Nov 10 Board Speech – PFT Local 780 President, Jeff Adkins-Dutro

On the heels of the 2013-2014 ISAT test results being released, a number of people showed up at the November 10th Board meeting with plenty to say. We are posting several of the speeches here, with permission.

 

Jeff Adkins-Dutro

I have tried to approach the Board directly about the Charter Oak test scandal issue, but no pathway I have tried has borne fruit…so here I am at the podium.

Throughout last year’s ISAT investigation at Charter Oak, teachers who were questioned by the District’s attorneys answered all questions honestly and fully. They copied all of their ISAT preparation materials and turned them over to the District’s attorneys. They behaved professionally, not talking about the investigation and refraining from going to the press in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

For their forthrightness, compliance, and professionalism, they paid a terrible price. Although the State Board of Education determined there was NO cheating on the ISAT and not a single teacher’s license was revoked, the District turned what could have been a simple of tightening up ISAT preparation and ISAT special education protocols district wide into a scandal that dismantled a school and disrupted a community.

I drove to Springfield myself and talked to the ISBE. The person with whom I spoke could not fathom why this molehill had been turned into a mountain.

At the beginning of this investigation, the Peoria Federation of Teachers was told that the investigation was an effort to oust the principal and that our teachers would not be implicated. We knew better, and we prepared for the worst.

Taking the advice of our attorneys, we held our cards close to the vest instead of making sensational comments in an effort to go tit for tat with the District and the media. Whereas we played it smart legally and protected our teachers, our teachers’ reputations were smeared time and time again as the District played to the press, going so far as to have a public display, via their attorney, at a Board meeting and by PUBLICLY humiliating two of our teachers, teachers who were victims of lax ISAT training, not scoundrels who sat in a dimly lit room, changing answers on students’ answer sheets.

I am VERY proud of the teachers for the way they handled themselves, both the teachers involved in the investigation and the teachers who, throughout the process, helped do everything they could to maintain a sense of normalcy for the students at Charter Oak and our other 26 schools.

The teachers at Charter Oak met with the Union near the end of last year, and their main objective was to get things back on track at the school. The teachers worked hard last year and this year, hoping the dust had finally settled, and then the headline ‘ISAT Scores Down Sharply At Charter Oak’.

Certainly, anyone familiar with the turmoil last year would have predicted a sharp decline in student achievement to be reflected in the test scores. That said, ironically, the anomalies from the previous year’s test scores after a year’s worth of scandal, $100,000 in attorneys’ fees, and an upset in staff are still a mystery.

There are plenty of scapegoats but no real answers.

I asked the Board and the administration to stand up for Charter Oak after the most recent PJ Star article about the school. Had they, this speech would have been unnecessary.

I’d like to see the Board of Education, especially those of you who have toured Charter Oak and have seen the teaching and learning going on there, to speak up and come to the school’s and the District’s defense.

Nov 10 Board Speech – Change150 Vice President, Dan Dugal

On the heels of the 2013-2014 ISAT test results being released, a number of people showed up at the November 10th Board meeting with plenty to say. We are posting several of the speeches here, with permission.

Dan Dugal

I started preparing for tonight with a little research. I’m simply going to share summary highlights from a long list of peer reviewed studies.

  • “As a result of principal churn, students achieve less in both math and reading during the first year after leader turnover, and schools that experience principal churn year-after-year realize serious cumulative negative effects on students – a condition that is exacerbated for schools serving underprivileged students.”
  • “Principal churn causes student achievement to drop in Math and English Language Arts in the year following the vacancy, and it can take the next principal up to three years to regain forward progress for the school.”
  • “While highly effective principals create significant changes each year, it takes an average of five years to put a mobilizing vision in place, improve the teaching staff, and fully implement policies and practices that positively impact the school’s performance.”
  • “Rapid principal turnover has a negative effect on a school, affecting both school culture as well as student achievement.”
  • “Principals who stay in a school tend to be more effective than those who move to other schools
  • “Principal turnover has a direct negative effect on student achievement; the strongest impact comes immediately after a change in leadership.”
    “Leadership changes are particularly harmful for high poverty schools.”
    “Districts should aim to keep most principals in their schools for a minimum of four years, and preferably five to seven years.”
  • “Minimal Reduction In Principal Turnover Rates Can Save U.S. Public School System $163 Million Annually”
  • “Research shows that high principal turnover often leads to greater teacher turnover, which, in turn, can have a negative impact on student achievement and other schooling outcomes, as well as increase fiscal costs.”

Other reports also illustrated the high dollar cost of principal churn.
In a district like 150 that is strapped financially, the current practice of shuffling principals is not only counter-productive to student achievement; it is wasteful of district financial resources.

So while Dr. Lathan claims that our district must be wary of complacency and continues to shuffle principals year after year, research shows just the opposite is necessary – we need consistency and reduced principal churn to improve student achievement.

When she first arrived in Peoria, Dr. Lathan accused the previous administration and teachers across this district of educational malpractice.

Four years later, in case after case after case, whether it is principal churn, busing policies, watering down of the curricula, management style and many others, there is what peer reviewed research shows is effective, and then, there is what Dr. Lathan does. And we continue to see the results in places like this year’s heartbreaking ISAT scores.

The Peoria community deserves better.

 

Note: The research started with this study and the long list of references cited.

Nov 10 Board Speech – Parent, Kim Jones

On the heels of the 2013-2014 ISAT test results being released, a number of people showed up at the November 10th Board meeting with plenty to say. We are posting several of the speeches here, with permission.

 

Kim Jones

I know that I speak for several District 150 families when I say that I am frustrated with the constant flip flopping and misdirection of blame from the current District 150 administration.

My husband and I are in law enforcement. Our job is to seek the truth. Frankly, we have a hard time finding truth in what the District 150 administration says and does.

Just one year ago, ISAT scores were deemed SO important that you took drastic actions against alleged ISAT cheating that disrupted both an entire community and the entire city. ISAT scores seemed important then.

ISAT scores were also SO important just one year ago that Dr. Lathan’s Board-approved, $10,000 bonus was contingent on the District’s ISAT performance. Isn’t that ironic?

Based on the District’s dismal scores this year, Dr. Lathan should have to pay us taxpayers back the $10,000 plus interest for failing our children and our community.

Luckily for Dr. Lathan, NCLB isn’t our standard anymore, so she won’t be held accountable for the failing scores. Dr. Lathan can just say, ‘They’re not important. Move on.’

See the contradiction? The lack of truth? Where’s the accountability?

Second, Dr. Lathan has said she’s tired of everything being about Charter Oak. Yet, when the scores are released, she jumps at the chance to make negative comments about Charter Oak’s ISAT scores to the Journal Star.

Of course, she didn’t mention any other schools, even though they had showed declines in their scores, as well. When will enough be enough?

To add insult to injury, two weeks ago, Dr. Lathan’s mouthpiece, Chris Coplan, made inflammatory comments about Charter Oak to the Journal Star, insinuating that the entire school’s test scores were in question last year, instead of just a few students’ tests. These comments were misleading, mean-spirited, and unnecessary.

In fact, didn’t District 150’s own, well-paid attorneys and the ISBE say that there were no testing irregularities in the regular education tests?

Dr. Lathan, why would you allow such inflammatory comments that clearly contradict your own report? It is no wonder that people in Peoria don’t believe or trust the administration.

Where is the truth?

And on a personal level, Dr. Lathan, did you and/or Chris Coplan think for a minute about how Charter Oak’s children and teachers would feel about being called cheaters AGAIN? None of this is their fault, yet they are being vilified again by this administration and the media. It’s heartbreaking.

Finally, Dr. Lathan, when Charter Oak parents complained about the chaotic environment of the school and predicted that the scores would be lower because of it, you indicated that a school’s environment is irrelevant to a school’s performance. Yet isn’t that precisely what John Wetterauer was accused of? Not providing a safe and effective environment for testing?

With all the changes, new faces – both of 100 new kids and teachers, Board members, ISBE strangers monitoring the classrooms, and overall stress of the school last year, how could the students have performed well, given the chaos at the school?

And then the poor kids and teachers who were excoriated in the media of failing to perform by the very administration that created the chaos in the first place.

We need to know. 
When will the truth be told?

Nov 10 Board Speech – Citizen Activist Sharon Crews

On the heels of the 2013-2014 ISAT test results being released, a number of people showed up at the November 10th Board meeting with plenty to say. We are posting several of the speeches here, with permission.

Sharon Crews

To distance herself from ISAT scores, Dr. Lathan has stated, ‘I know we put the right structures in place, and we are going to stay the course.’

Dr. Lathan has been superintendent for all FOUR years that last year’s 3rd graders have been in school. What is the proof that this administration has laid the right foundation for their next nine years?

At the last meeting, Lathan showed displeasure and/or discomfort while criticisms about the Reading Mastery program were made from this podium. A consultant from North Carolina has already made over $140,000 and is about to make more to teach teachers HOW TO USE Reading Mastery. Please understand why were are inclined to suspect that expensive…and even wrong…educational choices have been made for very personal reasons.

The Board minutes show expenditures over $2500 as information items. Often, these expenditures are not reported to you in a timely fashion. What process is used to insure that each expenditure is within budget guidelines for purpose and cost?

Last year, improvements to the Admin building included about $31,000 for a camera system, consisting of 13 cameras, 16 camera licenses, and a motion detector.

Another $40,000 was spent on equipment for Ricketts. I am curious as to the purpose of this equipment. Surveillance or security? To watch for interlopers or to watch employees? To protect or to spy? Either your explanation or your unwillingness to explain might be of interest to the public.

At the last Board meeting, you discussed copy machines, and I believe I heard some questions about how much paper teachers used, maybe even some misgivings about the quantity of paper used. You did not question how much paper is used by administrators.

My guess is that no one questioned the $2100 spent on a new mahogany desk and credenza for the lawyer and other $630 for a desk and a filing cabinet for a front office. About $2700 was spent to install new carpeting on the 2nd floor. No invoice was provided for the carpeting itself. $9200 was spent on doors with an electrified panic device. THAT sounds ominous! Another $233,000 was spent on the roof of the Admin building. In one year’s time, $355,000 was spent on the Admin building.

WHEN will you make all of last year’s expenditures available on the web site? The 2013-2014 statement of affairs is not available on the web site.

And by the way, even with their drop, I think Charter Oak still came in 3rd out of the 11 primary schools.

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.