The Liberty County Board of Education on Tuesday agreed that principals have the authority to allow parents more than one classroom observation per semester on a case-by-case basis.
The discussion came on the heels of a parent uproar over the policy, which was adopted in May.
Board Chairwoman Lily Baker also read an amendment to the policy that clarifies the guidelines for how observation requests will be handled.
For students who have more than one teacher, parents will be allowed one observation per teacher per semester, the policy said.
Parents can call the school to request a classroom visit and a form either will be sent home with their child or they can fill it out upon arrival. Principals said they will accommodate next-day requests unless the students are taking a test during the requested timeframe.
Before Baker read the statement, board members discussed the issue.
Board member Carol Guyett asked whether principals are able to go over and above the one-visit allowance if a situation arises, which led to short discussion and the agreement that principals have some leeway to allow more visitations in certain situations.
Vice chairwoman Verdell Jones said she continues to hear “harsh feelings” from parents and that some of their points are “hard to debate.”
“Unlike the uniform issue, I don’t think this is going to completely go away,” Jones said.
Jones said she has tried to explain that parents still are able to attend special events and eat lunch with their children, but that parents have asserted that allowing access to cafeterias still can pose some safety issues.
She also asked whether the policy was a data-driven decision or whether it was more a matter of specific instances that could have been better addressed directly.
Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Mary Alexander said the policy stemmed from collective recommendations from principals.
Alexander said there were issues at each school of parents not being where they were supposed to be.
“We had parents that were, I hate to say it, but parents who were taking textbooks home when they came to visit; parents that were taking test questions home — these are things that principals brought up; and the teachers are teaching, they don’t have time to follow the parent,” Alexander said.
As for the questions about why parents can still eat lunch with their children, Alexander said that there are more adults present to monitor the parents in the lunchroom and that it is easier to track their movements from the office and back than when parents are sent to their child’s classroom wing.
Board member Becky Carter said that as a former educator, she is grateful for the policy. Though many involved parents want a word with their children’s teacher before class — and Carter admitted she had done so as a parent, too — they don’t realize how quickly that time adds up and takes teachers away from preparing to start the day, Carter said.
Alexander said that the policy aims to reduce distractions both at the beginning of the day and throughout in order to maximize instruction times.
Baker said she wants to stress that point when speaking with parents, because the policy addresses more than safety.