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Education Association Lacks Confidence in BOE President

By Staff | Feb 3, 2016

MIDDLEBOURNE – The Tyler County Education Association has expressed its lack of confidence in the county’s Board of Education president Bonnie Henthorn to lead the school system.

During Monday’s BOE meeting, TCEA President Judi Hamrick addressed recent remarks by BOE members and a decision by Henthorn to remove her children from Tyler County Schools to home-school them. The TCEA represents more than 80 teachers.

Henthorn did not comment during the meeting, but offered the Tyler Star News a statement Tuesday that reaffirmed her family’s decision to home-school.

Hamrick, a longtime Tyler public school teacher, had spoken about the matter at the last BOE meeting in January to a standing room only crowd about Henthorn’s decision. During Monday’s meeting, Hamrick read a letter addressed to the BOE from the TCEA.

“Several weeks ago Tyler County Board of Education President Bonnie Henthorn announced her intention to home-school her two children and board members Scott Strode and P. J. Wells added their comments on her reason for this decision,” Hamrick said speaking on behalf on the TCEA. “Since that meeting there has been much negative publicity about our school. Collectively the members of TCEA want to clarify our stance on this issue and the publicity it has brought to Tyler County Schools.”

Hamrick said the TCEA is aware of state code related to the election and removal of a BOE member. Also, TCEA is aware that none of the conditions for a BOE member’s removal has been met by any members at this time, she said.

Hamrick acknowledged that while it is Henthorn’s right as a parent to choose what kind education for her children, that choice has put her at odds with the BOE’s mission.

“We feel it is every parent’s right to remove their children from Tyler County School and home-school them,” she said. “Our issue is with Mrs. Henthorn removal of her children because she represents our school system, at the local level and at the Regional Education Service Agency and through out the state. We believe this is a vote of no confidence in our school when the board president says it is not what she wants for her children. Mrs. Henthorn denies this, but Tyler County teachers believe this to be true and feel the sting of her action.”

Hamrick said the TCEA believes the BOE should not be a platform for anyone’s personal agenda.

“When Mrs. Henthorn spoke out against the Common Core Content Standards, she introduced herself as the president of the Tyler County Board of Education,” Hamrick said. “She claimed the Common Core Standards provided minimal college readiness and were not rigorous enough. She later stated that Common Core tests put unnessesary pressure on children which may lead to suicide among our students. Neither of these views were Board of Education positions. Rather, these are her porported personal philosophies to fight against the Common Core standard. Knowing Mrs. Henthorn has a personal agenda only serves to fuel our lack of confidence in her ability to be a leader of our school system.”

Hamrick addressed not only Henthorn’s actions, but that of BOE members Scott Strode and P.J. Wells.

“We believe that Mrs. Henthorn’s actions and the comments of Mr. Strode and Mr. Wells have brought much negative publicity to Tyler County Schools,” she said. “Newspapers across the state printed that there is ‘a sad mess in Tyler County Schools’ and a ‘strong odor of ignorance’ hanging over our school. We believe our teachers are dedicated to helping our students lives and the teachers and students deserve more respect than this.”

Hamrick offered praise for the teachers.

“We believe there is much to brag about in Tyler County Schools,” she said. “Our students are taught by highly qualified teachers with degrees in their fields of instruction. Many have achieved master’s degrees in their field and still continue their education.”

Hamrick mentioned the recent article about how Tyler Consolidated High School received a bronze medal designation from U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in the state. She praised the high school’s extracurricular activities and accomplishments.

“TCHS was recently ranked among the best high schools in West Virginia,” she said. “Our senior class has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships each year, our sports teams compete with intensity and with sportsmanship in all sports. Our volleyball team competes in the state tournament yearly and our track stars compete in Charleston at the state track tournament. The art teachers have had students’ work on display at Tamarack and at Arts Alive. A.I.B’s Choir has performed at the annual music conference. A.I.B. and FCS have started band programs to introduce students to band instruments and Mr. Bailey has composed music that has been published. Our accomplishments are many and positive publicity is well deserved by our students and teachers.”

Hamrick then said BOE members’ actions have embarrassed the school system.

“We are not sure what to expect next from this board of education,” she said. “Your actions and comments have brought embarrassment and negative publicity to our schools, teachers and students. We hope your actions begin to show more respect to all. It is time for you to lead us down a more positive road, we have much to feel good about in Tyler County. Let’s hope the actions and comments coming from this board of education bring positive publicity starting today. It is time that our focus returns to our students, schools and teachers and away from the individual serving on our Board of Education.”

Tuesday morning, Henthorn offered a statement that reaffirmed her position about why she chooses to home-school her children. Henthorn said she has no plans to resign from the BOE and that many members of the community have expressed their support for her.

“Over the past several weeks I have intently listened to the arguments of some who feel that my family should be limited in making choices for the best interests of our own children, because I was elected to the board of education. Some have formed their opinions based upon what they read in the newspaper from the initial interrogation and from what they have ‘heard’ about my family, rather than real information. I have also listened to those in the community who have the opposite opinion: those who have reached out to me and thanked me for my service to Tyler County, those who have begged me not to step down, those who feel that my family’s personal decisions are irrelevant to my board service, and for those who have simply offered their prayers that I am able to withstand the personal character attacks that have been launched against my family.”

Henthorn said people need to look at all viewpoints when forming their opinions.

“One thing is certain, we have a wonderful community full of individuals parents, grandparents, teachers, students, school staff and community members who all may have different views on a number of educational issues and who all have a stake in education. We encourage our children to accept different viewpoints and respect individuality, but we allow and encourage adults to do the opposite within the community because something is difficult or against the mainstream, doesn’t mean it is wrong – we should be able to respectfully disagree.”

Henthorn addressed her opposition to Common Core standards.

“Yes, I have lobbied to end Common Core in West Virginia based upon my own children’s struggles which are the examples that I have used in presenting my comments at various locations and at the Legislature,” she said. “Hearing other parents talk about their concerns also, I felt compelled to do what I can to make things better and to help those who make decisions see things from a different perspective. I have also diligently tried to make it very clear that my views were my own and did not reflect the views of the Tyler County Board of Education.”

Henthorn said she is as enthusiastic about education as any BOE member should be, but condemned Common Core standards as not being inclusive of her Christian faith. But, religion was not the only reason her family chooses home schooling.

“Yes, I’m passionate about education, and in my view, that is actually a good thing and those who sit on any board of education should be exactly that,” she said. “There are multiple reasons why we have chosen this path for our children and what started as a search for non-Common Core academics made us realize that educational and academic choices could be more inclusive of our faith. Many more things played into that decision, but that is the basic premise upon which we made our decisions. I agree with one comment made at the recent board meeting, that this has gone on long enough and that we do have things to be proud of in Tyler County and we should get back to the business at hand of doing what we can to make Tyler County better.”