Shelley and Leon Johnson asked the Van Buren Public School Board of Education for help with their son’s education.
They spoke at length at the end of the Oct. 8 regular school board meeting.
One of the Johnsons’ complaints was that their son couldn’t bring his math book home from McBride Middle School so they could work with him on his math skills.
Shelley said she hasn’t seen a social studies, math, or Spanish book and at McBride orientation teachers told them the kids can’t take the books outside.
The Johnsons have two seventh grade students, a boy and a girl. The girl is excelling and the boy is struggling.
Shelley told the board they had their students in a charter school and then took a risk bringing them to the public school. She said she emails the teachers daily on her children’s work and she works with them at home.
“There are no books to refer to, so we can help our teacher help our children,” Leon said, adding, “I see us with a beautiful building and I look on line at our MEAP scores. They’re dreadful, ladies and gentlemen.”
He said he was born and raised in Ypsilanti and lived in the Willow Run- Belleville area.
“We’re better than that,” he said, referring to the scores. “In the urban schools, there are books. I want to help you help teachers to help our children.”
“My main concern is math and science,” Shelley continued. “We have 16.9% of our kids proficient in math…” according to MEAP scores online.
She said she didn’t have confidence in her son’s math teacher who when she asked for help told her she should have come to curriculum night. Her son’s new math teacher is better.
They are paying a tutor from outside the district, she said, adding, “I’m not expecting anyone to give us anything.”
She said she has a high level of expectation at home and she allows no television Monday through Thursday.
Education is of prime importance in her family, she said.
Leon said he wants to know if the district has textbooks on math.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said he doesn’t know what’s going on at McBride.
“We spent a lot of money and delivered workbooks and hardback books for the year,” he said, referring to the new Carnegie Math program.
“We need to look into this,” Van Tassle said.
“I asked the teacher and she said they aren’t allowed to take books home,” Shelley said, adding, “From the teachers’ mouths…”
“We were not informed there was a shortage,” Van Tassle continued. “We received no request.”
Shelley said a teacher told her the science books weren’t purchased because they bought equipment, and Supt. Van Tassel looked surprised at that statement.
Curriculum Director Diane Kullis said her first stop in the morning will be to find out what’s going on at McBride.
“I care about all kids, but I don’t have a responsibility for other kids. I have a responsibility for my kids,” Shelley said.
“My son is struggling,” Leon said. “I refuse to lose my boy. I need help so I don’t lose my boy.”
“If he blinks wrong, you call me,” Shelley said she has told his teachers. “I do not tolerate foolishness… I know kids are goofy.”
School Board Trustee Toni Hunt said it was really nice to have parents come to the board to fight for their kids.
Van Tassel said he is extremely perplexed and there isn’t one single educator who would say what has happened is right.
“Somehow it got screwed up and we will fix it,” he promised the parents.
Van Tassel said that they have the new Carnegie Math program for students in seventh through high school and he is completely baffled by what is happening.
“I applaud you,” he said to the parents.
“I haven’t seen the book,” Shelley said. “I just find it unacceptable.”
“I can’t address it if I’m not told,” Van Tassel said.
Throughout the discussion with the board, Leon reached out to support a frail Shelley at the lectern and later said she was being treated for breast cancer.
The family waited almost two hours to fit into the public comment section for non-agenda items at the end of the meeting.
Also at the Oct. 8 meeting the board:
• Approved hiring Plante Moran CRESA past the December expiration date of its contract on the BHS bond project until the project is considered complete at a rate of $8,500 per month. Architect Fanning Howey and Granger Construction will be gone from the site;
• Approved hiring Plante Moran CRESA for 2013 Sinking Fund Projects recommendations and long-range plans for sinking fund projects at a rate of $5,200 per month ($62,400 for the year), plus expenses. Van Tassel said they will figure out priorities for future work instead of the way it was done in the past, just deciding which fire to put out on emergencies. A long-range plan will be worked out and presented to the board;
• Heard a report on the BHS Bond/Sinking Funds projects from Paul Wills of Plante Moran CRESA. Wills said there is $850,000 in reserve that can be used for the BHS project through the spring of 2014. The sinking fund spent $750,000 this year in projects at Owen and McBride;
• Was informed by Sid Dotinga on Granger Construction’s change order credits of about $250,000 that can be used on other bond projects;
• Considered 36 field change orders that had been approved by Van Tassel for Granger Construction and Convergent Technology;
• Took part in a second-grade Everyday Math presentation by Diane Spence, where she paired up the board members and showed them how to count pennies;
• Discussed, at length, Trustee Scott Russell’s complaint about substitute staffing. He thought laid-off teachers and secretaries should be called in as substitutes before retired teachers and secretaries. There are six laid-off teachers and five laid-off secretaries. Van Tassel said he would contact all laid-off employees and tell them the district would love to have them substitute, clarify the policy on secretaries, and have a conversation with its substitute company PESG on the parameters of its service;
• Approved hiring Megan Holmes as a Spanish teacher at McBride as of Sept. 25 and Kyle Paruskiewicz as a social studies teacher at BHS as of Sept. 5;
• Approved recalling two paraprofessionals from layoff, Paula Brown for Edgemont as of Sept. 25 and Katerina Tyner for ECDC as of Oct. 1;
• Heard Bob Thorne challenge the board to put a team together to take part in the Harlem Ambassadors event at the new BHS gymnasium at 7 p.m., Oct. 24. The event is a fund-raiser for the Chamber of Commerce; and
• Reminded everyone the Oct. 15 workshop session will be held at 7 p.m. at the administration building and there will be an enrollment update. The regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 in the BHS mini auditorium.