Deena Hayes – right and oh so wrong

Update(s): The N&R’s Allen Johnson has more, including: “…To say she can use inflammatory words to express her views is, well, an understatement.”  Also…

Piedmont Publicus regarding the BoE’s silence on Hayes’ remarks: “…They sure don’t speak up. But by the same token, are they really expected to get into a dark-side-of-American-history pissing match with Hayes? That’s what she wants. It’s her way of showing her constituents that she’s doing something.” 

But wait… one newly minted board member and frequent commenter here has spoken up below.  Sez Jeff Belton: “…As I heard Deena’s words I was stunned and saddened to hear that she views the presence of two different demographic groups in the same building as an obstacle, not an opportunity for each group to learn about the other, and develop some empathy and understanding.”

BoE At Large in ’08 candidate E. C. Huey on Hayes’ comments (Word file, blog): “…insulting, tasteless, thoughtless, vile, without cause nor merit.”

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Recent comments (N&R) by school board member Deena Hayes invoking “slaves and slave owners” (Rhino Times) were characteristically inflammatory.  However, the central point she was trying to get across was uncharacteristically on the mark.  At issue was the expansion of Guilford County’s “Very Strong Needs” (VSN) educational services to Welborn Middle in High Point. 

For many years, this excellent and needed program for our brightest students housed all elementary aged students at Wiley and all middle school participants at Aycock Middle.  That arrangement ended two years ago when some VSN parents got fed up with how the principals of those schools were trying to water the program down by “mingling” the VSN students and teachers with the general school population.  They successfully lobbied the school board and got the two schools’ student bodies combined and relocated to Lincoln Middle.  But traveling to Lincoln is an onerous daily journey for High Point students which limited the number of families willing to make such a sacrifice of time.  Thus the recent push for creating a closer-in site for the program at Welborn.

Even though the VSN program is open to all GC students scoring in the highest percentile of intellectual proclivities, the program’s student population is overwhelmingly non-black.  In light of that reality, the school board uses the VSN children to boost “diversity” in traditionally majority black schools such as Lincoln, Wiley and, now potentially, Welborn.

Even though “diversity” is the reason the VSN programs are assigned to those schools, truth is – for the most part – what gets created is a school-within-a-school and the two populations rarely “mingle”.  Necessarily, the VSN polulation is on a completely different academic path than the school’s regular population.  The VSN program employs some of GC’s best teachers, they get the latest in classroom technology, they take frequent off-campus enrichment trips, and so forth and so on.  In addition, and I can say this with certainty, VSN parents are way more involved in their children’s education than your average parent.

So, anyway, Deena Hayes took umbrage to the comments of one of those parents back in December who was making the case against the Welborn expansion.  Parent Bill Spaulding was only stating the truth when he said…

“At the risk of sounding arrogant and elitest, I might guess that if more parents were as attentive as we are to the quality and importance of their children’s education that (Guilford County Schools) would be in much better shape.”

That’s when Hayes also stated the truth, but did it badly, and in a way that only served to further drive racial wedges between us all.

During the push to move the combined VSN program to traditionally black Linclon Middle, some VSN parents argued strenuously to keep the re-constituted school 100% “magnet” and not place any neighborhood students there.  Their background reasoning for a purely VSN school was the avoidance of exactly the “inferiority/superiority” charges leveled by Hayes.

The VSN kids – again, necessarily – ARE treated differently than any other student population.  That’s the whole pont of the program: to fully develop the above average potential of our highest achievers.  And when the “regular” student population and their parents witness the ‘special treatment’ required to feed the extraordinary minds of our overly bright students, animosities are created.

So Hayes was right in stating that a new “mingled” VSN program should not be created in High Point until we, “…have the talent and experience of a department that can help make that adjustment.”  Because to do otherwise do will, naturally, “…produc(e) that sense of superiority and inferiority” that she fears. 

But for her to summon up the demons of slavery in her otherwise justifiable comments was unconscionable and uneccessarily divisive. 

Would it have killed Hayes to leave the slavery images in the closet and speak of “have’s and have not’s” instead?  Instead of driving wedges, would it be too much to ask for her to see what can be done about placing more black children into the VSN program so the racial make up of the program isn’t so starkly different from the community as a whole?

Such positive and healing actions require leadership, not finger pointing and slavery-era-baiting, Ms. Hayes.

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11 Comments

  1. Jeff
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I could say “David, go west young man and file for election to the school board”. Oh, that’s right I did say
    that.
    As I heard Deena’s words I was stunned and saddened to hear that she views the presence of two
    different demographic groups in the same building as an obstacle, not an opportunity for each group to learn about the other, and develop some empathy and understanding.
    As for VSN getting the best teachers, they have never been fully staffed with AL qualified teachers. In our VSN experience I can state with all sincerity that the absolute worst teacher we have ever encountered in the GCS
    system was a VSN teacher. We had the same classroom conditions, went on only a couple of field trips, had
    no special equipment, no enrichment to speak of. Mostly the program was at lot of work. Hours of homework every night, every weekend, every holiday and break, with continuous special projects. The comments that I recall from students at that time were more the surprise at being shunned by others in the building rather than expressing feelings of superiority.
    Perhaps some kids get a big head, and some parents are guilty of being too proud of their child. But that is
    not justification for the mean-spirited criticism, the simply terrible choice of words, and threat to close down
    the program.

  2. Posted January 11, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    If VSN kids were handicapped, would we be having this discussion? Would Deena Hayes have called it a “slave/master” situation or would she be giving good reasons NOT to let the two groups “mingle”?

    Mingling is a stupid word. Being in middle/high school is hard enough on kids (remember them?) and the parent who suggested that other parents spend more time in school was dead-on right. I’m not suggesting cause & effect (parent involvement is a solution for underachieving) but it’s certainly related, ya think?

    Ask VSN teachers what their biggest daily challenge is and I’ll be you hear something about adding kids for (whatever) reason who don’t keep up or cut it. Hogg, should there be 22% of the Grimsley football team required to be lower-quality players? Should we add a tall, skinny kid just tall kids aren’t under-represented? Does anyone count the number of minority players on a team?

    What is it about VSN, or G&T, or “smart kids” that is off-putting that African American school board members feel uncomfortable about having bigger and better VSN programs? High Point has plenty of smart kids (and I don’t know what color they are). Certainly we need an additional VSN program and having put kids on a bus at 6:55 a.m. to go to a magnet school, I sympathize with parents who want something closer.

  3. Posted January 11, 2007 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Frighteningly on target, Hogg. I’m a VSN parent myself. The program isn’t perfect, but it’s rescued many a child from being the ostracized braniac in class who languishes for lack of challenging coursework, thus suffering socially as well. Kids flourish there – I’ve seen it. Certainly, placing VSN in its own facility would have been tidier; as it stands it’s very much a school within a school. A former resident of High Point myself, I knew lots of parents who dismissed the notion of VSN solely on its distant, inner city location. It’s one of the many reasons we moved to Greensboro.

    As for Deena Hayes, I can tell you from personal experience that good intentions aside, the woman is an insufferable shrew.

  4. Posted January 11, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Good points all, expecially Sue on the football team analogy.

    My kids were not VSN although the eldest two made (and still have) several VSN friends during their time at Aycock (they were gone to Lincoln by the time my youngest hit that Aycock.)

    Former Aycock principal Wm. Price ran the VSN program off by assigning VSN teachers to the regular classroom and hiring woefully inadequate teachers that had no idea how to challenge the VSN mind. Price didn’t “get it”. Same can be said for the Wiley principal who, reportedly, despised the VSN program and did all she could to run them off and was successful.

    The VSN program should be viewed no differently than other special ed programs at Proximity School and elsewhere execpt for the capacities of the students – different needs require different approaches.

    What a shame that a student should be ostracized by their fellow students as well as certain administrators and school board members.

  5. Posted January 11, 2007 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    All of my comments and full-coverage regarding the now-publicized Deena tirade can be foundon my website, http://www.hueyforguilfordschoolboard.org. I will say this…I’ve been in talks with some VSN parents since the 19 December 06 meeting and I’ve been in touch with a whole lot more since the other evening. One parent challenged school board members to visit Lincoln and take a tour and meet with other VSN parents, white and black. If they won’t, I will. So if you’re a VSN parent of a child at Lincoln, I’m very interested in meeting and talking with you and setting up a tour. Your battle is my battle, Deena’s ugliness aside, we have got to start putting our children first and that clearly is not happening right now in GCS.

  6. Jeff Belton
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The comments above are mine, .Jeff Belton, Board of Education, District 6. Thanks for the reminder David.

  7. Biotekboy
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    David,

    Thank you for your post and comments about the caustic comments Deena Hayes made about the VSN parents and students during the Dec 19 BOE meeting.
    I have several points and a couple clarifications to your post. In my opinion (that’s all I have) the VSN program at Lincoln is working well. In addition to the VSN program, there are kids who attend Lincoln as their neighborhood school, there is a performing arts magnet, and a global studies magnet program as well. The most intelligent decision from GCS in a long time was to start with opening a newly renovated school allowing every student and their families to have ownership and a sense of belonging from the beginning. This way, no one group can be labeled as the “outsiders� or “special�. The principal (Mr. Rodney Boone) and staff at Lincoln have done an outstanding job of making all children and families at that school feel welcome and included with no one group singled out for special treatment. As an example, in the time my child has been at Lincoln, she has not been on any VSN only field trips. The only field trips have been ones where the entire grade level-team goes. Students in the VSN program delve more deeply into subjects and move at a faster pace with large amounts of outside class work given to these students.
    The trouble this year seemed to start when during her last few months in office, Susan Mendenhall made the comment during a BOE meeting that she was shocked that there were only a few kids from her zip code (it would be interesting to know how many kids from that Emerywood zip code attend private school) attended the VSN program at Lincoln and was sure that more kids from High Point would participate in the program if there was a “duplicate� program in High Point. As you know David, I live in High Point and when my child tested into the VSN program we had a decision to make about a long bus ride and leaving so many friends behind but together made the decision to give the VSN program a chance and have not regretted that decision for one second. The students and their families from this area that we know who chose not to attend Lincoln, the overwhelming reason was not wanting to leave their friends, not the distance traveled or time spent on a bus. In this unified school district we should be careful of duplicating programs ad infinitem just to appease the High Point power base. Demographics or a central location (as Lincoln) should drive the placement of any magnet program until growth needs of the program dictate and then start the new magnet based on a Lincoln model (new or reopening) with demographics driving the location to keep transportation costs down.
    During a meeting with the parents Dr. Beacoats and his staff were time and again challenged by VSN families as to why was this split being considered with dubious numbers, not enough certified teachers to adequately staff the program and moving kids to a new school when they had only been at Lincoln for one and half years (even after redistricting, BOE policy is not to redistrict for 4 years). Dr. Eric Beacoats responded with questionable numbers that Lincoln was over crowded or going to be over crowded. Compared to the severe overcrowding in so many GCS the 95-98% capacity numbers at Lincoln seemed to ring hollow. Parents asked if this was politically motivated from the BOE (especially after Ms. Mendenhall’s statements). Dr. Beacoats vehemently denied that this proposed split was a request from any school board member and seemed quite incensed that parents even brought this up. At the now infamous Dec 19 meeting, Dr. Grier opened the discussion that this split was being considered because a couple of board members (Mendenhall and Kearns?) had asked the staff to look into the proposal of splitting the VSN program. I will never believe anything Mr. Beacoats says again, you get to lie to me exactly once. At this same Dec 19 meeting among the speakers you noted such as Bill Spaulding, was a 12-year-old 7th grader from Lincoln who spoke. At no time during any of the public comments by parents or this student did anyone mention race or school demographics or any of Deena Hayes famous code words of racism, as a reason to not split the program. Ms. Hayes took it upon herself to lash out at the parents and this student as she states; “thought about it enough to write it down� (before the meeting perhaps?) to compare VSN students and non VSN students to slave-masters “mingling� with slaves. How do I explain this to my child? What is Ms. Hayes saying about the other children in the performing arts and global studies are they slave-masters as well or slaves? Such hate filled rhetoric brought justified although controlled outrage from VSN parents on the Jan 9 BOE meeting. What was surprising to me was the simplistic and condescending civics lesson from Garth Herbert on “this is America folks� and “Deena is entitled to her opinion� via the first amendment. His admonishment to the parents that spoke about Ms. Hayes comments to use restraint while a board member exercise her right to hate speech is hypocritical at best. None of the people responding to Ms. Hayes’s comments used any derogatory terms toward Ms. Hayes and no one said she wasn’t entitled to her opinion but took exception with the insertion of a racial element to the BOE’s VSN discussions. It is also clear that Walter Child’s motion, which was passed by the BOE, to study the demographics and testing process will no doubt be fodder for Ms. Hayes to call for the elimination of the VSN program.
    For an outstanding response to Ms Hayes hurtful rhetoric, see Gwen Drummer’s comments on the Chalkboard. She is an African-American woman with a son in the VSN program who also gives a different side to the Wiley comments from Ms. Hayes.
    The bottom line is that Ms. Hayes and Mr. Hebert need to look at that following data:

    Year # of Low performing schools in GCS
    02-03 0
    03-04 0
    04-05 2
    05-06 8 (more than any school district in the state!)
    Source: NC DPI website http://abcs.ncpublicschools.org/abcs/

    I hope this exponential trend doesn’t continue but I have my fears. With more low performing schools than any other district in the state of NC, is this insertion of racially inflammatory remarks just a smoke screen to distract from the real issues at hand?

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to post. We should Lunch again if you aren’t to busy with all of your renovation projects.

    Biotekboy

  8. Michael Pope
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I certainly agree that the “race card” issues introduced to this discussion are an unfortunate and untimely aside to the primary goal of securing or maintaining the integrity of the VSN program.

    Still, as Hayes’ comments have brought large-scale attention to this discussion, does anyone know the racial make-up of the Advanced Learner students as a group? I’m sure those statistics are monitored, and I’d like to see them – especially since Hayes says, “I would vote right now to disband this program [VSN] and to send these parents back to their home schools and let their children take advantage of the advanced learner program and if they want more special services for their kids to go and seek those.” Does the Advanced Learner program, in fact, mirror our community at large, or does it provide yet more evidence of the importance and results of parental involvement? Besides the fact that the education provided at VSN students’ “home schools” is nowhere near that provided by the VSN program, would Hayes’ alternative, in fact, solve the lack of “mingling” issue? If not, would she agree that disbanding the VSN program would be doing a great disservice to the students in need of the specialized attention & resources provided by same?

    Michael Pope
    (parent of VSN student)

  9. Lorraine Marshall
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi David,
    I feel the necessity to weigh in here, though I have been silent so far on this issue. I have had more than a
    few run-ins with Ms. Hayes, and I know that there is no way to have an honest and open dialog with such a zealot. Anyway, the reason for this letter is to clear up a few misconceptions.

    First, VSN never has had the ‘latest’ technology, at least since we have been associated with the program. The VSN students share the same computer rooms with all of the students. Also, in the middle school, I do know that VSN teachers do teach non-VSN students–in fact, one highly gifted 6th grade teacher who will remain unnamed, had every one of her students receive three or above on their eogs. So, yes, I will agree that VSN attracts some fabulous teachers, and they teach non-VSN students as well.

    As one of the parents who fought long and hard to have VSN moved out of Wiley, I have to say that it was not because we did not want to ‘mingle’ with the neighborhood students. What was happening there was an
    attempt to tear down the VSN program by splitting up the teachers and the classrooms. The four elementary VSN classes were housed in one hallway of the school, which was necessary, since the students changed classes. (As you may remember, at Wiley had very young students–third graders, and proximity to their teachers was very important). Additionally, the four VSN teachers would team-teach, coordinating their
    lessons, etc. Many times, if a student was finished with, say, their assignment in Language Arts, they could simply cross the hallway to work on their science experiments. What was happening at the elementary level
    in VSN during the years my daughter (now in 7th grade) was at Wiley was simply education at its best.

    Lorie Rainey, the principal for the last two years that we attended Wiley, had it in her mind that the VSN classrooms should all be housed in separate wings of the school (hoping to create, I believe, an illusion of
    less disparate populations). This would have been a severe detriment to the program. I, along with several other parents at Wiley, attempted to explain to Ms. Rainey why this was not acceptable, and yet, she continued with her plans. All during this period, many attempts were made to have the VSN and non-VSN students share in activities. Ms. Rainey’s decision to have VSN sit on one side of the cafeteria and non-VSN sit on the other side, for example, was rescinded, and the students “mingled” at lunch. Without going in to every single issue
    at Wiley, the environment there became insupportable, primarily due, in my view, to Ms. Rainey’s inability to understand and cherish all of the students in her school. I remember attending a special PTA meeting with a GCS ‘facilitator’ who was hired to explore ways that non-VSN and VSN parents could work together more effectively in the PTA. There was a pizza dinner, and a very large turnout of neighborhood parents.
    Parents did not want to talk about PTA–they had other, much more pressing needs. Making AYP was
    discussed–many did not know what it was or what it meant to the school. I remember a mother making a
    very heart-felt plea, directed at Ms. Rainey, for help or training in how to teach her second grade daughter to read. Ms. Rainey’s silence was deafening. I will never forget this, though. Here we were, trying to figure out ways we could all volunteer together in the PTA, and this mother needed to know, was desperately trying to
    get help from the school, to teach her daughter to read. The utter disconnect between our two populations was vast, and it really hit home that evening.

    Our fervent hope in relocating VSN to a different school was that it might be housed where there were all
    levels of students–not just the Very Strong and the level ones and level twos, but all levels. It was not good
    to have just two populations with such different educational needs. Add the racial and socio-economic imbalance to the equation, and it is a wonder that VSN survived as long as it did at Wiley.

    The Board, in a really terrific decision, voted to house VSN in the new Lincoln Academy, along with Global Studies and Performing Arts. We were relieved, and very happy to have a home for VSN, one with terrific
    kids of all levels of aptitude and achievement, and a supportive and welcoming administration. At Lincoln, though my daughter has her 4 core courses–science, social studies, math and language arts with VSN
    students, she ‘mingles’ throughout the rest of the day. She is a soccer player, and her teammates were
    drawn from VSN as well as non-VSN players. I invite all of our board members to come out next fall and see one of our games. Last year, my daughter was in Chorus–the holiday concert was so moving, and I wished
    everyone could have seen how Mr. Thompson reached all students, VSN and Non-VSN alike. My daughter
    takes PE and Health with non-VSN students, as well as Art and Drama. In fact, her ‘best’ or favorite classes at Lincoln are the non-VSN classes, those where all students benefit from each other. This spring, she will try out for track and field, another area where all students can ‘mingle.’ Dr. Grier, and members of the Board–come out and see how our students can work together on the field, regardless of their backgrounds, aptitudes,
    labels.

    So, this is a very long-winded way of saying that though the VSN student may have more accelerated core subjects, there the difference ends. Middle school is so much more, at least to my child, than those four
    courses. I love walking the halls with my daughter, and hear her being greeted by classmates and teammates that I do not know. The kids, teachers and administrators are making it work at Lincoln. I am proud of
    what they are doing there.

  10. bill o'neil
    Posted January 11, 2007 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks David you’ve given me a better understanding of this issue.

  11. jwg
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Michael,

    FYI, in the 2005-06 school year, 17% of IB level classes were taken by blacks, 73% by whites, and 10% by other ethnicities (according to the NCDPI site). In 2004-05 it was 11%, 79% and 10% respectively. I don’t know how this compares to the VSN program or the Moderate and Strong Needs programs.

One Trackback

  1. [...] Hoggard weighs in on school board member Deena Hayes’ slave comments: So Hayes was right in stating that a new “mingledâ€? VSN program should not be created in High Point until we, “…have the talent and experience of a department that can help make that adjustment.â€? Because to do otherwise do will, naturally, “…produc(e) that sense of superiority and inferiorityâ€? that she fears. [...]