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Donnie Kern

CF West School Board Member Alleges Special Education Abuses
Accuses Dr. Elizabeth Heath Of Writing Defamatory Letter; Alleges School Board Retaliation; Will Vote 'No' On School Consolidation Plan

Editor's note: Here is the full text of a document that Mr. Donnie Kern has recently authored about alleged poor conditions for special education students in the Alleghany County school division:

(From) Donnie T.A.M. Kern, M.S.A., EA School Board Member-ACPS Clifton Forge West District 115 Church Street Clifton Forge, Virginia 24422

"Greater Alleghany and Covington Community and Editor

“I am not asking what is going on, I am just telling you whatever it is it can’t be right, so you might want to fix that. I don’t want to come down to that school and find out she/he is still in a closet somewhere” as stated by Amy Trail to Dr. Elizabeth Heath, Director of Special Education for Alleghany County Public Schools pertaining to the scholastic conditions within the Alleghany County School system in- regards to the treatment of an African American student.

Amy Trail was a Special Education consultant for the Alleghany County School Board. Dr. Elizabeth Heath opined that Amy Trail was “the support that we need but don’t have the resources to provide”. As it was told to me by an employee, this same African American student one day was carrying gifts and when the student was asked who the lucky person was that would be receiving these gifts, the student identified the individual responsible for placing them in the “closet” as described by Amy Trail and stated: “I just want she/he to like me”.

Due to this student’s situation and others coupled with aggravated circumstances I made the conscientious decision to ask for an investigation from state officials. To this day no investigation has ever occurred. I was told the situation was the responsibility of the appointed Alleghany County School Board. What came next was Dr. Elizabeth Heath providing a defamatory letter to be read-aloud like a story book detailing my own child’s substandard experience with the Alleghany County School Board. The Alleghany County School Board then requested $60,000 from the Board of Supervisors for legal fees so the School Board could have their attorney’s “Deal with Mr. Kern” as stated by Randy Tucker, Chairman. I publicly asked for diplomacy in this newspaper after this was stated. Instead of being met with compassion and understanding the door of vengeance was opened and retaliation ensued and unfortunately is still currently ongoing. The United States of America is now reviewing approximately eleven incidents of retaliation by the Alleghany County School Board.

The Alleghany County School Board epically failed to deal with me just as they have failed so many of our most vulnerable children in providing a free and appropriate education. I felt inclined to write this letter because of the upcoming vote on the joint school system. I feel I would be doing a disservice to our most vulnerable children, their families as well as the good people of Covington had I stayed silent.

This joint school system forgoes the opportunity to elect members of the new school board created under this proposal that will be voted on. The promise of self-governance is owed to each citizen and instead of fulfilling this promise endowed by the Declaration of Independence and

correcting the mistakes of the past we are going to continue on this reckless path of appointment. I have been on the Alleghany County School Board for two years. I do have lots too learn as Randy Tucker mentioned in our August 17 2020 meeting.

I would like to provide a small reflection of what I have learned thus far since my appointment on the Alleghany County School Board. Appointed and administrative officials are absent any accountability for their actions or inactions. The Board of Supervisors wants the School Board to return $500,000 that was budgeted but never spent. The Board of Supervisors has stated that if we do not return this money, they will cut the exact amount from our 2021-2022 budget. The Board of Supervisors threatened to cut the School Board’s budget if we provided a raise to staff in the 2020-2021 budget. An impermissible amount of $700,000 in class room instruction funds were unspent for the 2019-2020 fiscal year; yet we can’t equalize staff salaries at the cost of $460,000. Despite having a plethora of unspent funding year-after-year, the School Board is beseeched in what it can and cannot do with it. The School Board currently has no parliamentary procedures in conducting board meetings. We do not always follow the Freedom of Information Act. No consistency in appointing mandated committees; example the school board policy mandates we have a Budget Committee, this committee is appointed during the reorganization of the school board. This Budget Committee has yet to be appointed in 2020. I offered to serve on it, and utilize my accounting skills that I obtained in completing my Master’s Degree in Accounting and fix all the budget problems but when the time came to appoint, Jacob Wright decided not to and moved on to the next agenda item. I abstain from voting on financial spending due to not receiving adequate information to ascertain if the School Board is adhering to its mandated budget on a monthly basis. I do not receive information regarding assets and liabilities enabling me to understand the school board’s financial condition. How am I supposed to approve the payment of bills, if I am not provided information to know if we overspent or not? The School Board and Board of Supervisors in approving the 2020-2021 budget will magically purchase a $90,000 school bus with $75,000. They also approved the reduction of $120,000 in speech services despite having an increase of students bringing the total to 67 students that would require these services. It was explained to me that we didn’t have enough money. The School Board is about to approve the return of $500,000 to the Board of Supervisors that could have been used to correct these deficiencies. I was informed during the August 17th public meeting that the Joint Services Committee will be appointed by the Superintendent versus the School Board in an effort to begin having meetings that are not open to the public.

Three months into my term I sat in a closed session meeting where “He who shall not be named” sent the police after a child advocate for a credentialing snafu. “He who shall not me named” encouraged our School Board to eliminate a position because it was held by an employee that was described as a “major ADA compliance issue, a major, major one”. As a parent I asked my school system to help accommodate my child yet I am told we don’t have money to do it with. Which is supportive due to the rationale of Randy Tucker indicating that if a “kid needs a dog, were not supplying the dog” during a budget meeting. In case you were not aware in the last six years the home school population has increased 33% that’s a total of 107 children that are currently homeschooled. I learned the hard way of why; now my two children have been homeschooled for two years now. The homeschool population creates an unrealized revenue source of approximately $650,000 because these families do not enroll them in our school system

This method of appointment has to end, God willing I will see that it does, as I have made preparations to collect signatures beginning in January to have a referendum placed on the ballot in 2021. I have strived to be honest, accountable, and transparent to the public. I created a Facebook page in 2019: Alleghany Fireside w/ Donnie Kern to do just that. If anyone want to assist with the referendum project please reach out. Let’s make history together.

I commend the efforts of the joint committee in putting the joint school proposal together. I support working together and achieving economies of scale. I think Mr. Dressler and Mrs. Zeek would have been good participants to have at the table as they have brought up very good scenarios that are not explained in this proposal. I feel responsible for this effort, so I feel I owe you why I will not be voting in favor of it. I do not believe having an appointed school board is unacceptable. I recommend that the joint committee stay the plan until the proposal voted on with an elected school board. As it was suggested to me by Senator Creigh Deeds, you should request a legal opinion from the Virginia Attorney General if the plan can be proposed with having an elected school board.

Good people of Covington, if you want the administrative and appointed leadership that I have had to learn about over the course of two years, then you are about to get it. However, I will not be held responsible for giving it to you. You do not deserve it, no one does. You will have to get it from someone else. I refuse to expose another family, student, or staff member to the treatment that others have received by the Alleghany County School Board, I will not condone this treatment now or in the future. I am voting no on the joint school plan as it is currently being proposed. If you want to attempt to stop this machine, I recommend collecting 301 signed letters indicating disapproval, make a copy, then send them to Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Terry Austin to show there isn’t community support. Have individuals that show up during the vote to sign such a letter. Pack the house when the vote occurs with your governing bodies and tell them how you feel. You can also come show support with your presence in silence or through applause. If you want to say something and don’t know what to say you, can read this letter. It may incite tears, anger, or vomiting, something I experience each time I think about its contents. Invite WDBJ7. This letter is intended to seek governmental redress in an attempt to secure the civil rights our most vulnerable children protected by such rights. It is a violation of federal law to retaliate against an individual that attempts to secure the rights of those that are protected by such rights. With best wishes I remain, always

Your loyal public servant

Donnie T.A.M. Kern"

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