Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teacher's removal confounds parents

Parents outraged over the removal of a Samuelson Elementary School kindergarten teacher are seeking to have her reinstated and the principal removed over how the situation was handled.

Teacher Pattie Fiderlick, 55, in an unusual move, was taken out of the classroom last Thursday during the middle of the school day, according to four parents with children in Fiderlick's class.

Principal Cindy Roerig sent a letter home Friday with students, saying Fiderlick was reassigned to another position in the district and would not be returning to Samuelson.
Fiderlick "is an excellent teacher and I thank her for all of her contributions she has made to Samuelson," Roerig wrote in the letter. "She will be missed."

Roerig and Twyla Woods, chief of staff for the Des Moines district, declined to comment, saying Fiderlick's situation was a confidential personnel matter. Woods did confirm that students were never in immediate danger.

A working phone number for Fiderlick could not be found and attempts to reach her at her home were unsuccessful. Kathy Arends, Fiderlick's sister, said Fiderlick had requested that her family not publicly comment on the matter at this time.
Removing a teacher during a school day is not common, said Jean Hessberg, spokeswoman for the Iowa State Education Association. The reasons for doing so vary, but the fact that Fiderlick was reassigned to another position in the district indicates that her removal had nothing to do with the health or well-being of her students, she said.

"There are lots of different reasons for pulling a teacher out of the classroom," Hessberg said. "Many are for low-profile reasons."
Fiderlick taught at Samuelson and Woodlawn elementary schools for 10 years.

All of Fiderlick's personal belongings were removed from the classroom during the weekend, parent Amy Leonard said.

A substitute teacher is filling in until a permanent replacement is hired, Roerig wrote in the letter to parents. Roerig also wrote that she is interviewing candidates to replace Fiderlick.

Parents said they have unsuccessfully requested a meeting with school and district human resources officials. They want an explanation for Fiderlick's abrupt removal and information regarding leaders' plans for providing students with a smooth transition, said Kevin Fina, whose daughter was in Fiderlick's class.
Frustrated with the lack of answers, they have started circulating a petition to reinstate Fiderlick and remove Roerig, parents said.

"What could she have possibly have done to warrant dismissal in the middle of the school day, and then we get a letter saying how wonderful she is and she still has a job?" Fina said. "We are adults here. Time out; there is something else going on here."

Melanie Henry, whose daughter was in Fiderlick's class, said: "We don't have any answers. As parents, we feel like we have a right to know what's going on. If our children's academic integrity was compromised in any way, we have a right to know."
Melissa Spencer, president of the Des Moines Education Association, said she couldn't comment on what happened to Fiderlick or what position she was reassigned to because it was a personnel matter. She did say teachers at Samuelson were trying to organize their own meeting with parents.

"All I have heard so far is that she is no longer in the building," Spencer said. "We are planning on getting in contact with her to see if there is anything else that needs to be done."
Four parents who spoke out lauded Fiderlick's classroom performance, saying she helped engage their children and helped them make the transition from preschool to elementary school. Two said they specifically requested her this year because of the positive experience their older children had in her class.

"You could tell (Fiderlick) has a passion for teaching," said Amy Leonard, whose kindergartner was in Fiderlick's class. "She has been praised in the past for having kids reading at a second-grade level when they leave her classroom.
"Now, kids are coloring for math instead of doing drills. It's playtime at school until they figure out what they are doing. That's the feeling we are getting," she said.