Teacher defends School Board chair’s controversial comments

Guest Editorial by Jessica Jackson, Fluvanna County Public Schools teacher

Editor’s note: The following editorial is in response to a story that ran in last week’s edition entitled, “Firestorm lit at School Board meeting.”

I am a teacher in Fluvanna County Public Schools and have been for many years. I do not understand why some School Board members (Shirley Stewart and Brenda Pace) were upset by Chair Perrie Johnson’s comments at an Aug. 2 staff breakfast.

At that breakfast, Johnson said thank you to teachers, called them heroes and explained why she is on the School Board.Many leaders who are addressing new employees or a new work cycle often explain their motivations for being in their leadership position. I have heard several Fluvanna School Board chairs and superintendents begin a school year by stating their personal reasons for serving. Johnson did the same thing. So what is the problem? Johnson did nothing out of the ordinary. She never stated she spoke for the whole board. She said “I.”

It takes commitment to the education of students to retire and still choose to work to make the schools better. Johnson demonstrates that commitment. It takes courage to say that there are things that are good and there are things that need to change. Johnson is courageous.

I wonder if those School Board members who were so upset with Johnson’s comments even took the time to ask Johnson why she quit and try to understand her reasons.

I have known Johnson for several years. She is a person of integrity. She is a very caring individual. She only wants what is best for students, employees and parents. I believe that whatever Johnson’s reasons were that led to her leaving her job as a teacher, she gave careful consideration before she left. She did what she felt would enable her to have a bigger impact on the lives of students.

Thursday (Aug. 16) during lunch, I saw Johnson at my school helping with lunch duty, not because she had to, nor because it was teacher appreciation week, but because she wanted to serve students and teachers.

Every time she visits our school, she says thank you to individual staff members and asks if there is anything she can do.
It is difficult to understand why some board members feel there needs to be a memo written by Superintendent Chuck Winkler to teachers. I agree with Carolyn Ley, who responded during the School Board meeting to the complaints about Johnson’s comments. I think they were petty.

I really hope that the School Board does not vote for Winkler to send us teachers a letter restating the mission, beliefs and strategic priorities of the School Board. Our principals review those with us every year. To have Winkler create a letter would be a waste of time, paper and money.

Perhaps there needs to be time spent trying to build better relationships on the School Board. Pace said she does not feel she is working on a board. Perhaps she can spend some time trying to create a board that feels like a board to her. She has been on the School Board eight years. Surely, she would know how to work with other board members to make it feel like a board.

I am glad Johnson is on the School Board. I believe she is a blessing to Fluvanna schools. Her comments were hers, and I took no offence to them. Nor did I take offence to the other Fluvanna superintendents, supervisors and School Board chairmen who stated their motivations for serving.


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