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District adopts new parent complaint policy

Principals can act as mediators when issues with teachers are raised.

June 15, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

The La Cañada Unified School District came out of contract negotiations this year with the La Cañada Teacher’s Association with a new process established to deal with parent complaints about teachers.

The new contract gives district principals the chance to act as a mediator between both parties when approached by a parent who has a complaint. Previously, parents were first sent directly to the teacher when they approached a principal with a concern.

“This is a win-win for parents and teachers,” said Cindy Wilcox, a LCUSD Governing Board member. “It gives the parent the opportunity to talk to the principal and get coaching on how best to approach the teacher on behalf of their student.”

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Scott Tracy, the vice president of the school board, said the change was brought up by the district during negotiations because it became clear many families were reluctant to take formal action against a teacher when they had a complaint.

“This was viewed by management as a way to address that situation, to protect identity and maintain anonymity [of the parents],” said Tracy.

Parents now can make an appointment to discuss their concern in detail with the school principal. It gives parents the chance to suggest satisfactory remedies to the situation and vent their initial frustrations to the principal, instead of the teacher, and collect their thoughts for a productive meeting with the teacher, Wilcox said.

The parent can then ask the principal to share the information with the teacher. The principal will approach the teacher with the parent’s concern and help mediate the situation to help find a solution, if given permission by the instructor.

“It has the potential of being a win-win from the teacher’s perspective because they have the support of an administrator as a mediator, if they choose to do so,” Tracy said.

If the teacher does not agree to mediation, then the principal will send the parent directly to the teacher. If it is clear, according to district or school site policy, that the concern impacts the entire class and not just an individual student, teacher’s consent isn’t needed and the principal can follow up on the complaint with the instructor. The parent or student expressing the concern may also remain anonymous in this case.

“Principals play this role in other districts and I’m pleased our principals will be stepping up in the same way,” Wilcox said.

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