The Harvey Austin Elementary School parent whose name was forged on several school documents back in the fall learned two weeks ago that her sixth-grade daughter was doing poorly in several subjects.
So Timekia Jones asked her daughter’s teachers if they could meet with her to talk about ways to help her child do better. She got her answer days later: No, not unless a Buffalo Teachers Federation representative was present to monitor the conversation.
Jones said she believes her 11-year-old daughter has become the latest victim of a long retaliation campaign against her by the school. On Friday, Jones was called into a meeting with Assistant Principal Deanna Schmitt, a Buffalo Teachers Federation representative and several other teachers who do not teach her daughter.
Jones said she asked why her daughter’s teachers were not present. “They said because the BTF rep is here, they don’t need to be here,” she said.
She said both Schmitt and the union representative told her that the teachers didn’t want to talk with her alone because she had spoken to the media about the forgery case back in October. In that case, Jones’ signature was forged on the school’s state-required improvement plans, as well as other documents related to the spending of federal Title I poverty money.
Jones said that at the Friday meeting she told school officials her visit had nothing to do with forged documents. “This is about my daughter’s grades,” Jones recalled telling them.
The meeting ended with nothing being resolved, she said. “Nobody will talk to me. When nobody’s communicating with you, it’s hard to get answers.”
Several Buffalo Board of Education members and District Parent Coordinating Council President Samuel Radford III expressed concern and anger over the way school staff at Harvey Austin has handled the whole matter.
Radford said DPCC parents will protest in front of the school between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday to highlight what they see as a long pattern of retaliatory behavior against Jones.
“I think at this point, they’re trying to force her out of the school,” he said. “Tamekia did nothing wrong, so why is she getting all these consequences?”
Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold, and board members Theresa Harris-Tigg and James Sampson also emailed Superintendent Pamela Brown demanding that the district investigate the matter.
“We don’t want a child caught in the middle,” Nevergold said. “A child should not be caught in the middle of adult disputes.”
District spokeswoman Elena Cala said a human resources administrator went to Harvey Austin School 97 on Monday to look into the matter and that arrangements have been made for Jones to meet with her daughter’s teachers this afternoon.
“As soon as we learned about this matter, we looked into it, and we’re working to ensure that any parent has the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress with their teachers,” Cala said.
Jones has two daughters attending Harvey Austin. The older one, who is now struggling in math, reading and science, had consistently been an honor roll and merit roll student last year, she said.
She added that she has no prior issues with her daughter’s teachers, who she said did an excellent job keeping her apprised of school matters until just recently.
“I blame the administration,” Jones said. “I don’t blame the teachers at all. I still think they’re outstanding. They have to keep their jobs just like I have to keep mine.”
Others, however, said there may be some lingering “distrust” of Jones by teachers since she has been speaking up.
The school staff at the meeting were under the incorrect impression that she wanted to talk to them about her child being bullied, a matter that Jones said had been satisfactorily resolved three months ago.
“There’s something else going on here,” said BTF President Phil Rumore, who struggled to unravel the situation after it was brought to his attention by The News late Monday. “It’s very unusual under normal circumstances for this to occur. How it happened, I have no idea.”
He added that the BTF representative at Friday’s meeting wasn’t aware of any request by Jones to meet with teachers to talk about how to improve her daughter’s academic performance. The representative was only aware of past accusations of Jones’ daughter being bullied at school.
Meanwhile, Jones said she’s been struggling on her own to work with her daughter on her Common Core homework but worries that her daughter might fail sixth grade. She refuses to transfer her children out of the school, however. “I’m not going to give them that satisfaction,” she said. “My daughters deserve to go to that school just like any other students.”