PEORIA -- Peoria School District 150 teachers have evaluated Supt. Grenita Lathan, and will be releasing the evaluation to the School Board and to Lathan, teachers union president Bob Darling said at the May 14 board meeting.
The evaluation will not be made public, Darling said, since it involves personnel.
He spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. A recording of the public comments can be accessed here.
Darling addressed board president Linda Butler by name, saying: "I'm not sure you can objectively evaluate" Lathan. "You're close friends. You should be representing the community."
The teachers union grievance chairman Brian Devine said there are fourteen grievances pending, mostly concerning teacher evaluations. There was one at this time last year, he said.
A number of tenured teachers were notified recently they won't be rehired after receiving poor evaluations, prompting state legislators at a Town Hall meeting on May 7 to admonish District 150 and say the new evaluation tools should not be used to punish teachers.
Darling said Lathan will be given a chance to remediate her performance if it is poor, and also can work with a mentor, steps apparently denied the fired teachers.
Activist Terry Knapp referred the board to an article in the Los Angeles Times about Lathan's former mentor and boss Terry Grier, with whom she worked in North Carolina and San Diego, Calif. He introduced a controversial 'value added evaluation' system but left after controversies over that and management issues.
Knapp has said Lathan is following the steps of Grier in her management of District 150.
Activist Sharon Crews reported on small class sizes at Trewyn School, and said they are much smaller than other schools in an apparent attempt to make the school "look good on resumes."
"Others are set up for failure," she said.
Her comments are posted below.
The public comments lasted a half hour while middle school math students waited to be recognized, prompting a critical comment from Scott Donahue, who said they should have been placed on the agenda before the comments.
He also questioned why some teachers were required to attend a meeting from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. on the last day of school, when they should be tending to other tasks. He asked that the date be changed.
He also suggested that the board could save $46,000 a year if administrators were substitute teachers one day each week, using time they otherwise devote to "walk throughs." Thirteen administrators are qualified to substitute, he said. "Think about it."
After the public comments a technology staff member presented several alternatives to getting board meetings back on live cable TV or the web. He didn't have all the costs, and was told to come back with more information. The meetings have been off the air for two years.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here are the comments of Sharon Crews:
"Maybe the class size data that surprised me is no surprise to board members. More than likely, it will be a surprise to some District 150 teachers.
According to October data, Trewyn’s largest class size is 22 and the lowest is 12 with one class of 22, four of 21, four of 20, one of 18, seven of 17, two of 16, one of 15, one of 14, two of 13, and one of 12.
No one can honestly compare these class sizes with those at other schools and not draw the conclusion that these small class sizes were by design. In fact, if Trewyn had only two classes, instead of three classes for its 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th grades, class sizes would still be below the policy guidelines set for each grade level. I find that to be startling information.
Trewyn has been selected for innovations that look good on resumes--such as the IB program to enhance academics and Carl Canon’s Elite team to improve discipline. Class size data seems to indicate that the planners of these initiatives believe that small class sizes are necessary to achieve the goals set for Trewyn. Conversely, class size data indicates that the other primary and middle schools are being set up for failure.
Perhaps I didn’t listen carefully enough because I didn’t hear class size mentioned as one of the Trewyn innovations. Research does indicate that class size is probably one of the most important indicators of success or failure, especially in inner city schools.
These small class sizes undoubtedly should have a profound impact on discipline and on teacher morale. These two by-products of small classes are bound to be important factors in any academic success enjoyed by Trewyn this year.
These class sizes are for only academic subjects such as reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies.
In February, when I provided this data for only kindergarten and 1st grade, Dr. Lathan contradicted me by stating that the students do not actually meet as a whole class—that they are divided into smaller groups. However, I believe that even at the primary level, each class meets as a whole during most of the day, especially for the academic subjects.
The spreadsheets I gave you include data from Trewyn, Whittier, Roosevelt, Glen Oak, Harrison, Calvin Coolidge, Lincoln, Lindbergh, Rolling Acres, Von Steuben, Roosevelt, Glen Oak, and Washington Gifted.
Since I already reported on the kindergarten and 1st grade classes, I won’t repeat that data. Trewyn’s second grade class sizes are 20, 18, 17—all below the guideline of below 26. Trewyn’s third grade class sizes are 17, 16, 16—all well below 26. All of the third grade class sizes at the other schools are larger than those at Trewyn. Trewyn’s fourth grade class sizes are 21, 21, and 20—all below 26. The sizes of only four classes at the other four schools fall below those at Trewyn’s.
Trewyn’s fifth grade class sizes are 17, 17, and 15—all considerably smaller than the guideline of below 29. If there were only two fifth grade classes, the class average would be 24.5, which is still 3 to 4 below the guidelines.
Trewyn’s sixth grade class sizes are 22, 21, 20—all well below 29. Trewyn’s seventh grade class sizes are 17, 15, 13—all below 29. If there were only two seventh grade classes, the class average would be 22.5, which is still 5 to 6 below the guideline.
The seventh class sizes at the other eight schools are all larger than those at Trewyn, with the exception of one class of 17. Their class sizes include one class of 30, and one of 28, and three social studies classes of 30, 28, and 27.
Trewyn’s eighth grade class sizes are 17, 17, 13—all well below 29. Eighth grades at the other schools include one class of 32 and two of 30.
If any glowing reports of success at Trewyn are presented, I trust that class size will be at the top of the list of probable causes. And next year, I think Trewyn’s advantages should be spread to the other schools—which would mean an increase in teachers.
Hopefully, 150 is done buying expensive programs and can concentrate on class size."