Meeting between parents and district an emotional airing of grievances

October 30, 2013 • Local News

Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Tom Burris and parents of elementary students held a heated public meeting Oct. 17 about allegations made by parents against the district.

Topics covered during the meeting included allegations of name-calling, physical abuse and intimidation of parents and families. Some parents also criticized the uniform policy at Pecos Elementary and raised concerns over safety.

The meeting at times escalated to a chorus of attendees talking at once and at other times dissolved into a lone mother speaking through tears about concerns for her children.

Executive Assistant for Assistant Superintendent of Assessment Evaluation and Technology Veronica Arias provided translation when needed. Burris does not speak Spanish and some parents did not speak English.

Fourteen people representing nine families aired complaints during the meeting. Most of the parents had children at Pecos.

Felipe Botello, whose 9-year-old son attends third grade at [auth] Del Norte Elementary, said that last year, his child arrived home from school with bruises that he said he believed to have occurred at the hands of a staff member.

Burris said the incident had been investigated by the human relations department and that he could not legally comment further in open session due to it being a personnel issue.

Pecos fifth-grader Victoria Zamora, 11, who attended the meeting with her father, said, “I also want the teachers to stop calling us kids punks and other things.”

Burris responded by saying, “I do not condone that.” He wrote on an oversized notepad words parents and Zamora claimed teachers had used to insult students, and crossed them out with a pen.

At least two parents said the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) had visited their homes unnecessarily, which they blamed on the district.

District staff are required by law to notify CYFD or the police about any suspected neglect or abuse of children.

“Teachers and administrators have the responsibility to report neglect and abuse,” said Burris. “If that is found not to be the case, I sincerely apologize.”

A parent who said she prefers to remain anonymous said Pecos staff had at times forced her to speak English.

Burris said in a separate interview with the Record that while Ryan does not speak Spanish, the district has bilingual staff available to interpret.

Ana Jimenez, mother of a fourth-grader at Pecos, said parents had been barred from forming a parent/teacher association at the school.

Pecos parent Christy Quintero responded that the school had a Parent Teacher Support association, which meets monthly. Quintero is head of the PTS.

A PTS meeting was held Oct. 25. Two parents from the Oct. 17 meeting attended. Quintero and Jimenez were absent. According to Ryan, both were ill.

Jimenez said during the Oct. 17 meeting that she had been visited by the FBI over allegations of sending anthrax to Ryan.

Burris said in a later interview that about a year ago, staff had received envelopes filled with powder. He said that the district called the Roswell Police Department and had no control over how police executed the investigation.

Parents also discussed issues of safety at the meeting with Burris. They said that no one was supervising the Hobbs Street crosswalk at Pecos.

Some parents said bus drivers had let their children off at the wrong stop in the past.

Burris explained in a later interview that private contractors run district buses and bear liability for lost children and other issues.

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