I have been focusing my energy over the second half of September and now into October on a customer service story that involves my son’s elementary school. In my opinion and the opinion of the few parents who have learned what is going on in our school, this is an epic fail in communication.
Our September school year started as any other. My son was excited and nervous about starting grade 1. Two weeks in to the school year, my wife noticed a sign outside one of the doors leading to the schoolyard. The sign displayed “Westlake Campus” and has since been removed.
A concerned parent asked some of the teachers, and none knew any details about this. She mentioned this to a small group of parents (including me) and we further pressed other parents and the PTA council. No one could provide details.
Eventually our attention turned to the principal. Surely he would know what was happening. He would only request that we join him and the school trustee at the PTA meeting in a couple days time. Rumours began to fly.
What we know is that there is a group of 6 ‘highest risk’ teenagers (as classified by the TDSB) with two social workers and a teacher occupying a supposedly self-contained room within our school. These students are part of Section 23: Care, Treatment, Custody, and Correctional Programs.
It is part of a joint effort between the school board and the provincial government. The room they occupy has an unlocked door with full access to the school hallway. These ‘highest risk’ students have free access into the rest of the school although we have been informed that they have been told not to go there.
There was to be no interaction with the elementary school students and yet for a week straight the teenagers entered the school at the same time as the rest of the kids. There were reports of rude and physical personal interactions with the children.
Up until the beginning of October, these ‘highest risk’ teenagers were being dropped off by several buses/vans at the front of the school at around 9 am and left to find their way through the school yard and into their classroom. They were left unattended for lunches and breaks. Some of them were smoking on school grounds.
When one student was approached by a PTA member and told not to smoke on school grounds, he used some foul-mouthed expletives and sent the PTA member on her way. This student was removed from the program a few days ago.
As of today, they are being escorted from their buses/vans to the classroom by the social workers. Lunches for anyone that wants to go out, is to be supervised at all times. As of writing this, there is no plan for an escort at the end of the day and the door in to the school hallway remains unlocked.
During the PTA meeting, there were approximately 25 parents who showed up, many of whom found out the day of the meeting that this program existed.
The key question posed to the Trustee and the Principal began with “Why were the parents not informed of the decision to put teenagers in an elementary school?”
The response from the Trustee was that he had ‘no idea this was put in place’ and the Principal said he knew about this in June and made a conscious decision to not communicate this to the parents.
The principal believed he was following the “protocol of the other schools” that were included in this program. He also stated that he had no choice in the program being placed in his school. Here are the guidelines on the program from the Ontario Ministry of Education which in my opinion do not support these claims.
This is an epic fail in communication and the principal has completely lost my trust. The safety and security of our children is at great risk. Communication is important in any PR/customer service role in order for the customer to make informed decisions. Whether the principal has identified it or not, he is in such a role.
We have escalated this issue to the Principal of the “program”, the Director of Education in our District, as well as the Superintendent. All have promised to attend a meeting next week to discuss this program.
The answer that I am looking for is that this program will be moved to a high school, vacant building or other location. I believe an elementary school is no place for high school students. I would have had an objection even if they were part of an enrichment program.
Knowing that these are ‘highest risk’ teenagers, as well as introducing an increased risk from outside intruders (details in a later post), and having a principal who still thinks he made the correct decision, only adds fuel to the fire.
Stay tuned for an update.
Readers: What do you think? Should the principal have notified the parents? Is it a reasonable request to have these students removed? How far would you be willing to go to settle this issue?