Parents question counselor's departure
Some parents of Firwood Elementary School students are still seeking answers after the unexpected departure of school counselor Kim Anderson, who had been with the school for three years.
When asked about Anderson, Oregon Trail School District Communications Manager Julia Monteith told The Post, "Kim Anderson tendered a resignation, of her own volition, on Feb. 15, 2018," and that she "did not indicate a reason in her letter of resignation."
Four parents seem to believe otherwise and appealed to the school board on Monday, June 25, to employ them to investigate her resignation or at least provide answers to the Firwood community about why Anderson's employment with the school has ended.
"I personally have watched our school counselor help my oldest son improve greatly over the last couple of years," mother Jenni Hackett told the board. "He is having a hard time with the possibility of the counselor not returning next year, so I'm here asking you, the board, to investigate why our counselor is not being given the chance to renew her contract. She spends the time with parents and students listening to family dynamics, history, trigger points and developing a personal plan for success. These students need somebody that is advocating in their corner so that they can go through their school day with all the extra things that are going on in their lives."
Hackett added that "as an educator who has supported behavioral students in harsh economic school districts, I know how vital it is to have and keep a counselor like the one we have."
"When this counselor was not given a budget to teach state-required safety classes, she found resources and put together an amazing program that teaches safety, stranger danger and appropriate conduct to our children, which is critical and should not be taken lightly," Hackett noted. "At all the schools I've worked in, there has never been such an in-depth, family(-oriented), take-home program in place."
Board Chair DJ Anderson made note during the meeting that he could not comment on the matter of Anderson's resignation because of employee privacy and possible impending litigation.
"Just as a matter of fact, the board cannot speak on this subject due to (the fact that) legal counsel has been brought in," Anderson explained. "This now goes through the lawyers."
Parents Amanda and Jed Mason also took the opportunity to speak up and ask questions about the termination of Anderson's contract. Amanda Mason said she was sad about the idea of her children losing their counselor from whom they've learned so much.
"When I drop my kids off in the morning or pick them up, I love to see how the kids interact with the counselor," Jed Mason noted. "It's exactly what I would want from a person who works at a school. We have recently learned that the counselor was asked to leave and will not be coming back next year. It's really hard to make sense of this from a parent's perspective.
"Obviously, I do not get to know all that goes on behind the scenes, but if the kids love her and the parents love her, and to my knowledge, she has no negative performance evaluations or reviews, then her being forced to leave should raise a question in everybody's mind, especially the school board. We were devastated when we found this out and we of course started asking questions to anyone who would listen to us. We have heard that teachers, employees at the school, and other parents are just as confused as us. Everybody loves this counselor."
Jed Mason added that he is concerned about other employees because they have allegedly expressed "fear for their own jobs" should they speak up about Anderson's departure.
"(T)his is why we are here. When teachers or employees in any occupation are too afraid to stand up and voice their concerns because they feel threatened or cannot trust their management, it results in a toxic situation that must be corrected," Mason said. "So today I am asking the School Board to get involved and to try and figure out why a counselor with no negative performance reviews and who is so loved by the students would be asked to resign. It does not make sense to me or any of the people we have talked to since we found out. Great teachers who have the ability connect with kids like this counselor are hard to come by."