September’s meeting of the White County School Board included an accusation from board member Dewayne Howard that director of schools Kurt Dronebarger was insubordinate for refusing grant Howard’s demand that a teacher be brought before the board to face direct questioning by the members.
Board Chairman Bob Young explained that, according to policy, the board is only involved in disciplinary matters if disciplined individuals appeal to the board. Otherwise, the administration handles disciplinary matters.
Dronebarger presented an update on the controversial eighth grade writing assignment to the board, as requested by Howard. He stated the teacher had issued an apology letter to the students and parents and received verbal warnings and academic counseling. He said the district had received no further complaints on the matter and considered the matter closed.
Howard responded, “It’s still an issue that needs to be addressed. That teacher needs to give an account for what she did and why she did it. For me personally, if I was a director of schools, upon confirmation of what she asked the students to write about right there, she’d been suspended. And then immediately, there would have been a study or whatever you call it, evaluation, whether she’d been fired or not. So, my question, Mr. Director, why are you defending her? Why are you protecting her?”
Dronebarger replied, “You can request that (bringing a teacher before the board) of me, but the answer was no. I’m not going to bring your wife, Mr. McDonald’s wife, or anybody’s wife or husband into the situation. I’m your employee. If you don’t like the way it was handled, you can handle it with me, but you get me. You don’t get the teachers.”
Dronebarger told the board they could punish him if they disagreed with how the issue was handled and mentioned some teachers were displeased with Howard because they felt he was going after teachers. Howard said he didn’t believe they were, and he is protecting the “good teachers who don’t make mistakes.”
Dronebarger added, “This teacher is very apologetic. She made a mistake. She made a bad mistake, and she’s apologized for it, and she’s paid for it pretty vigorously on social media and other people that have gone on radio shows and made her look bad. But I like to think that we have compassion in this community, that we have forgiveness in this community. She owned up to it. She never shied away from it.”
Earlier in the meeting, Howard had complained he had no way of directly confronting an individual who had made complaints and leveled accusations against him anonymously to the Teacher Advisory Board. The charge was that Howard does not live in the district he represents. Board members informed Howard that the meeting gave him a public forum to answer the charges. Still, Howard wanted the individual’s identity so he could answer them personally.
Several teachers have been vocal on social media, supporting and thanking Dronebarger for his stance and complaining about Howard’s demands.
Later in the meeting, Pastor Dale Walker addressed the board. Walker said he was probably the person mentioned as appearing on a radio broadcast. He wanted to discuss what he said some in the media have called the “murder assignment.” Walker also seemed troubled by Dronebarger’s salary and the fact the school district also employs the director’s wife. He stated, “we can forgive…” but an apology and the punishments discussed were not enough to earn his forgiveness because he intends to take the matter up with the county commission.
In other board news, Dronebarger discussed that the state was implementing a program allowing high school students to “test out” of certain classes. The program will be similar to the CLEP program that awards college credit for courses by demonstrating sufficient knowledge of that subject by taking a test. When asked how this new system would affect early graduations and class rankings, Dronebarger said he would have to get further clarification. The program is set to begin as early as next semester.
Bryan Haley from the Central Office and Matt McBride from White County Office of Emergency Management were presented with a plaque from Meteorologist Brittney Whitehead representing the National Weather Service in Nashville, signifying that the White County School District is “Storm Ready.” Haley said he believes there are only seven counties in the mid-state with this distinction.
In other business, the board:
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