November 19, 2009

Sponsors Defend Decision to Close Clubs to Parent Participation

The art room of the Scotland County elementary school was packed for Thursday night’s meeting of the Scotland County R-I Board of Education.

While there were a number of parents on hand, the bulk of the crowd consisted of the teachers who operate the district’s before- and after-school student clubs.

The later recently came under fire from a parent who was upset she was no longer allowed to participate in one of those clubs with her children.

Tammy Adams addressed the board with her concerns about not being allowed to take part in the walking trail club that meets once a week.

Adams noted she had been allowed to walk with her kids the first two years of the club, but last year a rules change closed participation to students only.

She indicated after attempting to walk with her children this year she was contacted by the school and informed she could not participate.

“I’m here tonight because I’ve never been given a legitimate reason why you won’t let me walk with my kids,” Adams said.

Lori Fulk spoke on behalf of the teachers responsible for the 14 extracurricular clubs.

She noted that prior to last year, each club had maintained its own rules and guidelines. Realizing this was a difficult process for students and parents, the instructors met prior to the 2008 school year and aligned the club guidelines to streamline the process for all involved.

Fulk noted this transition was not mandated by the administration, but was simply agreed upon by the club sponsors.

Part of those changes included the Tiger Trail Club. The club now meets one day a week instead of two. Previously parents had been encouraged to participate as part of a grant through the Missouri Foundation of Health that had helped fund improvements at the walking trail adjacent to the school. That agreement expired in 2008.

“This was the only club we had that has ever had parents involved,” Fulk told the board.

With a large number of students participating in the club, and weather often forcing it to be held in the school hallways, instead of on the walking trail, the club was downsized to one day per week. The decision was also made to close the club to students only, to further reduce congestion and to mirror the other 13 clubs that did not have parent participation.

Fulk highlighted the 42 school events or activities the district hosts that encourage parent and community involvement.

“We have plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved with student activities,” Fulk stated. “While this system may not be perfect, we do offer more clubs and extra curricular activities than any other district around.”

Adams noted that the teachers are compensated for their efforts through the career ladder.

Superintendent Dave Shalley noted that while the teachers do use the time they offer for the clubs as part of their career ladder requirements, they put in far more time with these and similar extra activities to benefit the kids than they receive compensation for through the program.

Adams’s efforts to garner support for her cause through a letter writing campaign in the Memphis Democrat drew the ire of the administrator.

“There are definitely better ways to go about handling this than taking pot shots at us in the newspaper,” Shalley said. He noted the issue was never addressed to him prior to Adams seeking to have her complaint placed on the board meeting agenda.

Board member Dr. Randy Tobler noted he appreciated Adams’s desire to be active with her children’s academic careers but noted the need for public interaction to be collaborative instead of combative.

Adams also indicated the club was not well supervised, adding that additional parent involvement would benefit those efforts.

However at least one parent voiced concerns about allowing parent involvement, noting possible safety concerns.

PTO President Christy Aylward noted her group’s recent formation, offering it as an added opportunity for parents to get involved with their children’s education.

Shalley indicated that the Tiger Trail is open to the public, and that Adams and other parents are welcome to walk with their children before or after school anytime they wish to.

The superintendent stated he supported the club sponsors 100%.

No board action was taken on the issue.

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