Hamilton County School Board Member Says Teachers Are Smart Enough To See Through Mainstream Media Narrative About Hillsdale (Update 8.1.22)

***Update 8.1.22 – District 3 School Board Member Joe Smith’s response has been received. Article has been updated to include his response.***

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

The Hamilton County School Board was originally scheduled to vote on a resolution Thursday night to condemn recent comments made by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, but opted to send a letter instead.

At the behest of Chairman Tucker McClendon (District 8), who originally proposed the resolution, the board members agreed to send a letter instead of voting on a resolution.

School Board Member James Walker (District 9), who opted not to sign the letter, told The Tennessee Conservative that he agreed with the intent of Arnn’s comments, understanding that they were not directed at Hamilton County teachers.  

School Board Member Rhonda Thurman (District 1) told us, “I did not sign the letter.  As a matter of fact, I agree with what he (Arnn) said about teaching institutions.”

Walker told us that the majority of teachers that he knows were not upset by Arnn’s comments and that they are smart enough to read between the lines of the liberal press’ narrative.

Walker went on to say that there is a section in the letter that demands that Governor Lee denounce Arnn’s statements.  Walker stated that Lee can “stand on his own” to determine whether he wants to stand for conservative values or not and that the School Board has no business telling him what to do.

District 3 School Board member, Joe Smith told us “I ABSOLUTELY did not (sign the letter)… not my job as a school board member to condemn anybody !   I am more concerned about reading and math and science.”

According to the Times Free Press, McClendon, along with school board members Jenny Hill (District 6), Karista Jones (District 5) and Marco Perez (District 2) opted to sign the letter.

School Board Member and Vice Chair Tiffanie Robinson (District 4) was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting but expressed support for the resolution earlier in the week via social media posts.

McClendon said he is looking into asking her to sign the letter electronically since she is reportedly on vacation.

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During the school board meeting, it was not divulged which school board members would be signing the and local news reports.

In addition to Walker, Thurman, and Smith, The Tennessee Conservative reached out to school member Joe Wingate (District 7), who was not mentioned by local media as having signed the letter. This article will be updated when we receive a response from the remaining school board member.

Prior to the meeting the School Board members were sent a letter from concerned constituents which read:

Dear Member of the Hamilton School Board:

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding something said by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. President Arnn has since clarified his comments in a Tennessean article. He points out a very serious problem in the state of education today. I see that problem in Hamilton County and across the state. That is why I and many of my fellow Tennesseans are excited by the prospect of Hillsdale College’s approach to education.

The negative publicity surrounding President Arnn’s statements serve only one purpose: to pressure local school board members like you into rejecting quality charter applications. Please don’t give into that partisan pressure. Support our community by supporting Hillsdale College. Give parents a choice.

Below, I have included quotes from President Arnn’s clarification article. Please review them. You will see why I and so my other Tennesseans are so concerned about education today. You will also see why Hillsdale College gives us hope.

“Many education schools elevate methods over content as a way for a few to control many. They believe they can engineer society by ‘scientific’ criteria, thereby effectively reducing children to mere subjects of ongoing social experiments.

More importantly, the education bureaucracy has controlled America’s schools for too long. Consider the current attack to deprive parents of charter school options — depriving them of the educational opportunities they desire and need for their children.

The solution is clear: recognize that the sovereign location in education is the local school, parents, and teachers, and not the district or the state. Give parents and teachers a choice.

Nationally, 7 of every 10 voters support school choice. Well-run charter schools deliver on this desire for a genuine, excellent education option for parents and students. Via greater local oversight and increased freedom, charter schools are better able to serve the unique needs of their community. The education establishment objects to such positive developments, however, as school choice hurts their monopoly and limits their control.

Indeed, it’s because of their opposition to school choice and parental rights that the Tennessee Education Association has called on Governor Lee to ‘sever ties’ with Hillsdale College and ‘limit the power of the state charter commission.’ Yet, the TEA’s true allegiance is revealed by the fact that parents aren’t mentioned a single time in either the TEA’s ‘Fire Hillsdale’ letter or in the ‘Mission and Vision’ section of the TEA’s webpage.”

Thank you for your consideration.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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