CES staff make their opinions known
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE ” Tensions at Carbondale Elementary School eased last week when Roaring Fork School District administrators took two days to meet with every single staff member at the school.
The result? The proverbial cards are on the table.
“I think everyone was very frank,” said Fred Wall, Roaring Fork superintendent. District officials scheduled half-hour long meetings on Monday and Tuesday with every teacher, secretary, nurse and custodian at the school.
“Nobody held back,” said Wall. “We have pages and pages of notes. Now, we need to go through that information and get back to the staff with a plan.”
On the surface, the short answer to the question of “What’s wrong at this school?” can be attributed to the management style of its principal, Anna DeLay, who took the helm at the beginning of the school year.
But there are complex issues surrounding increased state and federal mandates that have forced schools like Carbondale Elementary and principals like DeLay into difficult decisions regarding student achievement and school performance.
In this instance, DeLay, confronted with the school’s history of low and declining academic performance, met with some ” not all ” teachers early in the school year to reassign teachers and students to reduce class sizes.
Creating smaller student-teacher ratios is a method DeLay used to improve learning at the urban Dallas school she headed prior to coming to Carbondale.
DeLay said she and a group of teachers placed priority on getting lower-achieving students into smaller classes.
She said she informed all the school’s teachers in advance of the changes that were going to take place. Some teachers fully supported the change and some teachers resisted.
DeLay said she informed parents of the changes in October by sending a letter home with students on a Friday afternoon, announcing the changes would take place on the following Monday morning. That left some parents feeling circumvented and frustrated.
The other side
Carbondale resident Artie Rothman is one of those frustrated parents. On Thursday, he said the district office’s consistent lack of communication ” in this instance and at other times ” has caused “a real problem that’s not resolvable.”
Although his children don’t attend Carbondale Elementary, he’s part of a Carbondale group he estimated has about a dozen members called Parents for Positive Change.
“We’ve been slapped down too many times,” said Rothman. “There’s so much mistrust and miscommunication with the district office.”
Rothman said he’s not necessarily against DeLay’s decision to reduce class size, but is against the way decisions are made within the district.
“It shows a total breakdown between teachers and kids and parents,” Rothman said. “The main problem is communication.”
Can it get better?
DeLay said Friday that in retrospect, she would have approached the changes she made at the school differently.
She said that prior to the changes, she did hold a meeting for second-grade teachers and parents, but would have expanded that to include everyone.
“I didn’t know the community,” said DeLay. “Had I known the community better, I would have met with parents and teachers at every grade level before implementing a change.”
Third-grade teacher Andrea Chacos said that although she can’t speak for others, she fully supports DeLay. But she added that DeLay’s style is difficult for some teachers.
“Mrs. DeLay is very solution-driven,” Chacos said. “She doesn’t want to talk a lot about problems. If we have a problem, she wants us to figure it out and come to her with a solution.”
Chacos said the meetings with staff last week were a good step in resolving tensions.
“I definitely feel it’s a lot more pleasant here this week,” Chacos said.
Wall also supports DeLay and said he is confident that he, DeLay and other district administrators can improve their communication with teachers and parents.
“We need to create effective ways to deal with stressful situations,” Wall said. “This has shown us everyone needs to be on the same page on the missions and the directions of our schools.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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