Op-Ed By: Terry Tippett
After attending the County Commissioner meeting Monday evening, I felt the need to address a few issues. I have been asked for my opinion on some things recently. I don’t participate in discussions on social media, although I do read some comments and others share things with me.
Since running for the Board of Education (BOE) in 2020, I have received questions and comments from different stakeholders and they have increased since some know I will be a candidate in the 2022 race.
First, I remain humbled that over 40,000 of my fellow Johnstonians voted for me in 2020 and a large group supported me when a vacancy opened on the Board recently-which played a role in offering to be your voice on your Board in 2022.
The Critical Race Theory is obviously the hot topic at this time. The difficulty is that it is so broad in context and there is no document stating “CRT Activities for the Week” or “CRT Training Professional Development for the Month”. Therefore, we must look at the specific activities to determine their purpose and objectives, as well as the result and consequences of these activities.
For the record, I do not support CRT in the public school, or religious institutions for that matter. This does not mean history should not be taught-simply taught without divisive commentary. It is my belief that some portions of CRT are being introduced in JCPS, whether through professional development or through the Equity/SEL umbrella that are divisive in nature. There have been numerous examples presented to confirm this.
The argument is made that the professional development is for staff, however, in my time as a teacher, the professional development was to assist staff in the classroom in some manner. I never needed theories or projects or Equity training in order to provide a level playing field for my students. I simply understood that every student deserved the chance to be successful and given the opportunity to do so with whatever assistance they needed to guarantee that level playing field, at which time the student has the opportunity to control the outcome-regardless of race, sex, disability, or socioeconomic level.
There is no explanation needed for success or failure when provided a level playing field-simply an understanding that success results from the work to achieve.
The response of the BOE in this manner is a perfect example of my statements regarding the need for the Board to have a more hands-on approach. Based on the request/demand to develop a policy, the Board presented an existing policy and wording to attach as an amendment. I recognize that this was an effort to comply quickly and was done in good faith. However, for such a divisive topic, I believe all would agree that a separate policy should exist.
This leads to my contention that had the Board been proactive and operated with a more hands-on approach, a policy could have been in place by now-since it is apparent that the Board is in agreement that CRT should not be in the school system, as evidenced by their willingness to amend an existing policy to meet the request of the commissioners and acquire the total funding request.
The problem arises when different messages are presented. Chairman Sutton and Dr. Bracy were adamant that CRT is not in JCPS, but Vice Chairwomen Sessoms shared that staff training modules were being removed and reviewed after being questioned. I am sure that the discrepancy could be related to my earlier statement that CRT is so broad, nevertheless, it gives mixed messages to the stakeholders and makes it appear that the effort is based on funding and not the issue at hand.
Finally, the next question is who determines if the policy is not followed and the consequences for not following it. I believe this should be addressed by the Board during their policy development stage.
The other issue I want to address is accountability of the Board Of Education. There are methods in place throughout the school system to evaluate and hold employees accountable. Every employee’s work performance is examined by someone-all the way to the Superintendent. However, it seems the buck stops at the Board of Education, at least until now.
I know many will say the voters are the ones who determine the accountability of the Board during election years (that’s a topic for another day). After listening to the commissioners Monday night, especially Commissioner Smith and Commissioner Wood, it seems that they are giving expectations to the Board. I don’t have a problem in their holding the BOE accountable, just as the BOE holds the Superintendent accountable.
BOE members are responsible for the success or failure of the JCPS system, thus the need for a more hands-on approach. Students, staff, and all county stakeholders deserve a quality public education system. Sadly, our students have paid the price for a less than top notch system.
The future of JCPS is in the balance. We have to make drastic improvements or we will see an increase in the availability of charter and private schools, as well as an increase in home school options. While some are okay with that, they fail to understand that many people leaving are some of the biggest volunteers we have.
I know firsthand how JCPS was 20 years ago and how it was two years ago. I also know the resources – both human and facility – are in place to return to the top, depending on the direction the leadership takes us, as local elections have consequences also.
Terry Tippett is a retired Johnston County Schools exceptional children’s teacher, athletic director and coach, 2020 school board candidate, and 2022 candidate for the Johnston County Public School Board.
(Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted Tuesday morning by Mr. Tippett but due to time constraints could not be processed and published until Wednesday morning.)