Chesapeake: Putting Kids First

by Kerry Dougherty

Here’s something to be grateful for during Thanksgiving week 2020: If you believe education is important, give thanks for Jared Cotton, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools.

Despite enormous pressure to close classrooms and send 40,000 kids home to turn into overweight, mouth-breathing computer-screen addicts, he’s keeping the Chesapeake schools open, despite rising COVID-19 cases.

Best of all, he has the unanimous support of the Chesapeake School Board.

Refreshing. Educators putting kids first are uncommon these days. Last week Virginia Beach schools went back to remote learning.

Cotton and company are also following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told reporters last week that his agency never recommended schools close in the spring nor has he recommended they do so now.

“The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school,” he said. “Today, there’s extensive data that we’ve gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning and they can do it safely and they can do it responsibly.”

Meanwhile in Northern Virginia, teachers’ unions and associations are begging the governor to order the public schools that are open to close and go all-virtual.

“Education Associations in the Northern Virginia Region, representing more than 12,000 school employees, are urging you to return the entire Commonwealth back to Phase II of the reopening strategy, including a recommendation that public schools return to virtual learning as the safest option until case rates return to a downward trend and remain below 5% PCR as indicated by the CDC,” education association leaders said in a letter to Northam and local representatives.

Remote learning is a misnomer. It’s remote failing. At least for many students in Fairfax County – once the best school system in Virginia – according to a piece in Tuesday’s Washington Post, “Failing Grades Spike in Virginia’s Largest School System As Online Learning Gap Emerges Nationwide.

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which has been mostly online since March, published an internal analysis this week showing that, between the last academic year and this one, the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83 percent: from 6 percent to 11 percent. By the end of the first quarter of 2020-2021, nearly 10,000 Fairfax students had scored F’s in two or more classes — an increase of more than 4,300 students as compared with the group who received F’s by the same time last year.

Naturally, children from stable, two-parent households with state-of-the art technology are almost managing to keep up. But children without those advantages are are falling hopelessly behind. Especially children with learning disabilities.

So what’s the solution?

Dumb down all the kids, according to Jack Schneider, director of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education.

“The default should be, once we’re in-person again, everybody could go back to the grade they were in March of 2020,” he told The Post. “We need to slow the pace down in the name of equity.”


I’ve got a better solution: Open all of the schools, declare teachers essential workers and fire the ones who refuse to teach, air traffic controller-style.

That won’t happen, so just move to Chesapeake.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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22 responses to “Chesapeake: Putting Kids First

  1. If you review the videos, I spoke at every meeting, almost the only one who did so, for keeping the schools open and choices for parents. I also sent a # of medical, research/data, and simple questions to the School Board, Dr. Cotton, and the Clerk of the School Board.

    Its amazing when you simply build a case of evidence, what can happen. Dr. Cotton and the School Board made a decision based on data/facts/research over a period of months.

    Pointing out an illegal teachers’ union, doesn’t hurt either. I’m sure Steve Haner, the lawyers are laughing at this too.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      That is terrific! Glad you were there for those kids. I am a school board hound dog as well. I love to tree those guys. It is so easy if you stay after them.

      • Up this way Hanover is holding on strong, as well. Henrico went craven, big time.

        Watched Biden on NBC last night. As I fully expected he is now a major cheerleader for the vaccines, and was laying the groundwork to use them to break this logjam with the teacher’s unions. Put them first in line for the shots? Would that calm them down? I also fully expected that he would rapidly pivot and start to sound like Trump on getting the schools open. Moved in that direction last night but not all the way…needs to keep kissing up to the unions. You dance with who brung you.

      • Here’s a couple things in my favor: I really dig, research and I don’t back down just because I’m in the minority. What’s right is right, no matter whether you are one person or one thousand.

        I’m glad there are others who are in this fight.

  2. This is a great victory for those who made it happen, showing the rising power of the people over their corrupt leaders and crony vested interests who systematically are driving our nation into collapse, unless they be vigorously opposed, like has happened in Chesapeake. Perhaps this lights the spark for still free people all over the state and nation. And lets move on to higher education too.

  3. To Chesapeake’s credit, they have a good Dashboard – for each school though not clear if the infected are students or staff:

    That builds trust and gives people confidence which is even more important when the positivity rates go up – which they are.

    What Biden has said basically is what a lot of experts are saying and that is that to keep any workplace open, including schools, you need a lot of testing so that infected are quickly found and isolated so others do not get infected and an outbreak which can decimate staff to the point where the school can no longer operate.

    All along, the need for quick and affordable testing has been an issue and the key to keeping things open.

    Even Chesapeake has indicated that if more infections occur, they can go back to virtual – they know they are not immune.

  4. “The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school,”

    I seem to recall that there may be more than just kids in these schools… unless we are now moving to a Lord of the Flies education system…

    • Yep, safest place. Their parents won’t abuse them.

      Now, as for the adults in their lives wrt covid, maybe not so much. But hey, orphanages are cheap, relatiively speaking.

      • Yes, far better to be with those leftist indoctrinators than home being abused… or at least they get both ………

        If teachers are the scum of the earth on Covid , they apparently are also saviors… 😉

  5. Proof of adults dying from the kids?
    Instead of providing any data or evidence on the number of school-related teacher deaths, the seemingly shocking line merely links back to one of the author Dana Milbank’s previous articles, which also fails to cite any data and only mentions the names of four teachers who died of COVID-19 while President Trump was recovering from the virus.
    a new study highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article shows that “Sweden never shut its schools, and teachers there have had the same fatality rate during this pandemic as IT technicians, who can often work from home.”
    The study also notes that there is a “low COVID-19 mortality risk of children’s and adolescents’ teachers” and that “teachers do not appear to be a high-risk group in Sweden may contribute one more piece of evidence to the ongoing discussion.”
    There is no proof Covid-19 has been transmitted from a pupil to a teacher in school anywhere in the world, a scientist advising the Government has claimed.
    Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist from the University of Edinburgh, said closing all schools completely during Britain’s lockdown might have been a mistake.
    Professor Woolhouse, who sits on a sub-group of SAGE, told The Times it is ‘extremely difficult’ to find any instances of children spreading the virus to adults in schools, with no certain cases.

  6. And now, for a completely opposite view is this from Dr. Leana Sun, a Post columnist.

    One big difference between Dr. Sun and Ms. Dougherty is that Sun is a medical doctor.

  7. Just because someone has a degree doesn’t mean they know or don’t have an agenda to push. I’m waiting longer for the issues against the Chesapeake VDH, and yes, they do have agendas they’re pushing. They’re also making decisions based on their own personal prejudices vs. the data.

  8. Tmt. Nonsense. The Post publishes George Will, Gary Abernathy and other conservative opinion writers. They publish Norm Leary weekly online.

  9. Just because they publish them doesn’t mean they’re conservative or favorable. Look at Bush appt. Chief Justice Roberts on the SC to know that one.

  10. As a recently retired Chesapeake public school teacher, I am appreciative of the actions Dr. Cotton and the Chesapeake School Board are taking to “safely” bring the students back into the classroom. I have spoken with the head of the city’s health department, which is advising the district, and with Dr. Cotton. Both have stressed that this approach is only possible as long as the mitigation protocols being utilized continue to be effectively practiced. Despite Kerry’s snarks, this remains possible due to the actions of the teachers and administrators. The district’s approach is also feasible because almost half of its students did opt to remain online for the first half of the year. This has meant that grades 5 and below have been gradually able to return to a traditional model while the higher grades operate under a blend ed model. This is primarily due to space constraints at the middle and high schools of which the city has fewer.
    It has not been easy and is a work in progress. The recent emergency school board meeting had the main purpose of granting Dr. Cotton the ability to act independently on an individual school basis. Per the district dashboard, the past 3 weeks have seen 28 staff members and 53 students test positive. These numbers do include students who chose Chesapeake Virtual for the semester and thus do provide an insight into community spread within the school age children segment of the city. The dashboard reflects a rapidly increasing trend. The district is banking on the belief that transmission is not occurring within the schools. This is based upon contract tracing and lack of symptoms during the required period of isolation. They are not requiring testing nor even recommending it even though evidence has shown that up to 40% of cases are asymptomatic. I would recommend an article in the Washington Post National Weekly of November 22nd by Donna St. George on the Bethleham, PA school district which has been successfully using a blended model. The article stresses the value of transparency which fortunately Dr. Cotton is beginning to recognize.

    • Tom- thank you for commenting and especially so since you are directly involved in the issue. Please continue to add your thoughts to the discussion.

  11. VN
    I believe I recognize you as a regular speaker at both city council and school board meetings. If so, I was disappointed that you did not do better in your May, 2020 campaign for a seat on the city council. It is difficult for an independent candidate to run for even a non-partisan position in Chesapeake, but that would be a topic for a separate blog.

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks so much! I wasn’t able to get any sort of message out there because unlike a few, I was unwilling to offend people to get in their face. I had one campaign donation. Folks think everything is magically free to campaign. In Chesapeake, we have voters who go up and get the “paper” of who to vote for from their party folks. Told me that. Voters voting party rather than issues and know what the issues are? Few and far between.

      It doesn’t help that the Republican party in 2018 and 2020 hurts the independents and not the Democrats. Should tell you everything you need to know about the Republicans here.

      Really sad was a week or so after the election, folks got stung by the incumbants and the comment came up on one forum that if I had been on there, it wouldn’t have happened.

      We also have had one person who actually used to speak against the problems there, knows exactly the folks on council to blame, but told me they wouldn’t vote for me even though I stood for what they did and were against that the incumbants did! They were a friend of incumbant X. So I told them, don’t ever complain again. They know I would out them in a heartbeat. I don’t go in for folks who gripe and moan on camera and then vote in the folks that cause it when they know it. They’re the cause of misery to us all.

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