Parents confront Portage Park Board over preschool

2013-09-16T21:00:00Z 2013-09-17T12:37:07Z Parents confront Portage Park Board over preschoolJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | More than two dozen parents confronted the Portage Park Board on Monday night over issues at the park department's preschool program.

In sometimes heated voices, parents defended three teachers and director Judy Taylor, all of whom recently quit the program. They accused the park officials of not caring for the children and, because about 20 have removed their children from the program, leaving them stranded without a preschool alternative.

Many praised the program for its educational value.

But parents vowed they would never allow their children to participate in another parks program and criticized staff for uncaring attitudes.

For Denise McClure, it was more personal. She dropped her 3-year-old son off at the program and went to her car one day last week.

"My son ran out of the front door," McClure said, unnoticed by the adults in the building and began to run to the playground. McClure said another parent noticed the small child in the parking lot.

Pam Passera, parks program director, said the issue started as a personnel matter. When one teacher left, she and Taylor hired another instructor. However, Passera said, the other three teachers didn't like their choice and quit. Taylor quit the next day.

Taylor said the new instructor caused chaos in the staff and bypassed her as director, going to Passera and Park Superintendent Jenny Orsburn to implement curriculum changes, causing the rift.

Board member Deb Ekdahl said the departure of Taylor and the teachers is only symptomatic of deeper problems within the parks department. She read a list of several other employees who have left the department since Orsburn became superintendent.

"The people left because this is a hostile environment," said Ekdahl, calling for Orsburn's resignation.

Passera said they hired new teachers and that the five new teachers are "getting along fine."

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