PEORIA -- As usual, the public comments to the Peoria District 150 School Board at its July 26 meeting proved as lively and interesting as the meeting itself.
The board's previous comments last week -- a rather pathetic attempt to intimidate those who comment -- failed to deter the people who care about the school district.
- Sharon Crews offered an eye-opening look at attendance and grade records at Manual High School. Her report will be attached below.
She noted that of 106 recent graduates, one third missed from 20 to 49 full days of school, but 62 percent made A's or B's in their classes. The grades don't reflect the "horrendous attendance records" she said.
"Tell me you are shocked by this data and consider the unfairness to students who deserve high grades," she said. "The bar is way too low."
- Terry Knapp told the board he and others check a box on the sign up sheet to address the board saying they are willing to be contacted by school officials. Neither he nor Crews has ever been contacted. "Crews's research is invaluable," he added.
He questioned the number of bus routes required to bus children to the new charter school, and said he learned from an administrator that the charter school will be paying for the busing.
He also questioned whether the board has violated the Open Meetings Act and Illinois State Board of Education Guidelines in its attempt to discourage the public to speak at meeting. "This board has been unkind to people who speak at the podium," he said, mentioning "condescending" as as one of the board's attitudes toward the speakers.
- Randall Emmert asked the board to consider raises for the three high school cafeteria managers. Their attempt to contact the administration has been ignored, he said.
- Sabena Sierra said "I am a surrogate parent when the mother is sleeping. She works nights," a comment in response to board member Jim Stowell's recent jibe at people who speak to the board who are not parents.
"When you make the wrong decisions we have to give you constructive criticism. We don't get paid for speaking. I like to know what's going on. You should go back to live broadcasts. Don't wait until November."
- General Parker, who is married to board member Rachel Parker also called for live broadcasts to begin again, without censorship of the public comments. "This is still America, we're not in China or Russia."
He noted there was no vote on the decision not to broadcast live, and it was not discussed openly, a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act.
"People say a lot of things about you. It's up to you to prove them right," he said, quoting a minister.
"If you're afraid to hear what is said, you lend credence to what they say," he added.
- Antonio Drummond said he supports District 150, which has helped him. But then "I had my job taken from me here."
Drummond then left the meeting before he could be asked for details about what occurred.
A new agenda item, for response to the public comments, drew a remark from Laura Petelle, who said the decision not to broadcast live was not discussed in the closed meetings she attended.Board president Debbie Wolfmeyer said "it's not a policy so we didn't have to vote on it."
At a special board meeting last week, the board said they might revisit the broadcast policy in November. The Peoria Journal Star then editorialized that the live broadcasts should resume.
Here is an audiotape of the public comments.
A video of the entire meeting will appear on the WMBD-TV website soon.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Sharon Crews's comment:
The District Dashboard shows that the attendance rate at District 150 high schools is generally in the high 80s to mid 90% range. I have no idea how these percentages are computed (I hope you can tell me), but they do not give an honest picture of how often students in District 150 are actually sitting in their classes every hour of every school day.
I wish I had the time and money to FOIA and
compile the records of all the high schools, but, as usual, Manual is my focus.
Remember students miss out on material
covered when they are out of class for any reason (excused or unexcused).
Manual records confirm that many students might be counted as present for the
day, but many of them leave the building later.
Or some go to other places in the building—but not to their classrooms.
These records include only the 106 recent
- 15 grads were absent from 29 to
49 days of the year (that means they missed from 5.8 weeks to 9.8 weeks—or the
equivalent of one grading period or well over).
- 15 grads were absent from 20 to 27 days (or 4
weeks to 5.4 weeks).
The number of individual classes missed is
data rarely reported to you or to the public.
Some class absences are completely within the control of school personnel. Board policy reads, “While it may, occasionally, be necessary for the principal to approve the release of students from regularly scheduled classes to take part in extra curricular activities, this practice is to be held to a minimum.”
Please look at the orange section of
Exhibit B and tell us if this policy has been followed.
- 37 grads missed from 11 to 40 ninety-minute
- One student missed a second-hour class 27 times for school activities.
To get the total picture of how many class periods are missed, look at Exhibit C the third column,
- 106 grads amassed 3,470 individual 90-minute class absences.
- 83 grads missed from 20 to 91 classes.
- Another 16 grads missed from 11 to 19 classes.
Remember each class is 90-minutes, not the 45-minute classes at other schools. Remember these absences are over and above the all day absences.
Twenty two of the grads were tardy (unexcused) to a class from 20 to 66 times. To their credit 15 grads had no unexcused tardies to class.
What penalty did these students pay for these horrendous attendance
records? They graduated—no penalty
Also, please note that their grades do not seem to reflect the low grades that could be expected as a natural result of absenteeism. Last year 62% of the grades earned were A’s or B’s. That percentage does not include the grades for the advisory periods.
The 16 top seniors took dual credit courses from ICC instead of English
7-8. Only 86 grads took English
7-8; 63% of those students received A’s
Please compare those English grades to the ACT reading scores of the individual students. I do not believe you can deny that the grades are inflated. I know how challenging English 7-8 is and/or should be.
Please tell me that you are shocked by this data, but please don’t tell
me that the public doesn’t have the right to an accurate assessment of District
150’s academic standards. Also, consider the unfairness to the students who
actually deserved the high grades.
I say: start with attendance first. Don’t accept the glowing lies about attendance. Go after the truth. Then please demand what these students could do if they knew it was expected of them. The bar is way too low. -30-
7/28/10: Here's an additional comment from Crews.
I have just learned even more about how Manual pads its grades. Unlike
the other high schools, Manual has an advisory period that meets during
the lunch hour--probably no more than 30 minutes and with no board
Students take this "course" (as it was labeled in
the FOIA response to me) 8 semesters as an elective. Credit given for
each semester is .5 which, according to the FOIA, counts in the total
number of credits and is averaged in with the students' grade point
As stated in the FOIA response, students earn 4
credits--that would be 4 of the 18 required credits. The seniors'
grades for this advisory period were predominantly A. -30-