Campaign Value

There is so much wrong with this picture.

This is a teacher at Wiley Middle School. He was outside the school this morning greeting parents. As the line of cars passed slowly by the school to drop off students, he smiled at parents while enjoying a cup of coffee. His sign reminded them of his mission to inspire hope, ignite imagination, and instill a love of learning as he teaches. It’s clear he will take good care of their children. But will we take care of him?

When asked about his sign, he said he had carried it to Moral Monday and other marches in Raleigh. He had shared it on social media, but was frustrated his appeal wasn’t getting traction. The stress of the situation—working without possibility of a raise, good teachers leaving the profession—was pressing him to bring his sign directly to parents.

It’s worth noting that many Wiley families drive to the magnet school from other zones in search of just such passionate, inspiring and qualified teachers. Traveling across zones can be inconvenient—but that is the price many families feel they must pay to ensure their children a sound, appropriate education in a safe, healthy facility free of mold and other health hazards. If these basic resources aren’t available at their residential schools, these families aren’t getting what they need either.

There’s one other thing wrong with this picture, and it might hold clues to how we could start making things right.

Directly behind him is the proposed site for the Wiley gym addition. Wiley’s gym could be renovated and modernized in place, but a group of Reynolds High School parents and alumni has successfully pressured the School Board into dedicating $9 million to relocating the Wiley gym in order to clear the way for a sports stadium for the high school. Now that same group is asking for another $5 million to build the stadium itself–in the front yard of Wiley.

What might happen if this teacher could convince those same families of the value and advantages of a good teacher? What if those families could apply pressure on the School Board not to clear the way for a stadium, but to raise teacher pay?

The expense of relocating the Wiley gym, even if it’s only one third of the cost of the $9 million job, could fund $10,000 bonuses for 300 teachers and Wiley could still get a completely modernized gym.

The funds spent on a $5 million stadium could translate to $10,000 bonuses for 500 teachers.

The proposed Reynolds stadium is a non-essential facility. The school already shares Deaton-Thomson stadium with Parkland High school. Five miles from the Reynolds gym and built for two schools, it’s the largest high school stadium in the county.

Meanwhile, Home Field Advantage, the group organizing to build the stadium, has also placed their sign by the Wiley pick-up lines and successfully appealed to families. Their campaign promises advantages for RJ Reynolds Athletics and has promoted the message that a 5-mile trip to a shared stadium deprives students of Friday nights that are the hallmark of a high school experience. Over the last seven years, the group has been able to raise about $1 million in private funds.

The group has spent $270,000 of that donated money on architectural plans for a stadium that would cost $6.5 million to build. According to WS/FCS operations staff, that’s $3 million more than a conventional high school stadium on a regular site in today’s market. This is because the site at Wiley school lies in a flood plain, requiring an additional $1.5 million for a water containment system, soil stabilization and retaining walls. Yet another $1.5 million is attributed to design enhancements and other luxury features such as artificial turf—an advantage not afforded other high schools in the county— which further complicates drainage issues at the site.

That $270,000 alone could have covered the annual salary for about five new teachers.

And so it is coming down to this—we are faced with many appeals battling for the same scarce resources. The requests are made to the same WS/FCS leadership and the same parents. If successful in persuading school leadership, they have the potential to deliver important advantages. However these two campaigns couldn’t be more different. One demands Equality, Advantage, and Pride. The other demands Equity, Compassion, and Value.

Whose sign appeals to you?

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