doss Helms

From: Margaret Marshall

Sent: Monday, May 24, 2010 11:35 AM
To: Tricia.Cotham@ncleg.net; Becky.Carney@ncleg.net; Daniel.Clodfelter@ncleg.net; Martha.Alexander@ncleg.net; Bob.Rucho@ncleg.net;Ruth.Samuelson@ncleg.net; Kelly.Alexander@ncleg.net; Beverly.Earle@ncleg.net; Charlie.Dannelly@ncleg.net; Eddie.Goodall@ncleg.net;Malcolm.Graham@ncleg.net
Cc: Eric C. Davis

Subject: view from state's largest high school

Thanks for opening this fellow Mecklenburgers. I am Margaret Marshall, currently one of the co-presidents of Myers Park High School PTSA – the state’s largest high school. I am sure you all are getting thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls about all the cuts to every part of our state budget. I want to bring things down to a very local level and share what I see happening at our high school next year.

Myers Park High school is known for many things:
· Academic excellence
· Racial and socio-economic diversity
o We have over 25 countries represented – people from all over the world, not just the Americas
o We have 1/3 of our students receiving free and reduced lunch – this translates to almost 1000 students – the size of most NC high schools
o We have wealthy Myers Park neighborhood children going to school with homeless children – in other words it looks a lot like the real world
· Opportunities for all types of extra-curricular activities – sports (31 team opportunities), clubs, band (multi-programs), chorus (5 different choirs), Jr. ROTC, numerous career clubs and leadership opportunities, student led clubs and councils

Education happens in about every way possible on a campus that was built in the 1950’s. While renovated occasionally, our campus is certainly not a “prime physical specimen.”

Your money is well spent and goes a long way at Myers Park High School. You would be really proud of the work being done by the teaching staff and administrators, students, and parents.

We have given pink slips to 24 teachers this year (a few of those were associated with a recent reassignment). We gave around 25 pink slips to teachers last year too. Not to mention all the security and maintenance people that have also been let go. Our school population will hover around 2700 for the next school year. This means that we will have 49 less teachers than we had two years ago for a school population that is almost the same. I would like to tell you some things that were mentioned at a recent meeting with administrators:

· Classes – We will have 40 or more students in most of our core classes for honors, AP, and IB core classes – English, Math, Science, Social Studies, PE, and many foreign language classes
o We will have many empty classrooms
o Occupied classrooms will be filled to the maximum capacity. In fact the administrators don’t know how many of these classrooms will handle the extra furniture needed to house students. Classes may need to be moved to much larger spaces to accommodate the number of students who will be assigned to those teachers. We may have to purchase smaller furniture so that we can get more students in each class!
o Far less flexibility will be offered to our student population in their schedules because of the lack of teachers for each section. This means that kids who have a passion for art or band may not be able to fit those programs into their schedules because of the unavailability of core classes. While this is not the most major problem we face it creates less well-rounded students and I would venture unhappier students. We have enough of those already. We don’t need any more reason for kids to drop out.

· Teachers – With more students seen by each teacher during the day the quality of instruction will definitely go down. Differentiation in the classroom will be very challenging in a space that is crowded to begin with and with more students than before.
o I already see less writing than I would like because of the hours it takes to grade essays and test questions. Our teachers do amazing things but there are only so many hours in a day.
o It is nearly impossible to practice lab skills in classrooms with 40 students. Learning by doing or using multiple intelligences has already given way to more and more lecture type classes. This is frustrating to teachers and to students.
o Our staff now is much older than it was a few years ago. While there is much to be said for maturity, the energy the younger teachers bring is sorely missed. Although much has been said of using the current funding crisis to “clean house of low performers” that hasn’t happened so much because of strict employment guidelines and the difficulty of removing tenured teachers.

· Physical plant
o We are adjusting to less security personnel by locking entrances. Security camera purchases are more than likely going to have to occur, but monitoring them takes people we don’t have.
o Fewer school psychologists and health care professionals are putting our students at risk. School is often the only place to indentify and address student’s problems before they have to be handled by the criminal justice system or the health care system.
o The look of the school is deteriorating. Volunteers will be called on to help, but we can’t expect volunteers to handle all of these maintenance chores.

What are we doing about it?
· As parents, we are organizing to fund the purchase of technology that will enable our teachers be more efficient and effective than ever. We are trying to beef up our meager and outdated technology to give our teachers more tools to reach their students. More and more work is being done and handed in online. Our staff needs to have the tools to facilitate that.
· We will be bringing in more volunteers than ever before to take on tasks no longer funded by CMS and the state – running the computer labs, assisting front office work, helping in departments to free up teachers.
· We are trying to keep teacher morale as high as possible by treating them like THE PROFESSIONALS THAT THEY ARE. Our PTSA volunteers are organizing events for them to facilitate communication across departments, and learn best practices, etc.
· We are organizing our parent body to advocate for education more effectively in the government arena and the business community.

Even though a portion of our population has the capacity to provide financial resources and to contribute time during the school day, Myers park High School is struggling to provide a quality educational experience for our students. We are well aware that other schools don’t have the people and the financial resources we have. That is why I am asking you to really think hard about the education budget. I would also ask you to give Peter Gorman and Eric Davis flexibility to change things they need to change in order to make our tax dollars go further.

Please know that we are in a crisis state here in Mecklenburg County. We are watching you to see how you vote to fund education and how you support the children in our community in general. I have been involved in public education in Mecklenburg County for a long time. I don’t see fat anywhere. I believe that people who do voice the opinion that CMS has more fat to cut have spent little to no time evaluating what is really happening. I would welcome the time to dialogue with you more and would love for you to meet some of the students produced by CMS. Our final product is a good one and one that can’t be compromised.

Thanks for your time.

Margaret Marshall
Myers Park High School
PTSA Co-President

33 comments:

therestofthestory said...

Maraget, while I feel your pain and understand your situation, I have been in the school system with my children since 1985 and have been a PTSA president and officer in inner city schools, this is still the making of "Pete" and his henchmen who desparately are trying to close the achievement gap. They found they can not raise the lower end and so have declared war on the achievers.

This is just sop for the educrats and with the blessing of the Department of Education.

Anonymous said...

Gee, if you were in a "high poverty" school you could have a class with only 8 male students and get yourself featured in a CMS film about your "Soul".

But since you have an ideal mix of the impoverished and elite, they can teach each other, right?

Remember, the HAVES MUST SACRIFICE FOR THE HAVE NOTS.

It's the only true path to "equality"...

Anonymous said...

while I agree totally with you our school board has allowed Dr.Gorman to use our students as pawns in this budget tight year. Why has he not cut programs and people not related to student achievement? Why not Transportation people or clerical people? His answer "we are paper thin".The truth is there are more people employerd by CMS who do not teach than those that do.He is just a fat cat looking to protect his kingdom not looking to help children.

Anonymous said...

You have to understand that it's ok to cut back on the "good" schools with parents who care because that just means that our best won't be as good as the best in the rest of the world.

And, of course, India and China are more than happy to take up
our increasing slack.

On the other hand, if we cut back on urban, "high poverty" schools, your grandmother is more likely to get shot in the street for her car.

So it's a choice between getting shot in the streets or having our economy continue its slow downward spiral.

Anonymous said...

At least Old Coach White kept his middle school athletics. While cutting teachers in the classroom Old coach made sure we can still have 13-14 year old playing 'ball on the school yard'. At least we know where our priorities are. Go team!!

Anonymous said...

Margaret, as a fairly recent graduate of Myers Park High School who is now in college, it pains me to see how the school has deteriorated as a result of budget cuts. I applaud you for your efforts in holding our decision makers accountable and for the sake of my alma mater I hope you are succesful.

With that said, I would just like to address some of the comments made. Budget cuts are occuring across the board, not just at wealthy schools. Yes, MP resources have decreased and the school has deteriorated however, the state of our "inner city schools" is significantly worse. THERE ARE CUTBACKS EVERYWHERE. If you want to save our schools start thinking of them as a part of a community- as a whole. If you want something different... go to private school.

And for the record, last time I checked there weren't very many "grandmas getting shot" in Charlotte anywhere. This isn't Law & Order. Stop watching TV and start helping your community... your entire community.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Margaret for your dedication and commitment in your often thankless volunteer job with the PTSA! The school system (especially in lower-achieving schools) needs more wonderful parents like you who get involved to make a real difference.

Anonymous said...

I understand your concern for the situation at MP. The situation is, as you say, even more difficult at other schools.

Has anyone looked into the idea of setting up a strong fundraising campaign to get parents/community members/businesses to donate to the schools. With the number of students in the schools, the donations would not need to be excessive on an individual basis. It would certainly be cheaper than private school.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Margaret never heard of brevity. Those politicians aren't going to read all of that. Too bad, but she fails in her mission to communicate (and doesn't know the proper use of "less" and "fewer').

Try to keep it to 100 words next time, lady.

Anonymous said...

The grandmas (and grandpas) have learned to fight back.

That's about the only reason they aren't getting shot...

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, many of us can still choose the "community" we help.

I chose a "community" outside CMS.

For good reason and with few regrets.

Anonymous said...

The future's so bright.

I've got to wear night vision goggles...

Anonymous said...

Things aren't just tough at the schools. Maybe the schools can do what the banks and other businesses have done and outsource to India and Mexico for cheaper labor.

Anonymous said...

No, the length of the letter is not the issue. The fact that the list is so long, however, is.

And if they won't read it, they'd better not ever complain about any staff members not doing their duties.

Anonymous said...

Great effort, Margaret. Your most important point is one that should be repeated by everyone: Raleigh should give the local districts FLEXIBILITY to solve this problem. It is amazing how much we suffer through central planning in this state in nearly all forms of government and how it hurts everyone. Gorman and the local School Board should have full autonomy on these matters and not some bureaucrat who doesn't understand living 150 miles away.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they were so worried about thier school being so over crowded, they should have let sections of the zone be rezoned to nearby schools that are under populated. But no, "OUR" students HAVE to go to Myers Park! And "we're" going to complain when the school is treated the same as other school. Oh, my God, Myers Park kids being treated the same way as other kids!? What is the world coming too!? Get over yourself, you had the chance to allow some students to be moved, which would have benifited Myers Park and other schools, and Myer Park fought it and of course, won. I'm sick of hearing about them complain.

Anonymous said...

So what is happening with all the money from the so-called "Education Lottery". After all it is really a voluntary tax on the poor. They are the ones who spend a good portion of the little money they have hoping to get rich. Oh that's right! The "Education Lottery" money is lining someone's pockets. It's certainly not being used for what it was supposed to be used for.

Anonymous said...

Much said in the letter and the comments to agree with, but nothing more than the message is lost in the long, long, long email, and that is too bad. In all school systems, local leaders need the flexibility required to make ever-tougher decisions. This is risky, but less risky than trying to drive the bus from Raleigh. Reduce the state-driven bureaucracy, which causes some of the poor allocation of resources, so the checkers can checn the checkers.

Anonymous said...

Margaret, I think it took a lot of guts to send your email. Hope it does some good for our kids!

I have kids at McClintock and East Meck. My husband and I both attended those same schools years ago.

We see first-hand how bad things are getting for our students. So much has already been cut, and now they want to cut even more.

What happened to the "World Class Schools" that Mr Gorman promised us when he took the job here?

What happened to the lottery dollars that are supposed to be put towards education? Seems to me right now our schools sure do need that money.

Anonymous said...

A great letter and case made for the Myers Park "community". Where are the letters from other schools PTA Presidents?

Anonymous said...

The one remark from your e-mail that rings so hollow is the attack on "older teachers." If MP has so many duds why don't you ring up Pete and make MPHS a TFA job site. Enthusiasm? yes. Longevity, no. It's always refreshing to realize the esteem that MP parents hold for the long term faculty. I wish you success in your quest but realize who you're dealing with and who you represent and the perception of MP despite the reality of what's going on there. The demise of CMS is real, and the lack of leadership over the last four years is painfully apparent.

Anonymous said...

To the comment about where the lottery money went...well, it is restricted to certain things only (buildings, etc.)for one. Moreover, for every dollar the lottery has brought in, the legislature has deducted a dollar for schools from the general fund, thus making it a zero sum gain. Pete Gorman stated as much on Fox News Rising a few days ago. The lottery in NC, like it is in all states, is a shell game for schools. No "additional" dollars are ever generated, only "more" dollars so the government can use the general funds for other uses.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of the shallow political crap in these columns and the idiots who read a long message like this and notice nothing except a perceived insult to older teachers - which insult nobody else would perceive.

The fact is that Myers Park, a fine school that, contrary to image, has relatively few rich kids and a lot of poor ones, but which has been doing a good job has been slammed with the loss of 49 teachers. That is FORTY-NINE TEACHERS! The school will actually be buying (used) little kid school furniture so they can pack more into rooms.

Do we care about education? (Not in the ways that count.) Do you think that a teacher can do just as well teaching 40+ kids and grading 40+ essays and having 40+ doing chemistry and biology experiments -- and then have 40+ in each of five more periods? People on this board: Gorman and Eric Davis aren't trying to starve achieving kids of education. You are.

fkc said...

Margaret, thank you for a good email thoroughly describing the situation at Myers Park and so many other schools. To those demanding brevity, these problems are so large and complex that brevity is not always a virtue when describing them. I am truly amazed at the vitriol in some of the preceding comments. I am a retired teacher and the parent of a 2001 Myers Park grad. This community has long failed to realize how diverse Myers Park is and that it has large numbers of poor and disadvantaged students. The idea that it is a school for rich kids is absurd. It is however a fine school struggling to maintain its standards of excellence; as are schools all over this county. We slash school funding at our peril and will pay for this for years to come!

bubba2barbie said...

CMS created its problems years ago when the desegrated and drew district lines to favor certain areas. White flight moved to Southeast Charlotte, eventually to the county line. And then moved over in to Union Co and created one of the best school districts in the state. This is still about power, who has it, who doesn't, and who is going to loose power if things change. I've been in several individual schools over the years, and workers/teachers want to do a good job and be proud of what they do. But we don't give them a flexible environment to do what they feel needs to be done.(Don't look past the success of charter schools and CMS schools that are academic focused.)
We need to decentralize power and break this up into smaller school districts that focus on academics. We'll be the envy of the nation. As to where to start, model several different scenarios, and see which lowers long term fixed and variable costs. Then move aggressively.
I wonder what the cost of transportation is and if it could reduced? And PAY THE TEACHERS MORE MONEY! And change their work rules. Have aides get the classrooms ready, and wind up the end of the day. Let our teachers teach like college professors. Create a good job and pay people well, and firing the bad ones becomes very easy.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness my youngest graduates from MPHS in a few weeks - 45 kids in his AP Stat class....39 in his AP English class...he was hardly challenged because the teachers do not have the time to assign/grade assignments that would require the students to think and write. It is a shame what has happened to MP and I'm sure all the other schools as well.

I am looking foward to not dealing with the lame school board/city/county officials. House will be on the market soon - good bye Charlotte!

Sharon Bennett said...

Personally I've been blessed to have 3 MP students; all with different learning curves.

What about this lottery for education? No one is saying a peep about this and it should be front page news! And giving city employees a raise? The only raises that would be necessary are the garbage facilitators, if you ask me. Our city employees should have the same standards as loosing teachers and closing schools, not rewards.

Margaret, your article was very well written. It would be impossible to put into words the devastation that, not just MP, but how other schools are going to function with lame school decisions across the board. This should cause an up rise like this city has never seen before.

I do believe that our legislators are listening and reading each email sent to them, but scheduling meetings with them is much more efficient for monitoring what they can do for this mess. Hold them accountable for visiting each school in their districts, regularly. We voted them in and they represent us.

Finally, no matter what school you attend, it will be more important than ever to have parent participation and accountability; schools will be less tolerant this year to handle students that don't get attention at home, and rely on teachers to fill their void. Rich or poor students are all part of this. This will call for zero tolerance for disruptions and lazy students who are not taking advantage of their education. Being a parent of 4 teens is unmeasurable on a scale, and more effort is needed to use resources that you haven't used. Hold your children accountable for actions; good and bad and be a parent; not a friend. "You play; you pay" rule works well. In other words, Parents will be held accountable for their children now more than ever; get used to it!

Anonymous said...

would it not be interesting to see how many non-teaching administrators there are today in CMS compared to just 5 years ago? While the teacher/student ratio has stayed the same the administrator/ non teacher/ not ever seeing a student employee has risen. Gorman is a politician padding the roles with non essential people. No doubt a liberal!! Lets not give him a extra dime..In fact lets cut some more from CMS.

Anonymous said...

How many teachers at MP could be saved if Dr. Gorman and the BOE had spent money wisely over the years? Remember the $100,000.00 he spent investigating Independence Football? They found nothing and if they had did it take 100k to do it? Next I hear he is looking into recruiting violations with the Butler Football team. 100k later maybe he can find something this time.

Anonymous said...

Have you not noticed that many non-teaching jobs have gone away too. For years CMS has been trimming at the top level. Some administrators are necessary at the school level and above. Schools without support personnel suffer.

Anonymous said...

Actually check your facts Pete has added administrative jobs,look it up. The week he announced teacher layoffs he was adding $90,000.00 a year jobs on his Careers with CMS webpage.Yes we need some administrators but any business and CMS is a business trims fat from the budget. The sole job of CMS is to educate kids not have Area superintindents and Executive Directors running our schools. Principals and parents and PSTA's should run our schools not over-paid educrats who fled the classrooms because teaching was too difficult.

Anonymous said...

Actually check your facts Pete has added administrative jobs,look it up. The week he announced teacher layoffs he was adding $90,000.00 a year jobs on his Careers with CMS webpage.Yes we need some administrators but any business and CMS is a business trims fat from the budget. The sole job of CMS is to educate kids not have Area superintindents and Executive Directors running our schools. Principals and parents and PSTA's should run our schools not over-paid educrats who fled the classrooms because teaching was too difficult.

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