Thursday, January 26, 2012

Superintendent Grenita Lathan being blamed for problems in San Diego Unified's special education program

Today I heard about how it was going for teachers who are now teaching gifted classes in District 150. They are excited to have the opportunity. The only problem is, the teachers I heard about have not had any training, the principal was not given any resources, there were no materials purchased and there is no directive on what the teachers should be teaching. When the teachers registered to receive training on gifted education at a seminar in Chicago, the District Administration denied the request. This sounds a lot like the San Diego Unified issue:

 San Diego Unified's Big Special Ed Shift

It was the biggest change in the way San Diego Unified educates its students with special needs in a decade, and we wanted to know how the district had coped with the transition.

In 2008, after a report concluded that children with disabilities were too often being segregated into separate classrooms, the district began a concentrated effort to include far more children with special needs in general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools.

The shift required a complex reorganization of where kids with special needs would go to school. Rather than being grouped at relatively few sites that focused on special education, thousands of students with disabilities instead began flooding into their local schools.

Here are the conclusions we came to:
• Interviews with more than two dozen teachers, principals, experts and parents revealed a haphazard rollout of the new special education model that was plagued by a lack of vision and leadership.
• On the issue of training, specifically, there was confusion. Despite advocates pushing for mandatory training for teachers, nobody at the district ever tried to make that happen.
• There's also disagreement about how principals were trained for the big change. The top official at the district's Special Education Division says she was blocked from approaching principals to tell them about training. But that claim is refuted by her former boss, who no longer works in San Diego.
• What's clear is that individual schools were essentially left to work out how to make the move on their own, with little help from the district.
• Though many schools say they have now ironed out most of the kinks in making the transition, that's taken time and has placed undue stress on teachers while impacting the education of kids with special needs and the children they now share classrooms with.
• Some principals said three years later they're still struggling to implement the new model, as each year they must learn to teach children with disabilities they have not encountered at the school before.

Why Training Was Never Mandated
Back in October, we described how many general education teachers at the district were suddenly faced with teaching children with special needs, despite having no training on how to do so.What we didn't tell you was why the district never made that training compulsory for the thousands of teachers making the transition.

Here's why: Nobody at the district ever tried to make training mandatory, despite being urged to do so by some advocates of the change.

Arguably the district's biggest challenge in implementing the new approach was convincing skeptical teachers and principals that it was the right thing to do. An effective way to do that was to get those teachers into training sessions, to show them the benefits of inclusion, said Marvin Elementary School Principal E. Jay Derwae.

"Of course training should have been mandatory. You have to make sure everybody buys into the new paradigm shift, and you've got to be able to hold teachers' hands through the changes."
Jay Derwae

Many Principals Weren't Trained Either
While the decision that more inclusion was needed came down from the higher echelons of the district, the foot soldiers in the effort to make the change a reality were individual school principals. Like teachers, many principals at the district needed crucial training to help them assimilate their new found students with special needs into their schools. And there were practical considerations too, like how to set up "sensory rooms" where children with certain disabilities could cool down after getting upset.

Special education training was never mandated for principals either. And there's more.

Susan Martinez, executive director of the district's Special Education Division, said she was told principals were too busy to hear about additional training. She said she was told not to attend meetings with principals, and was barred from putting information about training on the district's website.

"Because of the way the system was, we were not allowed access to principals. So, the word was out there that we didn't want to work with principals," Martinez said. "We would say 'We can do training, we want to do training, but we're not allowed to.'"

Asked who barred her from approaching principals, Martinez named Grenita Lathan, who used to serve as a deputy superintendent and is now superintendent of a school district in Peoria, Ill.

Lathan said Martinez's claim is untrue. She said she'll be contacting the district. Source

30 comments:

Frustrated said...

Maybe someone should take a closer look at how the so called IB program is being rolled out to the schools. I think it will be another San Diego.

Sharon Crews said...

For sure!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know what Joan Wojcikewych, former principal at Washington, is thinking right now. It's like when Hinton brought in Mary O'Brien, who didn't have a clue. What do these Superintendents think and why do the boards let them get by with this crap?

Emerge Peoria said...

Considering the issues we have heard about with the roll out of new programs here in Peoria, seem to mirror the issues they are now bringing up in San Diego, it certainly warrants the BOE to take a closer look at what is happening here in Peoria.

But we all know, co-workers will blame people who no longer work at the company.

LET ME TEACH said...

As a D150 teacher, I will say that we have had so many "NEW" programs thrown at us with little to NO training, yet we are being told that if students aren't achieving, it's our fault! I can also agree that "people" are being given positions of authority that they have NO CLUE of running. All I can say is that I HOPE that Dr. Lathan gets an "opportunity of a lifetime" by July 2013 and scoots on down the road. Yes, my head is still spinning.

Emerge Peoria said...

I don't want Lathan to leave. I would like to see her and her team stay here and bring to fruition all of the initiatives they started. To bring somebody else in at this time would be just another set back.

LET ME TEACH said...

Emerge: Agreed. I just do not want 12 more programs "launched" on her next contract. We are literally stumbling around in the dark, day after day, just hoping to make it through the year. I have a class with a high mobility rate, gaining and losing students on a weekly basis, most coming in from out of district and most leaving are LEAVING the district.

Emerge Peoria said...

They really deserve to have to stay in Peoria and see this through.

If you want to punish them - that should be punishment enough (IMO). LOL

Frustrated said...

Emerge - I agree that I would like to have her stay but slow down. My fear is that she is racing fast to pad her resume.

I believe Mrs. Wojcikeweych was moved IMO because of balance sheet. She was likely a higher salaried principal given her tenure and so Lathan attempted to shift her under Title I funding.

Too bad Mrs. "W" was not placed in a position of launching the IB program into the middle & primary schools. Would have been a good use of her talent and a new challenge for her.

Emerge Peoria said...

Shifting principals appears to have hurt several schools. The stories that we hear about Richwoods these day seem so out of character with the way the school has run in the past.

Why does Richwoods need so many administrators?

Sharon Crews said...

At some point, board members just must catch on and start holding Lathan accountable for all these programs for which teachers have had no training. Of course, Lathan did offer considerable training for Thinking Maps--the one program for which no training was needed because teachers already knew how to use graphic organizers.
I certainly hope board members are reading this blog and that some are seeing the light now that this San Diego situation has been made public.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at the school Lathan supposedly "turned around" as well. Methinks there's a WHOLE LOT MOrE to that story. I don't think that the students who were there prior to the "turn aroun" we're the ones there during and after.

Anonymous said...

Lathan may wake up early but never bright.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. W was moved b/c Lathan disliked her. Lathan openly mocked and imitated her in closed door meetings.

Anonymous said...

Classy!

Frustrated said...

Ok - Maybe I have changed my mind. Perhaps it would be better for Lathan to move on. Being petty and jealous make a very ineffective leader.

Instead of micromanaging the curriculum maybe they working on a succession plan.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's fire her for being petty but not for purchasing textbooks without a bid process. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Yes she is petty and jealous. Did she do something to get at you from behind your back? That is her modus operandi you know?

D150 parent said...

Frustrated - you should withhold judgement until you have facts. Remember well the lack of structure and leadership that existed prior to her arrival. There are many petty people who are on the taxpayer welfare system (tenure) that really do an injustice to the children they are supposed to serve. I hope she is very demanding. I was also taken aback by some of the principal moves, but like the fact she expressed it as - "no principal should get in a comfort zone". Challenging employees to bring their best effort everyday is a must in D150. If that attitude doesn't resonate with all the anon's, I say C-ya! Our students are in the greatest need and they need the greatest teachers. Teaching to the tests is a national problem and I would hope they would work together to push back against NCLB. My hope is she leads the district to significant improvement and sees her daughter graduate PROUDLY from D150. That would seem to be a win-win.

Anonymous said...

D150parent, please take your blinders off. Have you ever heard of relationship building? As a teacher in D150, I pride myself in the relationships I have built over the years and I am sure that many principals feel the same.

Sharon Crews said...

I think we now have an inkling of Lathan's leadership style in San Diego and the negative impact of that style. One of two things should happen: the BOE should regain control of the District and honestly consider some of the complaints that are floating all over the District and then hold Lathan accountable for preparing teachers for all of the new programs--and that hasn't been done. or she should be asked to leave--at which point she will list these unproven programs as her accomplishments in a resume for a new job--just as she used the changes she made in San Diego on the resume for Peoria--and now we know those changes weren't successful.

Anonymous said...

I know MANY MANY teachers who are ready to "throw in the towel". There is NO making this crowd from NC happy. Working from sun-up to sun-down is not enough. We are exhausted, constantly being told what is DUE today and what is DUE tomorrow. I wish I could actually spend a day teaching instead of making sure the "correct" items were hanging on the walls in my classroom and I was using the correct verbage as to not confuse the students when they go on to the next grade. Honest to God, it is ridiculous. I believe they would be happy with ROBOTS running this district. Years ago, you could call Alicia Butler, Aaron Shock, or Pepper Allen and they would take care of business, but this group, pssss, they have their heads crammed so far up Lathan's booty that they can't see the light of day. Where and why does she get all this power?
TEACHERS ARE EXHAUSTED. PRINCIPALS ARE STRESSED TO THE MAX. Is this a good learning environment for children? I had a teacher friend say to me just today, "I think we should all call in sick and let Lathan figure out why". Yes, the stress of this year has caused RECORD illness in the ranks. On top of everything, this district can't even get DECENT subs (only a handful that are any good). I cry when I am sick because I worry so much about my students, are they being divided up into other classes or were they fortunate enough to get a sub who is going to let them destroy my things.....never ends.

D150 parent said...

Butler, Allen, and Schock would "take care of business?" lemme guess - you needed a haircut from a liar who forged documents for your dad. Aren't Boards supposed to set policy but leave running the District to those that can - and the three you mentioned gave us Hinton. He was a great advocate for kids, but not very good at holding people accountable for DOING their JOB. But hey, a sick out! Now that's being professional....

Anonymous said...

how much time do you spend in the schools? does your child's teacher look stressed? You need to get a clue numbnuts

D150 parent said...

Maybe you're a teacher for one of my kids. One seems to have a god-complex and feels put out by every little thing. Stressed? Try working with your feet to the fire where you DON'T have tenure to protect your mediocre capabilities

Sharon Crews said...

There is no point in trying to reason with those whose mindset is to blame teachers. I know that there are teachers who are less than stellar, but teachers' working with their feet to the fire doesn't create a healthy environment for students.
It really doesn't matter what I think--it matters what the BOE thinks. Clearly, they seem to be happy with their choice of a superintendent.
They are the only ones who can do much about this situation--however, teachers did take a vote of no confidence against Royster, so they do have a voice should they care to use it. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that board members are willing to take a good look at what is happening in the District and are willing to start getting some feedback from teachers. A fair hearing isn't too much to ask, is it?
I know that, as a teacher, I never did have to fight any battles for myself--was never placed in a position where I felt helpless. I think too many teachers are in that boat now--I sympathize with them.
Oh, how I wish the impossible--that all of those in positions of authority right now would be placed in classrooms (the worst ones, not the best) and let us all come to observe them to find out how it's done. Talk is easy; teaching isn't--that might even be the reason why they have all chosen to "advance" their way out of the classroom where the real work is done.

Emerge Peoria said...

This comment is from the Editor of the San Diego Unified piece:

Susan Martinez told me that the district had plenty of funding to provide training for both teachers and principals.
Largely thanks to the influx of federal stimulus dollars, the district was in the rare position of having enough money to provide training to just about everybody who needed it.

I spelled this out in an earlier version of this story, but I think we cut it at some point in the editing process. However, Martinez alludes to it in her quote when she says, "We would say 'We can do training, we want to do training, but we're not allowed to.'"

For once, the problem wasn't funding, but a lack of focused leadership. The training was there, but many teachers and principals didn't take the district up on it, and weren't required to.

Will

Anonymous said...

..."Looks like someone forgot to KICK THE TIRES on this wreck from San Diego..."

Lela Poindexter said...

Unfortunately, principals are being moved and removed, but principals that should be fired are left on the job. Particularly the one who has been in the building during overnight hours with alcohol, drugs, and whores. Yes, check the home ec bed for proof. Also, when the charges on the district credit card were made public, it made me wonder how much of that food went for the every Friday afternoon party for the superintendent's staff. If you don't work behind locked doors, you don't get cake!
And while behind locked doors the super has mocked white staff after they left. She doesn't realize that some black staff actually have white friends and word gets around. Why is she so indignant to whites?
And, who doesn't believe that her pockets would have been lined nicely after arranging to sell the stadium to wallyworld?
Come on Peoria! You have to vote a new school board in. The current one is obviously so indebted to the super that they cannot keep her in control. And, why are they so ignorant that they cannot look speakers in the eye, and cannot remark at all!!! Not even "We understand and heard what you said?" They are supposed to be professional, but they prove that they are not.

Sharon Crews said...

Amazing--I am embarrassed that I forgot about the blame placed on Lathan for the San Diego situation, but it should not have slipped her mind when she decided to go after a principal for doing what she did on a much larger scale in San Diego.
Evidently, she believed this article was long forgotten--not so--thanks, Emerge.
Although I do not know whether or not she trained principals for last year's ISAT testing, I do kno w that she was preoccupied with barcoding books, not ISAT testing, so much so that she took the needed textbooks away from students and then had to return them (before barcding could be done) when she realized it was ISAT time--so when did the training or principals take place?