Parkway School Principal: Erroneous reporting on lead levels misled Greenwich families

Letter to the editor submitted by Patricia Allen, Parkway School Principal, March 18, 2016

The Greenwich Time recently erroneously reported that, “last year Parkway School had 27 times the acceptable level of lead in their water.”  It does not.  It did not.  And, I am completely confident that given the intense scrutiny of the (no pun intended) well-maintained well on site…it never will.

I moved to Greenwich five years ago to accept my position as principal of Parkway School and have greatly enjoyed both my role as a leader in one of the greatest school districts in the country, and my ‘off hours’ as a resident in a town that deeply cares about protecting the green spaces and places where children learn and grow.

As a writer, I’ve published several essays in Greenwich Time during my time here, and though I don’t always agree with what I term the ‘edu-bashing’ articles that pop up in the paper from Time to Time, until now I’ve felt that the Greenwich Time is a newspaper that at least attempts to present balanced accounts about our schools.

So imagine my surprise this week, after spending hours earlier this year with Greenwich Time reporter, Paul Schott, who was assigned to investigate and report on the discovery of an elevated lead level sampling from two remote hand washing sinks in our school, that another reporter unfamiliar with the facts elevated that concern far more than 27 times.  His erroneous reporting appeared online, in print and in social media, and yet it never should have appeared at all.

Paul Schott did a great job reporting on the facts.  The article he wrote should have been read by his colleague, Greenwich Time reporter Bill Cummings, before Cummings decided to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  In fact, I wish he had used pencil, because then he could have erased the lead.  Because the truth is, we don’t have any.

The damage done by irresponsible journalism like this is not quantifiable.  How many families with young children read that article and related it to what those in Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey are going through?  If what Cummings was after is sensational journalism, he won’t find it here.  Though Greenwich Time presented a ‘corrected version’ of the article, it never actually said that the reporter made a mistake.  Instead, they led with a version of the story that said Parkway had twice the amount of acceptable lead levels in the water.

Really?  Why make the same mistake twice?

I drink the water at Parkway School every single day.  I make a cup of coffee in the morning with it, and I fill my water bottle up throughout the day with clean, cool and delicious filtered water from the refillable stations that our district and PTA installed throughout the building.

In truth, Parkway School, with a deep underground well that is tested beyond required levels, probably has some of the safest water in the country.

I’d like to invite Bill Cummings to Parkway to fill his water bottle.  We can drink to an important social norm that we teach our students…letting go and moving on.

M. Patricia Allen, Principal
Parkway School
141 Lower Cross Road
Greenwich, CT  06831