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School District Under Fire From Parents

According to parents and supporters, three Eisenhower students on the school's robotics team who were invited to a world championship competition in California are being denied the opportunity by the school board without explanation.

Norristown Patch reported . Three students – Imer Vazquez, Francesco Fernandez and Tony Zevallos – were invited to compete in the 2012 Vex Robotics World Middle School Competition in Anaheim next month. The budding engineers would be competing against middle schoolers from across the globe, designing functional robots and putting them through their paces.

Now that good news has turned sour and parents and supporters of the kids are blaming the Norristown Area School District. According to a blog post by Kelly Whalen, a parent in the Downigntown School District who is involved in that area's robotics teams, the Norristown Area School Board on Monday denied the kids permission to travel to the competition. What's worse, they allegedly haven't given parents a reason why they're denying the request.

The team is sponsored by the school district and without their permission, can't attend the competition. Financial concerns are apparently not involved, as the team has reportedly found commitments for the over $7000 they need for travel and robot shipping expenses.

Scott Tarlo, a mentor for the Downingtown Area Robotics Team, has competed against the Norristown students and can't believe the school district would not honor these talented kids with their support.

"The school board never provided a reason, and the kids are shattered by it," said Tarlo. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for them... It's a pity that they're not responding and that they just shut them down without open dialogue."

Parents and supporters have reportedly inundated the school board with calls and emails and several Facebook petitions have been circulated to raise awareness of the issue. Calls by Norristown Patch have not been returned and no school district employees have been available to comment.

The students have until Friday to get permission from the board to secure their spot in the competition in April.

See the video above of the Eisenhower Robotics Team receiving their Excellence Award at a recent robotics competition and securing the students their spot in the competion. You can read more about the team's accomplishments in this ABC Action News story.

Erika March 15, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Norristown School District has such a bad reputation to begin with. You would think allowing these obviously intelligent and talented kids to compete and get recognition would be something they would jump at the chance to do. Well done Eisenhower Robotics Team! I hope they change their descision. These children deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. If they are not allowed, then you are showing them that their intelligence and hard work will only get them so far, and that is not what we should be teaching our kids. They should know that intelligence and hard work can take you places and open doors for you in the future. Shame on Norristown School District!
terry March 15, 2012 at 09:01 PM
This is absolutely appalling. What kind of message does this send, not only to the kids who were invited, but to other children who now see that academic excellence and achievement apparently are not priorities in their school? How can the school not even provide a reason? This is so sad and infuriating. As a parent who lives withi the Norristown school district, my decision to send my child elsewhere has just been reinforced 1000 percent.
Scott March 15, 2012 at 09:43 PM
As a parent of a team that has competed with this team, I can only say that after all the hard work, effort, teamwork, and sportsmanship these Norristown kids have shown, they truly deserve the recognition and the reward of attending the World Championships. I was there when the Award for Excellence (which qualified them for Worlds) was presented to them. The room exploded with thunderous applause and a lot of shouting - their competition was rooting for them to go! NASD needs to be held accountable for their actions. I urge the citizens of Norristown to push the school board for answers - hold them accountable to the children that they are supposed to support and promote. There is no excuse for this, particularly in light of of the fact that money was not an issue.
Michael March 16, 2012 at 12:35 AM
The school board are cowards for not responding and explaining why these great kids are being denied this opportunity. What a poor example of leadership. As a judge for VEX robotics in the area I had the privilege of meeting these kids and interviewing them about their robot on several occasions. I was very impressed with their hard work and dedication. They truly defined what the "Excellence Award" is all about. I hope this setback does not sour them on their future participation and I hope the board reconsiders so I can see them in Anaheim. CONGRATULATIONS TEAM 255A
Janice Keyser April 07, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Having worked in various school systems for the past 30 years, I can attest to the bureaucratic and officious mentalities of many school board members. Parents need to take action. Your votes and your voices do count with elected officials. Concerned Grandma with a Ph.D.in education

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