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Dronebarger Called Insubordinate For Not Bringing Teacher Before School Board

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Dronebarger Called Insubordinate For Not Bringing Teacher Before School Board

A White County School Board member called Director Of Schools Kurt Dronebarger insubordinate Thursday night for refusing to bring a teacher before the board to answer for a controversial writing assignment.

The August creative writing prompt focused on the killing of someone and the aftermath. Dronebarger updated the board Thursday on how the system handled the incident including a meeting between the teacher and parents of the students in the class. The teacher issued an apology letter to the students and parents, Dronebarger said. She received verbal warnings and academic counseling. The director said he considered the issue closed.

Board Member Dewayne Howard said the community wants answers and the issue is not closed.

“It’s still an issue that needs to be addressed,” Howard said. “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 responded.

“You can request that of me, but the answer was no,” Dronebarger said. “I’m not going to bring your wife, Mr. (School Board Member Jayson) 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 said the board could decide to punish him if they were upset at the way he handled the issue. He said some teachers were displeased, feeling as though Howard was going after teachers. Howard said the opposite is true.

“I’m protecting all our teachers in this county that have worked hard and slaved hard for decades, that have not done bad decisions,” Howard said. “Why did they have to go through this teacher’s right here and still no answer? What do you tell these teachers that have done that for decades and worked hard right there and never made a mistake? But we have to live with the rest of it there because there’s not going to be any consequences. But what do you tell the next person that makes something just as bad or worse?”

Dronebarger called the assignment “distasteful and inappropriate” and said principals across the system were asked to talk with all teachers about using the prescribed curriculum and grade level standards. He said no other parent with a child in the class had complained further.

“This teacher is very apologetic,” Dronebarger said. “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.”

Board Chair Bob Young said the School Board has no right to call a teacher before the board, adding teacher discipline is the responsibility of the director. He said the board’s rules prohibit getting involved until an appeal.

“I think our director has responded to how that was handled, it was handled at his discretion,” Young said. “It appears that based on the comments that were provided to us as a board, that they handled that in an orderly fashion through the proper hierarchy.”

The creative writing prompt said “I never meant to kill her. I only wanted to hurt her, but now her ghost follows me everywhere.”


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