Assistant Managing Editor
Parents of 22 children in one second-grade class at Wapakoneta Elementary School asked Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education members for compassion in a decision affecting their children next school year.
The parents of students in Chris Talowsky’s second-grade class were told by school Principal Mark Selvaggio earlier this month that as she was moving on to teach third grade next year, if they were interested, their children could retain her as a teacher for next school year. Of the 23 students in Talowsky’s class that are returning to school in the building next year, 22 of their parents accepted the offer.
At the end of last week, these parents learned that the offer was being rescinded by Superintendent Keith Horner, who cited the district’s policies of no class looping and no teacher requests — a policy put into place last year — to parents as his reason to overturn the offer.
But parents say they are heartbroken about how to approach the situation with their children, who were already told about the move with their teacher and had been making preparations, carrying their old second-grade books down to another teacher’s classroom as they finished them and getting the items they would need for third-grade in Talowsky’s classroom in place.
The students were excited to raise animals in Talowsky’s class next year and to continue to work with her on areas which they were struggling.
“Kids don’t understand,” Lisa Schmelzer, who has a daughter in the class, said after the Tuesday’s board meeting. “I hope they make a decision in favor of the kids. They have always been very honorable people and this is not the children’s mistake.”
“Our daughter has been excited from the day that she found out,” Jodi Finkelmeier Muller said.
With other parents so upset about the situation they were crying, Finkelmeier Muller said it is about the children and it wasn’t anything they had asked for.
Jamie and Shane Allemeier said it is the children who are being punished and who will be very disappointed if board members don’t reconsider this action.
Board members heard the parents’ complaints and received a copy of a petition the 22 parents signed on behalf of their children.
Finkelmeier Muller, speaking on behalf of the parents, said they were hoping board members would take into consideration their plea before they are forced to tell their children they are not going to be in their beloved teacher’s classroom again next year after all.
Board President Eric McKinniss said they would take the comments into consideration, but that it is board policy for matters such as this to be Horner’s decision.
A letter dated Friday from Selvaggio was received by parents Tuesday explaining that he had made a mistake and apologized, saying it had come to his attention that he would not be following the no teacher request policy if he gave parents the option to stay in Talowsky’s class next year. He said he had to rescind the offer.
“This means your child will be included with all the second-grade children and treated the same when creating the third-grade class lists,” Selvaggio said. “Please be aware that when balancing the classrooms, some of Mrs. Talowsky’s students may end up in her class.”
He wrote that classroom placement is done by random selection through a scheduling program.
Selvaggio said he was sending the letter in advance of talking to the class, which was planned for the last day of school Friday.
Apologizing for any inconvenience, he told parents that whoever their child got as a teacher, that person would do his or her best to educate the children in their classroom.
Horner declined to comment publicly to the Wapakoneta Daily News. He planned to write a letter to parents himself, but he did not have a copy available.
Finkelmeier Muller said the parents think Horner’s decision to stick to the letter of the policy will be hurtful to their children.
“This is not a teacher request situation,” the parents said in their written petition to the board. “We did not as a group ask to retain Mrs. Talowsky. The offer to do this was made to us. No one believes this opens the door to teacher requests — it is a one-time opportunity. Again, offered to us, not requested.”
At least one parent had expressed concerns that not all second-graders were offered the chance to have Talowsky as a teacher in third-grade, but no one expressed opposition during Tuesday’s meeting.
The parents writing the letter, said the most important reason for board members to reconsider how to handle the situation was because the children were already told it would happen.
“Imagine if you will what the impact was for our children,” the parents said. “For two and a half weeks these children have been excited, looking forward to the next school year, and having another year working with Mrs. Talowsky.”
“You can tell us as parents that we must stick to the rules and we understand. We are adults,” they said. “Our children however do not understand how they can be told this thing by their principal and then be told that it is undone by another school administrator. They do not understand why certain policies exist, only that to them it appears capricious and arbitrary.”
The parents said they aren’t asking for a change to the overall policy, anything that costs schools any additional expense, or asking to set a precedent.
“We are only asking that you allow our children to have the opportunity to keep their teacher,” the parents told the board. “It was offered to them and they deserve to learn that compassionate leaders sometimes stand by a mistake, especially if it harms no one.”