It was May 16, 2018. We had waited in line outside the Legislative Building for hours before finally getting inside the House chamber, and I can still feel the goosebumps on my arms as the teacher chants of “Remember, remember, we vote in November!!” were so loud that the Speaker of the House Tim Moore had to stop talking and wait for us to finish. We were so powerful that day.
May 16, 2018 was my first full day of membership in NCAE. I had officially joined the day before when it dawned on me after a couple of years of advocacy work that the best path to winning the schools we all deserve was to be organized and strategic on a large scale–to be a part of a team.
I’m very excited to announce my candidacy for Region 3 Director for the North Carolina Association of Educators. Please allow me to introduce myself to our members and explain why I feel I deserve your support.
I’m in my 25th year as an English teacher and have been in North Carolina since 2002, having started at James Martin Middle School that year. Since 2006, I’ve been teaching 7th grade Language Arts at Waddell Academy, a Charlotte Mecklenburg magnet school.
In 2016, I got a fellowship with Hope Street Group’s North Carolina Teacher Voice Network, an organization that trained teachers on how education policy works in our state and how to have a stronger impact on it. Through that experience, I learned about the power of writing and speaking up to inform the public about the struggles educators and students face and to pressure decision makers to do better. I started showing up regularly at Board of Education meetings and speaking on issues that were important to me and my students like increasing support for our immigrant students and approaching the school district’s equity issues with a sense of urgency.
That work also connected me with some incredible education advocates from all over the state, and I found myself on the Advisory Board of Red4EdNC, an organization of deeply engaged educators that works tirelessly on improving conditions for our public schools. I began to learn that waiting for our policy makers to do the right thing was foolish, and that the change was going to have to come from the bottom up.
In May of 2018, as multiple schools districts began to close ahead of the Rally for Respect, it became clear to me that NCAE had real power in North Carolina and offered the best avenue to making those changes a reality. I decided I wanted to be a part of the team.
In 2019, I was present at the NCAE Convention as a Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators delegate when our members voted overwhelmingly to hold the May 1 Day of Action. The energy when we made that decision and when we felt the love and support of our governor was absolutely amazing.
Having seen the local impact my writing could have on important issues like expanding our education budget and bringing trauma awareness to our schools, I joined the May 1 Communications team to help prepare for the rally. My goal was to bring the struggles educators and our public school families face into the public view and push back against the lies coming out of the General Assembly.
I laid out our five Day of Action demands for EdNC and the Washington Post and drew the attention of the most powerful politician in North Carolina, Senator Phil Berger, as you can see below:
For the past few months I’ve been using my website Notes from the Chalkboard to report on the Istation controversy and make sure folks are aware of Superintendent Mark Johnson’s shady dealings in awarding Istation a multimillion dollar contract against the advice of actual educators. Recently, I broke the related story of the Department of Public Instruction’s alleged spying on a retired director’s personal text messages, and I’m organizing pressure on DPI to release relevant information so the people responsible for this unethical behavior can be held accountable.
My work on Istation earned me legal threats in the form of a Cease and Desist notice from the corporation’s attorneys which is now displayed proudly with my other certificates, diplomas and awards, a reminder to be fearless and committed.
This school year I’ve committed to getting more involved with my local, attending CMAE meetings and serving on CMAE’s Government Relations Committee, helping conduct interviews with candidates for office to determine endorsements.
It’s important for me to acknowledge that, even though I am not new to organizing or education advocacy, I am still relatively new to NCAE. My biggest area for growth is in continuing to build relationships in all of Region 3 (a region including Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Kannapolis, Lincoln, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Mooresville City, Rowan, Stanly, and Union Counties). I am deeply committed to doing just that.
On the other hand, I will bring a fresh perspective and new energy to the work. I believe that the key to educators in Region 3 being effectively organized comes down to detailed policy knowledge paired with strong and consistent communication. As Region 3 Director, I will keep close tabs on policy issues that impact all of our member counties (not just Mecklenburg County) and provide regular updates for members on specific opportunities to win improvements for our public schools at both the local and state levels
Together we will build all of Region 3 into a force to be reckoned with.
Things are slowly improving in North Carolina, but there is so much left to do, and 2020 is going to be a really critical year.
Please consider giving me the opportunity to serve our organization as Director for Region 3 and encouraging others to do the same.
If you’d like to help me get a few campaign materials together, I’ve set up a GoFundMe page here:
Justin Parmenter NCAE Region 3 GoFundMe