Politics at Trinity High School

News & SocietyPolitics

  • Author Larry Farmer
  • Published May 1, 2022
  • Word count 1,458

Politics at Trinity High School

Those who know me realize I am a very conservative person politically. When I attended a teacher In-Service after being hired by Trinity High School in 1985 at age 39, I realized I was entering a liberal environment. A couple of my new colleagues were talking about how horrible the South African government was. Shortly afterwards in teacher conferences, the principal (Sr. Stephanie Warren) subjected us to some women’s liberation theories. Some revolved around spouse abuse and how it was caused by a patriarchal society. Others concerned language and its sexist nature. I talked to my dad about these developments, and he advised me to go about my job and keep my mouth shut. Since I needed the job, I decided to take his advice.

In looking back, Sr. Stephanie was in many ways ahead of her time. In 1985, most of her beliefs were considered off the rails; now, they are the norm. She was also very much an advocate of the nuclear freeze movement. The year before, when she was just a teacher, she went to the Trinity Board and asked it to take a stand on this issue. Tom Isbill, one of the Board members, told her to come back when the Soviet Union no longer posed a threat.

Anthony Scola was the assistant principal at Trinity. Anthony was what one might call an old hippie with an effeminate personality and a keen sense of humor. He was also an intellectual type who could be very aggressive. You didn’t want to disagree with Anthony; he could cut you down to size in no time flat. He was a former priest who in his younger years had opposed the war in Vietnam. Eventually he left the priesthood and the Catholic Church altogether. He married a former nun (Margaret) who also left the church, and they both became Quakers. The simple and pacifist lifestyle of the Brotherhood appealed to their sense of right and wrong.

Margaret taught at St. Mary’s, one of the grade schools connected to Trinity. She was also an old hippie who supposedly went so far as refusing to shave her legs or under her arms. Originally the Scolas were from Milwaukee, but they wanted to get away from the fast paced urban life. When they were hired to teach at Trinity and St. Mary’s in Whitesville, Kentucky; the town was too big for them so they settled in Deanefield, a smaller community to the southeast. Whitesville contains about 600 people while Deanefield has less than 100.

I discovered there was a divide between the administrators and clergy of Trinity on the one hand and the parents and students on the others. In 1988 the Evansville Bosse basketball team, mostly Black, traveled to face a mostly White Heritage Hills team. There had been a history of bad blood between the two schools. On their journey, the Bosse team noticed burning crosses along the side of the highway. Sr. Stephanie and some of her fellow sisters who taught at Trinity expressed horror over the situation. Later I overheard some Trinity parents laughing and hee-hawing about the same incident.

Sr. Stephanie left Trinity after four years as principal. Despite my disagreement with her ideology, I had no problem with her as a person or a superior. She gave me a job when I needed one, promoted me to athletic director after just one year, and always treated me with respect. Several times she went to bat for me in disciplinary and personality clash situations. Her replacement was Dan Fuller, a well traveled school administrator who came to Trinity from Florida. At first glance he appeared to be more of the same. In a document he submitted to the Board explaining his philosophy, he used feminine pronouns to refer to non-gender antecedents.

Dan was a unique individual. The students loved him and he commanded their respect. They called him ‘Dan the Man.’ From an academic standpoint, he and W. A. Franklin (an Ohio County assistant principal) were the most scholarly and well read administrators with whom I have ever been associated. However, he gave the students an inordinate amount of freedom, and after one year the teachers were a bit upset. On her principal evaluation form, one teacher included the statement, “Less ‘Dan the Man’ and more Mr. Fuller.” Some concerned teachers led by Anthony Scola and Sr. Lorraine Lauter (a religion instructor) tried to have Dan fired. When the attempt failed, Anthony took a one year sabbatical at the University of Kentucky in order to work on a degree in Spanish.

During Dan’s first year, Sr. Dianna Ortiz (a friend of Sr. Lorraine) claimed she was kidnapped, tortured, and raped by America’s allies in Guatemala. Sr. Lorraine arranged for the school to have a special assembly to address the issue. She turned the assembly into an America bashing session in which United States foreign policy was depicted as evil and sinister. I sat in the back, and as the negativity toward the United States became intense, I shook my head in disbelief and disgust. At one point I looked over at Dan who was sitting across from me, and he was cracking up with laughter at my response. I interpreted this as meaning I had a friend and ally. It turned out that I was correct because next year he promoted me to dean of students.

Margaret Scola, Anthony’s wife, got involved in a running debate with a grade school colleague over the Gulf War of 1991. She said we needed to give sanctions more time before going to war. Jamie Clark, her colleague, challenged her by saying, “I can’t think of a worse way to die than starving.” When Anthony returned from his sabbatical, Dan saddled him with the worst possible classes; they were chock full of troublemakers. Anthony challenged the scheduling, but the Board upheld Dan. A few years later, Anthony and Margaret resigned to become African missionaries. They were stationed in Sudan, and I feared for their safety. Nothing bad happened; however, as they both attended a Trinity graduation in the mid-90’s. Also leaving were Sr. Lorraine and Sr. Theresa Henry (another liberation theology advocate). With these departures, liberalism at Trinity pretty much ceased to exist.

Shortly after his third year began, Dan himself resigned to take a principal’s position in Maine. As chief disciplinarian I basically had the run of the school for the remainder of the year. Another teacher (Katie Williams) was appointed interim principal, but she gave me the freedom to operate as I saw fit. In 1992 John Calhoun was hired as principal. He was a Ross Perot type of conservative, and we were off to the races.

There was a bit of backsliding in 2000 when Mike Clark became principal. Even though Mike was liberal, he did not make a point of advancing a political agenda. However, one of his hires as a religion teacher did. One day I noticed a document in my mailbox which was full of propaganda about how military spending was ruining America. When I complained to the secretary about such items being placed in our personal spaces, she told me it was done by Bob Nicodemus, the religion instructor. I then confronted Bob, and we became involved in a ferocious argument. He defended the propaganda and his actions by comparing it to sending a Christmas card. The argument went on and on, and we ended up yelling at each other. Anyway, Bob left after one year, and Mike was gone as principal after two. Afterwards, we returned to normal.

It is appropriate in light of current tendencies that I end with a story about the national anthem. In 1992 Trinity’s girls’ basketball team was playing in a Christmas Tournament at Brescia University. As athletic director I was always looking to schedule our teams in such tournaments. Barry McArdle, a public relations and recruitment specialist at Brescia, organized the event; and we played in it for a couple of years. Shortly before our first game in the 1992 tournament, Barry came to me and said they would not be playing the national anthem. Instead, a Brescia student would sing “God Bless America.” He said, “After all, Larry, the national anthem glorifies violence.” He then asked if what they were doing was okay with me. I simply responded, “It’s your tournament!” A short time later, a young Brescia student came to the scorers’ table visibly upset. She said Mr. McArdle had just ordered her to sing both “God Bless America” and the national anthem even though she had not practiced the “Star Spangled Banner.” This was probably my most satisfying point in the political wars at Trinity High School.

I received a bachelors degree in 1967 and a masters degree in 1971 from Western Kentucky University. I taught school for 44 years. One year was spent at Fordsville High School, 17 at Ohio County High School, and 26 at Trinity High School in Whitesville. The subjects I taught were government, history, and English. At Trinity I also served as coach, athletic director, and dean of students. I fancy myself a fairly good writer, and my main interests are sports and politics.

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