8th Grade Parents Question Principal’s Assembly Message

Parents of 8th grade honor students attended the November 7th Board Of Education (BOE) meeting to address how they feel that their concerns, not their children’s, have been mishandled by Roselle Park Middle School principal Kathleen Carlin.

Monica Carle, a parent who spoke for those in attendance as well as those who could not attend, addressed the board with the issues.

“We want to speak about an incident that happened on Thursday, November 2nd, at the middle school. Sometime that afternoon, Ms. Carlin called an unscheduled special assembly of the entire eighth-grade class. What transpired . . . as far as the manner and content that was communicated to our children caused concern upon hearing their feedback when they came to us.

our children were not shown the same respect that’s expected of them on a daily basis.” – Monica Carle

Some of those concerns would be the first thing which happened at the end though I’ll make it my first point her inability to maintain her anger by not just raising her voice [but] by directly yelling at the children toward the end of this meeting.

The second was the instruction for our children to not go their parents with any of their concerns regarding their school work. As a collective group, our goal has always been to maintain an open line of communication with our children. For another person that’s in a position of authority to instruct them to do otherwise is a gross error in judgment on their part. Many of the parents here tonight did not receive complaints from children [about] the amount of homework which clearly this meeting was about. [The students] did not complain about the amount of homework they were receiving, but our jobs as parents is to make sure that our children are well-rounded, happy, and involved individuals with a healthy school home life balance.

When it became clear to many of us that there was no longer a balance between those two, we decided to address the matter. Each of us had done so in our own way. However, the goal between us was all the same; to restore and maintain the delicate balance. And it was pretty presumptuous of her to assume that they knew that she knew where the concern initiated nor should it have matter what initiated.

She also accused our children, telling them they had poor or no time management skills and that was their reason for their inability to complete their assignments. To generalize an entire eighth grade class and tell them any difficulty that they are having is due to time management is another unfounded and false accusation. Accusations that are becoming detrimental to their mental health as they hear this almost every day. Many of the children have shown exemplary time management skills in the past and, if as a whole there are more than a handful of students exhibiting signs of stress or perceived lack of time management skills, the answer should not be to place blame or deflect responsibility and to actually find a root cause and get it corrected in a timely fashion.

Number four is the innuendo to the honor students regarding removing themselves from an honors class if they’re not able to handle the workload. To even suggest that the answer would be to switch their class out of honors to a class that’s less than challenging without the benefit of assistance or input from a parent is negligent at best.

She also told them to stop complaining and the more that they complained, the longer it would take to get their homework done and that’s one of the reasons why they can’t get it done.

The last was her insinuation that a teacher’s time is more valuable than that of their own. She expressly said to them that they needed to look at the teachers and the time that they had to take away from their own families to grade their tests and help them with extra work. To insinuate that a teacher’s time is more valuable than that of any individual be it a student or adult is preposterous actually. The role of the teacher is a compensated position of which I’m sure they’re well aware of the responsibilities that come with it at the time they take that job.

Our biggest questions that we want answered is why . . . did it take place? Why weren’t parents notified? Was the significance of the meeting really that dire that the students needed to miss valuable extraction time away from the classroom and why were the parents who initially had obvious concerns not contacted to set up a mutual meeting that would have been beneficial with the principal, guidance counselor, and all the teachers in attendance? And lastly, we feel as though our children were not shown the same respect that’s expected of them on a daily basis. We want assurances that in no way will anything even remotely similar happen going forward the remainder of the school year.”

School Superintendent Pedro Garrido thanked Mrs. Carle for bringing the issue but stated that neither he nor the district could comment on what had become a personnel matter. He added, “But I can guarantee that your children, our children, will be in a safe and nurturing environment. And I’ll make sure that is happening in every building of this district. So again, I can tell you that the homework issue . . . . is still being addressed. I’m sure it’s not in the timely fashion that you like to see happen…”

Mrs. Carle interacted with the superintendent, stating that Ms. Carlin sent an e-mail to parents the very next day stating that a component of homework called Reading Plus was being removed. Mrs. Carle also added though, “But she did not touch on the fact that she brought these kids into an unscheduled meeting and called an entire eighth-grade class. That’s ludicrous.”

Mr. Garrido continued, stating that he heard from parents on the phone and he said to those in attendance, “I’m always available. Please call me personally.”

“We were told not to get you involved. Our children were told not to get you involved,” replied Mrs. Carle.

“I am telling you, please call me,” said Mr. Garrido, “Call my office if you have any concerns. The protocol usually goes to the teacher, [then] to the administrators of the building, and then to the superintendent instead of the other way around but I’m available. And if you feel that there’s something that that is so important, please call me.  I might send you back to the teacher but please call me and let me know what your concerns are.”

BOE member Loren Harms interjected, “I’m kind of concerned myself [that] if some the statements that were made were actually made.”

“Of course,” responded Mr. Garrido, “It is a personal matter, and I am not going to publicly announce anything but any complaints that go either to the board or to my office will be looked at and certainly will be investigated.”

Another parent, Sandra Barlett, spoke of how her child had written a letter regarding her concerns to Mr. Garrido, “She got reprimanded for writing that letter to you. She said that the teachers told her that she went above what she was supposed to, because she wrote that letter to you. Even the guidance counselor called me and told me that the teachers were very upset that [she] had written a letter to you because they felt that she overstepped her boundaries. So here [she] thought because you said to her you were very proud of her that was very well written and on the other hand she’s getting reprimanded by her guidance counselor and by her teacher. And I don’t think that was right. She went from being very proud of herself to saying, mom, what did I do wrong? I said you didn’t do anything wrong. You stood for what you believed, and that’s it. So I don’t understand, she’s getting mixed messages. She’s like mom do I come to you if I have a problem in school or don’t [I] because the principal’s telling me that we have to advocate for ourselves and not to get the parents involved. I said, no, you absolutely have to come to me. You’re 13. Of course, I understand that they need to take responsibility and start speaking for themselves, but they’re 13.”

After the meeting parents spoke of how the workload, not the substance of the work, is extreme. On average, they stated that their children have over 28 hours of homework a week – about four hours a day. That leaves little time for extracurricular activities, time with friends and family, and even sleep. One parent spoke of how her daughter went to sleep at 1 o’clock in the morning doing homework then got herself up at 5 a.m. to finish it before going to school.

“That affects her day and school work,” she stated.

Other parents actually resorted to grounding their children and taking away privileges thinking that their children were slacking off or putting off their homework because when they would ask about their homework, their children would say they were always ‘getting it done.’ It was not until the parents starting reviewing the workload on Genesis, the school district’s student portal, that they began to realize the amount of work. Their children were no longer participating in sports or clubs or chores or even just relaxing for half an hour – they were always doing homework. When parents, independent of each other, approached the school administration to address their concerns, the assembly occurred.

On the instructor’s end, parents have said that due to the large workload, teachers are grading components of a project – such as outlines and drafts of an essay – with 100s but when the final product is turned in, students are getting 80s and 70s. “It looks like the teachers themselves are simply reviewing that the outline was done and marking it with 100 so my child thinks it’s being done right. But the teacher’s not really grading it; they’re just reviewing it.”

Messages left for Ms. Carlin were not returned for this article.

One parent, in particular, spoke of the most serious concern from those who attended the meeting had. He stated, “What’s being lost is our children’s love of learning.”

To date, parents have stated that their serious concerns on the assembly and the message that was sent out to their children – along with the quantity, not quality, of work being assigned to their children have yet to be addressed by the school.