By Marge Clauser, May 2006
Teachers are citizens
"The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it."
- Dr. Albert Einstein, March 3, 1954
Maggi Hall is well-known in West Volusia - as historian, preservationist, environmentalist, RealtorŪ and community leader. She is the recipient of numerous awards in each field to which she commits her time and energy. She is the author of four previous books. However, it is her latest book, Affirmed: Teachers as Citizens (iUniverse, 2006), that is her own personal story. The book chronicles the events, including harassment, intimidation and termination, that Hall endured as a teacher who questioned her school district's expenditure of funds.
If you ever need someone to inspire you, talk to Maggi Hall. If you need someone to be by your side as you speak out against injustice or intolerance, ask Maggi Hall. If you want a role model for assertiveness, determination and grace under fire - meet Maggi Hall.
Affirmed: Teachers as Citizens is Hall's personal story of the harassment and persecution she suffered as a schoolteacher in Marion, S.C. Hall crossed a line that resulted in a siege of intimidation and, finally, termination by the school board.
The Hall family - Maggi, her husband, Ron, daughters Amy and Erin - moved to Marion from Florence, S.C., in 1979. Maggi had fallen in love with a vacant, 14-room, 1895 Victorian home in Marion.
Ron Hall was a professor of philosophy and religion at Francis Marion University. Maggi Hall taught elementary school in Florence, where she had developed two educational programs - a program for itinerant children with learning disabilities, and a self-contained middle-school class for emotionally disturbed juveniles.
A few weeks after transferring to the Marion School District, Maggi Hall conducted a workshop for teachers to acquaint them with the new learning-disabilities program. During the workshop, she mentioned several tests used to identify students with learning disabilities, including one test regarded as inappropriate for children with a particular disability.
The next day, Hall had her first encounter with a system that did not accept criticism or questioning. She was subjected to gestapo-type tactics when an assistant superintendent came to her classroom and, without any explanation, ordered her to come with him.
She was taken to the superintendent's office and informed that statements critical of the school district would not be tolerated. It turned out the district's psychologist had been offended when Hall mentioned the inappropriate test - because it was one used in the Marion system.
Hall worked within the system for several years, her resentment of the environment of oppression simmering. School buildings weren't well-maintained, textbooks were sometimes unavailable, teachers didn't receive adequate classroom supplies, and both teacher salaries and student-test scores ranked among the lowest in the nation.
Finally, the news that seven school-board members wanted to fly to California at taxpayers' expense caused Hall to speak out against the establishment, in the form of a letter to the editor she sent to local newspapers. With that letter, Hall crossed the line by questioning the school district's expenditure of funds.
So began an extraordinary story of espionage and intrigue that pitted Maggi Hall and her family against the Marion School District. There were threats, overt and covert, against the family, as well as such tactics as following Hall to appointments. Furthermore, the school district issued statements meant to silence and frighten Hall and any who dared to support her.
Read Affirmed: Teachers as Citizens to learn how Hall's constitutional rights were denied and to learn about the courage and tenacity it took to fight the oppressor.
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Maggi met and married Ron Hall when they were attending Stetson University. In 1967, after graduation, they left DeLand, vowing to return one day. It took 33 years, but, happily, they returned.
In the six years the Halls have been back, Maggi has accomplished much and received more accolades and awards than many people do in a lifetime. In 2005, she received the Faith, Hope and Charity Society's Community Service Award. The award recognized her efforts to create DeLand's Garden District, as well as her service with the West Volusia Historical Society and the MainStreet DeLand Association.
In April 2006, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Hall will receive the "Individual Distinguished Service Award" at the organization's 2006 conference in St. Augustine in May.
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