(Newswire.net — January 14, 2016) — Apparently, some Jeffco charter school parents are wondering if they have been asked by principal Dr. Roberta Harrell, under the direct supervision of Board President Alan Scheik, to give up their Freedom of Speech.
In an email sent on 9-10-2015, Director Harrell asked that a family handbook be signed and returned by students and parents, saying “It is the responsibility of all parents to read the Family Handbook and sign the Parent Contract that is at the end of the Handbook.”
She even “rewarded” compliance with a free-dress day, at this uniform only school stating “any class that receives 100% return of this document by Thursday, September 17th, will receive a free dress of choice day on Monday”.
Please note item 13, which states:
“I understand that public conversation I have with members of the RMAE community regarding RMAE staff and program should remain positive. If I have a concern I will contact the Director [Harrell] and will refrain from speaking negatively about teachers and staff with other parents.”
WHY would Roberta Harrell and Alan Scheik even come remotely close to ask such a thing that could be considered to infringe upon parents’ First Amendment Rights?
Why would Jefferson county public schools allow this?
Apparently the answer will surprise you (or not, if you’re a parent at the school).
It seems that if you come visit a board meeting, instead of just the board themselves and no one else being present as it usually has been for the past decade, this schools board meetings are jam packed with angry parents. To the tune of DOZENS of them. And in this small charter school of only a few hundred students, that is a Huge percentage of disgruntled parents who have negative things to say.
It’s not only the parents that are unhappy. Many elementary and middle school students are unhappy too, with topics ranging from a negative culture to constant bullying.
The teachers’ representative stated that the majority of teachers are unhappy, feel unappreciated and that they are afraid to discuss this with the current administration.
Many teachers have already left. One who recently left privately stated:
“I did not want to leave…. I am a single mom now without a full time job and benefits. I put all of my soul into the kids of RMAE and into the school… Roberta’s [Harrell’s] goal was to tear me down and dispose of me because I was not a follower. I kept fighting but I could not any longer. It has so negatively affected my family in so many different ways.”
She’s not the only recent staff member to leave, either. The PTO president, acting as a part-time staffer quit as well. Two M.S. grade teachers left last year, one speaking of the on-going issues in her resignation letter:
“Last school year and then again earlier this year, I wrote to you, the Board, expressing some concerns I had over the direction our school was moving. When I wrote to the Board September of 2013, I listed seven reasons I loved teaching at RMAE. Of those seven, only two will be unaltered by next year. And this year’s letter received not the help I had hoped for, but reprimand.”
Another long-term teacher left over the summer, just before school started after finding out that pay raises had been unjustly assigned based on who Dr. Harrell allegedly felt more deserved them instead of assigned equally or based on seniority. This comes after all the teachers had agreed on a pay-freeze, to keep the budget in line during tough years. The promise that it would come back to them in the future, only to be cut short by Dr. Harrell when the time came, was too much it seems.
One parent has been tracking teacher turnover, and there has been a 50% attrition rate since their child has been there. Another founding member of this charter school has already stated that if the board (Alan Scheik) and Dr. Harrell don’t stop breaking the charter of the school and running it like a corporate dictatorship, they will be gone soon (along with dozens of other families, 2 just left the school last week).
Both Dr. Harrel and Alan Scheik have been asked to resign by parents, publically, at recent board meetings, but neither has done so at this time. Despite the shout that the school is in serious trouble and needs immediate action to right it again, the board sits there. One parent even described what is being done is similar to the school having a cancer that needs cut out, before it kills the (remaining) teachers and students that are still there.
Alan Scheik & Director Harrell even used Jeffco district email to ask parents to advocate a certain position in a recent ballot issue, more details of that are here http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/violation/
So apparently, this is why Dr. Roberta Harrell and the board under the supervision of Alan Scheik are walking a fine line with the parents’ freedom of speech.
When questioned by parents on their 1st amendment concerns, the board admitted that all of their handbooks have a “clause discouraging freedom of speech“ that they may consider reviewing.
To this date, we have seen no change to the document or policy and things appear to be tabled for discussions at a later time.