Letter: There was more to PTA meeting than teacher complaints

Sep. 18, 2013 @ 01:21 AM

To the editor:

As president of the Hibriten High School PTA, I would like to clarify statements recently reported in the Lenoir News-Topic about the nature of our meeting featuring state Rep. Edgar Starnes. A Sept. 14th editorial stated that our meeting “might be called an interrogation” of Rep. Starnes by the Hibriten Parent Teacher Association. That is a misleading statement. As reported, our meeting was over two hours long, but only 25 percent dealt with teacher-related issues. The first 30 minutes, Mr. Starnes answered students’ questions about the N.C. General Assembly; 20 minutes was devoted to PTA business; and 45 minutes was devoted to Mr. Starnes answering questions about budget items that directly related to parent and student concerns. During parent questions we learned that this General Assembly set aside money:

• To investigate a western campus of the N.C. School of Science and Math. At this point they are looking at a day campus (no dorms) and there are two areas of interest, Morganton connected to Western Piedmont Community College, and in Asheville aligned with UNC-Asheville.

• To review the weighted grading system currently used in high schools. Mr. Starnes explained that complaints have been made that not all honor or weighted classes are of the same caliber, and this study will gather information for possible future action regarding this type of grading.

• For vouchers and charter schools. Mr. Starnes explained exactly what they are and the majority’s view of why they are important.

• A volunteer resource officers program for schools that would run through sheriff’s and police departments. Lenoir Chief Scott Brown and Sheriff Alan Jones both spoke to the pros and cons of this for Caldwell County.

Rep. Starnes distributed a chart showing the specific amounts of money appropriated to Caldwell County, denoting what monies were flexible for our school board to move as they see fit and what monies were fixed due to federal and state mandates. He also elaborated on discussions with Caldwell Count Schools financial director Karla Miller to clarify any discrepancies related to reports on CCS’ budget. Per pupil spending this year is basically the same as last year.

It was reported correctly Rep. Starnes stated that eliminating the master level pay rate for currently enrolled teachers was a mistake. But a more thorough report of the discussion would reflect that Rep. Starnes candidly discussed that Republicans in the House and Senate were divided on this issue and revision drafts have already been written for the next session; Mr. Starnes stated he lobbied against the current version, and this issue almost certainly will come up again for debate. I believe this is important for teachers. Having this information could help a teacher, enrolled in a master’s program, make a better informed decision about their future and whether to continue with their masters program.

Our goal was to sponsor a forum for constituents and state representatives to meet for information and clarification – for both sides. I believe that was accomplished. I reject the idea our meeting was an interrogation session. I believe all of us attending walked out of this meeting having participated in the governing process; all sides (parents, teachers, and representative) fulfilling their civic duty.

Maleah Haas