Saturday, April 28, 2012

Questions behind the Curtin about Kevin

It's recital season and on Monday, the Board of Education will once again give employees they are looking forward to demoting, the opportunity to entertain them. The employees who are on the chopping block, will each provide an original composition [i.e., plead for their jobs].

At this time, the attorney for Kevin Curtin (principal of Irving Primary School), appears to be preparing the most intricate choreography. Mr. Curtin’s attorney took a trip to Nashville, Tenn., to take a sworn statement from a former District 150 associate superintendent that was fired in 2011. Jazz hands…

According to the statement from Dr. Michelle Ungurait, the Superintendent was set on driving Curtin and several other principals out of the district after their first meeting. The hook...

It is also alleged, that the district's evidence for reclassifying Curtin is said to mainly involve his failure to provide the requisite paper work documenting two hours a day spent observing teachers in the classroom. Kick ball change…

Before she was fired, Ungurait warned board members about problems in Lathan's administration. Applause...

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."


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

Monday, April 9, 2012

UPDATED: Second hand live blogging Board of Education Meeting...

Union President, Bobby Darling "out of order" at BOE meeting...

5:58  No picketers!
6:40  Meeting still hasn't started. Supposed to begin at 6:30
6:41  Meeting finally started
6:50  Teacher spoke regarding Harrison and Glen Oak. "Who is responsible for promising the taxpayers community schools and not delivering?"
6:52  Terry Knapp spoke regarding state baseball tournament. The IHSA baseball championship game help same day as 150 graduation. Lathan promised last June that would not happen. It was brought up last August and she did not change date. He is hoping that will not happen next year.
6:53  Mr Sierra said discipline is NUMBER issue that faces 150.
6:55  Bobby Darling states the district laying off  70 teachers...what will that do to class sizes?
7:00  Speaker asking why board meetings aren't televised live.  Asking for BOE to give community opportunity to watch meetings.
7:00  Public Hearing for Dismissal of Teachers.
7:09  Public Hearing people can speak a second time.
7:18   Bobby Darling asking if layoffs are really for economic reasons? Why does the District continue to buy more  programs if this is truly about economic reasons?
7:19   Teacher said that she has 34 kids in her home room. "…if district is laying off teachers next year will I have 44 or 54?"
7:24  Teacher said layers and layers of bureaucracy ..lots of people making 6 figures that never see the children.
7:25   So it came out that the teachers that will be dismissed tonight were not EVEN NOTIFIED!
7:40  Martha says she doesn't feel comfortable firing people without giving them notice.
7:41  Linda Butler and Dr Lathan says that Union given list.
7:43  Bobby Darling jumped up and yelled "IT'S NOT THE UNION'S JOB TO TELL PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE FIRED!!!!" Linda Butler.." Mr Darling, you are out of order! Mr. Darling you are out of order! "
7:51 Wolfmeyer.."Mr Darling, I totally I agree that it's not the Union's job to tell people that they are fired."
7:54 Martha said she will not support layoffs bc staff was not notified that they were being laid off before vote.
7:59  Does Chris Crawford speak?
8:00  Martha changed her vote 7-0 all teachers dismissed without notification.
8:04 Presentation by BOE. Patelle wants to know where the District is as far as televised meeting. Lathan said something will be in board minutes.
8:11 Meeting over.

Check back regularly for updates.
Hat tip to my friend on the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, April 2, 2012

Black community divided over District 150

I was waiting for Pam Adams to write this story, but as of today, it has not happened. Maybe it's just me, but I think it is a significant news story when you have so many people in the black community being outspoken on any one topic. In my opinion, the local, main stream media is remiss in that they have not reported on the rift in the black community over the actions of the current Superintendent of Public Schools. 
"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." 

Superintendent Grenita Lathan

Team Superintendent 
Rev. Tony Pierce said he had been among the group of ministers who met with Superintendent Grenita Lathan to discuss the four administrators' futures. At the Charter Oak BOE meeting he stated "I stand tonight in support of Dr. Lathan," he said, adding that she had been hired to be a "change agent." The Reverend Tony E. Pierce serves as Co-Senior Pastor of Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship; CEO of Heaven’s View Community Development Corporation and Co-Founder of the Community Development & Service Institute. 

Joyce Banks, stated in an editorial she sent in to the local newspaper, "We will not move forward with personnel at the helm who have so many personal ties to the community that radical change would be rendered virtually impossible. The skill set of the team necessary to turn a failing district around should be her call. Does it matter how many team members come from places outside the district if they are the right ones for the task?" Joyce K. Banks is a minister at Heaven's View Christian Fellowship Church and lives in Peoria. 

Pastor Harvey Burnett "I can only say that if we expect different results for our students, we cannot continue to do things the same as we have always done. Our children deserve an environment where the teacher will be just as accountable as the student is expected to be. Where the principal is actively engaged with both students and parents as opposed to hiding behind secretarial staff to deflect attention. We certainly have issues as a district, but a Supt. that is out of control IS NOT one of them." Pastor Burnett is the founder of New Bethel COGIC of Peoria, IL; and the Peoria Assn. of Pastors For Community & Spiritual Renewal 

Board President Linda Butler "The board is aware some of you have come to express concerns about a personnel matter," Butler said before the public comment portion of the meeting. "We're ready to make difficult and unpopular decisions because a good future demands it." 

Team Principals and Teachers
Donald Jackson, "It's not just one or two people in the community who are concerned," The district has hired 11 people from North Carolina, Lathan's home town, for $1.5 million, but none are black males, while qualified people from Peoria are ignored. People with master's degrees are supervising those with Ph.Ds. While there is "a level of administration never had before," classroom aides are being cut to part time next year and some classrooms have 30 children. The money could be better spent. Jackson is the President of the Illinois and Peoria NAACP

Dr. Rita Ali, was one of the speakers at the Charter Oak news conference, who reiterated a theme - a "culture of constant fear" - that has come up at the last three board meetings in reference to Lathan's leadership style. "The same superintendent that recommended Mrs. Coleman from her role are principal, just a few months ago rated her as an outstanding leader in the top five percent and with great potential to be a great superintendent one day," "I question the evaluation " of the principals, by "an individual from North Carolina with no central management experience," and "a letter filled with run-on sentences and typos. Is she qualified to evaluate" these principals with "an untested evaluation tool" 
Dr. Ali is Director of Diversity at Illinois Central College; was on the search committee that brought Lathan to town; on the Board at Manual Academy and is a member of the African American Leadership Alliance.

Board member Martha Ross, asked about letters sent to each of the four in question, asking them to voluntarily, privately take a specific reassignment, with a specific lower salary. The district's attorney said all four refused, and the process became public. That gave the administration the option to assign the four to a variety of positions, potentially with even lower salaries. Ross called it punishment. "We should not wait until the end of the year to let our staff, administrators know that they are not up to par," she said. 

Board member Lynn Costic, criticized Lathan for earlier saying District 150 is "dysfunctional." "It's an insult," she said, adding "I do not believe changes should be made that are the result of retaliation or personal preferences. This district needs administrators who have great relationships with parents and children. This isn't change for improvement." 

Kristie Hubbard, who said she had been Lathan's Realtor, told board members she understood their position, but the process for making decisions to reclassify the four was flawed.  
Hubbard is the wife of the Pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church; a former assistant principal at Manual Academy and current Quest Academy board member.

Rev. Harold Dawson Jr. compared the four to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen shot and killed by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.Dawson, he was also among the group of ministers who met with Superintendent Grenita Lathan last week to discuss the four administrators' futures. "No blood was spilled in the street but their character has been assassinated," Dawson said. 
Dawson is the Pastor of New Hope Deliverance Church;  Chairman of the Religious Affairs of the NAACP; Commissioner on the Greater Peoria Airport Authority; Director Illinois One Family One Child; his father was/is the Chairman Peoria Christian Leadership Conference

Quotes excerpted from pjstar, peoria story, week, ciproud.