A group of parents have taken to social media to voice their concerns that their school board is overstepping their powers.
The Facebook page, Harrisonville Parents Taking Action, was published on June 1 after allegations arose that the Harrisonville School District’s Board of Education was acting out of line after they sent surveys to certified teachers.
“I have been involved in this district for over 10 years and to see what is happening infuriates me, but it also breaks my heart. I love this district so much,” Harrisonville parent Jennifer Blanchett said. “There’s always room for improvement but this is not the right way to handle it. That’s what I think has so many people in an uproar.”
Parents say the survey, that was formulated by board members, put teachers in a tough spot after they were asked questions that they believe were vague, leading, negative in context, and directed at specific district staff members.
One question on the survey asked responders, “If you were writing a negative political ad about the Harrisonville School District, what aspect would you focus on?”
“There’s not one question that asks about student progress or academics,” Blanchett said. “The questions are very leading and negative in context.”
The Facebook page was reportedly created by a group of concerned parents in the district.
An administrator of the Facebook page recently posted the following on the page, “As a result of statements and actions made by specific Board of Education members, we believe that the future of our school district is at risk.”
There have also been allegations that the original survey that was initially drafted by the board differed from what was actually sent to teachers. Board of Education President Marie Vallee confirmed to the Democrat Missourian that additional questions were added by board members.
According to the original survey provided by Vallee, and the survey that was actually distributed to teachers, revealed four additional questions:
-A “yes/no” question, “Do you feel your answers to previous surveys were confidential?” was added.
Three open-ended questions were also included:
-”What roadblocks/concerns do you have in regard to the class scheduling process and how can this process be improved?”
-“Do you feel your administrator is in your classroom an adequate amount of time to evaluate you?”
-”How can the Board of Education assist you in the education of our students, what can we do better?”
Vallee said the purpose of the questionnaire was explained on the survey.
The document read: "The survey you are being asked to complete has been developed as an information gathering tool by the Cass R-IX Board of Education. The intent of this survey is to help your board understand your opinions about how various procedures impact your ability to do your job most effectively. This is intended to be an anonymous instrument to assure that we receive honest answers to the questions we are asking. Questions have been developed by the Board to be distributed and collected by your colleagues."
“School board members heard comments that they were only hearing from a few teachers who did not represent the majority, so we wanted more input,” said Vallee, in regard to why the surveys were conducted.
Since the surveys have been returned by certified classroom teachers, the school board has called a number of special and closed-door meetings to sift through survey results.
Despite that a special open meeting to address the surveys was called with only 24 hours notice on May 30, nearly 100 concerned teachers and parents gathered.
At the meeting, held in a parlor room at Dickey Funeral Home in Harrisonville, Vallee told attendees that the meeting was solely going to be a work session.
For six hours, school board members shifted through dozens of surveys from high school teachers. Each survey was read and comments of concern were noted.
After the lengthy meeting, Vallee posted the following response on the district’s website: “The remaining survey responses will be divided among teams of two to three board members so that the responses can be tallied in an efficient manner. Any discussions concerning the survey results will take place at board meeting(s). Board members will tally the survey results as their work and personal schedules allow. Using the time required for the high school surveys (six hours) as a guide, the board anticipates that each member will spend approximately 25-30 hours tallying the remaining survey results. The board plans to complete this project in the next four weeks.”
Subsequently, a special closed board meeting was called on June 2 pursuant to Missouri statute Section 610.021(1), “legal action, causes of action or litigation” and Section 610.021(13) “individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment.”
Another special closed board meeting, pursuant to Sections 610.021(1), 610.021(13), and 610.021(3), involving the “Hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting particular employees,” was held June 10.
Initially, the June 10 closed meeting was to be followed by an special open meeting. However, the board canceled the special meeting a day before parents were going to be given an opportunity to attend and to make comments to the board.
Parents have shared frustration that by the time there will be an open meeting where they can share input about the board’s recent actions, it may be too late.
The next regular school board meeting isn’t until 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24.
“It has definitely shaken a lot of people in this community and they want to know what’s really going on here,” Blanchett said.