The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2006

In This Issue

SPECIALFEATURES
REGULARCOLUMNS
ANDTHEREST

Special Feature
HSLDA Staff Changes
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A Fond Farewell

After 14 years as a staff attorney at Home School Legal Defense Association, Scott Somerville is leaving HSLDA to focus on a new ministry to homeschooling parents, especially dads. “It has been the greatest privilege and honor of my life to be able to work here,” said Scott at a farewell reception held at HSLDA in late September 2006.

Before coming to HSLDA, Scott was president of the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire. While fighting to prevent burdensome regulations on New Hampshire homeschoolers, Scott’s interest in law was kindled. He says, “I was driving home from one of these New Hampshire meetings and my wife, Marcia, said, ‘You should be a lawyer.‘ ”

Mike Donnelly, left, and Scott Somerville share insights on the portico of the Home School Legal Defense Association office building.

Upon graduating from Harvard Law School in 1992, Scott did just that by joining HSLDA’s legal team of nine attorneys. Since then, he has handled thousands of legal contacts on behalf of families in 38 different states.

“Scott’s heart is with the homeschooling movement,” says Mike Farris, HSLDA chairman and general counsel. “He loves the cause of homeschooling; he loves the families; he loves the cause of Christ most of all.”

“So many parents call HSLDA when their worst nightmare has come true,” Scott adds. “To be able to remind them of God’s faithfulness and to provide meaningful help in their hour of greatest need is a unique ministry.”

Having homeschooled all six of their children, Scott and his wife, Marcia, are now pouring more of their time and energy into ministering in other ways to homeschooling parents. “When I got to HSLDA, I thought the biggest threat was the truant officer,” says Scott. “We moved into a new phase where the biggest threat was the social worker . . . I am genuinely convinced that the biggest threat today is the disengaged dad.”

SCOTT & MARCIA SOMERVILLE are excited about sharing insights, encouragement, and practical tips with homeschooling parents across the country through their new seminars.

Beginning this fall, Scott and Marcia will be offering five weekend and one-day seminars for couples, moms, dads, and single adults. “I've had 20 years to make all the mistakes I can think of as a homeschool dad,” laughs Scott. Now he will have the opportunity to help others learn those lessons through a special weekend session for homeschool dads called “Principles for Principals.” The session will encourage fathers with biblical insights and practical tips for becoming stronger leaders of their families.

“We’re excited to see how God will use Scott in his new role,’ says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “The same qualities that made him a strong defender of homeschool freedom at HSLDA will help him strengthen homeschooling families in their own communities.”

Although Scott will remain Of Counsel to HSLDA, his daily presence, quirky sense of humor, and deep-seated mercy will be sorely missed. Characteristically, on his last day in the office, Scott couldn't resist sharing his favorite lawyer joke. “Two men looked at a tombstone. It read, ‘Here lies a lawyer and a Christian.’ One of them said, ‘How tacky—putting two people in one grave.’ HSLDA provides a unique opportunity to be a Christian and a lawyer.”

To view Scott and Marcia’s speaking schedule or to see seminar topics, visit http://www.lampstand press.com/content.htm.

A Hearty Welcome

Home School Legal Defense Association extends a hearty welcome to Michael P. Donnelly, who has joined us to fill Scott Somerville's recently vacated position as staff attorney. A homeschooling father since 2001, Mike will be handling homeschooling issues in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.

“Mike Donnelly is an outstanding addition to the HSLDA attorney staff,” says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “Not only does he have the necessary academic and professional background, but more importantly, he has the spiritual foundation.”

In September, MIKE & PATTY DONNELLY moved their family from New Hampshire to Virginia so Mike could join HSLD’s legal team.

While a cavalry officer in the United States Army, Mike served as a tank platoon leader in the First Persian Gulf War. After nearly five years of active duty, he attended Boston University School of Law and graduated as a Paul J. Liacos Scholar with honors in 1997. Mike was admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar the same year.

After their first two children were born, Mike and his wife, Patty, realized that the public schools conflicted with their goals to train up their children in the “wisdom and fear of the Lord.”

Mike says, “I remember hearing about the concept of homeschooling from a neighbor and thought, ‘This is the answer.’ ” Except for their oldest son’s brief stint in a Christian school during 1st grade, the Donnellys have homeschooled all of their children.

Mike and Patty first heard about HSLDA at a Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators conference in 2000. “As an attorney, I initially figured I could handle any legal issues we might face,” says Mike. “However, I quickly changed my mind after I realized the breadth and scope of what HSLDA was involved in . . . we’ve been satisfied members ever since 2002.”

Following his graduation from law school, Mike cofounded an Internet marketing and advertising firm, which he helped manage for eight years. In 2005, Mike and Patty moved their family to New Hampshire, where Mike started a private law practice after being admitted to the New Hampshire State Bar. Shortly after the move, Mike also joined the board of governors of Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire (CHENH), the same organization where Scott Somerville had previously been president. Mike continues to serve as a board member for CHENH, and also serves on the board of directors for the Marketplace Network, a ministry dedicated to equipping Christians to integrate their faith and their work.

“The Lord had orchestrated my involvement with CHENH so that HSLDA could become aware of me and my skills,” says Mike. After HSLDA contacted him about the staff attorney position, Mike says he “became increasingly convinced that the Lord was clearly leading both Patty and me toward this decision.” In September 2006, Mike and Patty left their 20-acre farm in the town where they had both been raised, and moved to Northern Virginia.

The Donnellys now live in Leesburg, Virginia, with their five children, ranging in age from 1 to 9. “Patty and I are humbled that the Lord would call us to HSLDA,” says Mike. “We are grateful for the opportunity to serve families who are faithfully educating their children at home.”