Michele Morrow: Thinking (and looking) outside-the-box on public education

Department of Public Instruction superintendent candidate Michele Morrow (R) has had her children in public, private, and homeschooling education environments.  She says she’s seen a lot of good in all three environments, but does see opportunities for improvement and reform in each of the three.

Morrow’s beliefs on education align somewhat with those of contemporary law enforcement: In order to obtain the most ideal results, you must have order.

The Morrow campaign has launched a School Safety Advisory Board composed of educators, parents, and law enforcement from across the state and the nation.  (One board member lost a child in the notorious Parkland High School shooting in Florida.) 

Reporting. Morrow tells us that incident reporting is one of the most important aspects of securing and stabilizing the learning environment.  She recounts stories from current and former educators who told her they were advised by administrators to not report thefts, assaults and other forms of threatening behavior.  It seemed as though there was more concern about the school and its administration “looking bad” in certain eyes in Raleigh than in the safety of students and school employees.  A lot of school funding, Morrow tells us, places way too much influence on “good reporting numbers.”

Morrow says she and her team like the idea of more regular reporting – monthly, perhaps – to a wider scope of people.  That wider scope can include the local community, the local school board, local legislators, and the DPI staff in Raleigh as well as the relevant education committees in the legislature.

Morrow sees a stepped-up reporting process making the principals and local boards more accountable.  Reporting should place more emphasis on what is passed to the police versus what is handled in-house on-campus.  

Technology.  Morrow says her board has explored tactics that have been put in place to great success in Florida.  Those have included random campus visits from drug dogs, vaping detectors attached to security cameras, and implementation of state-of-the-art AI-powered metal detectors which can detect weapons and drug paraphernalia.

Personnel.  Morrow says other topics of interest with her board have included the fast-tracking of veterans into the public education system.  She says that, across the country, veterans have been brought onto campus to assist school resource officers.  The veterans – working as “guardians” – often act as mentors to students in an effort to keep discipline problems from becoming  frequent and problematic.

Morrow says she’s learned about small teams of administrators, behavioral health experts, mentors, and school resource officers  having some success in parts of North Carolina and around the country.  The teams focus on individual discipline problems — isolating the problematic student(s) so the teachers can. maintain their focus on educating.  

Morrow says she’d like to see public school administrators work with DPI and the legislature to fast-track any interested veterans into the public school systems.  On that same note, she said she’d like to see more reciprocity in North Carolina’s teacher licensing.  Many states recognize licenses from other states.  In North Carolina, she says, getting a license transferred in from another state can be a nightmare.

Prospective teachers are told they can speed things up and bypass that headache by taking a bunch of classes – paid out of their pockets while working full time.  Morrow says that scenario plays a major role in chasing off quite a few promising prospects from North Carolina’s classrooms.