Macon Charter Academy parents and employees alike aired complaints about the school’s operations -- from academics to discipline -- during a board of directors meeting that ended late Tuesday.
“I’m concerned about our students,” Sharon Dumas, the lead office clerk, said as she addressed the board and Principal Ron Boykins during a public comment period.
Dumas painted a picture of an “angry” staff that is “stressed out and crying” during breaks in the teachers lounge because of what she contended are student behavior issues, disorganization, and lack of communication and leadership.
“We work hard around here,” she said. “We really do. I feel that we need to be heard, not pushed off every time we try to come and address you.”
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Two parents, Rokeisha Vaughn and Fay Alexander, talked to board members about the “utter chaos” they had witnessed in the cafeteria.
One day when Alexander came to volunteer at the school, “The lunchroom was like somebody just came out of Compton,” she said, referring to the city near Los Angeles known for its gang violence. “It was ridiculous. I have never seen children act like that. That was disgraceful. You have no structure. You didn’t even try stop the kids from running around.”
“There was a dream when I entered my baby into this school,” Alexander said. “You know what? It’s a nightmare now. It’s a total nightmare.”
Vaughn asked the board how the school could educate the students if they could not discipline them.
“I will stand behind the vision, but you all have got to implement it,” she said.
Kayla Kittrell, a kindergarten teacher, said she doesn’t have any help in the classroom and has just 20 minutes for lunch.
The rest of the day, she is in a classroom full of 5-year-olds that get no “specials” -- art, music, recess -- and have no playground.
“I turned down several job opportunities to work at this school because I want to work at a school that helps minority children be better,” she said. “That’s what this school is. Look around. We’re minorities.”
She also addressed behavior problems.
“If we have discipline problems, ... they go straight to the office and they come back,” she said. “We were told that it’s OK if the kids hit us, if they kick us, if we go home bruised. I’ve never been in a school where I was told that I could be bitten because it was age appropriate until here.”
Shanika Sands, a paraprofessional, echoed the concern.
“What do we do with the ones that we can’t do anything with that we write up every single day?” she asked. “And then y’all come in here and tell me about some computers when they can’t even read. We don’t need computers. We need a library.”
She said the school is “filthy,” adding that MCA has just two janitors to clean the entire building.
Sands said she has to sweep and mop her own classroom each day and has to send her students to the restroom with antiseptic wipes because the toilets aren’t being cleaned every day.
Glenn Hileman, the CEO of Highmark Schools, the company that provided start-up funds for MCA, sent an email to Boykins, board Chairwoman Lonnicia Jackson and co-founder Charles Rutland expressing concern about MCA’s cleanliness.
“I have had three independent reports regarding the condition of the new facility,” Hileman wrote. “While only occupied for a few weeks, the maintenance and cleaning are in very poor condition. ... Failure to properly maintain the property exposes the school to significant costs as warranties may be voided.”
The 6 p.m. meeting ended about 11 p.m. after almost two hours of grievances from the public.
At the end, the MCA board, co-founders and Boykins asked those gathered for more time to address the issues they had brought up.
Monya Rutland, MCA’s co-founder, asked them to look at what they could do to help move the school forward.
“It’s taken everything to get where we are and I refuse, I personally refuse, to let it go,” Rutland said. “I’ll stand butt naked on the front of The Telegraph, whatever it takes, for this mission and vision to come alive in our children.”
One teary-eyed board member, Suzanne Wood, said she understands the feeling when parents find the “right school.”
“We’re becoming a big family. We have to air out our dirty laundry,” Wood said. “We go at it, but we come back together. And I just hope that you guys won’t give up. ... We’re not the enemy. We’re someone that wants basically the same thing you guys do.”
Boykins said this is the “toughest job” he has ever had.
“I spend the first part of my day teaching,” he told the audience. “I probably teach more than some of the staff. I start my day teaching 185 kids, and it’s me. It’s just me.”
But he added it’s important to be patient with the process and slow to judge because of what they are trying to build with MCA.
“It’s not how you started, it’s how you finish,” Boykins said. “That’s why you’ve got to be careful what you judge on the front end because it’s not what you get on the front end, it’s the end that we’re trying to create.”