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Board votes to hire mediator to solve Family School dispute.

Byline: MARK BAKER The Register-Guard

CRESWELL - Surrounded by a roomful of angry parents, Creswell School Board members voted Wednesday night to have a mediator solve the dispute over the recently disbanded Family School program at Creslane Elementary School.

The board voted against restoring the program outright, and instead approved a proposal 5-1 to bring in the mediator and abide by the mediator's decision.

About 100 people packed into Creswell High School's small library for the meeting. A majority had to stand throughout the session. A group of children with T-shirts that read "Creslane Family Program" sat on the floor.

Principal Jacque Robertson last month decided to cut the 6-year-old program, which keeps students with the same teacher during the first three years of elementary school, then blends them together during the fourth and fifth grade. She cited a combination of budgets cuts and dissension over the program that some think is elitist and leads to problems getting along in middle school.

Upset parents appealed to Superintendent Rick Stuber, who scheduled a hearing on the program.

Stuber proposed the idea of a mediator to talk to parents and teachers to work out their differences. A third party would do a better job of sorting through the dispute than school board members who don't have enough knowledge about the program, he said.

"It's hard to make a decision as a board member based on the evidence from one side," Stuber said.

After the meeting, he said he would recommend using a volunteer from Community Mediation Services in Eugene.

The program wouldn't cost the district anything, he said.

District officials hope a mediator can reach a decision sometime this summer.

Before the board voted, parent representatives asked the board to reinstate the program and create a task force to study the issues that led to its cancellation.

"It's irresponsible to eliminate a program that has established benchmarks," said Ken Leatherman, who has twin daughters in the program.

Earlier, the board rejected a motion to reinstate the program while a mediator worked through the process.

About 125 of the school's more than 500 students are in the Family School program.

If the program goes away, 9-year-old Kendall Leatherman said she would miss her teacher.

"It's a school that has fun activities," she said. "And we have different kinds of things we do each day."
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Title Annotation:Creswell: Parents show up in force to protest the disbanding of the program at Creslane Elementary.; Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 13, 2002
Words:390
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