Twenty-four of 27 teachers at Butterfield Ranch Elementary in Chino Hills put in requests to transfer out of the school, allegedly because of they are dissatisfied with the leadership of school principal Al Bennett.
The current school environment was described as “unwelcoming, unsupportive, awful and unbearable” by school parents and teachers speaking at the Jan. 16 school board meeting.
They said Mr. Bennett’s demeanor and actions have caused morale to plummet at the Chino Hills school and negatively affect teachers, students and parents.
Mr. Bennett came to Butterfield in 2018 after serving as assistant principal at Chino Hills High for two years. Prior to that, he served five years as assistant principal at Don Lugo High in Chino and a year as assistant principal at the Chino Valley Adult School in Chino. He joined the district in 2008 as a high school dean at Ayala High in Chino Hills.
The speakers at the board meeting were supported by a large group of teachers and parents in attendance.
Some parents said disruptive students are not being removed from the classroom, including a kindergarten student alleged to have pushed and kicked a teacher who received medical treatment for injuries.
The kindergartener had also physically attacked and threatened students and other staff members, according to several parents.
Parents also told the school board they are made to feel unwelcome on campus by the current administration.
Parent volunteer Debra Johnson said the school has changed drastically over the last four years since former principal Rod Federwisch retired, and the district’s response to leadership problems at the school since then has been inadequate.
Teachers are fed up with a lack of respect, support and communication from the school administration, she said.
Mrs. Johnson has been involved at the school for nine years with two older children and her youngest currently in fourth grade.
Veteran teacher Gina Crum taught two of Mrs. Johnson’s children at Butterfield, including the youngest, until she transferred this month to another school.
A long-term substitute teacher currently teaches Ms. Crum’s former class at Butterfield
“She was a great teacher, a strong teacher and she wouldn’t have left if there wasn’t an issue,” Ms. Johnson said.
Speaking during board member comments, trustee Andrew Cruz received applause from the audience when he said he supports a leadership change for the wellbeing of students, teachers and parents.
James Na said he was concerned about disruptive students “taking a whole campus hostage.”
He asked Superintendent Norm Enfield to look into this matter and to “make sure let’s get it done quickly.”
Dr. Enfield said he was working with human resources. Board member Irene Hernandez-Blair said the board had received a full update from the superintendent with efforts that are being made to improve the campus and that state laws limit what actions can be taken to address disruptive student behaviors.
Addressing Superintendent Enfield, Ms. Hernandez-Blair said reports need to be taken of threats against students by students at Butterfield and other district schools.
School board president Joe Schaffer told Butterfield parents that they had been “heard” at the meeting. “It is being addressed and sometimes it just takes a little time,” he added.
Mr. Bennett referred the Champion’s call to the district office, which did not respond to the request for comment.