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School Board VP says parent think principals are stifled

April 08, 2001

School Board VP says parent think principals are stifled



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said some parents think principals are being silenced by staff at the Washington County Board of Education central office in the way they can respond to parents about certain issues.

She said at a recent School Board meeting that she's heard the concerns from parents from at least four different schools in the county.

"I've received some phone calls that I find particularly disturbing," Wagner said.

She said parents think central office staff is pressuring principals into responding to their concerns in limiting ways. She also said she got a similar impression when she raised issues as a parent about the future of the Project Challenge program two years ago.

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"I certainly hope our staff is not pressuring principals to silence their concerns," she said. "I think in some ways it's a staff issue."

Wagner didn't go into detail about the issues parents asked about and would not say what staff members were involved because she said it was a personnel issue.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said at the same meeting that he wasn't aware of the situation and that he doesn't know of any central office staff members who have told principals what they can't discuss with parents.

"I've just never been involved in that type of discussion," Bartlett said. "If that's going on somewhere, ... I need to look at the specifics of it."

William McKinley, the board's executive director of support services, also asked for more specifics in order to look into the issue.

"Until we get to some specifics on this, we can't do a whole lot with it," McKinley said.

Wagner said parents are hesitant to make their concerns known to the School Board for a fear of additional pressure being put on principals.

On the other hand, Bartlett said other parents might be afraid to take the issue to the school.

"I don't know where the problem is," Bartlett said.

School Board member Doris Nipps said parents should notify the school first if they have a concern.

"Parents sometimes call board members and want us to fix something, and the school doesn't even know there's a problem."

School Board member Roxanne Ober said parents should be encouraged to speak with the board about concerns.

"We need to look at parents as part of the system," Ober said. "It's our responsibility to encourage them to come."

Under School Board policy, residents are encouraged to express opinions and educational concerns to the school administration, the staff, to any appointed bodies and to the board, verbally and/or in writing.

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