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Concerned Clarke Parents

Concerned Clarke Parents are writing to share an update regarding the progress made by the School Board and school administration toward addressing the initial concerns articulated by our group. We would also like to encourage continued community attendance at Clarke Community School Board meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the administrative conference room at central office. We hope that you will consider attending, in order to demonstrate an ongoing community-wide commitment to strengthening safety and wellbeing at Clarke Community Schools.

In mid November, approximately four and half months ago, the Concerned Clarke Parents first contacted Superintendent Seid, Principal Kiger, and the School Board regarding concerns at the elementary school. At that time, we requested answers to 3 questions:

What is the immediate plan to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the children of Clarke Community School District?

What is the immediate plan to ensure the physical, emotional, and professional wellbeing of Clarke Community School District teachers?

What is the plan to improve communication to Clarke Community School District parents regarding violent incidents in the classroom and subsequent implementation of strategies to facilitate future safety?

Additionally, we requested access to Clarke Community School District’s written policies regarding how aggressive and disruptive behavior is handled in the classroom, including what interventions are available to administrative staff and teachers when responding to these behaviors.

Superintendent Seid and Principal Kiger graciously agreed to meet with our group on two separate occasions. Concerned Clarke Parents perceive that, over time, administration has started to better understand the nature of our concerns; our level of dedication to the education and safety of our children and their classmates; and our desire to work, benevolently, alongside the school.

We are sincerely thankful for the time and effort invested by Superintendent Seid, Principal Kiger, and the School Board. At the same time, we feel nonplussed. Two concrete actions have been taken to address our concerns: the employee satisfaction survey was completed and the anti-bullying task force was created. Our group was thrilled about the School Board moving forward with the employee satisfaction survey, and we look forward to learning what action items will be created, based on survey results. We are also excited about the creation of the anti-bullying task force, assigned to develop more concrete, detailed policies regarding aggressive behavior. We can see change on the horizon…

And yet….. four and a half months later (approximately half a school year) we have yet to receive concrete answers to fundamental parts of our four initial inquiries.

Question 1: Regarding Student Safety: Superintendent Seid and Principal Kiger shared information regarding the current interventions in place to address aggressive and disruptive behavior in the classroom. However, we were informed of no additional measures taking place to address the immediate, reoccurring safety concerns in the elementary school. And we continue to receive conflicting reports regarding the frequency of unsafe and disruptive incidents, remaining unclear on how these disruptive events are globally documented and addressed.

Question 2: Regarding Teacher Wellbeing: A district wide employee satisfaction survey has been conducted. And at the last School Board meeting, School Board members expressed looking forward to school administration returning to a future meeting with specific action items designed to address concerns brought to light in the survey. We look forward to seeing those action plans. But at this time, we still do not have concrete answers for how the school plans to protect the needs of Clarke Elementary School teachers.

Question 3: Regarding Communication of Aggressive Events to Parents: Concerned Clarke Parents, Superintendent Seid, and Principal Kiger have discussed this question at our two previous meetings. Our request to receive information when a significantly disruptive or violent event occurs in our child’s classroom (including subsequently developed interventions to facilitate future safety) was dismissed due to concerns about student confidentiality and limits on teachers’ and administration’s time. We understand the administration’s concerns. And we still believe that an ethical, reasonable, realistic solution can be found to improve parents’ awareness of safety issues that impact their children.

Request 4: Regarding Disciplinary Policies and Procedures: Concerned Clarke Parents were made aware of current Clarke Elementary School’s policies regarding aggressive and disruptive behavior. And the anti-bullying task force is currently working to make those policies more detailed and comprehensive. But our group has yet to receive clear answers regarding what interventions are available to teachers if a student is creating a safety concern in the classroom (for example: throwing chairs, assaulting another student, assaulting a teacher).

In conclusion, the purpose of this statement by Concerned Clarke Parents is to review and reinforce our initial four areas of concern; document progress that has been made; and request that our lingering questions receive concrete answers and action items.

We would like to thank the School Board, Superintendent Seid, and Principal Kiger for taking our concerns seriously and continuing to work toward change. We look forward to continued work with the School Board, school administration, teachers, and our fellow community members to improve the safety and wellbeing of Clarke Community School District’s students and teachers. And we hope to see many of our fellow community members at the next School Board meeting on April 11.

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