Model school plan worries parents

West Boulevard PTA voices concern over a plan that would replace teachers.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:58 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Parents supported the staff of West Boulevard Elementary School at a PTA meeting Monday as it faces a coming overhaul of curriculum and personnel.

Parents said it was unfair that the teachers currently in the building either have to commit to the new ideals of the school or transfer without notice or input. West Boulevard is being redesigned into what administrators are calling a model school.

“This is their school,” said Kathryn Clevenger, PTA president. “This school belongs to the teachers who have stayed and given their service. I’m sorry that the teachers have been placed under this pressure.”

Miriam Hasenclever, a counselor at West Boulevard, is one staff member under this pressure. She told parents at the meeting her perspective on the teachers’ uncertain futures.

“For 10 years I’ve had a commitment to the children here and the community that exists,” she said. “It makes me really sad to think of leaving.”

Parents worry that teachers feel the decision to use West Boulevard as the model is a statement about their teaching. “The teachers at West Boulevard have done a phenomenal job,” said Paula Elias, parent of a first-grader and a fifth-grader at West Boulevard. “We have the best teachers in the district.”

Taking recommendations from the district’s Achievement Gap Task Force to help lessen disparities between ethnic and economic groups, administrators are increasing instruction time, hiring a new staff and working with parents to see what works to boost achievement.

New staffing will begin with a new principal, who is supposed to be hired by Friday. Clevenger is on the interview committee, which will interview applicants for the next two days. Clevenger gets to ask one question and give input at the end of the interviews.

The principal will select the teaching staff by the middle of May. Many parents are not sure this selection method is the best solution.

“We are all skeptical about the principal doing the hiring,” Clevenger said. “They won’t be familiar with or worked with the school. How can they possibly be well-informed enough to decide who will teach here?”

Parents at the meeting want Clevenger to look for a principal candidate who would attempt to keep as many current teachers from the school as possible.

Parents will submit a list of questions to district officials and hope to have another meeting with them some time in the next two weeks. Clevenger encouraged parents at the meeting to communicate with administrators and the Columbia Board of Education.

“We need to stand up for teachers and support them being at this school,” she said.

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