GHS Parent Club transformation

– The Gilroy High School Parent Club, seemingly teetering on the
edge of collapse last week, has found new leadership and stability.
In its final meeting of the year, two GHS teachers, two GHS parents
and city councilman Charlie Morales took over the reins of the club
amidst controversy between th
e outgoing officers and the GHS administration.
Gilroy – The Gilroy High School Parent Club, seemingly teetering on the edge of collapse last week, has found new leadership and stability. In its final meeting of the year, two GHS teachers, two GHS parents and city councilman Charlie Morales took over the reins of the club amidst controversy between the outgoing officers and the GHS administration.

Some outgoing Parent Club officers questioned the motives behind the two teachers serving as president and treasury of the new regime, Valerie Hunt and Cathy Silva.

“Parent clubs are predominantly for parents,” said outgoing co–president Jackie Stevens. “And I think most people understand that.”

Under the by laws of the Parent Club, both parents of GHS students and GHS teachers are automatically members.

“It’s more of a gesture of respect (to include teachers),” Stevens said.

Elections for new officers were held at the final meeting Wednesday. A note circulated by a GHS teacher earlier Wednesday encouraged other teachers to attend the meeting.

About a 20 teachers were present and less than 12 parents came, said Bob Heisey, the outgoing parent club’s co–vice president.

Prior to the meeting, no teacher had contacted the parent club officers about running for election, outgoing officers said.

Because two officers resigned from their posts last month due to mounting frustrations with the GHS administration, the club was on the verge of shutting down if new members did not step up to hold officer positions.

Denise Apuzzo resigned from her position as co–president in a Dispatch column.

“My feeling was the administration couldn’t care less if I was involved or not,” she said.

Teachers often attended club meetings, she said, but did not participate. “I felt like we were being observed,” Apuzzo said.

Co–vice president Lillian Castillo resigned at the final club meeting Wednesday via a letter. She is largely responsible for the establishment of GHS’ first-ever Career Fair and decided to resign after a GHS math teacher, Wayne Scott, sent an e–mail to GHS staff members urging them to stop supporting the Parent Club, three days before the fair.

Castillo was honored at Thursday night’s Gilroy Unified School District board meeting for her efforts on creating the Career Fair. She accepted the award on behalf of the GHS Parent Club and read a prepared statement.

“You have a problem at Gilroy High School and you have to fix it,” she said. “You must not allow teachers to vote other (teachers) onto the Parent Club to get rid (of the problem.)”

Some outgoing officers felt a handful of teachers were allowed to treat Parent Club members with disrespect at meetings. According to Stevens, some teachers rolled their eyes and lashed out at parents asking questions.

“Bob Bravo has not established any type of expectation of his staff with their interaction with parents,” she said. “We’re all volunteers. … It’s been a very unpleasant experience.”

Stevens said GHS Parent Club officers asked him to speak with his staff members about their behavior.

“He said, ‘No that it would make it worse.'” Stevens said.

Bravo explained the situation differently.

“I have spoken to my staff about what’s important to me, and that’s always have respectful relations with parents,” he said. “At one point I had suggested to some of the Parent Club officers, ‘Let’s have a discussion about what is respectful behavior (in club meetings),’ but the ones I had the discussion with said no. Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I should have pushed (the discussion).”

He explained that many accusations by officers were vague by neglecting to name specific teachers. He explained that comments made by teachers could have been interpreted as insulting, when they were simply asking a pointed question.

“There’s no smoking gun. There’s no juicy quote (from the meetings),” he said. “If there was you would have heard it by now.”

Bravo intends to have a discussion with the new GHS Parent Club officers regarding behavior and expectations next year.

“I don’t want people walking off feeling, ‘I wasn’t valued,'” he explained. “I do regret that some people who worked hard for the school felt unappreciated.”

Heisey could not pinpoint when relations between the officers and administration soured, but felt the meltdown occurred after Scott’s e–mail circulated.

“It wasn’t like we had big fights in the meetings,” he said.

Heisey said he will continue attending meetings for information only, but does not intend on participating otherwise.

“Sometimes I think (the administration) would be quite happy if we’d go away,” he said.

When the time came for GHS Parent Club elections to occur at the meeting Wednesday, no one immediately stepped up, Apuzzo said. A parent then nominated Valerie Hunt, a GHS teacher and parent, for the position of president.

None of the elected officers ran opposed.

Aside from Hunt, new members include co–president Martin Garcia, a Spanish speaking GHS parent; vice–president Charlie Morales, a city councilman; secretary Diane Baty, who was one of the original officers when the club formed three years ago; and treasurer Cathy Silva, a GHS teacher and parent.

“One of the reasons you become a teacher is because you love children and education,” said Silva.

She did acknowledge that her position as a GHS teacher crossed her mind when she stepped up for the position.

“I think it will be fine,” she said. “I think that some think that we have our own interests, but that’s not the case,” she explained.

Silva was concerned that the club would shut down if individuals did not step up.

“I’ve kind of stood back a little, but with the opportunity opening up … ” she trailed off. “The Parent Club is alive and well and I wanted to make sure that it keeps going. But in order to have it keep going – it’s going to need people.”

Hunt had similar sentiments.

“I was really wanting to get more teachers and more parents involved” she said. Hunt believes in the importance of drawing a larger voice. The new club will coordinate with Cal–Soap meetings in an attempt to draw more parents into the meetings.

“I think everyone’s really willing to (take over) and that’s exciting,” Hunt said.

Baty looked at teacher participation on the board as a positive sign.

“I don’t think it’s unusual,” she said. “(Hunt’s) just putting on her mom hat. Let’s look at it in a more optimistic way. This is someone who knows how it works (on the inside.)”

Assistant vice–principal Greg Camacho–Light accentuated the positives.

“The by laws speak to that, and considering the rift that we’ve heard about it, I think it’s good to see that,” he said. “I think it’s an excellent mix.”

Camacho–Light pointed out that the club is not the only outlet for parent involvement, citing numerous athletic and band boosters and Cal–Soap.

“I think that’s something that gets lost,” Camacho–Light said. “It’s one name, but it isn’t the only parent club.”

Newcomer Morales had personal reasons for getting involved. While he does not have children attending GHS, he has grandchildren, and decided to join after the fights at the high school last month.

“I’m not there to point fingers,” said Morales, who is also on the district’s Accountability Task Force.

“Denise Apuzzo did a good job setting up the Parent Club and I don’t want to lose that,” he said.

Morales does not want to dwell on past relationship problems between GHS teachers and parents.

“If we can all work side by side instead of losing the momentum, I think that’s the responsible thing to do,” he said.

Bravo called for a partnership between parents and teachers.

“You have a partnership when people are willing to look at each other as equals,” he said. “I’d like us to find place on common ground we can work on.”

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