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What about the complaint procedure?

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  • Ms. Ott
    ... The administration should have realized that the testing window was too short ...Instead, our scores will suffer, we will be under the microscope even more
    Message 1 of 9 , May 5, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      --- In Michael McDonald <mrmcdonald23@...> wrote:
      >
      The administration should have realized that the testing window was
      too short ...Instead, our scores will suffer, we will be under the
      microscope even more by federal, state and district authorities,
      and, most importantly, the educational system will have failed our
      students once again.
      >

      Hi Michael,

      I've been wondering, and you're email has prompted me to ask, what
      would be so horrible about having a higher authority take over?
      Maybe it's not a bad thing to have the state take over. Then
      teachers would have state authorities to work with rather than local
      district authorities who don't seem to be able to cut it. Could it
      be any worse? Maybe a different type of administration at Downer
      would help fix the education system that is failing it -- that's
      what I understand is the purpose of state takeovers.


      >
      > Because of what has happened to the Downer 5 and those who
      >publicly supported us, (transfers, letters of reprimand, poor
      >evaluations, recommendations not to rehire) people are afraid to
      speak out.
      >
      >

      It is not just Downer where people are afraid to speak out. This is
      a society-wide problem. However, if you think of it that way, it
      just becomes too overwhelming to handle.

      The immediate question here is what can I do about it? What can you
      do about it? What can we do about it? Good ideas for solutions and
      some people energy behind the good ideas is desparately needed.


      >
      > No input is sought from teachers when making major decisions and
      teachers who speak up, because they are frustrated with the
      direction of the school, are targeted for harassment.
      >
      >

      This is very true, true in other schools, and true of most working
      environments in this country. There are some teachers, though, such
      as you, and the other teachers at Downer who have spoken up. It is
      horrible what has happened. Where do we go from here?

      When faced with a problem, I start dreaming of solutions. In my
      dream, there is an online discussion group just for WCCUSD
      teachers. They can have anonymous logins, if they so choose, or not
      be anonymous. Either way, this is a way for them to share their
      ideas, problems, and solutions. From this sharing, teachers could
      see what are the common problems and discuss best practices for
      resolution. And, in the case of the Downer 5, it would be a
      rallying place for action. Perhaps, such a discussion group might
      have been able to prevent this whole thing to begin with because it
      might have solved a lot of the Open Court problems in their infancy.

      I already set up a discussion group with a cute acronym for the name
      for this group, but haven't had the time to take the next step,
      which is write the instructions for how to set up an anonymous
      Yahoo! login id (basically, you don't enter any personal
      information, and you use the email address that comes with ID
      instead of your own -- but I haven't tested it by creating one -- no
      time -- plus I got my yearly spring computer virus two weeks ago and
      don't have my screen capture program working yet). Any volunteers
      out there to write the instructions?

      >
      The morale at our school is at an all-time low and student behavior
      is becoming more and more dangerous. The learning environment at
      Downer has been severely and negatively impacted by the site
      administrators. I cannot, in good conscience, sit back and silently
      watch while Downer continues to deteriorate.
      >
      >

      I encourage everyone to use the Official Complaint Procedure. I
      know, it seems useless, when the administration doesn't respond. Or
      if they do respond, it's to say they aren't going to investigate --
      and then they call that a "response." (Yes, that has happened more
      than once, I kid you not. I said, basically, "I got a letter; I did
      not get a response to my concerns.")

      Those of you who read about my Science Fair epoch might think that
      filing a complaint is a useless waste of time and energy. But take
      heart. Through perseverance, hundreds of hours, and a staunch
      determination to get to the truth, I just had a conversation with
      Dr. LeBlanc about this yesterday, and..... I finally was permitted
      to speak to the Science Fair judge and get some things cleared up.
      It only took 11 months, a web site, letter after letter, email after
      email, meetings, and stress.... but one hurdle finally has been
      crossed. I'll write about the entire once it's all finished. Dr.
      LeBlanc has some more things to investigate -- the discussion with
      the Judge was rather revealing, I thought.

      Was it worth it? Well, it will be if it means I've paved the way
      for some serious attention to the fact that the complaint system
      doesn't work -- BIG TIME. Then again, the other side of the coin is
      that it can't possibly work if nobody utilizes it. Maybe it just
      doesn't get exercised enough which is why it is so rusty.

      Let's just take it for granted that administrators aren't doing what
      needs to be done. Let's also take it for granted that most likely,
      as witnessed in this district, people will be harassed for speaking
      up. That's a given. We know these things. What's the next step?

      I think we need to enourage people who will speak up to help out
      those who can't. We need a way for teachers to coalesce and
      communicate without fear of reprisal. And we need to make the
      complaint system work for us.

      Administrators will not be accountable for their actions unless you
      make them so. It's our responsibility to keep the watchful eye and
      take action when there's a problem. That's how a system of checks
      and balances works, but it doesn't work if no one's checking and
      balancing.

      The first course of action when there's an unresolved problem in
      WCCUSD is the formal written complaint. We have to give folks the
      opportunity to fix an identified problem first. Following proper
      channels, I think, is the best way to start. From what I've
      determined, there are 2 types of complaints. In the case where a
      law has been violated, it should go to the Complaince Officer (who
      is retiring, I read somewhere). In the case where it's a judgement
      call but not a legal violation, the complaint should go to the
      employee's supervisor. But you need to document everything if
      you're going to do this. Otherwise, it IS a waste of time.

      I had another idea. I could put a page on that web site I've been
      using to post information useful to wccusd parents (
      http://uscitizen.home.comcas.net/WCCUSD/ ) that explains the ins and
      outs of the complaint procedure(s). The web site could also post
      complaints sent to the District, and the written response from the
      district (or its noticeable absense). What do you think?

      Of course, to set this all up requires able volunteers (people who
      can write well, people to web page formatting, people who can go to
      meetings and speak for the group). The more volunteers, though, the
      less work each one has to do to accomplish the same goal(s).

      Thanks for reading,

      Ms. Ott
    • Elizabeth Jaeger
      Just a quick mention -- in California state take-over is not a legal option under NCLB, although I believe it can happen for fiscal irresponsibility. ... was
      Message 2 of 9 , May 5, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        Just a quick mention -- in California state take-over is not a legal
        option under NCLB, although I believe it can happen for fiscal
        irresponsibility.

        --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, "Ms. Ott" <msott@...> wrote:
        >
        > --- In Michael McDonald <mrmcdonald23@> wrote:
        > >
        > The administration should have realized that the testing window
        was
        > too short ...Instead, our scores will suffer, we will be under the
        > microscope even more by federal, state and district authorities,
        > and, most importantly, the educational system will have failed our
        > students once again.
        > >
        >
        > Hi Michael,
        >
        > I've been wondering, and you're email has prompted me to ask, what
        > would be so horrible about having a higher authority take over?
        > Maybe it's not a bad thing to have the state take over. Then
        > teachers would have state authorities to work with rather than
        local
        > district authorities who don't seem to be able to cut it. Could
        it
        > be any worse? Maybe a different type of administration at Downer
        > would help fix the education system that is failing it -- that's
        > what I understand is the purpose of state takeovers.
        >
        >
        > >
        > > Because of what has happened to the Downer 5 and those who
        > >publicly supported us, (transfers, letters of reprimand, poor
        > >evaluations, recommendations not to rehire) people are afraid to
        > speak out.
        > >
        > >
        >
        > It is not just Downer where people are afraid to speak out. This
        is
        > a society-wide problem. However, if you think of it that way, it
        > just becomes too overwhelming to handle.
        >
        > The immediate question here is what can I do about it? What can
        you
        > do about it? What can we do about it? Good ideas for solutions
        and
        > some people energy behind the good ideas is desparately needed.
        >
        >
        > >
        > > No input is sought from teachers when making major decisions and
        > teachers who speak up, because they are frustrated with the
        > direction of the school, are targeted for harassment.
        > >
        > >
        >
        > This is very true, true in other schools, and true of most working
        > environments in this country. There are some teachers, though,
        such
        > as you, and the other teachers at Downer who have spoken up. It
        is
        > horrible what has happened. Where do we go from here?
        >
        > When faced with a problem, I start dreaming of solutions. In my
        > dream, there is an online discussion group just for WCCUSD
        > teachers. They can have anonymous logins, if they so choose, or
        not
        > be anonymous. Either way, this is a way for them to share their
        > ideas, problems, and solutions. From this sharing, teachers could
        > see what are the common problems and discuss best practices for
        > resolution. And, in the case of the Downer 5, it would be a
        > rallying place for action. Perhaps, such a discussion group might
        > have been able to prevent this whole thing to begin with because
        it
        > might have solved a lot of the Open Court problems in their
        infancy.
        >
        > I already set up a discussion group with a cute acronym for the
        name
        > for this group, but haven't had the time to take the next step,
        > which is write the instructions for how to set up an anonymous
        > Yahoo! login id (basically, you don't enter any personal
        > information, and you use the email address that comes with ID
        > instead of your own -- but I haven't tested it by creating one --
        no
        > time -- plus I got my yearly spring computer virus two weeks ago
        and
        > don't have my screen capture program working yet). Any volunteers
        > out there to write the instructions?
        >
        > >
        > The morale at our school is at an all-time low and student
        behavior
        > is becoming more and more dangerous. The learning environment at
        > Downer has been severely and negatively impacted by the site
        > administrators. I cannot, in good conscience, sit back and
        silently
        > watch while Downer continues to deteriorate.
        > >
        > >
        >
        > I encourage everyone to use the Official Complaint Procedure. I
        > know, it seems useless, when the administration doesn't respond.
        Or
        > if they do respond, it's to say they aren't going to investigate --

        > and then they call that a "response." (Yes, that has happened
        more
        > than once, I kid you not. I said, basically, "I got a letter; I
        did
        > not get a response to my concerns.")
        >
        > Those of you who read about my Science Fair epoch might think that
        > filing a complaint is a useless waste of time and energy. But
        take
        > heart. Through perseverance, hundreds of hours, and a staunch
        > determination to get to the truth, I just had a conversation with
        > Dr. LeBlanc about this yesterday, and..... I finally was permitted
        > to speak to the Science Fair judge and get some things cleared
        up.
        > It only took 11 months, a web site, letter after letter, email
        after
        > email, meetings, and stress.... but one hurdle finally has been
        > crossed. I'll write about the entire once it's all finished. Dr.
        > LeBlanc has some more things to investigate -- the discussion with
        > the Judge was rather revealing, I thought.
        >
        > Was it worth it? Well, it will be if it means I've paved the way
        > for some serious attention to the fact that the complaint system
        > doesn't work -- BIG TIME. Then again, the other side of the coin
        is
        > that it can't possibly work if nobody utilizes it. Maybe it just
        > doesn't get exercised enough which is why it is so rusty.
        >
        > Let's just take it for granted that administrators aren't doing
        what
        > needs to be done. Let's also take it for granted that most
        likely,
        > as witnessed in this district, people will be harassed for
        speaking
        > up. That's a given. We know these things. What's the next step?
        >
        > I think we need to enourage people who will speak up to help out
        > those who can't. We need a way for teachers to coalesce and
        > communicate without fear of reprisal. And we need to make the
        > complaint system work for us.
        >
        > Administrators will not be accountable for their actions unless
        you
        > make them so. It's our responsibility to keep the watchful eye
        and
        > take action when there's a problem. That's how a system of checks
        > and balances works, but it doesn't work if no one's checking and
        > balancing.
        >
        > The first course of action when there's an unresolved problem in
        > WCCUSD is the formal written complaint. We have to give folks the
        > opportunity to fix an identified problem first. Following proper
        > channels, I think, is the best way to start. From what I've
        > determined, there are 2 types of complaints. In the case where a
        > law has been violated, it should go to the Complaince Officer (who
        > is retiring, I read somewhere). In the case where it's a
        judgement
        > call but not a legal violation, the complaint should go to the
        > employee's supervisor. But you need to document everything if
        > you're going to do this. Otherwise, it IS a waste of time.
        >
        > I had another idea. I could put a page on that web site I've been
        > using to post information useful to wccusd parents (
        > http://uscitizen.home.comcas.net/WCCUSD/ ) that explains the ins
        and
        > outs of the complaint procedure(s). The web site could also post
        > complaints sent to the District, and the written response from the
        > district (or its noticeable absense). What do you think?
        >
        > Of course, to set this all up requires able volunteers (people who
        > can write well, people to web page formatting, people who can go
        to
        > meetings and speak for the group). The more volunteers, though,
        the
        > less work each one has to do to accomplish the same goal(s).
        >
        > Thanks for reading,
        >
        > Ms. Ott
        >
      • Ms. Ott
        Thanks for the info, Elizabeth. So, then, Federal takeover may not be such a bad thing. I ve read of some federal takeovers where the schools were magically
        Message 3 of 9 , May 6, 2006
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          Thanks for the info, Elizabeth. So, then, Federal takeover may not be
          such a bad thing. I've read of some federal takeovers where the
          schools were magically able to get the funding to meet NCLB
          requirments (like textbooks). And like I said before, could the
          administration be any worse than it is? I don't think so.

          --Ms. Ott

          --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Jaeger"
          <elizabethjaeger@...> wrote:
          >
          > Just a quick mention -- in California state take-over is not a legal
          > option under NCLB, although I believe it can happen for fiscal
          > irresponsibility.
          >
        • Elizabeth Jaeger
          I ve never heard of a federal take-over -- I don t think there s any such thing. There are state take-overs in other states. ... not be ... legal
          Message 4 of 9 , May 6, 2006
          • 0 Attachment
            I've never heard of a "federal take-over" -- I don't think there's
            any such thing. There are state take-overs in other states.

            --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, "Ms. Ott" <msott@...> wrote:
            >
            > Thanks for the info, Elizabeth. So, then, Federal takeover may
            not be
            > such a bad thing. I've read of some federal takeovers where the
            > schools were magically able to get the funding to meet NCLB
            > requirments (like textbooks). And like I said before, could the
            > administration be any worse than it is? I don't think so.
            >
            > --Ms. Ott
            >
            > --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Jaeger"
            > <elizabethjaeger@> wrote:
            > >
            > > Just a quick mention -- in California state take-over is not a
            legal
            > > option under NCLB, although I believe it can happen for fiscal
            > > irresponsibility.
            > >
            >
          • Marilyn Langlois
            Dear Mike-- I received your post about Downer on wccusdtalk list, but not the March4Education list. Thank you for sharing your observations with us. You raise
            Message 5 of 9 , May 7, 2006
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              Dear Mike--
              I received your post about Downer on wccusdtalk list, but not the
              March4Education list.

              Thank you for sharing your observations with us. You raise very serious
              issues:

              --testing conditions (lack of adequate time) that will in effect make the
              results invalid;

              --noncompliance with the spirit and letter of laws requiring broad
              participation in school decision making via the SSC and ILT;

              --noncompliance with district discipline policies.

              What is the response of district administrators and the School Board?

              The Downer parents and students who walked with us in the Cinco de Mayo
              parade and those who cheered and waved at us from the sidelines along the
              parade route deserve a more positive learning environment.

              best wishes,
              Marilyn

              > From: Michael McDonald <mrmcdonald23@...>
              > Reply-To: wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com
              > Date: Fri, 5 May 2006 07:24:49 -0700 (PDT)
              > To: wccusdtalk <wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com>, march 4ed
              > <march4education@yahoogroups.com>
              > Subject: [wccusdtalk] Downer
              >
              > I sent this late last night, but it didn't go through. I am trying again.
              >
              >
              > To The WCCUSD School Board Members and Administrators,
              >
              > Tuesday was our initial day of testing in sixth grade at Downer. Students took
              > the first part of the Language Arts test. This section was 25 pages long and
              > consisted of 42 questions. It contained several long reading passages. The
              > section was one of the longest I can remember students taking in my ten years
              > of teaching. The site administration has set up a testing schedule in which
              > everyone is testing at the same time. There is some variation because we have
              > three different recess and lunch times at Downer, but basically we all test
              > between morning recess and lunch. By the time we got the sixth graders up from
              > recess, passed out the test, students filled in the necessary information and
              > the directions were read, the students had 1 1/2 hours to complete the test.
              >
              > 1 1/2 hours was not enough time to for many sixth grade students to complete
              > the Language Arts test. At 12 pm, 30 minutes before the end of the testing
              > period, another sixth grade teacher and I realized that the students would not
              > be finished in time, so I went to ask the vice principal if we could take the
              > kids to lunch and then have them finish the test after lunch. She said no,
              > that the students had to go to the overflow room in the library.
              >
              > When I told my students that they had 15 minutes left before lunch and that
              > anyone who was not finished could finish in the library, about half of my 20
              > students had not yet finished the test. When it was time to leave for lunch, 6
              > still had not finished and I took them to the library. Between the 5 separate
              > sixth grade classes at our school, there were about 40 kids who did not finish
              > in time to avoid going to the library. I went back to the library 15 minutes
              > into the lunch period and there were about 8 of the 40 students still in the
              > library.
              >
              > What is the big deal about finishing the test in the library some might ask? I
              > saw several of my students hurry through the test in my room once I told them
              > they would have to finish in the library. I told them to slow down and go to
              > the library and reminded them of the importance of the test for their future,
              > but they said that they were finished. Once in the library, students hurried
              > through the test because they were hungry and they wanted to go to recess.
              > Accounting for those students who rushed to finish the test before having to
              > go to the library and those students who went to the library and then hurried
              > to finish the test to go to lunch, I believe that approximately half of our
              > 120 sixth graders were negatively effected by the testing conditions.
              >
              > The sixth grade scores at our school will suffer because the students were not
              > given adequate time in a comfortable environment to complete the test. (The
              > library was full with 40 students. We have a big library, but we have a
              > limited number of tables).
              >
              > We are a Year 3 Program Improvement school under NCLB. The test scores will
              > have a direct impact on what happens at Downer in the coming years. English
              > Learners are considered for reclassification based in part on their Language
              > Arts test scores. Whether you agree with the testing or not, there is no doubt
              > that the scores have far reaching ramifications. Downer's scores will be down
              > this year because of what happened on Tuesday.
              >
              > The students are expected to finish the test in one sitting. There was no way
              > that the principal or vice principal were going go against the testing
              > guidelines. Given the fact that the students faced far-from-ideal testing
              > conditions and given the fact that these conditions were created by the school
              > administration, I think that the administrators should have bent the rules to
              > allow the students a fair opportunity to do their best. That being said, it
              > should never have come to this. The administration should have realized that
              > the testing window was too short to give students adequate time to
              > successfully complete the test. Instead, our scores will suffer, we will be
              > under the microscope even more by federal, state and district authorities,
              > and, most importantly, the educational system will have failed our students
              > once again.
              >
              > This incident is one of many incidents I have witnessed over the last several
              > months at Downer in which the site administrators have acted in a way that is
              > detrimental to our students. SSC and ILT meetings have regularly been canceled
              > without notice. We have not had one school-wide fire drill since October, when
              > the physical layout of our school, including major exit areas, dramatically
              > changed due to construction. Students have committed serious violations of our
              > established discipline policy without being appropriately punished. Several
              > students have repeatedly engaged in activities, such as fighting and
              > vandalism, which would have led to expulsions in previous years, yet the
              > administration has rarely even suspended these students. Other students see
              > that there are no real consequences for anti-social behavior and act out as
              > well. The result is a student climate that is not safe and not conducive to
              > learning.
              >
              > Because of what has happened to the Downer 5 and those who publicly supported
              > us, (transfers, letters of reprimand, poor evaluations, recommendations not to
              > rehire) people are afraid to speak out. No input is sought from teachers when
              > making major decisions and teachers who speak up, because they are frustrated
              > with the direction of the school, are targeted for harassment. The morale at
              > our school is at an all-time low and student behavior is becoming more and
              > more dangerous. The learning environment at Downer has been severely and
              > negatively impacted by the site administrators. I cannot, in good conscience,
              > sit back and silently watch while Downer continues to deteriorate.
              >
              > Michael McDonald
              > Downer Elementary School
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
            • Michael McDonald
              Because of trouble with the yahoo groups the first two times I tried to send this post, I think that some people did not receive it. I apologize to those of
              Message 6 of 9 , May 7, 2006
              • 0 Attachment
                Because of trouble with the yahoo groups the first two times I tried to send this post, I think that some people did not receive it. I apologize to those of you who did for sending it a third time, but I think it is important that it be read by those concerned with education in WCCUSD.

                Thanks,
                Mike


                To The WCCUSD School Board Members and Administrators,

                Tuesday was our initial day of testing in sixth grade at Downer. Students took the first part of the Language Arts test. This section was 25 pages long and consisted of 42 questions. It contained several long reading passages. The section was one of the longest I can remember students taking in my ten years of teaching. The site administration has set up a testing schedule in which everyone is testing at the same time. There is some variation because we have three different recess and lunch times at Downer, but basically we all test between morning recess and lunch. By the time we got the sixth graders up from recess, passed out the test, students filled in the necessary information and the directions were read, the students had 1 1/2 hours to complete the test.

                1 1/2 hours was not enough time to for many sixth grade students to complete the Language Arts test. At 12 pm, 30 minutes before the end of the testing period, another sixth grade teacher and I realized that the students would not be finished in time, so I went to ask the vice principal if we could take the kids to lunch and then have them finish the test after lunch. She said no, that the students had to go to the overflow room in the library.

                When I told my students that they had 15 minutes left before lunch and that anyone who was not finished could finish in the library, about half of my 20 students had not yet finished the test. When it was time to leave for lunch, 6 still had not finished and I took them to the library. Between the 5 separate sixth grade classes at our school, there were about 40 kids who did not finish in time to avoid going to the library. I went back to the library 15 minutes into the lunch period and there were about 8 of the 40 students still in the library.

                What is the big deal about finishing the test in the library some might ask? I saw several of my students hurry through the test in my room once I told them they would have to finish in the library. I told them to slow down and go to the library and reminded them of the importance of the test for their future, but they said that they were finished. Once in the library, students hurried through the test because they were hungry and they wanted to go to recess. Accounting for those students who rushed to finish the test before having to go to the library and those students who went to the library and then hurried to finish the test to go to lunch, I believe that approximately half of our 120 sixth graders were negatively effected by the testing conditions.

                The sixth grade scores at our school will suffer because the students were not given adequate time in a comfortable environment to complete the test. (The library was full with 40 students. We have a big library, but we have a limited number of tables).

                We are a Year 3 Program Improvement school under NCLB. The test scores will have a direct impact on what happens at Downer in the coming years. English Learners are considered for reclassification based in part on their Language Arts test scores. Whether you agree with the testing or not, there is no doubt that the scores have far reaching ramifications. Downer's scores will be down this year because of what happened on Tuesday.

                The students are expected to finish the test in one sitting. There was no way that the principal or vice principal were going go against the testing guidelines. Given the fact that the students faced far-from-ideal testing conditions and given the fact that these conditions were created by the school administration, I think that the administrators should have bent the rules to allow the students a fair opportunity to do their best. That being said, it should never have come to this. The administration should have realized that the testing window was too short to give students adequate time to successfully complete the test. Instead, our scores will suffer, we will be under the microscope even more by federal, state and district authorities, and, most importantly, the educational system will have failed our students once again.

                This incident is one of many incidents I have witnessed over the last several months at Downer in which the site administrators have acted in a way that is detrimental to our students. SSC and ILT meetings have regularly been canceled without notice. We have not had one school-wide fire drill since October, when the physical layout of our school, including major exit areas, dramatically changed due to construction. Students have committed serious violations of our established discipline policy without being appropriately punished. Several students have repeatedly engaged in activities, such as fighting and vandalism, which would have led to expulsions in previous years, yet the administration has rarely even suspended these students. Other students see that there are no real consequences for anti-social behavior and act out as well. The result is a student climate that is not safe and not conducive to learning.

                Because of what has happened to the Downer 5 and those who publicly supported us, (transfers, letters of reprimand, poor evaluations, recommendations not to rehire) people are afraid to speak out. No input is sought from teachers when making major decisions and teachers who speak up, because they are frustrated with the direction of the school, are targeted for harassment. The morale at our school is at an all-time low and student behavior is becoming more and more dangerous. The learning environment at Downer has been severely and negatively impacted by the site administrators. I cannot, in good conscience, sit back and silently watch while Downer continues to deteriorate.

                Michael McDonald
                Downer Elementary School


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