Teachers voice concerns about 'open house' days

Opening doors to parents at Trumbull elementary schools is having some unintended consequences, according to members of the Trumbull Education Association.

Tammy Baillargeon, president of the teachers’ union, came before the Board of Education earlier this month to share concerns regarding open house days at the elementary schools.

According to Baillargeon, anywhere from 90 to 200 adults may visit the school on these days, disrupting normal security practices and instructional time.

“We are not designed to absorb these numbers during the day,” she told the board at the Oct. 1 meeting.

Union members filled the Long Hill Administration Building’s meeting room, in support of Baillargeon’s comments to the board.

“We recognize the good intentions at the heart of this event,” Baillargeon said.

She said students are often distracted on these days and the large number of people in the building can lead to security lapses. Teachers are also concerned the distraction is even worse for special education students, and that parents being in the classroom can possibly hurt confidentiality surrounding special education students and the services they receive.

Baillargeon said they would like to see the open houses done in a more controlled way.

“We also invite you to come to schools on these days to decide if it’s an effective use of instructional time,” she said.

Board Chair Stephen Wright said the union concerns were legitimate but he wants the doors of the schools to remain open to parents and the community — who often don’t understand the hard work and effort that goes on inside.

“Security has closed the doors of our schools, doors we are just starting to open again,” Wright said.

Board of Education members said that concerns should be discussed with Superintendent Gary Cialfi and school administrators. Vice Chair Deborah Herbst said she understands teachers were concerned about instructional time and security, but that she wants security concerns to be discussed in a private forum.

“The matter of security, in my view, should not be discussed in a public forum, for obvious reasons,” Herbst said.

Board member Rosemary Seaman said she has experienced the teachers’ concerns firsthand and that if anything regarding the open houses should come before the board, they will do their best to work with staff.

Cialfi said he has talked to teachers about open houses and would like to continue the discussion.

“We should look at streamlining this so there are parameters around parents in the building,” Cialfi said.