PEORIA -- I was unable to attend the Peoria District 150 School Board meeting on July 9, but Sharon Crews was there. Here are her comments:
"As you plan for the new school year, I hope you will do everything in your power to make decisions that will not only encourage parents to keep their children in District 150 but also entice other families to come into or return to 150 schools. I am sorry that wasn’t done before the decisions were made to close so many schools.
I believe that, in preparation for such efforts, plans should be made to return all elementary schools to K-8 schools. The current configuration of schools forces parents to make a decision at the end of 4th grade—stay in 150 or leave. I believe if you did a 20-year study of District 150 schools, you would find that it is at that point—middle school—that parents make the decision to get out of Dodge.
For example, I believe that many parents remain satisfied with Whittier Primary School. If Whittier were returned to a K-8 school, I think you would find that many parents would not want to remove their children from that environment and to take them away from their friends. However, I believe your study will find that a significant number of students leave Whittier when their parents are forced to make a decision.
Before parents can be convinced to remain in District 150 for the middle school and high school years, the problems about which you are tired of hearing must be addressed.
Discipline remains a serious problem. Mr. Cloyd, I know that you caught on to the seriousness of that problem, but since then you seem to have backed away from it. The problem is still there; turning your back on it doesn’t change anything.
I do not lack compassion for troubled young people, but they cannot be allowed to continue to destroy the educational opportunities for so many other children and to destroy District 150—but that is the case. The damage has been done—you have to put new life into the system.
Your attendance policy and non-exiting tardy policy are not working. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn when students are not present. Please don’t give us figures that say attendance is 90%--we all know that there are few schools or classrooms with a 90% attendance rate.
Also, for all the reasons I have mentioned before, high school summer school should be returned.
Much money was spent last year on new programs and new textbooks. Please put a moratorium on more new programs, etc., until you find a way to assess honestly the effectiveness of the programs you have bought.
This year please see to it that teachers are given the proper and extensive training and most of all, the time, to make these programs effective—perhaps without help from North Carolina. As part of the evaluation process of these programs, please listen to teachers.
Dr. Lathan, I think I must address your comment at the June 18 meeting about your desire that we look past your race to work with you. I am having trouble with your mindset on some issues and with your management style, but I sincerely have no trouble with your race or you personally—most of us only see your superintendent persona; we don’t know you.
If there are racial issues that need to be addressed in District 150, I would hope that you would be able to present them openly to allow honest feedback in order to achieve harmony in this District—and I truly do not believe that race is the barrier. I certainly don’t want to believe that.
The board has made it clear that you are their choice to lead District 150 for the next 4 years. Everyone has to give 100%--meeting people half way isn’t a workable solution. As the leader, you may have to go first and no one should or can look past you.
For those of us who have served our time as part of the system, you may have to put up with our comments from the sidelines. I sincerely hope you can look past our status as on-lookers to realize that we have had experiences in this District that give us insight and that we care about the future of District 150, in particular, and in public schools, in general. Right now the future looks bleak from where I’m standing."
-- Sharon Crews
7/13/12: Ed Dentino commented via email:
"Just read the comments Sharon Crews made for the District 150 meeting. Absolutely clear and on the mark. Could not have found a better statement of what this district and probably most of the other school districts in the nation are facing. Inner city schools are dealing with essentially the same social/economic makeup, economic issues, and problems with administration, staff, parents, and staff. Sharon's views should be seen on a national level. "