At least two families were sent letters from Hoke County Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes informing them their children’s pre-K teacher, Margaret Maynor, was suspended while the infamous “chicken nuggets” incident is investigated.
Update: Mrs. Maynor has now resigned her position.
On January 30 some pre-K students at West Hoke Elementary School were told their homemade lunch didn’t meet national nutrition standards. They were then forced to accept school food to supplement their bagged lunch.
State and local officials denied any responsibility. Then the parents received the letter from Barnes dated February 28 telling them teacher’s assistant Emma Thomas would take over the class in place of the teacher Mrs. Maynor. While the parents complained about school officials inspecting their children’s lunches they didn’t point a finger at Ms. Maynor.
The Government Relations Director for the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), Brian Lewis, was asked if NCAE was doing anything for Ms. Maynor. His reply by email was: “… she’s not a member. It looks like the NC taxpayer will be paying her legal bills.”
The irony is the only visible support for Ms. Maynor is coming from the parents of her students. The mother of the girl who was given chicken nuggets said she had just met with Ms. Maynor a couple of days before that and said Maynor was a good teacher.
It was Ms. Maynor who told the parents there was a state official at the school when the decision was made the homemade lunches didn’t meet the nutrition standards. But even if Ms. Maynor made that decision herself she was just following rules mandated by the state. Those rules are enforced by the State Division of Childhood Development and Early Education (DCCEE). West Hoke Elementary, in fact, lost points in an assessment in November because homemade lunches didn’t meet standards. A state inspector was in the school cafeteria discussing lunch standards just two days before the incident that stirred national outrage.
The suspension of Ms. Maynor and the lack of public support from education advocates sends a mixed signal to teachers around the state.
“I have to say I’m surprised at the lack of support the teacher has received,” says Civitas Institute education analyst Bob Luebke. “For someone who did absolutely nothing wrong,” says Luebke, ” it has to be a terribly lonely feeling to find yourself in the middle of an ordeal and hear nothing but crickets from the principal, staff and other teachers.”
The lawmaker who represents Ms. Maynor’s district, Rep. G.L. Pridgen (R-Robeson), is trying to get to the truth in the “chicken nuggets” incident but school officials won’t cooperate. Hoke County Superintendent Freddie Williamson won’t return any of Pridgen’s phone calls or emails. Neither will Assistant Superintendent Barnes. Even officials at DCCEE have had trouble getting to Williamson.
The Child Care Commission approved the nutrition standard rules. It will consider more changes to those rules at its next meeting May 8. The May meeting follows a recent public hearing in which a couple of citizens complained about the so-called “food police.”
The complaints came after parents found out the commission decided to delete a personal preference for parents to decide what their children should eat at school. The panel was required by the General Assembly to consider such a personal preference but voted against it.