Group of families allege misconduct and intimidation in school district

October 30, 2013 • Local News

The original article dropped the word “district” in a sentence, thus changing its meaning. Twenty-two teaching positions are open district-wide. No individual school is lacking 22 teachers, as was implied. 

A group of Roswell Independent School District families recently raised concerns with the district over teacher conduct, safety issues and their feelings that the district has intimidated them.

The group is mostly made up of parents, who say teachers have called students names and some say physical abuse has occurred in the district, in addition to other issues.

“My child is afraid of going to school,” [auth] said Ana Jimenez, parent of a fourth- grader at Pecos Elementary School. “Help us.”

She made the comment during an open session meeting led by Superintendent Tom Burris on Oct. 17.

Fourteen people representing nine families attended to air complaints.

Burris said a week after the meeting that he cannot ignore parents’ allegations but thinks it is unlikely that physical abuse or name-calling occurred.

“I take all that with a grain of salt,” he said specifically of name-calling claims.

Meeting attendees claimed that teachers had called students “punks” and said they were “dumb.”

Burris said another parent entered during the meeting and left without making comments.

Christy Quintero, head of the Parent Teacher Support (PTS) association at Pecos, attended but did not criticize the district.

All but one family has children at Pecos. Some of the parents spoke only Spanish.

The parents said at the meeting they wanted to be involved in the hiring of teachers in the district. Burris said this would likely not be possible because the school district is short teachers.

Burris later confirmed that 22 teaching positions are open.

In a later interview, Del Norte Elementary parent Felipe Botello said he wished to see a police presence in schools to prevent staff misconduct.

Botello claimed that last year his son arrived home with bruises on his ears. Botello attributed the marks to staff harming his son. His son was in second grade at the time.

At least one parent said she has reconciled with the district since the meeting.

Lizz Delgado, mother of a first- and second-grader at Pecos, expressed concerns at the meeting over the lack of supervision of the Hobbs Street crosswalk at the school.

She attended a PTS meeting on Oct. 25, where she volunteered to man the crosswalk herself. Delgado said that since she began volunteering, school staff have behaved more respectfully to her than in the past.

She said that as long as there are no incidents between now and the next meeting between the parents and the district, she will not raise further complaints.

Dr. Barbara Ryan, principal of Pecos for the past 10 years, did not attend the meeting. Burris said a week after the meeting that he informed Ryan of the parents’ complaints. Ryan said she relayed the claims to her staff.

According to Ryan, parents who attended the meeting have never approached her to speak about the allegations. She said parents are welcome to visit her office to discuss concerns. She said she has staff available to translate between Spanish and English if necessary.

“It’s hard for me to understand this. From my end, everyone is happy and then something like this comes up,” she said

She commented that the school ranks well on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment test. She said in the 2012-13 school year, the school ranked first among elementary schools in the city for math and sixth for reading.

She said the reading rank was impressive, considering the school has a bilingual program. Some students enter school below proficiency in English.

Burris said the ambiguous timing of incidents parents have described creates a challenge in addressing the complaints.

“It could have been years ago,” he said.

This is his second year as superintendent.

He and Ryan said they believe the group of upset Pecos parents to be small in relation to the 400-student school.

Botello said that parents who are undocumented immigrants have kept mum out of fear that the district will report them to law enforcement as a repercussion for criticizing the district.

He said that the district has not called law enforcement on undocumented immigrant parents in the past. He said the fears are based on past incidents in Roswell involving law enforcement.

Burris said that undocumented immigrant parents and others may contact him directly and do not need to worry about repercussions.

The district and parents plan to hold a future meeting to further discuss their conflict.

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One Response to Group of families allege misconduct and intimidation in school district

  1. babyray says:

    come on now. u know the sypt. will cover the principals ass. the majority of students are hispanic. The principal doesnt care about them. Give her the boot!

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