West Carroll School District parents upset, claimed teachers walked out at the high school

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
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SAVANNA, Ill. (KWQC) - Some parents in the West Carroll School District are upset after claiming teachers walked out at the high school Thursday.

TV6 received emails and calls from the concerned parents claiming teachers were walking out of the school over the status of the school’s principal. While on the scene, TV crews saw some students leaving the school.

“We didn’t receive an email until I want to say, around 10 o’clock [Thursday] morning and it didn’t really address the problem,” Maegan Bartlett, a parent, said. “It just said this is a normal school day attendance is required and we have adequate staffing.”

The West Carroll Education Association confirmed that Jessica Love resigned as principal of West Carroll High School on Wednesday morning.

Co-President Kris Yingling also acknowledged that some teachers did call out on Thursday, but couldn’t confirm a number.

“The union had no involvement with the staff that called out sick [Thursday] at the high school,” Yingling said. “It does seem to indicate that there’s a problem there.”

However, Superintendent Julie Katzenberger denied any kind of walkout or protest Thursday morning.

Barlett said she is frustrated with the lack of communication.

“I’ve been to a school board meeting and questions are asked and there really is no definitive answers given, they just kind of talk around in circles,” Bartlett said.

Thursday night the school board hosted a town hall meeting about the district’s facilities plan, which was already scheduled prior to the controversy. The plans include potentially closing WCHS and restructuring the grades into different buildings.

At the start of the meeting, the board called a closed session to convene once the town hall was over to discuss matters of employment. It did not mention whether the session was tied to Love’s resignation.

The board also asked that comments and questions only touch on the facilities plan.

“I just want to know will my teachers be at school tomorrow?” asked one student to the board.

Board Member Morgan Murray said she applauded the student’s willingness to speak up.

“We’re working really hard with your teachers — not against them — to work for you guys as students at the high school,” Murray said.

These tensions come as the teacher’s union approved a vote of no confidence in Katzenberger.

Co-President Jeff Holley said the teachers in the district aren’t being heard.

“The teachers have always had a fear of retaliation for bringing up concerns at board meetings, or to board members,” Holley said. “As teachers, we are put on the line if we don’t follow a chain of command, but yet, the superintendent doesn’t follow that same process.”

Yingling said Love’s resignation further cements those issues.

“It’s very upsetting,” Yingling said. “This is a crisis at our high school. Our students need consistency with admin, especially after the pandemic, they need it. Now more than ever.”

Katzenberger did not immediately reply to TV6′s request for further comment. Board President Fred Tipton and Vice President Jeff Woodside have also not yet replied to a request for comment.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Yingling and Holley provided the following statement to TV6 News:

“The West Carroll School Board has been aware of the issues with Community Unit School District 314 Superintendent Julie Katzenberger for weeks. The West Carroll Education Association (WCEA) took a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Katzenberger nearly two weeks ago. That vote passed with an overwhelming majority.

Among the concerns that led to the vote of no confidence against Superintendent Katzenberger were:

  • Superintendent Katzenberger not keeping parents in the loop about student issues.
  • Superintendent Katzenberger regularly rejecting input from staff members when it comes to addressing students and school issues.
  • Loss of professional staff, support staff, and building administrators due to micromanaging and constant conflict with Superintendent Katzenberger, which shows the district is struggling to attract and retain top-quality educators for our students.
  • Teachers fearing retaliation from Superintendent Katzenberger for bringing up concerns at board meetings or to board members.

Then, on Wednesday morning, the West Carroll High School (WCHS) principal quit. Principal Jessica Love was the second permanent principal, but was the eighth administrator overall to lead WCHS in some capacity since the start of the school year. Wednesday night, WCEA again alerted the board saying the situation with Superintendent Katzenberger is an emergency and at a crisis level. The recent events at WCHS have escalated the determination of no confidence by the WCEA. The members are again requesting that the board take immediate action.”

The board has not yet said when a decision will be made on the facilities plan.