A Puyallup parent facing restrictions on his ability to be present at his child’s school says he’s hopeful a recent change in campus leadership will bring a new, positive attitude to the school.
Andre Douglas, a parent of two students at Spinning Elementary near downtown Puyallup, received a “no-trespass” letter in November from the Puyallup School District – the kind of order that is rarely issued, according to the district superintendent.
The letter says Douglas may not come onto the school campus without a scheduled appointment with the principal to discuss his children’s education. The order says it remains in effect through the end of the school year, or until it is rescinded in writing.
The order says Douglas “disrupted the educational process” by “politicking” and distributing unauthorized materials at school Nov. 19. The district cited a state law that allows school officials to order people off school property if they obstruct school functions.
Douglas acknowledges that he visited the school to distribute fliers that day. He said he was out on the sidewalk, exercising his free-speech rights. Another Spinning parent, Kelly Long, backs up his account.
But district officials contend Douglas came on campus with the fliers. District policy requires that written materials distributed at schools first be approved, and officials said Douglas’ flier had not gone through the approval process.
Douglas’ fliers directed parents to his online petition protesting the behavior of Spinning’s principal, Laura King, and calling for the school district to investigate.
King, principal at Spinning for the past five years, is moving to a new position as assistant principal at Emerald Ridge High School after winter break. The move was announced in a letter to parents dated Dec. 11.
King declined to comment on the no-trespass letter issued to Douglas. She said in an email that she is “excited about the next stage in my professional life knowing that the experiences at the high school will help prepare me for my career goals.”
Puyallup Superintendent Tim Yeomans said the midyear switch was not the result of parent complaints. He said King wanted to gain experience at the secondary school level, and that she had previously talked about making a change. He said King “did a great job taking on challenging issues at Spinning” and that she “positioned that school to move forward.”
Yeomans said it’s unusual for a district to issue the kind of no-trespass warning sent to Douglas.
“It’s extremely infrequent,” Yeomans said, adding that the order aimed at Douglas was the result of his behavior toward King and others in the district.
Earlier in the school year, Douglas started a Facebook page complaining about King and asking parents who agreed with him to sign an online petition. He accused King of being unwilling to work with parents or the PTA, discouraging extra-curricular activities and other behaviors that he claims negatively impacted the environment at Spinning.
Other parents said they pulled their children out of Spinning because of its negative atmosphere, and that good teachers have left the school for the same reason.
Douglas acknowledges having disagreements with King, and being upset. But he said he never behaved aggressively or in a threatening manner. He said that because of the district’s no-trespass order, he was prevented from playing Santa at a PTA holiday party. On more than one occasion, he said he felt obliged by the order to stay outside school, either on the sidewalk or in his car in the parent drop-off zone, while picking up or dropping off his children.
Douglas’ online petition gathered more than 50 signatures. Eight parents also attended a Nov. 30 meeting at the Puyallup Public Library that Douglas called to discuss Spinning.
Douglas said the new principal at Spinning could be the change agent that’s needed at the school. But he also said the school district erred in letting the situation at the school deteriorate. He said he wants the district to acknowledge its mistake.
He said he still plans to collect letters from other Spinning parents with complaints and forward them to district officials.
“I want accountability, responsibility,” he said this week.
Collette Stewart is Spinning’s new principal, and she’s essentially switching desks with King. Stewart moves to the job from her former post as assistant principal at Emerald Ridge – a post she held for the past seven years. She declined to comment directly on parent complaints at Spinning.
Instead, Stewart said she’s looking forward to beginning work when school resumes to help Spinning and its estimated 315 students improve their academic performance.
“I’m honored and excited to be there,” said Stewart. “I will work with students, parents and teachers to make sure Spinning is the best place we can make it.”
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635