Relay Elementary parents voice concerns at school board meeting

Board of Education members Nick Stewart, right, and George Moniodis talk with fellow board member Romaine Williams at the board's July 14 meeting.
Board of Education members Nick Stewart, right, and George Moniodis talk with fellow board member Romaine Williams at the board's July 14 meeting. (Heather Norris)

About a dozen Relay Elementary School parents made the trip north to Towson Tuesday night to take their concerns over the school's high staff turnover rate and what they called safety concerns directly to the Baltimore County Board of Education.

At least 11 parents signed up to speak during the board's public comment period.


But before they had a chance to speak, county schools Superintendent Dallas Dance brought the subject up in his opening remarks to the board and others gathered for the meeting.

The school system's chief academic officer, Verletta White, and Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools Jane Lichter will be working closely with Relay Principal Lisa Dingle in the coming months, he said.

The promise follows a meeting last week between more than 100 school parents and community members and the school administration during which some parents called for the removal of Dingle.

Citing concerns about more than a dozen staff members leaving the school after the academic year ended in June, a 2015 survey of Relay teachers that showed steadily dropping morael among faculty and what was described by many as an uptick in children acting out at the school, coupled with an unclear policy on discipline, parents said they wanted the principal removed.

Dingle has been principal at Relay since the 2012-2013 school year.

The parents calling for her removal trace the start of the problems they see at the school to the start of Dingle's tenure at Relay.

Beverly Coleman, who heads the Southwest Education Advisory Council, brought up the July 8 meeting in her brief remarks to the board.

The fact that 100 people showed up for a school meeting in the summer, she said "really reflects the concern and the commitment that the parents and the community members in that area have."

Relay Elementary parents Susan Davis and Marie Bates spoke on behalf of some of the parents in calling for Dingle's removal during the board of education meeting.

The turnover of staff at the school undoubtedly has an effect on the students at Relay, Davis said, noting that the school has gone through several assistant principals during Dingle's tenure as well.

When added to the results of the 2015 TELL Maryland Survey, she said, it is clear that "a fresh start is necessary."

Bates also brought up this year's turnover to the board.

Adding to the problem with faculty morale, she said, is a lack of discipline.

"There is a growing problem at Relay," she said, adding that even the administrators acknowledged a growth in incidents of students acting out at the July 8 meeting.


Shaunta Chapple, who said all of her school-aged children have attend Relay, attended the board meeting to offer a different perspective.

She asked the board to interpret the TELL Maryland data and to make clear a set of benchmarks and time frames to measure the current administration's effectiveness and then make decisions based on that information.

Chapple said after the meeting that her experience at Relay has been nothing but good. When the family spent a period of time homeless, she said, Dingle reached out to ask her if there was anything she could do to help. her.

"I've had a wonderful experience at Relay," she said, adding that Dingle helped her with BCPS policies and protocols when she needed the help. "But I recognize that my experience is not the only one that matters."

Having spoken with other Relay parents, she said, she wants the school system to play a larger role in helping to mediate the situation.

"There is so much going on," she said. "There is just a lot of speculation."

For newly sworn in school board member Nicholas Stewart, who represents the 1st District that includes the southwestern portion of Baltimore County, the concerns of Relay parents have been on his radar since before he was officially a board member. He attended the July 8 meeting.

"It was heartening for me to see so many members of the community come out tonight," he said Tuesday. "These are very real concerns."

Stewart said he will work to make sure the issue does not get forgotten by the board as the start of the new school year approaches.

To his knowledge, said BCPS spokesman Mychael Dickerson, there is no formal process for parents to follow in matters involving calling for the removal of an administrator.

"If parents have a concern with leadership, they are encouraged to work with the principal and assistant superintendent in a collaborative way to address the issues they have," Dickerson said in an email.

According to Dickerson, it is up to the parents and the assistant superintendent to come to a resolution of their differences.

Lichter had said at the July 8 meeting that she would not acquiesce the request to remove Dingle.