PEORIA, IL -- The public comments never fail to amaze at meetings of the Peoria District 150 School Board. On Nov. 21, the board learned of serious research by board critics Sharon Crews and Terry Knapp into teacher and student turnover in the schools.
Crews presented comments based on months of work, showing Manual Academy/High School has not had a stable faculty since 2007. It lost 164 teachers, which led to vacancies in science. "For three years there were no chemistry or physics teachers," she stated.
This year " there's no Spanish teacher."
She noted that "veteran teachers are the best mentors," but it takes several years for teachers to establish relationships with families and students.
"Manual has been cheated of a stable faculty," she said.
She also found that the dean of students position has been eliminated at all high schools. "Now each school has three or four assistant principals, some of whom are assigned the task of discipline."
During her 36 years at Manual, the teacher turnover "was nothing like the record of the last nine years." She blamed the Johns Hopkins grant of 2008 which required the transfer out of 25 veteran teachers, " which began the exodus.
She also took on another issue, summer school. It's been said that "social/emotional learning, interventionists and technology are more beneficial than summer school. Opinions need to be substantiated with data, please. I compiled data to prove my assumptions that Manual's faculty is not stable."
See her report in full below.
Terry Knapp provided statistics on Quest, the public charter school which uses taxpayer money but has its own board. It now has only 42 students in the 12th grade, though the charter says they will have 75. And there are only 42 junior level students, he found.
What is happening to these lost students? he asked. Are they being transferred out? Where do they go? "This is not a successful school."
Knapp also complained that Quest last year provided data he sought, but this year refused to release the same data. It's not transparent, he said.
Teacher turnover is high at Quest, he said, with only one teacher left from when the school opened six years ago.
He asked why school officials are not doing exit surveys to find out why teachers are leaving. They also should be studying whether students at disrupted schools such as Woodruff High School have graduated, and whether Valeska Hinton students are successful, he said.
A woman also complained that her grandchildren were being bullied in school, but officials refused to transfer them to another school.
Here is a recording of the public comments.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here are the comments of Sharon Crews:
Manual has not had a stable faculty since 2007. In 2008, the Johns Hopkins grant resulted in the transfer of 25 veteran teachers, not including administrators and support staff. Of the 17 teachers who were allowed to stay 5 left after one year and 4 left in two years. For the nine years from 2008 to the present, 120 teachers taught for only one year and 44 taught for only two years. In light of the current shortage of teachers, I would hope that you would try to ascertain why Manual lost these 164 teachers.
The science department lost 36 teachers after one year. For three years there were no chemistry or physics teachers. Thirteen math teachers left after only one year and ten left after only two years. Seventeen English teachers left after only one year and three left after two years. Manual lost three French teachers after one or two years and five Spanish teachers after one or two years. For three years there was no French teacher and this year there is no Spanish teacher. Twenty-one special ed teachers left after one year and eight left after two years.
Twenty-nine teachers left after only three years at Manual. Only thirty-four teachers stayed for four or more years. After I realized that the first FOIA response was incomplete, I asked for and received a repeat response. The names in black were reported on both sets of data. The names in purple or green ink were on only the first set; the names in brown ink were on only the second set. I am baffled at how difficult it is for this district to maintain accurate data, considering the amount of money that has been spent on technology for that purpose.
I found it interesting that twelve job titles for various support staff positions were listed for only one year; another three were listed for two years, and three for three years. Were these jobs created for specific people and how many students benefitted from these short-lived offerings? The number of teachers in a particular department seems to fluctuate considerably. For example, for math the count is 8, 8, 9, 12, 13, 10, 7, 7, 8.
I missed the discussion about one bit of information that surprised me. The position of Dean of Students has been eliminated at all high schools. Now each school has three or four Assistant Principals, some of whom are assigned the task of handling discipline. Please don’t tell me that the title Dean of Students was too intimidating.
During my 36 years at Manual, the turnover of teachers was nothing like the record of the last nine years that started with Johns Hopkins. I hope you all understand that veteran teachers, not administrators, are the best mentors for new teachers, that it takes several years for teachers to hone their academic and classroom management skills, and that teachers who teach for several years build a rapport with families that cannot be achieved in one or two years. Manual has been cheated of the stable faculty that students need. Please do everything in your power to rebuild what has been lost at Manual.
In the October 24 minutes, Dr. Kherat stated that Title I money was used for summer school. Please allow me to clarify that before Dr. Royster no Title I funds were used—summer school was self-funded. Also, Carla Eman stated that social/emotional learning, interventionists, and technology are more beneficial than summer school. Opinions need to be substantiated with data, please. I compiled data to prove my assumptions that Manual’s faculty is not stable.