Catskill group delivers petition to school board

Concerned Catskill group delivers petition to school board

An outraged school community in Catskill is demanding immediate answers about the investigation into a music teacher and the high school principal. They delivered a petition to the school board.

CATSKILL — A group of concerned parents, students, and former students gave the Catskill school board a petition with more than 2,000 signatures. The petition demands the immediate return of Principal Junait Shah and music teacher Michelle Storrs, as well as the resignation of the superintendent.

“Mainly, I’m just concerned with how our students– I have a child here in ninth grade– how they’re affected by it, this lack of leadership. Our superintendent put out one of the best principals I’ve ever seen,” said parent Brian Dugan.

“We have so much support,” said former student Emily Kirch, who circulated a paper petition. “We have the community members, we have students, faculty, the alumni, even people who are in the community. They just want to show their support.”

They believe Shah and Storrs are being investigated because of a report of tape on a student’s mouth, after the teacher told students to stop talking. That student said she jokingly and briefly put tape on her own mouth, and that the teacher did not do it.

Supporters of Shah and Storrs say they have concerns for many reasons.

“That teachers don’t feel safe with their jobs. That students don’t feel safe here at school. That students are walking out of classes, missing education time,” said Karen Van Wie, the mother of a former student. “We’re supposed to have a high school play next weekend and the director hasn’t been able to be here for a week and a half. My daughter went through that when Covid happened. I might cry because it’s just a terrible thing for these kids to be going through.”

“For months and months, the kids have worked so hard on this,” said Jenna Olivett, a former student. “And when I did it, I know the first time I stepped out on stage on performance night, all of that work instantly became worth it and that feeling was just unmatched, and I would be so upset for these students if they don’t get that experience.”

Monday night, a crowd showed up to a emergency board meeting which was closed to the public, and that followed days of rallies, marches, and walkouts.

“It’s detrimental to us,” said student Erik Kirch. “We’ve been struggling because our chorus is non-existent without her and Mr. Shah’s leadership is nowhere to be seen. It’s like the school is bare without the both of them. It’s pretty depressing. Even I don’t want to come to school any more because of it.”

Kirch remains hopeful that Storrs will come back in time for the show, but the clock is ticking. The first performance is slated for March 15.

The group says if they don’t hear about a public meeting by Thursday, they’ll hold another rally.

“We understand that there’s procedure,” said Van Wie. “They met with their attorney last night and we appreciate them doing that, but we would also appreciate them communicating with us. They work for us.”