Washington County, VA School Board member addresses controversial comments

Keeping Schools Safe

ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — Some parents are expressing outrage over comments made by a Washington County, Virginia School Board member, but the school board member says his comments were taken out of context.

It happened during the board’s meeting Monday night, during which the board voted 4–3 to continue virtual learning through Oct. 26 before allowing students to return to school.

Vice-Chair Terry Fleenor said virtual learning was working for his granddaughter, a kindergartener, and that it should be working for others as well.

“She basically navigates the computer herself without any assistance from me and is thriving with the virtual learning,” Fleenor told News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel.

Fleenor’s comments have some parents upset.

“His comments made me feel like I’m failing my kindergartener and that should never be something that comes from anybody on the school board,” said Kathryn Tressler, parent of two Meadowview Elementary School students, one of which is in kindergarten with an Individualized Education Program. “They need to understand where we as parents are coming from- trying to teach children when we’re not certified to do that. I’m a CNA and I’m definitely not certified to teach a child in certain aspects.”

Fleenor said his comments were taken out of context.

“You get out of anything that you put into it. If you put in 100%, you’re going to get more out of it than if you put in less than 100%,” he said. “We heard from 31 people last night which is a minute part of the Washington County school system. We heard a lot of horror stories of how our virtual system is not working but for every one of those horror stories, here are hundreds of success stories as well.

Parents already on edge with students learning from home- now feeling they aren’t being heard.

“He dismissed everything that the parents said and acted like he could have less what any of them said,” Bethany Crump, a Battle High School parent said. “There’s a whole different level with kindergarten work and my child in Spanish one as a freshman or algebra or I can’t imagine having chemistry or anything else this year.”

People are also upset about a Facebook comment Fleenor made in response to a post by former student Walker Sauls that said N-95 face masks should be available to everyone. He questioned the logic of the post, and after the student’s mother joined the thread, used graphic words to say the student should stand up for himself.

“If there were other students that saw how he treated me that would hold them back from ever wanting them to voice their opinions with anybody in the school board or with the school system at all because they might be afraid that they would just get the same kind of response and feel bullied,” Sauls said. “It’s crazy that that’s the kind of people they have supposed to be wanting things to go right… wanting to better the students’ education and lives.”

Fleenor said that post was not part of a school board conversation and that he has known the former student for years.

“I could certainly have worded it differently but this was a high school graduate, certainly old enough… if you make a post on Facebook, you better be ready for comments on it,” Fleenor said.

Washington County School Board Chair Tom Musick said Fleenor’s comments were his personal opinions and declined to comment further. News Channel 11 also reached out to superintendent Dr. Brian Ratliff for comment. We have not heard back yet.

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