Friday, March 30, 2012

Dr. Grenita Lathan Peoria Dist. 150 In Conflict

Dr. Grenita Lathan
Peoria School District 150 Supt. Dr. Grenita Lathan has recently faced criticism from the "established" black leadership in Peoria for what appear to be radical changes in personnel, especially at the administrative/Principal level of some of the underachieving schools within the district.

While we uphold the rights of the groups to voice their public opinion in effort to hold officials including Dr. Lathan and her staff accountable, we also wish to state that we do not endorse their position, conclusion or suggestions in any way. We will also take this opportunity to look further than the allegations distinguishing fact from myth in effort to get to the real issues effecting our students and community in general.

The Press Conference

ACT I ~ Mr. Don Jackson

This discourse was designed to rally and motivate individuals against District 150 Leader, Lathan and the actions of the School Board in the recent removal of two principals, Annette Coleman and Kevin Curtin. What is being called into question is not only their removal or demotion to lower level positions, but the overall environment that is being created by Dr. Lathan and the loss of past black leaders who were questionably dismissed.

Myth 1~ There Have Been Multiple Terminations In Leadership.

Out of the 3 persons that Mr. Jackson mentions in the video that were removed from their principal and leadership positions within the District, one, Mrs. Valda Shipp was terminated for cause, which was supported by the evidence as noted below, and a second, Dr. Sharon Kherat left the district on her own accord. Mrs. Taunya Jenkins (a black woman) has stepped into her position and seems to have the support of the District and staff.
Case 1~ Dr. Sharon Kherat
In a Aug. 2011 interview with the Peoria Journal Star, Dr. Kherat had this to say about her tenure with Peoria Dist. 150:  
"It's time for change,"..."There have been challenges regarding the implementation of the restructuring plan. A lot has changed along the way regarding the original restructuring plan I was given in March of 2008. These changes, in my opinion, have created stress."
In that same article, "multiple unnamed sources" went on to say the following:
"Multiple sources close to the situation said Kherat and Superintendent Grenita Lathan had repeatedly clashed and Kherat thought she did not have the support of District 150's current administration. A number of key faculty members Kherat brought to Manual were reassigned this year, including Assistant Principal Taunya Jenkins, currently principal at Northmoor Primary School.
"The bottom line is (Kherat) felt that she didn't get the support she needed to do the job," one school official said. "She wasn't allowed the flexibility she needed to run that school. There were some philosophical differences between her and the administration on what that flexibility meant. There was a difference of opinion on how flexible Manual should have been versus the other two high schools, and that's where some of the problems happened.
"Dr. Kherat felt there were promises made to her by (former superintendent) Ken Hinton that should have been kept by the new administration. That's where the real friction was. Sharon felt like Ken made promises that she would be able to run that school however she wanted, but when Grenita got here, she was taking some of that control away."
What am I saying? I am saying that the sources have spoken more about the "conflict" between Kherat and Lathan than Kherat has herself as far as we are aware in this situation. At any case and no matter if there was conflict or not, Dr. Kerhat left the district on her own accord in 2011. This was not a termination.

Case 2 ~ Mrs. Valda Shipp
A 34 year employee of the district Mrs. Shipp was primarily forced to resign her position in 2010. According to the Peoria Journal Star, these are the circumstances over which Mrs. Shipp's relationship with the district was severed:
"Shipp came under heat from district officials in early February and was admonished again later in the school year for not entering student suspensions into the district's computer system on a timely basis, nor sending students home with the proper paperwork, which contained how students or their parents could appeal a suspension, the suit stated.
Also noted was her unavailability and not returning calls to parents as well as being blamed for poor customer service, including incorrect information that went to a second- and third-grade student, leading them to attempt to walk to their grandparents' home in Pekin. Both children were found along Interstate 74 by a truck driver and authorities were called."
If these reports are true, and there has been ample evidence presented to affirm that they are, is this anyone that the district should advocate to stay employed? Would the basis that she would not have been terminated been on the fact that she was black or because the Supt. was black? This would certainly have been race favoritism and totally unacceptable for any District 150 employee or administrator.

2 out of the 3 persons that Mr. Jackson mentions don't qualify for any unfair treatment as suggested in the news conference. The new individuals, Annette Coleman and Kevin Curtin have not been terminated but been demoted based on employee/personnel issues which are private records of the individual.

ACT II ~ Dr. Rita Ali

In the video above, Dr. Rita Ali claims, and Mr. Jackson affirms, that there is a "culture of fear" among district employees brought on by Dr. Lathan's leadership style and that she has facilitated an environment of "bullying", "intimidation" and tactics of "retaliation" against employees for either speaking out or seeking alternate employment. These are accusations at the heart of the lack of "fairness" claim of Mr. Jackson as well. Dr. Ali has also taken the time to relate this issue to the issue of falsified test scores in the Atlanta Public School District in Atlanta, GA.

Let's clarify this picture 

According to Atlanta News 11 NBC Affiliate, we know the following about the troubles in Atlanta, Ga.: 
Dr. Beverly Hall
The troubles of the Atlanta Public school system centered around the claim that 178 teachers had facilitated cheating on CRTC test scores. 8 teachers and 3 administrators were eventually removed from their positions as a result of this scandal.

The accusation was that Dr. Beverly Hall, the Supt. of the district at that time, had facilitated this crime, by first providing $750 to $1,000 incentives to schools who's students performed well on these standardized tests with the object of providing herself a performance bonus for improved test scores.
Dr. Hall was said to have created an atmosphere of intimidation in the following actions:

1- School board members were discouraged from visiting school facilities impromptu. According to former Atlanta School Board member Ann Harper, Principals were told to call the district office if any board member made an unexpected visit.

2- School board recommendations were consistently overlooked. Dr. Hall did not follow the guidance of the board.

Myth 2 ~ All cases are created equal.

Dr. Lathan has been one of the most visible and open Supt's that district 150 has known.  Here are a few things that has been done under her leadership:
  • She undertook the "Remarkable" mantra left by Dr. Herschel Hannah under the administration of Dr. Hinton and made it into a newsletter called "The Remarkable Times Newsletter" which is a newsletter designed to inform and engage parents, and teachers with new information and what the district is doing.
  • Dr. Lathan has instituted Parent University, which is designed to engage parents providing them with informational support about their children's education and encouraging them to be a part of both the school and activities that will enhance the students experience in education.
  • There are parent forums in various locations at various times where parents are encouraged to bring their questions and concerns not only about their school, but also about the district at any time. I have been at a few of them and no question was rejected and all concerns were addressed.
  • District 150 Board meetings are open to the public and held at various locations on occasion to facilitate participation and public awareness. In fact this is why, in the video the meeting was held at Glen Oak school as opposed to the normal district board room on Wisconsin Ave.
The Atlanta situation was apparently facilitated by leadership wanting to keep board members and more than likely parents out of the school and away from their children in order to manipulate test scores for incentives. That situation has nothing to do with anything happening in Peoria Public schools. In addition Dr. Lathan has not asked a teacher to manipulate grades or standardized test information. The comparison is simply over the top and irrelevant to this case or situation.

What Do We Have?

We have a situation that is an employment related issue between 2 employees and District 150. Both employees have rights under federally mandated employment laws to voice their complaints and receive resolution to their complaints. If they were treated unfairly, the district should suffer the consequence so that other employees will not be effected. In other words each individual should follow due process if they think there were retaliated against.

We have cases publicized that should be discussed over the table of responsibility. Much of this information is private and not contained within the public record. To damage reputations over partial knowledge is not a desirable thing to do when truth is the object at the end of the day

Where Are Our Children?

Our children are in the crunch of a political scheme and a display of power. Change is always uncomfortable, but when an employer is told that they cannot make changes to the business that they oversee based on questionable circumstances at best, this cannot be for and in the best interest of our children. The proposed changes are because our children are failing and test scores are low. Any administrator that does not think that our education system is under in emergency situation has never been to or visited a school. I wish these organizations would work with us to help deliver better quality lunches and address the minority suspension rate that Dr. Lathan has also taken time to address with no intervention from these groups presented in the video.

The Only Thing To Fear Is Fear Itself!

Principals and administrators have a great weight of responsibility in their building. When we drop our children off, they become the parent representative and should act in my child's best interest until we return. This, at times, means standing up for the student so that the teacher will be encouraged to do what is necessary to help the student achieve.   

Yes, change is difficult and challenging and as a District we have many issues to address. I think we should move to do that instead of trying to be the buffer against positive and overdue change in a District that must raise its performance standards at all levels.
Pastor Harvey Burnett
Exec. Director
New Bethel COGIC 


  1. Martha Ross brought Parent University to D150. Dr. Lathan has watered down the concept and has in essence, taken power away from the parent councils that should exist (by law) in every 150 school.

  2. Emerge,

    I don't find that to be true from experience. In fact I know of a principal recently told that she had to have a parent participation in certain aspects of planning for title 1 dollars. Many of the principals have left what they should do for whatever reason. Maybe they are afraid, but I would venture to ask, of what??? If they are doing their job, it would seem that they have a right to make their voices heard and not one of the people in question have been relived or demoted for being assertive. They have been relieved for the most part for being far to passive and uninvolved in resolving issues and in the case of Mrs. Shipp, just doing the wrong thing period. No one wanted to see her go, but please, can any of those actions be justified???

    I believe what we have is a lot of myth, mixed with some substance (as no one is perfect) and that placed on top of people who thought that they could reach a point where they didn't have to worry about job performance ever in their lives. It;s amazing the response when a person's success is tied to their ability to be successful in what they do.

  3. Now in all of this...and I don't want to toot my own horn as some wonder, because it's not like that...but I have been to about 4 to 5 open forums at schools and a Parent University where two dynamic women were brought in from San Diego no less to address parent issue, encourage parent participation and involvement and they not only had a dynamic program, but also have advised Dr. Lathan over the years.

    In these forums, I have been able to ask ANY question and have received an answer and a rationale behind every one. Let me give you one such example...Early on, we were told "through the grapevine of information" that Dr. Lathan was against "Magnet" schools, even "Fine Arts" schools and that both they are about to be done away with.

    I asked Dr. Lathan DIRECTLY in front of everyone what school structure she favored and what were we doing as a district and what we could expect. She answered and the myth was dispelled. She is not beholden to any form or structure and she likes Magnet and Arts, so much and so until she wants to expand both.

    Now, the mythists yet continue their criticism, but certainly not based on fact.

    Now, where were Don or Rita in any of these forums, where they could ask their question, even grandstand while not in front of board cameras??? NO PLACE AT ALL!

    They may have been to some of these. I hope they have. But they haven't been there either to ask important questions or to hear these questions being addressed first hand.

    Sorry, one can tell me things second hand and I'll formulate my own opinion. However this is what I know by first hand eyewitness, experience.

    Final thing, since Mr. Jackson met Dr. Lathan on the back of MY EFFORTS, the door has never been closed. During the initial meeting in which he thought he had undermined my appearance, until I showed up, Dr. Lathan told us both how she needed feedback and support from us as servants to the community. Unfortunately, some of us have chosen to grandstand (which is their right) rather than address the issues and make this situation and District 150 the type of school district we deserve.

  4. If the black community wishes to be taken seriously by white tax payers, it would police it's own leadership expecting professionalism and decorum. Lathan has demeaned and intimidated others acting very Unchristian to the point where the district is now in chaos. She received the job bc she is black and remained in it bc she is black. Shame on you and others for not expecting more from your own community.

    1. District 150 has employed over 860 Blacks and minorities over the 4 years that Dr. Lathan has been Supt. The City Of Peoria has employed 74 over teh same 4 year period with 53 of them Black.

      Anyone should be fearful who doesn't want to do their job or comply with their boss's or supervisors standards.

      these folk have gotten away with murder both financially and with their cronyism for years...Well, it seems that time is over. now there is "fear and intimidation"...Given the opportunity, we see who creates fear...Those who threaten children, place blue ribbons on lawns and who otherwise harass...

      Now, that's the truth.