Back Room Process

By Pat Hunter

September 8, 2009

At Thursday's school board workshop meeting, I don't recall hearing any open discussion from school Director Wayne Honeycutt, school board members or school board attorney Chuck Cagle about a decision, which was made not to air President Obama's speech to school students. But the very next day, parents and grandparents received a phone call from school administrators about this decision. Readers also learned more about this matter in a Knoxville News Sentinel article captioned, "East Tennessee schools mull airing speech from Obama."  

Jason Vance, assistant school director for Loudon County schools, was quoted as saying, "As a school system we believe the president's speech will probably be positive in nature, but we wanted to make sure it's useful for educational purposes." ...Vance said Loudon County's director of schools, Wayne Honeycutt, after speaking with the school board attorney, decided the district would record Obama's speech and "view it for some validity."

The irony, just last month, at the August 13th school board budget meeting, school administrators advocated hiring one teacher and eight para-professionals for various things including special education and Title 1 programs. Without hesitation, the majority of school board members, 9 to 1 (Shaver) voted to obtain $1.6Million stimulus money to enhance educational opportunities for our students, compliments of President Obama and the federal government. In a 6 (Shaver, Simon, Russell, Harrelson, Johnson., Jr.)  to 4 (Tate, Marcus, Ubben, Proaps) vote, the school board also approved a loan application up to $20Million stimulus money for school construction and renovations.     

This is not the first time that a sitting President has addressed students at school. Click here to view messages to students on C-SPAN from Pres. G. W. Bush 1991 and Pres. Ronald Reagan 1981. Past Presidents Regan and G.W. Bush spoke to school students and in 1991 Democrats complained. Now President Obama plans to speak to school students and Republicans are complaining. Two wrongs don't make a right!

In an interview with CNN, former first lady Laura Bush, a former teacher, has expressed her support, it is "really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States." ..."There's a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children" to stay in school. And she said parents and others also need to send that message. Some parents have said that they will keep their children at home rather than allow them to hear President Obama's speech." That's a parents right, said Laura Bush.  

Encouraging students to work hard, set goals and not to drop out is something that we should applaud and say to our students!



NOTE: I received two letters from individuals who wished to voice their opinions about the President's speech to the students.


Letter to Editor - Pres. Obama speech to students



A recorded message from the Loudon County School System District office stating the President of the United States would address the children of the nation on the value of education and setting educational goals was sent out Friday.  The second part of the message shows our county has reached a new low.  The message stated the speech would be recorded, judged for educational merit and a decision made on whether to show it to the students at a later date.  The implication of the message was that the speech might be a waste of precious classroom time; however, schools officials have no qualms allowing hundreds of non-educational movies to be shown in system-wide classrooms annually.

In fact, District officials are caving to mass hysteria generated by conservative media personalities who are trying to create mistrust and hatred for the President of the United States.

In the past, once a President was inaugurated, it did not matter which party he represented.  The President represented all citizens of the United States equally.  Everyone showed respect for the position and respect for the office.  Guns were not brandished at presidential rallies, caricatures of the President were not displayed on signs and media personalities did not make a living “wishing the President would fail”.

President Obama has spoken numerous times on the importance of family, our moral obligation as a nation to provide basic health care opportunities to ALL United States citizens and the value of acquiring a good education.

It is embarrassing that our county school officials feel it is necessary to censure a speech from the President of the United States whose only purpose is to encourage all children to work towards the best possible education. 

Nancy H. Carpenter


Letter from parent to school director


Dear Mr. Honeycutt,

I am writing today regarding the fervor over the airing of the Obama speech which is scheduled for Tuesday.  I read in the Knoxville News Sentinel that Loudon county would be reviewing the speech first, then making a decision as to whether or not to show it to the children.  This conflicts with the information on Van Shaver's site, which proclaims that it will not be shown to the children of Loudon County, so I am concerned that a decision has already been reached to NOT show it.

I am certain that the majority of the contact that you have heard over this situation is largely in support of not showing this speech to the children, but I am writing today to say that I am one of those in favor of them seeing it.

This is the President of the United States that we are talking about....the leader of the free world.  He is scheduled to deliver a speech which is written for children about getting a good education, staying in school and planning for the future.  There is nothing political about the speech (from what I understand).  So, why would we listen to a bunch of radical people, who don't even know what is going to be said?

You know, every day, our children are asked to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at "one nation, under God, indivisible" and yet we are going to let a speech from the President, the Chief Executive Officer be kept out of our school. I was always taught to respect the office of the Presidency, regardless of my personal feelings.  The federal government also pays approximately 40% of the school's budget and yet the CEO cannot address the students.  This sounds more like censorship and I have to question who else will be kept out of our schools, if the President, himself, cannot speak to children?  Jimmy Matlock has visited many of our schools.  Will he be discouraged from coming to our schools now too?  Where do you draw the line?  Are republicans allowed to visit and democrats not?  (Do you see where this has the potential to go if we allow it to become a political issue?)

There is simply no logical explanation as to why this cannot be shown, other than simply bowing to political pressure of the radical right.  Previous presidents have delivered speeches to children in the past.  This is a social studies issue, a current event and is relevant to education.  To deny the children access to this speech only sets our children further behind, because let's face it, if Tennesseans were such great leaders in education, we'd be much further up the totem pole.  I just cannot see how letting the children view this speech will harm them.  In fact, our children have watched so many senseless, non-educational valued Disney movies at school that I have wondered if it is it's own course. 

Having made my opinion clear, let me finish by suggesting a compromise.  Why not view the speech as Jason suggested to the News Sentinel, then send home a permission slip allowing those that can view it, the opportunity to see it later this week and for those whose parents do not allow them to see it, that's fine too.  They can sit down over a Disney movie instead of hearing how the American President has dreams of success in mind for the future leaders of America.   You can decide to allow the children to hear how he expects great things from them, or you can further fuel this republican propaganda by feeding into it. 

It's your choice, but I certainly hope that you will support the President of the United States by allowing him into our classrooms, if for no other reason, than that he is a motivational speaker who wants to share his hopes and dreams for a better America with our children. 

Have a good day!
Wendy Baustian