Sunday, August 21, 2022

Watauga School Board Member Jay Fenwick Answers Dr. Mark Murphy


Editor's Note: On August 10th, the High Country Press published a letter to the editor from Mark A. Murphy Ph.D. alleging that "woke" philosophy is being spread by Watauga County teachers. Murphy's letter was subsequently discussed on this site.

Response to Dr. Murphy [intercepted email]

Dear Editor,
I am compelled to respond to Dr. Mark Murphy's letter published in the High Country Press on Aug 10, 2022. I am a member of the Watauga Board of Education, but this is my personal response; I do not speak on behalf of the board.

In his letter, Mr. Murphy advances a number of general fears, primarily voiced in more extremist information-entertainment venues, concerning "woke political indoctrination and/or critical race theory and identity politics." Allow me to provide some factual context so that your readers have specific information to make their own judgments.

On April 11th, Dr. Murphy and another person spoke to the Watauga Board of Education during public comment expressing the same fears shared in his letter. Dr. Murphy also made formal Freedom of Information Act requests on April 11th and June 3rd on these same matters. There were clarification emails from Dr. Murphy on April 26th and June 23rd. In all instances, Dr. Murphy was acknowledged and provided responses to his requests within a few days by the Watauga County Schools administration.

After the April meeting, I received relevant materials from the superintendent and visited classrooms in each of our schools. It is my opinion that our teachers are professionally following instructional standards in content selection and delivery. Dr. Murphy identified NewsELA as a particular instructional resource of concern. NewsELA provides a very large number of resources across a wide range of topics, authors, and genres. The materials are well vetted as they are used in 90% of schools, by 2 million teachers and 25 million students nationwide, including many home, private, and charter schools. The NewsELA website is very transparent about their material selection process. And it’s important to remember that NewsELA is not a curriculum but just an instructional supplement.

Watauga County Schools welcomes any parent to speak with their child’s teacher if they have any concerns at all about what their child is learning. The strong and personal relationships between our schools and our families have always been and remain today an important part of the backbone of our community. Our teachers are education professionals. They have earned and deserve our respect and trust.

Lastly, while Dr. Murphy may lament that our schools teach more than “the three Rs,” we are required by the NC Standard Course of Study to teach 12 content areas that also include Science, Arts, Career Technical subjects, World Languages, and Healthful Living among others.

Jay Fenwick
Boone, NC



Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dr. Fenwick, for that clear and concise answer. It coincides with my own experience as a parent of children in Watauga's excellent schools.

Anonymous said...

Watauga county has a excellent school system that has provided excellent education to our community. My family has experience relationships with teachers and school personnel both as a parent and earlier, in my professional mental health career. I’ve seen the schools go the limit to provide education and support for the brightest child as well the child with the most needs for support. I greatly appreciate our school leadership and am greatly saddened and fearful by efforts of those with political or religious agendas to tear down good public schools . There are places and avenues to accommodate all personal political and religious goals, but it is not our public educational system.