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Letters to the Editor – June 2010

July 9, 2010

DIRECTION 38! welcomes letters to the editor on topics relevant to this website. Please submit letters to editor@lpd38.org. Letters must come from the original author and are posted with their approval. Authors can request their letter be posted “anonymously” or under a “group name.” As long as the original author can be contacted by the editor for corrections, verification and final approval, the request for anonymity will be respected.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are solely those of the author(s) and DIRECTION 38! is not responsible for content.

NOTE for June Letter: A teacher who heard about the anonymous letters read to D-38 Board members at the May Board of Education meeting, decided to write a letter and asked a member of DIRECTION 38! to send it to the Board on their behalf. Because the May letters were included in the public record and printed in a post here, the author agreed to add their letter for public view.

June 10, 2010

To: District 38 Board of Education

Congratulations! Last week I attended my first BOE meeting in several months and was delighted by the debate and discussion put forward by Board Members concerning the fate of our district’s Nutritional Services. Namely, the decision the board made to wait a year to make any decisions regarding these services. I was thankful for Jeff Ferguson, who suggested that since another year would be spent studying the issue of Nutritional Services, why not let current D38 Nutritional Services Employees “put in a bid.” After all, who understands our children, community, and needs better than current employees? What an idea! I especially appreciated Mark Pfoff’s comment that, “Outsourcing anything, including Nutritional Services and Transportation, would have an effect on our student’s learning. We should not rush to make a decision that will have a definite impact on student learning.” I agree that big decisions regarding staff and their effect on students should not be taken lightly. They certainly should not be rushed. Of course we should take our time to make sure we’ve anticipated all the possible bumps and bruises our decisions will make, as well as to anticipate their possible solutions. Rob Pike also spoke to this last week, but on a different subject. It was during the discussion of the effects of state funding cuts as well as ballot issues that would dramatically cut our funding that Mr. Pike suggested the board anticipate all outcomes and the best solution for each outcome. Kudos to you for thinking ahead and having a plan!

Too bad Mr. Pfoff and Mr. Pike did not demonstrate this restraint last December when it took the board exactly two weeks to decide to change the fundamental structure of the way D38 delivers education to its students. I guess Mr. Pfoff was not aware that fundamental change would in fact impact student learning. Mr. Pike must not have seen the need to anticipate possible problems to this structure and brainstorm their solutions. Instead, he ignored a 20+year successful model of middle school teaching in D38. There are no school districts already modeling a system that pulls several under-capacity elementary schools into one, bursting-at-the-seams “middle school” that then splits into two high schools. In addition, tearing a 6th grade middle school concept out of the middle schools and throwing it into the elementary schools will not be easy. I know we’re looking at another year to talk through the issues of providing some of our students with lunch, but still, two weeks was apparently plenty of time for the board to work through the academic classes, exploratory classes, and extra-curricular opportunities for all our sixth graders, making sure they are just as prepared for 7th grade as they currently are. Thank you, Dr. Ferguson for actually taking the time to listen to the ideas D38 TEACHERS put forth last December. Thank you for suggesting to the other board members that we spend even one more month looking at how to restructure our entire district. Thank you for being the single “NO” vote on Option A.

I couldn’t help but ask myself last week, “Why the change in direction from the board? Why start thinking through decisions now? Could it be due to the absence of School Board President John Mann?” In December I heard John Mann state twice publicly, “I would rather make a bad decision now and give people time to fix it, than make a better decision when it is too late.” To be honest, it was this “direction” that made me lose confidence not only in my employer, but also the district I had entrusted to deliver a stellar education to my three children.

While I’ve had hope in the past that Gail Wilson could be a voice of reason, I lost that hope completely when Mrs. Wilson stated that she could, “care less about the budget.” That may have been said in an attempt to sound noble, but is nothing less than irresponsible. Of course, in these difficult times, budget will drive what we can and cannot do. Mrs. Wilson also asked, “If the budget were to decrease by 10%, would it follow that student learning would also decrease by 10%?” Interesting question, but perhaps a better question would have been, “Since the budget will most likely decrease by another 10%, can we do something better with $175,000 than to buy one school a ‘community park’?”

It is my understanding that Dr. Ferguson will take time to meet with teachers during the next week. I will be one of the teachers to take advantage of Dr. Ferguson’s time. Recently I read a quote from Rob Pike in “Our Community News,” stating that he would be happy to meet with any teacher any time. Another quote by Gail Wilson in the same article stated that she was not aware that any teachers were unhappy. Teachers at Creekside Middle School extended an invitation to all school board members in December to please come and meet with us so that we might express our concerns with Option A. Nobody came! In January and February as we were learning which of our incredible colleagues would not have positions in D38 next year, nobody came. During the entire month of May when we were closing our doors to middle school students, nobody came. At the May Convocation only ONE of you came, but no mention was made of Creekside’s closing. Ignorance IS bliss.

So there it is. I am, in fact, a Creekside teacher. Correction: was. I am very tired; tired of being told to hurry up and get out of my classroom faster; tired of packing in the midst of teaching classes so I can get out of my classroom faster, but having to hide the packed boxes from students; and tired of being supplied with boxes that are too small to fit anything in my classroom. I am tired of hearing that Creekside teachers took their time leaving and that we took furniture that didn’t belong to us. I am tired of hearing that Creekside teachers led the charge at the May 20th board meeting with a flood of anonymous letters of dissatisfaction. Creekside teachers have handled the spring semester with grace, dignity, and professionalism. Unfortunately, you did not bother to come and see it.

Why am I signing this letter anonymously? Flat out, because I do not trust you. You have given me no reason to trust you, but rather a flood of examples why I should not. I have seen very little of your interest in the opinions the teachers have to offer. I have not seen examples of your “accessibility.” And I certainly have not seen reasonable, professional reaction to our concerns nor well-thought-out planning for the district’s future.

D38 Teacher

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