Emotions are running high in Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95. Many parents are not happy about the district’s decision not to switch to full-day, in-person classes for the rest of the year, and they are especially peeved that the district made the decision to stick with its hybrid model without doing a parent survey despite being asked to do so last month.
To illustrate just how irritable some are about the situation, on March 2 someone apparently angry that school is not in session full time began following a car driven by the wife of school board member Kyle Wood, who tweeted about the incident the same day.
“Earlier today my wife was followed closely and aggressively by a driver who eventually pulled up beside her and screamed obscenities to tell her to go to school/open up the schools for the kids,” Wood wrote. “This happened in front of my daughter. This is not ok. #wearellinthistogether”
Wood’s tweet prompted a few sympathetic tweets and apparently prompted a letter to parents two days later from school board President Scott Encher, saying that harassment is not the District 95 way and calling for unity.
Tony Ketchmark, the father of kindergarten student and the nephew of Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark, took exception to Wood’s tweet at the school board’s March 11 meeting. He related a story about looking at his son’s class photo and asking his son who his friends were. According to Ketchmark, the boy only pointed to one child. Ketchmark then addressed Wood directly.
“Mr. Kyle Wood that’s pretty ballsy what you called out on Twitter,” said Ketchmark, who criticized Wood for “mak[ing] such a blanket statement in a time when we’re supposed to be about unity. We’ve got this divide; this is crazy. This is not right.”
At the District 95 school board meeting on March 11, six parents expressed their displeasure during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Transparency is a concern as you will never know how your community felt as a whole,” Miranda Thomas, who wanted a survey done, told the school board. “The voice of every parent should have been heard.”
Kristin Reingruber, the mother of a first-grader and the principal of an elementary school in Hinsdale, also complained about the lack of parent input. Reingruber noted that when she had been part of a group of parents who helped raise funds for a playground parent input was valued. She wondered why parent input was sought then, but not now.
“During that process there was no problem with the district partnering with the parents who were willing and able to help garner support for funding for that project,” Reingruber said. “Now we tried to work together on a more critical component, the education of our children, and the message that we received is that our voice does not matter, that our input is not needed nor welcome.”
Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski told the Landmark that he did meet with a group of parents after the February school board meeting and addressed their concerns, saying they were most concerned about full-day, in-person school in the fall.
Other parents at the school board meeting complained about the decision itself to stick with hybrid learning, where students go to school in person for 2.5 hours a day.
“The decisions that the board and superintendent are making have drastic impacts on our kids,” said parent Nicole Lalonde. “School districts across the state and country are returning to full-day, in-person learning. Why can’t District 95?”
Mary Ann McNulty said a teacher told her that students are two to three weeks behind where they would be in a normal school year and that two of her children’s math MAP scores had declined by 25 percentiles since spring 2020. McNulty said students need to be in school longer. She said remote planning days allowed by the state this year should be used for instruction.
“Putting the needs of the teachers ahead of the needs of struggling students [is] not acceptable,” McNulty said. “Kids are struggling now. They need the additional time in school now.”
At the end of the meeting Kuzniewski made clear that the intention right now is to have full-day school in the fall.
“Our plan is for a full in person model,” said Kuzniewski. “If we have to offer a remote because we’re mandated to do so then we’ll do that, but our focus isn’t whether we are trying to do full or hybrid, we are working to be a full in person model in the fall.”
This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Mary Ann McNulty’s last name and to clarify her comment about declining math scores. The Landmark regrets the errors.