Parents share concerns about Washington Middle School
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The school board may have pushed the vote on whether or not to renew a contract with American Institutes for Research (AIR) to July 15, but that didn’t stop parents from sharing their concerns at the June 17 meeting.
Parent Melody Linsmeyer said it has been an exhausting endeavor doing whatever she can to be an advocate for her son.
“I’m that parent that advocates for my kids,” Linsmeyer said. “It is emotionally and energetically exhausting. I have been so disappointed, even more this year, especially with the lack of communication.”
Linsmeyer said she reached out to Washington Middle School teachers and staff as early as October for assistance for her son and it has been a year-long battle of unanswered emails and phone calls, lapses in contact and un-followed through promises.
“I am still looking for answers,” Linsmeyer said. “I started asking for help in October and it’s June now.”
Other parents said the challenge of authority, lack of respect toward teachers, behavioral issues and lack of consequences have become the norm at Washington.
They said the lapse of communication from teachers, staff and the school board has only elevated the problems.
“When a teacher sat before you and told you these things were happening in your district, you were surprised and promised you would improve Washington Middle School,” said parent Samantha Craw. “I want you to know what that environment looks like from the eyes of an 11- or 12-year-old child. I want you to understand the uncertainty and concerns that a parent faces when they find themselves having to send their children there.”
Craw said the services provided by AIR hasn’t given the teachers and district employees the empowerment they need.
“You have hired the teachers, they know how to teach,” Craw said. “What they are struggling with is being able to provide the appropriate discipline and natural consequences. I appreciate the changes and effort you have made, but I challenge you to keep the momentum going. Help this school obtain the help they need.”
Craw said the money would be better spent on support staff for in the classrooms, in-services on how to handle the behavior issues and challenge students and teaching students on leading the change.
Other parents agreed the money should be used for other resources.
“My suggestion would be that the money that you guys are going to give this organization to help turnaround Washington would be better spent on social workers and liaisons between social workers and families – someone that can help direct families,” Linsmeyer said. “Because it is very hard to navigate.”
Board members thanked parents for coming to the board with their thoughts and sharing their concerns with them.
“To take the time to put this together and come and share this information with the board is very courageous and I thank you for that,” Trustee Kristina Shelton said.
Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau extended her apologies to the parents who spoke.
“I want to apologize,” Sitnikau said. “You have done something really important for other families that don’t have the courage to come and sit in this room and talk to us and relay these concerns. You are definitely doing something that I’m hoping will be a game changer for kids, who need our support, that don’t have families that can come and sit in this room, who don’t have the energy and the time, frankly, it takes to advocate for their kids. That should never be expected of families and we should be doing whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t happen and continue to happen.”
Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld told parents she appreciated their honesty and wants to talk with them further about the specific issues they have experienced.
“As we move forward, you raised some really important points that we’ve had internally for discussion – communication is key, parent involvement is key and I think there are opportunities to improve,” Langenfeld said. “Obviously, we have been working hard. Clearly it isn’t enough yet.”
The decision before the board at its July 15 meeting will be whether or not to renew a contract with AIR for year two to help tackle the issues at Washington Middle School at a cost of $286,000.
This expenditure is on top of the $394,000 that the board approved last year.
The vote was originally set for the June 17 meeting, but was pushed to July after board members requested more information from staff on what has been accomplished over the last year and those things that still need work.
These reports are expected for the July 15 meeting.
Craw called on the board to be well informed when they vote next month.
“The vote you take will affect over 700 kids that attend Washington,” Craw said.