PEORIA, IL – Here’s a weird scandal/mixup, involving Peoria School District 150.
Parents and children who thought they were going to Washingon Gifted Middle School were send scrambling when the letters didn’t arrive, or went to the wrong parents.
One of the would-be Washington parents wrote the following account of what happened She asked that her name be withheld, for fear of retaliation. As she tried to find out what was going on, she was lied to and treated disrespectfully, she says.
Her conclusion: “Policies and procedures have been neglected throughout this whole process and someone should be held accountable. From no review or verification of data, to mailing private information regarding minors to unauthorized persons, to failing to ask for ID for personal information regarding a minor, this has been a procedural breakdown and nightmare.”
She had learned that other parents at some top primary schools, Charter Oak, Northmore, and Thomas Jefferson, also never received any letters. Other schools may have been affected but she never heard about them.
Here’s what she did find out: The initial letter was received by most parents on Thursday, May 15. The second letters were received Monday, May 19. According to her, what follows is the breakdown of the mistakes and errors that occurred from the first, erroneous mailing.
When she heard letters had gone out to some parents, she dropped by the administration building on May 16 to request a copy of her missing letter. “I met another parent there who also did not receive a first letter. The secretary called someone and then told us we had to have called ahead to schedule an appointment so the letter could be printed and waiting for us. I informed her that I did call...five times to be exact with five voicemail messages, but no one bothered to call me back.”
(My take: they’re not listening to their voice mail? Who knew!)
She continued: “The receptionist then called someone else out to deal with us.” She never introduced herself. “I don't know who she was. She was from a different department. She said that the entire Curriculum Department was gone all day for a training (session) and no one left at admin building knew how to access the letters. She said to call on Monday.”
However, “my husband had called that morning and was told by Daphne Dixon that Shameika Sykes-Patterson and Nichole Burrell were out of the building until noon. That is why I showed up a little before 1 o'clock.”
(Hummm…check those P-cards/aka credit cards, for nice lunches somewhere.)
The receptionist “also said that with proper ID, any parent would be able to obtain the requested information. We told the woman to find someone higher up who could help us. She sent out Tim Delinski, who was gunning for bear the moment he walked through the door.”
(Oops did he have to leave lunch early to cover for the others?)
“He announced his name and title and told us under no circumstances would we be leaving with a letter that day. Neither he nor anyone left in the building could or would access the requested information. He was rude, condescending, and argumentative.
“I was expecting, foolishly, some level of deference, accommodation, and an apology for apparently mailing my son's information to a stranger who had no right to have it.”
“I explained that what they did, inadvertently or not, was illegal. He didn't seem to care much. The other mom I was with suggested he contact someone from the Curriculum Dept. and ask them to either come back to admin to address this situation or tell him over the phone how to access and print off a couple of letters.
“She also suggested that he contact Washington Principal Poehls, because he would have a copy of the list of children who were accepted. He left to go do one of those, we still don't know which but I'm guessing he contacted Washington School.
“On his way out, I expressed my dismay that we were never offered an apology for their colossal error. Delinski came storming back at me and we had another verbal altercation. Funny...wasn't this the same man who has been on the Respect and Accountability Tour with Supt. Grenita Lathan on all the networks and radio shows? Where was the respect and accountability during this fiasco?
“After about 35 minutes he finally returned and gave us verbal confirmation of our children's acceptance and then slammed the door behind him and left. Real peach of a guy!
There’s more. According to what the mom learned, “most parents received letters that were addressed to children other than their own, but had their correct mailing address. Some of those letters were opened. The ones that were had information pertaining to a child other than their own, although a few letters had the name of a different child, yet the correct birthday for their child.
“Many parents had someone else receive their child's letter. To this day, I don't know who received my son's letter, and administration has refused to track down this information for me. I wanted to know if the letter had been returned to admin, and they would not tell me.
“My main issue is the legality of having my son's personal, private information sent to an unauthorized person. This would have included his name, birthdate, test scores and IQ scores. I was told by Nichole Burrell that it didn't matter if someone else received my son's letter because all of the information was incorrect.
(Hello identity theft in a few years.)
“She said the first round of letters had random data assigned, so none of the information would have been accurate anyway.”
(Really? This is nuts!)
“I checked with two parents who received both letters. And although there were clearly errors in the data, not all of the data was incorrect as Nichole would have had me believe. I assume she was instructed to tell worried parents this lie so that the legality issue could be contained. But it just isn't true. Also, she told me it was a spreadsheet error, while another parent was told it was a mail merge error. Apparently they had never used mail merge before and no one really knew what they were doing. This was according to Sykes-Patterson.
“The mistakes that the first letters contained included: wrong addressee, wrong birth dates, wrong test scores (CogAT & NWEA), and missing information (the Gifted Characteristic Checklist box was left off of 2 letters entirely. This is the same as the Teacher Referral score).
“One parent whose letter was missing the Gifted Characteristic Checklist box was told by Shameika Sykes-Patterson that they 'forgot' to factor that information into her child's overall score. That criteria alone is worth a total of 10 possible points and could very well change the final list of accepted children. Her child was denied acceptance. To date, she still doesn't know if her child is accepted or not with the corrected data.
“Some children were denied acceptance in their first letter, yet accepted in the second letter.
“I know of two instances, two at Charter Oak and one at Thomas Jefferson, where children were accepted in the first letter and then denied acceptance either in the follow-up letter or via a phone call from admin.
“When parents explained how reprehensible this was to do to a child and wanted to know if they would honor the initial acceptance, admin told them 'no'. A Charter Oak parent had a meeting with Shameika Sykes-Patterson and Dr. LaToy Kennedy last week regarding the flip-flopping of acceptance. She was met with rudeness by Dr. Kennedy and NEVER received so much as an apology for this colossal error.”
(Maybe they were late for lunch on the P-card.)
“She was told that her child's, plus two other children's data had ended up on one letter. When she was in the room alone with Sykes-Patterson, she was told that her child would definitely get in because she was number 76 on the overall list, meaning number one on the waiting list.
“When Kennedy came into the room and the parent asked for verification of this, Kennedy told her that her child was number 80 on the list, or number 5 on the wait list. She would offer no explanation for the discrepancy.
“This parent is (sending) her child to Quest next year, to follow a sibling.
“The bottom line is that parents are still not satisfied that the data they received in the second mailing was accurate. I know that my son's average NWEA scores are unable to be duplicated in my records, even though I have access to his last three test scores, which is what they use to come up with a score. Other parents have said the same thing.
(Good thing these high priced administrators are not taking the tests students take, or they would cause the entire D150 to fail, not just most of it.)
“Also, the parent of the child whose Gifted Characteristics Checklist was not factored in to the overall score has yet to find out if that omission kept her from a well-earned spot at Washington. If she ends up being accepted, doesn't that mean another child would have to be bumped off the list again? When?
“Here is the wording of the second letter that parents received. NO apology or accountability AT ALL. Written completely in the passive voice:
"Your child was recently reviewed for Gifted and Talented Services. It has been determined that you may have received an incorrect student letter concerning these results in our recent mailing on May 15, 2014. In this error, the incorrect student letter was mailed to your current home address.
Please find in this mailing the correct letter as well as your student's results from our recent identification process. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at the information listed below.
Office of Student Assignment"
“The other bit of information comes from the PSD150 website. Under Curriculum & Instruction-Gifted Education-Referral/Application Process for Washington Gifted-Overview of Selection Process, it states under Number 6:
A list of the ranked students is generated and reviewed by the Data and Research Department and the Office of Student Assignment to verify accuracy of calculations.
“Did review and verification not occur in EITHER department? If it had, surely someone would have noticed that the scores, birth dates, names and addresses were all screwed up!"
“Additionally, I know of one parent who returned her incorrect first letter to admin and picked up her child's letter. They never asked for ID. When the other parent and I visited admin and finally got verbal verification from Delinski that our children were accepted, we did not have to show ID or prove who we were.
“Policies and procedures have been neglected throughout this whole process and someone should be held accountable. From no review or verification of data, to mailing private information regarding minors to unauthorized persons, to failing to ask for ID for personal information regarding a minor, this has been a procedural breakdown and nightmare.”
My take: is this a plot to get rid of Washington Gifted School? Charter Oak has been taken down, so maybe Washingon is next.