Dozens of parents are upset over the recent departures of several teachers from Barnette Elementary School but school district officials, bound by a state law preventing them from disclosing personnel information, say parents have exaggerated the issue.
Thirty Barnette parents met at the Carrington Ridge neighborhood pavilion Monday, Oct. 25, to discuss staff departures after fifth grade teacher Jennifer Jenson stepped down.
The school sent letters home with children Friday, Oct. 22, about Jenson’s leaving. On Monday, 21 parents went to speak with Barnette Principal Dianna Newman seeking answers, Barnette parent Colleen Morgan said.
“They are, at the end of the day, being supportive of their children,” Newman said. We’re all working towards a common goal, and that is that our children receive a high-quality education.”
Outraged at the loss of Jenson, who Morgan called a high-quality teacher, parents at the evening meeting Monday alleged that her resignation is an indication of a deeper problem with the school’s administration.
Jenson said her decision to leave was because of “philosophical differences and personality conflicts with some of the administration,” but would not give more detail.
Morgan believes the school has lost six teachers and an assistant principal since the end of last school year, but Northeast Zone Superintendent Scott Muri said Jenson is only the third teacher, out of about 40 at the school, to leave since June – well within normal attrition rates. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Spokeswoman Kathleen Johansen confirmed the number, saying one retired, one moved out of state, and Jenson resigned.
“I support every member of my staff and I will continue to support them in their outside endeavors and to maintain their integrity,” Newman said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said the situation was handled appropriately. “The principal did nothing wrong,” Johansen said. “She followed the book.”
Parents have sent more than 30 e-mails to Newman, Muri, and district Superintendent Peter Gorman. So far, they are unsatisfied with the lack of answers surrounding the departures.
System leaders are hamstrung to release anything more specific because state laws forbid disclosing certain personnel information, like reasons for resignation.
“I can’t tell them what they want to hear,” Muri said. “The law prevents me from doing so.” He said the information parents are citing about teacher attrition at Barnette is “extremely exaggerated.”
He said he understands parents’ disappointment at the loss of a beloved teacher, but said there are details of the situation he simply can’t discuss. “Whenever you fail to release information, that creates speculation,” he said.
Similarly, Newman cannot give details surrounding Jenson’s decision.
“I am bound ethically and morally to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of every one of my educators,” said Newman.
“I’m not giving up on Ms. Jenson yet,” Morgan said. She and other parents have started a grassroots campaign of letter writing, phone calls and email lists to get more parents involved. “It may not be realistic, but we have to keep fighting,” she said.