PEORIA, IL -- The public comments at the Peoria School District 150 Board meeting on May 23 were long delayed, and brief but important.
The delay came from the agenda, which placed the comments after three long presentations on reading, bus schedules and technology. Though sort of interesting, the presentations should have been scheduled after the comments, not before, or held to 10 minutes each.
The three public comments began 90 minutes into the meeting with Sevino Sierra, who continued his complaints about the three minute time limit. Actually three minutes is enough if the speaker is prepared.
Sharon Crews was next, with a statement on textbook losses. She writes her statements to fit the three minute time limit. She said afterward that the board's timer cut off her last paragraph, which had been included to fit the three minutes. Her written comments are posted below.
Finally Jackie Monckton from the district's physical therapy department, told the board of activities with students in Riverfront Park. That's the endangered park whose ambience is threatened by the city's proposed plan to allow a private developer to build private upscale apartments there.
Her important written comments are also posted below, along with a recording of all the comments.
As usual the superintendent and board responded favorably to the public comments, so unlike the previous administration
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here is the comment from Sharon Crews:
Trying to find a solution for collecting for lost books and unpaid fees has plagued the District for years. When I first started teaching, text books were not issued to students who hadn’t paid book fees and fines. I was one of the teachers who complained that students without textbooks was a major problem for teachers and students. That policy ended.
I know only that at Manual collecting for unpaid fees was put off until graduation. On fee day, when issuing the bills to students, I was amazed to see that a significant number of students had accumulated $300 to $400 of debt. Early on students were told they could not go through the graduation ceremony without paying their debts. Then the threat of no diploma was used and failed. Finally, students were told that for eternity they could not request a transcript until their debts were paid.
The board policy that reads, “Students receiving a fee waiver are not exempt from charges for lost and damaged books” has been violated for several years. You should either follow it or change it.
Is what I hear true that, in many cases, students are not allowed to take books home? Surely, that would be a travesty for many reasons—and proof that the almost two million dollars spent on new textbooks in the last four years was too much if only classroom sets are used. In 2014 I presented a FOIA response that proved that unissued books and materials worth $250,000 were stored in the district’s warehouse. I wasn’t told why.
First of all, please get data to prove that replacing lost books is costing much too much. That can only be done if accurate records are kept of how many books are lost and how much each book costs. Also, what is the policy if a student asks for a replacement for a lost book during the year?
The parents, not the students, are responsible for the bills incurred by their children. Perhaps, the district has not let parents know about the seriousness of this problem. If parents knew that they would most certainly be held legally responsible for their children’s lost books, I believe they would find ways to avoid the expense. Most parents have found a way.
The District should expect that and act accordingly. I know I did my part by keeping a list of book numbers issued to each student and doing periodic checks to see if students had their own books. The problem of lost books should be taken very seriously and, as the saying goes, “think out of the box for solutions.” Students should be able to take books home. Please remember that schools must help these young people to be responsible adults, and responsibility can’t be taught by taking away responsibility and consequences. That reality applies to grades, discipline, and lost books.
Here is the comment from Jackie Monckton:
I wanted to address the board about a recent event on the riverfront. It is called Courageous Pacers. Peoria public schools Physical Therapy department developed this program about 9 years ago. It is geared for all kids, disabled and nondisabled kids. All of Kellar, all of Jamieson, classrooms from DC, Manual, RHS, PHS, WW, Lindbergh and TJ participate. It is a great inclusion opportunity. The kids walk 2-3 miles per week and lift water bottle weights throughout the school year. The ending event is a celebration of their walking 100 miles and lifting of 10,000 pounds.
The walk begins at Constitution Park and ends at the Gateway building. The PT dept works on planning this event the entire school year and this year we reached out to the community for donations to support this event. This year, we raised $3,850.00. With this money we were able to purchase a t shirt for every child. All 476 of them! It was our biggest year yet. Every year we have gained more classrooms that want to participate. Maureen Langhoff even pulled her kids out of Charter Oak for the morning to participate.
We have a DJ from Power 92.3 who donates his time, for the third year now. 92.3 even put a video of our kids dancing on their facebook page. We have a bag at the finish line that has a water bottle, donated by Hyvee, Pepsi and Hinckley Schmitt, fruit donated by our own Sodexo. We had a finish line donated by ShaZam racing.
The Gateway and Peoria Park District are gracious with lending us tables and electrical cords. They also make sure the trail and Gateway areas are ready for us. The kids eat their sack lunches there and then we have many movement activities planned like volleyball, bags tournament, kickball, and then also recess games, 8 of them, that kids rotate through to teach them the old recess games that many of you might remember, like mother may I, red rover, etc.
We had a flashmob dance. The whole Occupational Therapy department volunteers with us. We had a grand marshal, Jamieson’s past principal, Karen Orendorff, who wasn’t able to make it due to health issues but RAJs former principal, Jeanette Kosier, led the walk of these 476 kids and their teachers. Many people help to make this event happen.
We always send out invites to the Administration as well as follow the chain of command by sending notices/invites to Chris Coplan about our event, hoping that he will send press releases to the media. Maureen has always been gracious enough to make sure that there are busses available to all of our students. This year I was disappointed to not see a single person from the Admin, Remarkable Times, nor any press.
This is positive press for Peoria Public Schools. We even had PIP printing donate a banner that we hung, thanking all of our sponsors/donors. We reached out to the community to support us and we got a huge response. We too would like to see the rebranding of Peoria Public Schools, but we could have used your help. When we go to ask donors again next year it would have been helpful if they would have seen the hoopla that goes on with this event. Sadly there was none. Not even a picture in the paper.
A mom videotaped her wheelchair bound daughter walk the end of this event in her gait trainer. It was very emotional to watch this amazing young lady fron RHS complete this walk with everyone cheering for her. She was so excited and then when she finished she was crying from the sheer excitement and emotional toll she experienced. It was one of the most amazing days of her life! There wasn’t a dry eye around. Her mom posted a video on Facebook and Youtube. On Facebook it had over 3,000 views in 2 days. What a story it was.
Too bad Peoria Public schools didn’t see it. Next year I am hoping you do. Please come down to the riverfront. I would love to give you all the link to Youtube to see Lacy walk over the finish line. I hope you come down next year and cheer for all the kids, or walk with them. In fact, maybe form a team yourselves and walk 100 miles through the year. In any case help support our event and our sponsors who donated so graciously.
Jackie Monckton, PTA, Physical Therapist Assistant,Peoria Public Schools
Here is a recording of the comments:
5/24/16 :Sharon Crews asked me to post this comment:
At last night’s board meeting, I did accuse the bell ringer of cutting my comment time short. Therefore, I wrote this today to board members: I will apologize in an e-mail and on Facebook and on Peoria Story.com rather than taking up some of my three minutes at the next board meeting. LOL Feel free to read my apology at the next meeting. I just timed my last night’s comments and finished with 11 seconds to spare. However, I timed my actual presentation taken from PeoriaStory and the three minutes were up at the same time your bell rang. I wish (not just for me but others) you would set the timer for 3 ½ minutes—just to err on the side of kindness. I do make every effort to be sure that I stay within the 3-minute time limit.= 30 -