By Jonathan Morales
ORINDA -- School board members this week acknowledged parent concerns about the learning environment at Wagner Ranch Elementary School but said they are satisfied with the district's current discipline and complaint policies.
Trustees also stressed that they are limited as to how detailed they can be in discussing the issue.
"We really can't make any comment "... that can even be inferred as relating to employee performance or student conduct," said President Matt Moran.
A group of parents in May asked the board to investigate Wagner Ranch, saying Principal Janis Arnerich singled their children out for harsh and excessive punishment.
But board members said at their Monday meeting that although they recognized some families have had problems at the school, those issues are best dealt with first at the school site and then, if necessary, with district administrators. They added the board sets district policy but administrators are responsible for carrying out that policy.
"We're not paid to actually implement things and be responsible on a day-to-day basis for managing school sites," board member Tyson Krumholz said.
The board can make sure they have put tools in place, including conflict resolution training, to ensure parent concerns are resolved effectively, trustees added.
The limits on what the board can discuss come with a downside, board member Julie Rossiter acknowledged.
"It's frustrating because it does make some people feel very dissatisfied with our response," she said.
An open government expert told Bay Area News Group this month that while nothing forces school boards to discuss personnel matters only in closed session, they must get parent approval before publicly disclosing anything in a student's discipline file.
In contrast to the two previous meetings, where parents packed the small board room to speak during lengthy public comment periods, there were relatively few in attendance Monday afternoon. The one person who spoke in support of the petitioners, Chris Flum, echoed earlier statements that parents have tried to resolve their issues with district administration to no avail.
"We ask for help and we don't get it," he said.
But Lorree Swinton, a member of the Wagner Ranch Parents Club, said those parents simply have not gotten the answer from the district that they wanted to hear.
"These issues should be channeled through Janis (Arnerich) and through the district office and should not be spoken about so publicly, to not humiliate and slander someone's reputation," Swinton said.
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.