Parents seek solution to school disruptions

Parents of students attending Cochran Primary School voiced concern Tuesday over “disturbances” occurring during the school day that are affecting the education of third-grade students.

Jennifer Lake, one parent who spoke at the meeting of the Williamsport Area School Board, explained that shouting and incidents of students hitting walls in an emotional support classroom are creating an unsafe learning environment for students in neighboring classrooms. Third-grade classrooms are next to the emotional support room.

Lake added that the disturbances can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours.

Shari Berthold, another parent, added that while parents are encouraging their children to have positive relationships with all students, the incidents are having a negative affect on those in neighboring classrooms. She said students sometimes are unable to hear teachers because of the noise level in the support classroom. The commotion also is distracting and scares students.

Lake said parents have had discussions with principals and other administrators about the issues but there has been “little to no improvement or change.”

Berthold requested the board make a plan of correction for the situation.

After the parent comments, with others in the audience in support of Lake and Berthold, district Superintendent Dr. Don Adams reported that the district has had discussions with the state Department of Education and is looking at options for correction of the issues.

The board also heard from senior Kristin Hipple on an incident involving the high school girls soccer team.

Hipple, a member of the team, told the board there were numerous instances her being bullied throughout her last year on the squad. She noted that not only were there mean comments made by teammates but a coach refused to play her in games, including senior night.

She also reported that a coach threatened to kick her off the team for expressing herself on social media.

Hipple said she was not given playing time because she missed a week of practice for a pre-planned mission trip but other team members missed more practice without penalty. Hipple’s mother, Dora, asked the board for disciplinary actions for the coach.

In other business, the board heard from student representatives on the importance of keeping the high school’s activity period. Nicole Cillo and Samuel Engel, student government representatives, spoke about how the hour-long period each day allows many students to seek academic help from teachers and participate in clubs.

Cillo reported that the period is in danger of being eliminated because of a group of students misusing the time. She asked that those students be disciplined, not the entire student body.

“It gives each student time in the middle of the day to get so much done,” Cillo said.

“It’s been very beneficial for our student body this year,” Engel added.

Adams also recognized four board members who served their last meeting Tuesday for their time and effort to the district. Brette Confair, Jay Shultz, Dale Vollman and Thomas Zimmerman will be replaced on the board by Robin Knauth, Nicholas Grimes, Spencer Sweeting and Chester Peterman in December.