Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meaningful school leadership: Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat a role model for our children


Imagine how you would feel if you were a Manual High School student, parent and/or alumni and you stumbled across a local blog filled with days on end of negative comments about your high school; the intelligence (or lack thereof) of the students; and the capabilities of the administrators.

Frankly, after all that I have read, I don't know what to think about Manual High School and the program they are running under the microscope of the District 150 Watch Group. However, I am willing to trust in the capabilities of the Principal, Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat. I consider Dr. Kherat an excellent role model for all of our children and most certainly for the young black women in this community who desperately need role models.

In July of 2009, Dr. Sharon Kherat was in the Bradley University Alumni Association Magazine's Spotlight (read excerpt below). Although Dr. Kherat is much more than just her curriculum vitae, her accomplishments are impressive...

Desmoulin-Kherat received her BA degree from Bradley in 1986 with majors in history and secondary education. In 1989, she graduated with a master’s degree in education administration. She went on to earn a doctorate degree in education administration in 2006 from Illinois State University. She was one of a group of local educators who worked on their doctorate degrees together and Illinois State accommodated them by teaching many of their classes at Richwoods High School in Peoria. She completed her dissertation on “Meaningful School Leadership from the Perspective of African-American Parents.”

Upon graduating from Bradley, Dr. Kherat began her career as a middle school teacher and has since held a variety of positions in the Peoria area including Assistant Principal at Roosevelt Magnet school, Principal of Whittier Primary School and Adjunct Instructor at Bradley University. In 2008 she was appointed Principal of Manual Middle and High School. She was hired to facilitate a unique restructuring to “improve student academic achievement and enable the school to make adequate yearly progress as defined by the State’s accountability system.”

Although her professional life is marked with many accomplishments, she considers her first year at Manual as her biggest success. “Thus far, we have experienced improvement in the following areas: students’ enrollment, increased attendance, an increased course passing rate, lower suspension and expulsion rates, and an increased number of student graduates.”

As it celebrates its 100th anniversary, the new Manual has created four academies to drive student success, increase academic performance, and foster a sense of belonging among its students. Manual Middle and High School believes in high expectations for each student and offers a curriculum grounded in that principle. “We have adopted the three new “Rs” of education: Rigor, Relevance and Relationships.”


Dr. Kherat has found it very exciting and challenging to take a theoretical model and put it into practice. “We are flying the plane while building it. Everything is new - from the staff, new practices, to the curriculum to the academies. Yet the process has been embraced by the students and staff and progress is being made. As we raise the bar for Manual, we must continue to raise the level of support for our students and their families.”

Desmoulin-Kherat has won numerous awards and honors including Principal of the Year (2008); Blue Ribbon Award (Whittier Primary 2005); National Center for Urban School Transformation Award (2006); Professional Advocacy Award (Children’s Hospital of Illinois 2005); and Peoria’s 40 Leaders Under 40 (2001). She is still involved with Bradley, currently serving as a member of the College of Education and Health Sciences Educational Advisory Committee.
Source

57 comments:

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge: I do have to correct one part of your post. District Watch has little to do with any of the criticisms of Manual. I would say that I am the main member of the group who has focused and will continue to focus on problems at Manual. I typically have a difficult time getting anyone to care about what goes on at Manual. I agree with your assessment of all of the wonderful things Sharon Kherat has done in her life time. I was her very staunch supporter throughout her career in Peoria, having met her when she was working at Urban League before she began her career in 150. I wish I could still be her staunch supporter--had certainly hoped I could be (and had planned to be) when she took the job at Manual. As she might well recall, I asked her a couple of years earlier why she didn't "throw her hat" into the Manual "ring" as a candidate for principal. That "Everything is new" is close to true--but in another year or so that claim can no longer be made. But that everything is better is a far cry from the objective truth. At this moment, that will have to be considered to be my "subjective" opinion. I can and will base my opinions on factual evidence and/or indications. However, I will say that much of what Sharon has proclaimed as success (higher grades, lower suspension rate, higher graduation rate) are very subjective measurements--and they can be and have been manipulated at Manual. With FOIAd attendance records, I already gave the board objective proof that the attendance at Manual was not good for the 2nd semester of last year (the only time for which I had records). First of all, Manual had to be restructured for one reason and one reason only--the state forced the issue because of Manual's AYP rating. That then has to be the measuring stick of Manual's success--and nothing in Manual's past (since, at least 2000 when I was there), its present, or its future show any promise of ever meeting NCLB standards. Of course, Manual won't be alone since by 2014 every school will be asked to meet 100% AYP--Manual will just score in the lower range, but all will fall short of the goal. If Sharon claims this is her highest accomplishment, I sincerely wonder what her measuring stick is--this is her most challenging. She herself told the board that the three-year expected turnaround time will have to be extended to five to seven years. Where is the success in that? I would like to make it clear, however, that the deck is completely stacked against Sharon and her staff (as it was for those of us who came before her). My only complaint is that she is unwilling to be honest with the board (or maybe with herself)about Manual's future and that she finds it necessary to put down all who came before her whenever she is asked to assess Manual's current status. To succeed, Manual will have to turn students who read at 5th or 6th grade level (by Sharon's own admission at last Monday's meeting) or attact students who are not academically challenged to Manual--neither is going to happen. That's my dismal prediction with which you can, of course, argue--the only thing all of us can do is wait and see.

Sharon Crews said...

I am not certain why you included the speech team post that I wrote last year. Manual's administration deserves no credit for the success of the speech team--Karen Adkins-Dutro had worked hard with that team--and started that effort before Kherat became principal. She resigned this year (to help coach Karen and Jeff's daugther in her diving and speech efforts at Richwoods). No one at Manual called to ask her to reconsider her resignation. Anyway the speech team's success had absolutely nothing to do with Manual's restructuring efforts.

Jon said...

My god, Sharon. No one said or suggested the administration deserves credit for the speech team.

Read the first paragraph again - about the negative comments about the school, students and administrators. Emerge puts a link to a GOOD story about Manual and you complain.

Sharon Crews said...

Jon--the good story was my story (did you notice my name?)--the link is under a story praising Sharon Kherat--what conclusion should I draw? I am certainly not against any good stories about Manual students or teachers.

Emerge Peoria said...

The link was a mistake. When I typed in "Manual High School", my smart computer completed the sentence and added "Speech Team". My bad.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge--Sorry to be so picky--just overly sensitive at the moment--I did wonder why you put it under this post. Now that I added my "qualifier," it's still good to rerun the publicity for these young people--some of them now in college. By the way, Jon, what does it tell you when Jeff and Karen's daughter who lives in the Manual area has chosen the IB program at Richwoods? She would have been such an asset to Manual (and wouldn't have to ride a bus clear across town) to go to school--if all were well with the world she should be going to the high school from which her father and grandfather graduated--and where both her father and grandfather taught.

Jon said...

Sharon, what does it tell you when people leave D150 to go to Dunlap, or "leave" their neighborhood school to go to Washington Gifted? It tells me that people are choosing to get the best possible education they can for their children. I could care less if my child goes to the school I went to or my father went to. Actually, I'd be disappointed if they did, because I want better for them. What's your point? That Richwoods is "better" than Manual? If you are college bound, you bet it is. Long gone are the days that one size fits all - that Richwoods, Manual, Central and Woodruff should all offer the exact same programs. If my kid is achieving well below his grade level, Manual would be a wise choice as the program is more geared towards those types of students (note I said "more" geared and not ONLY geared).

Jon said...

Yes, Sharon, I noticed your name - and pointing that out means what? I also noticed there was a label with Bradley University. Maybe Emerge should ask Glasser how she feels about Dr. Kherat first. Is it OK to have a label with Whittier? Because you liked Kherat then, right?

I guess it's not just Emerge. I looked at CJ's site and noticed he did that Sigma Nu story on Van Auken and filed it under BOTH the City of Peoria and the County. But when talking about the museum, he filed it under the City only. The nerve of some people.

Yes, I'm feeling a little ornery at the moment :)

Back to the firl going to Richwoods instead of Manual - I think it's GREAT that they have the ability to choose. That's what I love about CHARTER SCHOOLS. Oh, but it sounds like the daughter is pretty smart if she's in the IB program. That means Richwoods is cherry picking - (or is it the student/family doing the "picking") and cherry picking is bad for the district, I've heard so many people say, so we really should force the girl back to Manual.

Sharon Crews said...

I guess the high gas prices didn't last long enough--can parents (and the school's transportation budget) continue to count on being able to afford to have students going from one end of Peoria to the other to go to school? Maybe then people would realize that maintaining standards and programs for all in one school is cheaper than what you propose. For years Manual served well all groups of learners--that didn't have to change. Discipline is the key. If your child is achieving below grade level, Manual is still not a wise choice--teachers still can't teach because of discipline problems. In fact, these young people have come from middle schools (such as Trewyn) where discipline is even worse--that's why they only read at the 5th and 6th grade level when they enter Manual.

Jon said...

It's rather disappointing to see that you apparently believe the change in D150 is simply a result of a lack of discipline (and presumably all on the administration). I talk to someone who works at Trewyn and she sees this principal as very strict on discipline - he kicks students out all of the time. This is a societal problem and constantly laying the blame at the feet of administration shows your lack of understanding the problem, in my humble opinion (or at least shows your unfair anger toward one group only).

Oh, and Sharon, you ran the numbers on English classes - you saw all of the small class sizes of enriched and other specialized classes. Busing kids an extra mile or two is a heck of a lot cheaper than the inefficiency of retaining dozens of teachers in such classes.

I choose to focus on the future rather than the past - the past model of one size fits all hasn't worked out too well. "For years Manual served all groups of learners". Yea, and the year before restructuring, only about 10% of students met or exceeded goals. Forget that red herring about 100% meeting by 2014 or whatever. 90% of Manual students were below expectations. Yea, let's go back to the old way.

Sharon Crews said...

Jon, if you have read all my posts about Manual, you would know full well that I was not praising Manual the year before restructuring--not even 10 years before. I have come to believe that when you see my name on a post (since our disagreement with Kcdad) you take great relish in finding ways to disagree with me. That is certainly your right. Do you currently have a child in District 150? How long have you lived in Peoria? Is the person to whom you speak at Trewyn a teacher? I believe you are terribly misinformed. Yes, it is a societal problem and from your previous posts, I know that you do not want those problems to touch your child--hence, asking Steve Ptacek if there is room for your child at Richwoods. Well, there are parents at Trewyn and Manual who do not want their children exposed to these bad behaviors of other children, also--it is for them that I fight. Not all the young people at Trewyn and Manual behave badly--if so, the buildings would have to be closed as war zones. I believe the problem can still be fixed--hence,the reason for my seemingly negative posts. Those who sugarcoat and ignore the problems are the ones who are doing the harm, not those calling attention to the problems.

Sharon Crews said...

Had a phone call--wasn't finished--Red Herring, Jon, what are you talking about--have you read the NCLB guidelines--actualy, the PJS included that "Red Herring" in the article yesterday about AYP in Illinois. We will have the discussion about class sizes after all the Woodruff students are stuffed into the other three high schools. I have no idea which one of us will win that argument--however, I will say that I believe new classrooms will have to open up somehow (I don't believe there are that many empty (or desirable)ones at any of the three schools--that is just my speculation (again we'll have to wait to see). About the costs--I was referring to a time in the future when gas might be at prices that will prohibit the current busing for both school buses and parents to bus children to extra-curricular activities clear across town. Or do you believe this country's problems with gas prices are over permanently?

Jon said...

The problem I see, Sharon, is that you generally appear so close minded. If my information doesn't come from a teacher, it seems, it is "misinformed". If Dr. Kherat says something contrary to what you think, it is not being honest. You also sometimes just don't see the joke :) (I was teasing Steve P - I am fortunate enough to have the ability to choose where my kids go to school).

It's a societal problem but you choose to constantly attack "administrators" only. There ARE differences of opinion (and that is NOT "misinformed"). Look at CJ's blog today - some people love Steve P and some people hate him. Rather than looking inward at any structural problems, such as the unions (and recognize both the good and the bad that comes from that), your argument is classic us vs them extremism.

As for the "red herring" you often say the goal is to meet NCLB and you're right that NO ONE is going to ultimately meet that (100%). Yea, we get that, so that doesn't mean we can't strive to do better than we are now.

You do care deeply - it's obvious. But I just think that when you constantly and unfairly attack the administration, your suggestions, such as an alternative school, get muted from the hatred displayed towards the "administration".

My ideal is school choice (not vouchers) and this district is actually fortunate enough to have both the student size and building capacity to make that happen. Those good students who want to learn won't go to Trewyn if they have a better option. Letting people who WANT a better option, who are proactive about doing something, go to a "better" school will likely get you the alternative school that you want as those who don't give a crap about education will remain in the "neighborhood" school and it will ultimately look no different than the alternative school. Then, and you would no more about this than I, you can provide whatever curriculum you deem most appropriate - it would presumably be the same type that you plan for your alternative school.

Hey, what do I know, I'm just "misinformed".

Jon said...

I said "no more" when I meant "know more"?!?!?! I wish Emerge's blog had that capability for us to edit!

Sharon Crews said...

I'm very sorry that you see my comments as hatred toward administrators. If that's the impression that I give, then I would like to try to explain. I am not sure how to go about strongly disagreeing with the actions of administrators without that being interpreted as "hatred" of the individual. All of this would be so much easier for me if I hated Sharon Kherat. I do not--far from it (but I certainly understand why she and you draw that conclusion). In truth, I see this administrator problem as a mindset that many throughout the country have bought into. It is a permissivenes because of a feeling sorry for kids, a blaming of teachers who are accused of not caring for kids--so many attitudes that I understand (and even adopted at certain points of my career) and even accept as valid--in moderation. However, I have come to see that this mindset has tilted so far (to the left, to the right--what is politically correct her) as to be very detrimental to the kids themselves (who are being led to believe they have no accountability for their actions and will forever see themselves as victims) and certainly to the schools and to the kids who have been held accountable by their parents. Jon, you are lucky if you can choose what school your child attends--my concern is for those who can't and are stuck. For those of you who think choice is a good idea, I hope you understand that some young people have no transportation to the places of "choice." In the case of the Richwoods freshman that I know who lives in the Manual area, I can't begin to tell you how much gas (money) is burned taking her back and forth to extra-curricular activities. Naturally, kids make friends with people in their school--when the friends live at opposite ends of the city it can get very expensive for people with limited means--actually impossible. Remember buses don't take kids to and from school for extra-curricular activities.

Jon said...

Speaking of kcdad, the guy had a good story - and it wasn't communism or Christianity - it was that we shouldn't assume things, we shouldn't automatically believe everything we are told even if it comes from someone we "trust", we should look at things from other people's perspectives. However, his arrogance and in turn his actions were his undoing.

I would hate to see all of your hard work be for naught because, rightly or wrongly, people see you only as a single-minded, blind tool of the teacher's union and/or Terry Knapp who seemingly never acknowledge the problems the administration can not alone overcome.

Sharon Crews said...

That well might be, Jon, but you are the first person who has expressed that opinion--that I am a single-minded blind tool of the teachers' union or Terry Knapp. I am sure the BOE probably sees me in that way. Jim, on a given day, might feel that way--but hasn't expressed it in that manner--but I'll still hang with Jim. Jon, be honest, you don't care if my hard work comes to naught or not--that is a disingenous remark if ever I have heard one. Now you're resorting to namecalling (blind tool). When people who know me and whom I know by name and reputation begin to attack me as you just did, I would remiss if I didn't heed their criticism. At least, I've listened to yours; you can ask no more.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge--we've hyjacked your blog--sorry.

Emerge Peoria said...

I tend to agree that what appears to be the distaste for individuals within administration sometimes gets in the way of exactly what the real facts are.

Sharon Crews said...

I hope this post doesn't go on twice--I thought I had already punched the button. Emerge: That is my reason for FOIAing information. For instance, Kherat blamed Manual's problems, in part, on the contractual language--pinkslipping, etc. She stated that "We had to almost start over with the 7th & 8th grade academy—about 70% of those teachers were new teachers and as high for 9th grade and so forth." Her implication was that 70% of the high school teachers were pinkslipped. The PJS believe her statistics and printed them. The truth is that there was not a 70% turnover at the high school level--more like in the low 30%. The truth is that most of the pinkslipped teachers were reinstated by July 6. Others had found jobs because they were either unhappy with Manual or knew that Kherat did not want them back even if the district recalled them. At least, two people have walked off the job since school started this year because of the discipline problems at Manual. I just FOIAd information about the number of pinkslipped teachers, etc.--although I have a fairly good idea from reading board minutes. Teachers keep teachers informed--if the administration can refute the claims being made by teachers, then they should have their say. From all I hear, Manual is a mess. Very hard to prove, but I have no personal distaste for Sharon or Taunya--in fact, we have enjoyed very good relationships in the past. There is no doubt that I have destroyed those personal relationships with my open criticisms of how Manual is being run. I very much regret that. Do anyone of you want personal relationships to prevent central administrators and/or board members from looking objectively at the performance of teachers or administrators? Just as much harm is done by letting friends get away with actions that are bad for the district. Also, how can Kherat use higher grades and lower suspension rates as signs of Manual's success--don't we all know that both of those statistics are very, very subjective. Not all students that meet the guidelines for suspension are suspended. Teachers now that low grades are not acceptable at Manual--now I can't prove that--the teachers will have to be willing to take a big risk to let the public know some of these things. I have no desire to spread untruths. I don't think much of what I say is based on unfounded rumors. I know the sources of all my information--and I trust the sources. I am not going to stake my reputation on beliving people who are not reputable.

Jon said...

Sharon, I believe you mistake what I'm saying. I hardly called you a blind tool - I said I would hate for people to see you that way. Again, I do care if your hard work is for naught - the hard work being your call for some kind of expanded alternative program.

I also applaud your FOIA efforts to get to the facts. I just hate it when I see things like "overpaid administrators who don't support teachers at all" just as much as I hate seeing people say "overpaid teachers who work 6 1/2 hours a day 9 months of the year".

Sharon Crews said...

Jon, I've waited all day for a hint of a compliment :) --applauding me for my FOIA efforts to get the facts. Of course, you called me a blind tool--sorry, the hedging words don't count (they are your words)--but I've been called worse. I was a teacher--but I've also been called much better. I was a teacher. If that a quote of mine--about the ovepaid administrators? I don't recall using those words--I shouldn't have if I did because there is no coorelation between the two. An overpaid administrator doesn't necessarily withhold support. If I didn't say it, then why use it as an example. Did I just walk into a trap--could those be my words? I am that so happy that I chose to live most of my life in the presence of young people. I feel sorry for all of you who had to make a living working with adults only. I loved kids for their honesty--they didn't mince words (either in criticism or praise). If I haven't said it lately, I did love all those kids--wouldn't have traded my career for any on earth. I believe that is true of most of my colleagues--their complaints about administrators and discipline do not mean that they don't love kids or their jobs. They just want the environment to be as good as we know it could be with a little support from "yes" administators. My first principal at Roosevelt Jr. High (90% black at the time)--Buck Smith--told us (teachers and students)every day that we were the best in the Midwest--sometimes in the nation. No one else Peoria believed that, but we did. I was spoiled for those first 7 years of my career.

Jon said...

Not intended as trap at all, but here's the quote, Oct 19 on CJ's blog:

"Manual teachers are having a terrible time because none of the “way too many,” overpaid administrators support them in any way."

Sharon Crews said...

OK--I admit to that. It was your trap of my words taken out of context. I was being very specific about just Manual administrators. I was not speaking of all administrators--but of the principal and assistant principal, who control the actions of the four academy leaders--so they act according to a very unified philosophy. And, at least three make among the top salaries in the district.

Jon said...

Sharon, you are the one who made the assumption that "overpaid administrators" presumably meant all administration within D150, not I, so who took it out of context?

You seem to be agitated when I question your motives are ask you to prove things. Not only agitated, but while you do me the courtesy of responding, you seem....defensive and perhaps even hostile in your responses to me. And here I am thinking I am only acting in a manner that is similar to your questions and addresses to the BOE. Hmmm.

OR maybe my thinking you are a little hostile to me is really the same as your thinking that the "administration" is not responsive to people who complain? Hmmm. :)

Sharon Crews said...

Jon, your argument is ridiculous--your statement didn't mention Manual and I didn't recognize the statement as my own--so, of course, without the qualifying word "Manual," the statement referred to all administrators. English teachers always look for these all inclusive statements with no qualfiers--I wouldn't have written one. I'm not agitated--just trying out my powers of persuasion and I now concede that my efforts are in vain. I should have known that from the beginning--but I was trying to avoid doing the laundry--so now I must get to work.

Jon said...

Ok, Ms. English teacher :) , how about this?

How does your statement above refer to Manual administrators ONLY - you referred to Manual TEACHERS. Why would I not think that you mean (and perhaps you did) every administrator associated with Manual - including central administration?

Also, if Kherat et al are "overpaid" because they make near the top of all administrators, does that mean Bobby Darling is "overpaid" because he also makes at the top of teacher's salaries?

Just having some fun, Sharon :)

Of course, the other issue, in addition to being "inclusive", is that the statement is "exclusive", in that you are saying that "administrators" (whomever you want to include) do not support teachers in ANY way - meaning they don't do one single thing to support teachers.

Sharon Crews said...

I really don't want to carry that laundry upstairs. Your quote of mine (that I didn't recognize): " also applaud your FOIA efforts to get to the facts. I just hate it when I see things like "overpaid administrators who don't support teachers at all" just as much as I hate seeing people say "overpaid teachers who work 6 1/2 hours a day 9 months of the year". Where is the qualifying word, "Manual" in front of "teachers."
Bobby Darling (also, a former student by the way)--I'm not sure as to how his pay is reported--but it may include longevity, course work (steps up the salary schedule, plus coaching pay, and the pay he gets from the union which is not at 150's expense.

Jon said...

Emerge - have you really given up the fight? I'm still torn, to be honest. I grew up in Canton - wouldn't want to go back to a place like that. Also lived in Morton and, well let's just say it wasn't us. Peoria does offer many fine private school choices so that remains an option. I guess the main question is will our neighborhood remain relatively safe? From one of your recent posts, that seems like it's becoming more problematic.

Jon said...

Sharon, the first "quote", the one you just showed, was me paraphrasing what I remembered you saying - admittedly not exact but pretty close I thought. :) The second quote, is what you said from CJ's blog. Here it is again.

"Manual teachers are having a terrible time because none of the “way too many,” overpaid administrators support them in any way."

You should spot me a few points, though, as I am going up against a 30+ year English teacher, right?

Sharon Crews said...

But, Jon, you just don't get it. I didn't recognize it as my quote--it was a fairly common sort of statement on C.J.'s blog. I just assumed it might be mine since you using it in an argument with me. However, the word "Manual" doesn't appear in your quote, so I wasn't willing to claim it because I wouldn't make a blanket statement about all administrators. Actually, I did once and caught myself and corrected my statement--probably for Steve's benefit. Yes, 43 years of teaching. The "way too many" refers to the fact that Manual has 5 administrators. I did get the laundry done. Ha!

Jon said...

I think we're like half a post off from each other - when you say one thing, I think you're referring to something else - and vice versa.

Incidentally, I did plan on introducing myself (at least to put a face to the name "Jon") at one of those District Watch meetings. First of all, I've only come to two and both times I came in towards the end. I'm about 99% sure I know your face - but I haven't seen enough of the complete BOE meetings to confirm it was you (when you spoke) and I never caught a moment that clearly identified you at the Watch meetings. Anyway, Laura spotted me and pointed me out. When she left, I walked out to talk to her and then CJ came up and introduced himself. The next thing you know, the three of us were talking and everyone else walked out. My schedule doesn't allow me to go to the BOE and Watch meetings much at all, but I suspect there will come a time I see you again and will introduce myself - assuming you still want me to!

Sharon Crews said...

Certainly.

Emerge Peoria said...

Yes.

one who has met you said...

Jon - Do you need help getting signatures for Board petitions?

Frustrated said...

Jon - a while back I suggested you should run for school board but I have been out of town since and not following the blogs . . . are you??

Sharon - does anything about school choice in Jon's post sound familiar? I don't have to blog so much anymore because I have Jon to represent me.

If the District does not vigorously support school choice and soon, I believe all will be lost. I am sorry to sound over dramatic, but time is of the essence. There are many wonderful neighborhoods that could really thrive if more school choice was implemented, not to mention the benefits to student learning.

Emerge Peoria said...

You are absolutely correct Frustrated. As a matter of fact, every day now we are discussing our options about getting our children out of Peoria and District 150. Short of a choice school, I cannot imagine my child going to middle school in District 150. We did the religous private school option before and are not trying to do that again.

General said...

Is this considered trolling. Looks like your blog was hijacked Emerge.

Sharon Crews said...

Manual is a choice school; Roosevelt, I believe, is still a magnet school. That's not the kind of choice for which you are looking, right? Don't you all understand what I've said over and over--the problems of the inner city have spilled and will continue to spill into the current "safe" schools. There is no way to keep choice schools choice. I just read an article about the Chicago schools (as big as that system is); they are having the same problem. However, I'm just expressing my opinion--it's pretty much worthless; I don't expect any decision-makers to listen to me any time soon--so Emerge, Jon, Frustrated, try your luck; maybe someone will listen to you. The problem is that the district is now out of money--after they spend that last $6 million on air-conditioning for PHS and the $18 million on a Lincoln extension (that will be your choice school). Where do all of you want the "choice" schools to be located? Richwoods is the school that is the most untouched by problems (but not really untouched). Do you all want to make it a "choice" high school--what would the criteria be for entrance? Right now it's only choice program is the IB program. All three of you have children who would benefit from "choice" schools--I don't blame you for wanting the best. I want the best for the 7 children in my life (two have found it at Peoria Academy along with Sharon Kherat's son). However, someone has to want what is best for all the children in Peoria. Also, the opportunity for choice high schools is limited now that Woodruff is closing. The three will probably have no choice but to accept some Woodruff students--and the time constraints won't allow for any kind of "choice" to be in place for Richwoods.

Emerge Peoria said...

I have no problem with spending money on PHS and Lincoln. As a matter of fact, in light of the District's last actions with closing the schools, they have no alternative at this point but to proceed with spending money on PHS and Lincoln.

Go to the City Council and ask for an alternative school. Be as forceful and vocal with them as you are with the BOE. They have a stake in ending and preventing delinquency and truancy as well.

From what I read on the Chronicle, it’s pretty dire. It sounds as if I were to drive by Manual or Trewyn on any given day I just might see teachers just running out the building, crying and stuff. LOL

No really, if teachers are being assaulted and getting no relief they should be talking to Settingsgaard or Lyons. Our children and teachers need to be safe at school.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge: I think at Manual only one teacher has been assaulted recently--from rumor only I believe she might leave at the end of the semester and might seek legal recourse (not sure about that and any of it could change, etc.). Evidently, we have left the impression that teachers are being physically assaulted on a regular basis. I believe some in varying degrees are assaulted verbally on a somewhat daily basis. However, most of the concern is for fights among students, and the danger, of course, is always that teachers and innocent students will be hurt in the crossfire. Not many students actually assault teachers.

Sharon Crews said...

(Continued) While I was at Manual, Bill Willingham (who retired with me) was injured trying to break up a fight in the gym--he was hospitalized and had some serious physical problems as a result. I tried really hard to stay 20 feet away from all fights. :) As a teacher--and I am sure others share my view--the stress comes from trying to protect students from each other. You do have to understand that all teachers have bright spots in their days--yes, I suppose they should talk about them more often, but the stressful situations tend to put a damper on the joy. Obviously, the fight at Trewyn last week that started as a food fight ended up with a sizeable group of students fighting--so much so that the regular police were called (my understanding, any way). Those large fights used to scare me to death--in my last years, all too often I saw a kid kicking a "downed" kid in the head repeatedly--that's vicious; that meant to harm. I know that on occasion if I were in the girls' restroom between classes, I would hear screaming on the other side of the door. Believe me, I was hesitant to open the door for fear I'd be caught in the middle of a brawl. Fights in the cafeteria, in the halls, in the auditorium--those are the most frigtening because of a mob mentality that takes over. Of course, I really hated having fights in my own classroom--I generally felt helpless--I've never been very "physical," so the best I could do is call for help. I counted on male teachers way too much and some did object. Many teachers did get to the point that they would call for help from administrtors and security rather than to get involved physically--the danger of weapons, etc., was just more of a risk than most of us feel we should take as teachers--that just isn't what we signed on for. The problem,of course, is that it is the same students who provoke and participant in these "events"--and that is the frustration that they are allowed to continue day after day with few consequences. The stress for teachers, of course, is always having to be ready for an incident--that can wear you out and keep you from enjoying what might be a good day--always a fear that some student will go off. There are young people who really cannot cannot control their anger--they need major help, but the classroom isn't the place for rehabilitation.
Your idea about a city school does have appeal to me--I have never heard anyone suggest such a school. I have mentioned the idea to a couple of people--at first, I wasn't certain whether you were presenting it as an idea you could back--I thought maybe you were being facetitious. I know you think I am being hard on Trewyn and Manual administrators (and I was just as hard on the ones of the past, so it isn't just Sharon). It really isn't so much the people as it is the mindset--this belief that 16 and 17 year olds can be loved into behaving, the belief that teachers can be the solution on a mass basis. Certainly, I believe in the influence of teachers to change lives--but it isn't as easy in a classroom where one on one attention just isn't a possibility. Teachers legally just have to be about protecting the majority of students--and the best and fastest way to do that is get the cause of the room ASAP--teachers can't even do that because they are expected to do the paperwork before sending the student out--can you imagine the chaos that insues while the teacher is writing the referral. Sometimes my hand would be shaking so much (for fear of what would happen while I was writing) that I couldn't write. I finally bought a typewriter--kids I meet when shopping still laugh about that--the typewriter became my trademark--now the computer has replaced it.

Frustrated said...

Emerge – I understand your angst. Finding the correct educational fit is one of the most critical decisions a parent makes for a child. I guess what I feel some others that blog on your site do not “get” is not only is a challenging curriculum necessary, but more important is a motivating educational environment. That is what I believe choice schools can offer.

That said, if I were looking for a middle school in Peoria, I would still consider Lindbergh. Mary Davis (dare I utter her name) upped the ante while she was at that school and added more levels of course work. I know several families that had MS children in both Lindbergh and Washington Gifted at the same time and were equally satisfied with both. The question would be, if you have to move to get into Lindbergh, are you better off just moving out of Peoria. Similarly, I have a friend (he an engineer and his wife a college professor) that had a child attend Washington and another Mark Bills. My friend was satisfied both his children received a quality education. The examples I offer you are from families that currently attend these schools or attended in the last year or so.

I know you have a good pulse on things BUT . . . all these blog comments get to be too much. I still believe District 150 offers a quality education to those that wish to avail themselves of it, the question is, for how long.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge: Frustrated's comments fit right in with your post about being the "only" one. I think I know you better than to believe that you are looking for what's right just for your own child--I think you see a bigger picture than that. Yes, it's relatively easy for 150 to find the little havens for the people who can (not just wish to)avail themselves of the few opportunities 150 can offer right now. There aren't that many Lindberghs and only one Richwoods--and my guess is that these are filled to capacity and no families are going to move out to make room for those who want choice. What other schools can be turned into "choice" schools. I want change in all the schools--I still believe it's possible. When I give up hope, I'll give up talking about it.

Frustrated said...

Sharon - change is not going to happen in District schools over night. Emerge wants the best for her children now.

Sharon Crews said...

Frustrated: Are you sure that Emerge cares nothing about the kids at Trewyn and Manual--I believe she does. I guess I'll have to let Emerge speak for herself. We all have to care about all kids--all kinds--that's the focus of public school. It is the private schools that can focus on special groups of kids. Public schools do not have that luxury--period.

Frustrated said...

Sharon - I never stated that Emerge does not care for the welfare of others. I believe Emerge is an activist and a giver and will impact positively whatever environment she is a part of.

I do not see school choice as a threat to low-income students, I see it as an opportunity. You seem to assume that if a charter school or other special school was developed within the District that only more middle class families would avail themselves of the opportunity. I just do not believe that to be the case.

Sharon Crews said...

Frustrated: We again discussed the charter school at District Watch tonight. Cindy Fischer stated at a board meeting that the charter school would be geared to B-C students. She probably should not have made that statement because charter schools have to be open to all students regardless of academic status. However, there are ways of discouraging "unwanted" students from applying. Transportation might be one drawback--depending upon where the school is located. My main argument about this particular charter school is that 150 has nothing to gain by saying "yes" to the plan. Previously (when the idea was first fielded) 150 would have received a "bonus" for allowing a charter school. The bonus opportunity has been withdrawn. District 150 cannot afford to lose 400 students and/or the state aid money. Therefore, 150 has no reason to vote for the charter school. If it comes into being, we'll see what happens. Either illegal cherry-picking will occur or the school will be a disappointment to many parents who misunderstood the mission of the school, etc.

Emerge Peoria said...

From what I understand boundry waivers will not be given next year. Each family will get a letter telling them where their child will be attending school. More than likely they will be sending as many as possible back to their neighborhood schools and choice out.

Frustrated you are correct, I do not see school choice as a threat to low-income students, I see it as an opportunity.

IMO, a school does not have to be "charter" or "gifted" for my child to thrive. She will be prepared to make the grade wherever she is placed. How do I know that, because we homeschool in edition to sending her to public school. We will find her opportunities that best suit her and we are not limiting what is best for her to Peoria or District 150.

As it stands, she may be taught to the test at school, but she is excelling in reading, math, science and black history at home.

Frustrated said...

Sharon – I can be at peace with a B-C student, particularly one that is from a low-income family, being “cherry picked” from an underperforming school and given a chance to succeed in a math and science charter school. Given the right learning environment and support, I believe that B-C student can likely become an A-B student and have a real chance for success in life. What I cannot be at peace with is making such students sacrificial lambs and retaining them in school settings that do not meet their needs in order for their higher test performance to hopefully boost the school average. Based on war stories that many share on this blog and others about the student body of some of the District’s failing schools, I have to believe the B-C students at these particular schools are scarce and so the test scores really don’t affect the overall average to any appreciable degree.

Frustrated said...

Emerge - In a previous post I thought you mentioned you had a child entering MS. When I post about a "learning environment" I am not only referring to curriculum but peer group availability. You may be able to make up at home for educational deficiencies in the classroom, but you may not be able to counteract other issues present in the school.

IMO when my children reached MS it was as important that there be a sufficient number of students in attendance at the school that were "doing the right thing" both inside and outside of the classroom.

Emerge Peoria said...

We are looking at middle school next year. And you are correct, there does need to be a sufficient number of students in attendance in her classroom on a certain level.

Each year, I see where my child is placed and if it is not conducive to what we need for her - we work with the school to get her where she needs to be. It is an on going conversation you have to have with the school and the teacher to keep your child on track.

We have a waiver to a school across War Memorial, there will no doubt be several students coming out of her classroom that will be Washington Gifted or MSTA material.

Sharon Crews said...

Frustrated: I am not sure we are stil talking about the same charter school concept. If the charter school adheres to Illinois guidelines, it will be made up of the same kinds of students as are enrolled in other 150 inner city schools. There will be special ed students, etc.--those are the guidelines; the school must accept any who apply. I'm just saying that I don't think a charter school in 150 will be a haven unless someone breaks the rules--and risks being reported. You say you would be happy with a B-C cherrypicked for the charter school--but will the charter school guidelines permit it--I don't think so. That's all I'm saying--just stating what I believe to be the law. How do you envision the school selecting students?

Frustrated said...

Sharon, yes we are. I was just using your term of "cherry picking." I do not believe that is what will happen by design (as it is not permitted by law), but rather by default. Parents that are proactive and that live in a neighborhood in which they are dissatisfied with the caliber of their school will apply for admission, and these parents will likely have children that at least perform moderately well in terms of grades and behavior, and thus the charter school population will be formed.

I imagine that Dr. Fisher’s statement of the target group of “B-C” students was to emphasize that the school was not aimed at the “gifted” and thus encourage a broader group of families to consider this schooling option.

IL Charter School law provides that one of the purposes it was enacted by the General Assembly was:
“To improve pupil learning by creating schools with high, rigorous standards for pupil performance.

The filtering for this school will come after acceptance. Some students will not be able to meet and/or maintain “high, rigorous” performance standards and will be returned to their home school if their academics and/or conduct cannot conform to the charter. I am hoping that the Charter School will have a lot of support mechanisms built in, so there will be more successes than failures, but there still will be some failures.

As to Spec. Ed., I have no idea.

IMO, Washington Gifted had a few special needs children, but they did not have a system in place (at least it was not apparent).

Sharon Crews said...

Washington Gifted is not a charter school. Its purpose is to pick the best of the best. I don't think special needs students would even be considered. There is no need to speculate about the charter school any more. I'm not sure when the board will vote on it--I don't think that I can expect they will change their minds. Then we'll just wait to see how it turns out.

Frustrated said...

Sharon:

There are most certainly children of high I.Q. at Washington that have what I would term special needs that require accommodation, such as asperger's syndrome. Such students can be disruptive in class and have difficulty interacting with other students.

Sharon Crews said...

Evidently, you have a very specific case in mind. Yes, I don't doubt that that would be an example of special needs that would have to be addressed. The students who have special needs at Washington Gifted would probably be the exception, not the rule.