In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

I was living in central Massachusetts when it happened. I was on the 15th floor of a high-rise in the Boston financial district attending a school facilities finance seminar. Linda Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School Resource Center, the program that gave birth to Building Excellent Schools, came in and said there was something on the news about a plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. What a horrible accident, I thought.

We all logged into cnn.com, and within a few minutes we saw the second plane hit and instantly knew that it had to be a terrorist attack. Every person in the room with me slammed their laptops shut and grabbed their things, and we all bolted to get out of the building as fast as we could. I was terrified that Boston would be attacked too, and all I could think of was getting out of that tall building in the middle of the biggest city in New England.

As I rode the Red Line on the T back to the parking deck in Cambridge, I thought of my parents driving by New York City the day before so they could see the skyline on their way to visit us in Massachusetts, and being thankful that my children were safe at school. I thought about my children’s father who had worked in Manhattan just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. My mom and dad got to my house about the same time I did, and we spent the entire day and much of the night glued to the television to see what had happened in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. As cynical as I am about political figures, I felt a real sense of pride in President George W. Bush’s steps to comfort the nation. He did a great job.

It didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t. It is unbelievable to me that we could have sustained such a massive attack in our own country. I remember being so relieved years before on the night I saw news about the Berlin Wall being torn down, naively believing that my children would grow up in a world where they wouldn’t have to fear a nuclear war, which I thought was the only way that any enemy of the United States could ever touch us on our own soil. That belief was shattered on September 11, 2001.

Seeing the news shows about 9/11 brings back the feelings of fear like it was yesterday. I cannot imagine what it is like for the families of those who perished, and the survivors of the tragedies.

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Lessons from Chattanooga and Charleston: It’s Not About a Flag At All

Like many Southerners, I wince when I see the memes on the internet about the Confederate flag from Lost Cause supporters who Just. Won’t. Let it go. However, I cringe almost as much when I read commentary by many of those condemning folks who feel compelled to fly the Battle Flag of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in protest against what they see as an assault on their Southern heritage. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but at times, it feels as though the enmity is not directed only at perceived Southern redneckitude, but at all Southerners. (On a side note, non-Southerners need to understand that there is a world of difference in degree among “rednecks,” “hillbillies,” “crackers,” and other subspecies of the kingdom Southernus Humanicus. But I digress, as I am wont to do.)

I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and I understand the complexity of the issues and the emotional reaction of those who see the flag as honoring the sacrifice of soldiers. I also believe that the Confederates committed treason against the United States of America, even though the federal government lacked the bureaucracy necessary to have pursued trials effectively or efficiently. It’s entirely possible that while a lack of prosecution of the Confederate leadership helped the nation heal more quickly from the massive psychic wounds inflicted by the war, it also enabled the cult of the Old South to rise and grow.

Nevertheless, the battle flag belongs in a museum, and the spokespersons selected for national airtime have done quite an excellent job on CNN, Fox, etc., in proving, with their guest commentary, why that flag belongs in a museum and not flying over a statehouse. While I share the distaste many feel for the effort to defend the Lost Cause, I find the hysteria knocking any and everything Southern verging on ridiculous. There is much to be learned from recent events about what it means to be Southern. It’s not about pickup trucks, moonshine, shotguns, and the Confederate flag–not by a long shot.

The devastating shootings at Emanual AME Church in Charleston provided a lesson for the entire United States in how a city should cope with tragedies involving racial hate crimes, and the victims of this tragedy did so in a uniquely Southern fashion. There was no rioting or looting in Charleston. Demonstrations of Christian love and emotional restraint ruled the behavior of the victims, to the astonishment of the entire country outside of the Deep South. The families of the victims went to the jailhouse and gave public forgiveness to the shooter.

Restraint of high emotion coupled with intense pressure to do the right thing prevailed at the state level. Three South Carolina state leaders locked arms and forced the legislature to take down the flag, then proceeded to hold a dignified and respectful ceremony to do exactly that. Well, dignified & respectful except for the yahoos who started singing “Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye” at the end–not a display of Southern restraint there by any means, but a painfully public lack of class.

Likewise, the residents of Chattanooga, reeling from the shooting deaths of five Marines by a young Muslim man characterized by his Tennessee high school teachers and classmates as a typical All-American kid, are responding with similar restraint in the midst of unimaginable grief. For those who like to engage in Southerner-bashing, there are few targets as rife with examples lending themselves to stereotypical “Southern hillbillies” as East Tennessee. (I say that with love, as I have relatives outside of Knoxville.)

Here’s the thing: racism is by no means limited to the South. I lived in central Massachusetts for ten years and worked in public schools there for six of those years. I did my school administration internship in the Dorchester area of Boston and spent quite a bit of time in “Southie” (South Boston) during my charter school leader fellowship year. I dealt with a Confederate flag school disruption issue, racism, and homophobia while I was an assistant principal in an almost 100% white rural/suburban high school in Connecticut. It’s just as racist in New England as anywhere I have ever been in the Deep South. I love both regions, but it pains me that so many people believe that racism is largely limited to the region where I was born and raised. It’s not, and to pretend that it is doesn’t advance the cause of racial equality.

The behavior of the residents of Charleston, the families of the shooting victims, and Gov. Haley and Sens. Graham and Scott demonstrates the best of what I love about the South. It evokes the Atlanta civil rights-era slogan, “The City Too Busy to Hate.” It’s about doing the right thing, without a lot of fanfare and attention-seeking, and without violence.  I don’t know what the eventual resolution will be in Chattanooga, but I’ll bet you cash money it won’t involve riots or looting.

I saw a meme this morning that I really liked a lot. It read simply, “If you want to be proud of being Southern, serve some sweet tea, enjoy some shrimp and grits, and show good manners. It’s not good manners to display symbols that make your neighbors think you hate them.” Good manners–a deceptively simple concept, and a very, very Southern one. Southern, indeed.

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You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down…Unless You Cut Her Personnel Funding by 33%

I have a bee in my bonnet, to the surprise of no one who knows me well. The U.S. Army Women’s Museum is a national treasure in Fort Lee, Virginia. It is the only museum in the world that showcases Army women’s history.

I am concerned that the museum has sustained 33% in personnel funding cuts, causing it to limit its hours of operation severely. The result closed the Archives to researchers and closed the Museum on Saturdays. This is a tragic situation in and of itself, and as a good conservative, I am all for staying within one’s budget–but it is downright infuriating when you compare the funding levels of other military museums, which did not sustain personnel funding cuts and even added positions.

In stark contrast, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum is funded sufficiently to open seven days a week and receives its personnel funding from the Quartermaster School–the same funding source as the Women’s Museum. The three other branch museums funded by CASCOM did not take cuts—the National Museum of the United States Army (which doesn’t even have a museum yet) added two positions.

While the Army is currently doing great things for Army women (Ranger School, etc.), it has no way to capture history as it is being made. The Center for Military History does not have a historian for women. They do have historians capturing history for other minorities.

This is a terribly unfair and disparate situation, and as a supporter of the U.S. military and seriously addicted strongly committed social networker, I have taken to Facebook and Twitter with the righteous indignation of a woman backing military women scorned. I notified Rep. Doug Collins and Sen. Johnny Isakson, who both represent greater metropolitan Jasper, Georgia, where I reside. I also messaged Rep. Sanford Bishop, with whom I am acquainted from my work in high school dropout recovery in southwest Georgia. Finally, I notified Rep. Mark Meadows, a personal friend from my Rotary Club days in the mountains of western NC, as I am a native raised in the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina.

If you share my concern please contact your Congressional and Senate representatives to ask them to correct this problem. You can find your Representative and Senator at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml.

So a Libertarian, an Independent, a Democrat, and a Republican Walk into a Bar…

I attended a terrific panel presentation last night put on by the Buckhead Young Republicans at Whitehall Tavern in Atlanta.

BYR Vice Chairman Steve Hawrylik and Political Director Greg Williams assembled a stellar panel to discuss the rise of Libertarians within the Young Republican and GOP communities. As the invitation noted, “many YRs identify with Libertarian ideologies and the 2016 Presidential campaign is previewing a larger Libertarian influence.” I have observed in my own son, who is a registered Republican voter in Athens, a struggle to reconcile his desire to support his party with his disagreement on traditional GOP party positions on social issues like marriage equality. I also have Libertarian friends who have interesting positions on issues, and I wanted to learn more about the Libertarian influence on the Republican party.

The questions for the evening were twofold:

  1. What common ground exists among Libertarians, YRs, and the GOP?
  2. Where are the differences and how can those that identify as Libertarian or Libertarian-leaning collaborate with those that view themselves as more traditional Republicans?

The panel included State Rep. Chuck Martin, 2014 Libertarian Senate candidate Amanda Swafford, former Cobb YR Chair Joe Pettit, Georgia State University College Republicans Chair Joash Thomas, and Freedomworks writer Jason Pye.

I will leave it to Scarlet Hawk to post about the specific content of the panel discussion. What I want to note is that, although I’m pretty sure I was the lone Democrat in the room, I was welcomed and even permitted to ask one of the audience questions for the panel. I heard some great discussion, but what was important, and telling, was what I didn’t hear: Intolerance. Strident rebukes. Wingnuttery. Things that the GOP has been taken to task for, both by party insiders and external critics from all sides of the political aisle.

The exceedingly reasonable content of the discussion gives me hope that the young folks in this state are driving some needed change and will move the Republican effort back toward the “big tent” that has historically been the Grand Old Party. It’s terrific to see young people getting excited about politics, regardless of their affiliation.

Well done, Steve and Greg. We need more of this sort of thing.

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From left, Libertarian Amanda Swafford, Independent Lora Hawk, Democrat Dr. Monica Henson, Republican Eric Harrison.

Ready for Hillary…Again

Former Secretary of State/United States Senator/FLOTUS/FL of Arkansas/law firm partner/political wife/wronged wife/mother/grandmother Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, Esq. (who has never done anything notable to speak of, other than marry a powerful man, according to George Will and numerous other right-wingers), is set today to announce her candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

As a fellow Baby Boomer and glass ceiling shatterer who has endured her own share of marital dilemmas and parented my kids successfully to adulthood, not to mention a lifelong Democrat (unlike Hillary, who started out as a Young Republican and a Goldwater Girl in the mid-1960s), I for one am delighted with this development in Hillary’s political career. I supported her candidacy the first time, both in social media and with financial contributions, and I intend to do the same again.

In the interest of full disclosure, Hillary is not the first female candidate for the presidency whose campaign I have supported. I contributed to my fellow North Carolina native Elizabeth Dole’s presidential run in the late 1990s, despite her Republican affiliation. Further full disclosure: I would not have voted for Elizabeth, as my policy is not to vote GOP for presidential races due to their pronounced tendency to balloon the deficit beyond all reason. I am, after all, a conservative, as well as a Democrat. 😉 I would not have voted against Elizabeth had she won the nomination, but I wouldn’t have cast my presidential ballot for her, either. I vote the candidate, not the party, except when it comes to the presidential race. I support candidates with my pocketbook according to my conscience and their degrees of congruence with my own positions.

I digress, but in the interest of explaining why I like Hillary so much and am supporting her candidacy again. We need more smart, accomplished women in charge of things, and not just volunteer organizations, social service agencies, and PTOs, although those are certainly important entities that deserve great leadership. More disclosure: I got much of my own training in leadership as a young woman in the Lawrenceville (GA) Junior Woman’s Club and volunteering for the American Cancer Society.

Despite her famous assertion during Bill’s campaign in 1992 that she was not the type of political wife to stay at home baking cookies and having teas, Hillary “gets it” and appealed tremendously in her first presidential campaign to those of us who share her generation and lived through what it meant to be a young working wife and mother in the early days of the post-feminist era. Disclosure yet again: I stayed at home for five years baking cookies when my kids were little, although I was more inclined to beverages that are to be sipped in a Solo cup than to Earl Grey in Granny Rogers’ china.

Despite Hillary’s strong start, it became clear that the Barack Obama juggernaut would be unstoppable in 2008. Hillary gave it the best fight she could, and her concession was exceedingly graceful. When Obama selected Joe Biden as his running mate rather than Hillary, millions of women who supported her candidacy were outraged, sensing  that Hillary was being excluded not because she is a woman, but because of her husband and the certainty that he would have stolen much of the spotlight in an Obama/Clinton campaign and administration. Although it’s hard to fault Obama for not wanting to deal with the Bill Clinton Phenomenon, it was excruciating to watch Hillary be pushed to the sideline, knowing that she was incredibly well-qualified to be the running mate and if not for who her husband was, she very well might have been.

Hillary shares another quality with many of her Baby Boomer sisters like me, though–a firm belief that things work out they way they are meant to. She advises, like many of us have done, “When you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” And that’s exactly what she did, becoming Secretary of State and establishing yet another series of accomplishments that prove she’s qualified to hold the highest office of this land.

With apologies to Mr. Will, I do want to point out that $21 million in funding for the World Trade Center memorial didn’t just magically find its way to New York City while Hillary served as Senator from the Empire State. The Affordable Care Act has roots going all the way back to the Nixon era, and a significant branch of those roots was planted by the Hillarycare initiative during the first Clinton administration. The Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act both were signed into law by Hillary’s husband with bipartisan support led in large part by the First Lady’s advocacy.

The Republicans among my friends and family will doubtless yell “Benghazi!”; “Feminazi!”; and other red herring anti-Hillary slogans when they read this. Several of them will probably drop the grande dame of slurs thrown against women of accomplishment who dare to speak their minds: “Bitch!”

I don’t care. My response to that is Tina Fey’s and Amy Pohler’s famous pronouncement:

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Hillary said in 2008 that she “ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter’s future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows.” I’m no political candidate, but I work for those exact same reasons (for my daughter, son, stepsons, and stepdaughters).

I’m ready for Hillary. Eighteen million people were ready for her in 2008…and I believe that millions more American voters, both male and female, will be ready for her by 2016.

Why I Declined the President’s Invitation

Saturday mornings are my time to surf the internet and catch up on my online reading and guilty pleasures. To mitigate the “guilty” part, I make a point of checking my work email, too. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened my Outlook email to find an invitation from a government staffer in Washington, D.C., stating “On behalf of the White House, it is my pleasure to extend an invitation to the President’s remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology this coming Tuesday.”

I am a committed Democrat (although I don’t vote straight tickets) that voted for President Obama twice and support him loyally. (Full disclosure: I also support Georgia’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor.) I am equally supportive of his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Receiving this invitation is literally a dream come true for me. However, I respectfully declined and am sending one of my Executive Cabinet officers as my designee instead.

My friends that are fellow political junkies are no doubt scratching their heads reading this and saying “Wait…what?” There is only one thing, other than a family emergency, that could prevent me from accepting this invitation and showing up Tuesday morning at McCamish Pavilion with bells and blue ribbons on. It’s the single most important responsibility, after ensuring the safety of students and staff, of any school superintendent.

I made a commitment to visit our campus in Savannah next week and observe our Program Coordinator, who is also our math teacher in that center, using the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System observation tool. I will also be visiting our paraprofessional staff and the literacy teacher. The responsibility to supervise and evaluate instructional staff thoughtfully and effectively is the most important of any burden borne by any instructional administrator. In districts where student performance improves and teacher satisfaction and retention are the highest, the superintendent of schools takes personal responsibility for monitoring the quality, timeliness, and effectiveness of teacher supervision and evaluation.

In many districts, instructional supervision is delegated to the human resources department. That is not the case in Provost Academy Georgia, which is a single-school statewide district authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission. Instructional supervision and evaluation is carried out by all administrators who oversee any part of our instructional program—and that includes me, first and foremost. I evaluate my instructional administrators on their carrying out of TKES and LKES in the manner in which the State has directed us to do. I learned the importance of this concept (executing the teacher evaluation instrument to the letter) while writing my dissertation and studying how administrators implement teacher evaluation.

For that reason, I make it a practice, and I have done so since 2002, when I first became a public school administrator, never to schedule over an instructional observation in a classroom. I am attending the Legal Issues Conference being presented by the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders while I am in Savannah (because I try to get maximum bang for our school’s travel buck). I’d have gladly ditched the conference, valuable as it is, and sent a representative to it in my stead so I could be at Georgia Tech to hear the President speak. I never, however, ditch a classroom observation.

I designated one of my direct reports to attend the President’s event in my place, and I sent polite regrets and a brief explanation: “Thank you for the kind invitation. I have scheduled instructional observations at our school site in Savannah. One of my hard and fast rules since I became a school administrator is that I do not schedule over teacher observations for any reason, unless the building is on fire or school is snowed out. Teaching is simply too important for anything else to edge it from my schedule. I hope that the President understands my priority, and that he continues to have my steadfast support as a loyal Democrat who has cast my vote for him twice.”

 

The AP U.S. History War Comes to Georgia

I posted my opinion on Charter Confidential about the battle to rid Georgia of Advanced Placement U. S. History, or at least cleanse it sufficiently to satisfy the GOP overlords in the state legislature. Reprinting here for your reading enjoyment.

There has been quite the hue and cry raised across the Bible Belt and beyond about the content of Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH), Georgia being no exception. Essentially, the effort appears designed to ban APUSH from the state curriculum. An Oklahoma committee of legislators voted in favor of a bill to prevent state funds from being used to provide APUSH, and instead offer students a “homegrown” curriculum. The bill has been withdrawn after the story gained national notoriety, but the controversy continues to rage, centered primarily in the South but also surfacing in Colorado.

Much of the focus seems to be on whether the APUSH content is sufficiently patriotic to suit members on the right of the Republican party (are there any that are not on the right?), although there is also a strain of paranoia that “the feds” are attempting to usurp control of curriculum from the states. In Georgia, SR 80 would require that APUSH be withdrawn in its current form by the state, and defunded if changes aren’t made to the satisfaction of GOP Sen. William Ligon (Brunswick) & company (Millar-Dunwoody, Hill-Marietta, Jeffares-McDonough, Watson-Savannah, “and others”). As Sen. Ligon led the charge last session against Common Core, it’s no surprise that he would be similarly offended by the College Board, although neither Common Core nor Advanced Placement is a federal initiative.

It is a surprise to me that Fran Millar is part of this effort, and that’s what makes me suspect that, at least here in Georgia, opposition to APUSH is a party-line situation more than anything else. Fran is what I like to call a common sense conservative, not one given to hysteria, and to be fair, I haven’t spoken to him yet about why he is co-sponsoring the bill. What doesn’t surprise me is that once again, a well-meaning bunch of legislators are getting too far into the weeds of what state-agency licensed teachers are doing, i.e., deciding what specific curriculum will be used in classrooms.

What makes the most sense to me, as an administrator responsible for my district’s curriculum offerings, is to compare the new APUSH manual to the Georgia Performance Standards for U.S. History — the proposed legislation states that the APUSH framework “differs radically” from GPSUSH. I have read both documents cover-to-cover, and I don’t buy the argument being made by the legislators. With all due respect to the senators, I’m pretty sure I know more about curriculum analysis than they do. I speak from experience not only as an administrator but also as a former National Board Certified Teacher of English, history, and French. In my teaching days, I taught AP Language and Composition and co-taught it with a social studies teacher who taught APUSH.

The Advanced Placement standards do not dictate the specific reading selections or classroom activities for AP teachers — and they never have. The classroom teacher has the freedom to teach APUSH incorporating the state standards within the broad curriculum framework established by the College Board and outlined in the Course and Exam Description for each subject. The AP exam administered at the end of the course determines whether students have attained the standards, which for APUSH include the following:

  1. Historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparison and contextualization, crafting historical arguments from historical evidence, and historical interpretation and synthesis);
  2. Thematic learning objectives, which describe what colleges expect AP students to know and be able to do by the end of a college-level survey course in American history;
  3. The concept outline, a series of nine historical periods from the pre-colonial era to the present; and
  4. The APUSH exam itself, an essay-based assessment.

As the College Board’s own APUSH manual for teachers emphasizes, “the concept outline does not attempt to provide a list of groups, individuals, dates, or historical details, because it is each teacher’s responsibility to select relevant historical evidence of his or her own choosing to explore the key concepts of each period in depth” [emphasis mine]. The GPSUSH does in fact provide a list of groups, individuals, dates, and historical details. Advanced Placement Teachers of are required to develop their own syllabus for each AP course, which is submitted by the school to the College Board for approval. There is nothing preventing a Georgia APUSH teacher from taking the GPSUSH groups, individuals, dates, and historical details and incorporating them into the APUSH syllabus for the school’s and the College Board’s approval.

If the Georgia senators don’t want to take this old maid schoolteacher’s word for it, they might inquire of one of the state’s best authorities on curriculum and instruction, Dr. Martha Reichrath. As Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at the Georgia Department of Education, she is one of the smartest educational leaders this state has ever produced. At the Common Core listening sessions last year, which descended into near-freak show hilarity during public comment, Dr. Reichrath was a voice of reason. The discussion on APUSH needs to be led by public school administrators and teachers. With all due respect to our elected representatives, it’s not your place to tell education professionals what to teach, or how to teach it — that’s our job. After all, theGeorgia Professional Standards Commission (an agency that is Georgia-grown and Georgia-owned) has certified us, and the GaPSC is charged with “protecting Georgia’s higher standard of learning.”

Dr. Monica Henson is superintendent and chief executive officer of Provost Academy Georgia.

Well, Howdy Do!

My name is Susan Monica Henson. I like to go on a bit about things that excite me. This new blog is very exciting.

Names are a big deal in the South. By way of introduction, I’ll start by telling y’all about my first name and how I got it—although my mother, who goes by her middle name, called my sisters and me all by our middle names, which is kind of odd, because she called both our brothers by their first names, like my father goes by his first name. My youngest sister decided when she went off to college that she would go by her first name, Lisa, which she does with everybody excepting her immediate family. We all still call her Jill and will do so until we are all gone on to The Great By and By. Jill allowed two of her own kids, while they were still in elementary and middle school, to decide that they would rather go by their middle names than their first names.

I was born and raised in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. If you meet me in real life and think I am quite the hillbilly due to my pronounced accent, you might be surprised to learn that I am the third generation of my family to attend Western Carolina University (my son is the fourth) and one of an extended line of public school teachers and administrators. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side were very proud of the fact that they went all the way through eighth grade at the Hayesville Academy, back at the turn of the twentieth century before there was a high school. They sent all nine of their children to college and kept a subscription to the Asheville Citizen-Times all their lives.

My mother (Sue) and I were both named for my grandmother’s best friend, an elementary school teacher named Sue Haigler. Miss Sue taught right next door to my Granny Rogers, a/k/a Miss Willie, until they both retired, and Miss Sue kept right on teaching. She taught inmates at the local jailhouse how to read better.

Miss Sue was quite a character, and she and her sister Miss Louise, also a single lady for life (I prefer that elegant phrase far more to “spinster”) came to my bridesmaids’ luncheon when I was marrying my first husband. After I became a teacher myself, I used to write Miss Sue a handwritten letter every Christmas telling her what I had been doing all year. Miss Sue always wrote me back telling me what she had been doing all year, even when she went to live in the nursing home, where she no doubt continued teaching whenever she got the chance. The last letter I received from Miss Sue was five pages written in her beautiful elementary school teacher cursive.

Handwritten letters are also a big deal, and not just in the South. One of my biggest regrets is that I no longer have my letters I received from Miss Sue, and other letters from people who influenced me when I was young, for reasons that are best kept for another blog post. Miss Sue and Miss Louise were what once was commonly called “old maid schoolteachers.” That usually was considered a mildly pejorative term, but I embrace it with gusto and will explain why. If you decide to follow me on Twitter, which I hope you do (@DrMonicaHenson), you’ll see that I identify myself as “an old maid schoolteacher on a mission to change the world.” That pretty much sums it up, but I’ll tell you a little more to give you context. I’m not technically an old maid, as I have been married. I am, however, a proud old maid in spirit.

I live in Jasper, Georgia, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, in a split-level house with a screened porch. I have raised or participated in the raising of nine children, the oldest of whom is 32 and the youngest is 16, only one of whom is biologically connected to me. I built my family with biological, adopted, and step children, and I’m a proud grandmother who understands, as my own mother demonstrated when she became “Nana,” that when it comes to grandchildren, there is no such thing as blood, adopted, or step.

I am a charter school superintendent who has spent most of my career in district public schools, although for the past ten years I’ve had a foot in both the charter and the district worlds. I run an online charter high school district that caters to every possible type of square peg student imaginable. I think it’s quite ironic that my father’s father was principal of a pre-consolidation schoolhouse in the mountains of NC when they heated the school with coal, and he saw the advent of electricity in his youth when the TVA dammed the Hiwassee River, which runs into the Tennessee River. Two generations later, I saw the advent of the internet in my youth, and I am now running a statewide program that wouldn’t exist if not for electricity and the internet.

I am a Blue Dog Democrat and politically conservative on the majority of issues, notable exceptions being women’s health and the social safety net for the truly disabled, elderly, and minor children.

I’ve taught every grade from seventh through university graduate students. I’ve held every instructional administrator post imaginable from English department chair through superintendent. I edited my college newspaper and literary magazine and gave strong consideration to a career in journalism before going into education. I have been a registered lobbyist in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in the past. I’ve been a technical writer and a stay-at-home mother, as well as a high school basketball and volleyball official. Most of the time, though, I’ve been a teacher and school administrator. At heart, I will always be an old maid high school English teacher.

I founded, with Scarlet Hawk and some other fierce ladies in what I fondly call my Magnolia Mafia, a blog called Charter Confidential, devoted to telling the story of charter schooling in Georgia. I co-founded and moderate a secret Facebook political discussion group, The Usual Suspects. I am on Facebook all the time with my students in their closed Facebook groups, and I follow and contribute to the #gaed and #gapol hashtags on Twitter.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading what I have to say about things, even if you don’t always agree with me. I think of the internet as the electronic equivalent of the front porch, where neighbors can drop by when they have a minute to visit. Come on up, sit a spell, and have some iced tea.