Long-time District 11 volunteer says she’s had it
Claims local schools allowed her son to fall behind in math

       Westsider Pamela Staley, one of District 11's most active parent volunteers over the past decade, announced this week that she is “quitting.”
       In personal interviews, an informal meeting with district and West Middle School officials and a planned demonstration/ speech with other parents at the April 14 Board of Education meeting, she made the point that she thinks the district is shortchanging too many lower-income students.
       But the primary reason for her decision, she said, was one such student: her own son. She charged that he had failed to learn sufficient math at Midland Elementary (prior to current Principal Barbara Bishop's hiring two years ago) and that District 11 has failed to help him catch up since then.
       “They couldn't even do it (teach him remedial math) to shut me up,” Staley commented to the Westside Pioneer.
        Staley said she is also representing at least seven other families who will also be pulling their students out of West and putting them in the District 11 Character, Integrity, Vision and the Arts (CIVA) Charter School.
        In response, District Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder and Middle School Director Bill Shell said the district already has plans to move to a new math program next school year that will make the work easier for students to understand as well as for parents to assist them. Ridder added that individual learning plans (ILPs) ought to be established for children such as hers, in keeping with district policy, to help them catch up.
       But Staley was unconvinced. She said that her pleas to get school tutoring for her son and other past Midland graduates - now seventh-graders - who don't know fractions, long division and other basic math have fallen on deaf ears with teachers and administrators for too long. She also has a long list of complaints about how Title 1 (lower-income) students in general are treated, saying that they aren't challenged enough in elementary and middle schools, then get the shock of their lives in high school, when they find other students are way beyond them. As a result, those students wind up getting in trouble, dropping out or both, she said.
       For herself, one of the last straws was when her son told her recently they had been playing Yahtzee in his math class. “They were playing it to learn probability,” she said. “You can't learn probability until you learn fractions.”
        West Principal Joe Torrez, who is in his first year at West, said that since his arrival he has been “trying to address, programmatically and individually,” the kinds of problems Staley has identified.
        “We recognize there are deficits,” he said. “We are putting a lot of time and effort into it.”
        His goal, he said, is to make West a “viable choice” for parents deciding where to send their students in District 11. Even now, he said, in great part because of the Student-Centered Academic Interdiscipli-nary Learning (SAIL) program for gifted students at West, “kids from outside the attendance area are coming here,” he said.
       Ridder's high opinion of Torrez was indicated in his comment, “We brought Joe here to make West the best middle school in the district.”
       Staley has led after-school Boy Scouts and garden clubs at several Westside schools, tutored neighborhood students and served on numerous district committees, including most recently the Long Range School Use (LRSUS) Task Force. She has done all this despite losing a job because of her volunteering and being diagnosed five years ago with terminal cancer (which she's beaten).
       But she's got a new focus now. “I've gotta start with my own kid,” she said.

Westside Pioneer article