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Forestville School Community Voice Opinions About School Administration

FORESTVILLE — Amid a rising voice within the Forestville school community calling for the resignation of school Superintendent Renee Garrett, the school board anticipated a large turnout at its monthly board meeting. So much so, in fact, it moved the meeting location from its regular location of the high school library to the school’s auditorium to better accommodate the expected turnout.

When all was said and done, about 30 people attended the meeting, with seven of those people wishing to give their own thoughts on the situation. And the result ended in a split of people against the current administration — with several also voicing their support of Garrett.

Before anyone spoke, school board President Carol Woodward gave a statement, encouraging people to speak their mind or send in written items to the board expressing concerns they may have, but asked those in attendance to be respectful of everyone in the room.

“The board wants to hear what you say but we’re going to hold everyone to the minimum requirements of respect and civility,” said Woodward.

Nancy Fry, wife of the Forestville board’s vice president Merv Fry, was one of those people who supported Garrett’s work, especially with the Farm to School program.

“I attended because our superintendent was going to be giving a presentation on the Farm to School program,” Fry said. “It was very exciting to me and very exciting to people throughout the state. At the end of the meeting, she was surrounded by people asking how to do this kind of thing. That was the beginning of my realization that this school board and superintendent really care about the kids, their food and the farmers in this area.”

Sandra Muck, who works in Forestville’s cafeteria, chose to address the audience instead of the board. Muck was a graduate of Forestville, as well as her children and grandchildren. Muck used her time to tell the audience how much the staff at Forestville loves all the kids that come into the building.

“I love my job and I love your children,” Muck said. “But then, I can’t think of a single FCS employee who doesn’t love your children.”

Muck added that the last 18 months have caused immense stress to everyone, including the school administration, who she said have been working tirelessly and strenuously to make sure those children that they love are kept safe.

“I am ever grateful to all those in charge for doing their best to keep everyone safe,” Muck said. “Every department has been short-staffed. We have added responsibilities. We’re all tired and long for our old normal. But everyone has stepped up and done what we thought was impossible and is making it work for these children that we love.”

A few of the community members who wished to speak used their time to voice their concerns. The loudest of those voices was Lindsey Ellis.

Ellis, a mother of three children who attend Forestville, has been one of the most outspoken community members against Garrett. While some of the concerns Ellis had originally were alleviated at the meeting prior to the public comment section, Ellis was happy to see that various staff positions had been filled, especially the cleaning positions that had been open. During the COVID-19 pandemic, school cleaners were especially important and the open positions were a big concern to Ellis.

“I was very pleased from the minutes that you guys have replaced all these positions,” she said. “It scared me as a parent that there weren’t enough cleaners because of COVID. I hope that everything is completely fully staffed and it can stay that way.”

Ellis, however, wants those new employees to get the best treatment possible. This includes adequate payment of those new hires.

“I’m glad to see they got a raise,” she said. “I know that was part of the issue with the minimum wage going up. But if you want quality people cleaning the school and providing lunch, we need to pay them. You have all these extra COVID relief grants, use them to pay people. These positions are just as important as teachers.”

Ellis also expressed her concerns to the Board about this weekend’s Fall Festival being held at the school. While happy to see the event take place, Ellis believes it’s a conflict of interest to have that while other events aren’t allowed to happen. “I can’t do a parent-teacher conference, an open house, or bring my children school supplies,” she said. “We can’t have a school dance, plays, or musicals, we can have sports but we can’t watch the chorus concert. I hope we can have a concert if we can have a Fall Festival. The kids need to be first over public stuff.”

Ellis said that she is going to remain persistent in her efforts calling for Garrett’s resignation, and brought a physical copy of the petition calling for her resignation. The petition has 440 signatures from different community members.

“I’ve been FOILing different financial documents that I’m told will take 20 days to get back to me,” Ellis said. “So, you can bet I’ll be at the next meeting. I’m not going away.”

Following all the public comments, Woodward ended the meeting with another statement, this time expressing support for Garret and the job she has done at Forestville.

“She has done an excellent job for our district,” Woodward said. “She’s worked very hard to make our district successful. All our administrators are doing an amazing job keeping the school open. They cannot make everyone happy at all times but they do their best. Our board is dedicated to our students and we want to do the best job for our kids.”

The next meeting of the Forestville Board of Education will be on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m.

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