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A call to the community

This is writien on behalf of a large group of Clarke Community School District parents and caregivers who have recently formed a group called Concerned Clarke Parents, or CCP.

Our goal is to ensure that all children are receiving the best possible education in our community, that our staff feels respected and valued, and that both students and teachers are safe while in their school building.

Many of us are parents of students at the elementary level and have recently become concerned regarding our childrens’ safety at school. We are aware that it is ideal for all students to learn in the “least restrictive environment” and that inclusion has become a priority in public education. However, what this means is that students with explosive behaviors (throwing chairs, hitting, kicking, cursing, etc.) are supposed to remain in the regular classroom as much as possible. As a result, our children regularly spend valuable learning time evacuating their classrooms (and playgrounds) while waiting for a child to calm down.

We have replaced supplies that have been destroyed in fits of rage, we have dealt with physical injuries to our children, and we are seeing the mental and emotional strain that these experiences have caused them.

Our group was created around the concerns we shared with one another regarding these issues. From there, our concerns grew. After several weeks and months of investigating, working diligently to come up with a positive solution, we were met with skepticism and apathy from our administration. We are continuing to press for an answer to the question, “How are you keeping my child safe at school?”

As a group, we approached the school board with our concerns in December, sharing the statements of nearly 20 anonymous parents and teachers, where we were essentially dismissed when two board members publicly apologized to the administration for our comments.

Let us be clear. We are eager to work professionally with our administrators to improve the learning conditions for all children, whose education has taken a back seat to the behavior issues in the school. Our group is collectively reading about and researching trauma-informed school systems, in order to be as supportive as possible. We have made ourselves available to staff and adminstration for meetings or work sessions. The board communicated the requirement to formally vote upon the formation of a “task force” to address teacher morale and safety before they can move forward, so we have requested to be placed on the agenda for the Jan. 14 school board meeting.

Unfortunately, the more involved we become, the less satisfied we are with what we find. We have a broken system. In the most recent report from The Iowa Department of Education, which is based on proficiency, student growth, and staff retention (among other things), Clarke rated as “needs improvement.” Every single neighboring district (all with similar demographics) rated as either “acceptable” or “commendable,” with Winterset rating as “exceptional.”

We live here. We own homes here. We have businesses here. We love our community. It is our hope that through accountability and genuine collaborative effort that we can address these concerns and once again focus on academic achievement. The quality of our school district affects nearly every other aspect of the community, and under-performing is no longer acceptable.

The Iowa Code states that school boards “have a responsibility to connect with and engage the community, legislators and others in their work.” In order to carry that out, we would invite you to participate in your community by attending the next school board meeting with uson 5:30 p.m. Jan. 14 in the middle school library.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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