The co-president of Wellesley’s Schofield PTO said school officials have failed to address mold and water infiltration problems at the school and is calling for the firing of the Wellesley superintendent and assistant superintendent.
Lana Bornstein said in a letter sent on March 3 to the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen that recommendations contained in a 2004 Department of Public Health report were never fully pursued.
She alleged that the conditions at the school caused some students and staff to become ill and may have affected the students' academics.
Superintendent Bella Wong, who has already resigned effective at the end of the school year, defended her actions regarding the mold at Schofield. She said that the district dealt with the state health department’s recommendations.
“As the school department, we’re committed to ensuring safe environments at our school,” Wong said.
School Committee Chair Suzy Littlefield said that the district has been working steadily on the problems at Schofield. She said that the committee would not fire Wong or Assistant Superintendent Salvatore Petralia.
“She’s (Wong) resigned and she’s leaving at the end of the school year. The school committee’s position is, right now, we need the superintendent in place,” said Littlefield.
Petralia did not respond to a request for comment.
In an emailed statement, Wong said that though mold had been discovered on several different occasions at the school after the 2004 report, it was dealt with safely.
“Mold is part of the normal background flora and so will always be present even if not visible,” she wrote. “Visible mold does occur from time to time in any of our schools. It is always mitigated through cleansing immediately upon identification.”
The 2004 report showed water damage to the roof and walls, a ventilation system in disrepair, and risk factors for mold growth.
The report recommended work be done on the school’s drainage and ventilation systems.
According to Wong’s statement, the drainage system was expanded. The ventilation system was cleaned and serviced recently.
But a 2012 report by the Department of Public Health, prompted by parent concern over water damage, mold and general air quality concerns, shows problems at Schofield similar to those raised in 2004. Ventilation is poor and water damage is shown to be an issue.
Wong announced her resignation on Nov. 10, effective at the end of the school year, after the discovery last year of $169,000 worth of outstanding school lunch debt led to an audit of the business office that turned up sloppy accounting practices. No misappropriation was uncovered, but the public backlash was intense.
The 2012 report has resulted in the creation of an action plan to address the Department of Public Health’s recommendations.
“We’re dealing with it,” said Littlefield.
Bornstein said that though she was upset by how long she said it’s taken the district to solve the problems at Schofield, she’s pleased that progress is now being made.
“I know that the existing facilities director Joe McDonough and [Schofield principal] Gerardo Martinez have been incredible this year in addressing the issues,” she said. “They’ve been moving things forward.”
The problem, she said, is that it took this long to get here.
“The story isn’t that we had horrible mold,” she said. “It’s that a lot of it could have been prevented, and it’s because the buildings were not adequately maintained.”