The Woodward News

December 12, 2012

Board hears from concerned parent

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Monday's Woodward Public Schools Board of Education meeting opened with comments from a parent who was offended by a remark from a school employee.

Stacy Marsh explained to the board that on Nov. 5, she had been contacted by Highland Park Elementary and told her daughter had not received a lunch that day.  Marsh was told her daughter had been refused a meal because the girl had failed to pay for one that morning, which is the time students pay for their lunches.

Marsh said she then showed up to the school to speak with the cafeteria worker who had refused her daughter a meal.  

She said she attempted to explain that her daughter had the intention of paying, but just had not done so at the right time.

Marsh claimed the cafeteria worker responded, "I was under the impression most of you all don't give a damn anyway," which Marsh took as a slur against her race as an African American.

Marsh explained that her family was new to the Woodward school district and found it upsetting that something like this had happened, and that it had noticeably upset her daughter as well.

The mother said she immediately began seeking resolution to the matter on Nov. 5 and was told by school officials she would be contacted shortly.  However, she said it wasn't until Nov. 27 that she was able to get in contact with Superintendent Tim Merchant after trying to contact Assistant Superintendent Tom Fisher.  Marsh said Merchant had apologized for the delay.

However, she said wanted to make the school board aware of the situation as well as the amount of time it took for her to be able to speak with administrators about the issue.

"I'm just disappointed something like this could linger for so long. I feel like it's the elephant in the room and it just needs addressed so it can be resolved. I'd just like an apology," Marsh said.

Board President Dr. Don Dale told Marsh they were unsure of the next steps to be taken but they would be sure to get back with her soon.

The News contacted the superintendent's office on Tuesday to try to learn more about what the district's follow up procedure would be for the incident.  However, Merchant stated he was unable to comment further on the matter due to the involvement of school personnel.



EXECUTIVE SESSION ON STUDENT DISCIPLINE

Following Marsh's address, the board entered an executive session in regards to the disciplining of a minor student.

Once they'd emerged from the executive session, the board voted in support of the superintendent's recommendation for discipline.

No details about the type of discipline or whatever incident prompted the discipline was discussed during the open meeting.

"We are not allowed to discuss anything regarding the student including name, what the incident might have been, or any discipline that might be dealt with that because of FERPA which is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act," Merchant said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) website, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of students and their education records which applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the USDE.



SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT FOCUSES ON DISTRICT GRADE AND TEACHER CONCERNS

Merchant then delivered his superintendent's report, which focused on the recent district A-F grades, as well as the needs voiced by teachers in the area.

The Woodward Public School District recently received an overall C grade as part of the state Education Department's new A-F grading system.  But Merchant said he doesn't feel that grade accurately reflects the quality of education offered by Woodward's public education system.

"We don't see these grades as a reflection of the total school system, but more as a snapshot of how students did one particular day on one particular test," he said.

However, the superintendent admitted that the district does realize there is some room for improvement.

"We'll continue to support the key areas we need work on, but these A-F report cards are not a reflective grade of the total education of a child," Merchant said.

He then went on to address some concerns voiced by teachers throughout the district as part of a recent survey.

Merchant said some of the teachers' biggest concerns with the school system include: the lack of time to teach students or establish relationships with them, the sizes of the classes, lack of motivation from students and lack from support from student's parents, and technological problems from outdated computers to broken equipment.

On a positive note, the superintendent said, "I think these (issues) are solvable."

While no specific solutions were laid out Monday, Merchant said he wanted to assure teachers that their concerns had been heard and the district would be looking into the matters.



HIRES APPROVED, DEED CORRECTED

The school board also held a second executive session Monday night to consider more staff hires.  

After returning to open session, the board approved hiring the following personnel: Lynda Knight as a bus driver; Sara Quintana as a Highland Park teacher; Mark Zadorozny as a middle school teacher and high school assistant baseball coach; Sarah Cate as an ECC and Middle School Special Ed paraprofessional; Lisa Huerson as a Cedar Heights counselor; and Ellie Bridwell as an ECC teacher.

Finally the school board approved a corrective deed of property.

Merchant explained that the property in question was land southeast of Woodward, which at one point was considered as a site for the school's new ag barn.  At the time the deed was written it was signed to the possession of Woodward Public Schools. For legal reasons, the superintendent said the name on the title had to be changed to Independent School District Number I001 of Woodward County, Oklahoma.

"It'll cost us nothing, it doesn't  change anything, it's just something the attorney wanted to change," Merchant said.