Parents speak out at school board meeting

Parents stole the show at the Orcas Island School Board meeting on Thursday, May 26. Fueled by concern for the fifth-grade class, worried parents (and grandparents) each took time to address the board. The parents say there are multiple issues not being handled by the school.

On May 25, Orcas Island School District announced that an elementary teacher had been put on administrative leave following a physical incident with a student.

Mike Douglas began the discussion by noting there are three key points the board needs to focus on when it comes to the fifth-graders at Orcas Elementary: bullying; classroom structure; and the future for this particular group of students. Continuing that the school is “long on policy, short on consequences.”

Douglas referenced two instances of bullying he had personally witnessed while visiting the school. He noted the response from the adults was less than desirable. He added that while observing the teacher currently being investigated teaching, there would be five to eight minutes of instruction before a student disrupted the class.

“We kind of failed these kids this year,” said Deb Jones. She stated that she and other parents had approached the teacher at the beginning of the school year about their concerns and support.

“It’s been a difficult and challenging year as far as communication,” said Tom Rubottom, adding that parents of the students were firmly committed to the school, but felt that the school did not return that commitment.

Jennifer Brennock had written down a long list of ways she feels the school system had failed the students, calling out specific incidents as relayed to her by her son. She stated that she personally faced many issues with the school itself with trying to get her son help for his learning style and anxieties.

“We are very invested in what happens in this class moving forward,” said parent Keri Lago. She made a comparison of how the school handles a break out of lice at the school versus the lack of communication regarding the issues with the class. “We, too, want to see these kids get the support they need.”

“There’s some really difficult children in that classroom,” said Bruce Dalusio, who shared that his son has been relentlessly bullied since third-grade. He said there has been a lack of support from the school, especially for the teacher. Dalusio continued by saying that he fully supports the teacher who is being investigated.

Tiffany Kay said there had been several issues with bullying in the school which was not being properly addressed.

“It’s too much for one teacher to handle,” said Kay. “You’re losing children because of the issue not being addressed properly.”

The parents’ pleas were listened to by the board which agreed they will begin to discuss a resolution immediately.

“We want all the kids to be successful,” said board director Tony Ghazel.

“I commend every one of you for stepping up here,” said board member Scott Lancaster. “It’s not going to fall on deaf ears.”