PEORIA, IL -- The public comments to the Peoria District 150 School Board at its April 27 meeting ranged from criticism to lobbying.
They came after an hour of student awards and presentations, something that should be relegated to student awards assemblies, not a school board meeting.
People in the audience cheered their schools, as if at a pep rally. Weird.
Highlights of the public comments, and here is the recording:
Terry Knapp: The annual Look! It's My Book charity dinner had the talented Lee Wenger as its MC. Knapp asked again that the ban against Wenger from attending school functions be lifted.
Wenger got into a dispute with a student involved in a musical production. The board attorney later said that Wenger had not requested that the ban be lifted.
Sharon Crews: "You are making a mockery of the expulsion policy," she said, using district statistics to show that most students are not expelled for bad behavior but instead serve a form of probation. See her report below, to be posted later.
Board members later said students deserve a second chance, and should not lose a whole year for one instance of bad behavior.
Jan Deissler: She pointed out the value of Look! It's My Book, to the district. It has distributed 120,000 free books worth $750,000 to students in all 14 elementary schools. No administrators or other school personnel attended the group's annual dinner, and neither did elected officials.
Board members later said they didn't get invitations to the event, though it was open to the public and an article appeared in the Peoria Journal Star about it.
Jeff Atkins-Dutro: The president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers said decisions on what to cut were being made without input from stakeholders such as principals. Board members denied that.
He called for objective analysis of programs to determine what should go.
Carl Cannon: With his Elite program on the chopping block, he said outside funding may save it and asked to meet with school officials. Two parents of students in his program praised it. One said it turned his step son around from depression and even talk of suicide to self discipline and enthusiasm for school.
A man involved with Head Start praised Supt. Grenita Lathan in a haltingly read statement that he likely didn't write himself.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here are the comments from Sharon Crews:
Suspensions and expulsions are probably not the best consequences for bad behavior; however, incentives for good behavior cannot replace consequences for bad behavior. Parents do not discipline with rewards and incentives only. Schools can’t either.
You have made a mockery of the expulsion policy. Traditionally, an expelled student lost enough school to be held back a semester or a year. High school students had to make up work in night or summer school—those meaningful consequences are gone. Without summer school, expulsion is not a viable solution. Your unreported solution is to eliminate most expulsions. Compass Learning is not a solution.
Last year, we were led to believe that 203 were expelled.
Seventy-five of the 203 received consequences labeled as Expulsion. However, 34 of the 75 were placed at the Safe School, so they were not expelled. Twenty-three of the 34 passed to the next grade. Amazingly, eight, who were actually expelled for five to ten months, passed to the next grade any way. A 7th grader was expelled for seven months for sexual physical misconduct but won the Quest lottery and advanced to 8th grade anyway. Ten students were expelled only for the summer from June to August. Absurd!
One hundred and twenty-eight of the 203 expulsions were labeled as Expulsion Abeyance. Several years ago Cindy Fisher obtained a grant to pay for drug-alcohol screening for students expelled for those specific reasons, and their expulsion was essentially a probation period.
The grant ended, but the program has expanded to include students expelled for almost any reasons. What we are told is expulsion is really probation. Last year probations were revoked at only seven out of eighteen board meetings.
It’s no wonder that behaviors haven’t changed, considering that most of the 128 Expulsions in Abeyance received absolutely no consequences for their behaviors. Five went to the Safe School. Sixty-seven of those who stayed in school passed on to the next grade—that’s a total of 104 who advanced a grade.
For the 203 who were expelled, there was no information provided as to where 69 of the students are this year.
Problems must be removed from the classroom before they escalate, and consequences must encourage students to change their behaviors before returning to class. If these students lose nothing, they learn nothing. Some came out ahead—passed without being in school. Now you can start telling your version of this data. At least, it isn’t a secret any more. These issues need your immediate attention. -30-