To: Peoria District 150 Board Members Rick Cloyd, Debbie Wolfmeyer, Rev. Linda Butler, Chris Crawford, M. Lynn Costic, Laura Petelle, Martha Ross
So what do I say to cut through the clutter of the hundreds of emails you as District 150 Board Members are receiving over the past few days? How do I eloquently reiterate what supporters of John Wetterauer and friends of Charter Oak School have been trying to say over and over? What can I do to get through to anyone who has any sort of power over this “force” that is from what I can see causing WAY more harm than good?
I’m going back to the basics.
I was a Charter Oak parent back in the days of Dr. Thom Simpson. Remember him? Wow, yeah, he was pretty awesome. He had that school running like a well-oiled machine and his reputation certainly preceded him. He knew every child’s name. If he turned out the lights in the lunchroom, you could hear a pin drop. He was accessible, intelligent, knowledgeable, forward-thinking, and incredibly well-respected and liked by both parents and children alike.
When Dr. Simpson moved on to an administrative job at the district nearly a decade ago, I was not alone in my concern. Who could possibly fill that man’s shoes? And even if he or she could, how long would it take for the parents and children to “warm up” to him after having a leader like Dr. Simpson, who had made Charter Oak such a jewel of a quickly tarnishing District 150?
That person was – and still is – John Wetterauer.
I heard he had made great strides at Greeley School in the inner city, but it made me wonder what his attitude would be coming into the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" atmosphere of Charter Oak. What kind of guy was this? What would be on his agenda? What would he think of this posse of PTC members who were all very vested and involved in the school already?
As he worked the room, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and providing lunch for the PTC meet and greet in the Charter Oak teachers’ lounge, I got the sense he realized he was walking into OUR school, and he knew he may have something to prove. He was humble, friendly, and very approachable. But my cautionary self said, “Wow, this guy really has a learning curve. We’ll see.”
Short story long, Mr. Wetterauer in very quick fashion endeared himself to school staff, the PTC board, parents, and most importantly, the students. I was consistently amazed at how quickly he learned EVERY CHILD’s name, and he calls them by name, prefacing usually with a “Miss” or “Mr.” I would imagine standing at the front door every day holding it open for students and serving meals in the lunchroom helps quite a bit. Visiting each classroom every day and having an open-door policy probably doesn’t hurt either.
Mr. Wetterauer never needed to demand respect – he earned it – from everyone. Staff embraces him because he is open to their ideas and diligently works with them to improve teaching methods, curriculum, after school activities, in-school events, fundraising, parent participation and student achievement.
When my children attended Charter Oak, from 2000 until 2011, I walked my sons to school every day and got to know many of the students. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to hear “Mrs. Kennard!” yelled to me and to be hugged multiple times as I walked down the class line, while I zipped up coats and backpacks and asked where their hats and gloves were. It occurred to me – in such an economically diverse environment, coming to Charter Oak School was the BEST PART of some of these kids’ days. And why? Because of Principal John Wetterauer.
Let’s look at who this whole debacle really affects. The kids. The parents are trying to disseminate the ridiculously little amount of information that has been provided to them, as well as the staff, who have to continue to teach and nurture these children. Don’t think for one second that these kids don’t sense something’s not right.
I’m not here to list out the facts, or the lack thereof. I’m not here to ask why John Wetterauer is not sitting behind his desk in the principal’s office at Charter Oak School right this very minute. I think we all know why, and I think it’s time to stand up to it. What we all need to do is embrace leaders like John Wetterauer, and use them as models for all schools in District 150, not use them as a scapegoat to cover up for an administrative leader's inadequacies.
I stand with a mountain of supporters of Principal John Wetterauer when I say, “We demand he be reinstated, for the good of the district, the school, and MOST importantly, the children of Charter Oak, present and future.”
Dig deep on this one, District 150 Board Members. There’s more to this than meets the eye. But in the meantime, let’s get John Wetterauer back where he belongs – immediately.