Guest Column: Parents need to hold school district accountable
By Janet Buchanan
What is really going on in our public school classrooms? As a teeny, tiny percentile, a parent of two children in the RPS District 205 for the past 11 years, my children and I have personally experienced the ridiculous. Please note to all the wonderful, shiny, golden delicious apples of teachers, staff, administration and volunteers out there, I am grateful for you and your efforts, but the rotten apples of the bunch are hurting all of your efforts, our district’s reputation, and most of all, wasting our students’ time and pushing frustrated parents and their involvement away.
During my 11 years as a parent in this district, the first two were wonderful at Fairview Early Childhood. It has been such a wavy ride after that. I have experienced lies from staff as well as seen many of my own and others’ complaints being swept under the rug, so to speak. My children’s rights have been violated from everything as simple as being denied the use of the restroom to being subjected to and terrorized by a violent first-grade student swearing and threatening injury of self and others in the classroom on a daily basis. It took one-and-a-half school years to get this resolved. Subjected to violation of the First Amendment with a diverse classroom being lectured by a principal reflecting the guilt of one particular deity onto students for being unkind. A class that had a few talkative students online prior to the morning bell had their PE class taken away as punishment. I have had my students being forced to write letters of apology for something they had not done, and one forced to write and sign a bomb threat sentence for comparative handwriting. To top it off, at the elementary level, I had to chaperone alongside a convicted pedophile approved to chaperone a group of third graders, and two PTO board people, both being RPS 205 employees at the time, convicted of stealing a large amount of PTO funds at one school. I have even been told by an administrator of a school that it was their school—not the community’s. I know you will say, “This is old stuff, and let it go.” Well, been there and done that. That is what too many of us have done and why I will share my current concern with the community as well as why I filed this as a formal complaint versus just calling the next in command.
My most recent incident is the funniest and could actually be on a late-night show. My child’s teacher announced to the class they would be leaving the class period early to go get take-out food for lunch. This teacher actually left the building during a paid period and left an unsupervised class that became unmanageable, chaotic and full of ridicule. Why are we paying such high salaries to people who do not want to teach and frequently leave their classroom unattended? Believe me, there is more than one teacher earning in excess of $80,000 doing this quite often.
I am tired of all the offers for safety transfers of the past to shut me up. As a minute population, I can only imagine what scenarios other parents are holding in quietly. Kudos to the two retired teachers who are stepping up and speaking out for our children and our community—a BIG THANK YOU to them. How can I or others help your group? We parents need to push together and publish, as well as file formal complaints of our issues instead of worrying about retaliation inflicted on our children for being activists for them. I would like to see other parents step forward—we need to join together and shake the dirt out of the carpet and fix this district instead of just getting frustrated. We need to weed out the bad apples.
Janet Buchanan is a parent of two children in Rockford School District 205.
From the Dec. 29-Jan. 4, 2011 issue