Sunset Elementary teacher’s resignation causes parental outcry

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Parent meeting

4 p.m., Thursday

Centennial Mall

— The meeting is open to Moffat County School District patrons and its purpose is to discuss some of the issues facing local schools. For more information, call Karen Peroulis at 970-824-2255.

The recent resignation of a Moffat County School District educator has a number of local parents up in arms.

Pam Williams, a third grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, officially resigned as of Dec. 20, immediately before Winter Break, leading to a plethora of unfavorable responses from school parents.

Williams could not be reached for comment on the circumstances surrounding her departure from Sunset.

Principal Laura Vinger said from a legal standpoint, the details surrounding the issue could not be discussed. She verified that Williams had resigned. Vinger also said she sent out an email to parents explaining that Williams' teaching position will be filled by a long-term substitute once students return from vacation.

Vinger added that protocol put into place by Superintendent Joe Petrone in the event of a teacher’s resignation should assist the school in finding a permanent replacement.

The difficulty will be finding someone to fill the position in the middle of the school year, she said.

Board of Education President JB Chapman said he has received numerous inquiries about the situation. Interschool personnel matters are rarely handled by the board except in unique cases, he said, adding that he was not aware of any details leading up to Williams’ resignation.

Aside from signing Williams’ letter of resignation, there was little involvement in the matter on Chapman’s part, though he said he believes school administration is better equipped to handle such issues than someone in his position.

“We’ve got to be very careful that we’re not a school district where personnel is run by the school board because that is not a healthy district,” he said.

Becky Fritz, president of the School Accountability Committee at Sunset, said that parents are upset about the slow communication between the school’s administration — including the principal — and parents.

Specifically, several policy changes have been made district-wide, and Fritz said the school has been slow to notify parents of changes.

“It’s just the new policy changes” and lack of communication about them, Fritz said.

For example, when the city saw subzero temperatures several weeks ago, children were required to walk around the school rather than go in through Sunset’s front door. That’s a new requirement this year. At that time, the Craig Daily Press called Vinger to inquire about the issue, and she said it was for security purposes.

Vinger said children have to walk around the school and enter their classrooms from behind the building because it’s unsafe from a security perspective to let 300 students in the front door at one time.

Heightened security at all the schools has made principals rethink how students access school buildings.

When it comes to Williams no longer teaching at the school, Fritz said she has heard from several upset parents about the situation..

“From a SAC perspective, I feel like it’s a big deal that the parents weren’t communicated with sooner,” she said.

Overall, Fritz said she feels the vibe at the school has changed since Vinger became principal.

The resignation of Williams also led to the formation of a Facebook page called Concerned Parents of Moffat County School District, a group that is planning a public meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday in the commons area in front of KRAI in Centennial Mall to discuss their grievances about school-related topics.

Group member Karen Peroulis, a parent of a child in Williams’ class, said she was most concerned with the events leading up to the resignation, which she believes to have been full of “secrecy” and “unprofessional.”

“Just the way it’s been handled is not good,” she said.

Peroulis said much of the controversy has been caused by misinformation through speculation and hearsay, which she hopes will be alleviated through a group gathering. She encourages parents or community members with problems with the school district to file official written complaints and write letters to that effect.

“We’ve all done our fair share of complaining, and it’s time to take the next step,” she said. “A verbal complaint is not enough.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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