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Hendrickson was right for PHS

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The school board meeting held Feb. 14, determining Shawn Hendrickson’s contract renewal, was one of the most unethical and cowardly decisions made. As a senior at Polson High School, I have seen nothing but positive actions made by Mr. Hendrickson during the three years he has been at PHS.

Students can be some of the toughest people to work with, yet this is Shawn’s specialty. Mr. Hendrickson is the disciplinarian at the high school, meaning not every student is on good terms with him. But nonetheless, he is truly respected. Not many teachers can reprimand a kid then give that same kid a high five one day later. Mr. Hendrickson has taught many students at PHS that they must accept the consequences for their actions. Replacing an administrator who can maintain such a fragile relationship can be almost impossible to do, especially considering Polson High School’s unstable administration.

Besides his role as the disciplinarian, Mr. Hendrickson has brought back the meaning of “school spirit.” Since my sophomore year, I have seen a rapid increase in athletic participation and support. This year the students enjoyed the best pep assembly yet, held outside on the football field. Students cheer and wave their glow sticks at home basketball games, and everyone wants Hendrickson’s, “Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner,” shirts awarded to academic student of the quarter. This is all because of Mr. Hendrickson’s efforts, which are strictly for and about the students at PHS.

Of course high school is not all about the sports, and Hendrickson understands this fact. He encourages art, clubs, speech and drama, and academic success. This year, Mr. Hendrickson set everything up for me to paint a mural for our high school lobby. He said it was to display my art and my connection to my culture. Also, Hendrickson was the first and only to help a student and I receive information and a grant to create a local license plate for PHS and the Polson community. Mr. Hendrickson constantly checks on students in classrooms, is an active advocate for Indian Club and BOG, and helped coordinate Polson’s first K-12 powwow.

His cultural ties have brought nothing but good reviews from local Native American families. The truth of the matter is Mr. Hendrickson is one of our only Native American male role models at the high school. This plays a huge factor when considering that the school board complains about not making AYP because of the Native American students. So, with this in mind, we have to highly acknowledge that dropout rates have decreased since Hendrickson’s arrival. We must recognize his efforts toward the Native community. If PHS’ goals include success for the Native students, then why get rid of one of the few Native American staff members at the high school?

Shawn Hendrickson grew up in Polson. He played basketball, participated in the “We the People” Bill of Rights competition, was academically successful, and made friends that have lasted a lifetime at PHS. This is Shawn Hendrickson’s home. He has worked constantly to get back to Polson where he planned to build his foundations for his family. Never have I felt such a stinging pain as I did when I watched Mr. Hendrickson, my vice principal, my friend, a grown man, stand in front of a school board begging, getting choked up at his comments of “family, kids, and home.”

Shawn Hendrickson is as much in the dark as the rest of us when it comes down to the question-why? According to Montana State law, the “without cause” clause applies to any administrator. If an administrator’s contract is not being renewed the board has every right to give no reason to the public or the person being let go. Monday night the phrase “not fit for the district,” was used numerous times by board members. If Shawn Hendrickson is “not fit for the district,” I would like to know who is? What does that even mean? He is one of the few people who was born and raised here and returned as an administrator, he is more of a fit than most.

The way I see it, this whole situation is about power and politics. There is obviously a power hungry individual or group who will do; it seems, about anything to be on top, to flex their muscles, and to ruin lives. When I say ruin lives it may come off exaggerated, but it is not.

The decision made Monday night to not renew Shawn Hendrickson’s contract ruined his dreams, his wife’s dreams, and most importantly, it will only hinder the students at Polson High School. And isn’t this what this should all be about? I thought the education system is for and about the students. Isn’t that why those members were chosen to be on the school board? This is about education, this is about making sure kids want to go to school and succeed. Another comment at the meeting that irritated me was, “If the administration is split, then the students are the ones who lose.” I see this as a comment that was used to cover up something that really isn’t there. As a student, as the person receiving the education and support, I would rather have a staff member and teacher who truly cares about me and the students around me, than have a staff and administration that is peachy keen with each other and only cares about their own relationships. There will always be inner squabbles which is up to “grown ups” to push aside and look at the real focus. It is no wonder our education system is so screwed up. If school is suddenly about politics then why do we come? Why do students walk into school everyday if they are only to expect an unfortunate loss due to inner politics and power plows? In my opinion, this whole situation reveals the way in which people cannot sacrifice their own egos; for a reason most of us thought they supported, when becoming a part of the educational system in the first place.

Monday night I listened to people cry as they gave every reason why Shawn Hendrickson should stay in the school system. Some can say there are still a number of people who did not arrive because they did not support him. But why should that matter, and why should that be used against him when every person attending the meeting who supported Mr. Hendrickson made one thing obvious about him-it all boils down to the fact the Shawn Hendrickson is at PHS for the students, and that should be why every teacher, counselor, and administrator is at or a part of Polson High School.

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