Friday, March 14, 2014

"Core Values"...Let's Get To The Truth!

Since the transfer of a John Wetterauer, the former Principal of Charter Oak Grade School, the parents group and certain others, now calling themselves 'change 150' have been up in arms even demanding the immediate removal of the District Supt. Dr. Grenita Lathan.

This group has not only rallied, they have overfilled board meetings, heckled those who disagree with them, insulted the Supt, demeaned Board members and continue to do such openly and happily.

Until my statements this week at the board meeting, noone really knew how low certain individuals, in the "funk" of this group's horrible advances had gone to intimidate the Supt. and Board members and to strike fear in their minds. There have been "blue ribbons" thrown on the Supt.'s lawn in late night drive-bys, personal threats toward both the Supt. and Board members causing some Board members to secure personal security for themselves.

The question is where does this "hatred" and this supposed urgency for "change" in leadership come from? 

One would think that it is because the District has failed in reaching our students. Yet the record reflects the opposite. Part of the District's record is as follows:
*Balanced budgets. Balanced and in the BLACK the last 4 years even with the State holding money.
*Greater and more extensive teacher training to reach students in the seats.
*The Acquisition of current textbooks to better facilitate modern education.
*Technology necessary to make the learning experience relevant.
*Updated and modernized school facilities and environments.
*Teachers who now are accountable not only to their bosses, but also to parents.
*An atmosphere of accountability throughout the entire education system.
*Vocational & Technical Training to serve the needs of students who want to immediately be a productive part of society after school is over.
*Open communication, participation and dialogue through Parent Universities, and the Parent/Teacher Advisory Committee.
*Environments where the considerations of our children are placed first and foremost.
*Multiple opportunities of gainful employment for a diverse population of Peoria citizens. 
I am proud to be a part of this because I know the impact of a good education on crime and violence and overall benefits to and towards the community. Some of the critics say, "well ISAT tests results were lower last year, therefore this District is failing"...Well, it is true that ISAT scores were lower. They were lower for nearly all school districts in Illinois due to the implementation of Common Core, which some teachers spent the whole summer preparing for, but were yet learning on the fly, when school started last year. In fact, in math, one teacher told me that nearly 2 years of learning had to be given to students to bring them up to speed with the CCC (Common Core Curriculum). The Daily reported this of the lower scores for most school sand school districts in Illinois last year:
"The decline is largely due to a change in the way the state board grades standardized tests. The 2013 state report card results released Thursday incorporates the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, and higher performance expectations on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test with different benchmarks to better align with the Prairie State Achievement Exam, given to 11th-graders. 
Also included in the state report card is a new growth metric showing how much progress individual students or schools made from one year to the next." ~ 10/31/2013
It seems that most forget that Dunlap 323 consequently, also failed to meet AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) in test scores as well. Unfortunately, they blamed it on the Special Needs children of their district. By far most of those students were Black. (This is a little something that Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis also seems to have a little memory lapse regarding)

So what is the deal? If information is readily available, why are we at this point. I have claimed racism, and certainly believe that to be part of the case, but I will agree that there is more to it as well.  

This group has recently placed their "Core Values" statement out with the following supposed "values". I will outline the portion of what they say and critically examine each one. My commentary is highlighted and within parenthesis from this point on. 

Core Values Examined:
1- "Culture of collaboration where the school board, administration, teachers, staff, parents, students and community leaders collaborate on issues of importance...more..."
[This value CURRENTLY exists, and is nothing new. As a leader of community organizations, I and others with and without me, have always been able to access this Supt. and School Board for meaningful dialogue. For example, ANY PARENT can be a part of the Parent/Teacher Advisory Committee, which comes together to review, revise and recommend policy for the School Board to undertake as District policy. This group meets every month and Dr. Lathan does not oversee it. 

Then there is Parent University. I was the volunteer Parent Participation Liaison facilitator for 2012-2013 of this group. There were about 10 meetings over the 2012-2013 school year and I was at every one of them, helping parents address issues at their local schools, giving ideas on how to draw other parents into the classroom and schools and overall directing individuals on how to get their needs and the needs of their children met.    

I don't know how anyone else feels, but I DO NOT want any parties simply coming into the District who has no vested interest within the District. I don't want business and business owners with no children in our District and who do not live within the District to simply come in and control what happens in our District and among our children. The district is over 60% Black and poor, but we're not cattle and should not be treated as such.] 
"2- Consistent practices of accountability where rewards and consequences for following district policies and procedures are the same.  Staff needs to clearly understand what the policies and procedures are, well in advance, and should be held accountable for following them.  Correct actions or infractions must be documented and result in consistent rewards and consequences."
[Prior to this administration, THIS was the problem. Any dissatisfaction seems to stems from this...ACCOUNTABILITY. NOW, teachers are not held to be infallible any longer, and the grades that they give have to be reasoned and can be called into question. Then the relationship of Principals to the parent and teachers is somewhat different. Whereas there was a time when Principals were expected to uphold almost all that a teacher did and held to be true without question, now the Principal is a partner with both the parent  and teacher. The distress that the parent faced under the old system, which I suppose this group wants us to revert back to, is no longer there. The parent's voice is important and cannot simply be overlooked.  There is a standard of service that the parent can expect from the teacher and that will be overseen throughout the system. This is a good thing that takes "hopelessness" away from the parent and helps facilitate a partnership in education. 

Then, under previous regimes and normal practices, there was no documentation or "write ups" of employees who failed parents and there was no way to deal with rogue individuals and employees. It seems that day is over within District 150 and those who continue to want privilege of being unaccountable without responsibility are upset. The problem is that if there are teachers who have an issue, they have the protection of a union and a grievance process. Personally I feel that process (the Union process) should be used to approach any teacher dissatisfaction issues with their boss.] 
3- Coalitions with community organizations and groups who care about the education and welfare of all students in our school district.  Partnerships with parents, city leaders, civic organizations and other interested community groups can serve to enrich the educational experiences and opportunities of our students.  
[The school already has business partners who provide resources, donations and help with many things as it pertains to the education of our children, and partnership with community groups and organizations on nearly any given level. As far as I am aware, such relationships have never been prohibited. For example, Dr. Lathan personally asked pastor's groups to get involved in many aspects of the schools, Parent Universities and other processes and operations of District 150. So this suggestion is not a new thing or not anything that is currently not being done. 

However, in essence, this core value, if taken too far, is very similar to #1, and runs amuck of the same things cautioned against previously. Our children and what they have access to is not for a part time salesman who has no stake in the game. How can anyone effectively engage the district by just collecting a check? The School, is a business, but cannot be run like the everyday business. We are talking about people and their lives and highly impressionable children who know and understand when people have a vested interest in them. 

What this group is seeming to suggest, is that the leadership of the District relinquish a certain amount of "control" to community partners, and that is certainly a wrong move. There should be no outside corporate control over our children's education. That is a ridiculous move. In fact, I believe that would even be prohibited by law. The citizens, through the representative board member process, should maintain control over the district, for the benefit and the welfare of our children.]   
"4- Communication involves both listening and dialoguing.  A circle of communication requires all parties to speak and to listen to one another in a way that results in a shared understanding and resolution of issues."
[As I have already established, the Supt., as I have known her, is open to all communication both positive and negative. Then to my knowledge open dialogue, is what Board meeting are for. For the Board to discuss openly the process and policy of the district in an above board and forthright manner. Then what's more, just because someone disagrees with you, or your suggestion is not followed, does not mean that you were not heard or given serious attention or consideration. I have made many arguments and decisions have been contrary to my arguments. I was heard, but simply not agreed with. One cannot root up the whole process, simply because things don;t move when one's mouth is opened. It seems that this group simply wants to redesign the process of board business and policy and or have some sort of special access, kind of like a VIP status. if that is the case, and I don't know that it is, that kind of elitism is exactly why our education processes were lacking prior to this administration.]   
"5- Clarity of issues, whether they are financial in nature, or policy and procedural issues.  In order to build trust, honesty and transparency need to be practiced and apparent to all involved."
[If there is a question, all one has to do is ask. I ask and I receive answers and I know many others who have done the same thing from district 150. On the other hand, from 2 or 3 people, there is quite a controversy over FOIA's. Over the years, every FOIA I have asked for has come in. I have asked others who have FOAI'd the district to make sure they have received answers and there is no problem of which I am aware. They are after all constrained by law on the issue. under this administration, I have not seen anything "hidden" in the details. I said this administration. 

At this point, this seems to be an ultra-critical approach to incite suspicion. With that said, I DO believe that any public organization should be held accountable and simply not taken at first blush. That is a good approach, and I can agree that entities who are to serve in the public interest should be examined and made to make sure that they stay true to that mission.]  
"6- Care and concern for all of the schools, students, staff, and parents in District 150.  Caring for students and staff begins with providing a safe environment for students to learn.  It also involves protecting the reputations of all schools, students, principals, teachers and parents and treating them with respect, dignity, and fairness."
[Once again, this one escapes me and seems to simply feed into stereotypes and fears that have been perpetuated ad nauseam, ad infinitum by this group. First of all, due to the advances and resources and training that this District has spent money on (that the critics do not want them to spend) our children are being educated much better and teachers have many more and modern resources available and at their fingertips to reach our kids with. That is an advent of THIS administration which has worked feverishly to update modern education within Peoria District 150. I know because as a volunteer parent, with absolutely no remuneration, I have been on the front lines of that fight as well. 

Secondly, we all want a safe environment for our students. For some reason, even against clear and cogent instructions on the issue, this group feels that the Supt. took away armed security within the schools. This has has come up from and by members of this group on 3 occasions in which I have listened to them. EACH time, save one, at least one Board member rose to assure that it was not the District who disarmed these officers. It was a court order by the ruling of a judge who did so. In fact, a failed move of the resource officers group is ultimately responsible for this and now we can only wait until it is fixed...

So, in essence, I am wondering exactly what these things mean taken together? There are some good suggestions, but most of the "care values" ascribed here are already implemented by the District.  I know this because for 13 years I and my family have volunteered...EVERY DAY, doing something that betters our child's and children's education at various schools. Ours is not an hour or half hour per week interlude, although any time that a parent could spend in the schools is welcome, of that I am quite sure...We have set forth multiple hours of free time and professional efforts helping improve this district. I have STAKE in the game and I proudly say so. 

Where this group comes from after the fact, I have no clue. I have not seem one of them at any parent meetings or Parent Universities or any other forum pre-Wetterhauer or Charter Oak wanting anything "better" for our district. When our inner city children were facing deficits in technology, bad lunches, and school closings, this group was not there and current individuals promoting it, were absentee on these issues and issues that pertained to the educational advance of our children. 

I am not convinced that this group wants anything other than simple corporate control and influence and power over money, and will suggest and do nearly anything to obtain it. 

I will examine their supposed "core issues" next. Maybe that will help us understand them, and what they actually want, a little better. 

Pastor Harvey Burnett

No comments:

Post a Comment