Lexington City Schools’ ‘Blood Oath’

Rick Kriesky: Lexington City Schools’ ‘Blood Oath’
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Finding, hiring and retaining high quality and dedicated classroom teachers is a pivotal quest for each and every school system in North Carolina and our nation. According to recent research by the Learning Policy Institute, there was a shortage in 2015-2016 of 60,000 teachers across the country. The Learning Policy Institute reports that the educator deficit will grow to 112,000 by 2018.

We see this trend dramatically in North Carolina as the enrollment in teacher education programs in state universities has dropped 30 percent. As the number of potential educators falls, the competition among school districts for high quality teachers becomes more intense. Most, if not all, schools search for teachers who are passionate, high-energy individuals who know their subject areas and love children.

But finding and placing new teachers is a two-way street. Each school district, school and school faculty are unique. It is critical that aspiring teachers find a school and a district to work in that provides a “good fit” for their personality and professional attributes. The pursuit of the “perfect teacher” must include both the school and the prospective teacher understanding each other’s list of professional priorities.

In Lexington City Schools, most new teachers are asked to review a “Blood Oath” prior to signing a contract. This document presents a clear vision of the district’s expectations for teachers and administrators who work with the children in the school system. These are informal norms and expectations that are not listed in the contract, but are definitely part of the social contract by which we would like all our educators to live. Prospective teachers are told that these norms are important in meeting the district’s expectations. They include the following:

 Be a hero. This is heroic work. The fate of our children and ultimately our nation depends upon how well you do your work every day. Classroom teachers are the people who can bring the Lexington Board of Education’s vision of equity and academic excellence to fruition. Ensuring equity for all is the fulfillment of democracy. We believe that teachers are the new civil rights workers in our nation.

• We want a world-class school system. You must want that too, and be willing to optimize the whole organization – not just your class, department, or school. Our graduates must be prepared to compete on the global stage.

 Take responsibility for all students, all the time you are at school, wherever they are, whatever they are doing.

 Innovate, initiate, and be honest. If you make a mistake in good faith, we will not spend time on punishment. We will fix it and go on. If you do not make at least three mistakes a year, we believe you are not trying hard enough.

 Communicate. If you have a problem with a peer or a supervisor, tell that person and give them a chance to respond before everyone else hears about it. Everyone should be given that same courtesy.

 Do routine things, routinely. None of us got into education to do paperwork. But, paperwork must be done correctly and promptly. It is a much bigger pain when it has to be done over.

 In our quest for equitable opportunities and academic excellence, “can’t” is not allowed. We emphatically believe that together we can solve any problem regardless of its magnitude.

 Love our children with all your heart. Hold all students to high standards, but provide each child with the individual support he or she needs to be successful. Equity does not mean equal.

If you can’t accept these things, if they don’t match what you want for your career, then Lexington City Schools is not the place for you. If these norms and values align with who you are, we very much want you to be a part of LCS’s team. We expect you to hold us to our word, and we are going to hold you to yours.

Rick Kriesky is superintendent of Lexington City Schools.