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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Working with Highland Hall - Pete's Letters to the Evaluation Committee

Dear Evaluation Committee,

I'm sure you may have noticed by now that Mrs. Leonard is supported by some very rude, pushy and controlling parents who are acting out of their strong emotions and ultimately their denial of what has transpired with Mrs. Leonard. They claim to be the majority of the class. By now, I suppose they are. The many parents who removed their children or were pushed out by Mrs. Leonard have not been considered in their calculations. Many people have already removed their children from this school because of Mrs. Leonard's actions. Others still intend to.

The facts and Mrs. Leonard's actions speak for themselves. The safety and well-being of the children is at risk and I believe each and every one of you knows this. You made the right decision when you suspended Mrs. Leonard. It was a difficult decision made from your hearts, not based on numbers or opinions. When she defiantly sang the "abuse" song, over the objections of some parents, you knew in your hearts that she had done something too wrong to be overlooked. I am told some people suggested that the school could "gummy bear" the song by suggesting that it is somehow brings "archetypal" images to the class. You all have read the song, what do you think?

I know it took courage to come to your decision, and particularly in light of the fact that I pointed these things out publicly. I openly and publicly applauded your courage when you made the right decision. Now, on the verge of a possible reversal of your decision, I ask you to summon the same courage - to do what is right.

Please don't let a bunch of hot-headed parents blur your common sense. You have a primary obligation to the CHILDREN, not to the parents or the teachers. You are educators - start acting like it. Shame on you if you cannot muster the courage to stand up and say "This is wrong and it will not be tolerated."

The children, I am told, have accepted Mrs. Ferreccio wholeheartedly. She is the continuity they need right now. She is a loving and warm teacher who challenges the children intellectually and who is responsive to their needs. She can heal this class and easily take them through the end of the year. Bringing Mrs. Leonard back now would be extremely harmful and painful to the children and would continue to divide the parents and the school. Let's heal this now. Please stick to your decision to suspend Mrs. Leonard and let's please move on. It is, after all, the right thing to do.

Thank you,

Pete Karaiskos

Dear Evaluation Committee,

First, let me say that I am waiting to hear from someone representing Highland Hall that my son Christopher was sent home last week. I shouldn't have to insist that the school inform me of incidents involving my own children but, nonetheless, I am having to do this. This has happened often enough that I suspect people at Highland Hall are deliberately withholding information from me regarding my children and in some instances I know this to be fact. I am weary of hearing about things like this second-hand and would encourage the school to share information pertaining to my children with me freely and promptly.

I have discussed the events surrounding Christopher's suspension with him, with other children in his class who witnessed the events and with his teacher, Mrs. Knight. I am convinced that the circumstances under which he was sent home are, at the very least, suspect. Everyone I have spoken to insists that Christopher did nothing extrodinary that would suggest that he should be sent home for the day and was, rather, the recipient of the specialty teacher's emotions over a bad day. I would like to hear from this committee what the circumstances were and what he did that warranted his suspension. Furthermore, and on a much larger scale, I would like this committee to review with me the school's policy of permitting specialty teachers to send children home.

I fully acknowledge that specialty teachers have a difficult job and that often children prove to be a handful for them. I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to find teachers who will perform well under the challenge of personal problems or difficult children. This is, however, their job and they have a responsibility to the children, to the parents and to the school to do their job well. Specialty teachers are responsible for their class and I don't want to devalue that responsibility. However, the children's class teacher is, by intent, the teacher who is supposed to be the best judge of the children's overall behavior, their struggles in their own personal growth and other challenges they my be facing in their personal lives. The class teacher is the one who knows what is on the child's mind (that may be manifesting in poor behavior) and it is the class teacher should be the one who decides whether a child should be sent home. A specialty teacher is not, and should not be, in a position to decide on this form of discipline. Certainly, they should be able to dismiss a child from their class, but a child sent home by a specialty teacher will miss all their studies for the entire day. Quite frankly, I would be happier to have Christopher miss a year of eurythmy than a day of math. Undoubtedly, this is far to much responsibility for the specialty teacher to have and ultimately it hurts the children and reflects poorly on the school.

I look forward to your reply.


Pete Karaiskos