Concerns expressed at WCHCS meeting


WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — During Monday’s Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) Board of Education meeting, two local residents shared concerns about recent reported incidents that occurred within the district.

The two residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting, which was held at the WCHCS central office.

As previously reported by the Record-Herald, WCHCS Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey sent out a letter last week to parents and guardians responding to public concerns following multiple incidents that had taken place.

The first to speak at the meeting was Chad White, a Class of 1995 alum of Washington High School and a parent of a student at the high school. He addressed multiple concerns he had regarding Bailey’s letter. White said his intent was not to speak about the incidents directly, but to address what he felt were bigger issues brought to the surface through the incidents. According to White, those issues were communication and transparency.

“I reached out to Dr. Bailey. We had an email conversation, and he was very open with me and reacted rather quickly to some of my concerns and I appreciate that. I also learned through that conversation that Tracy Rose was no longer employed by the district. I knew he had not been at the high school, but I wasn’t aware of that. My concern is that I feel as a parent, I have a right and a need to know who is in charge of the school that I’m attending. I understand the situation, but I feel that there was some communication that was lacking.”

As previously reported by the Record-Herald, Bailey said Rose took a medical leave of absence several weeks ago. After his leave was in effect, Rose submitted a letter of resignation effective at the end of his contract — July 31, 2023 — and he will remain on leave until that time.

“Since we are in the middle of a year, we knew that we would not get the best pool of candidates for the position until the spring for an August 1 start date,” Bailey told the Record-Herald. “Our new assistant superintendent (Tim Sies) and myself are at the high school daily to help Ms. (Jennifer) Miller with the daily operations and to start planning for the future. We also posted a position of Dean of Students. After that interview process, Louis Reid was hired to take that position until the end of this school year.”

The dean of students position is not an administrative position and deals exclusively with student relationship building and discipline, according to Bailey.

In regards to a fight that occurred inside a high school boys’ restroom on Monday, Nov. 28, White said he felt that he should have been informed of the incident as a parent so that he could address and discuss the incident with his child. He said that while Bailey did address the issues in a letter to parents and guardians, the letter was vague.

White continued, “The second half of the letter named a lot of things that the school district was doing to better itself and move forward, and I failed to see how that was germane to the situation at hand. Also, through my research and digging through the school website, the school’s website is in shambles. It’s hard to find information. There’s outdated information. The directories are not up to date. If you go to the high school page, they still list Tracy Rose as the principal. That has not been updated. Ms. Miller, that was the assistant principal, I assume she’s acting principal now. Whatever capacity she holds at the high school, she’s new, she is not in the directory. If you search for her name, you cannot find her.”

Finally, White spoke about the bullying report numbers that are posted on the school district’s website.

“Looking at these reports, in 2016-17 there were 40 reported incidents of bullying. Thirty-three were investigated and 23 were found to be confirmed reports of bullying. The 2021-22 numbers were just posted. It says that the total reported incidents of bullying were 65. There’s no number for how many were investigated, and the total number of confirmed reports of bullying were three. For the first semester of this year there were 31 reports, and the total confirmed reports of bullying was one. I don’t know how in six years’ time we can make that much of a difference within our schools. It’d be awesome if we could, but I work with numbers all day long and statistically, I don’t see where that’s possible.”

Tim Wiseman was next to speak at the meeting. Wiseman is a 2000 graduate of Washington High School. He said that White had expressed a lot of the same concerns that he had, but that he would add some additional challenges.

“Transparency is a big issue. I understand there’s some sensitive issues and some sensitive information, but I too, as a parent and as a person who’s coached many of the youth in our district, I’ve seen how volatile their home lives are. Their safe place is school, but then when that’s volatile, too, they don’t have a safe place. They don’t have the structure and the boundaries. My concern is to swing too far the other way now, because in the letter that Mr. White referenced from Dr. Bailey, it mentioned discipline but didn’t mention setting up structure and boundaries. That starts with this group here, as well as Dr. Bailey.”

Wiseman continued, “There was a mention of Mr. Reid being named the dean of students. Well, what does it mean? What does that role entail? We just got one line in a letter. I don’t know where that falls in the chain of command. I don’t know what the role of the assistant superintendent is in the chain of command either, and what roles and responsibilities are there. Again, who do I talk to when I’ve got a problem? There is concern with the structure, and we’ve got a big opportunity to get this right.”

It was announced during the meeting that Washington Middle School principal Eric Wayne is retiring at the end of this school year after over 30 years of service to the district. Dr. Bailey said that Wayne would be honored for his service at a future board meeting.

Wiseman finished, “I want to see the school district be not just okay, but one of the best in the area, to attract the teachers and retain the teachers that these kids deserve. We have a lot of great teachers, and a lot of them are starting to retire like we’re seeing with Mr. Wayne. He’s been an outstanding principal and now, how are we going to replace that? How are we going to attract and retain and build up the employees? Plus, there are some factories being built around here that are going to attract a lot of people coming into our county. If they see chaos in one school district and not the other, we could be losing a lot of potential good students to another district.”

At the end of the meeting, the school board elected Mark Chrisman as the president pro-tem for the board’s organizational board meeting, which will take place on Jan. 9, 2023. Current president Dennis Garrison’s term is set to conclude at the end of this year.

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