May 7, 2013
School administrators at Walton Middle School are promising parents they will see immediate changes at the Albemarle County school, after a heated meeting Tuesday night.
About 75 parents, teachers and school leaders met to discuss what parents say are ongoing problems at the school.
Parents expressed concerns about drug and alcohol use at the school, how thoroughly disciplinary procedures are carried out, limited course options and school safety, among other issues. They are demanding immediate action be made to address those concerns.
"I feel like a lot of the issues aren't surmountable, but we want to see the dress code addressed, we want to see that when the behaviors are inappropriate, they're dealt with appropriately and that all those things are communicated to us as parents," said parent Regina Anderson.
Communication was the biggest topic of conversation at the meeting. Parents say they feel they have not been adequately informed about what goes on inside the school.
"You got our attention, and if your intent is to improve communication, between you the parents, school administration and your representatives on the school board, congratulations. I think you did an effective job tonight. We heard you loud and clear," said Albemarle County School Board member Eric Strucko.
Walton Middle School principal Alison Dwier-Selden says she is committed to improving the school climate.
"We always think that we are doing the best we can with the information we have at the time. I think that what we gathered tonight was some additional information that will allow us to take our next best steps to address everybody's desire to keep Walton a safe and positive learning environment for students," said Dwier-Selden.
While some changes will be implemented over time, she says one immediate change will be an increase in communication, telling students what is expected of them and reaching out to parents more often.
Strucko is also promising instantaneous change.
"I'm committed to making sure these problems are addressed immediately, starting tomorrow with proper communication, setting the tone for the rest of the school year, and then over the summer before the next summer begins, have the disciplinary and academic pieces together the best we can," said Strucko.
Anderson and other parents say they are confident school leaders will follow through.
"I definitely think that change is coming. I felt like having the school board there, that was instrumental," she said.
School board members Jason Buyaki and Stephen Koleszar also attended the meeting.
Strucko says the school board will pay close attention to how much progress Walton administrators make in addressing parents' concerns.