Band Director Hennig is out, despite impassioned pleas

Published April 16, 2014 by justicewg
Board meeting of 4-15-14, at which a hundred parents and kids attended

Board meeting of 4-15-14

Almost a hundred parents and students packed into the high school library for a board meeting April 15th that determined the fate of band director Justin Hennig. Parents told stories of children who had been inspired by their band leader. Kids said they felt the band was the thing that made the day tolerable, and were devastated by the loss of their teacher, many of them struggling to hold back tears. After a 50 minute private executive meeting the board members returned to the library and voted unanimously to accept the resignation.

Nobody was happy

The parents who were in favor of keeping Hennig all spoke highly of his enthusiasm and ability to inspire the students. They struggled to understand how a teacher who could fill the room with supporters would be leaving after one year, before a fair trial of his skills could be completed.

One woman said, “We can’t believe Justin is leaving by his own choice, not one word has been said against him among the people I know. Either he did something very bad and the board is not talking about it, or the board was influenced by some powerful parents who he rubbed the wrong way, and now is the board is not talking because they don’t want to admit they were wrong. No matter which of the two reasons is true, we should expect more transparency from this board.”

A man said, “There is real damage done to the school by the board not explaining its actions. The band program will be hurt for years. What kind of replacement director can we expect to attract now, if one as good as Hennig is treated this badly?

Students talked about how they were inspired by Hennig’s classes, and gave tearful pleas for him to be allowed to stay. Some said that with their band director leaving like this they would quit the band in protest.

A couple of lickspittles were defending the board and told us we should trust them to make the right decision.

Read the tells

Although the board was tight-lipped the entire evening, there were some tells that you could read from the mannerisms of the board members.

Jesse Truett was clearly getting impatient with the parents when the public comments went past an hour. Scowling down at the table with his arms crossed, he was tired of listening. Debbie Brannan was spacing out, and was so uncomfortable she had to fan herself.

Stephanie Evans and Adam Miller remained attentive and reacted to the points the speakers made.

Although I was not impressed with the job president Grant Douglass has done in the past, he did seem to be giving a fair chance for everyone at the meeting to talk, and kept a smile, or at least a neutral face, as he listen to the parents and kids.

Douglass called the board into executive session in order to discuss the employment of Hennig. They left the room at 8:50 PM, with a plea by Douglass for the remains of the crowd to wait for the results, which “shouldn’t take long”. The board was gone for almost 50 minutes – a clear indication there was some impassioned pleas being made in the school office by board members who didn’t want Hennig to leave like this.

If it were only one board member who was trying to convince the others, the executive session would have been short. I’m guessing that Miller and Evans were trying to find a way to work some agreement from the others to change their minds.

I can almost hear the reply from Truett, he probably said “we can’t let a mob push us into backing down, or we will have a new mob at every meeting”. Brannan looked at Douglass and sat in silence.

That left Douglass as the deciding vote. He might have pasted on a smile for the parents who were speaking, but he knows there is a small group of parents who have the ability to take away his board seat, and there is not much up side to defying them.

Some true things

Superintendant O’Reilly will be leaving the school this summer, so he was the designated bad news guy. He said that Hennig had resigned, and had requested that the board not reveal the details. O’Reilly claimed that Hennig was the one to speak about the real reasons for his resignation, not the board. That’s a convenient excuse, but one that the board would have broken instantly if the reason for asking Hennig to leave would have been serious.

A man who claimed to be Hennig’s close friend said that the representative from the teacher’s union told Hennig to keep the details of his employment problems to himself. He said the band director would take back the resignation if the board offered him another contract.

A woman said that the reason that was given to Hennig for his failure to get a contract was a simple “you don’t fit in here”. I didn’t see anyone on the board acting at all surprised or upset at that statement.

Elections have consequences

Throughout the evening I saw parents struggle with the concept that a small group of politically powerful people could have booted Hennig. Do you have any other explanation for what happened that would fit the facts?

This city sat passively as one of the worse possible board candidates, a man who had been forced to give up his teaching license, was elected to the board. It elected a woman who is a complete void on holding any opinion, and is proud of it. You get what you voted for, Grandview. If you don’t like the way it is working, get organized, make changes happen at the ballot box.


Read Post resignation Investigation for more on the Hennig affair. The comment by someone with the handle “AngryGHHSBand Parent” is required reading, I don’t know if all of that is true, but it sounds legit.

There is no reason why the removal of the band director had to be a secret, no reason for the lying from Douglass and Brannan. Other than they are poor board members who don’t deserve to be in office. Anyone who defends them is a suckup who is enabling the continuation of a poor school board, which will result in a worsening school.


19 comments on “Band Director Hennig is out, despite impassioned pleas

  • I’m one of the band parents at the meeting last night. You better believe I will never ever vote for any of the school board members again.

  • I’m hearing a “throw all the bums out” reaction to that board meeting. Understandable, but you had to listen carefully to know who was on the side of Hennig and the parents, and who wanted him out. I’m 95% sure Miller was doing all he could to make a deal at that 50 minute exec. session. My suggestion – contact Mr. Miller, work with him to change things at the ballot box.

  • The current school board has a mix of elected officials. One who cares; two deer in the headlights; one who is going to show the community their iron-fist power and one who had their hands slapped. Not a board that is willing or able to listen to their electors. How sad.

    • Unless on the inside, the community has no idea of this current board’s “reign of terror.” It’s no longer about what’s good for the school district, it’s about ego and power. The lack of respect and empathy for people, whether parents or staff, is disturbing.

  • It sure would be nice to have some more details as to what happened. I sure as heck hope that this has nothing to do with any potential sexual orientation issues – I would hope that this community is mature enough to get beyond that. I do not like the whole secrecy thing as it ultimately leads to distrust – it is a sign of poor leadership.

    I have had distrust for this board and current super for awhile. I had voiced objection to the current trend of continuing to move the school year earlier and earlier. At a board meeting, I questioned why this change was being made and was told it was because test scores are better when the winter semester ended before Christmas break. So, I followed that question with a request for actual evidence and was told that it was anecdotal at this point and that they’d be gathering statistics.

    I never followed up to ask if they did gather stats – it’s probably moot. What I don’t appreciate is the fact that the decision was made without hard evidence and the evidence given was complete bullshit. I suspect it was pressure from teachers and/or unions to make the changes (but I do not have actual evidence). Either way, it is again a display of leadership believing they know better than the parents and not respecting their opinions. It’s much like the government we elect to other offices. It’s time for a change.

  • Here are the facts. Hennig was bullied into resigning. He was told by ken chaffin (HS principal) that although he is a great band director and the band looked and sounded great this year he needed to turn in a resignation or he would recommend a non-renewal because he is “just not a good fit” for Grandview. This board had a chance to do the right thing and offer Hennig a contract but for some unknown reason they choose to be cowards and irresponsible. Shame on them, I hope they can sleep at night after this horrible injustice.

      • My burning question is, will whomever his mentor was for the 2013/2014 school be paid. If the mentee is deemed “not a good fit.” Perhaps the mentor did not step up to the task at hand.

  • Unfortunately this begs an uncomfortable question. If Mr. Hennig was having so much success with the program and was deemed “not a good fit” by the principal, then I suspect there is more of a personal element at play. I am now wondering if Mr. Chaffin is homophobic. I seriously hope that isn’t the case, but it is the first explanation that comes to my mind.

    • I would like it better if people who are speculating about the sexual orientation of the band director add “I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter to me”. Unless there is a confirmation by Mr. Hennig himself I don’t want to paste a label on him.

      But we are left with speculating about discrimination by the board because of something like religion or sexual orientation, because his job performance seems to have been great, and I never heard a word from the school administration about poor performance reviews.

      I also don’t think Mr. Chaffin would have the power to deny Hennig a contract by himself, if there is discrimination going on then the president of the board Douglass would have to sign off on it (or if he was the person who wanted to discriminate, he can ordered the people under him to carry it out). Nothing really goes on at the school without the approval of Douglass.

      Something to think about – has there ever been a black teacher or other employee at the school?

  • Fair point. I apologize for inappropriate speculation and discussion. I of course do not have any confirmation and it definitely makes zero difference to me. I work with a lot of folks in the music community and am totally used to working with gay, straight, etc. It is a complete non-issue for most who are closely aligned with the arts. So, maybe my assumption is considered inappropriate by some – it’s rather second nature to me, but I understand it needs to be discussed carefully and I apologize if I have made anyone uncomfortable.

    I really hope I am wrong here, but it scares me that we could have a case of discrimination because based on what I know of the personalities involved I am having a difficult time coming up with any other explanation. What I would really like to see is documentation of the issues of why Mr. Chaffin believes that Mr. Hennig is “not a good fit”. If his presence really isn’t in the best interest of the school, then we should have the right to know the real details.

    • No need for apologies, as long as you have made it clear that you don’t know the truth about Mr. Hennig’s orientation and it doesn’t matter what it is. Speculation is all we have now, because the board is silent.

      Here is a possible tactic the people who wanted Hennig out might start using, the old “who is the real bigot here?”. tactic. It is a standard play out of the conservative playbook since the 60’s. When black civil rights were being fought for, the conservatives used the line “who is the real bigot, the only bigots we see are the civil rights supporters who are so obsessed with blacks that they see discrimination everywhere, all the time”. Now that economic inequality is a hot issue, the standard conservative line is “the people who are being discriminated against are the 1%”.

      If you hear the argument from the supporters of the board that “the real bigots are the people who want to make Hennig being forced out into a civil rights issue”, then pay very close attention – that tactic is a big signal that some one is running from a conservative playbook, and they have a real reason for running that play.

  • This discrimination factor has been mentioned in hushed tones. I’m surprised the district hasn’t been accused of this with the exodus of staff members beginning last June.

  • A message for the trolls who are attempting to troll here – although we don’t know if the people commenting here on the board are band parents, there were a lot of them at the meeting, and a lot of kids who were in the band. They said the same things at the board meeting that have been expressed here. Attempts to discount the comments here because “you probably are not band parents” will not be approved. Get your own blog. Really, get a blog, I would like to read a serious non-troll explanation of why Hennig needed to be booted.

    Also, I heard that there is an email from board member Brannan that tells everyone to calm down, if you have a copy please forward it to me. (15 minutes later) Thanks for sending the email! A new post will be up soon.

  • From: Ken Chaffin [mailto]
    Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 07:04 PM Eastern Standard Time
    To: Ken Chaffin
    Subject: Message from Debbie Brannan

    Bobcat Band Families,
    I was asked to pass on the following email from Mrs. Brannan who is the Vice President of the GHCSD board of education and wanted to provide additional clarity regarding a few questions from the board meeting Tuesday evening. I have copied and pasted that message below.

    Dear Band Parents,

    We do value your input and experiences, and appreciate your involvement in coming to the Board meeting Tuesday night. We understand this is an upsetting situation in many ways. As much as we are able, while still honoring those involved, we do want to address your concerns. ….

    (Thanks for the email from Brannan, The full text is posted at the end of this post:)

  • Interesting piece of fluff in The Tri-Village News regarding the band director. His evaluation was quoted, including needed areas of improvement. However, it is not hard to read between the lines – resign or be non-renewed. Of course, anyone would prefer this be kept confidential. The burning question is was he going to be renewed or not?

  • Resign or non-renewal? What second year teacher would choose non-renewal? Certain band parents didn’t like that he wanted a competitive band. They would prefer that our kids have a mediocre band where all students are included, and don’t care if they really know how to read or play music as long as sports can be number one. He was bullied from the start for wanting to improve the band.

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