Feeling emotionally bruised over the seemingly implacable stance by the RE-2 School District concerning the memorial for their sons, the parents of Paul Kekich, Nick Naples and Alex Ragan just want their voices heard.
The boys, along with their Boy Scout troop leader, Richard Kleiner, were killed in a car accident June 30 in Wyoming. The scouts were students at Woodland Park High School.
At issue for the parents is the lack of communication from the school administration about the removal of the memorial two days before classes began Aug. 21. However, within 24 hours, the district reversed its decision and allowed the memorial to be placed temporarily on school grounds, albeit in a less-visible location.
The parents question the logic of the initial decision when, in fact, permanent memorials honor loved ones on the grounds of three other district schools.
In this case, the parents said they were told by Superintendent Jed Bowman that placing the memorial on school grounds without permission violates district policy. “This memorial should never have been an issue,” said Laurie Naples. “The memorial was put up by friends and family.”
Cindy Ragan added. “I thought the memorial was beautiful and meant to be comforting for students starting school the next day,” she said.
The parents are OK with the temporary location but emotionally stricken by the press release issued by the district last week. The release, from the office of the principal, Del Garrick, states that the school is working daily with parents and the community to assist in the healing process.
Not true, said Laurie Naples.
However, there has been a good note in the parents' relationship to the administration. “All of us are grateful to the district for offering us the gym for the memorial service for the boys,” Naples said.
Also, the parents recognize the temporary nature of the location. “We do plan to put up a permanent memorial somewhere in the community,” Larry Naples said. “This could be a bridge, a steppingstone that the principal and superintendent as well as the whole community could rally around.”
All in all, the issue has been emotionally draining for the parents. “We just want to forget about it,” Larry Naples said. “The memorial is up there now and it can be as temporary as it can be. We want to work with the city to get something permanent.”
Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley is on board. “I will everything in my power to help these families have a permanent memorial,” he said.