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Proviso Probe

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

ED, school board meeting website, vision & tutoring [D209]

Monday, February 19, Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) held its monthly meeting of the board of education at Proviso Math and Science Academy.

Scott of Technivista briefed the board and audience on the new website for District 209. When the contract is completed there will be six new websites. I’ll write more on the website later. Feel free to post comments in this discussion.

Scott did tell me that Technivista was not planning on contributing in the school board elections. He did add the caveat that his brother is the owner of the business.

The biggest news Superintendent Stan Fields buried among a bunch of other information. Fields proposed reducing the graduation requirements from 22 to 18.5 credits. He framed it as reducing the electives so students would focus more on the courses that prepared them for standardized tests. After the meeting board member Charles Flowers observed that this is a cost cutting move being packaged as an educational strategy. By having fewer period District 209 will be reducing the total number of classes which will allow the same number of students to be taught by fewer teachers.

Fields also offered a new vision statement for District 209. Fields vision is for the district to be the best in Illinois. For perspective the district currently ranks 90th of 90 districts in the Chicago area in four major categories.

How many ways is Fields vision inappropriate? Let’s start with the obvious. Fields doesn’t define “best”. Best at sports? Which sports? Highest test scores? Most graduates going directly to four-year colleges? High graduation rates? The most money diverted to political bosses? Maybe Proviso Township High Schools are already the best and we just didn’t know the yardstick Fields was using….

Four years ago I ran for school board in Oak Park and River Forest (District 200). Here’s what I listed as my goal for the school in my political literature.
Graduates should say, “My OPRF experience prepared me for adulthood.” We should prepare students to be citizens that take ownership of their communities and take advantage of opportunities to lead fulfilling lives.

Do you see how the goals I had for OPRF are specific enough that they can be used to craft policies? Do you see how Stan Fields’ vision is so vague as to be meaningless for making policies or setting priorities?

Some of Fields suggestions I thought had merit.

Fields wants to push extra-curricular, co-curricular and community service. He expressed a goal of getting all students involved in some activity. This goal seems worth investment of resources.

I also liked the idea of switching to proficiency promotion. However, it’s easy to agree that all students should be required to become proficient before getting promoted. It will be harder to implement the policy.

The teachers that implement the letter of the policy will look like failures compared to teachers who fudge and promote students who aren’t really proficient. If you accept the analysis that a major problem for District 209 is students entering who haven’t attained proficiency in eighth grade what do you want freshman teachers to do? Work intensively with the students who are behind? How much is District 209 willing to reduce class sizes?

Proviso East Principal Milton Patch briefed the board on the results of a test designed by ACT to measure if the eighth graders were on track to succeed on college entrance exams. In all feeder schools the average scores were unsatisfactory in math and science. Four schools were satisfactory in English (is Komarek a District 209 feeder school?) and only Forest Park had a satisfactory average reading score.

Patch listed a couple of plans for students in the lowest quartile. Mandatory summer school is obvious. District 209 also plans to do gender segregated education for students in the lowest quartile. I understand the logic, but I’m curious how it will play out. If segregating by gender improves academic performance why limit it to the lowest quartile?

One of the action items on the agenda was for the board to approve money for tutoring. Board member Charles Flowers asked if the money had been spent and the board was approving expenditures after-the-fact. Fields deferred to a staff member who was in the audience. She assured Flowers that the money hadn’t been spent yet. Flowers explained that the students who were eligible for this tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act had been eligible since the beginning of the school year. The staff member explained this wasn’t a problem because the amount of money only covered 30-45 hours of tutoring and it was in the district’s best interest to have the students get the tutoring before the standardized tests in the Spring.

The staff members attitude pretty much showed the district’s attitude toward the students. Students are like pack animals who have value based on their ability to score well on tests. If I was a student and had 36 hours of tutoring over an academic year I’d probably take twelve hours at the beginning of each semester and six hours at the end of each semester. But due to bureaucratic considerations Proviso East students get their tutoring in one lump in the middle of second semester.

This is the sort of thing that’s annoying about District 209 generally. Fields and others find subtle ways to say the students and parents aren’t pulling their weight, but the superintendent and administrators don’t have the respect for the students and parents to allow them to use the school district as they see fit. Students eligible to tutoring get help when the district administrators get around to processing the paperwork, not when they want or need it.

Thomas Sloan, who I assume is related to Westchester political operative Don Sloan, was hired to be a night custodian at Proviso East for $38,481.04.

There was a debate about firing Marshonna Chambers from the business office in executive session. Chambers got blamed when a student stole some money from the business office. Her supervisors felt Chambers was negligently inattentive. Board members Flowers and Theresa Kelly were skeptical that Chambers was primarily at fault and thought it was at least partially a training and supervision problem. Board member Shirley Madlock was the board member most aggressively pushing to terminate Chambers. But Madlock backed-off somewhat when another board member asked if Madlock’s sister, Tamara Robinson, who works in the business office also, would benefit if Chambers were fired. In open session no board member even made a motion to terminate Chambers.

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12 Comments:

  • Ms. Coffe says: While I applaud Fields' effort to place an emphasis on core subjects, I have to wonder what will happen to all the electives. Will East still have a band to perform at various out of state functions? Will students who need 2 years of a language to get into college have time to get those 2 years? Will auto shop, culinary classes, nurses aide training, computer classes, the Choir Christmas concert be cancelled? How will Fields keep track of community service? I understand Fields also wants to do away with team sports in PE classes and replace it with "wellness" classes. Can you imagine East or West PE classes without basketball?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:28 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • Pamela says: check out the daily southtown newspaper today. Kyle Hastings not only has a full time job at Proviso, but another full time job for the sec. of state and a part time job at a south suburban college, plus he is mayor of Orland Park. How many hours are in the week?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • Komarek children attend Riverside-Brookfield High School not Proviso.

    By Anonymous RB Grad, at 10:35 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • How appropriate that a school that's DEAD LAST, has a fancy website with sound on it that sounds very similar to gunshots.

    By Anonymous Get out of Proviso, at 10:38 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • In the briefing provided last night, Komarek was listed as a feeder school. It was one of the four districts where the average eighth grader was on track in English.

    So, the picture of the feeder schools is even grimmer if Komarek isn't a feeder school.

    And if Komarek is not a feeder school then Stan Fields and his staff look inept for listing it as a feeder school.

    How much can Fields and his team be cooperating with the feeder schools if they don't even know which schools are feeder schools?

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:13 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • Here's the skinny on Komarek from the principal Tom Criscione:

    The majority of our students feed RB. There is a small section of Broadview (called Harvester) (north of 22nd, between 12th and 1st avenues) that feed Proviso East. Some of the blocks in that section feed Lindop Elementary. It ranges from 1-7 8th grade students that qualify to attend PE. This year we have seven, because we have our biggest 8th grade class (61) ever. The Beverly section of Broadview was annexed into RB.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:55 AM, February 20, 2007  

  • Don't like the new proviso website. It seems as if you are visiting an arcade. New site is needed but not at this time when proviso is ranked 90th out of 90. Keep it simple and stop wasting our tax dollars. PRIORITIZE! A website is not helping the kids learn or providing our teachers with the neccessary resources to teach our kids.

    Welch and majority board are LOSERS!

    By Anonymous Prioritize and stop the waste, at 1:04 PM, February 20, 2007  

  • Curious asked:

    Who was the staff member telling Flowers that the tutoring hasn't started yet?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM, February 20, 2007  

  • Interesting that Tommy Sloan, Don Sloan's nephew, was hired full time, prior to the election! Smells like a rat move, since Tommy Sloan has been arrested numerous times for DUI's and cocaine possesion and currently was noted to have an addiction to pain killers and heroin!!! Now that's something really funny, because imagine having a drug addict in our schools as an employee.
    Don Sloan,who is noted to be stealing money from the Westchester-Broadview water agency with his unlimited overtime ,which he spends doing campaing works for Chris Welch,Ron Serpico,Frank Pasqaule and the mayor of Westchester Gattusso, is also involved in supporting Stan Fields, whose claim to fame has been doing nothing and stealing money from the community. Don Sloan and Stan Fields have alot in common, they both take orders from Chris Welch, are certified KKK members, and both are white trash hillbillies who can't afford to go anywhere else!!!
    I feel sorry for Proviso High Schools with these two and there family members working in Proviso!!!

    By Anonymous Sad days in Proviso!, at 6:20 PM, February 20, 2007  

  • Curious, I was across the room from her, but she was blond and looked to be about 30.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 6:39 PM, February 20, 2007  

  • The new website is graphically appealing. But, it is just a show ... just a visual representation. It is all style. What those who are interested in the progress of District 209 are looking for, what they require, is substantive changes in the academic performances of our students. It is not a difficult task for District 209 to spend over one hundred grand on a website with all sorts of bells and whistles. It is a whole other thing to effect significant and meaningful change in the academic standing of our schools.

    Fields seems to make the right superficial moves: initiating community meetings, trimming the budget (mostly on paper), talking about unification of the board, and talking about the integration of the four spheres that are highlighted on the new website. But all of this is window-dressing. All of this merely points in the right direction but certainly doesn't equate to anything significant at this juncture.

    The question I ask is, "Does Fields have what it takes to move this district significantly forward?". Don't let the window-dressing throw you off; we know he can talk that talk but can he walk that walk? Don't let his side-shows deflect your attention from what is actually meaningful.

    By Anonymous Smoke and Mirrors?, at 9:49 AM, February 21, 2007  

  • Stan Fields is trying to do something positive - why can't we just support it? The word "best" is clearly defined by all of the commitments we see listed on the website. Seems to me he is trying to put concrete actions behind the vision and the mission. I believe he wants to see the school and the students succeed. Parents do need to get more involved with the school and the students to make a difference. You can't blame poor success in the district on one person or entity. We all need to look at ourselves, make changes, and stop pointing fingers. Dr. Fields has acknowledged the changes that the school and board need to make and is trying to move things in the right direction. Let's support and not criticize and see what kind of change we can all make together.

    By Anonymous involved parent, at 11:06 AM, March 09, 2007  

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