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SoVaNow.com / March 27, 2013
Most of you have heard or read parents’ opinions about what is happening in the Mecklenburg County School System. You know that staff members are afraid to write or speak about the injustices that have been going on since Dr. Thornton has “taken over.” Many have been in disbelief and do not understand how decisions are made and approved. These decisions appear to make no sense whatsoever and have affected all parents, staff, and most importantly, the students.
I am writing because I can no longer sit by and be silent. I began working at La Crosse Elementary five years ago. At that time, the school was a wonderful, small, quaint school. Things have changed a lot. Two years ago, we watched as a beloved principal was asked, or told, to move to the Central Office to take a position in personnel — a position that many felt she did not want. I do not think she wanted to leave because she loved working with the La Crosse staff and children. There were no good or reasonable explanations for all the personnel moves, and we allowed this to happen without question. Since that time, we have acquired a wonderful Principal in Connie Puckett. She cares deeply about the children, the parents, and the staff.
Also, over the past two years, other changes have been made. We have been encouraged to ask Dr. Thornton questions on a monthly basis; but, instead of reasonable answers, we receive what I perceive to be very terse responses. We (staff and parents) have been asked to respond to surveys that supposedly are going to be used to make important decisions, but we often feel that the decisions were already made before the survey was even taken. It is my feeling that Dr. Thornton would like for us to think we have a voice when, we know, there is no possible place to have one. I watched, when just before Christmas break, we were told to clear all classes out of the mobile units. We were told that the units would be moved over the break; but, not one single pebble moved during that break. Due to this move, our SPED teachers teach in the cafeteria; our music teacher is on stage in the cafeteria; our art teacher takes a cart around to each room; and, most recently, our Pre-K Teacher, Reading Teacher, and Librarian all must share one room. Our GATE teacher has to use a closet and our ESL teacher has to conduct classes in the hallway on roll out tables. She has to find another space if the Occupational Therapist needs a space. Does this arrangement sound like a good one for your child? Shouldn’t our elected School Board representative be doing something? My point is that Dr. Thornton’s vision is off. I think he is so focused on being right that he doesn’t want to be open minded and listen to reason. The important thing is to educate the children, broaden their horizons, and help them become the best they can be.
Now, I would like to address the latest move by Dr. Thornton — his treatment of Mrs. Puckett. Many of us feel that she was not given a chance and was targeted from the beginning of his term. No matter what she did, he would somehow find fault. His major fault with her is that she does not email her staff every day. We, as staff, went to the board meeting in February to support her. Only, our support was to sit quietly in the audience through what seemed to be a blatantly long and drawn out meeting. We were last on the agenda. Our PTO president spoke on Mrs. Puckett’s behalf, as did several parents. No teachers or staff spoke at the meeting for fear of losing jobs.
Mrs. Puckett was told that she would be returned to the classroom. She was given a date to appeal. When she went to the appeal, she had to sit outside the room while Dr. Thornton made his arguments, but she was not given the same consideration when it came to her own arguments. Two Board Members were absent, and no one knew that a decision was going to be made that day, yet it was. The decision was made to relieve Connie Puckett of her position.
I know that I cannot change this decision, but I will let my voice be heard. I know that what’s right is right and Dr. Thornton is wrong in so many ways. I also want everyone to know that we, as a county school system, have lost so many good people: teachers, our Transportation Director, our Safety Director, two Librarians, several custodians, our Food Service Manager, and the list goes on. How many more good people do we have to lose? How many bad decisions do we have to support? How many unnecessary expenditures and new programs do we need to tolerate? I heard one retired teacher say that the Mecklenburg School System has purchased enough t-shirts to outfit a third world country. Enough is enough.
I do not care that I am now a target; I just want to be a voice of reason.
La Crosse Elementary