Green Bay district administrators talk abuse, violence at Washington Middle School

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay Area Public School District is responding to claims made by a former teacher that Washington Middle School is beset by violence. School administrators held a news conference Wednesday saying the school has had serious issues for a long time.

Green Bay School Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld and many of the school district's community partners spoke publicly about efforts to resolve problems of violence and verbal abuse at Washington Middle School.

Assistant Superintendent John Magas admits part of the problem is the school has had seven principals in six years. “When we have a change in leadership every year or two, there's not that sense of being able to provide that continuity of leadership,” Magas told reporters. “So that continuity and strong support, not only from the district, but from the people behind us, as a community, is an important part for every school in changing the culture for the positive.”

At the news conference, Langenfeld said some students come from complicated situations, and "we have been reaching out tirelessly to our community for support."

"We're at a place and a time where schools can't do this alone," she said.

Langenfeld introduced a number of representatives of local organizations working with the district, including the Boys & Girls Club, mental health organizations, Achieve Brown County, the Green Bay Police Department and Oral Health Partners.

School Board President Brenda Warren said Washington Middle School "has been an ongoing topic of conversation" over a number of years.

She said the school board was "very saddened" by teacher Kerstin Westcott's resignation, and said the board members were restricted from responding to Westcott at the meeting by state open records laws.

"We did take Ms. Westcott's concerns very seriously, we just weren't able to express that during the open forum of the school board meeting," Warren said.

Langenfeld and the school board president emphasized they're committed to the staff at Washington Middle School.

A grandmother picking up a teen on Wednesday afternoon used to work for the district as a special education teacher. She says her granddaughter has anxiety from the school and had a substitute teacher for an extended period of time, who had a hard time keeping up with misbehavior. "They need to have training from the very top. Administration needs to know how to support teachers. They need to have teacher training. They need to have team training. They also need to have at least a designated room for in-school suspensions so that when those students are taken out of the classroom and not immediately bounced right back into that room, which happened regularly,” said Diane Clancey.

Police Lt. Jeff Brester, who works with school resource officers, encouraged parents to support their children's school community, hold children responsible and discipline them if they do wrong, and be a part of their child's school life.

School District staff says they are working on forming a community committee to address the problems the district has been facing.

People who are interested in joining the committee can call 920-448-2000.