Parents: Teacher made scapegoat in Hoke school lunch flap

Posted March 9, 2012 3:20 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2012 4:53 p.m. EST

— Parents of two Hoke County children said Friday that they believe the teacher who switched the students' homemade lunches for cafeteria lunches last month was forced out in the ensuing firestorm of criticism.

Margaret Maynor resigned from her position as a pre-kindergarten teacher at West Hoke Elementary School on Feb. 28, Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Benson said Thursday. She had worked at the school since September 2007.

Maynor made national headlines three weeks ago by replacing students' lunches with a meal from the school cafeteria featuring chicken nuggets after deeming that the homemade lunches didn't meet set nutritional guidelines.

Hoke County Schools officials later acknowledged that Maynor made a mistake, saying she was only supposed to provide the missing item – a carton of milk in this case – and not swap out the entire lunch.

The admission didn't quell conservative bloggers and even members of Congress, who questioned what they saw as an unwarranted intrusion into youngsters' meals.

Maynor was suspended five days before her resignation, but Hoke County Schools officials have declined to state the reason for the suspension.

Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes said in a letter to parents that "a failure to follow district policy" led to a substitute teacher taking over Maynor's class "until we can bring resolution to this issue."

Maynor declined to discuss her case Friday.

Parents said she didn't need to quit.

"It’s terrible. This teacher is not the one at fault. She was just doing what she was told by the inspector," said one mother, who asked that her name not be used. "It’s not fair. She needs to be in the classroom.”

A few weeks before Maynor swapped out the youngsters' lunches, Principal Jackie Samuels sent a letter to West Hoke Elementary parents, saying a state inspector downgraded the school because children weren't bringing nutritional lunches from home. She urged them to send healthier lunches so the school could get a better rating.

Diane Zambrano, whose 4-year-old daughter had her salami-and-cheese sandwich taken away, called Maynor "one of the good teachers."

"It’s unfortunate she got caught up in something that’s not her fault," Zambrano said.

Since the incident, she said, parents haven't been allowed inside West Hoke Elementary to drop children off or to volunteer.

"I’m upset we’re no longer able to come into the school or volunteer. It makes me even more suspicious of what’s going on,” she said.