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 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is This What Concealed Carry Leads To?

Trayvon Martin
This story is in regards to what can only be described as the murder of an unarmed 17 year old citizen Trayvon Martin.  This is about an effort by a neighborhood vigilante, determined to send a message that crime doesn't exist in his neighborhood. The only problem is that in sending this message, Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman became the police, judge, jury and executioner all at the same time, committing  crimes and  violating every constitutional right that a fellow citizen, Trayvon Martin, shared. What has been little known is that the natural part of the law that makes "concealed carry" effective in most venues, is some form of what is called the "Stand Your Ground Law". The "Stand Your Ground Law" allows a person to act in lieu of the police if they "feel" threatened using their weapon to kill if they deem it necessary to do so. In almost every case where there is concealed carry, there is a version of "stand your ground", which is the little secret not mentioned much by those in Peoria who advocate for concealed carry. The murderer, in this case, George Zimmerman, claims that he had a right to "stand his ground", "protecting" his neighborhood, and ultimately killing an unarmed boy simply because the boy refused to answer his questions.

This is what I have stated on my Facebook regarding this horrible event:
One of the worst things I have heard in a long time. A word to Peoria, Ill who has a Mayor that is advocating concealed carry....this is the result of concealed carry and neighborhood vigilante-ism. If you give law abiding citizens a gun and they "feel" threatened, you can expect the death rate to increase because everyone will make them feel threatened. Is this the blood you want on your hands?

Quick note on the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution...

NO ONE has to answer anyone as to why they are in a certain place in a public area. Every citizen has the RIGHT to remain silent and as long as they are peaceful and not breaking the law go about their own business. not even the police have a right to harass you if you're abiding by the law and neither can they demand that you leave. This is still America and EVERY CITIZEN still has rights of freedom that the state CANNOT and DID NOT grant and can't take away.

Contrary to the observation of some, I like our Mayor, but we need to ask him and others that support concealed carry this question: 

Mayor Ardis, is this the blood you want on your hands?