The Green Bay Area Public School District held a news conference Wednesday to address safety concerns at Washington Middle School. Media Trackers first reported the story of former teacher Kerstin Westcott resigning June 5, saying she no longer felt safe at Washington because of violent, aggressive behavior by students that has gone unchecked. Here are 5 takeaways from the news conference:
- “Look at all our friends.” No, Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld never said that, but the message seemed clear enough. Some two dozen people stood behind Langenfeld, literally and figuratively. There were representatives from the Green Bay Police Department, Brown County United Way, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Boys and Girls Club, Scholarships Inc. and school board members. Few spoke, but the point of the optics was obvious: despite Westcott’s claims of an unsafe school, the school district has strong community support.
- Conspicuous by their absence. Not among the crowd behind Langefeld was any faculty or staff from Washington Middle School. Langenfeld wanted to reassure the community the school was safe, yet no one who works there was on hand to make that case.
- Langenfeld managed to question Westcott’s credibility without appearing to question her credibility, and the media on hand let her get away with it. “Today I’m talking about how we’re going to move forward and I want to also recognize the fact as we are committed to the well-being of each and every person in our schools. We are here today not to dispel anyone else’s truth. As you know there are always two sides to every story,”No reporter challenged Langenfeld by asking her to present the other side of the story she suggested exists. She also called Westcott’s description of Washington as a school where students are in control as someone “else’s truth,” and therefore not necessarily the realth truth. Yet she wasn’t pressed to contradict Westcott.
- The “old news defense.” Langenfeld and others stressed several times that the district was aware of problems at Washington long before Westcott resigned. This is a strange defense because Westcott’s entire point was that district officials knew how bad it was at Washington yet did nothing.
- We need your help. Langenfeld asked the community to help fix the problems at Washington, urging them to get involved with a new committee. “The challenges that our students are facing and our schools are facing today really, really demand that we bring everyone to the table to talk successfully about the conversations that we need to have to find solutions.” Again, Westcott’s point was that the time for talk is over and immediate action is needed.