Chain Gang Elementary: “Required Reading” at parent-teacher magazine

News from Thornbriar Press — For release upon receipt 

Chain Gang Elementary “Required Reading” in PTO Today

ATLANTA (March 20, 2012) – In addition to receiving praise from critics, Chain Gang Elementary is featured as “Required Reading” in the current issue of PTO Today.

 Jonathan Grant’s timely, poignant tale of war between a PTA president and a grade school principal has struck a chord with both parents and educators as well as critics. To get an idea of the novel’s bite, check out this excerpt on The Standard Hightower Intellachievement Test:

 “I tell people that writing the novel was my revenge for having to read Lord of the Flies in high school,” the Atlanta author modestly explains. But there’s more to the book than that.

Here’s just some of the praise being heaped on Chain Gang Elementary:

  • “This book is the show ‘Desperate Housewives’ wishes it could be.” – Indie Books List
  •  “Grant provides trenchant criticisms of educational policy … (with) acerbic wit.” – Publishers Weekly
  •  “Exceptionally well-written.” – John Pearson, teacher and author of Learn Me Good
  •  “Those who have written education columns for newspapers, survivors of parent/teacher organizations as well as many others will find that Grant has done an exceptional job of weaving educational fact and enticing fiction together. For that, he deserves an ‘A.’”—Jack Kennedy, former president, Education Writers Association
  •  “Truth or fiction: Chain Gang Elementary cuts too close to reality. A novel that reads like daily news.” – Diane Ravitch

 Book Description: After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a ”school of excellence.” When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, 3rd-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers–where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict.

 I’ve attached the PTO Today clipping and a brief author bio, If you’d like to receive a review copy of the book, links to reviews, a media kit, or to set up an interview with the author, please contact

 Chain Gang Elementary
A Novel by Jonathan Grant
Thornbriar Press
ISBN 978-0-9834921-0-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9834921-1-5
Contemporary Fiction
Available wherever books are sold



“She played us all”

Things aren’t so sunny in Sunnyvale these days. PTA treasurer Dawn Saugen at Vargas Elementary School has been arrested and charged with embezzlement and forgery. She’s accused of stealing $21,000 from the organization’s account and using the money to buy gift cards for herself. Other PTA officials reported their suspicions when they noticed the bank account was overdrawn–just after the Silent Auction had been held.

The alleged crime is especially galling because many of the students who attend Vargas are from low-income families.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

“She played us all,” said Karen Fruin, a parent at the school who was angry about the suspected embezzlement. She pointed out that most students from Vargas come from poor families. “We have such financial hardships that we look forward to any money that we can make.”

And to make matters worse,

It was the second case of missing money discovered this year in Sunnyvale schools. In January, Sunnyvale officers arrested a parent who had controlled the treasury of the Ellis Elementary Parent Teacher Organization. Deanna Lynch, 30, was arrested on suspicion of embezzling more than $16,000 in PTO funds.

Read more.

Charter School bullies?

Well, the charter school’s name is Bullis …

Look, I’m not opposed to charter schools, but I think the people that advocate and set up charters should be innovative and creative, especially when it comes to developing facilities in cash-strapped school districts. That may mean raising large amounts of money or adapting underutilized buildings to house the school. After all, a charter is a new school. Above and beyond the call of duty for those who sign on, I hope.

 The idea that a charter school can use its favorable standing with the state to muscle other students out of their buildings is, to me, rather offensive. 

Anyway, in Los Altos, California, there’s a space war going on. The Los Altos School District’s charter school wants to push out the students in one of the local schools to make room for charter kids, and apparently they have state law on their side. Meanwhile, local PTAs and school foundations are fighting the charter school’s plans. Compromises are sneered at, and it’s getting right testy.

From the Mountain View Voice:

LASD and Bullis have been locked in a sometimes-litigious battle for years — with both parties unable to reach agreement on where the charter school should be located. In recent months, Bullis has been adamant that the district close an entire school, redraw attendance boundaries and redistribute the displaced students throughout the remaining campuses.

As a result,

The heads of the PTAs and education foundation are asking parents to take a stand against closing any Los Altos District school to give the Bullis Charter School its own campus. A joint statement signed by every PTA president within the district, as well as by leaders from the Los Altos Educational Foundation, was sent out March 17.

Read more.

Principal’s failure to notify superiors about sex case leads to trouble for him

Clarification: While school officials say that Fraley did not report the allegations to them as they believe he should have, Fraley said that he did contact child services about Boedicker before his higher-ups spoke to him about the case. He believes he acted approriately.

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And then the principal retired after authorities saw HIS emails (which, though unprofessional and inappropriate, didn’t connect him to the sex abuse case).

This twisted tale comes from Lima, Ohio and it involves a Parent Teacher Society president at Heritage Elementary School who had served in that position for several years. Darrell “Skip” Boedicker was indicted on two counts of “gross sexual imposition” involving a minor under the age of 16, which is a felony.

Back in January, when school system officials got wind of the allegations, Boedicker was banned from school campuses. Higher-ups also realized that Heritage Principal Kevin Fraley knew about the allegations and had not propeerly informed them. For his part, Fraley expressed surprise at the indictment and said the original allegations were a “non-event.” He said that he did contact child services, however.

School officials then took a look inside Fraley’s computer for evidence in the case and found a whole ’nother can of worms. Here’s the story, from the Lima News.

Chanters never win, part duh: Southern Miss pep band members punished

Update: Five University of Southern Mississippi pep band members have been punished. They were indeed stripped of their kazoos and ordered into a geography class, or something like that.

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I had seeded Southern Mississippi 56th out of 68 NCAA tournament teams in my SAT score brackets, but after Friday’s game, I’m considering moving the school to the bottom of my list due to the behavior of its pep band members, whose xenophobia and ethnic prejudice are only matched by their ignorance of geography. During Southern Mississippi’s opening round contest with Kansas State, Golden Eagles pep band members broke out chanting, Where’s your green card”  at Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez as he shot a free throw.

The Jayhawks’ Rodriguez is a native of Puerto Rico. Which is part of the United States. Which makes him a United States citizen. Which makes them hateful AND stupid. Which is a fairly common combination. BTW: Kansas State won the game.

To the school’s credit, the grown-ups at Southern Mississippi were quick to apologize. Apparently, the University president plans to take away the offending band members’ kazoos.

Still, it leaves us scratching our heads, especially after recent polls show that more than half of Mississippi’s Republican voters think President Obama is a Muslim. A very slim majority (52%) of the state’s GOP voters believe interracial marriage should be legal. State bans on interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967.

By the way, local coverage of the incident didn’t mention that band members were heckling a U.S. citizen.