There have been a number of concerns raised by parents like you and me about the state of affairs at our children’s school. Many of us have voiced our concern regarding the safety and security of the students, pervasive discipline problems inside and outside the classroom, declining academic performance schoolwide, and the persistent disruption and alarming circumstances that occur due to the presence of the Hopper center on school campus.
I know that many of you have been fighting this battle for far longer than I. No one has listened. Promises have been made and promises have been broken. No acceptable action has been taken, and furthermore there continues to be a denial by school and county administration that a problem even exists.
However, if you’re listening to your kids you know a problem exists. They are seeing things that children their age shouldn’t see. We are being forced to explain things to them that they are not developmentally ready to know about, but they know because they’ve seen it at school. Precious learning time is being spent on the discipline of a few at great cost to the academic development of many. Our good teachers leave because they are not supported and cannot withstand the personal cost it takes for them to remain there.
It’s time for us to say, enough is enough. We will not stand for it any longer. Our kids deserve better, and we will not rest until we get it. While administration may not have felt compelled to act in the past as we’ve trickled in one by one and begged and pleaded for their help, we will act together as one voice to demand swift and serious action.
I have secured a meeting with Walt Griffin, superintendent of Seminole County Schools that will be open to any and all concerned parents. While it is a small victory simply to have secured the meeting, the fight has just begun.
If we want significant change to occur, we have to work for it. We’ve seen in past attempts that they are not concerned in the least about these issues and do not want to address them, so we must force their hand. The greatest tool at our disposal is our collective voice to stand together and tell them that we will not permit it any longer.
We will conduct a preliminary meeting prior to meeting with the Superintendent to organize ourselves as a cohesive group. This meeting will take place on Monday, February 26th at 6:30 p.m. at the home of a parent. For the address of the meeting, please send me an email at email@example.com or leave a comment on this post and I will be in touch with you.
At this preliminary meeting, we will work to identify solutions that we demand for our school that we can then take to Mr. Griffin. So, if you’d like to be a part of this meeting, here’s what you need to do beforehand.
- Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bulleted outline of your concerns for the school. In order to be most efficient with our time during the preliminary meeting, we will develop in advance a comprehensive list of core issues to be addressed. I will organize and consolidate topics of concern so we can focus our meeting time on brainstorming solutions. At the conclusion of the meeting, we will have solidified the topics to be addressed with the Superintendent and defined the actions we will require of school leadership.
- Forward this link to any parent you know who may be interested. This meeting with the Superintendent is not a secret. Donna Weaver as well as her superiors are aware that the meeting is happening and will be present for it. There is no reason to fear speaking up or rocking the boat. I already rocked it; it’s going to be fine.
- Come to the preliminary meeting as well as the meeting with the Superintendent. There will be a few of us who are more willing than others to speak in the meeting with the Superintendent, and that is okay. In fact, there should be some form of organized leadership in order to ensure effectiveness. However, it is still important for you to come even if you don’t plan to speak. Your presence shows that you care and that you’re willing to stand with the group to affect change. Moms, Dads, grandparents or caregivers- if you care for a child in this school, you are welcome to come.
As I receive details on the time and place of the meeting with the Superintendent, I will send an email to each of you who have contacted me with concerns. I will post this information here as well. I look forward to hearing from you and standing with you in the care of our kids.
As this letter has already begun to circulate, people are asking what exactly has happened. I don’t have an exhaustive list for you, as I have not spoken to other parents in detail about any of these issues until 3 days ago after I decided on my own to send a letter to the school specifically about my child. I told one friend that I sent the letter, and then more and more people continued to share that they also have done or are doing the same. What I’ve learned in the last 3 days is that a lot of people have different stories, and the purpose of getting together is to share those stories and identify the issues at hand. I believe that as parents have gone individually to administration to address the specific incidents, administrators have basically shaken their head and said it’s not as big of a deal as we’d like to think, that it’s an isolated incident that must be treated as such.
I will share the letter here that I sent to administration so you can see the things that have happened that I’m upset about. For those who’d like to share their story as well, feel free to email me and I’ll post it here for others to view or you can post it in the comment section.
Please remember in your discussion to be kind and thoughtful to others. This movement is in no way characterized by a desire to isolate children who have different challenges than others may have. It is, however, a discussion about safety and about creating an environment where every child can learn to the best of their ability.
Here is the letter I sent to the school (exact copy except that I have removed teachers’ and children’s names).
I am writing to let you know of my frustration with the current state of things at Lake Orienta. I know that this will be a difficult email for you to read, but I believe it needs to be said and there needs to be follow-up discussions as well.
When my daughter started school here three years ago, I was so pleased with this school. I felt she was safe and cared for, she had fabulous teachers and we were thrilled she was here. While she has continued to have excellent teachers (and that has been our saving grace), I have been disappointed with the state of things. We have friends in our neighborhood who are looking to us for input about whether they should send their kids to school here, and I now have to agree with them that I’m not sure it’s the right place. I used to be a cheerleader for this school, and now I’m right there with them shaking my head saying I just don’t know what to do. We are joining the families in our neighborhood who are looking for alternatives for their children because Lake Orienta doesn’t seem to be able to serve our needs.
As far as the reasons, here are a few things that I am concerned about. First, my child has now been interviewed by a police officer at least twice for theft in the classroom. There have been three classroom thefts in the past two years. When Officer Duca came to interview the class this last time, my child was shaking so badly out of fear that her teacher stayed with her to offer support. Do you think that I send my child to this school to find out that she is shaking from fear of getting in trouble for something she didn’t do? Do you think it’s a healthy developmental milestone for my child or any to feel this way? I have no problem with Officer Duca, and I feel confident that he handled it carefully, but I don’t believe we should be dealing with this problem in the first place.
When a girl in my daughter’s class stole $100 from her teacher last year, what punishment did she receive? What lesson was taught that would deter other children from doing this? Because the boy that is stealing now in her current class had a front row seat for what played out last year with the theft. Perhaps he realized there weren’t any real repercussions so he might as well give it a try. And meanwhile my child has suffered each and every time this has occurred. Let me ask you, what teaching was my child missing out on during the hour and a half or two hours that this theft is being dealt with each time? And what long-term effect does that fear of policemen and fear of administration do to a child who has always loved school? And if it’s happened before and continues to happen, why isn’t this a wake-up call to this administration that something needs to change to prevent it?
Because of the girl being involved in theft last year, my daughter decided she no longer wanted to associate with her, a decision I supported. And it has turned into a constant source of bullying for my child. Every single day she comes home with new stories of ways this girl has taunted and intimidated her. I’ve complained. It hasn’t stopped. When does a child actually have consequences for their actions? I can’t help but think that if she were truly punished for the theft last year maybe my child wouldn’t be suffering now.
Furthermore, the walker gate is a continual problem. I stand outside the walker gate with my infant and my 4-year-old, and it is absolute mayhem. I understand that once they leave your gates perhaps they are not your responsibility, but let me assure you the experience is having an extremely negative impact on my and my children’s view of the school. I should not have to explain to my 4-year-old what the “F” word means because he heard it from kids at this school. I should not have to police these children so they don’t stampede over my own. They are unruly, disrespectful, and they are dangerous to themselves and others. They wander in the middle of the road as cars fly by, they hit one another and curse at others. I know that these kids are coming from homes where they aren’t receiving the care they need. I get that. But I also think it’s unacceptable to allow this. Even small things like having piles of leaves collecting on the sidewalk for months on end that children slip down in every single day leads me to believe that either you can’t or won’t work to ensure that the school is a place where a child can thrive.
I want my child to attend this school because I value the public school system, I value diversity, and I value the community we live in. However, I don’t think that the chaos, the pervasive discipline problems, the knowledge of crimes committed in the classroom are helpful for learning. We need more than a reaction to individual events; we need swift and strong action unlike what is currently being done that will change the state of things. I doubt that I am the first to raise these concerns, but if this is not a wake-up call where serious action is undertaken, I’m just not sure of our way forward here. Families like mine will continue to find other alternatives if you can’t provide what our children need.