Concerned parents and staff members from Providence Creek Academy came together Monday morning and later that evening for two parent information meetings held in reference to rumors swirling around regarding personnel and school safety.
The concerns stemmed from two incidents this fall involving staff members.
PCA Board of Directors President Amy Santos faced question after question as parents and staff voiced their frustration not necessarily with the incidents but with the alleged lack of communication to the parents.
Santos said the first incident occurred in late September when it was reported a staff member had an air rifle on campus. While Santos couldn’t provide more details on the incident, she said law enforcement was immediately contacted and the individual was fired.
Santos said the other personnel issue dealt with the school’s information technology specialist. Santos said through the course of assessments, concern with the management of the IT department was raised. Santos said the IT director resigned from the position.
“Comments were made by the IT director during the separation of employment that board members considered threatening to them personally. Again the matter was immediately reported to law enforcement,” Santos.
Clayton Chief of Police Brian Hill said the department is investigating both incidents and has determined there is no viable threat to the school.
On top of the safety concerns stemming from the two personnel issues, rumors were spreading regarding the employment of Principal/Head of School Audrey Erschen; Erschen was on vacation for part of October, but upon her return asked for a leave of absence from her position at the Oct. 27 board meeting; she returned to work on Oct. 31.
Erschen’s name has been brought up because some of her relatives were employees at the school; there were concerns with Erschen working as the head of school and technically being in charge of the employees who were her relatives. Erschen said at the meeting Monday morning she didn’t hire her relatives, she inherited them; however, the individuals are no longer employed at the school.
Currently the school doesn’t have a policy regarding nepotism, but the board will create one.
Board of Directors member Melissa Rhoads said plans were already underway to split Erschen’s position into two jobs – principal and head of school. With the school’s charter up for renewal in April and the trending decrease in test scores, Rhoades said another person needs to be brought on in an administrative capacity.
“We’re light at the top with just the head of school,” Rhoades said. “Other charter schools have four or five people at the helm.”
The board said Erschen would like to stay on as principal as that’s where her strengths are. In the meantime, former PCA administrator Chuck Taylor has been brought on as a consultant to help address the school’s framework issues.
“Your children are my children and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure they’re safe,” Erschen said. “For two years I’ve been doing the job of many. My choice is to work with the children and their families. That’s where my strength is. I hope to have the continued support in doing this.”
A major concern for parents at the meeting was the lack of transparency with the recent developments. Santos apologized stating at first, the board wasn’t quite sure what could and could not be said. Santos, who’s been on the board for 10 years but only the president for three months, said there’s still a lot to learn.
Santos said an executive session was scheduled after the second parent information meeting Monday night. She said the board is working on creating a nepotism policy and a new reorganizational chart. She also said the board needs to work on communication, especially since that seemed to be a major concern to parents and staff. When parents asked if another meeting would be held regarding the decisions the board makes, Santos said it’s a possibility.
“We’re all working hard right now to make sure that we can get our students back to a state of normal,” Santos said. “There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. It’s not as simple as just one thing. We’re at the point where we just need to start taking one step at a time. Today is our first step.”