Sunday, April 5, 2009

Readin, writing, no hit zone

I'm glad the state came in and reviewed everything and hopefully all will be well in the future.

I'm just curious why the teacher with the disciplinary force problem was placed on administrative leave instead of being asked to leave...leave.

Marion Head Start cited by state

MARION — It’s a small, unassuming mobile home in this little town about 15 miles southwest of New Braunfels.

Every school year, it fills up with about 20 preschoolers, all getting the first taste of what their parents hope will be long and fruitful scholastic careers.

For many of the students at the Marion Head Start Center, though, their initial foray into reading, writing and arithmetic has included allegedly getting smacked with wooden spoons and fears that mold might be endangering the health of the entire class.

After conducting an independent investigation, the Texas Department of Family Protective Services on March 27 cited the Marion Head Start for nine separate failures to meet the state’s minimum standard rules — most centering around what it termed “inappropriate discipline” and the mistreatment of several children by a faculty member, as well as the failure to timely address concerns that mold might have been in the building.

Robert Lucio, the executive director of the Community Council of South Central Texas — which oversees Marion’s and numerous other Head Start centers in the region — said the problems have been addressed and that the facility is a safe environment.

“We were very concerned, which is why we did what we had to do,” Lucio said.

Head Start parents — none of whom wished to be identified — contacted the Herald-Zeitung last week, all reporting that a particular teacher would smack children with a wooden spoon when they were unruly.

In addition, parents had reported that their children were getting sick with symptoms consistent with mold allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including rashes, itching and bloody noses.

As a result, the class of 22 students had started to dwindle down to nearly half because parents said they would rather leave them at home than expose them to potentially excessive disciplinary actions and health concerns.

The building itself had caught fire in November 2007 because of a faulty air-conditioning unit, fire officials said, and had to be shut down.

But after mold concerns were brought up, Lucio contracted a firm to conduct mold testing, which confirmed there was no significant or unsafe amount of mold in the classroom. That finding later was supported by the state, which said that although a possible mold problem should have been looked into sooner following the fire, an air sampling and a visual inspection “did not indicate an unsafe environment in the center.”

The faculty member accused of inappropriate discipline has been placed on administrative leave until the end of the school year, Lucio said, and will not be in contact with any children. He added that the staff member, whose name was not released, will not be working at the center in the future, as the use of a spoon for discipline violated Head Start’s policy.

A new certified instructor will be teaching in Marion for the remainder of the school year, Lucio said.

And with a new teacher, and two reports stating that the building is mold-free, he said Friday that nearly all of the students have returned to the classroom and are finishing out the school year.

“I want parents to know that we have a good, safe environment here and we’re working together for their children’s education,” he said.