Parents protest change in teacher move at Castle Heights Elementary
A move by the Carbon School District administration to relocate a teacher from a second grade classroom at Castle Heights Elementary to a Wellington Elementary kindergarten met with some stiff opposition from some parents during a special meeting held to discuss the situation last Wednesday morning.
The district announced the decision to move the teacher because they said that the planned number of students that they had expected to attend Castle Heights had not materialized, and that Wellington Elementary had two kindergarten classes that were too large. Consequently they decided to create a third kindergarten with the teacher from the Price elementary school.
Calls concerning the change to the school district and to Castle Heights principal Jan Cox prompted Carbon District superintendent Patsy Bueno to call the meeting which was conducted by elementary education director Mike O'Shea.
O'Shea began the meeting explaining the situation and by providing the numbers in the classrooms at each school.
"We understand your concerns and we have been staving this off for weeks, but the number of students at Castle Heights just before Labor Day show that we needed to do this," said O'Shea. "We looked at every possible scenario we could come up with, and we found this plan to be the least disruptive."
O'Shea pointed out that after school some movement in student population usually takes place and the district kept waiting for Castle Heights to fill up, but it didn't.
"With 27 students in each kindergarten class at Wellington, we just don't have a choice," she stated.
But the room with over 40 parents, guardians and grand parents were not convinced by the districts reasoning, nor did any of them seem to support the decision. In fact the meeting became somewhat heated at times concerning the proposition that 23 second graders would be leaving a teacher that they had had since the beginning of school and be relocated to other classrooms in the school.
"Three weeks with a teacher is a long time for seven year old kids to be with a teacher and then have them jerked away," said David Wilkinson, a parent of one of the students being moved. "If you are going to move a teacher, move one from the sixth grade because that would not be as much of an adjustment for them."
O'Shea explained that a teacher needs to have early childhood experience to teach in kindergarten and that the teacher being moved to Wellington has that. She said the sixth grade teachers in the school do not have that experience.
"If we did this to the sixth grade then the sixth grade parents would be at this meeting instead of you," stated O'Shea. "This is the only decision we could make considering the circumstances."
Wilkinson then said that the grade level has already been disrupted this year because one of the teachers has been out on sick leave for some time.
Parent Keith Mason said that he felt that some parents he had talked to thought that the decision had something to do with the fact the move was being made from Castle Heights.
"Many feel that Castle Heights is being penalized," he stated. "With Wellington having more than a full staff and then another teacher being placed there from Castle Heights just doesn't seem right. To ask Castle Heights kids to sacrifice when Wellington is the school with the problem seems inappropriate."
Brett Cammans, another parent agreed.
"Castle Heights is paying the price for Wellington," he told O'Shea.
Some parents expressed worry about the long term affects that this change might have on their kids. A number said that the children have already bonded with their teacher and taking that teacher away at "this late date" could affect them for the whole year. One parent pointed out that there was a similar problem with classes last year and that some of the same kids are being affected with this change too.
O'Shea said that some of the problem in the situation was that the district is having a hard time attracting a kindergarten teacher that is qualified and also having a hard time getting aides who can work in the schools.
Some parents pleaded with the district to take some more time.
"Why don't you give it a few more weeks before you make this decision,"said Rebecca Mason. "Maybe we can find another solution."
Some parents complained that they were not involved in the decision in any way and felt blind sided by the move. Others suggested that the district just advertise until they find a teacher and then hire that person to take the extra class at Wellington.
Bueno, who was also attending the meeting, explained that the district has a lot of different responsibilities, including one that has to do with financial viability.
"Part of what we do is to provide for the financial soundness of the district," she said. "We looked the numbers (of students) and we just couldn't make it work any other way. We are funded by the weighted pupil unit, and there just isn't enough to hire another teacher. I know that each of these numbers has a face on them, but we are trying to do what we think is right. Had we known that the numbers were going to be like this we would have done things differently right from the start."
Bueno also explained that since the district has open enrollment boundaries, that complicates things because some of the students going to Castle Heights live in Wellington.
"I just see this as robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Keith Mason toward the end of the meeting. "I thought we had honesty, trust and involvement in these kinds of issues. Now I'm mad and I totally disagree with your decision."
As the meeting ended Bueno extended an olive branch to the parents and said that they would go over the plan one more time and see if anything else could be done.
However, in a Friday phone interview, two days after the initial meeting, Bueno said that they could not find another option and had already made the change because they just didn't have another way to do it.
"With this change Wellington's three kindergarten classes have 19 students a piece instead of 27 and the Castle Heights second grades are only at 23 each, where as before they were at 17 to 18 students," she said. "I know nothing generates more concerns or anxiety than our kids situations. We really have tried to be as sensitive as we can concerning this move."