A much tighter schedule than in years past is to blame for the removal of the Pledge of Allegiance, playing of the National Anthem and moment of silence observance daily at Lebanon High School, according to Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright.
But principal Myra Sloan said all three are already back on students’ daily schedules after they were observed only Monday last week and fueled a firestorm on social networking sites.
“There was a little craziness that was occurring last week that rolled into the weekend,” Wright said. “They had some problems adjusting to the seven-period schedule. The principal made the decision, with the advisement of teachers, to do those once a week.”
Sloan made the decision to limit the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and moment of silence to Mondays only during the first full week of school to allow for more instructional time during first periods.
“I promise you there is no one that is more patriotic than myself, and I have tried every way in the world to figure out how to keep the National Anthem, moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance in our morning announcements each day,” Sloan said of her decision in an email to The Democrat. “I have always loved to watch our ROTC students raise and salute the flag while we played the National Anthem.”
Wright said following an outcry from parents and others – mostly from the “Parents of Wilson County TN Schools” Facebook page – the decision was made to bring back the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and moment of silence observances daily. She said Lebanon High School was the only high school in the system that plays the National Anthem at the start of school.
“I am sure you are aware of the predicament that I am in this year due to the time element,” Sloan said. “I want to give our students the best education possible with as much instruction time available. Last year we had four classes, and this year we have seven during the day. I promise you that I have pondered over this matter long and hard. It is great to know the community is so patriotic, as am I.
“This year, I am having an ROTC cadet of the week lead us in the pledge every day since the veterans are not available. I have found a shorter version of the National Anthem to help accommodate us on our time.”
Wright said the public outcry came mostly on social media. On one post on the subject at Parents of Wilson County TN Schools, more than 100 comments were made.
“It was viewed as a lack of patriotism, and that was never the intent,” Wright said. “Most of it has been on Facebook, but I have had some calls. I have told them it is an adjustment time. Lebanon has taken the bulk of it because of social media. Lebanon has taken some pretty good hits.”
Sloan said a veteran of the week was invited to the school last year to lead the students in the pledge once a week. She said Wilson County Veterans Affairs director Bernie Ash told her veterans would not be able to come this year due to limited numbers and availability.
“I certainly want the students to be aware of how lucky they are to live in America and be respectful of our country,” Sloan said. “If they listen to the news, they know how so many of the immigrant children have left their families and risked life and limb to come to our country just to have a better life.”
But she said a revised period schedule put in place this year has placed significant time restraints on students and teachers.
“The problem is that last year we had 90 minutes in our first period. Now we only have 45, and the teachers are begging me for every minute this year to have time to teach the standards to their students,” Sloan said. “Only new daily announcements are read, and I feel like I must expose the students to them in order to keep them abreast of important school information. I have always done the three aforementioned items in the past.”
Other complaints from both students and parents include limited time to eat lunch and not receiving enough time to fully explain concepts during class time.
“Teachers are really trying to make accommodations the best they can,” Wright said. “They are making time before school and after school. It’s really having an impact on our math courses and our lab courses, as well.”
But Wright said changes to the schedule are an almost certainty in the future as administrators try to cope with the current situation.
“We have to get through what was already in place because that was what was already decided when I got here, and it was too late to change it,” Wright said. “We will evaluate this year and look at how we can get more instructional time.
“We are going to look at more of a modified block. It’s a more creative schedule, but it accommodates more of what students want to take.
“This is a learning year, and I will be working with principals to see what that modified block schedule looks like.”
Until next school year, however, Wright said administrators, teachers and students plan to continue to search for every available moment for instruction time.
“We can’t change very much, but we can plan to make changes for next year,” Wright said.