Commentary by Victor Skinner, for EAGNews. Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.This piece was previously published on EAGNews.com.

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A Mississippi state senator is taking exception with a local superintendent’s recent comments to his staff about the controversial Common Core national learning standards.
Petal School District Superintendent John Buchanan’s comments to teachers at a recent State of the District meeting was a thinly veiled threat for anyone who disagreed with Common Core, State Sen. Michael Watson alleged in a Facebook post following Buchanan’s presentation, according to the WDAM television station.

“I just had a friend let me know that Dr. John Buchanan, Superintendent of Petal School District, held a State of the District meeting this morning and announced that anyone who is against Common Core needed to come see him so he could help them find a job outside of the Petal School District,” Watson wrote earlier this week.

“Apparently, people against Common Core are not welcome in ‘his’ district. Teachers were then asked if they supported CC (and) were required to publicly say yes. So, support Common Core, or lose your job. Many have asked why teachers aren’t speaking out (against Common Core). This is Exhibit A,” the post read.

Superintendent Threatens the Jobs of Teachers Who Oppose Common Core Standards

Screengrab of Sen. Michael Watson’s Jan. 6, 2014 statement on Facebook. Watson does not maintain a public Facebook page. (Photo Credit: www.WDAM.com)

Buchanan, of course, denies that he threatened anyone’s job, but told WDAM that his district is fully committed to the national education standards.

“I think common sense needs to prevail,” he told WDAM. “In this case, the message was ‘If you’re not happy teaching Common Core State Standards, see me. Let me know. We’ll try to find a place in Mississippi that is not teaching those standards.’”

Regardless of whether Buchanan explicitly threatened teachers, it’s clear those who don’t like Common Core won’t last long in Petal.

Mississippi, like most other states, “voluntarily” adopted the national Common Core K-12 education standards in 2010, in part because of financial incentives from the federal government. The Petal district implemented Common Core the same year.

“The simple fact is the standards that we are tasked to teach our students are Common Core State Standards,” Buchanan told the television station. “For whatever reason, it appears as though it has become a political issue. I’m not a political guy, I’m a school guy.”

Superintendent Threatens the Jobs of Teachers Who Oppose Common Core Standards

Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., helps student Melody Fritz with an English language arts lesson Oct. 1, 2013. Silver Lake has begun implementing the national Common Core State Standards for academics. Remembering the plot of a short story is no longer good enough in Lawson’s fifth-grade classroom.  (AP Photo/Steve Ruark) 

Buchanan said he simply wants teachers to be happy teaching Common Core.

“Everybody in the district has a job to do, and I want teachers 100 percent behind what they’re teaching in their classroom,” he said. “We’ve invested a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money, teaching these deeper more rigorous standards, and we don’t want to go back.”

Watson, however, doesn’t see things the same way, and believes Mississippi should develop its own alternative standards that would better cater to the state’s students.

“You take standards from states that have proven that work that are internationally bench marked,” he told WDAM. “You bring those standards to Mississippi, and you add Mississippi values.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel, who represents Petal, seems to agree with Watson.

“I would just suggest that if Common Core is as good as advertised then Mississippi could adopt it without the possibility of federal funds being attached to it,” he told WDAM.

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