Several parents spoke out Wednesday night at the Washington School Board meeting in support of Eric Lause, former principal of South Point Elementary, who recently was assigned to another position.
The parents addressed board members during the “public comments” portion of the meeting. The board regularly accepts comments, but does not respond to patrons who speak.
Jeff Patke, a parent, spoke first stating he was not at the meeting to debate whether the decision was right or wrong. But he did say he was upset with the approach and lack of communication with parents about the situation.
“I heard it on the street before I did from the school district . . . to hear it from the general public first is disturbing,” he said. “Now I hear there is a new co-principal for the younger kids, and we haven’t been introduced (to her). I just think you need to do a better job in communicating.”
Under the consent agenda Wednesday night, the board approved the transfer of Sandy Borgman to interim administrator at South Point. She has been a special education teacher and process coordinator in the district.
Cara Jones, who has been assistant principal at South Point, will serve as interim principal. Jones and Borgman will share the administrative duties, school officials said.
Borgmann also planned to send out a letter to introduce herself to families, pending board approval, they said.
‘Life Sucked Out’
Another parent, Tammy Heather, told the board she feels the “life has been sucked out of the school” since Lause’s transfer in late October.
“The teachers are upset and can’t talk about it and there are some both for and against what’s happened . . . it’s so tense and so upsetting to everyone,” she said.
Heather said she feels Lause deserves more respect — from parents and the school district — for the job he’s done over the years.
“He greeted the kids every day, even in the rain, always with a smile,” she said. “I don’t know the facts . . . but we’re all human and make mistakes. We should allow him to correct his mistakes and have closure with our kids.”
Heather and Patke said their children keep asking, “Where is Mr. Lause?” and they don’t know how to respond.
Several other parents also spoke out criticizing the district for “poor communication” and said the lack of information has led to rumors and speculations. Others praised Lause, saying he was always there to support students, especially those with special needs, and their parents.
Sharon Grimes, another parent with two children in the district, said her 8-year-old son’s Christmas list this year includes Mr. Lause.
School Board President Scott Byrne told parents that the board legally cannot discuss personnel issues and said sometimes tough decisions have to be made. He thanked all those who came to the meeting to support Lause.
After the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer told The Missourian she too appreciates the parents who came out to voice their concerns.
“That’s one of the reasons why we have public comments,” she said. “And while I understand their position, we don’t discuss how we come to decisions on personnel changes.”
VanLeer did note that a letter was mailed out to South Point parents immediately after the decision was made to transfer Lause.
“A written correspondence went out about the reassignment,” she said. “I’m sorry if it was not timely enough for everyone and some of our parents heard about it before they received the letter.
“I will take all of their comments under advisement and if there is something we can do to improve communication if ever faced with this situation again, we will do it,” she added.
School officials previously said a search for a permanent principal will get under way later in the second semester, and a new principal will be in place for the next school year.
At the time of Lause’s transfer, VanLeer said she made the decision to reassign Lause, who will assist in support services and technology. She said it’s not uncommon to make changes during a school year.