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The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) celebrated their 10th Anniversary of working to improve the future for Tennessee students on August 12, 2019.  While we have not always agreed with some of the agenda at Professional Educators of Tennessee, we have never doubted their resolve or pursuit in improving public education in our state.  We are glad to partner with them to improve the future for educators and help our students succeed.

As Chairman of SCORE, Senator Bill Frist should be commended and honored for his tireless advocacy and passion for making education a priority in our state.  We are all better in public education because of his commitment to parents, teachers and especially students.

By advocating for many organizations including our own, Governors Phil Bredesen, Bill Haslam and now Bill Lee have all made education a priority in their administrations.  However, SCORE’s insistence of doing what is best for students to achieve excellence for all has made the greatest impact on public policy in the state this decade.  What has been significant has been consistent leadership at the organization, from former CEO and state senator Jamie Woodson to current CEO David Mansouri, who both shared Frist’s relentless drive in educating our students.

To prepare our children for the future, a student-centered education begins with an excellent teacher. SCORE has been pushing that envelope and playing a critical role in advancing student achievement in Tennessee.  That is why our dialogue with SCORE continues to surround how to engage and empower educators to improve public education.  Those who possess the knowledge about students must have input into the decisions.

We can and we must continue to have policy discussions and debates on improving public education.  Marching in complete lockstep has never produced an original thought.  We have to understand that public education must be completely committed to student success.   Continued collaboration and a spirit of unity remain critical in creating a culture that truly values education.

Providing educators with resources and supports seem to be a foolproof means of making sure that student needs are met completely.  In this area, we all can agree on the critical importance of an authentic teacher voice in policy discussions.  One of the greatest weaknesses of public education, is our isolation in classrooms and in schools.  Teachers need more opportunities for reflection and to develop connections beyond their own school walls or even districts.  That is why membership in professional associations can play a critical role.  The amplified voices of educators that are improving outcomes for students through innovative practices must be shared in our state, and we cannot do it alone.

One of SCORE’s strategic priorities is preparing, recruiting, supporting and retaining excellent teachers and leaders.  There is no doubt that is often overlooked by policymakers at the state and local level.  A school system cannot have high expectations for their students, without a high-quality teacher in their classrooms.  This may prove difficult moving forward, as there are not enough qualified teachers applying for teaching jobs to meet the demand in all locations and fields.   It will take forward-thinking for Tennessee to see our potential for the future.  Simply put: better thinking equals better results.

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.  Thank you to SCORE, Senator Frist and your team for your commitment to public education this last decade.  We have much more work left to do.  Together, educators and students across Tennessee will continue to climb higher and our state will rise to the top.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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We are here today to Celebrate the Life of Paul Denton Bowman, Jr.  Poet Thomas Campbell wrote:  To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.   Paul Denton Bowman, Jr lives on in our hearts.  And Paul lived a remarkable life, and he will forever be part of our lives.  Here in this room, we all have our own stories about Paul that we remember.

  • Paul Denton Bowman, Jr. was born the first of three children to Paul and Olga Bowman in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul’s daddy, who we always called Uncle Dink, was one of 12 Bowman children. He had a young brother John Bertram, and a beloved sister, Linda Darlene. So, Paul grew up surrounded by many Uncles and Aunts, siblings and cousins, who had moved up to Baltimore from Cleveland, Tennessee because of all the work available in the Shipyards there.  They moved back and forth, between Cleveland and Baltimore and eventually some of our family ended up in Orlando, Florida as well —which is where Paul grew up.  Paul knew where he was from, and Paul knew where he wanted to spend his eternity.   

 

  • The name Paul means strong yet humble, a seeker of all things true and beautiful. He loved to laugh and be with the people he loved. That was our Paul. He was also known affectionally as Butch or Butchie by some in our family, a name he really didn’t like as he got older.  All of our Uncles had nicknames, such as Bud, Greasy, Dink, and Pee Wee.  Our cousins also had nicknames.  There was Buddy, Porkie, Rootie Toot, Johnny Mop, and yes:  Butch.  I didn’t even know most of them had real names until I was in my 20’s.   Butch didn’t mind using the name when it was to his advantage.  There was a certain BBQ Food Truck run by David Darr in Orlando, in which BUTCH could get a discount.  It was called the “Butchie Discount”.  He shared the good news with so many people, that folks all over Orlando started asking for the “Butchie Discount.”   Names are important. It is by our name that other people identify us, and that we identify ourselves.  God Knows Our Name.  And on Thursday, August 8, 2019 God called Paul Denton Bowman, Jr. home.

 

  • I never knew our Grandfather Bowman, as he died before I was born. So, I asked Paul what he was like. He said, “he was so kind and soft spoken.  I remember he used to walk me and our older cousin Johnny Eldredge to, and from, Bible School. And Granddaddy asked me, well what did you boys learn in Bible School today.  Paul said, well Granddaddy, I learned that if you didn’t talk and behaved while the teacher is talking you get some cookies.  Our Grandfather asked, well what else did you learn?  Paul replied, Well Johnny never gets any cookies.”  Paul was honest with himself, and understood the value of honesty. 

 

  • Paul was a tremendous athlete. Many people never knew that fact, but Paul finished 3rd in the state of Florida in the 100-Yard Sprints behind two African-Americans. That did not detour Paul.  He was just pointed out he was the fastest white kid in the state that year. He also played Football.  In fact, he played it so well he was recruited to play in the World Football League by the Florida Blazers.  Paul loved sports and his Florida Gators.  That did not always endear him to the good folks here on Ol’ Rocky Top—or to his Tennessee cousins.  Paul was loyal to his friends, and looked to find the good in others—even if that did not always make him popular. 

 

  • Paul and my brother Ernie decided to get in shape. So, they both started biking. Now the image of those two in biker shorts is NOT a memory most of us want to keep in our minds.   However, many people will tell us they started riding bikes in Cleveland, Tennessee, on our Greenway, because of those two.  Unfortunately, Paul’s health didn’t allow him to keep riding.   Today, Paul is completely healed and pain free.  I imagine he is riding on the streets of gold in heaven, and he isn’t riding alone—he is riding with Jesus Christ.   Paul trusted God in his Journey in life.

 

  • When I was a Sophomore in High School, Paul had convinced my dad to let him take me on a school night to Opening Day for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves were a horrible team in 1979. Paul picked me up from Cleveland High School in his Baby Blue Metallic Corvette, and all my friends were jealous.  I was really cool that day.  We get to Atlanta and Paul has dugout level seats, it was raining, there were delays, and not much of a crowd.  By the time the game ended at midnight, I bet there wasn’t 100 people in the entire stadium.  Paul and I had collected so many foul balls, we almost needed a bag to carry them all out of the stadium.  Paul liked his fast cars, but most importantly Paul was not identified by his worldly possessions. 

 

  • Paul once told me a story of our Great Grandfather William Mac “Pappy” Rollins, a cantankerous old Irish man who lived to be 100. He said one day, he was down visiting Pappy on a Saturday and it was getting late. Paul was feeling kind of sorry for the old man, who by that time was in his mid-nineties.  “Hey Pappy” Paul said, “I can stick around and keep you company” Pappy said to him, “Listen here young man you have to leave, I have a neighbor lady coming over and I have to do some Sparking tonight.”  Paul had never heard of that term, and I had never heard of it until Paul told me that story.  By the way it means courting, or going on a date.  Paul was a wealth of information.  I am pretty certain that is why Paul named his dog and his favorite wingman “Sparkie”.  Paul could tell a good story, and I hope you will share some of them with your friends and your family often. Jesus was a master storyteller. He taught in parables.  We could all tell countless more stories about Paul, and I will be glad to share more later.  We have to use stories to share our faith.

Paul trusted his future in God, through God’s son Jesus Christ.  And he would want you to do the same.  So, to recap:

  1. Paul knew where he wanted to spend his eternity.
  2. God knew Paul’s name, and Paul knew one day God would call him home.
  3. Paul was honest with himself.
  4. Paul was loyal to his friends, and looked to find the good in others—even if that did not always make him popular.
  5. Paul trusted God in his Journey in life.
  6. Paul was not identified by his worldly possessions.
  7. It is through our own stories to family and friends we can best share our faith. Tell those stories.

One day we will all be reunited.  Our faith reminds us while we can’t be together here on earth, that one day we will together in heaven. Especially to my cousin Linda, Paul’s sister, as you are overwhelmed with emotions, hold on to these moments as they pass. I want to tell you:

  • There is pain, it won’t subside soon. There is a numbness, an overwhelming sense of loss. We cannot make it go away, no matter how much we want. It is okay to cry.

 

  • However, there is hope, through the darkest of your days, let your faith sustain you. In times of deep despair, let the Holy Spirit comfort you. Let your family and friends help you bear the grief; you are never alone.

 

  • Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14), Paul is in a better place, and one day we all will join him—if we only believe, and I know you do. That is why this is a celebration.

Jesus Christ gives us a merry heart in life, and a contented heart in death. The believer’s death is but the moment we pass from the land of the dying to the land of the living.  Our eternal home.

We know that death ends a life, not a relationship.  The only way to take sorrow out of death; is if we were to take the love out of life.

Our love for Paul will continue.  Don’t rush the grieving process, allow others to offer their support. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

This is not “Goodbye” to family and friends; Paul would tell us today. He would tell us that we must look forward. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and our days go by so fast.    But we know moving forward, there is a promise of a home far beyond the skies:  A place of joy and beauty, of peace and happiness that will never end.

Whenever, Paul and I parted he used to always say: Hey Jay, see you later.  Be good.  So, I think if he was here tonight, he would tell you: see you later and be good. We have to do the best we can for as long as we have on this earth.

So, either on this earth or in heaven, we will see you later. Be good. All of my love to you.

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 Eulogy by JC Bowman 8/11/2019 for Paul Bowman, Jr.

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Against the wishes of their own membership, teachers’ unions often embody hyper-partisanship. Reiss Becker detailing research on teachers’ unions at the California Policy Center reports that, “in the 2016 election cycle over 93% of union campaign spending went to Democrats.”  Many union members are unaware that political spending by their union tends to support liberal political candidates and left-wing causes, when 60% of their membership has identified as Republicans or independents

Writing in a USA Today editorial, Jessica Anderson and Lindsey Burke gave a more detailed historical analysis:  “Since 1990, the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers have made over $140 million in direct political contributions. Over 97% of that went to liberals. That kind of political bias isn’t at all representative of the unions’ membership.”

Education Week pointed out that the National Education Association passed “several measures that seemed to move the union in an even more progressive direction.” This was in reference to “social issues as abortion and reparations, protested immigration policies, and, above all, pledged to defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.”

Factor in that quite a few of these “issues” they espouse are typically classified as non-education issues. Members are rightfully being lambasted over the actions of their own delegates to the 2019 National Education Association Representative Assembly due to the passage of Business Item 56, which stated: “The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.”

Anderson and Burke then added: Why would the NEA go out of its way to stake out extreme stances on hot-button issues so far removed from the very real problems facing our nation’s schools? It appears as though the union is more concerned with promoting the political objectives of the left than serving the nation’s teachers and students. The answer may be as simple as federal law does not require union leaders to get their members’ authorization before spending their members’ money on non-educational, social issues.

Members of the union must ask themselves questions about their direct campaign contributions and independent spending at the national, state and local level.  Journalist Leah Mishkin blatantly asked union officialsWhy are some members unaware that part of their membership dues are helping to foot the bill?  Many educators simply do not want their dues used for endorsing or supporting political candidates, or social issues.

For too long union members at the state and local level have stated they disagree with their national union and their agenda, while sending in their hard-earned money in support.  Writer and researcher Mike Antonucci has correctly pointed out when state and local union members try to hide behind semantics: “All of its members are NEA members. They all send dues to NEA. You can’t wash your hands of your affiliation when it’s convenient.”   

That is a critical point, and one that their own members must understand; if you join the local union you are also supporting the national union.  NEA Executive Director John Stocks resigned in June 2019 to chair the Democracy Alliance.  Antonucci gives us the rest of the story about the musical chairs involving Stocks, his replacement, and the Democracy Alliance:

He (Stocks) concurrently serves as chairman of the board of the Democracy Alliance, a network of wealthy progressive political donors. He will continue in that role while acting as a senior adviser at NEA until after the 2020 elections. His successor as NEA executive director is Kim Anderson, a longtime senior staffer at the union who for the past three years has been executive vice president of the Democracy Alliance.

The assumption of many educators is that teachers’ unions are choosing ideology over their own members. That is why state-based professional associations who offer liability and legal protection, professional development, and member benefits are growing nationally.  Most teachers, either on the left or the right, do not choose education as a career choice because they enjoy politics.  They just want to teach while leaving political pursuits to their personal lives, not their professional ones.  Unlike a recent NEA delegate vote, most educators—including union members—actually value student learning as a priority.

Alexandra DeSanctis, a staff writer for National Review, suggests in a recent article that the National Education Association must think that as an “influential left-wing organization, the group must necessarily champion the entire progressive agenda.” She then submits that there is “a growing tendency on the Left, as ‘intersectional’ thinking takes hold — the idea that each interest group within the broader progressive movement has a responsibility to embrace and advocate the particular interests of the rest.”

Union politics often hurt public education and educators with an agenda that many parents and taxpayers are baffled by, and members are left to explain.  Marching in lockstep in any political direction is always a mistake.   As former classroom teacher Larry Sand, currently president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, writes about teachers’ unions: “the choice between unions becoming more ecumenical or more radical has been made.”   At this point, there is no turning back, as some union leaders merely seek to build a militant minority to revive the labor movement.  Sadly, teachers have become pawns in this game.  They are pawns in the union political agenda.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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We live in a litigious society.  As an educator or school employee, you should be keenly aware that professional liability insurance is critical because district coverage may not protect you individually.  It is dangerous and potentially career-threatening if you enter a public-school classroom without liability or legal protection.    Professional Educators of Tennessee handles legal issues in a positive, professional and confidential manner, without fanfare or publicity. Our members do not want undue publicity that can damage their case or their reputations. That is why you rarely read or hear about our members’ legal problems in the media.

Due to their unique role, educators face exposure to liability much greater than does the average citizen and therefore must exercise a higher duty of care than most professionals. Nearly every day teachers must deal with diverse laws related to issues such as child abuse, student discipline, negligence, defamation, student records, and copyright infringement. Tennessee teachers often cite professional liability insurance as a major reason for becoming a member, and rightly so.  Professional Educators of Tennessee offers educators high-quality legal protection and professional liability insurance, at a fraction of the cost of labor unions.  Our educators’ professional liability insurance is unmatched in Tennessee.

As an educator, you are also a consumer, and you expect and deserve quality services at an affordable price.  Our dues at Professional Educators of Tennessee are currently $189. Contrast that with the roughly $600 or more that you are asked to pay for union dues and you will quickly realize not only cost savings but also more liability protection.  We are less expensive because we are not part of a national organization – money collected is used on organizational goals and stays here in Tennessee.  Politically, we are non-partisan. Your dues will never be utilized as political campaign contributions or to support social issue causes unrelated to education. That alone saves our members money   Teachers’ unions engage in aggressive political partisanship and promote a wide-ranging social agenda on issues unrelated to education, often not reflective of the diverse political views of their broader membership.

Bad things happen to good educators every day. There are certainly increased risks for educators targeted by civil lawsuits.   School districts are spending more on litigation costs and frivolous lawsuits.  Educators need excellent liability coverage to cover inadvertent mistakes that could possibly happen.  It’s is better to be proactive by being a member of Professional Educators of Tennessee, as countless teachers discover during the school year.  In today’s society, false allegations can also occur, and with the prevalence of cell phones and social media, this has made educators even more vulnerable.

There are unnecessary lawsuits filed every year with allegations that have little basis in fact. The American legal system makes it easy to file a lawsuit regardless of the merit of the case. Unfortunately, public schools always will be susceptible to legal challenges, and we will never eliminate all lawsuits.  That is why you need professional liability coverage so that you can focus on your job as an educator, and not matters out of your control. When allegations are made, or worse charges are filed, teachers may not be able to count on the backing of a school system or elected official.  You need an organization to stand behind you, preferably one without a partisan agenda.  Our legal resources, including attorneys who know education law are available to assist members with employment concerns. Our legal services team is a phone call away to answer any school-employment questions.

Only Professional Educators of Tennessee offers the peace of mind of $2 Million per member per occurrence, coverage for coaching, tutoring & private instruction, and up to $35,000 for Criminal Acts—and your coverage is never dependent on the discretion/pre-approval of a union boss,  Access to your legal protection is not dependent upon whether your case is determined to be in the best interest of Professional Educators of Tennessee.

As with many professions requiring a state license, the teaching profession—like law and medicine—is governed by a code of ethics. This code outlines standards of personal and professional conduct that you, a member of the profession, must uphold. Violating a standard can have serious consequences for your teaching license.   In addition, in 2018 the state added new laws regarding Teacher Ethics and Teacher Misconduct.  Districts are now required to offer annual training in ethics.   Our organization has partnered with the state to offer online ethics training to our members and other educators.

Unlike other organizations, where employment protection is discretionary, Professional Educators of Tennessee has no committee or group of people who will decide whether or not you will be represented should you face such an employment situation. This coverage saves our members thousands of dollars in legal fees every year and provides immeasurable peace of mind.

Our counseling philosophy is the best way to avoid having a situation escalate to a legal problem and only requires you to call us before the situation gets out of hand. It is very important to know your legal rights and responsibilities. Your membership with Professional Educators of Tennessee and our working relationship with you ensures your rights are not only realized but protected.

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When you have a job-related legal question or concern that may have legal implications, make your first call to Professional Educators of Tennessee or email legal@proedtn.org.  Speaking to an in-house attorney is the best and most efficient way to avoid having a situation escalate into a legal problem. It is critical that you know your legal rights and responsibilities. Your membership with Professional Educators of Tennessee ensures that you will be informed without delay. We are here to help and support our members.

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Seemingly every year we have to revisit the issue of collaborative conferencing for stakeholders and policymakers.  The initial training in the principles and techniques of interest-based collaborative problem-solving for use in collaborative conferencing pursuant to this part was initially to be developed by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) in conjunction with representative organizations of school leaders and administrators and professional employees’ organizations.  The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) subsequently conducted the training in 2011.  Representatives of Professional Educators of Tennessee, TOSS, TSBA, and the teacher’s union all participated in this training.  A detailed report was sent to the Tennessee General Assembly on the activities of the training and participants in 2012.

Collaborative Conferencing is the process by which local boards of education and their professional employees meet, either directly or through representatives designated by the respective parties, to confer, consult, and discuss matters relating to certain terms and conditions of professional service as specified by the passing of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act (PECCA).  The process of collaborative conferencing includes the exchange of information, opinions, and proposals among the conferencing parties, as well as the use of the principles and techniques of interest-based collaborative problem-solving (IBCPS).

The term “interest-based collaborative problem-solving” is not defined by the new law. However, interest-based collaborative problem-solving is an increasingly popular method of multiparty consensus-building negotiation. It is based upon mutual interests and respect among the parties, jointly identifying problems, the open, free exchange of information, nurturing creativity in the generation of options, and a good-faith, non-adversarial approach to solving problems using agreed- to criteria. This is intended to lead to an agreement between the parties based upon consensus and mutual gain.  In the perfect world all parties work together, and all members of the collaborative conferencing teamwork toward a common objective in unity.  In education, that concept may not work, if one side chooses not to engage in consensus building and the other side decides to file unnecessary lawsuits.  Professional Educators of Tennessee fervently supports the right of educators to discuss working conditions and salary with their employers.

In collaborative conferencing local boards are required to address:  Salaries or wages; Grievance procedures; Insurance; Fringe benefits (not to include pensions or retirement programs of the Tennessee consolidated retirement system or locally authorized early retirement incentives); Working conditions, except those working conditions that are prescribed by federal law, state law, private act, municipal charter or rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, the Department of Education or any other department or agency of state or local government; Leave; and, Payroll deductions (except with respect to those funds going to political activities).

Subjects prohibited from conferencing include:  Differentiated pay plans and other incentive compensation programs, including stipends, and associated benefits that are based on professional employee performance that exceeds expectations, or that aid in hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers for hard-to-staff schools and subject areas; Expenditure of grants or awards from federal, state or local governments and foundations or other private organizations that are expressly designed for specific purposes; Evaluation of professional employees pursuant to federal or state law or State Board of Education policy; Staffing decisions and State Board of Education or local board of education policies relating to innovative educational programs under § 49-1-207; innovative high school programs under Title 49, chapter 15; virtual education programs under Title 49, chapter 16; and other programs for innovative schools or school districts that may be enacted by the general assembly; All personnel decisions concerning assignment of professional employees, including, but not limited to, filling of vacancies, assignments to specific schools, positions, professional duties, transfers within the system, layoffs, reductions in force, and recall. No agreement shall include provisions that require personnel decisions to be determined on the basis of tenure, seniority or length of service; and, payroll deductions for political activities.

The law was very clear on deadlines and specific dates.  The submission (by fifteen percent (15%) or more of the professional employees) of a written request to conduct collaborative conferencing with the board of education, must be done not before October 1 and no later than November 1.   The selection and appointment of the professional employee and board of education representatives must be done no later than December 1. The transmission to the board of the confidential poll results and the names and positions of the appointed representatives must be done by January 1.  This is the law.  If the law needs to be changed, all groups should work together through the Tennessee General Assembly to make the appropriate changes.

All educators and all professional employee organizations have the same rights under PECCA.  The school board does not have to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and the MOU should be “prepared jointly” according to the law.  We would suggest that putting some of these items into Board Policy might actually lead to more consistent policy and better working conditions than an MOU that would expire on a specific date.  The law also mandates that any items that require funding cannot become effective “until the local funding body has approved such funding in the budget.”

The Tennessee General Assembly was clear in 2011 that they wanted to get politics out of our public schools while supporting teachers’ rights to fight for higher wages and better working conditions.  The PECCA legislation made clear that directors may communicate with teachers on the subjects of collaborative conferencing through any means, medium or format the director chooses.  Legislators had anticipated that increased collaboration would benefit the women and men in our classrooms with better working conditions, improved dialogue and mutual respect thus benefitting all of our students. There is still work left to do to accomplish this challenging objective.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

 

It is said that sunshine is the best medicine and the best sunshine is found during the summer. The concept of an Endless Summer was based on a 1964 Bruce Brown movie built on the idea that if someone had enough time and money would it be possible to chase summer across the world. In both the Northern and Southern hemisphere making it endless. Alas, teachers neither have enough time nor money, and it is almost back to school time here in Tennessee. For students, it means summer is coming to an end. For parents, advertisers tell us, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Teaching has a calendar unlike that of most other vocations. Some mistakenly believe that teachers only have annual instructional time for 180 or so days. The romanticized summer off for teachers is as likely as an endless summer for most of us. Educators have responsibilities beyond their days with students. Others often fail to take in after school hours, lesson prep, weekends, professional learning, parent-teacher conferences, and, “in-service” days to name a few. In urban communities, they have to factor in travel time as teachers, often cannot afford to live in communities where they teach. The same is true of police, fire and hospital personnel.

The argument can be made that teachers knew the task was tough when they took the job assignment. This is true. However, few jobs are as demanding as teaching. Certainly, summers off are a thing of the past. Most educators are paid for 10 months and have money withheld from their check, so they can get paid for 12 months. USA Today points out that across the country, “teachers often trade their summer vacation for other work opportunities to make ends meet. Recent data from the National Survey of Teachers and Principals showed nearly one in five teachers hold a second job during the school year.”

Many parents legitimately worry about the “summer brain drain,” also known as the “summer slide” that children experience. This concept refers to the loss of skills and knowledge that happens in the summer months. David Quinn and Morgan Polikoff review of academic literature summarized several findings regarding summer loss, and concluded that: (1) on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning, (2) declines were sharper for math than for reading, and (3) the extent of loss was larger at higher grade levels. None of this attributable to teachers.

Parents who combat this academic issue understand that learning occurs beyond the classroom. They help their children find opportunities to grow and learn. You must engage children in both mental and physical activity, not strictly tied to formal education. If you missed out on these opportunities, it is never too late to supplement a child’s learning. The key is to be actively engaged in your child’s education throughout the year. Parents and students can no longer take summer off either.

Therein lies the problem, absent the concept of year-round school, summer breaks are not equal for all students. The range of activities, including summer camps, family vacations, and home learning activities are different. Access to summer activities may vary for children from different socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Child care arrangements are also a factor, as well as the education level of parents. Communities need a plan for enrichment activities for these students with increased access for children of low socioeconomic status.

Some children return to school ready to learn, others come back needing to catch back-up, and some even missing necessary prerequisite skills. That should create some valid concerns for annual tests. Writer Seth Godin suggests that “Better decisions, emotional labor and the confidence that comes from education are the future of work. Either you’re on that path or you’re falling behind.”

I would add that Godin’s quote is applicable here as well, and we should acknowledge we are indeed falling behind, because we are not addressing the summer loss of learning adequately. We need more parent engagement. Endless summer has to become endless learning for all of us; educators, parents, and students. Surf’s up, and sadly Summer is nearly over.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

I just returned from a visit to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The visit reminded me of my own Marine Corps and military heritage and history. I remember those with whom I served and friends that are no longer here with us. A strange catharsis brought me needed renewal and restoration. Although 35 years had passed since I had last been to Camp Lejeune, it was as if I was 18 years old again. Time stood still for a brief moment. It was a good reminder of why freedom has always been important to me personally and to our nation just in time for Independence Day.

As I thought about my own life, I thought about the significance of life itself. Life is no longer valued as a result of changing norms, values, attitudes, and customs. Examine the suicide and murder rate in some of our urban and rural areas. I have seen the data on the large number of American veterans who take their own life, many crying out for help and not finding it. I lost a very close friend earlier this year who took his own life because he “no longer wanting to be a burden”. It is a sad loss of hope. People have seemingly lost faith in our own capabilities to take care of ourselves, as well as in our institutions to help meet our societal challenges. A nation that can send an 18-year-old to war, can afford to take care of them after the war.

The words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence taught us, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Do we still believe in that premise? Are we witnessing the political demise of our great country, following similar self-inflicted harm?

Each July 4th, Independence Day, our nation commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States. “Ever honored will be the day which gave birth to a nation, and to a System of self-government, making it a new Epoch in the History of Man” according to James Madison. It is worth remembering the story of Benjamin Franklin as he exited the Constitutional Convention when asked what sort of government Americans would have, his answer, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Jefferson reminded us: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

In military jargon, walking point means to take responsibility for the first and most exposed position in a combat military formation. The person walking point is literally the person most at risk for death or injury during a confrontation with the enemy. It is critical that every member of a ‘fire team’ or platoon know the duties of the other team members, and in turn, they must be ready and able to assume the duties of their next superior. Walking point is a challenge and responsibility for every Marine or soldier.

Every American has to walk point during their civic life. Our nation, our republic, is unquestionably dependent upon the active and informed involvement of our citizens. This Independence Day we must remind ourselves, as Ronald Reagan did: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” What sacrifice would we be willing to make today for freedom? That is a question we should ask frequently.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Children do not come with an instruction guide.   It would be much easier if they did.   So much time and effort go into child rearing.  It is beyond a full-time job.   Let’s be honest, being a dad is actual work—and it is difficult yet rewarding work.    

Too many men in society today want the title of Father, but they want to put in the work of a part-time casual observer.  Men who fail to invest in their children miss the wonder of life.  The men will likely reap the results of that part-time status.  If not in their lifetime, then in the lives of their children.  It is a vicious and unnecessary cycle, that we perpetuate from generation to generation.     

Too often, children are subjected to fathers who do not know how to love them, or who are just not there.  The absent fathers and the emotionally distant fathers create more lasting problems, much more than physical abuse.  Not that physical abuse is ever acceptable.   Wounds heal, emotional scarring could last a lifetime—if you let it.    

We know that childhood abuse and neglect, cause so many people to embark on lives of drugs or prostitution, sometimes even worse.  The absent and emotionally distant father helps create adults full of bitterness and anger.  A man who takes the title of Father seriously, helps create children that are confident and secure as adults—they break the generational curse of men who fail to father their children. 

The writer and missionary, Floyd McClung, Jr., suggested that as people consider their past, that they “forgive their parents for their faults.” That is a deep thought.  As I came to grips with my own strained relationship with my Dad, it made me realize that I, too, had my own short comings as a parent. Self-reflection is bittersweet, but necessary.  Reflection benefits our souls. 

You wake up one day and twenty years have gone by.  I wish I had spent more time with my own daughters, listened more to what was going on in their lives, and been slower to criticize their youthful expressions of their generation.  I wish I had held my children closer and longer.  They were in a hurry to grow up, and truth be told, it was what I assumed was the natural passage of life.  To take them into my arms as children again and sing to them in my off-key voice is a dream that can never be fulfilled.  My children are what mattered most in the world, and while I was out making a living, I missed parts of their life—and deprived myself of enjoyment that was Fatherhood. 

This Father’s Day, embrace your children for as long as they will let you.  For those with a Father, forgive them for their shortcomings. The grace you give will return in your own children.  For those without a Father, recall the good times, and work toward moving past the hurt and pain. You will not regret investing in your relationships, and few are more important than the image a child has of a Father. 

Some of us still need emotional and spiritual healing, breaking out of judgmental cycles, and dealing with the inevitable disappointments of life. When we go through life with a distorted image of what a father is or what it means to be a father, it means we miss one of the most critical parts of our lives.  We can grieve and fail to recognize our internal pain, or that of others.   

We must acknowledge our life experiences for what they were, and recognize what should have been.  Yes, life is unfair.  All men may be created equal, but not all fathers are up for the difficult challenge of fatherhood.  The good news is that if you are a Father or have a Father who is still alive, you still have time to rebuild together. 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Teachers are some of the most admired people in our world. Teachers are role models. They inspire us and are admired for the skills they possess in helping others learn. Teachers are also normal people, who often get held to higher standards than politicians or even ministers. Like all of us, teachers make mistakes. However, no other group of professionals is as quick to give up on its members as public education administration when effective counseling would probably take care of the problem.

We know there is no magic fairy dust that is sprinkled on someone to make them an effective teacher. There is no genetic marker that an educator is born with that gives him or her a special skill. There is no Branch of Military Service equivalent that someone can join, like the Marine Corps, for example, that gives an individual training in moral, mental and physical strength needed to be successful in the education field. I would argue it is a lot of trial by error, support from colleagues and the prerequisite leadership in our schools that can shape the success or failure of an individual teacher.

I was blessed to have some extraordinary school leaders like Doyle Harmon in Meigs County, Tennessee and Ed Howard in Bradley County, Tennessee to really help guide me. However, one administrator, Ron Chastain, at Trewhitt Junior High School, really became a mentor, whether that was his goal or not. From him, I learned much about student discipline. I learned consistency mattered. I also learned that we needed to be empathetic, but also willing to be tough. He brought the right balance to the job.

Chastain, who still remains a friend, understood adolescent behavior better than anyone I have ever met. He understood that in order to teach, a classroom had to be orderly. In order to create a safe school for all students, discipline was required. I learned much more from Ron than I ever learned in my coursework in my undergrad and/or graduate work.

My question to policymakers: where can we find high-quality mentors for teachers and administrators? We take our new teachers and often toss them into the most difficult assignments like lambs to a slaughter. Then we wonder why discipline suffers and our teachers experience burnout and fatigue, ultimately leaving the profession. Administrators are often in the same boat. Sadly, we are missing that ingredient of mentorship in our schools today.

Our suggestion is to ensure that money is included in the future Basic Education Program (BEP) to allow for mentorship to occur, either by utilizing highly effective retired educators or granting stipends to experienced classroom teachers with a proven track record in classroom management. This strategy will likely impact teacher retention efforts in a positive fashion and create a better school environment with more consistent discipline and student behavior. 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

It’s that time of year when we see changes in leadership across the state in our schools. Superintendents will leave and be replaced. It matters to all of us whomever a school board places in leadership. In some cases, you will see districts go outside their district and pick new leadership while others will promote from within. There are good choices and there are bad choices out there. So, to all school boards, we say: choose wisely. In my circle, we call this time of the year the Dance of the Lemons and/or the Parade of Favorites.

A school district must have competent leadership in managing the daily operations of the school district. A good superintendent leads the districts educational, financial and administrative performance; facilitates the performance of all personnel; and responds to and informs stakeholders and policymakers about the performance and leadership of the district. Probably one of the most important duties of the superintendent is to make sure district students are learning and achieving at the highest level possible.

A superintendent must understand effective academic practices and be supportive of the teachers and administrators in the district. Leadership, vision, and strategic thinking are critical skills for every superintendent. A successful superintendent should also be an effective and excellent communicator. If the only voice a superintendent will listen to is his/her own, or a few members of the school board, public education will eventually lose community support. Does that mean that we simply accept decisions from superintendents, without challenging them? Of course not!

Stakeholders and policymakers must particularly hold Superintendents accountable in regard to educational, financial and administrative performance. However, we should provide them latitude in regards to leadership, vision and strategic thinking on how to address the performance in those areas. And we must expect them to communicate effectively to ALL stakeholders.

Superintendent, like principals, must also demonstrate a keen understanding of teaching, learning and what works for students. As a change leader, a successful superintendent should emphasize the efficient use of resources, personnel, and data to break down resistance and drive systemic change; empower board and personnel to set goals, measure results, develop accountability, and support planning, evaluation, and resource allocation.

As far as degrees and experience go, that really depends on the person. Practical knowledge is likely more important than theoretical knowledge. We have all seen people with advanced degrees who were unable to apply that knowledge to the real world. I think the executive experience might be critical in a larger district. Keep in mind that education is a business, as much as it is a service. In most districts, the school system is one of the largest employers in the community. Teaching experience and some building-level administrative experience is strongly suggested, because it gives the person in charge at least a background in what the educators in the schools face on a daily basis.

In my own experience, I am never concerned with the WHO in a position. I would look at the philosophy of the person, their background and their vision. A smart school board would not focus on what an applicant would do similar to continue the work of the exiting predecessor, but rather on how he or she would differentiate from the previous occupant. You must have a plan to build on the work of the previous administration, not merely maintain the status quo.

Probably the greatest weakness of some superintendents, in my opinion, has been the lack of empathy toward educators. It is one thing to be relentless in support of excellence for children, it is another to manage completely by fear. Personnel drives policy. How you treat your employees is also a reflection of character. Several districts are well-known for unnecessarily treating educators harshly. These districts must understand that schools are not factories, students are not widgets, and personnel is not simply interchangeable on a whim.

Certainly, some educators have been forced to leave their school system for subjective reasons, rather than objective reasons. Actions speak louder than words. In some cases, dismissal may have been warranted, but in many cases, it appears circumstances were little more than personality conflicts and people not fitting into a certain educational or political environment. We have lost some good educators in our state because of this subjectivity, and I would argue many of these educators deserve another chance to keep their career going.

No matter who your district hires—whether from within or bringing in an experienced educator from outside—give that new leader a chance. Don’t be afraid to hold them accountable. Make sure that your local school board has fully vetted the candidate, and takes the time to select the best person for the children, educators, parents, and taxpayers in your community.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.