Change150 To Host District 2 Town Hall

MEDIA ALERT
October 10, 2014

Contact:
Sea Stipe
Change150 Spokesperson
sea.stipe@change150.org
312-361-0838

CHANGE150  PLANS SECOND TOWN HALL MEETING FOR DISTRICT 2

    

 

PEORIA, IL October 10, 2014 – CHANGE150 is excited to announce the second of three town hall meetings, one for each voting district within Peoria School District 150.   The District 2 meeting is planned for  Saturday, October 18th.  A similar meeting was held in District 3 in October, with two of that voting district’s board members attending,  Rick Cloyd and Jon Bateman.  Community members may submit questions or express comments and concerns in advance or the day of the event, regarding issues with District 150.

 

  • Where: Glen Oak Christian Church, 1115 E Republic St, Peoria, IL 61603
  • When: Saturday, October 18, 2014, 10:30 am – 12:00 noon
  • Who: The panel will include representatives from: the Peoria Federation of Teachers, Local 780; retired District 150 Administrators; the NAACP; and Change150.   District 2 Board of Education members, Debbie Wolfmeyer, Linda Butler and Lynn Costic have been invited.  CHANGE150 is awaiting their responses.
  • Why: We believe our children deserve the best education possible, and that one way to achieve this is through honest, open dialogue between the school board and the community that they represent.   Change150 plans to lead this initiative by hosting and facilitating a series of town hall meetings to allow the public an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.
  • How: Attendees may submit written questions at the meeting.  Additionally, the community may submit questions or comments in advance at info@Change150.org.

The goal of CHANGE150 is to unite Peoria’s communities because with a collective voice, we can be loud advocates for our children and for change.  For more information on CHANGE150, please go to www.CHANGE150.org.

Change150 Launches Candidate Search for Spring Elections

MEDIA ALERT

October 9, 2014

Media Contact: Sea Stipe
Change150 Spokesperson
sea.stipe@change150.org

 

CHANGE150 LAUNCHES BOARD MEMBER CANDIDATE SEARCH

PEORIA, IL  October 9, 2014 – Change150 would like to invite interested citizens of Peoria living in Peoria School District 3 to apply for our endorsement in the Spring 2015 Election of School Board.

For anyone who wants to be vetted and possibly endorsed by Change150, the application process includes: name, contact info, resume and answers to these three questions:

  1. What is the reason(s) that you would want to be a school board member?
  2. What qualifications or skills do you possess that would make you a good board member?
  3. What issues would you want to see addressed to improve the school district?

Once a candidate has his/her information & essays together, they should email it to apply@change150.org. This email goes directly to the vetting committee.

 

The application deadline is Monday, October 20th, 2014.

 

Once again, Change150 is facilitating the creation of an independent committee to vet candidates who want to be endorsed by Change150 and our partners. The committee members will include retired administrators, parents, and representatives from unions, NAACP, and Change150.

For more information on Change150, our initiatives and our mission, please go to www.CHANGE150.org.

 

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Change150 Supporter Sounds Off

On August 4th, Peoria Journal Star journalist Phil Luciano wrote an article comparing District 150 and Change150 to a fighting King Kong and Godzilla.

We didn’t respond to the article at the time, but one of our supporters, Pat Miller did by sending Luciano the letter below. It doesn’t look like he’s going to do anything with it, so Pat sent it to us, and now we are sharing it with you.

 

August 19, 2014

Phil Luciano
Peoria Journal Star
1 News Plaza
Peoria, IL 61643

Dear Mr. Luciano,
I read with interest your recent column pointing out how very far apart District 150 Administra-tion and Change150 are in their tenets and goals. While I agree with you that the two are on opposite sides of a huge chasm, I don’t agree with some of the points you made in your column. And while I salute your effort to present both sides’ views in a fair and open manner, I can’t condone the complete lack of logic that you allowed to be presented as sensible.

To quote your column:

Lathan embraces an administration that constantly rotates school principals as a way to avoid long-term complacency and encourage new ideas. She says that’s important in a large, urban district, where slackers can hide with no accountability. That makes sense.”

Seriously? You think that makes sense? To use your sports team analogy in a way that is more analogous to this situation, would you advocate major league teams “constantly” forcing coaches to rotate from team to team “to avoid long-term complacency and encourage new ideas”? Or would you point out the obvious: that such rotation is counterproductive and absurd? That it prevents the coach from devising strategies for his team that go past the current year? That it keeps the coach from ever knowing his players and resources well enough to maximize on their strengths and rehabilitate their weaknesses?

Carrying the team/coach analogy a step further, do you think rotating coaches is the best way to keep “slackers” from “hid(ing) with no accountability”? If a coach is a slacker, does anyone really believe he can hide it? Of course not! It quickly becomes obvious, does it not? A slacker coach is soon confronted by a poor win/loss record, unhappy players, unhappy fans, and unhappy backers.

Likewise, if a principal is a slacker, this fact is never hidden, never obscured from accountability. Every teacher in the building knows it and is unhappy. The students know it. The parents know it. Functioning within the school is negatively affected, and the school’s quantitative measures reflect it for all to see. It is a well-known fact among teachers that the principal sets the tone for the entire school, and a weak principal cannot be compensated for by even the strongest teaching staff. As one teacher put, “a principal who is a towering pillar of Jello wrecks the finest school.” And the wreckage is surely no secret! A slacker principal is incapable of hiding that fact, but it is up to the district’s administration to be sure that there is accountability for it.

So you see, Mr. Luciano: you have allowed Dr. Lathan to create a ridiculous pseudo-rationale for what is clearly just a ploy and a power play on her part. She forces these rotations because she can. She does not see or acknowledge this motive because narcissists never see themselves from the inside as they are clearly seen by everyone else from the outside. It comes as no surprise that she would try to fabricate reasonable-sounding motives for what she does; what is surprising is that you would allow such phoniness to pass for “reason.”

The saddest part of this destructive scenario is that Dr. Lathan is, from her perspective and that of everyone else who is a party to this mess, winning. She is using all the power within her grasp to promote her agenda, and she clearly believes that her ends justify her means. What she is not acknowledging–and you media types are either ignoring or failing to observe–is that in winning she is ultimately losing. She is winning her battles just as surely as she is losing the real war. She can rotate and demote principals; she can transfer talented teachers to buildings where they feel like fish out of water; she can break the hearts of the neediest children; she can cow the school board; and she can replace every member of the administrative staff with people of her choosing on flimsy pretexts. What she cannot do, however, is make anyone glad to be working or learning in District 150. She cannot make families move back into Peoria. She cannot make parents stop homeschooling their children and put them back in public schools. She cannot make people take their children back out of parochial schools where the atmos-phere is less like concentration camps and the joy of learning is still present. And she cannot make scores of fine, highly motivated teachers unretire and come back to PSD150 schools.

As a teacher, I never once applied to teach in PSD150. As a parent, I never once considered buying a home in PSD150. As a parenting workshop leader, I have never once encouraged parents to place their children in PSD150. I will continue to guide parents in making the best choices for their children’s educational futures, and those choices will not include PSD150.

Thank you for reading this and for shining your light on the sorry situation facing Peoria families. I hope you will continue to do so, for the well-being of all concerned.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller, Change150 Supporter

 

State’s Attorney Responds to Questionable District Spending

The Peoria Journal Star published an article today on State’s Attorney Jerry Brady’s response to allegations of questionable spending within District 150.

Jerry Brady’s office indicates that any investigation of spending by employees should be done by the district, and that until the “character of spending” is determined by the district no further review is beneficial. He states that, “Finally, although the limited information presented does not support criminal charges, further review appears warranted”.

But there is an interesting spin on this article by the Board President, Debbie Wolfmeyer. She says that if there were any red flags that Brady’s office would have asked for more information. She seems to ignore the fact that while there may not be criminal issues, there may be other spending improprieties by staffers as suggested by Brady’s statement that further review appears warranted.

Looks like the district has no intention of heeding the State’s Attorney’s advice.

It is also interesting that Mr. Brady’s letter (dated August 27, 2014) didn’t appear to be shared until it was brought up a the board meeting by Terry Knapp.

Here is Bradys letter regarding p-card investigation in pdf format.

 

Update:

The Journal Star followed up with this article stating “Brady said Tuesday he wants District 150 to review administrators’ expenditures on the cards, which are similar to company credit cards. “In the event the district chooses not to proceed, I’ve got to make some decisions about whether or not I choose to proceed.”

 

Change150 Hosts First Town Hall

MEDIA ALERT
September 4, 2014

Contact:
Sea Stipe
Change150 Spokesperson
sea.stipe@change150.org
312-361-0838

CHANGE150 TO HOST FIRST TOWN HALL MEETING FOR

PEORIA SCHOOL DISTRICT 3    

 

PEORIA, IL September 4, 2014 – Members of CHANGE150 will host three town hall meetings, one for each voting district,  before the end of the year.   The panel of participants for the first town hall meeting, covering District 3, will include Peoria School District board members from that District.   Community members may submit questions or express comments and concerns, in advance or the day of the event, regarding issues with District 150.

 

  • Where: North Branch, Peoria Public Library, 3001 W. Grand ParkwayPeoria, IL  61615
  • When: Saturday, September 13, 2014, 10:30 am – 12:00 noon
  • Who: The panel will include Rick Cloyd, District 3 Board Member, Jon Bateman, District 3 Board Member, Dan Dugal, Change150 Vice President, John Meisinger, Former District 150 Administrator, and representatives from other Change150 coalition groups.
  • Why:  We believe our children deserve the best education possible, and that one way to achieve this is through honest, open dialogue between the school board and the community that they represent.   Change150 plans to lead this initiative by hosting and facilitating a series of town hall meetings to allow the public an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.
  • How:  Attendees may submit written questions at the meeting.  Additionally, the community may submit questions or comments in advance at info@Change150.org.

 

The goal of CHANGE150 is to unite Peoria’s communities because with a collective voice, we can be loud advocates for our children and for change.  For more information on CHANGE150, please go to www.CHANGE150.org.

 

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People Are Leaving

On the first day back to school, we just want to tell you that people are leaving.

People are leaving.

Let that sink in for a moment.

These parents that care and care so deeply…the ones that get involved, the ones that volunteer their time and their love…the ones that are active at school, in the community, in the lives of their children… they are leaving.

It’s not that they are being difficult or throwing tantrums.

It just really feels as though the problems they see are insurmountable, so overwhelmed parents are making necessary decisions in the best interest of their families and children – and are leaving.

Our children have one shot at an education.

One.

We don’t get any do-overs, so while there may be small margins for error, it really matters that we get things right for them. It matters that every child is challenged to reach their full potential. Success is meaningless when the bar has been lowered so far that failure is impossible.

Our Board members sit in their seats for 5 years when the state norm is 4. These board members have plenty of opportunity to build relationships and to find their footing. This opportunity is denied to principals across the district because few principals last more than 3 years at any one school.

WHY should principals work so hard to build relationships and trust with their students and families when it will just be stripped away with little or no notice? Relationships don’t just TRANSFER. Trust takes time to build. Respect takes time to earn. No team can sustain constant restructuring, and there is NO REASON for the restructuring when things are going well.

Issues brought to the attention of the Board have been dismissed, brushed aside or ignored. It is very difficult to believe that they could dig in any deeper than they already have. Dr. Lathan has twice proclaimed the extension of an olive branch. We have sent several email requests for a meeting with her and board members. We have yet to get any response outlining when such a meeting might take place. It makes us wonder if the olive branches were legitimate.

The community desires more input and parents want better communication – both the listening and the speaking parts of communication, yet the board voted to reduce the public’s speaking time by 40%.

The administration complains about a lack of parental involvement – yet when an involved Charter Oak parent reported safety concerns to the board, the administration immediately sent a letter to all Charter Oak parents, restricting their access to the school and playground.

At least sixteen families and twenty-two students from Charter Oak School alone are gone.

People are leaving.

 

This school year, children are going to PCS and Concordia Lutheran.

Children are going to the Montessori School.

Parents are home-schooling.

People are selling their homes.

 

People are leaving.

 

This city is being gutted of so many involved families.

Their voices deserve to be heard.

Peoria’s future is eroding, and it’s happening right now, right in front of our eyes.

 

People are leaving.

The time for change is now.

 

Cautiously Optimistic

The leadership of Change150 is disappointed that Dan Adler was not chosen by the District 150 School Board to occupy the vacant school board seat overthrown by Peoria’s voters and the Vote for Sue Wolstenholm campaign.

Dan had the support of local education unions, the NAACP, retired administrators, and Change150, among others. Change150 knows that Dan is a positive voice for the needed change in District 150 and a strong advocate for rebuilding the District.  It is our hope that these qualities can be fostered in the District 150 Board.

Change150 looks forward to meeting with Jon Bateman and to working with Bateman during the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. We look forward to open and empathetic dialogue and are hopeful that Bateman will bring fair and accurate representation of the experiences and needs of the many fine teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and students within District 150.

Judge Declares Lathan Threatened District Employees

NoticeToEmployees

Judge forces PSD150 to post notice to employees

Change150 has just received a court document that illustrates and documents PSD150 Superintendent Grenita Lathan’s abusive “leadership”. It highlights the kind of autocratic control she strives to wield over district employees and the kinds of deplorable (and illegal) threats that she is willing to level at employees in order to get her way. This is the superintendent that the PSD150 Board has just rewarded with a raise.

The court document (linked below) confirms Lathan’s violation of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, Section 14(a)(1) which prohibits educational employers and their agents from interfering with, restraining or coercing educational employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act.

The incident at issue took place on September 21st, 2011 when the superintendent called into her office district employees who are members of the Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Security (Union).

From the court document:
[Grenita Lathan] sounded upset and spoke in an angry, abrasive, or chastising tone. She said the more money the District spent on legal fees for litigation and grievances, the less money for the department. Lathan told the bargaining unit members that if they did not like the way things were and could not get on board, they could find work elsewhere, find someone else to pay their bills, and remember where their money comes from when they make their mortgage payments and pay their bills.

We wish we could say that we were surprised by Lathan’s threat and her unacceptable, unprofessional behavior. Unfortunately, this is just another example of the kinds of stories we’ve been hearing since we formed months ago. These stories illustrate just how toxic the working environment has become for the people trying to provide our children with an education. Since Lathan’s arrival in the District nearly all decisions have been centralized. Principals, teachers and support staff have less flexibility and ability to do their jobs, and our children’s education is suffering as a result.

The judge in this case has ordered the district to post a notice to all employees stating:

1)WE WILL NOT threaten our employees, or otherwise interfere with our employees’ right to file grievances over their terms and conditions of employment

2)WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner, interfere with, restrain or coerce our employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them in the Act.

It’s sad that it takes a judge’s order to compel Dr. Lathan to abide the law requiring her to not threaten her employees. We here at Change150 continue to call for a new model of leadership – one that provides organizational flexibility to teachers, staff and administrators. We advocate for leadership that empowers these hard-working individuals to make decisions tailored to their specific circumstances in their individual schools to provide the best possible learning environment to the district’s students.

The full document can be read here (pdf).

Why We’re Leaving PSD 150

This past year has been a difficult one for my family and for many other families I know. It has driven us to make the very tough decision of taking our boys out of public school for the upcoming year and moving them to private school (Peoria Christian). There are a few reasons for this decision…

First, the school board and the superintendent have embraced an outdated and detrimental philosophy of education that is hurting our children and our community. This philosophy includes a heavy-handed, top-down model of leadership that intimidates and controls. In a world becoming more decentralized and empowering, this administration is centralizing more decisions and trying to make every school as similar as possible. This cookie-cutter mentality waters down what’s working and takes every school down to the lowest common denominator. Every child in PSD 150 deserves to have an equal opportunity and access to quality education, and a decentralized, site-based model would be more effective in providing the best possible educational opportunities for everyone.

A consequence of the administration’s current philosophy is the rampant turnover in principals. Over the past couple of years, dozens of principals have been released, forced into retirement, or required to change schools. When people raised concerns about these chaotic changes, rather than address those concerns, the superintendent stated publicly that she thinks more changes are needed. This response is simply beyond comprehension. Healthy schools require more than just well-considered curriculum choices; they also require good working relationships between principals, teachers, parents, and students. Having such a rapid turnover in principals is relationally unsettling. No data anywhere suggests that turmoil and instability improve education, yet the leadership of PSD 150 continues to move principals as though they are managing widgets, with no regard for the relational and emotional consequences of such chaos.

A majority of PSD 150’s school board members and upper level administrators are out-of-touch with the community, and they have been calloused and disingenuous in their communication with parents and the general public. They have been defensive and hesitant to take responsibility for any problems or failed decisions. Parents have not felt heard or respected, and the leadership has attempted to justify its positions by cherry picking data and spinning information. For example, the superintendent stated that discipline issues are down in the district, but I have spoken with teachers and security personnel who report that discipline issues are the worst they’ve ever been. The difference is that staff members feel pressured to refrain from writing up student infractions so that the number of reported discipline issues appears smaller than it is. In addition, the leadership has manipulated data from NWEA in order to make the case that test scores are up, when, in fact, those who have looked at the ISAT numbers report that there is a clear decline in scores. Also, without elaborating, the administration loves to tout the IB program. We are fans of IB, but unfortunately, it is not being fully implemented in the elementary and middle schools. Because teachers and schools have not been empowered to implement the IB philosophy fully and completely, IB has become nothing more than window-dressing, yet board members and upper level administrators rave about its success and pat themselves on the back. Finally, when the leadership announced they were purchasing property around Central High School, they gave impressive numbers relating the low cost they had to pay for the property, yet they never bothered to communicate the hidden cost of relocating the families who lived there. In order to motivate those families to sell their homes to the district, staff members had to remodel new homes for them with roofing, windows, carpeting, etc. The original numbers presented were not just a half-truth of the actual expense; they were downright deceptive.

The leadership issues of PSD 150 are troubling, but ultimately, it is the consistent stress that has proven to be the final straw. My wife had an encounter with the superintendent that got her kicked off school property, in what we feel was an abuse of power. My oldest son witnessed this encounter and was troubled by the incident. It caused him to lose confidence in certain leaders at his school, leaving him anxious and afraid much of the year. My youngest son had his inclusion teacher moved midway through the year, and he grieved the loss of his principal. He questioned why the administration thought his school cheated and came home with stories of problems and discipline issues that had never occurred before. These experiences and countless others left our family frustrated, angry, sad, and on edge.

We have become convinced that this emotional weight is not simply going to lift with the start of a new school year. And while we have been pleased overall with the individual teachers our children have had, we were troubled to learn that the school our boys would attend next year is ranked 1124 out of 1389 middle schools in the state. When my wife tried to talk with the principal about ways to improve the culture of the school from a parental perspective, she was dismissed and ignored. Other engaged families have expressed the same frustration.

Our family has always desired to be present in our community, and we’ve felt the need to be part of the solution, not just complain about the problems. Therefore, we have supported public education every year in the past. However, the above issues, along with several others, have left us pursuing other options in the interest of our children. That’s why we’ll be moving our boys to private school next year. In an upcoming post I will describe what we’re moving to and explain my decision to stay engaged with Change150 even though our boys will no longer be attending Peoria public schools.

 

Jim Powell,
President, Change150

Dan Adler: Why I Champion Change

There’s nothing more important to our community’s future than the education of our children.  Plainly put, that is why I champion change in Peoria’s public schools.  My wife, Jen, and I want our two children to have the best possible educational experience.  That’s why we give our time and energy to Kellar Primary School, where our children attend now.  But we realize that building a better community means a better education for every school and every student.  When Change150 successfully forced a board member out through the ballot box, I saw the opportunity to give back more.

I was honored when Change 150 chose to endorse me as their candidate for this open seat.  I have met and spoken with so many people who simultaneously want the best education for all of our kids, but are also very frustrated with what they see as a system that is not accountable to the community.  I have applied to fill the vacancy created in the last election because I believe that the role of re-establishing the public’s trust in our schools and decision-makers is one that I can uniquely fill.  First of all, I am a parent with two current students early in their education, so I have two of the best incentives to increase the success of our schools.  I am also a proven organizational leader – demonstrated through my project leadership at Caterpillar, the increased engagement within the Tanglewood Hawthorne Hills Homeowners Association during my presidency, and the building of the Kellar Community Garden.

But perhaps what qualifies me most is the energy and new ideas I would bring to the school board.  I am a firm believer that it is not only what decisions we make but how we make them that determines the success of a public body.  Our school district has big challenges ahead, including but not limited to how we address long-term funding shortfalls, an increasingly more competitive global workforce, rapidly evolving technologies and questions about the adequacy of a less than 12 month calendar.  But no matter what plans we put into place to address these issues, we cannot be successful without the engagement of the entire community.  Certainly, we must have buy-in from our parents, teachers, staff and administrators.  We must also recognize the stake that others have in our success – including the business community, city government and local non-profit organizations – and listen to their input.  Only working together as a community can our schools realize their full potential. Regaining the trust and engagement of all these constituencies will require significant effort, but based on the following principles of transparency and accountability, I believe they represent the best path forward.

  • All parents should feel comfortable providing respectful feedback on school/district performance without fear of retribution for their students,
  • All teachers and staff should feel comfortable providing respectful feedback on school/district performance without fear of retribution relative to their employment,
  • All community stakeholders should feel that their voices will be heard and responded to in a professional and timely manner,
  • All of our community stakeholders have gifts/skills to offer our schools, and we should leverage those assets as much as possible to enhance student learning,
  • All supporting documentation for decisions to be made at school board meetings that can be made public, should be made public,
  • Opportunities to watch the public meetings of the school board, through television and electronic media, should be made as accessible as other public bodies (e.g., city council),
  • As much deliberative dialogue as possible should be shared in public between board members and the administration,
  • Change management aspects including the effects of transition to the classroom and the school environment shall be considered and heavily weighted for personnel decisions, and
  • Should public meetings of the school board not provide a sufficient forum for public input, alternative, town hall venues and publicity should be provided to help engage the public in a two-way dialogue with board members & administrators.

If given the opportunity to represent the 3rd District on the District 150 school board, these are the principles I would champion as the first in a series of actions to improve the community engagement in our schools.  As engaged community members in Peoria’s public schools, I thank you for your time and energy, and hope to be your champion of change from inside the horseshoe shortly.

 

Dan Adler
Change150 Endorsed Candidate for Open School Board Seat
Kellar Parent & PTO Volunteer
Caterpillar Employee