PEORIA, IL -- Many of the people commenting to the Peoria District 150 School Board on July 21 urged the board not to cut back the time allowed for public comments, from five minutes to three minutes.
An agenda item at the end of what appeared to be a long meeting would cut back the time alloted for public comments to three minutes.
Commenters also expressed outrage about the Charter Oak situation, the attacks on the speakers at the board's June meeting, and some said Supt. Grenita Lathan did not deserve a 2 percent raise, also on the agenda.
The new board president, Debbie Wolfmeyer, began by saying no one on the board or administration would interrupt the speakers or debate them -- a big change from the June meeting when some speakers were attached by board members, the superintendent and her staff in the audience.
The first speaker, Lyle Applegate, a retired teacher, talked about disrespect to the public comment speakers. "Ripping away a beloved principal, closing neighborhood schools, beating down the teachers," not even paying attention to the comments, were some of her objections.
Here the recorder's batteries failed, just as I was called to speak. I thanked the board for standardizing the time and place of meetings, and asked them to do away with the sign-in cards, that must be turned in before the meeting begins. Some people might be late, and their free speech is therefore limited, I said.
People could just give a name and address from the podium, I said, if they missed filling out a card.
I also urged the board to adopt a new reproductive health curriculum, as presented before the public comments began.
Peoria has very high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in its school populations, which apparently need better reproductive health teaching, including contraceptives, according to the presentation by health experts.
One troubling issue: involvement of the churches, and the anti-choice Women's Pregnancy Center. Students also need fact and science-based teaching on abortion rights.
Here is a recording of the rest of the comments, starting with Phil Romano:
Romano called for support of a bill to be introduced in the General Assembly that would restore armed school resource officers.
He also said discipline needs to be addressed, and technology. The board has allowed the wasting of money on legal fees to oust the Charter Oak principal and to buy food for administrators, enough to instead purchase a laptop for every child, he said.
Sharon Crews' comments will be posted below in written form. She attacked the numbers involved in the Charter Oak investigation.
Terry Knapp objected to Lathan's proposed 2 percent raise, of $4,500, and 3 percent for secretaries in her office, when other secretaries get 1/2 percent.
In addition, 16 families are leaving District 150 because of the Charter Oak debacle, he said.
Dan Adler, Change 150's choice for the vacant board seat, urged the board not to limit comments to only three minutes. It doesn't "set the right tone," he said.
Sevino Sierra detailed repairs that need to be made at Trewyn, and called for Lathan to resign.
Kathleen Diefenbach attacked the Charter Oak situation, and the way Crews was treated at the June meeting. She and Sierra should receive apologies, she said.
Dan Dugal of Change 150 urged the board to select Dan Adler for the vacant board seat.
Jeff Dutro Atkins said that instead of limiting speech the board should open other ways for the public to comment and get involved.
Cheryl Budzinski, president of the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters, said the three minute time limit is OK, and board members can be emailed with more detailed information. But she added "its wonderful" that citizens are engaged enough to come to the meetings and want to speak.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Comments of Sharon Crews:
No teacher should ever again be put in harm’s way just for administering a test, especially to students with special needs. Let those on Wisconsin Avenue put themselves in harm’s way the next time. The students and the teachers in the room at the time are the only ones who know whether or not any testing irregularities of any magnitude at all actually occurred.
Reportedly, 21 or 26 fifth grade tests were the main focus of the investigation. Were we to assume that those fifth graders had been in third or fourth grade at Charter Oak? FOIA data shows otherwise. In 2010 ten out of twelve were from Charter Oak, in 2011--7 of 8, in 2012--15 of 21, and in 2013--12 of 13.
No data shows that as many as 21 Charter Oak students took the fifth grade ISAT test at Mark Bills in any of the last four years. Of the 21 in 2012 two were from Woodrow Wilson, two from Glen Oak, one from Hines, and one from Irving. Why were we led to believe that all 21 test takers had gone to Charter Oak? Please explain this deception.
What is truly astounding is that the investigators interviewed only four students. The fate of a principal and two to four teachers hung in the balances on the word of four children, who were asked in 2014 about what happened at least two years earlier. Obviously, the accusers don’t know much about children’s memories. Moreover, we don’t know what leading questions were asked by the lawyers paid for by a District with a desired outcome in mind.
Principal Wetterauer was punished by putting him on special assignment for the rest of the year. There seems to be no doubt that at the end of the year he would have been dismissed. The investigation claimed that he provided only 30 minutes of the required 45 minutes to prepare teachers to administer the test. Even if (Big “If”) this “oversight” is worthy of some sort of disciplinary action, how can any board member justify ending Wetteraurer’s career for a 15-minute shortfall?
Secondly, Wetterauer was accused of not comparing ISAT scores with MAP test results. The investigators assumed that there should be a correlation between the ISAT and MAP test results because “The developers of the MAP test have reviewed nearly 85,000 student scores in Illinois and found that the MAP scores accurately predict success on the ISAT at least 80% of the time.”
And we are expected to accept a principal’s demotion and probable firing on the basis of a test publisher’s hype used to entice school districts to buy its product. An investigation of research irregularities of that publisher’s study would certainly be interesting. Also, remember no test irregularities were found for the 400 or more regular division Charter Oak students.
Also, Lathan and/or board members have expressed the expectation that Wetterauer should have noticed that Charter Oak third or fourth graders scored higher on ISAT scores that they did as Mark Bills fifth graders. Hogwash!
The irony and horror of this situation is that John Wetterauer’s career was ended even though District 150 was not able to explain what John did to cause Charter Oak students to score better on the ISAT tests than the District expected. I will never understand how all of you let anything so despicable happen.
In a letter to parents Tim Delinski defended the investigation of Charter Oak test irregularities by stating that “when you have students who we know can’t read dolch sight words” you know there is something wrong if they meet or exceed ISAT standards.
I requested the Dolch test results for the group of students to which Delinski refers. This FOIA response gives us a clue as to how District 150 can manufacture data. The response states “His comment was intended as an analogy and was not literally based on specific Dolch test results.” When you are destroying people’s lives, don’t talk off the top of your heads. Misleading, irrelevant, and redacted data give credence to a witchhunt. How did you allow all of this to happen?
What’s up with the new admin security spy system—when was that bid and/or voted on?