Letter to the editor: 90% by 2025

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2022

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School board member and current chair Deanna Kaplan, who is facing a highly competitive campaign for re-election, made a very bold statement at a recent forum earlier this month. “Our goal is to achieve 90% proficiency in reading for all third graders by 2025.” Our schools have never seen anything close to a 90% rate. And during Ms. Kaplan’s tenure on the board, the proficiency rate has plummeted from 55% to 40%. As chair, she kept our schools closed and then kept our sons and daughters in masks. These poor decisions were devastating to our students, which is reflected in the steep decline in proficiency. Also, as chair, Ms. Kaplan oversaw the vote for the budget where $500,000 was “hidden” and awarded as raises to the central office. Lastly, under Ms. Kaplan’s leadership the board recently voted to not follow the scope of the bond passed in 2016, going outside of it instead to fund Philo-Hill which is currently under capacity. Does Ms. Kaplan deserve another term?

— Myra Bumgardner

Editor’s note: The 90% by 2025 initiative is part of the strategic plan of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System, which Kaplan was showing support for. The recent decline in reading proficiency can be traced directly to remote learning during the pandemic, though WSFCS saw a slight uptick to 39.7% for the 2021-22 school year from 38.1% during the 2020-21 school year, which started fully remote before beginning to allow students back into schools in phases late in 2021.
Philo-Hill, which was built as Konnoak Junior High School in 1960, was included as one of the projects in the 2016 bond to receive extensive renovations. The work was supposed to begin in 2020 but was delayed when the pandemic hit. The board of education also voted on Sept. 27, 2022, to approve moving forward with the following 2016 bond projects as well: Ashley Elementary School design, Brunson Elementary School replacement, land procurement for an elementary school in eastern Forsyth County and a project design contract for East Forsyth High School. Other projects included in the bond were put on hold because of rising construction costs. 
Kaplan was elected to the board of education in 2018 and became chair in December 2021. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to close all public schools in the state of North Carolina in March of 2020 because of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID infections throughout the state and the country. Kaplan did not and does not have the authority to have “kept our schools closed.” Cooper, with the recommendation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, urged the masking mandate in schools to end on Feb. 17, 2022, citing lower numbers of COVID infections and the availability of the vaccine. The WS/FCS Board of Education voted to make masking optional in all school buildings on Feb. 22, 2022, and the policy went into effect on Feb. 28.