Letters to the Editor

2/18 Letters: Improve teacher programs by ‘replacing feckless bureaucrats’ in UNC System

I read with great interest “UNC should rethink how it teaches future teachers, study says” (Feb. 15). It was more than a bit disheartening to hear that the deans of all the UNC Colleges of Education were “all in” on the report of the many purported failures of teacher preparation programs in our state.

It was most remarkable to read the assertion that teachers have a high attrition rate due to the poor preparation they receive in our programs. Reading that, it was hard to decide if these deans are obtuse or dishonest. Might I suggest to these educational “leaders” that it is their timidity in the face of destructive policies that are driving teachers from the classroom. Are these leaders blithely accepting of North Carolina being 35th in teacher pay, offering no extra pay for those with master’s degrees, ending tenure and moving at a deliberate pace to privatize North Carolina’s schools?

The extraordinary damage inflicted upon our state’s schools over these last seven years has been accomplished with the silence or, in too many cases, the acquiescence of these education deans. Indeed, at least five of these deans – including my own – have agreed to close and dismantle public schools in order to reopen them as charters under HB 1090. It would be most refreshing if any of these deans were “all in” on defending public schools, public school students and their families, and public school teachers, administration and staff.

A willingness to speak truth to power is a requirement of leadership. If we want to improve teacher preparation programs in this state, we can begin by replacing these feckless bureaucrats with men and women of honor, courage and integrity.

Dr. James A. Bryant, Jr.

Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction

Reich College of Education

Appalachian State University

More nurses needed

I am relieved that school nurses are getting the attention they deserve, both at the General Assembly and in the recent op-ed “In NC, school nurses are worth the investment” (Feb. 10). The CDC and healthcare providers across the spectrum recommend one nurse for every 750 students, a goal that we can never hope to reach with the status quo.

I hope legislators are paying attention, because there will be a quiz on this in a few short months. During the 2014-15 school year alone, North Carolina’s school nurses reported 2,030,274 student encounters; 88 percent of the time, the students returned to class. That represents more than 2 million times that teachers were allowed to keep teaching and nearly 1.8 million times that parents did not have to leave work to come pick up their children early.

Healthcare is a complex issue fraught with controversy, but school nurses are an ideal way to increase access to affordable care with broad bipartisan support. School nurses are much more than a budgetary line item. As the author so eloquently pointed out, school nurses help all of us in North Carolina who pay taxes because they save more than twice as much as they actually cost.

We have fallen behind national standards even though this is some of the lowest hanging fruit in all of healthcare. I just hope the General Assembly has been doing its homework.

Elaine Scherer

President, North Carolina Nurses Association

Preserve red wolves

In “Can red wolves be saved again?” (Feb. 5) the author stresses the ongoing debate over the reintroduction and preservation of the endangered red wolf to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Protecting large predators is crucial to ecosystem productivity and functionality.

Large predators hold a complex relationship within their ecosystem – one so complex that humans can’t replace their roles. In ecological studies, the absence of large predators has a cascading effect that will imbalance populations of species on every trophic level. Often this ends with a decrease in the production of plant matter, or net primary productivity, which is vital to the survival of all living organisms.

To those opposed to the preservation of the red wolf for various reasons: the “top-down” effects observed when predators like this are absent ripple all the way down to the base of the ecosystem, which could in extreme cases lead to collapse. Human livelihoods and well-being depends on the services provided by ecosystems. The preservation of the red wolf population should remain a policy priority.

Devyn Nicole Barron