Red terriers: Scotland parents protest teacher moves

Two dozen Scotland Elementary parents — some wearing red shirts to show off the school’s color, others donning shirts with its mascot, a scruffy Scottish terrier — turned out at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting in protest of a staffing shakeup that would see six teachers change grades before the 2018-19 school year.

“I won’t quietly watch an upstanding school community be pulled apart,” said parent Rayda Krell of Wooster Heights Drive. “I’m being told that nothing can be done; I think we can do better.”

She asked acting Superintendent Dr. Robert Miller to overrule Scotland Principal Joanna Genovese’s decision to move the teachers from their current grade levels. Krell said Miller had already indicated that he would not do so.

Last week, Krell protested the staffing changes in a letter to The Press. In it, she said that “there has been no information shared regarding how this action will benefit student learning.”

In a response to the letter, Miller said the move would “energize and promote academic growth for both our students and our staff.”

He explained that the teachers being moved would stay within their “grade band” — kindergarten through second grade, or third through fifth grade.

“By keeping teachers within their grade band, they have the opportunity to gain a broader understanding of the curriculum across grade levels, and students benefit from that knowledge,” Miller said.

In total, four parents spoke to the board on Tuesday night, all in favor of keeping teachers in their current grades at the school, which currently enrolls 372 students.

The parent remarks were made during the public comment section of the meeting. Because of board policy, members of the school board did not respond to any of the statements or issues raised by parents.

Larry Dunn, a resident of Oak Knoll Road, took issue with the fact that the staffing shakeup is happening at only one school.

“Wouldn’t all schools in the district need to do this as a matter of parity?” Dunn asked the board.

He suggested the changes would not have occurred under former principal Mark Solomon, for whom “the teachers and parents would walk through walls,” Dunn said.

“It’s the high percentage of forced change that is of concern,” Dunn added. He said the six full-time staffing changes, along with the hiring of one new teacher and three long-term substitutes, would mean 10 teachers at the school would be met with a new grade in the fall.

Catherine Neligan, another concerned Scotland parent, said she had been “searching for a rationale” behind the planned changes. The only reasons she had been able to find, she said, were as a response to poor state test results, or to shuffle out ineffective staff — neither of which matched circumstances at the school.

Whatever the reason, Neligan suggested the schools take action in order to save the “parent outreach that is crumbling before you.”