The following is a letter from 10 Superintendents: Dr. Leslie Tubb (Brunswick), Mr. Mat Bottoms (Carteret), Dr. Meghan S. Doyle (Craven), Dr. Austin Obasohan (Duplin), Dr. Michael Bracy (Jones), Mr. Brent Williams (Lenoir), Dr. Tim Markley (New Hanover), Mr. Rick Stout (Onslow), Mrs. Lisa Jackson (Pamlico), Dr. Steven Hill (Pender).
September 19, 2018
Honorable Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Honorable Members of the North Carolina General Assembly in Southeastern North Carolina
Representative John R. Bell (Craven, Lenoir) Representative Larry M. Bell (Duplin) Senator Harry Brown (Jones, Onslow)
Representative Deb Butler (Brunswick, New Hanover) Representative George C. Cleveland (Onslow)
Senator Don Davis (Lenoir) Representative Ted Davis (New Hanover) Representative Jimmy Dixon (Duplin) Representative George Graham (Craven, Lenoir) Representative Holly Grange (New Hanover) Representative Frank Iler (Brunswick)
Senator Brent Jackson (Duplin)
Senator Michael V. Lee (New Hanover) Representative Pat McElraft (Carteret, Jones) Representative Bob Muller (Onslow, Pender) Senator Louis Pate (Lenoir)
Senator Bill Rabon (Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender) Senator Norman W. Sanderson (Carteret, Craven, Pamlico) Representative Phil Shepard (Onslow)
Representative Michael Speciale (Craven, Pamlico)
Honorable North Carolina Governor and Members of the North Carolina General Assembly, I am writing this letter on behalf of the Superintendents in eastern North Carolina who are currently recovering from the devastating rain, wind, and flooding of Hurricane Florence. We are writing to request a waiver of North Carolina General Statute 115c-84.2 (d) and 115c-301 for the 2018-2019 school year. Specifically, we would like the option to extend our school year beyond June 9, 2019 to enable us to ensure that our students get the time needed to recover from this traumatic event and get the instruction they need to continue making progress towards their academic goals. We are also hoping to avoid eliminating needed vacation time from our employees and students who have already suffered great losses from this storm. In addition, we would request a waiver of class size requirements for the affected counties under section (g)(1) which provides that waivers may be requested in the event of “Emergencies or acts of God that impact the availability of classroom space or facilities.” We recognize and sincerely appreciate that there may be draft legislation to waive some or all of these days. However, we are asking for calendar flexibility, possibly in combination with some waiving of days, to ensure that each district is able to serve the academic, social, and psychological needs of our students and staff in the coming months.
All of our school systems have endured significant losses in property. More importantly, as some of you have observed from your tours of our areas this week, the devastation that our families have endured is immeasurable. This includes total losses of homes, vehicles, loss of personal belongings and in some cases lives. Currently, under the calendar legislation requirements, our school systems will have to begin taking workdays, established leave days, and in some cases holidays to maintain a level of instruction, that includes quality and time, that is essential to our students; particularly those who may be the most behind. For the last two years, the eastern part of North Carolina has suffered significant loss of instructional time due to Hurricane Matthew (2016-2017) and a harsh winter snow storm (2017-2018). In many of our areas we lost two weeks of instruction each school year. It is too much to ask for educators and students to make up time on weekends and during times when the remainder of our community is taking leave for holidays. It is especially too much to ask when we consider what these families (staff and students) have had to endure in cleaning up homes and their lives from this event. At the time of this storm, we were a little over two weeks into the new school year. When we return, we will begin our school year over again. Many of the districts in the path of Hurricane Florence are districts that house our state’s military installations. These families endure enough transitions. Giving us flexibility will enable us to minimize disruption to all of our students.
The hurricane season is not over yet and we do not know the type of weather cancellations we may confront during the winter of this school year. This is complicated because our staff has not had the ability to report to work during this time. All of the systems listed in this letter were under mandatory evacuation beginning sometime during the week of September 10, 2018. Heeding the direction of our County governments and emergency managers was essential to protect our communities. However, this has placed our staff, in some cases, many states away from their homes. With the transportation system in eastern North Carolina currently compromised, it is difficult to estimate when these employees may be able to return. As a result, we do not have the opportunity to compensate our employees during these days of mandatory evacuation when schools are closed to staff unless we can code them as “weather days” and add these days in other parts of our calendar. The only true and humane option is to enable us to have the flexibility to make these decisions locally so that we can respond to the localized needs in each community.
The short message is that it is not clear when all of us will be able to return our students to normal instruction and our staff to consistent employment.
To compound the potential loss of valuable instructional time, many of our communities will struggle to find suitable options to house our displaced students and staff. The displacement of students because of the catastrophic loss of housing will begin a mass migration of students within our districts (this happened during Hurricane Matthew), across our region and across the state for the remainder of this school year. The displacement of teachers will add expense to our teachers as they are forced to either spend more money to travel longer distances to maintain their employment or change their location of employment to new school districts. This will make compliance with class size requirements almost impossible to accommodate. In addition to damaged homes, individual classrooms and whole facilities have also been damaged to the point of loss of use. As a result, the opportunity to have class size waivers as we navigate the shifts in students and staff because of this storm will enable us to mitigate the losses many of our districts may endure for the remainder of the school year.
Hurricane Florence has developed into an event of historic proportions. As a group of educators, we are begging for the opportunity to have some flexibility to determine what is best for our employees and our students for this school year. This may look different for each school system from New Hanover to Pamlico County. However, we are respectfully asking that you consider this request as soon as possible so that we can assure our students and staff that they will be paid as normal, that we will make up this time in a reasonable way that does not compromise our instruction, and that ensures that our communities who have endured so much will be able to get the rest they need at holidays and on the weekends in the coming months.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Dr. Leslie Tubb
Brunswick County Schools
Mr. Mat Bottoms
Carteret County Schools
Dr. Meghan S. Doyle
Craven County Schools
Dr. Austin Obasohan
Duplin County Schools
Dr. Michael Bracy
Jones County Schools
Mr. Brent Williams
Lenoir County Schools
Dr. Tim Markley
New Hanover County Schools
Mr. Rick Stout
Onslow County Schools
Mrs. Lisa Jackson
Pamlico County Schools
Dr. Steven Hill
Pender County Schools
cc: Full Membership of the North Carolina General Assembly
Mr. Mark Johnson, North Carolina State Superintendent
Mr. Eric Davis, Chairman, North Carolina State Board of Education