Support: a Letter from Andrea Dennis

Action: Reinstate the full compensation of Pete Leki & Waters Ecology

Dear Waters Local School Council (LSC),
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter in support of reinstating the compensation of Pete Leki. My name is Andrea Dennis. I am a resident of the community (Maplewood and Sunnyside). I moved to this school district for my future children to attend Waters because of the ecology program. I am a volunteer in the garden. I have also partnered with Waters during my time as the Director of Environmental Education at Friends of the Parks and most recently as an After School Matters instructor utilizing the garden as a classroom space. I attended the
community meeting on July 9, 2022 to learn more about the defunding of the ecology program. I urge you to re-examine this decision for the following reasons:
erroneously categorized. The comparison of his role being a coach or after school
program is instructor, grossly misrepresents his role, experience and responsibilities at the school. His responsibilities necessitate time behind the scenes to prep for his
instructional time. This is not assessed AT ALL in the current coding of his role. The
work he does (for example to prep potatoes for the kindergartners) takes months of
preparation and is unaccounted for. His ability to take students to the Forest
Preserves because he is registered and trained with that institution, which couldn’t
happen with anyone else, is unaccounted for. The expert knowledge he has and level
of experience is unaccounted for. The longstanding connections he has with
community groups that helps students connect with real world issues is unaccounted
for. The budget and coding of his role needs to be reassessed.
Today was created to fund the ecology program, now that nonprofit nor the donors of that nonprofit (which I am counted amongst), have agency to fund the ecology
program. His compensation is no longer able to be subsidized by that nonprofit (or
others like it since those decisions would go through the school).
• DIVISIVE NARRATIVES: The narratives that it was a mistake he received the salary he did; that he should be defunded because other schools don’t have a role like this; or that some teachers are upset plays into a race to the bottom mentality. In the
current climate change and mental health catastrophes our youth are facing, we
absolutely owe it to the next generation to invest in programs and stewards of the land and community. What example do we show when we defund a program like this or
position? Who wins? This decision is demoralizing and divisive and the ones hurting
are our children.
studies around what keeps a community safe, and all hands point back to community engagement. The garden keeps the school safe. How can we count the number of prevented crimes or prevented mental health breakdowns because of the garden?
This has to be taken into consideration or the value of the program is grossly
• CLOAK OF SECRECY AROUND THIS DECISION: If the community knew that there
was any sort of possibility that this role and program would be defunded by 30% there would have been an outpouring of civic engagement to join LSC and Waters Today.
I’m disappointed that in a moment like this when we are facing so many threats to the safety of our children, we have to spend energy in fighting to have this role and program NOT be defunded. But I also have hope. I have hope in all of you that this outcry will help you call forth the value and importance of this program. That you will fight with every fibre that you have to think creatively to act on behalf of our youth and reinstate this funding.
Thank you for your support of refunding Mr. Leki’s role and showing the value of this program.
Andrea Dennis