My First Run-in With the Lincoln County Board of Education

Excerpt from work in progress, The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA

I was hired in January and fired in April. Well, not fired on the spot. A letter came telling me I would not be rehired for the next year. I was stunned. I didn’t know that all non-tenured teachers got the same letter. This opened up jobs that the highly politicized school administrators could give to a relative or political friend. If they couldn’t find relatives or friends with the proper teaching credentials by August they would then re-hire the un-tenured teacher. Without tenure protection, every teacher in Lincoln County would be blood related.

Come August I had not been re-hired. I called the new superintendant and asked why. He told me it was because I was not loyal. I guess our letter about the hair issue was disloyalty.

In the mean time I had a conversation with a friend who was on the board of education in Putnam County. She told me that one of the Lincoln County school administrators recommending that I not be rehired, had recently resigned as a school counselor in her county, the day after two girls took a lie detector test.

I went to Duval in August and asked the newly appointed principal if I was going to be re-hired. He said he didn’t think so. I told him what I knew about two girls being molested in Putnam County. If I was fired I was taking the molester with me.

A combination of my blackmail and a meeting with the board of education worked. The newly arrived Jesuit priests, my former boss at the Charleston YMCA, some students and a few friends gathered at a board meeting to help me get my job back. Parents of two of my students showed up and testified in my behalf. The mother was a sister to one of the board members. I got my job back. I am always grateful for those parents who first stood up for me. That flap was the first of the three times the political bosses tried to fire me.

Within a year the rule that led to my trouble was changed by state law. If school systems didn’t have someone else to give the job to by April they had to re-hire the non-tenured teacher.

“They” weren’t used to people with even a little bit of connections or who talked back. I didn’t just fall off the potato wagon and wasn’t used to being pushed around. I was forty years old, spent two years in African rain forest in the Peace Corps, was a chemical engineer and foreman in a chemical plant, trained to make sidewinder missiles, a foreign student advisor, construction worker, and organizer for civil rights and peace in Vietnam. Besides that, Linda and I had connections with the Charleston Gazette newspaper and we knew how to bring in the TV people. Ever notice what happens to cockroaches when the light is turned on?

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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