Parents and students protest as Williamsville CSD says goodbye to teachers recently hired

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WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Parents, teachers and students are demanding answers from the Williamsville Central School district on education plans less than 24 hours before grades 5-12 go completely virtual.

“It’s just very heartbreaking because my son is like, ‘I’m going to fail,” said Mellissa Manning.

Protesters were back outside of the district office Monday, calling on school leaders to make a decision that works for all families.

“My kids will be home alone – we’re both working full time so they have to do this on their own,” explained Adrienne Cohan. “This summer we were allowed as parents to decide what was best for our children, and we could choose whether the hybrid option or fully virtual was the best for our kids. I chose hybrid for my kids because that’s what was right for them, and then to have the district make that decision for me [to go fully remote] is not fair.”

The district released a video statement in response to the recent protests. Acting Superintendent Dr. John McKenna said officials are continuing to work on the district’s plan to make it the best for everyone.

“My hope is that we can take this energy and passion and channel it into find positive solutions moving forward,” McKenna said in the video.

Monday’s protests come on the same day the district announced they would not be retaining the 43 teachers previously hired for the virtual learning model prior to the start of the school year.

In a statement, a district spokesperson said “Due to the changes in the instructional model, 43 candidates were not recommended for approval to the Board of Education.  However, we are considering them for future positions in the District.  We understand this an unfortunate situation.”

One of those 43 teachers is Lori Helmbrecht, who told News 4 within a day of being assigned to teach at Heim Middle School, she received an email from a district official urging her to seek employment elsewhere.

“I’m like, what am I supposed to do now? I was expecting to go to work with this district making the money I was going to make. I let go of a perfectly fine job,” Helmbrecht said. “Everyone looks to Williamsville to see what they’re doing to emulate them. Teachers want to work at Williamsville, and now it’s just a laughing stock.”

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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