Archive for the ‘school’ Tag

The False Dichotomy

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013


The False Dichotomy Embedded in NC Education Discourse

The fallacy of false dichotomy is committed when the arguer claims that her/his conclusion is one of only two options, when in fact there are other possibilities. The arguer then goes on to show that the only other option is clearly outrageous, and so her/his preferred conclusion must be embraced.

How this works in practice:

EX 1) Either you let your child attend a private charter school, or they will be forced to attend the failing public schools. I know you don’t want your child to attend a failing public school, so you should use the voucher program and let them attend a charter school.


EX 2) Either you want your child to be successful at a private charter school, or you want them to fail in the current public school system. You don’t want your child to fail in life, so you better send them to a private charter school.

We do have another option don’t we?

The educational choice NC has is not limited to only charter schools or failing public education institutions. The reality is that as more money is removed from public education via the charter school voucher program, NC public education will decline further. This decline will further the failed school talking point. Keeping public tax dollars funding public school is essential to dismantling the logical fallacy being perpetrated on NC’s parents.

If provided the chance, how would you reinvigorate public schools in NC?

This post was inspired by the following info graphic.

Photo: This is why every single one of us needs to join the fight to save our public schools! After ramming through a new law that allows public money to be diverted into private schools, commercial interests are now hard at work making sure that every single dime of public money they can get goes into their pockets. Check out how much money and sophisticated advertising techniques went into this mailer promoting the voucher program. Please Share!

Conflict Resolution

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The following post was done in collaboration with Ryan Boughen and Brent Chadwick:

The first of my interviews was conducted with a school principal. The issue presented is one that is common within the school setting taking place between a parent and an administrator. The confrontation begins with an irate parent coming to school because her/his child was suspended. The parent didn’t understand why their child, who acted in self-defense, was given a consequence. The parent entered the office cussing and demanding to see the principal.

As the principal made contact with the parent she/he greeted the parent smiling extending her/his hand to shake hands. They both walked back to her/his office where the parent was offered a seat. The principal took out a notebook and asked for the parents permission to take some notes so they could then talk. The principal began by writing the parents name and her/his child’s name on the top of the paper. She/he then asked the parent what he had heard, and what concerns he had about this situation so she/he can make sure they were on the same page. The principal was sure not to ask what story the child told the parent. The principal took notes and wrote down tidbits of what the parent said and was engaged in active listening. The principal then asked to get up so she/he could get the child’s written statement. The principal allowed the parent to read the statement written by their child, and they were able to see some discrepancies in the story. Following this, the principal showed the parent the policy which addressed the situation which outlined the consequence that could have been a five day suspension, but under the circumstances the child only received two days of ICS (in class suspension) so she/he did not miss any schooldays or work. The parent inquired about the consequence for the other student, which the principal was unable to give, and they understood. The principal then asked the parent how his child liked school and how their grades were. When the parent didn’t know the principal was able to pull up his child’s grades and get him information to access SPAN (grades on the computer from home).

The meeting concluded when the parent left and everyone was on good terms. The parent had an understanding of the fairness of the consequences and was informed about her/his child’s grades. The two parties shook hands and the parent thanked the principal. The principal felt the parent contact was a success and as it is a familiar situation within the school setting she/he feels confident as to the conflict resolution.

The sources of the conflict within the situation stem from a lack of knowledge on the part of the parent as to the school policy regarding discipline. The parent was under the impression that if their child was not the instigator then why the consequence? According to Godard the principal is in a position of authority and the parent is unaware of the guidelines dictating discipline decision making. (Godard, 2011 p.52) When the principal shared school policy it was key to redirecting the focus of the parent and setting a common understanding within the situation. Also the parent perceived the situation quite differently as her/his child was involved which places into the situation an objective interest conflict. (Godard, 2011 p.54) There may also be elements of broader social inequities as the school is in a lower socioeconomic setting and as a result perceptions of inequalities exist even though neither players in the situation present them within the context of the situation. (Godard, 2011 p.55)

The sources of cooperation stem from the generation of a common understanding of situational equity in the discipline of both students. According to Godard consent, in this case by the parent, concedes to the right of the principal to exercise authority. (Godard, 2011 p.64). Accompanying the right to exercise authority both parties are engaged in a negotiation of order via engagement in a give and take between the principal and parent supported by the psychological agreement helping to focus the conversation. The principal did a good job at focusing the conversation and creating a common understanding so no ill feelings arose and respect was reciprocal. (Godard, 2011 p. 63-4)

For my second interview I was able to speak with a grade level administrator. The issue she/he had to deal with involved two staff members who worked in the same physical space, but did not get along with one another. They were very different people in their personalities and were often at odds over simple things. One staff member had been at the school for almost twenty years and the other was new to the school. The new staff member was taking the place of a much loved individual who retired and the new staff member was in a leadership role over the veteran staff member. Conflicts emerged and spanned every aspect of their jobs and interactions. The situation deteriorated until the two teachers had an argument in front of students and staff in which they were screaming at each other and making threats to do physical harm to one another.

The principal asked the administrator to try to resolve the issue. She/he met with the two people individually so they could share their side of the story. She/he then met with both staff members together along with a counselor. Rules for the discussion were established and agreed upon. The administrator told both teachers that she/he had heard their concerns and complaints about the other individual and the purpose of this meeting was to determine how all parties involved could finish the school year as well as continue to meet the needs of the students. The administrator acknowledged that feelings were hurt, that neither side was at fault and they were all working towards common ground of how everyone could move forward. Each person was afforded the opportunity to state what she/he needed from the other individual in order to maintain a safe working environment for the remainder of the year. The administrator took careful notes to document the boundaries and guidelines for their work environment. When they would began to talk about what had happened in the past, the administrator reminded them that everyone was aware of past issues and the focus was on how to move forward. When the meeting was over, the administrator typed the notes in the form of an agreement and sent them to each individual. The teachers were to let the administrator know if any corrections needed to be made. Both teachers agreed to follow the guidelines;  1. If someone violated the agreement, they were not to address the individual, but were to see the administrator or the counselor to intervene. 2. They agreed to meet again three weeks later to see how things were going and if any adjustments were needed in the agreement.

The administrator felt the process was successful. No one violated the agreement and after three weeks the teachers were back on speaking terms. The teachers finished out the year without further incident. The most important thing was to let both sides be heard and acknowledge that they were wronged. The teachers also heard from the administrator that they were important to the school because they brought different skills and areas of expertise to the school. It was also important that they both had input in the agreement and neither teacher was allowed to vent in the meeting by pulling from the past.

This was the first time the administrator had conducted a mediation with such strong, hurtful feelings involved. She/he felt they appropriately kept the disagreeing parties focused on moving forward and putting the past behind them. The administrator ended with her/his belief that the conflict management was very successful and would not do anything differently.

According to Godard the sources of the conflict in this situation are based on the nature of employment relations. (Godard, 2011 p. 52) Two aspects of the teacher relationship are important while discussing a source of conflict. The first being the seniority of one teacher and the newness of the other. The second being that the new teacher was placed into a position of power over the more senior teacher. The power dynamic between the two teachers is referenced by Godard when he discusses how managers are not held accountable by those who work for them by virtue of an authoritarian position (Godard, 2011 p. 52-3). With the less senior teacher being the one in an authority position this alone is enough for conflict to begin.

The nature of employment contract played a role in the breakdown of communication and the generation of ill feelings between the two teachers. Often contracts are vaguely worded and the nature of the work may be hard to measure. “…much remains unwritten, consisting of expectations and understandings that have developed over time”. (Godard, 2011 p.54) With nothing specific written down as far as authority guidelines between the two teachers along with the unspoken psychological contract, the expectation of seniority over authority, conflict was bound to surface. (Godard, 2011 p. 54)

The sources of cooperation are the closely related values each of the teachers has in relation to their work. They are both held to the psychological contract in education and “… workers tend to believe that they have a duty to live up to…” (Godard, 2011 p.64). With a shared purpose the two teachers would be more likely to find common ground within the work itself and be able, at least during school hours, to set their differences aside for the student centered duties they perform at school.

Seniority is the key when one examines this situation under Godard’s manifestation of the conflict as this scenario is directly connected to the negotiation of order. The dynamics of a senior teacher being supervised by a less experienced teacher and a new teacher to the school is ripe for conflict. Seniority in education as based on the psychological contract within a staff holds a tremendous weight for some. The more experienced teacher may have felt slighted by the administrators as to not being placed in the supervisory role and thus harbored resentment towards the newer less experienced teacher that then manifested itself via insubordination and dissension of the supervisors authority. (Godard, 2011 p. 67-8)

The third interview was with a grade level administrator and centered around her/his end of day bus duty. One of the buses returned to school because a group of students were clapping, stumping and rocking the back of the bus while in motion. One student got up out of her/his seat and approached the driver. The driver told the student to sit her/his ‘ass’ down. The student got upset and began cursing at the driver.

When the administrator walked out to meet the bus, the driver was upset and had kicked about five students off the bus. The students were upset and loud and were directed to sit on the steps. Each wanted to tell her/his story immediately. The administrator first wanted to hear what the driver had to say. The students were quite excited and the administrator was able to get them to do what was asked of them by speaking to them in a calm voice repeating her/his expectations. The administrator also approached the driver in the same manner for a couple of reasons; 1. There had already been a conflict with this specific bus driver last year dealing with students and 2. The administrator wanted to model to the students how to handle a heated situation. After talking to the driver the administrator exited the bus and calmly talked with the students giving each of them a chance to explain her/his side of the story. Within the discussion it was explained to the students how they should have handled the situation. First off they should not have been stomping on the bus and two if the bus driver cursed at them they should have went home, told their parents so the adults could handle it. It was then explained to the students why they had to exit the bus and call a parent to come pick them up.

The administrator feels a key aspect of solving the conflict was the constant refocusing and calm demeanor she/he maintained during the conversations. The administrator never raised her/his voice despite many opportunities to do so. In the end the students did not think it was fair for the driver to curse at them and they were correct however, the students did concede to how their actions contributed to the situation.

In this scenario the source of the conflict lies in the nature of the relationship. “In a society that values individual freedom and democracy, workers can generally be expected to resent their position of subordination, and this can, in and of itself, serve as a source of conflict (Watson, 1987 p. 219). Students may not see bus drivers as having similar levels of authority and therefore resent rules set forth by the bus driver and in holding this perception be more likely to engage in conflict.

The source of cooperation in this scenario is based in the psychological agreement the students have with the administrator as a representative of the school. With the administrator being able to mitigate the conflict a calm was maintained and reinforced through the equitable treatment of all parties involved. Godard draws on Karl Marx’s view that a persons job is central to one’s identity. “It seems, then, that most workers want to able able to do their jobs as well as possible and are generally loyal to the person they work for” (Godard, 2011, p. 65). This is evident in the resolution of the bus issue as the administrator held both parties accountable and in response both parties accepted responsibility for their part in the situation.

The manifestation of the conflict is apparent in the students misbehavior. The students resent authoritarian aspects of their relationship with the bus driver and as a consequence repeated incidents of horseplay took place. “This may involve pranks against co-workers, or it may involve mock fighting, or even actual play fights with paper clips, tape balls, or whatever is at hand’ (Godard, 2011 p. 68). In this scenario the generation of loud noise and the rocking of the bus took place in opposition to the authority held by the bus driver.

Literature Review

Crucial Confrontations, tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzler prescribes a six step approach when dealing with conflict in the work place. For the purpose of this literature review the two stakeholders in the conversations will be referred to as management, the person initiating the conversation and labor, the individual being confronted. Although crucial confrontations can take place not only between management and labor it is important to qualify these labels as to not narrow the scope of application crucial confrontations presents.

The first part of crucial confrontation guides management to focus on two initial elements: 1. What? This initial part explores the motivation and/or ability of labor to carry out a given request. 2. If? Will the social system support their effort (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 43)?

The second part explores how ‘stories’ influence perceptions of others prior to engagement in a confrontation as well as during the confrontation. Three elements of attributes emerged that provide a guideline for contextual understanding of people and situations. The authors point out that we all have perceptions of people’s actions and when one tries to contextualize the motivations of stakeholders within the situation greater understandings emerge. Most often management focus’ on dispositional attributes as a source of conflict. Dispositional attributes are viewed as uncontrollable personality factors that influence individuals. The authors add in parallel to dispositional attributes, situational attributes. Situational attributes allows for the exploration of environmental forces which influence behavior. Exploration of the situational attributes can reduce the influence of the Fundamental Attribution Error. The fundamental attribution error assumes others actions are based on personality characteristics while ignoring other motivations. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p.60) Two ways to reduce the influence of assumptions is to ask humanizing questions to refocus dispositional aspects of the situation.

The third part of crucial confrontation describes the gap where problem acknowledgement and solutions enter the conversation. The pathway set forth by the authors is to make it motivating and easy. When management engages labor in crucial conversations the discussion must start with safety as management must find a way to state the concern illiciting the least amount of defensiveness from labor. If required management may need to restate concerns in order to reduce defensiveness. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 100) As management and labor work through the issues it is important for management to share her/his path. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104) Management needs to be clear about her/his focus, stay external, explain what and not focus on the why, and gather facts rather than deal in obscure vagaries of detail. Management must stay clear of absolutes as absolutes only share conclusions not emerging facts. Finally end with a question as this allows labor to state her/his response and share her/his story. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104)

Management also needs to consider labors action in relation to motivation. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 114) The authors state that people act based on consequences she/he anticipate and labor may be under the influence of multiple consequences and as a result act on perceived consequence bundles. As a means of motivation management would want to explore natural consequences or those elements that are embedded into the situation labor would be aware of and are not imposed by management (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 126).

The next step in this part is to match the problem solving method to situational circumstance. Concrete solutions help management and labor to finish on a positive note. A crucial aspect of finalizing the crucial confrontation is to detail expectation, review accountability, and set a timeline for follow up. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 139) However, if motivation is not the issue then management needs to explore ability barriers of labor in the initial event(s) that led to the crucial confrontation.

Part five of Crucial Confrontations pays particular focus on management staying flexible and focused. Often when dealing with problems other problems may arise. When this happens put the original problem on hold and deal with what is most urgent. Once that element of the situation has been resolved both parties may refocus back the original problem. Management does not need to overkill labor by hammering at more than one issue, especially if the confrontation has been emotionally taxing (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 173).

The final step in crucial confrontation is to create a plan. The plan as agreed upon by both management and labor needs to make sure all details and expectations have been resolved in the situation. Both management and labor need to know where she/he stand after the confrontation has been resolved (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 205-8).

Literature Application

As a group, we decided to apply the knowledge we gained through our literature review to Brent Chadwick’s conflict situation. First, by analysing the conflict through the lens of Crucial Conversation, it became obvious to Ryan, through conversations with Brent, that the superintendent did not begin the process in dialogue. Perhaps if this priority was clearly articulated to all teachers through dialogue (creating a shared pool of knowledge), the situation may have been avoided. Further, the fact that there was no prior discussion led Ryan to believe that the superintendent began the supervision process in silence, specifically, in the form of avoidance, as he chose to not engage in prior discussion regarding this initiative. However, after realizing the teacher’s discontent, the superintendent reflected on the situation and changed the supervision report to exclude the statements regarding dress. Ryan can only assume, because he was not able to discuss this matter directly with the superintendent, that upon reflection, the superintendent started with heart to clarify his intent, and made it safe by examining his motives and focusing on shared purpose.  Last, Ryan believes the superintendent also explored the teacher’s path by first seeking to understand their position.

Through the lens of FIERCE Conversations, the issue between the Superintendent and the teacher can be analyzed. Firstly, both parties need to interrogate reality and be able to see where each side was coming from. The Superintendent needs to explain where the division is heading with the professional dress issue and the teacher needs to be open to the fact that they may have to change something from this domain of the professional evaluation. Secondly, the superintendent needs to promote the learning of both himself and the teacher by making the priorities of the division clear to all employees and then, by being transparent, allow him to learn how to make a major change in a less disturbing way. Thirdly, the Superintendent needs to tackle the tough challenges by examining the individual employee’s report and possibly changing it to fit the situation rather than grouping all into one basket. Despite the fact that the Superintendent wanted to make this change, he will find he will move people a lot quicker towards the desired result if he does so in the right way. His decision to change the written report may gain him more in the end. Lastly, enriching the relationship will put the two parties back to a basis where they can once again be productive in their roles. The superintendent needs to gain back the trust of the teaching body when they do supervision. This trust will make change easier in the future and can go a long way in making staff progress. On the other side, the teacher needs to show everyone they are back to being a team player and open to future professional development. Without progress in the relationship, future attempts to work with this teacher will only fall on someone who is once bitten, twice shy.  

In this scenario the Crucial Confrontation stems from the superintendents initiative of enforcing professional dress code via teacher observational reports. Although the teacher was aware of the superintendent’s intent of dress code enforcement she/he knew that there was no situational relevance to her/his ‘needing improvement’ in this area and therefore would not sign off on the report. The teacher was clear about her/his focus, stayed external, explained what and did not focus on the why during discussions with the superintendent. The teacher also kept focus on the facts rather than dealing in obscure vagaries. The teacher stayed clear of absolutes as absolutes only share conclusions not emerging facts. Finally the teacher ended with a question, ‘how does the professional dress initiative concern me?’ By asking this specific question it allowed the superintendent to state her/his response and share her/his story (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104). The final step in this crucial confrontation was to agree on how to proceed. The plan as agreed upon by both the teacher and the superintendent made sure all details and expectations had been resolved. In this scenario the superintendent recognized her/his error in dress code enforcement via teacher observations and the lack of communication prior to initiative enforcement. After numerous discussions the teachers report was changed to reflect the individual situation. In the end both the teacher and the superintendent knew where she/he stood after the confrontation has been resolved (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 205-8).


Godard, J. (2011). Industrial relations, the economy, and society. (4 ed.). Concord, Ontario: Captus Press Inc.

Watson, Tony. 1987. Sociology, Work and Industry, 2nd Ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Scott, Susan. (2002). Fierce Conversations; having success in work and life one conversation at a time.. Manhatten: Leadership Lane.

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2004). Crucial confrontations: tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior. (p. 284). McGraw-Hill Professional.

North Carolina Association of Educators v. Political establishment (paper)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The following was composed as a final assignment for my Master’s in Educational Administration. Its focus is on the NCAE and its presence in education in North Carolina. Feedback and comments are encouraged. Thanks.

The current educational climate in the United States is one of severe budget cuts, thousands of teacher and support staff layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to school programs and extracurricular activities compounded by reductions in program funding. The lack of union representation in North Carolina is a mitigating factor allowing the House to pass draconian cuts to education facing limited opposition. The teacher workforce has a voice through the North Carolina Association of Teachers but have limited legal recourse outside of waiting for the general elections on House representatives. Similar events have transpired across the USA even in states where unions do speak with a collective voice for educators. At the time this paper was written Ohio voters rejected a bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights, eliminated binding arbitration as well as remove the ability of public sector union members to strike. In the midst of all of the labor events, rallies and discussions, my focus turned towards events and discussions taking place in North Carolina as these events have a direct impact on my career. Throughout this paper I am going to explore the relationship North Carolina legislators have had with the education field paying particular attention to the North Carolina Association of Educators and the role they have played in support of education.
North Carolina started with two distinct education associations in the mid and later 1800’s. The North Carolina Association of Teachers was organized in 1857 followed twenty three years later by the formation of The North Carolina Teachers Association organized in 1880. These two associations existed independently until 1970 when The North Carolina Association of Educators was formed on July 1, 1970, by the merger of the North Carolina Education Association and the North Carolina Teachers Association. Documents merging the two associations were signed at the National Educators Association Convention in San Francisco, California. The amalgamation of the two education entities resulted in the NCAE being one of the larger state affiliates of the NEA ranking 14th of the 53 NEA affiliates(NCAE, 2011). NCAE adopted an amendment to their Constitution requiring unified membership with the National Education Association in 1974, effective with the 1974-1975 membership year. Today NCAE is an all-inclusive association with specific categories including teaching and non teaching school personnel eligible for membership. Teacher assistants are eligible for membership in the North Carolina Educational Support Personnel Association which is directly affiliated with NEA. The total membership, including all types of memberships; active, associate, student, retired, and staff is approximately 70,000 (NCAE, 2011). NCAE also has the largest Representative Assembly among the 53 NEA affiliates. The ratio of delegates to active members is 1 to 20 with NCAE’s 131 local units in public school districts, special State schools, and institution of higher education. There are also members in local units too small to qualify as official local units as at least 10 members are required. NCAE is governed by an annual Representative Assembly and a Board of Directors with the Board meeting about six times a year. NCAE employs 74 support and professional staff including 34 employees in regional offices across the state with its headquarters in Raleigh. The state president serves as the full time chief executive officer of the Association with the vice president-president elect also serving full time along with the executive director serving as the chief administrative officer of the Association.

As cited on NCAE’s web page under core values, mission and vision the following are listed as NCAE’s core values: 1) Equal Access – NCAE values equal access to a quality public education that is adequately and equitably funded. 2) Diversity – NCAE values a just society that respects the worth, dignity and equality of every individual. 3) Collective Action – NCAE values an informed membership that works collectively to advance and protect the rights, benefits and interests of education professionals and promote quality public education. 4) Partnerships – NCAE values partnerships with parents, families and communities, as well as coalitions with other stakeholders because they are essential to quality public education and student success. 5) Professionalism – NCAE values the expertise and judgment of educational professionals and believes it is critical for student success. NCAE maintains the highest professional standards and expect the status, compensation and respect due all professionals. 6) Shared Responsibility – NCAE values a collaborative community of members and staff who share the responsibility of achieving NCAE’s goals. Aligned with NCAE’s core values is its mission statement to be the voice of educators in North Carolina that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children which is further supported by NCAE’s vision of an equitable, quality public education for every child (NCAE, 2011).

In chapter 7 Godard presents union formation at a theoretical level focusing on the Orthodox Pluralist perspective which places workers at a disadvantage in the workplace and unions as a means to level the playing field. Godard discusses how workers rights increase as she/he joins a union they are now part of a larger group that has a voice to management as well as this being a natural response to the powerlessness of workers. Unions are seen to give rise to the workers as a collective voice to protect and advance their interests given their place within the industrial capitalist economies. Godard also draws attention to weak or non existent labor movements going hand in hand with authoritarian governments and vice versa. The authoritarian government element of Godard’s view of labor management relations is evident in North Carolina’s right to work ideology as manifest through legislation effectively removing the ability of labor to unionize.

One of the major hurdles for NCAE to overcome is the right to work ideology governing North Carolina law. Right to work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states as allowed under the provisions of the federal Taft-Hartley Act. The statue’s prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Implementation of the statue’s would require the workplace to be a closed shop.

Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments an employee who ceased being a member of the union for reasons ranging from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed shop unions as they existed prior to the right to work legislation as the law changed the dynamics of workers rights in relation to the union shop rule no longer requiring all new employees to join a union after a minimum period after her/his hire and making such requirements illegal as it was also illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union. A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join said union. Section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further by authorizing individual states, not local governments such as cities or counties, to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if she/he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not she/he is a member or financial contributor to a union (Right to work, 2011).

North Carolina was in support of the right to work ideology as Department  of Labor and Labor Regulations Article 10 Declaration of Policy as to Labor Organizations. N.C. General Statute §§ 95 declares…

§ 95-78. Declaration of public policy.

The right to live includes the right to work. The exercise of the right to work must be protected and maintained free from undue restraints and coercion. It is hereby declared to be the public policy of North Carolina that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization or association. (Enacted March 18, 1947.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)

In N.C an individual is free to work regardless of their affiliation with a union however Article 12 of the N.C Gen. Stat. covering the assembly of members and collective rights of workers states…

§ 95-98. Contracts between units of government and labor unions,trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees declared to be illegal.

Any agreement, or contract, between the governing authority of any city, town, county, or other municipality, or between any agency, unit, or instrumentality thereof, or between any agency, instrumentality, or institution of the State of North Carolina, and any labor union, trade union, or labor organization, as bargaining agent for any public employees of such city, town, county or other municipality, or agency or instrumentality of government, is hereby declared to be against the public policy of the State, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect.(Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)

Adding to the state’s power under the right to work N.C Gen. Stat. Article 12 subsection 95-100.

No provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 applicable to units of government or their employees. The provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes shall not apply to the State of North Carolina or any agency, institution, or instrumentality thereof or the employees of same nor shall the provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes apply to any public employees or any employees of any town, city, county or other municipality or the agencies or instrumentalities thereof, nor shall said Article apply to employees of the State or any agencies, instrumentalities or institutions thereof or to any public employees whatsoever. (Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)


The right to work concept of labor governance is in stark contrast to the democratization function unions are to bring to the working environment. According to Godard the democratizing function of unions is to introduce the aspect of democracy into workplace relationships. Godard describes the democratizing function as; providing workers with legal representation, collective representation, regulating the exercise of managerial authority, reverse authority to work from bottom up via a collective voice of workers, and over all allows workers to participate in a democratic workplace environment (Godard 2011, p184-6). Worker frustrations as a result of management’s removal of labors voice can only increase tensions between management and labor. As Godard states in chapter 13,

As is the case in authoritarian states, workers cannot elect or appoint their rulers, and they have little or no legal rights to participate in the legal governance of the organization for which they work. This, coupled with the conflicts which underlie labor-management relations, means that distrust and resentment almost always pervade the workplace, albeit in varying degrees (Godard 2011, p. 333).

Even though NCAE is prevented from acting as a bargaining agent the organization states in article 3 section 12 in reference to collective bargaining that the NCAE believes the passage of collective bargaining should be a priority of the Association, and that the Association should seek support from NEA in this effort. Although NCAE is restricted from forming a collective voice the organization does attempt to support its members in other areas in much the same manner a union would. As NCAE tax documents detail the purpose of its mission includes, [Tax] Exempt status under 501(c) 6 with a purpose to advance the interests of educators and the promotion and protection of welfare of the association’s members along with advancing the interests of the teaching profession (Luebke, 2011). The NCAE Constitution cites within its Articles support structures at various levels. Article VI Section 2 discusses the role of Local Affiliates in that the Association shall support its local affiliates in their efforts to negotiate contracts and/or improve personnel policies with their local boards of education, and shall support its locals in their efforts to be recognized as the exclusive agent and initiate the bargaining process (NCAE, 2011) Expanding outward in the structural dynamics of NCAE the next level of representation as covered in Article VII Section 1 outlining the functions of the Representative Assembly shall be the statewide representative body of the Association and shall have the following functions: a) to serve as a policy-making body on behalf of the membership in carrying out the purposes of the Association, b) to review the work of the commissions and committees of the Association, and c) to receive, to review, and to take action on proposed amendments to the constitution, according to the procedures set forth in Article XIV. In this capacity the NCAE’s members role at the local level is similar to a union local with the local members being based on geographical ties and having voting rights within the organization. NCAE also has within its organizational structure a Parent level which has approximately 113 locals that are affiliated under the same name and are subject to constitutional guidelines and structures (NCAE, 2011).

The NCAE’s guidelines and structures are outlined in the organizations platforms and resolutions. In chapter 8 Godard cites several union functions being; to take wages out of competition, organize the unorganized, provide expertise in grievance handling, provide strike support, and represent the members inside and outside the labor force (Godard, 2011 p. 203-9). The following are NCAE Platforms and Resolutions from 2011 highlighting specific areas that are connected to union based functions. Paragraph 10 discusses the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act…

NCAE believes in the principles established by the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act and will oppose any weakening of this important legislation. NCAE affirms its belief that all professional educators, including those who are probationary (1992), should be covered by the Act. (1984) (2008) (p. 2)

covered in Paragraph 11 Professional Rights and Responsibilities…

NCAE believes in the fundamental right of educators to organize in their own self-interest and to speak out in defense of educators, students and parents. NCAE strongly supports the right and responsibility of each educator to be actively involved in all levels of a professional organization. NCAE further believes that these rights should be respected to the extent that there will never be any fear of reprisal or limitation. (1984) (2008) (p. 3)

Also highlighted in the NCAE document are current resolution goals working to further the organization’s support of educators:

Goal 1: -Develop a strong program of professional advocacy for education.
Goal 2: -Strengthen the Association and increase service to members.
Goal 3: -Intensify the drive to protect and secure human, civil and professional rights.
Goal 4: -Improve the economic well-being of educators.
Goal 5: -Promote excellence in education.

The function of the goals listed above align with the roles and functions of a union in their support of educators however, lurking within the legislation framework of North Carolina is the work to rule law as cited in Article 12 subsection 95-98 which severely restricts the collective voice of NCAE preventing the organization from acting as a bargaining agent in contract negotiations and teachers would be ill advised to take job action particularly strike.
With severely limited means by which to effect educational legislation without retribution the NCAE has to incorporate various tactics to inform its members and create a collective voice outside the scope of traditional union roles. In this aspect the NCAE plays the role of a lobbying group. The NCAE encourages political involvement via their legislative alerts# section link on their web page which contain ‘Action Alerts’ that outline educational issues, provide an article for background information, talking points for the particular issue and the contact information, including email and phone number, of the House representative asking educators to ‘Take Action’. The most recent listing on the ‘Action Alerts’ page highlights Tom Tillis, the House Speaker, and the 27% pay raises several of his staffers have received in contrast to teachers wages remaining frozen. NCAE offers the following talking points to share with House Speaker Tillis; 1. educators have not gotten a raise or step increase in 3 years, 2. NC teacher pay is at 45th nationally, and declining, educators have administered & met expectations of the ABC testing program & the General Assembly has not paid up in 3 years, 3. the Tillis budget will take NC to last in almost every educational category yet he finds the resources to give pay raises to advisers within months of their employment (NCAE, 20). The NCAE also encourages direct political action as stated in Article 2 Section 13 of the NCAE Political Action Committee,

NCAE believes that the NCAE Political Action Committee should be involved in the election of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and all other political races which affect education. State and local PAC funds should be used to support those candidates who support legislation guaranteeing equal treatment of men and women. Support of this concept should be used as a determining factor when deciding between two equally qualified and education-oriented candidates.

(NCAE, 2011)

Evidence of this type of political action is reflected in NCAE’s active steps in support of political candidates as the NCAE and NEA contributed $1.8 million dollars to Gov. Perdue’s 2008 campaign (Bejan, 2011). Another example of political involvement was the NCAE took a stand this past June in reaction to the Legislative House overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the budget which placed education funding on the chopping block as the Republican-authored budget would lead to the elimination of 6,000 teacher and teacher assistant jobs and drop North Carolina to 49th in the nation in funding per pupil (Perez, 2011). Frustrated but not defeated, hundreds of educators organized by the NCAE stood out front of the state capitol in Raleigh for a lobby day and to deliver 10,000 pennies and copies of the state constitution (Perez, 2011). The symbolism of the penny reflected the cut of a penny tax which resulted in a loss of one billion dollars in education funding for the state. NCAE president Sheri Strickland spoke to the public assuring educators, parents and students that NCAE is going to continue this battle. Strickland said,

It is unfortunate that today legislators have decided they do not want to listen and they have chosen to turn their backs on our future. . . But our efforts will continue.  We may have not been able to save the one cent tax today but the fight to save our schools will continue.

The battle continued several weeks later when another NCAE lobby for education funding drew a crowd of approximately three thousand in support. However, the Republican majority House took retributive actions towards NCAE by passing legislation removing the ability of NCAE members to have NCAE fees drafted from their paychecks and require a one time payment of $415, for a full time educator, or monthly payments via checks to be mailed to NCAE headquarters (Bejan, 2011). Perhaps if NCAE was granted union status the inequity of political power could be leveled as well as an established voice of the education profession could speak on behalf of labor.

Assuring the political power of NCAE and the organizations ability to back candidates the NCAE is classified as a 501(c) 6 tax exempt organization. This tax status affords NCAE the ability to lobby and contribute to political campaigns. The NCAE along with its parent organization the NEA are able to influence political campaigns by spending PAC money endorsing political candidates. Since the NCAE Constitution requires NCAE members to be members of NEA it helps to create the largest teacher union in the nation, although with the right to work laws as they are in NC the membership carries little weight here. As a part of any political game the NCAE frequently criticizes the influence of powerful corporate interests in American politics while at the same time making contributions to electoral favorites. NEA and local affiliates like NCAE do represent a large political influence on American politics as indicated below the NEA and NCAE spent the following on political influences in the past three years:

  • In 2008, NEA spent $56.3 million on political campaign contributions.
  • In 2009 NCAE made $710,716 in nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures

2010 Contributions:

  • NCAE contributed $172,950 to candidates. Democrats received $170,650 in contributions (98.6 percent); Republicans received $2,300 in contributions (1.3 percent).

2008 Contributions

  • NEA and NCAE contributed $1.8 million to help Bev Perdue win the 2008 Governor’s race.
  • NEA spent another $1.7 million on campaign ads for Bev Perdue.

(Luebke, 2011)

NCAE holds as one of its core beliefs standing up for the rights of educators and educational causes and exercises this right through donating to education friendly candidates. The NCAE is performing duties in support of education within the confines of an authoritarian right to work state. If not for the attention NCAE draws when it organizes lobby days education issues may not be on the forefront as they are now. It is unfortunate that as NC law currently dictates the NCAE having a limited voice in management – workforce relations, at least NCAE can continue to be active within the political scene. Hopefully NCAE can work towards further legitimacy and gain status as a full fledged union once the political climate migrates more in favor of labor rights. It’s time NC realized its public employees should not be treated so poorly. If teachers were all given fair consideration by lawmakers instead of being looked upon as a taxation burden there would be such a need for unionization. Until attitudes change via the removal or retirement of leadership, it looks like union representation is a teacher’s best chance at gaining respect and a collective voice in the workplace. One must remember although the taxpayers cough up the money for education, the politicians decide how to spend it and don’t always follow the will of the people. Also, even though I work for the state that does not mean I do not have legitimate grievances and concerns. I refuse to simply roll over and allow the state to do what they will. A better education system with high morale among teachers helps the state.

In fact, I am a proponent of a state employees union with different sections for various public sector professions but it seems as though the only obstacle in NC unionizing is the antiquated right to work law. The state is already balancing pay and benefits against other areas while some of those other areas often have a great amount of pull while teachers get the short end of the stick. Having a union does not mean that you get what you want but rather it means that you have some leverage to balance the power dynamics between management and labor. As some may suggest, teachers who are in favor of unionization are simply being selfish, greedy and are more focused on self preservation than educating children. Nobody goes into teaching for selfish reasons or because the pay and benefits are so great. The reality is that until North Carolina affords union rights to public sector workers, teacher will continue to be pawns pushed around by politicians and by some members of the public who have no experience or reference for what is like to be a teacher and think teachers already have an overpaid and cushy job.


Bejan, W. (2011, July 05). Wisconsin union battle: framing the debate in north carolina?. Retrieved from

Godard, John (2011).  Industrial Relations, the econo Ontario: Captus Press Inc.

my, and society. (4th. ed.). Concord,

Luebke, B. (2011, May 03). Ncae: Looking out for children, members, or itself?. Retrieved from

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. (2010). Right to work states: north carolina . Retrieved from

NCAE. (2011). Core value, mission and vision. Retrieved from We Are/2.htm

NCAE. (2011). Ncae take action. Retrieved from

Perez, F. (2011, June 16). North carolina legislators vote to override gov perdue’s budget veto. Retrieved from

Right-to-work law. (2011, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:26, November 17, 2011, from

Shifting the Paradigm

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Here is another great animated short from RSA animating the shift in educational paradigm as seen by Sir Ken Robinson.

All those involved

Friday, January 28th, 2011

What are the primary principles of effective school/community engagement?
Generating community engagement with learning institutions can be a difficult task as educators attempt to draw influence from the community in hopes to improve student experiences at school. As schools set out to engage parents and community members they must be cognizant of the various factors that will have a major influence on the type and extent of the engagement. The dissemination of information and subsequent conversations between school staff and community members requires careful planning and a flexible approach to collaboration. Outlined below are what I believe to be the primary principals of effective community engagement.
The first aspect of community engagement is the development of a shared vision. Both school staff and community members must be made aware of an institutions expectations in order to pursue an advantageous working relationship. The first step in the development of a shared vision is conducting research into the needs of the community. In doing so as a facilitator you will be in a better position to create a vision which incorporates the diverse interest of all stakeholders as to engage the whole community. The vision’s broad outline then becomes a template against which to consider staff, curriculum, instructional changes, and assessment of school progress and parent involvement.
Within the framework of developing a shared vision a mutual respect needs to be fostered between school staff and community members. Unfortunately a parent’s school experience can act as a barrier to obtaining their participation. Most often negative experiences, language and cultural barriers; issues of race and class and lack of preparation conspire to breakdown connections. It is too easy for staff and other parents to assign cultural labels to behaviors that have very little to do with group values and much more to do with poverty and its associated lack of access to supports and opportunities. One way in which to over come these obstacles is to have a visible presence in the community and encourage community members to be a part of discussions and share their expectations in working towards the shared vision.
In the article “Community and Family Engagement” the author frames engagement as follows, “Community engagement is a two-way street where the school, families, and the community actively work together, creating networks of shared responsibility for student success is a two-way street where the school, families, and the community actively work together, creating networks of shared responsibility for student success” (Berg, Melaville, & Blank, 2006)
Once community members feel like their input is going to be respected the next step is to consult and collaborate at a deeper level. Successful collaboration takes into consideration that flexibility of donors, organizations, and community members is needed to collaborate successfully and all members share power at all levels of community engagement. All players involved need to determine the level of engagement required including defining from the beginning such terms as participation, communication, engagement, mobilization, and empowerment as they apply, before starting a project. Also members should agree on clear indicators with expected outcomes and on a documentation process that will reflect both growth and levels of engagement. Since community engagement is not a one-time event stakeholders may need to be reminded that it is a process that varies along with the community it intends to serve.
Along with the varying levels of collaboration so too are the variances in tools for attaining engagement from the community. The following engagement processes can be used alone or in conjunction with one another to solicit action from the community. An Action Planning Event can be used, as a starting point as this is used when structure and planning is required. Schools may also want to submit a public service announcement in hopes of reaching a broad audience although PSA’s can be expensive and can miss key demographic groups. Certain schools may see benefit from establishing advisory committees from which consistent input can be obtained, however committees such as this can be time consuming and needs a good facilitator to be successful. Printed material like a fact sheet or newsletter can provide jargon free accurate information working to reduce language barrier and reach the target audience. Also non-print materials such as web sites may be more cost effective than traditional print material and reach a broad audience, nonetheless schools cannot ignore the digital divide in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, which could result in key community members not being informed. Community research via small group sessions, questionnaires/surveys or written submissions can help strengthen partnerships and get more of the community involved.
Once schools begin to secure key players and stakeholders the challenge turns to keeping people committed. “Organizing a community-wide group to explore and possibly undertake a community school initiative takes credible leadership, planning expertise and knowledge of the community.” (Melaville, 2004) Participants must have the organizational clout to make commitments and follow through on them, as the school administration side needs to be strong, organized, supportive and experienced. Leaders should expect to engage and then reengage throughout the life of the project, as communities are dynamic and behavior change is not linear.
Community engagement is a dynamic process in which leadership and needs are constantly changing. The engagement process is continuous. It can move from individuals being more or less involved, but it constantly must be reevaluated to ensure that indicators are appropriate and met. When families are committed to staying connected to school students show increased stability, communication with teachers and the overall school experience involves. Parents also demonstrate a greater sense of responsibility for their children’s learning success thereby shifting some of the accountability from the teacher onto the parent. It is through this empowerment of the family that success and renewed commitment in the shared vision will continue to motivate all parties involved to stay active.
The last two pieces of community engagement are quite closely related as one lends itself to the other. When decisions are made via the public forum a level of accountability is transferred to all members involved due to the transparent nature of the decision-making process. As both school administration and community member’s work together they create transparency, promote responsibility for priority setting, and encourage shared ownership of initiatives and strategies to achieve our goals. Ultimately the relationship between the school and community members needs to be about learning how to change and commitment required to be successful. In no way should the process lend itself to a battle of power and control. For the successful merging of school and community perspectives there must be connection to an outcome or commitment, all those involved must be interactive during the process as the process itself is designed to build relationships with community members and the connections that requires organization and leadership and support initiative and transcend the working relation between school and community to reduce the fear of change in the community being affected.
Communities can be as difficult to navigate as the most robust torrent of white water rapids spilling down the side of a canyon. As teammates are thrust through the highs and lows of the river their goal is to stay up right and off the crushing rocks that lay beneath the surface. So too is the precarious balance that exists in community engagement. Community engagement needs to take place at the right time with the right people who have a share vision. As connections are made and the shared vision becomes the guide, calm waters lay ahead for both the rapid enthusiasts and the school in growth.


Berg, A, Melaville, A, & Blank, M. (2006). Community & family engagement [Principals share what works]. (PDF)

Melaville, A. (2004). Doing what matters [The bridges to success strategy for building community schools]. (PDF)

Ning Mini sponsor

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

In response to my last post Alec Couros gave me a heads about Pearson, a global leader in online and offline education for pre-K through college and the opportunity to have Pearson sponsor my Ning mini site. Of course I immediately went to the sign up page and applied. I was surprised at the quick turn around with their response and their acceptance of sponsoring Slightly Shumay. So here we go again with another school year starting in a week and things are already starting off on a good note. Here’s to hoping goodness will come all year long.

If there is anyone out there who knows of some accessible technology grants for education I am looking to set up my class this year with a tablet or two in order to provide more technology experience in the classroom.