|All photos: Lonnie Webster
It was a bad night for Senator Soucek.
Thursday, I had the joy of attending a forum in Deep Gap, NC, on public education hosted by state senator from the 45th district Dan Soucek. He put together a panel of experts such as immediate past NC Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes, Watauga County Teacher of the Year Katie Matthews, and ASU Professor and member of the Watauga County Board of Education Ron Henries.
And guess what? His own panel ripped him a new one.
Right off the bat, Darcy Grimes got him on teacher compensation. She was the first to speak against him, but not the last. Soon after the forum began, Soucek discussed that the plan had been to give bonuses to 25% of teachers in a given school district. There were no clear guidelines for choosing that 25%. His reason for supporting this new, poorly written policy? “No one is worse off. Some people are just better off.” The audience shouted, almost in unison, "WRONG!"
It only went downhill for Dan from there.
Maybe 15 minutes from the end of the forum, a Watauga County teacher in the audience made a comment about the unreasonably heavy testing done in our schools. A sheriff’s deputy immediately and forcefully removed her. Even after she complied and said to the deputy “I got it, I’m leaving!” and began heading to the exit, the deputy grabbed her, exclaiming, “No you don’t!” and continued to pull her to the exit.
A young man tried to take a still photo of the incident, with Watauga GOP Chair Anne Marie Yates jumping up and down trying to physically block the young man's iPhone. It’s worth pointing out that we were never told we could not take still photographs. Yates called in another deputy, and the young man was scolded for taking a single still photograph during a public forum.
My impression? Not only is the local GOP trying to kill quality public education across the state, but they also don’t seem too fond of our First Amendment rights either. Yates and a Soucek staffer were photographed choosing, rewriting, and combining questions [see photo below]. That perhaps explains why my question on teacher retention was never addressed.
Soucek even made the comment, in response to the outcry over North Carolina’s being 46th in teacher compensation, “Some of that rhetoric is just overblown.”
This “rhetoric” he is referring to is the sound of furious teachers, concerned parents, and students whose education is being compromised for little more than political gain.
Senator, we ARE furious. We ARE concerned. And we will continue this “overblown rhetoric” until you listen.
|Anne Marie Yates, Center, trying to block photograph
|In background: What are Anne Marie Yates and the Soucek staffer doing with those questions submitted by the audience?