Hayden parent forum a bit heated

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Improving communication among parents, teachers and the Hayden School Board was the main topic of discussion during a slightly heated parent forum in Hayden on Tuesday night.

It was the third in a series of meetings held by a group of parents concerned with issues stemming from former high school Principal Nick Schafer's resignation.

School Board members Brian Hoza and Jody Camilletti, as well as acting superintendent and Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Mike Luppes attended the meeting.

The purpose of the parent forums was a point of contention at the meeting, as some parents questioned why issues raised -- such as drug and alcohol awareness and the reasons some parents choose to home-school their children -- could not be addressed at School Board or School Improvement Team meetings.

The teams are meant to give parents and teachers an opportunity to influence safety and achievement concerns in each school.

"Why aren't we trusting our board. ... Why is this so outside the process?" Tammy Delaney said.

Dana Haskins said that the forums were organized to give parents a "safe" place to talk outside of the structured settings of School Board and SIT meetings.

Ann Willingham emphasized that the SIT meetings, typically held at 3:30 p.m., did not fit her schedule and, with a student in the high school and one in the elementary school, she didn't feel the meetings were the best way to influence issues throughout the district.

She suggested that a Parent Teacher Association in Hayden might be a more effective avenue for parents to facilitate change, because it would function as a political organization independent of the school district and also would facilitate programs districtwide.

But Medora Fralick and Camilletti emphasized that the problem wasn't necessarily the SIT structure but an overall lack of parent participation.

"My biggest concern is even if you put a PTA out there, you're going to get the same people to show up," Fralick said.

Hoza and Camilletti cautioned against creating more groups that might segregate parents and teachers and complicate the effectiveness of the already small School Improvement Teams.

"As a board, regardless of what groups are out there, we need it all to come together. ... It has to somehow funnel to us, or we can't make decisions," Hoza said.

He expressed particular concern about sentiments that some parents and teachers didn't feel comfortable addressing the School Board or attending SIT meetings and emphasized the need to create a safe environment.

Hoza pointed out that School Board work sessions are an opportunity for the board, parents and teachers to engage in two-way discussions that many parents have sought.

Parents and staff can make requests for work sessions at the regular board meetings. The sessions are "semiformal," but discussion topics must be on an agenda.

All regularly scheduled meetings are on the district's Web site, and parents or staff may suggest an agenda item, typically up to a week before the work sessions, he said.

In addition, Luppes said that communication between parents and teachers might improve if parents "go through the chain of command" by addressing complaints to teachers rather than heading straight to the superintendent's office.

There was some discussion of Superintendent Scott Mader's suspension at the forum. Hoza confirmed that the suspension was indefinite, and the board had mapped out options depending on the results of attorneys' investigation into Mader's employment.

The next parent forum will be at 7 p.m. July 13 in the school administration building, where the group plans to discuss ways of promoting and encouraging participation in SIT meetings and board work sessions.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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