Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A tenured teacher speaks on the definition of "WE" and collaboration

We have seen all of the "Anonymous" comments from teachers on the blog and questioned why they won't sign their name to anything. Lately I have noticed that some teachers are being more vocal and speaking before the Board of Education. Additionally, they ARE giving their input directly to the Board and signing their names to it. The letter below is from a tenured teacher:

Members of the District 150 Board of Education:
When Norm Durflinger came to our district, I didn't trust him.  I thought, "What can this man from a small town know about an urban district like ours?"  However, what Norm understood -- and what he helped me to understand -- is the power of collaboration -- of getting everyone on board with a solid plan and working together to carry that plan out.  No matter where you are or what situation you're in, if you can work together for improvement, you'll improve.

Shortly before Norm left, we were poised for change -- the kind of change needed in District 150.  The union, the board, and the administration were working together to push for progressive reforms. With all of that said, it must be noted that in the last few years, the Peoria Federation of Teachers has transformed itself into an instrument of leadership, collaboration, and meaningful change.  The union has invited administrators and board members to TURN conferences, where unions, board members, and administrators learn to work together for the benefit of their districts.

As I said, Norm had our district poised for meaningful, collaborative change. As a union, we were poised for taking a collaborative approach to getting our district on the right track. Norm asked for input, developed a plan, and made it his business to get everyone in the district on board with that plan.

We have two SIG grants in our city -- millions of dollars funding reforms at Manual High School and Peoria High School.  Obtaining and maintaining a SIG grant is heavily dependent upon the board of education, the central administration, and the teachers' union working together.  Had there been hints of a district about to splinter, we could have kissed those grants goodbye. Further, with Race to the Top dollars being dangled in front of Illinois' nose, it's critical, again, for districts to be able to show that their unions, administrators, and board members are willing to work together -- to collaborate -- as they usher in meaningful change.

Our superintendent is saying, "You don't have to like me; you don't have to love me; I'm asking you to respect what we're trying to do in our schools."

The question begging to be asked is . . . WE who?

The president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers is saying that so much harm has been done by the current administration that he's not sure the district can be fixed.  Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.

You have a split board on decisions being touted as "part of the strategic plan."  Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.

You have the bus drivers' union, the aids' union, and the campus police union all up in arms.  Doesn't sound like collaboration to me.

There are whisperings (more like shouts, actually) of the teachers' union taking a vote of no confidence in the administration and the board.  If the teachers take a vote, I can almost guarantee that the other unions will as well. Then what?

This WE needs to be defined. Is it Dr. Lathan and the board members who agree with her at any given time?  Certainly, it's not the district as a whole.  That's very clear.  WE who?

Guiding a district must include getting input from and securing buy in from all stakeholders.  This "you don't have to like me / you don't have to love me" nonsense might make for a good soundbite on a late night reality show; however, it's no way to lead a district.  The father (or mother, now) knows best approach is an antiquated, beurocratic approach that simply won't fly.  There must be buy in and collaboration.  For state and federal money, it's required.

It must be noted too, that saying, "Change is hard . . . Change is painful . . ."  . . . well, those hackneyed cliches don't mean anything and, quite frankly, they're downright insulting.  The implication that the superintendent and the board members, sans two, are the only ones who understand and can handle change is absurd.  Then, when you throw in the red herring, "It's about the children," you might as well just slap all of us in the community in the face.  Essentially, you're saying, "If you don't agree with what we're doing, you are against the children."

Stupid.

Read more here, as a tenured teacher talks about the potential of the vote of no confidence...

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

As always, Jeff said it all with dignity and respect. I applaud this letter.

Thank you for posting it, Emerge.

Emerge Peoria said...

Read the letter it in it's entirety over on EmergingPeoria blog spot and come back here to give your comments. Thank you Jeff, well said.

Anonymous said...

He never answers the question: if the union votes no confidence, then what? Well guess what: the community, no the country, has voted a "no confidence" in the teachers and their unions and the failing schools that are the result. Deal with it. Get on board. Or get out of the way. No confidence? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Bobby Darling went in to talk to Lathan today, after the meeting last night. You could hear her screaming at him from down the hall. She started scolding him the minute he walked into her office. Well, you know how those arguments go; the one that screams the loudest wins. And all that screaming puts an abrupt end to any discussion. Darling walked out. Nothing accomplished. Lathan is impossible to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Get on board with what? Sociopathy? Good one. What the country is looking for are districts in which unions, school boards, and administrators can work together. That's to what the money is tied. That's what our union is on board with. So, our vote of no confidence will be our way of saying, "You didn't get on board with what is best for the future of our district and our city -- so (as you do eloquently put it)-- by all means -- get out of the way." I'm rather certain that our community -- no, our country -- isn't interested in a dictatorial system in which all stakeholders are alienated by a dictator while the deadbeat school board sits idly by bobbling their cliche laden heads. Anyway. Please excuse me while I go re-read Julius Caesar. Thanksssss. Adkins-Dutro

Anonymous said...

Dictator? Tyrant sounds more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

And Kafka.

Adkins-Dutro

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know what Coleman has either on Lathan or about Glen Oak that got her a new position and a raise.

Anonymous said...

All I saw about Coleman was that she was going to be an assistant next year. Not sure how that equates to higher pay or better situation. And I heard she did not even know anything about it when they announced it.

Anonymous said...

Did you say Whiz Khalifa Adkins Dutro?

Sharon Crews said...

Thanks to Jeff for being so straightforward and, I guess, in this dictorial climate, we can say he is courageous. This constant talk about change from Lathan and the board does grow so tiresome as they never are able to explain how all the change has any positive impact on the classroom and children.
I have begun to believe that the board hired Lathan to break the power of all unions and that the board will allow her to spend all the money she wants on programs and to recoup the money to pay for the programs by getting rid of as many teachers as possible. By so doing, Lathan is doing favors for many friends from whom she is buying programs and texts and building her own resume for her next career stop.
Children have absolutely nothing to do with anything--it's all about power and children have none and teachers have very little (until they start to take some real risks to speak out).

Jon said...

I liked the majority of Jeff’s post, but unfortunately, methinks he went a little too far. If he’s going to preach collaboration, it would behoove him to not fall prey to uncooperative actions. Case in point:

“The implication that the superintendent and the board members, sans two, are the only ones who understand and can handle change is absurd. “

Yes, it is absurd – “it” being Jeff’s inference of Lathan’s motives. And, or course, there’s this -

“Essentially, you're saying, "If you don't agree with what we're doing, you are against the children.

Stupid. “

Yes, it is stupid – again, “it” being the inference that Jeff knows what Lathan is saying and that it would be something so ridiculous. Creating a straw man argument hardly shows one’s willingness to collaborate. Perhaps that’s out of frustration, but nonetheless harmful. If you claim the high road, don’t climb down into the gutter.

That said, I do not like the top-down approach shown by Lathan thus far and would prefer to see more collaboration – assuming there are willing partners.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jon, a college professor of mine once told me that if you don't leave room for the other side of the argument, there's no room for the other person to change his / her mind. Plus, I suppose one can't force collaboration (via a letter infested with jabs or not) any more than one can force democracy on people. After spending some time reading Kafka this week, I realize that by trying to fight the good fight amid the bureaucracy will turn me into the dung beetle hiding in his bedroom under the couch. I'm still trying to figure out if I can step outside of the madness and still fight the good fight - or - does stepping out (and not becoming the dung beetle) mean - inherently - leaving it all behind. I guess part of my problem is that I'm currently more pissed about people being mistreated than I am motivated to strive for collaboration. When you see people working their asses off to make a go of things turn around and get brutalized for absurd reasons . . . But hey, I'm just thinking out loud here. Buggin out. A-D

Anonymous said...

By the way. Again. The SIG grants will go bye bye if the district splinters. And we've been working VERY hard to make things a go at PHS. Would be a shame for it to crumble under the bureaucracy. A-D

Jon said...

It would seem both sides have reason for collaboration.

Only Nixon could go to China, right Jeff? That act is generally regarded as one of Nixon's greatest accomplishments. Mao was a dictator, too.

Sharon Crews said...

Jon, I am not at all taking you to task for your criticisms (even though I don't agree). However, what you heard from Jeff is why Jeff is such a great spokesman and person. He is always willing to accept and consider criticisms leveled at him. I have observed him so many times take criticism seriously and humbly. Also, please note, also, that Jeff is not airing any of his own axes to grind. As always, Jeff is looking at the overall picture and rarely has ever been speaking of any personal issues. He has always fought for others (teachers and students) that he feels aren't given a fair shake--almost never fights for his own comfort, etc.
Also, I believe he has a bit more direct interaction with Dr. Lathan than have most teachers.

Jon said...

Sharon, I thought for sure you would agree with the inappropriateness of the "stupid" comment. If I recall correctly, you did take someone to task for making the same comment on this blog.

Sharon Crews said...

Prejudiced, Jon, prejudiced--I admit it!

Anonymous said...

http://www.pjstar.com/news/x1963535299/Principal-requests-explanation

Anonymous said...

I used to work for PSD 150 and saw what happened to Michelle after she met with Norm in her first days on the job. Grenita came flying out of her office after Norm left (this is before the high security locks), chastised her for the meeting, and said he was trying to sabotage the new administration. Michelle was reprimanded for the meeting.

Not much hope for a we.....

Anonymous said...

I have a few comments. It seems Dr? Lathan's mantra of various "Respect the..." should begin with "Respect the tyrant."

This year I have tried to remain positive and look at positives as I have expressed in another blog, but I am finding it impossible to do so.

But here is my bottom line--I became a teacher to teach and share knowledge of life and my subjects with my students. The only way I survive with dignity in this disrict is to keep the focus on why I went into teaching. I love kids and want to teach them. I go to school for the kids, not for other teachers, not for administrators wherever they may be, but for the students. I teach kids to think and be creative and learn. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to do that given the direction this district is going in. That is what is so depressing. The policies are making it harder and harder to maintain the joy and dedication. What I give to my students and what they give back to me keeps me going and gives validity to what I strive so hard to do.

I agree that teachers and principals and others are not considered stakeholders, so pieces of the puzzle are missing as is respect for those of us on the frontlines. When I taught in Los Angeles, we called it battle fatique because the corruption in that district was appalling. We seem headed in that direction if we do not put a stop to this madness and disrespect that seems so rampant in 150 now. I only sign Annonymous because I do not have enough years in the district and I fear for my position like many. What a horrible way to live in America.

I must stop because I could go on and on and it is getting late. I need my strength for my students.

Anonymous said...

Laura Patelle asked Lathan about televising board meetings and didn't Lathan say there would be something in the minutes? Just read the minutes and didn't see anything. Does anyone know exactly where Lathan said she would be addressing televised meetings?

Anonymous said...

"The board's subsequent decision to make Coleman an assistant principal, possibly at a middle school or high school and probably at a higher salary, canceled her right to a hearing under state law, according to Eisenhammer."

Note the reference to a higher salary for Coleman in the article. How can you possibly be demoted and then receive a higher salary for a lesser job? Only in Dist 150.

Mahkno said...

How is it Lathan's decision to televise the school boards meetings?

Who is in charge here?

kohlrabi said...

re: televising the meetings

Aren't minutes an account of what is said at the meeting. If nothing was said about televising meetings during the meeting how can something appear in the minutes?

Anonymous said...

You did notice in the article the point was that Mrs. Coleman was unaware of the appointment. I am pretty sure they can't just throw her somewhere and cancel her appeals hearing----even if she would be receiving a higher salary. Someone has got to stop the lathanator. She obviously doesn't care what the teachers, principals, and public think about her nor does she care what the law says she can and cannot do.

Anonymous said...

My observation:Your Superintendent is insecure in her leadership ability, which causes her to be reluctant to collaborate. She has realized very early in the game that teachers and administrators in this school district have always collaborated in all areas. Her "change" is to eliminate that bond. In doing so, she has brought in individuals who like her, are insecure and inexperienced. The only way they know how to hide their insecurities is to intimidate and bully those who are experts in their field.

D-150 will never move forward until teachers feel they are still worthy individuals and they are the heart of the entire organization. If the heart is "attacked" the District will fail to function.

Teachers, hang in there, you need no resuscitating.

Sharon Crews said...

I believe the above analysis to be right on target. Only insecure people are bullies; however, their feelings of insecurity can cause them to do all manner of harm to others--we are watching that play out in District 150 to an alarming degree. Tyrants breed tyrants--the tyrants at the top cause those that answer to the top to be tyrants to those below them. Kids are bound to be hurt eventually because there is just to much frustration for teachers to be joyful about their jobs.
I am so glad that no one was able to take the joy of teaching from me--so, teachers, try to smile so people will wonder what you're up to. :) I know it isn't easy.

Sharon Crews said...

OK--too much frustration. :)

Anonymous said...

Respect cronyism

Retired 150 teacher said...

What is happening with
Kevin Curtin and Paul Monrad? Why is Annette Coleman being saved from demotion and not other stronger educators?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should also get an attorney, and decide they want a public hearing, like Coleman did. Seems to have forced Lathan into action so she and the board do not have to reveal the "real" reason she is being demoted.

Anonymous said...

Coleman WAS demoted -- Prinicipal to Assistant Pricipal! How does one explain that on a resume to a potential new employer? I really don't see where she was "saved", silenced maybe. I sure hope she fights this!

Anonymous said...

Maybe a minister saved Annette.

Anonymous said...

At 3:30 today (April 17) there is a press conference about the Harcourt-Mifflin pin point program. I wish the purpose were to expose the shady deal with that company, but its purpose is probably to tell the public what a wonderful innovation Lathan has brought to town.
Tomorrow night's board meeting should be a bit interesting--but not as interesting as the executive session preceding the public meeting. I heard there is a possibility that each hearing could take up to one hour--don't know how many hearings will take place.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is...Pinpoint was brought to town at the beginning of the year, demonstrated for the School Board, and Lathan said all students would have it by January. They paid for it a while ago.

When does it finally sink in to these board members?

Anonymous said...

First of all how do you give someone an outstnding in October, give her a good evaluation in January and the last of January give her an unsatisfactory. Then with that unsatisfactory promote her to an assistnt Principal, probably in a high school and give her a raise. An assistant principal in a high school is higher then a principal in a grade school or a middle school. What craziness. Then you demote some one that was a leader over an area and the childern blew everyone out of the box with their test scores. Put a person back in the classrom that has always done a great job with his schools. Not only that his school is closing. Talk about craziness. I believe we will be paying out more money for to attorneys after all of the lawsuits are filed.

Sharon Crews said...

Last night yet another new lawyer appeared at the board meeting. Even though they are all from the same company, the individual attorneys have no way of being able to keep up with what is going on in District 150. I am not sure that any of them even live in Peoria. What a circus!