An outspoken group of roughly 150 Orcutt Union School District educators defended their colleagues and profession Wednesday night from what they contend to be "attacks" and cyberbullying by members of a Facebook group calling for reform.
The founder of the Facebook group, who is also a district parent, denied the allegations.
For roughly 15 minutes at the start of a crowded board of trustees meeting, teachers and staff from Orcutt schools challenged what they say is inaccurate information regarding classroom instruction and teacher behavior that has proliferated online in the 300-member "Orcutt Families for Education Reform" (OFFER) group on Facebook.
Noting a need for positive and respectful communication, the four teachers who spoke during Wednesday's meeting called on parents to build partnerships based on trust and openness with their teachers.
But Chris Perez, who started the group after witnessing what he claims was an act of segregation against his son, said it was never his intent to attack the educators or spread misinformation.
"We have the home of some of the best teachers I have ever had the privilege of meeting," Perez told the crowd during his three-minute public comment period.
Ten days ago, after an open house event at his son's school, Perez posted a photo of his son's desk on Facebook. Placed at the front of the classroom directly facing the whiteboard, Perez said the treatment of his son — who he claims has undiagnosed attention deficit disorder — was an act of discrimination by the teacher.
Orcutt Union Superintendent Deborah Blow would not comment on the allegation, citing federal law (namely the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and district policy that prohibits her from discussing individual students or personnel issues.
Orcutt Educators Association President Monique Segura, who represents 250 district teachers as head of the union, said she was concerned how district educators and teachers were being portrayed in the Facebook group.
"In many cases, reputations are being smeared," she said before the meeting, adding that several of the group's posts contain "inaccurate information."
During Wednesday's meeting, Segura called on parents and educators to work together for the advancement of their children.
"As educators, we know the best action is education itself. We are only as successful in the classroom as the partnership we hold with the parents of the children we teach," she told the audience. "It truly is in the best interest of our most important resource — the children of Orcutt Union School District — to work together to bring success into our classrooms."
Perez hoped to pick up support for his PACT (Parent, Administration, Community, Teacher) plan — a six-point plan focused on moving past differences to prepare students for success — from teachers, parents and administration during Wednesday's meeting. Though he claimed the meeting was deliberately organized to silence his opinion, Perez said he hopes to continue building support for the plan throughout summer and into fall.
"If I wouldn't have started what I started, these people wouldn't be here — they wouldn't have an opinion against mine," he said after the meeting. "To be able to create change you have to start a discussion. And to start a discussion, somebody has to be opposite of your position."