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Plum City school board responds to circulating bullying and miscommunication concerns

Members of the audience listened to the written response statement from the district, waiting for the chance to speak during the public forum. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Parents and other public participants filled the Plum City High School media room during the Jan. 21 school board meeting which included a public forum portion. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

At a Jan. 21 Plum City school board meeting, the district responded to concerns from parents and others brought up at the last two school board meetings regarding alleged bullying, miscommunication and administration inaction.

The Plum City High School media room was crowded with parents and others in attendance during this week's meeting where about seven audience members spoke during the public forum portion.

Board of Education President Kurt Henn and Superintendent Amy Vesperman read from separate written documents which addressed the premise of the meeting, the need for systematic changes and what the district has acted upon.

"'We have some system problems that we are working on. All schools have things they need to work on and they change at any given time'," Vesperman began the meeting with her written letter.

Vesperman defined future steps the district will be taking, including adding counseling time for students, rewriting policies and handbooks as well as training for the state program Positive Behavior Initiative Support (PBIS).

Her letter also reminded the audience that the 4K students mostly being affected by alleged bullying are still in a phase of learning right and wrong.

The next statement, read by Henn, said "'The board and administration take bullying very seriously. We have had zero incidents reported since what was mentioned at the December meeting'."

His statement outlined further steps the district has taken to prevent and handle issues, including implementing a new bus policy approved last December in which students have assigned seating and drivers must fill out a form reporting any problems.

Attendee Pauline Kopp, who said she has experienced working in the school, disagreed with the responsibilities assigned to Plum City's bus drivers.

"I think bullying begins at home. Our staff has their hands tied," she said during the public forum. "I feel like these kids hear stuff at home and bring it to school. These bus drivers aren't here to babysit."

Another step the district is pursuing is creating a new website which was also mentioned in written statements. Later in the meeting, school principal Michael Kennedy presented the progress being made on the website design which will allow for more communication between the school and the public.

Parents like Tina Jablonsky, who has transferred all four of her children out of the district due to alleged bullying in middle and high school, were dissatisfied with the written response from the district last night.

"I thought (the meeting) was horrible," Jablonsky said in a recent phone interview. "I thought they totally covered up. I don't feel like they addressed issues that they were having at the last meeting. They said that the bullying had been taken care of, I've just finished the process of pulling my daughter out of school because it never stopped."

Jablonsky said she is also unhappy with the communication process between administration and parents, especially in regard to issues occuring on the bus. She said she had heard about her son's bad behavior on the bus through her daughter but was never contacted by the school.

"Parents need to be contacted if our kids are being little stinks," Jablonsky said. "It's our job first at home to hold them in line and it's the school that's supposed to supplement."

Some members of the audience shook their head during the meeting as the written statement was being read by Henn.

Others who spoke at the forum said they had concerns for how these miscommunications were being handled.

A past member of the Plum City School Board, Todd Bjurquist, who now serves as Vice President of the Plum City Educational Foundation, spoke during the forum.

He read a written statement for his concerns about the relationship between the public and the school board.

"When a board is attacked, saying they aren't doing anything, it's hurtfu,l" Bjurquist said at the meeting. "It's kind of like bullying."

The school board was unable to specifically answer questions directed at the district made by public forum participants at this meeting.

In the midst of these circulating concerns, the district has assigned a Dean of Students to the elementary school effective today, Jan. 22 in the hopes that needs of students and teachers will be met, Henn said in his written statement.

The Herald will continue to follow this story as it progresses.

Rachel Helgeson

Rachel Helgeson

(651) 301-7864
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