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.
Labels: Charles Flowers, District 209, Marshonna Chambers, Milton Patch, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Shirlely Madlock, Stan Fields, Technivista, Thomas Sloan, tutoring, vision statement