To show support and appreciation for Haven Middle School teachers, parents organized a show of gratitude for every day this week, kicking off with a small demonstration before school on Monday in which parents cheered for teachers as they entered the building.
This demonstration follows an incident that occurred at Haven last week in which a teacher was taken to the hospital after trying to break up a fight between two students. Shortly before that, a hall monitor required medical attention after getting punched in the face by a student.
“We want teachers to feel safe coming to work every day,” said parent Kate Robinson. “We want them to know that the parents do support them.”
Robinson, along with nearly 20 other parents, stood outside the school as teachers walked from the parking lot to the front entrance in a long line.
Officials with the school district and school, including Superintendent Devon Horton and school board President Anya Tanyavutti, as well as Haven Principal Chris Latting, have not responded to requests for comment from the RoundTable. Horton, though, did release a statement on Monday, April 11, regarding Haven’s “culture and climate issues.”
To prepare for any questions by students regarding Monday’s demonstration, Haven teachers prepared a statement: “We have a lot of work to do to make Haven the best place it can be.”
As teachers neared the entrance, parents erupted into applause and thanked them for coming to work. Teachers were also handed little bouquets of flowers as they entered the building.
“That may be the happiest I’ve been walking into Haven,” a special education teacher who asked to remain anonymous wrote in an email to the RoundTable.
The special education teacher, a parent of children who graduated from District 65, empathized with the parents, some of whom were crying, she wrote.
In an interview with the RoundTable, Kate Lister, PTA president, said parents reached out to the superintendent and other Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board members to discuss the recent incidents.
In response, Haven Principal Chris Latting invited parents to an hourlong virtual parent information session on April 19. This session will provide families with more information regarding the culture at Haven and plans for preventing future suspensions and fights.
Lister and other parents said they are not satisfied with this response, and feel that scheduling a virtual meeting a week and a half away is not enough.
To make sure teachers know that families support them, the PTA will deliver treats, write kind notes and check in on teachers this week.
After learning about last week’s fight, Robinson said she felt angry and frustrated with the lack of communication from the administration.
Robinson noted that by “administration” she is not referring to the staff in the school’s front office but rather the superintendent and the district board.
“I feel like the administration has just closed its ears and eyes to what’s going on,” said Robinson. “This could have been avoided had the administration acted.”
Elizabeth Jackson, who worked as a language arts teacher at Haven since 2012 and a District 65 teacher since 2000, wrote to the RoundTable that support from the parents is everything.
A student Jackson had never met before greeted her with flowers as she entered the building. Seeing that brought tears to her eyes, she wrote.
“Our whole community needed to feel this love and support because we have to work together to raise these children,” she wrote. “Power plays have no place in a school system.”
Although the morning’s demonstration was a boost, Jackson added that it was disconcerting to hear parents clap and thank their teachers for coming to work.
“We just want to come to work and do our jobs with dignity and respect and have our leaders do the same. We love what we do,” she wrote.
Larissa Tripp, the parent of a 6th grader at Haven, told the RoundTable that the teachers are the foundation of District 65, and that parents want to show their support in whatever way they can.