South Whidbey School District Superintendent Dr. Josephine (Jo) Moccia. (South Whidbey School District Superintendent)

South Whidbey School District Superintendent Dr. Josephine (Jo) Moccia. (South Whidbey School District Superintendent)

Petition calls for South Whidbey Superintendent to resign

Jo Moccia says she’s committed to working together with parents to address issues.

An online petition asking South Whidbey School District Superintendent Jo Moccia to resign is gaining support among parents who say they are dissatisfied with the public schools’ learning environment.

“Dr. Moccia has not shown us that our voices matter,” the petition states. “Many of her actions have led to unhappy and unfulfilling school experiences for our students, and may potentially have long-term effects on not only the academic education, but also the emotional and mental health of our children.”

The petition, directed at state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, states that “the atmosphere of negativity in many areas of our schools is due, in large part, to the negligence of our current superintendent, Dr. Josephine (Jo) Moccia.”

As of Tuesday morning, more than 200 people had reportedly signed the change.org petition titled “Please help save South Whidbey School District!” The Record was unable to verify the number.

The petition was posted two days after about 80 community members confronted the district’s school board on April 10 with complaints of bullying, disruptive classrooms, special education shortcomings and anger over administration salary increases.

Moccia said she met with parents from the community group on Monday.

“We are working together to address the issues and concerns raised by parents and community members,” Moccia said an email response to the Record. “I love working in this community and am committed to staying and working on our issues.”

Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Moccia is scheduled to hold another “Evening Community Conversation with the Superintendent,” one of about a half-dozen evening get-togethers designed to improve communication with the district. She also invites the public to “Word on the Street” informal conversations over morning coffee twice a month at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters.

Moccia was hired as superintendent in 2011 when student enrollment hovered at 1,596. It’s been declining steadily over the years for numerous reasons; this year’s enrollment is 1,265.

School board chairwoman Linda Racicot said Moccia is still backed by the board.

“The superintendent has the full support of the board,” Racicot said. “We encounter important and challenging problems over the course of every year.

“We are currently working on opportunities to address this situation,” she added. “I know that the superintendent has met with several community members and plans are being developed for conversations going forward.”

Amy Goodman, a 2000 South Whidbey graduate with two children in the same schools she once attended, said last Wednesday’s meeting did nothing to improve her opinion of the school system.

“I left there that evening angry, insulted and even more frustrated then when I walked in,” Goodman wrote in a letter to the editor of the South Whidbey Record. “During that meeting we were interrupted, talked-over, cut-off, spoken down to, accused of being un-informed, the list could go on and on. The board and superintendent were completely disrespectful in tone and words to the parents of the children they claim to serve.”

Goodman said she enrolled her youngest child in kindergarten the day after the meeting with trepidation “not because I don’t think she’s ready, or because I’m not ready, but because my faith in this school district has dwindled to almost nothing.”

Damian Green, one of five members of the school board, said he was thankful the community came forward and spoke up.

“The superintendent oversees the daily operations of the district,” he said. “The board does not necessarily hear each and every complaint. Therefore, I am thankful to have heard from the community and will be working to address their concerns.”

When signing the online petition, some people left comments.

“There is a reason numbers are down and private schools are thriving,” one parent wrote. “I believe it’s all because of the priorities our superintendent and the board, it has nothing to do with our children, staff or the community. The shenanigans need to stop and focus needs to start.”

Another parent accused the schools of failing to protect certain students from bullying based on politics.

“This environment is teaching these kids to hate and not debate,” the parent wrote. “We owe our kids better in teaching them about civil debate and disagreements.”

Numerous parents praised the teaching staff at last week’s forum, which Goodman also did in her letter to the editor.

“My two older children have had amazing teachers, and the staff in the schools and classrooms have all been amazing as well,” she wrote. “They care, they communicate, they are approachable and welcoming. And it is blatantly obvious that they want what is best for those kids that they interact with and lead on a daily basis.”

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