Superintendent Accused of Strong-Arming Teachers to Support Common Core

By Mary Hendrie — January 14, 2014 2 min read
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In another example of the heated controversies still swirling around the Common Core State Standards, a state senator in Mississippi charged last week that a local school district superintendent had threatened to fire teachers for expressing opposition to the new instructional framework, according to WDAM-TV, a news service based in Moselle, Miss.

State Senator Michael Watson, an outspoken opponent of the common standards, claimed in a personal Facebook post that John Buchanan, superintendent of the Petal school district, insinuated at a Jan. 6 State of the District meeting that teachers would lose their jobs if they opposed the common core. From a second-hand account of the meeting, Watson summarized Buchanan’s message as “support [the] common core, or lose your job.” He added that the remarks were “Exhibit A” on “why teachers aren’t speaking on out” in opposition to the standards.

WDAM covered the meeting in question and says that Buchanan never literally said teachers would be fired. Instead, he appears to have said something along the lines of “If you’re not happy teaching the common-core standards, see me. ... We’ll try to find a place in Mississippi that is not teaching those standards.”

Buchanan later explained that his remarks at the meeting were meant not to be threatening but rather to reiterate his hope that teachers would be “100 percent behind what they’re teaching in their classroom.”

“The simple fact is the standards that we are tasked to teach our students are Common Core State Standards,” he told WDAM. “For whatever reason, it appears as though it has become a political issue. I’m not a political guy, I’m a school guy.”

Even so, reports of Buchanan’s alleged threats against teachers have spread through social media and online news outlets. Multiple anti-common-core media outlets, including EAG News and The Free Patriot, covered Buchanan’s remarks, citing Sen. Watson as a source. On its Facebook page, the group Stop Common Core in Mississippi has urged followers to contact Buchanan in order to express their disapproval of his remarks.

“Silence is unacceptable when our teachers are being threatened,” the group exhorted.

According to WDAM, Petal is the third-highest performing district in the Mississippi and has been using the common standards since 2010. Buchanan and other district leaders have attributed the district’s success in part to its adoption of the standards.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.