School board member questioned about negative comments
Does a school board member still have the right to be a complaining parent in public?
That seemed to be the question when the husband of a Thomas Hunter Middle School teacher took issue with negative comments a school board member made about his son’s experiences with his math instructor.
Harry Barker of Cobbs Creek, spoke out at the public comment period at the start of Tuesday’s Mathews County School Board meeting, demanding an apology for comments made about his wife by a school board member. Barker alleged that the school board member in question had said that THMS math teacher Martha Barker was "the deadwood of the entire school system." "I take that as a personal slap," Mr. Barker said.
School board members, Barker said, "should be held to a higher standard" and when they make comments about a particular teacher, the public "takes that as a reality."
When asked why a school board member would feel it necessary to discuss the math teachers at THMS openly in a negative light, school board chairman John Persinger replied that school board members "strive to be always on guard," and that personnel matters are dealt with in closed session. "Certainly, it’s not the common practice," Persinger said of discussing personnel matters in public.
Vice chairman Jen Little echoed Persinger’s comments, saying that Mrs. Barker was the school’s Teacher of the Year last year, "and you don’t get there by being ‘deadwood.’" She went on to commend the hard work of all the division’s teachers, "especially Mrs. Barker."
School board member Bill Johnson then addressed what he called "the 800-pound gorilla in the room"—the board member who made the alleged comments. "You’re talking about me," he said.
While Johnson admitted to having made negative comments in the stands at a soccer game about his son’s classroom experiences with Mrs. Barker, he adamantly denied that he called her the "deadwood of the system."