�In the first place, God created idiots. This was for practice. Then he created School Boards.� �Mark Twain
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,testing scandals, and bake sale embezzlers�where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict. A tale of war that is poignant, timely, and brutally funny, Chain Gang Elementary is a One Flew over the Cuckoo�s Nest for the K-6 world.
�ON HONORS DAY, Alicia Rodriguez sobbed and searched the crowd for a friendly face. She found Richard Gray and gazed at him plaintively. They both knew the deal. He had coaxed her off the bus on the first day of school. Malliford was great, he told her. She would make lots of friends. But those were lies. Now the seven-year-old was in tears, publicly humiliated. How could he allow this after making such promises?
And there he had it: The little girl was a human sacrifice to test scores, and her treatment was a brutal refutation to Miz Rutherford�s clich�s about diversity. This was wrong, and Richard had to do something, even if it was loud and stupid.
It was a Popeye moment. Richard couldn�t stand any more. If he�d had a can of spinach, he would have swallowed it in one gulp. Instead of a whistle blast from a corncob pipe, there was a scratchy squeak of chair legs as he stood. Three hundred people in the auditorium turned to stare at the PTO president, wondering what the crazy fool who used a yo-yofor a gavel would do next.�
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About the Author
His new novel, Chain Gang Elementary (Thornbriar Press), tells the tragicomic story of a war between a reform-minded PTA president and an authoritarian principal. A Thousand Miles to Freedom, his screenplay based on the real-life adventures of escaped slaves William and Ellen Craft, was recently optioned to a Hollywood producer.
Grant grew up on a Midwestern farm and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English. He is a former newspaper journalist and served for several years as a Georgia state government spokesman. He lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife and two children. Actively involved in community affairs, he has been a PTA president at a five-star School of Excellence, an elected member of his local school council, and a soccer coach for twelve seasons.
You may contact him at
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Maybe I'm just biased because I'm a teacher, but...I loved this book! I completely related to the shady politics of public schools, the idea that "no good deed goes unpunished," and the endless fight for doing what is right by kids, not by finances, politics, or climbing the district ladder. I like that the story has scandals, secrets, mysteries, crimes, and romance...and it's well-written too! The author is hilariously sarcastic, and refreshingly intelligent. A good read, for sure :)
Richard Gray was a Father of an elementary school boy in a school district filled with drama. Gray was thrust into the world of PTO and the politics that goes with it. When the prestige school is faced with redistricting and the addition of the “apartment kids” or the poor kids and low test scores the school and PTO is in an up rise and the social battle of a lifetime. Chain Gang Elementary is one of the longest, grueling book I have read in a very long time. The plot seemed to drag on forever with a lot of small talk and chit chat between a lengthy list of characters and small roles. The main character Richard Gray was surrounded by a world of women and politics leading to a lot of back and forth conversations throughout the book making it difficult to follow and stay attentive. The book only became page turning and attention grabbing towards the end of the book, if a reader was to keep reading that far the ending of the book would be rewarding and worth the read. I felt it was very difficult sticking with the book but I must admit the last handful of chapters really intrigued me with deep plots and impeccable writing. While I recommend this book take heed only for the very dedicated reader who will stick through the very long, small print book to the sugar coated page turning plot towards the end. Jonathan Grant is a good creative writer though my copy had several spelling and grammatical errors the books print was quite small and may be hard for some to read. On a scale of 1-5 stars, I would rate this book a 2 simply because it took so long to get anywhere near the interesting turn of events that actually sparked my interest in this book. The majority of the book was boring and filled with back and forth small talk dragging on forever bouncing my attention all over the place finding it very difficult to keep track of the story line.