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Audit response

Bill Lawson Stacey Whalley asks a question Monday night while another parent attempts to ask a question during a question and answer period following Maumelle Middle School’s meeting to respond to a critical state audit of the school. After about 30 minutes of questions, Superintendent Jerry Guess shut down the meeting telling those who still hand their hands up they can speak with them after the meeting.
Bill Lawson Stacey Whalley asks a question Monday night while another parent attempts to ask a question during a question and answer period following Maumelle Middle School’s meeting to respond to a critical state audit of the school. After about 30 minutes of questions, Superintendent Jerry Guess shut down the meeting telling those who still hand their hands up they can speak with them after the meeting.

Maumelle Middle School and Pulaski County Special School District administrators spent a couple of hours Monday evening responding to the scathing audit just recently made available to parents and the public.

As soon as principal Charlotte Wallace opened the floor to questions hands went up around the room as parent after parent asked questions about the audit and complained about specific issues their children were having at the school.

Bullying and a lack of discipline were the primary complaints parents had as parent after parent outlined what they called bullying by older more aggressive students.

But most parents thought the schools response to the audit was too little too late. It will take years t o implement this changes, one parent said. These should have been started on years ago.

One parent complained her eight grade son didn’t do as well this year on standardized tests as he had in previous years because he had been bullied.

When asked for specifics, the mother said because her son was more intellectual than athletic some kids called him gay and he suffered greatly because of it.She said she’d complained to school officials but nothing was done about it.

Bigger kids in his class teased and harassed her son to the point he wasn’t able to concentrate on his studies and his grades have suffered.

Another student complained that he’d spent the day at school watching 1980s movies he’d seen a dozen times.It wasn’t background for any class but rather a babysitting service since his teacher called in sick, he said. There was a substitute but all they did was play the video, he said. And he said the class was scheduled to spend the next day watching, parents say, another 1980s movie.

Nearly the first two hours of the meeting was spent with administrators outlining the steps they planned to take to implement the major criticisms of the audit committee last October.

In addition to Wallace, Superintendent Jerry Guess, June Haynie, the Arkansas Department of Education’s director of scholastic achievement led the discussion along with Rachel Blackwell, the schools instructional facilitator, counselor Kelly DeVun and teachers Kristen Herring, Craig Tyson, Kami Anderson, Jennifer Calloway and Ellen Oliver.

Several hundred parents packed the gymnasium, listened attentively to the group’s presentation and came alive during the question and answer period.

Stacey Whatley, mother of an 8th grader at the school, complained that teachers get in trouble if they write so many disciplinary referrals.

She said if they exceed a certain number of referrals, especially on minority students, the teachers are forced by the district to take racial sensitivity training.

Rather than trying to resolve issues the teacher is punished, one student said.

Whatley said the major problems the school has right now is disruptive students, bullying, students trying to be funny and using vulgar language.

She said the bad behavior started two years ago and hasn’t gotten any better.

Another student complained that the students who made the bomb threats last summer are still in school and still creating trouble, he said.

They’re’s still a lot of bullying at the school — mostly verbal, still, he said.

One outspoken parent asked how the school could have ever done so poorly in the audit when they’re primary job is to prepare the instruction.

Wallace promised to add the audit response to the schools website asap so parents can study them.

While not all problems were solved, several parents said the open dialogue has fostered a greater understanding and could only be considered positive.

One of the organizers of the parents movement, Russ Galbraith said, “I don’t think MMS overall is a ‘rough’ school. I think overall the school is safe for most kids. The problem is that by her own admission during the meeting, Ms. Wallace has dropped the ball on establishing a mission, vision and core beliefs for her now almost two year old administration. We’ll never know how the culture of the school could have changed or improved in two years because the Wallace Doctrine appears to be to observe for a year and a half, wait for an audit to tell you what to do, then try to implement as many recommendations as possible with the caveat that results might not be seen for 3-5 years. That’s great for kids

presently in K-3 but not for current students or large groups of our elementary school students who are planning to attend our community middle school. Many parents voiced that the way things are going with subs, videos, and the overall academic environment is unacceptable. Ms. Wallace responded multiple times that she agreed with the parents’ assessment. The

question that was not answered is: “If you agree, Ms. Wallace, then what are you going to do about it so that this type of thing does not happen again? When? How? Who?

Parent Melissa Krebs said, “While the parents appreciate the opportunity to meet with school and district administration, I believe there was general dissatisfaction with the timelines presented for implementation. For us, three to five years is too late for our children. Waiting until four months after the audit results were presented to the staff to get parents involved in changes is unacceptable. Parents clearly expressed their desire for more individual accountability from both the faculty and the students. In addition, the meeting gave parents an opportunity to express concerns regarding student supervision and discipline issues that must be addressed immediately. Administration has made numerous changes over the last several weeks. It is encouraging to hear that more changes are coming. For parents, they cannot come quickly enough. Our school needs parental and community support and input. I hope the parents who attended the meeting last night will continue to make school involvement a high priority going forward.

One parent complained about the number of security guards at the meeting.

Several state legislators also attended the meeting, quietly meeting with parents.

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