Sunday, June 8, 2008

District 150: Scorched Earth?

Last Monday I participated in the planned protest outside the District 150 Admin office prior to the Board of Education meeting. Our goal: a full rescission of the May 5 vote that shortened our primary school day by 45 minutes as well as reduced the specialist instruction of science, music, art and PE for most Peoria children.

The evening was electric as nearly 100 parents, teachers and children donned signs, matching tee-shirts and not so subtle messages to the District. Protesters lined both sides of Wisconsin Avenue and cheered with delight as passing cars lay ed on their horns in support of the crowd. Thank you to HOI News and Peoria Illinoisan for this video clip.

After the protest, the festivities moved indoors to the Board of Education meeting, where Mr. Ken Hinton and Mary Spangler continued to speak in Slavakian. On one hand they claim they are listening and our agenda is being "further reviewed". On the other hand they continue the filibuster by insisting over and over that Peoria will pump out multiple Einsteins if only the parents would back off. What particularly cracks me up is that the decision to rescind is taking weeks if not months of in depth analysis while it took them less than a week to vote it in in the first place. Not sure to whom we should attribute this sudden embracing of "due diligence".

There were several notable moments throughout the evening, including when Mr. Hinton informed the crowd that he would not be threatened or intimidated - the implication being that, as opposed to taking a stand and exercising our constitutional right to protest a decision that would clearly deliver harmful consequences to the children of Peoria, we are threatening and intimidating him. Mr. Hinton, once again, this is not about you! Another notable moment was when the husband of a board member took to the podium and reminded several of the board members of their vow to stand on their own two feet and make decisions independent of one another. A gutsy move and very much appreciated by the audience - I just hope he isn't still sleeping on the couch. Many others addressed the Board delivering the most compelling arguments to date, including the President of the NAACP, Mr. Don Jackson, and Linda Millen, an early childhood educator and administrator.

All in all, I felt very good about the powerful statement delivered by the community to the board of education, but still worry that no matter how persuasive our message or delivery, the district will adopt a "scorched Earth" policy as they continue down their self-righteous path- much like the knight in this Monty Python movie...

The point is, we can dish it out till the cows come home but at some point someone has got to step forward and say enough already. We are hoping that voice of reason comes from the Regional Superintendents Office. It is no secret that District 150, if the vote stands, will be barely scraping the bottom of the minimal number of instructional hours as required by the state. Consider the following elements of the code:
Illinois School Code: 105 ILCS 18-8.05(F)(1)

Illinois Administrative Code: 23 Ill.Admin.Code 1.420(f)(4)(b)

The board of education operates its schools so that each child receives a minimum of five (5) clock hours of school work per day under direct supervision of certified teachers. (This excludes recess, lunch periods, and passing time.)

It further states:
During the academic year, each school conducts a minimum of 3 school evacuation drills to address and prepare students and school personnel for fire incidents. One of the 3 school evacuation drills must require the participation of the appropriate local fire department/district.

During the academic year, each school conducts a minimum of one bus evacuation drill. This drill must be accounted for in the curriculum in all public schools and shall include instruction in safe bus riding practices for all students.

During the academic year, each school conducts a minimum of one severe weather and shelter-in-place drill to address and prepare students and school personnel for possible tornado incidents. They may also conduct additional drills to account for other incidents, including without limitation, earthquakes or hazardous materials.

Do the math. If the school day is 5:45 minutes, and you take 30 minutes out for lunch - a 5:15 minute school day remains. That leaves 15 minutes extra for all passing time between classes, recess (something that will undoubtedly become a thing of the past), and the mandated drills. It would be physically impossible to meet the state requirements for instructional time on any day a drill or something out of the ordinary takes place. All I would need is a stop watch, a video camera, and a "heads up" from a school insider and my feet would be wearing out the welcome mat at Brookhart's office. I told him so myself and by the way, please don't misread that as a threat. It's a fact.


ImaSwede said...

Excellent post, Diane! At this point, I am praying for Divine Intervention!!

Anonymous said...

Diane, Keep up the great work! As a retired teacher, I can assure you that there will not be adequate teaching time if the May 5th decision stands. In the real world, children have to use the restroom, may need a bandaid, may need to tell a teacher that mommy is sick, may get into a conflict with another child, may not understand the whole group lesson, etc. etc. These needs must be met and that can't happen when there isn't even enough time to present each subject with the minutes set up in the District's own Board Policy. The decision must be rescinded.

Eyebrows McGee said...

I honked as I drove by on my way to teach. :) I was sorry I couldn't be there!

As you note, class schedules are pretty unforgiving.

Michael Davis said...

Good post, Diane. Very glad to see you so active in the lives of your kids as there are some who aren't as we all know.

One little point, however, is that you misspelled "Slovakian" as a language. Being part Slovak myself and with the subject matter of the post, I felt the need to point this out.

Once again, great blog.

septboy said...

Diane, keep on truckin'. Ever think this "due diligence" on hintons part is a stall tactic to let the uproar die down a bit? The library issue seems to have stolen a bit of your thunder & headlines.

Diane Vespa said...

Oh gosh, that never occurred to me! *cough**cough*