Who’s the Biggest Bully in the School Yard?
By DALE GRAHAM
If Cheatham County wants to do more than pay lip service to the anti-bullying movement, they need to start at the top.
I knew several years ago that the tide had turned at the Cheatham County Board of Education. It was made very clear to me personally when the board’s ambulance chaser was allowed to threaten myself and the newspaper, as well as a local parent of students in the district. The parent had expressed an opinion in person at the board meeting, and I printed it as a letter to the editor. Ironically the opinion had to do with prayer at school functions, like graduation. It also had to do with the threatening way that the county’s principals were warned that they would “get sued for everything you own” if they didn’t stop any student from praying on the graduation stage. When I received the threatening letter by certified mail, I printed it so that everyone could see how the new regime handled people who might rock the cruise ship. The attorney was NOT reprimanded: the board apparently thinking that threatening parents and local business people is a good way to handle things.
Since that time, it has been made very clear that although there is a ‘different’ Director of Schools and a couple of new board members, nothing has changed. Teachers feel threatened after watching several very competent peers and principals get demoted, moved from school to school and even fired. Where once there was support and respect from the board to the faculty and staff of the schools, now there is fear, mistrust, and “waiting for the ax to fall”, for no apparent reason. It’s not productive, leads to a bad work environment and the result of that is a bad learning environment for students.
Mike Kinnard would never speak ill of the board, but let’s face facts: The man walked away from the principal’s office at Harpeth High School a few short weeks after the school year began with almost no notice, just the latest in what is becoming a lengthy and embarrassing parade of principals in and out of the building. Kinnard had the respect of the faculty, was gaining the respect of the students which is difficult these days, and seemed to be headed for years of rebuilding our Blue Ribbon School from the glory days of not so long ago. Don’t forget though, the Blue Ribbon Principal was demoted, and shipped off to teach in the northern cluster.
Kinnard heard footsteps sneaking up on him from behind according to several who knew him, and escaped before the knife was plunged into his back as well. It’s a disgrace to think of our teachers having to watch their own backs because they feel threatened at all times by their “superiors”, but that’s what’s happening in this end of Cheatham County, and I expect its happening in the rest of the county as well.
Former Harpeth High School teacher Laura Mallernee stated it very well in her editorial piece several weeks ago. “It will take many, many years to undo the harm that has been done by this past board and that particular director of schools—many more years to undo than it took to destroy the small county school system—but it must be done—for the good of the students.”
As of press time I was told that 8 people had applied for the vacant principal’s seat at HHS. 5 will be interviewed for the position and hopefully the decision will be made this week. I can’t imagine who would want the job knowing what has been going on in Cheatham County for the past several years but I wish him or her luck. You’re going to need it!
When the decision is made and the background check is completed we will make the announcement at SCAdvocate.com. For instant notification when that occurs, “Like” South Cheatham Advocate Newspaper on Facebook.