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Target 2: Emails detail problems, efforts for solutions at Washington Middle School

(WBAY)
Published: Aug. 8, 2017 at 5:31 PM CDT
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Target 2 Investigates has been working to get more answers about the violence and behavior issues at Green Bay's Washington Middle School. Tuesday, the school district released hundreds of pertinent emails to Action 2 News through open records requests. The emails show conversations between school staff and even concerned parents.

The east-side school's problems made headlines in June after teacher Kerstin Westcott resigned at a school board meeting. She detailed incidents of abuse, violence and safety concerns at the school.

Since then, the district says it ramped up ongoing efforts to craft a workable solution for the upcoming school year.

SEPTEMBER 2016

: The emails date back to September. On the 21st the first incident of bad student behavior is brought to light when a staff member brings up a 7th grade sports event where some seventh graders "struggled with appropriate behavior" and "did not represent the school well" by bothering Packers player Jordy Nelson at the event.

JANUARY 2017

: In January, which is when school officials tells us they were made aware of behavior issues, Principal Dennis Christensen emailed his staff an article meant to help teachers "dealing with nasty backtalk from a student."

MAY 2017

: In May, a chain of emails started between Washington Middle School teacher Kerstin Westcott and school board member Ed Dorff. Wescott states in her email, "It's been a difficult road for our school these past few years.” She highlights the physical and verbal violence and threats against teachers from what she has witnessed.

The documents show Dorff took action the same day, notifying the rest of the school board and the superintendent about Westcott's worries.

JUNE 2017

: Westcott resigns publicly during a school board meeting, laying out her concerns in front of the board members. Although there were staff meetings and some changes towards safety at the school, it wasn't until Westcott's public resignation that action really kicked into gear.

Action 2 News found Westcott's resignation emboldened other teachers to step forward.

OTHER STAFF EMAILS

: An email by a staff member to Principal Christensen said in part: “I feel we are at this point because we did not tell the truth for many years out of fear that it was a reflection on us. It isn't."

At the end of June another teacher resigns but emails this: "I have high hopes for the future of Washington Middle School."

PARENTS EMAILING

: The emails also show concerned parents writing into the school -- as did teaching candidates looking to fill open positions at the school A mom of a 7th grader at Washington Middle School said she "voiced her concerns since day one."

An email by an interested English teacher says, "After seeing all of the news reports about your school, I am even more interested in the possible position."

The school district has 14 vacant positions at Washington Middle School.

MOVING FORWARD

: The school has added more staff and held meetings on changes the district plans to make. They plan to implement newly-released guidelines for safety and discipline in time for the new school year.