PEORIA -- Sixteen people spoke to the Peoria District 150 School Board on March 26, with most asking the board not to oust four experienced and well liked school leaders. The meeting agenda asked for their dismissals or reassignment to classrooms.
But only two board members, Lynn Costic and Martha Ross responded to the pleas, saying they would not support ousting them.
The others, as well as Supt. Grenita Lathan, defended the ousters, saying "it's all about the children," and "change is hard," or similar cliches.
The newest board member, Caterpillar executive Rick Cloyd, compared their ousters with a "business turnaround situation," which is "not easy." As if a school setting is somehow like a widget factory.
Laura Petelle defended Lathan. She said the four, all with only brief tenure in their present jobs, didn't meet goals they established for themselves, but "were given opportunities to remediate." Privacy issues would not allow more information to be made public, she said.
Debbie Wolfmeyer said "no one likes change," and "we need accountability. We're asking people to move out of their comfort zone."
Costic criticized Lathan for earlier saying District 150 is "dysfunctional."
"It's an insult," she said, adding "I do not believe changes should be made that are the result of retaliation or personal preferences. This district needs administrators who have great relationships with parents and children. This isn't change for improvement." She got a standing ovation from the large audience.
Ross said, "In this case I don't think change is necessary. We just can't throw everybody away."
The public comments, limited to two minutes each, were at last moved to the beginning of the meeting instead of the end. But some speakers were upset that the time limit was so short.
There was another improvement: a microphone system in the gym where the meeting was held at Charter Oak School.
I don't know these school leaders, but others speak very highly about their dedication. On the face of it, they likely have not had enough time in their roles to make any difference in school test scores at these high poverty schools.
In her response, Lathan said District 150 was in danger of being taken over by the state because of federal No Child Left Behind requirements, namely schools on the watch list with low test scores. "We have to do what is best for the children," she said.
But there is no proof anywhere that revolving doors for school leaders will ever improve test scores, and the instability is likely to have the opposite effect. And test scores certainly are not the measure of a person's education or potential.
A leading educator, Diane Ravitch, speaks March 27 at Illinois State University in Bloomington/Normal. See the post below for more information, and for a brief interview that played on the NPR station there.
UPDATE 3/28/12 Here's a link to Ravitch's talk at ISU.
As I told the board when I alerted them to her talk, Ravitch likely would be appalled to see what's going on District 150: neighborhood schools closed and sold for below their worth, children, teachers and principals constantly uprooted and classes overcrowded.
The recorded public comments are posted here.
And the responses from Lathan and board members are posted here. (Lathan's comment begins after started speaking.)
Here's the PJS story on the meeting.
-- Elaine Hopkins
3/29/12: Here's an emailed comment from Ed Dentino, with which I totally agree.
Debbie Wolfmeyer said "no one likes change," and "we need accountability. We're asking people to move out of their comfort zone." What comfort zone did Superintendent Lathan move out of bringing her old town cronies to Peoria to firewall her administration at Peoria's expense?