FOR BUNCOMBE COUNTY SCHOOLS
Ready to Learn
Increase emotional and behavior supports in all schools - Across many conversations I've had with Buncombe principals, this is their top common request. Our students' mental health needs are complex, and without intervention, they are less able to focus on learning. Counselors and behavior specialists are doing great work, but they are spread thin, with several schools sharing each behavior specialist. The county commissioners approved funding for more, but ideally each school needs its own.
Develop community partnerships to meet the needs of the whole child - Children cannot pay attention in school if their most basic needs are not being met. A comprehensive program integrating many different services is most effective to meet social, financial and health needs; the United Way's Community Schools initiative does this well at three of our middle schools (Enka, Erwin and Owen), and we need more partnerships like this across the district.
Provide Pre-K for all children - Studies have shown that children who have attended pre-k programs are better-prepared to learn from day one in kindergarten. Additionally, early exposure to reading skills is a strong predictor of performance throughout a school career. Children who could most benefit, whose parents are less able financially to provide enrichment experiences in those first years, are the ones who also cannot afford to attend private pre-k. Our community needs to step up and provide this service for all our young children.
Ready to Educate
Enhance recruitment, training and retention of a diverse faculty - Buncombe County Schools are fortunate to have a well-trained and talented faculty, attracted here no doubt by the beautiful location as well as high-quality school system. However, the pool of applicants is decreasing, due in part to lack of state support for salaries, supplies and training. And faculty background does not reflect student diversity. We need an intentional plan for recruitment of a diverse faculty, and improved state support that values teachers. And then we need to provide paid continuing education throughout their careers.
Increased pay for support staff - Teaching assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria and custodial staff continue to be challenging to recruit largely due to low pay. I heard across the district of the difficulty of finding bus drivers especially, given their unique hours. To retain competent support staff, we need to provide commensurate pay.
Ready to Lead
Advocate for greater autonomy for school systems to meet state requirements - Each school system has unique situations, from district size and student population to geopraphy, economics and community culture. Superintendents and other administrators are trained to lead and yet burdened with too many mandates from non-educator politicians who live far from us. Systems need less micro-management from the state on how to spend funds, and a more streamlined and practical means of accountability that more effectively measures progress and learning.
The Leandro Report:
Mandate for Statewide Education Improvement
Although NC enjoyed many years' recognition for a model public education system, that has changed. In the 1997 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Leandro v. North Carolina, the court unanimously declared that the state had failed in its constitutional duty to provide every student with a ""Sound basic education". NC Superior Court Judge Howard Manning was tasked with overseeing compliance and progress. Unfortunately, despite early progress, cuts during the 2008 recession and other legislative decisions, as well as an increasingly complex student population, have resulted in schools falling short. In 2018 an outside report was commissioned to assess progress and make recommendations. The result is The Leandro Action Plan, released early this year.
Findings and Recommendations of the Leandro Action Plan:
1. Revise the state funding model to provide adequate, efficient, and equitable resources. These
resources should be aligned to student needs in every school and district.
2. Provide a qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions
and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal, and social growth of all their students.
3. Provide a qualified and well-prepared principal in every school. Principals should be prepared and supported to effectively lead continuous school improvement; support the use of a well-designed curriculum aligned with state standards; and establish a culture in which all students feel welcome, safe, supported, and challenged as learners.
4. Provide all at-risk students with the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood programs.
These programs should develop all students’ personal, social, cognitive, and language skills in
order to prepare them to begin kindergarten fully ready to learn.
5. Direct resources, opportunities, and initiatives to economically disadvantaged students. A strong focus should be placed on addressing the needs of economically disadvantaged students to address the greater challenges in those contexts.
6. Revise the student assessment system and school accountability system. The systems should
provide the information needed by educators, parents, policymakers, and others about the educational effectiveness of each school and about the learning and progress of individual children and of subgroups of children. The system should also produce data to inform the evaluation and continuous improvement of educational programs and to enable the Court to track progress, identify areas of concern, and monitor compliance with the Leandro requirements.
7. Build an effective regional and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools. The state should define its approach to school improvement
and develop the state system for assisting low-performing and high-poverty schools to: recruit and
retain effective staff; provide high-quality professional development; use evidence-based instructional
practices and curriculum; create effective school cultures; provide student supports; use data
for continuous improvement; engage families; and foster collaborations across schools and districts.
8. Convene an expert panel to assist the Court in monitoring state policies, plans, programs,
and progress. This monitoring should ensure the state’s ongoing compliance with the Leandro
LINK TO FULL REPORT: https://files.nc.gov/governor/Leandro-NC-Report-Final.pdf