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Sexism Declared as Reason Not Selected for Director of WC Schools

Updated: May 12

By: Atlanta Northcutt --- Reporter for the Southern Standard

The selection process for the new Warren County Director of Schools position didn’t go smoothly, as Dr. Courtney Bennett, one of the four finalists, claims the reason she didn’t get offered the position is due to sexual bias.

In an online post taking place just hours after the decision of Warren County Director of Schools was made Friday night, Bennett said “The loud and resounding message from our Warren County School Board of Education this evening is that a woman cannot lead a school district.”

Dr. Bennett incited a rallying cry, stating “Women of our district, I hope you heard that loud and clear.”

The statement came after White County High School principal Grant Swallows was offered a chance as the next director of Warren County Schools.

Swallows was selected Thursday night with a 4-1 vote by the five School Board members participating.

School Board members refute the allegations of sexism, stating the accusations to be baseless.

“I don’t believe this was a case of sexism. I felt like all candidates did an outstanding job on their interviews,” says chairman of the Warren County School Board, Tanya Bess. “With all things being equal, and given the pro’s and con’s each individual member was looking for in a director, I felt like Mr. Swallows met all of the requirements.”

Bess states she felt as though Grant’s track record for raising ACT scores in White County in a short amount of time was phenomenal.

“There was no sexism involved whatsoever,” adds Bess. “If anything, I believe in women. I believe women can climb the cooperate ladder, but on the other hand, I believe when you apply for a job, play in a ball game or compete for anything else, there can only be one winner, whether female or male.”

The Warren County School Board is comprised of three women and three men equaling six members total.

Dr. Courtney Bennett’s husband, James Bennett, a member of the Warren County School Board and former Warren County High School principal, recused himself from the board during the selection process, but he later took to social media to state “Not one, but two women in our school system, who both came into the process as well-qualified candidates, who both shared a vision for where our school system needs to go in moving forward were passed over so that our board could hire someone because he had “clean bathrooms” and a “hashtag” that was written by one person who lives in another county to incite a following on social media.”

James Bennett reiterated he had “zero vote and zero influence in who this board offered a contract to.”

Courtney thanked her husband by stating “James recused himself from the board during the extremely long duration of the selection process for Director of Schools to give me a chance to advance in my career. For that, I am extraordinarily grateful.”

However, she continued her social media tirade, proclaiming “To the women working in our system, keep working. Do not stop, and do not give up on pursuing your dreams. Work hard, work harder than you have to, and even when you are still slapped in the face….keep serving our students and being the best educator that you possibly can be.”

Other members of the school board denied the allegations of sexism.

“We had four very qualified applicants,” says school board member, Helen G. Martin. “I read and re-read their resumes, talked to references, and I also listened to the public, along with the commissioners. I waited for the interviews, and I went by the candidate which I knew would be the best for the position from all of the information I had gathered. There was no bias regarding the person I selected.”

School Board member, Teddy Jones, changed his vote from candidate Autumn Turner during the first round to Swallows the second.

“Within the system, I don’t believe there is any sexism. We talked with all principals and department heads, and over three-fourths are female, as well as our district’s lawyer, and they were all chosen for what they were able to accomplish and able to do,” says Jones. “I talked to my own daughters beforehand, and with raising two girls, you turn into a feminist anyways. I want them to do as much as they set their hearts and minds to do. If we would’ve picked any of the four it came down to, each of them would’ve done an exceptional job of being the director of schools, but we’ve chosen this one so we’re going to stick with that choice, work with them and see that they succeed.”

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