NEW BERLIN - The situation that drove 30 Orchard Lane parents to the New Berlin School Board's June 12 meeting with a petition they said was signed by 85 people is now becoming more clear.
Parents expressed dissatisfaction over the school district administration's response to their concerns.
A pregnant teacher who was kicked in the stomach by a student was one of last straws for alarmed parents, who organized to fight for more safety at Orchard Lane Elementary, one parent said.
The petition appealed to school district officials and to the school board for help dealing with a level of violence they see as alarming at the school, 2015 S. Sunnyslope Road.
What they wanted
They asked to meet with Superintendent Joe Garza. Instead, they each received an email from him saying they should meet with the principal and vice principal.
"We have a team of qualified administrators focused on doing what is best for all students. We are confident our administrative team can either resolve the parents’ individual concerns or help them understand how and why we approach certain situations the way that we do."
The administrative team members will share parents' feedback with him, Garza said.
However, the parents, now organized into the Parent Advocacy Group, say it's too late for such a case-by-case approach.
"The reason parents formed this group was that similar issues were happening across many grades and classrooms which points to a building problem," wrote one of the parents in an email, on the promise of anonymity.
Not only that, parents, also promised anonymity, said that well over a dozen families had already met with the principal or had discussed situations via email with her.
Some parents had contact over several years, they said.
Garza said many who signed the petition never complained to the school administration.
"Of the 40 or so families represented on the letter, according to our records and recollection, a large majority never once shared specific concerns with building administration," he said in an email.
"For those that did, we were able to have conversations about how other students’ behaviors were specifically affecting their child and what could be done to help," he said.
Many parents are afraid to complain, fearing retaliation, the parents said.
However, the parents who did contact administrators said they were told that a plan was in place, but that the school couldn't say anything about it because of HIPAA, federal legislation protecting medical data, the parents said. The parents waited, but the incidents increased, they said.
"The OL administration has had time to respond effectively to parents and has not done so, which was clear by escalating issues over the course of the past few years," one of the parents said in an email. "If the 'plan' they had was working, then conditions wouldn't have gotten worse."
Garza said last week in an email that parents who had met with the Orchard Lane administration could meet with the director of pupil services or the director of elementary teaching and learning, along with the building administration.
He said he was aware of one such meeting request, and the meeting already took place.