This speech by Change150 Vice President, Dan Dugal was delivered at a press conference launching the organization from the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Building at 305 SW Water Street on February 18th.
On Monday, December 9th Principal John Wetterauer was removed from his office at Charter Oak school under the guise of an investigation into supposed testing irregularities. Teachers, staff, parents, and students were all delivered a traumatic shock.
The Charter Oak community responded quickly and loudly and with outrage. We demanded transparency from the administration and from the board of education while we packed the gymnasium at Von Steuben School for the next three consecutive board meetings. In an unprecedented action, the administration sent three letters of explanation to the families of Charter Oak. But make no mistake, this was not “over-communication” as Grenita Lathan recently claimed in the press, these letters were damage control into an information vacuum that she had intentionally created.
But an interesting thing started happening. In our quest to find answers and information from an administration determined to stonewall every request, we started hearing from other parents and other teachers from other schools across the district. We were reminded of the controversies surrounding Garfield Elementary and Woodruff High School. We started hearing stories from inside the district, stories of direct retaliation from Superintendent Lathan. Stories of an organizational culture where yes-men are rewarded, group-think is expected, and diversity of opinion is exterminated and punished. More and more stories emerged from the woodwork and we found our voices joined by many others from across the region.
Despite the oppressive organizational culture, teachers across the district continued their diligent work to teach, and to inspire and to grow the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. They stayed engaged, looking to share those life-changing and inspiring interactions with their students in schools all over our district, not because of Grenita’s management, but in spite of it. These teachers and other District 150 staff and administrators walk into what I can only describe as a toxic, hostile environment, and still find a way to provide the best education they can to our children.
The parents, staff, and taxpayers of Peoria do not wish District 150 to fail as Grenita Lathan so insultingly declared to the press. On the contrary, we wish to rescue the district from failed leadership. We don’t want decisions centralized and doled out from Wisconsin Avenue. We want collaborative leadership to work with teachers and principals to make decisions that make sense in their schools, for their unique situations. We want a culture of teamwork where ideas are shared freely, a culture of excellence where parents, teachers and administrators are inspired to inspire our children. Where the team of educators in each school are empowered to raise the tide of excellence across the city. Where every school in the district is a Blue Ribbon school.
On that cold December day, a movement was catalyzed. Over the past two months that movement has grown and evolved. It is no longer contained by the boundaries of the Charter Oak community. The movement, a grass roots, people powered movement has spread like wildfire across the city. To reflect the growing scope of the movement, and to carry the momentum forward, we are announcing the launch of Change150.
Change150′s goals are simple; Celebrate the good in the district while calling for a change in leadership in the Superintendent’s office and demanding transparency and accountability from our elected members of the Board of Education. We aim to help the movement grow by uniting Peoria’s many diverse communities. By coming together as one voice, we will continue to hold the District 150 School Board accountable for the questionable and controversial decisions they have made over the past few years.
We invite concerned citizens from across the city to rise up, add their voices to our own to celebrate the hard working teachers and staff in our schools while demanding new leadership in the district that will work with parents, teachers, and principals toward positive change and exceptional outcomes for our children, our communities and our city of Peoria.
Find us on the web at change150.org, follow us on twitter at change150, and join us as we create positive change within Peoria School District 150.