On Thursday, October 19, 2017, Wake BTLN held its second session, “WCPSS – That was THEN – What does it mean for NOW?” at Marbles Kids Museum.

Our featured panelists, Bill McNeal, Jr. and Tom Oxholm, presented highlights from the rich history of WCPSS, including discussions of the merger of the Raleigh City and Wake County School Systems to become WCPSS. Additionally, they explored the role that business has played in supporting a strong public school system for our community. Their book, A School District’s Journey to Excellence: Lessons from Business and Education, was available as a prize for BTLN members in attendance.

A few of the important items from the presentation with policy implications included the following:

  • Only 30% of adults in Wake County have children or grandchildren in WCPSS
  • Tension exists between the success of Wake County and its numerous notations on various “Best of” lists and the real need for adequate financial support to achieve all of the Board’s goals – we are doing so well with the current level of funding, where is the need for more funding?
  • Increasing amounts of funding for public education is being shifted from the state level to the local school system level. Additionally, tax and personal income tax cuts have reduced funds available for schools at the state level. The net is that per pupil spending is less than it was 10 years ago.
  • WCPSS’s success is the story of heart, courage, brains, and a deep commitment to create a “home” for each child and family. The metaphor of the Wizard of Oz story teaches us that our history demonstrates how we have executed these attributes in our work to support students. Challenging goals, investing in programs to create opportunities for success for all students, and belief in the importance of supporting our teachers are a few of the indicators that have created our “home.”

Offered here are prespectives from the Wake Beginning Teacher Leadership Network Leadership Council. The evening prompted great reflection from them and the other attendees.

Working with the Wake Beginning Teacher Leader Network is amazing because there is a room of inspired educators who want to make change the education sector. During our second BTLN session we were in truly in the presence of greatness as former Superintendent of the Year Bill McNeal and Tom Oxholm were our guests for the evening. From these two men we learned about the power of a story, persistence, and the audacity of hope in Wake County’s classroom teachers and educators. From them, I was reminded that classroom teachers are truly agents of change within their own classroom. Our schools are as good as the people who are in them. Additionally, experiencing the buzz in the room of educators discussing policy was powerful. Teachers have a voice within their classroom and their community. It was an empowering night as a young educator.

Erica Everett
6th Grade Language Arts
Moore Square Magnet Middle School

Tonight’s BTLN meeting at Marbles Kids Museum truly furthered my appreciation for the opportunities BTLN provides. Getting to talk to WCPSS School Board member Christine Kushner and hear from Mr. Tom Oxholm and Dr. Bill McNeal has been invaluable. Tonight we learned some of the backstory of where WCPSS came from and the great obstacles they overcame to be where we are today. Hearing from these champions even more increased my appreciation for where I work. It is empowering to know that those on the business side are also truly invested in seeing our school system be successful. We wrapped up the night by brainstorming policy ideas for our project. Great conversations were had around the Public School Forum’s top ten education issues for the year.

Christina Kern
4th Grade
Dillard Drive Elementary

I’m glad I was able to hear from Mr. Oxholm and Dr. McNeal as their contributions to the Wake County Public School System are invaluable. While their perspectives impacted the whole county and beyond, many of the things they shared with us are easily applicable to our classrooms as beginning teachers. As they told how they invited non-educators to have a seat at the education table, it reminded me of how important it is to invite others into our own classrooms. Oftentimes as new teachers, we are questioning whether we are doing right by our students. By inviting others in, we can either receive validation that we are on the right track, or we can receive feedback on how to continue improving our craft. It was especially impactful to hear that our biggest advocates are ourselves, because each day that we are in the classroom is another day we have to make a difference in the life of our future leaders.

America Moreno
Newcomer Academy
Sanderson High School

Another great BTLN session Thursday evening! It was a true delight and honor to be able to experience the history of Wake County Public School System through the eyes of two powerhouses! It is good to receive insight into the work and dedication that has shaped WCPSS over the years. In light of the recent turns that public education is taking in NC and Wake County, sometimes I wonder if the efforts of those spearheading the fight to halt the attack on the credibility of public education – as many powers that be purposefully seek to undermine the benefits – are making any meaningful progress. It was refreshing to learn of the stories, passions, and hard work of Dr Bill McNeil and Tom Oxholm, and of their continued commitment to public education. I have a renewed hope in the work that we do as teacher leaders and am inspired to continue the mission to make public education what it is meant to be!

Taura Simmons
ESL/ELD
Zebulon Middle School

As a 3rd year participant in Wake’s Beginning Teacher Leadership Network, I am still in awe at the leadership of early career educators in their pursuit of gaining knowledge and experience in education policy in advocacy. How often do beginning teachers have the opportunity to speak to education legends like Dr. Bill McNeal who was a game changer in WCPSS policy? Dr. McNeal provided poignant metaphors for public education in our district and gave in-depth information about the function of the superintendent and school board. The cohort also heard from a prominent figure in the business community, Tom Oxholm, who shared his unique perspective on how the business community and education community are entwined. Together, this dynamic duo, shared stories, data, and insight. BTLN participants were at the ready with sharp shooting questions and thought-provoking commentary. After leaving October’s BTLN session, I felt more knowledgeable about the history of the district where I work and how that history
continues to shape our current policy.

Christina Spears
Special Programs
Apex Friendship High School

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