A group of parents of Walnut Elementary School students say that kindergarten teacher Sue Lewis is no longer capable of providing adequate supervision of her students after their children were allegedly lost under Lewis’ care on several occasions, including during a field trip in Stockton.
The most recent alleged incident involved the son of parent Mary Toledo on Aug. 28. She says Lewis forgot her son in the bathroom in the school cafeteria on their way back from a morning assembly.
Toledo has since had her child moved to another kindergarten class.
“But that doesn’t mean I will forget about this,” said Toledo. “I don’t want to brush it under the rug.”
Parents are vehemently concerned for the safety of children in her class and some are calling for her to retire, as there has been an alleged past incident.
On Jan. 29, during this past school year, Lewis took her class of 22 kindergartners to a play in Stockton.
When leaving the facility two 5-year-old boys from her class got separated from the class. Whether the boys got lost or deliberately ran off is up for debate, but the parents of both boys, Alejandro and Sadith Velasquez, and Chris Fraioli and Angela O’Donnell, believe the fault lays with Lewis for her alleged lack of supervision.
All of the parents say their boys exited the facility out of a side door and walked across the parking lot (described as a Wal-Mart sized lot) unsupervised until a bus driver found them.
Fraioli says he witnessed the tail end of the incident because he was at the play as an unofficial chaperone of his son.
He explained that he followed the bus in his car to the facility when the play was over and he saw the two boys walking across the parking lot, but he did not recognize them because they were far away and they were so short he couldn’t identify them as they passed between cars.
“They crossed the huge parking lot and were about 20 feet from a busy street and one of the buses almost hit them when it was backing up,” said Fraioli. “All of the sudden the bus driver came zipping out of the bus and stopped them. Then I realized it was my son.”
He said the boys were unsupervised for about five minutes in the parking lot until the bus driver found them and then about 10 minutes later Lewis came up and verbally disciplined the boys.
The parents all met with Walnut Principal Mark Holmes and Lewis back at Walnut upon the classes return that day.
Holmes offered no comment on the alleged incidents, citing personnel issues.
However according to Turlock Teachers Association President Julie Shipman, Lewis told a far different account of the events.
“She was right behind them and the bus driver stopped them and she came up to them,” said Shipman. “They were gone for about three minutes. She followed all protocol on the field trip and there was no discipline action taken against her. Sometimes kids run off and the boys had a history of running off.”
The parents all expressed that their boys have never had any discipline issues and have never been known to “run-off.”
“How can you blame a five-year-old?” asked O’Donnell. “She is a nice lady and I have nothing against her and I know it’s not intentional. She is just not capable of keeping track and being organized with her students. Her time has simply come and she needs to retire.”
While her exact age is unknown, all of the parents say she is at least in her 60s. A source, who did not want to be named, says Lewis has been a teacher since, at least, the late 1980s or early 1990s.
O’Donnell, Fraioli and Toledo all feel she should not be fired, but should retire. However the Velasquez’ feel that she should be terminated and even went as far as setting up an online petition to send to district officials.
“We want her fired, it’s not safe for children in her class,” said Alejandro Velasquez. “She blamed my son and had no remorse for the incident and she confronted my wife about the petition in front of her class.”
The parents said that Lewis has had a history of problems keeping track of her students, including at her previous school, Osborn Elementary School.
“When we met with her and Mr. Holmes she talked about what happened at Osborn and because of that incident she has a sign-in and sign-out list from her class,” said O’Donnell. “She is the only kindergarten teacher at Walnut that has that.”