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A brand new day at Lodi Middle School

Teachers: Atmosphere has changed since last year's citizen's arrest

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:00 am

It has been a full year since 23 teachers from Lodi Middle School filled up a meeting of the Lodi Unified School District board of trustees and asked for a solution to the deteriorating environment at their school.

This showing came just weeks after former vice principal Lurdes Rosales placed physical education teacher Jon Lapachet under citizen's arrest. Rosales claimed Lapachet bumped her and blew a whistle loudly in her ear, but the charges were rejected by the district attorney.

At the time, Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said the district would conduct a thorough investigation of the incident. This week, Nichols-Washer confirmed by email that the investigation has been concluded. That ending has brought few answers.

Former Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Odie Douglas looked into the matter and reported back to Nichols-Washer verbally. The names of interviewees were not released, nor were the nature of the questions.

"There was insufficient information to determine a finding," said Nichols-Washer. "At this time, the investigation is closed."

Nichols-Washer did not confirm whether the board of trustees received a report. No report was presented to the board of trustees during the public portion of meetings. Since it is a personnel matter, that report is unlikely to appear in the future.

Lapachet was reached on Wednesday, but declined to discuss the incident or the current atmosphere at the school. Rosales and then-principal Patricia Lingerfeldt left the school in May 2012. Lingerfeldt is now the principal at Somerset Middle School in Modesto. It is not known where Rosales is currently working. Lingerfeldt could not be reached for comment.

Today, teachers and parents say there has been a complete turnaround in the campus atmosphere of the school, which is attended by just under 1,000 students in the seventh and eighth grades.

Jeff Johnston, president of the Lodi Education Association, said that by all accounts, interactions between staff and administration have been positive. He hasn't been called in a single time this school year to mediate a meeting for Lodi Middle.

"My feeling is that they really respect the new administration. There is a renewed feeling of collaboration, transparency and support from leadership," said Johnston.

Principal Scott McGregor took on the post in September of last year, along with full-time vice principal Cassandra Iwamiya and part-time vice principal Don Howard.

There hasn't been special training for teachers, but McGregor said the relationships between teachers and administrators have been an ongoing topic at staff meetings. McGregor was not connected with Lodi Middle School when the citizen's arrest took place, and was principal at Vinewood Elementary School at the time.

"I haven't dug into it. Whatever happened in the past is the past. We're moving forward. There's a sense of trust and openness going both ways. I feel there is a mutual respect," he said.

His teaching staff agrees.

Longtime teacher Sherry Alexander pooled her thoughts with other teachers at the school in a statement on Thursday. There is a strong consensus that the school has a positive climate and the staff is happy to be working there, she said in an email.

"There is an atmosphere of trust and staff members have indicated that they feel that our administration is consistent, fair, professional, and that they truly care," wrote Alexander in the email, adding that the administration appears committed to goals shared by teaching staff.

Parents share the positive reviews of the school, and say their students are coming home happy.

"It's fantastic," said Paige Blevins, a teacher at the school and parent of a seventh grader. "We could have gone to Elkhorn, but we stayed. We are pleased with the communication. The school is being run how it should (be)."

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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1 comment:

  • Todd Oesterman posted at 8:20 pm on Fri, Jan 25, 2013.

    Todd Oesterman Posts: 18

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Scott McGregor has a giant "S" on his chest. Super Administrator! As a former Viking, I'm glad to see he has everybody on board and they've righted the ship.



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