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Opinion: Teacher Evaluations, Figure It Out

Teacher evaluations remains a critical point of contention between the board and the teachers' union.

Teacher Evaluations remain a critical point of contention between the and the teachers’ union.

My understanding, based on information from the January 9 board meeting is there is a current evaluation document in place that was created by both the administration and the union representatives several years ago.

This is a model that the teachers are still pleased with, but the board wants to revamp. Steve Schwartz, the Board of Education’s designated speaker at the January 9 meeting, said this was so they could evaluate “technology.”

Schwartz also said that the Board wanted the evaluation document to be a “living, breathing document” that the board and union could develop together, but that final say would be the Board’s decision.

 That was all stated in the same sentence—as the entire audience that was present burst out in laughter at the contradiction—let’s work together, but in the end we (the board) will make the final decision. It is understandable why the union is hesitant to agree to that.

Schwartz Representation Not Totally Accurate

Schwartz also stated at the meeting that the Illinois Education Association had approved a new evaluation instrument. This is not a factual statement. In researching this issue, I found out that this issue of Teacher Evaluations is an incredibly “hot” topic across the country.

In January 2010, the Performance Evaluation Reform Act was signed into Illinois law.  This act’s main focus alters the way teacher and principal/assistant principal evaluations will be conducted in coming years, focusing on “evaluating teachers and principals based on how much their students learn.”

From this law came the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PERA), comprised of educators at all levels in our state working together to develop a new evaluation model based on the new guidelines.

This model should be in effect by spring and districts can choose to utilize the State developed model or build in the key components of the model into a joint document developed by a local teachers’ union and board of education.

This revised model must be in place by 2016 in Deerfield and if an agreement cannot be reached jointly, “the district shall implement the model evaluation plan established by the State Board of Education”. Interesting.

Both Sides Need More Education

So, basically we have a board and administration that does not have all of its ducks in a row in terms of facts and a teachers union that is making a pretty huge stink about a model that will likely be altered significantly within the next four years anyway, based upon the law.

I understand the teachers are concerned about the here and now and four years seems far off, but there is some pretty clear language about what is on the horizon and what guidelines will need to be met.

I have trouble believing that with all of Deerfield’s education leaders sitting around the table, that the board, administration and union cannot come to a fair, rationale, responsible, dare I say excellent evaluation model for our teachers. Within a few minutes researching online, I found several models that could be a starting point for discussions. 

To the board, administration and union: Figure this out. Please. Reports of agreement on recent points are a step in the right direction. I know evaluations are a point of great contention. There is a lot of information to work with—please work together and continue to take positive steps toward resolution. For our teachers, for our children, for our community. Please.

HB January 31, 2012 at 02:47 PM
It seems that attending these school sponsored meetings only validate and fuel the parents' dissatisfaction with the school board, it's administrators, and some teachers. This school group has formed a bond with each other and created a wall to block out parents. These people sit behind their wall with their fingers in their ears...not listening and certainly not doing anything. There will be no change unless we parents can find a LEGAL way to break this force. Parents need to come together, apart from the school, and create our own plan of attack. We need legal representation to help us fight for the rights of our spec ed children. My IEP child is currently receiving NO extra support in the middle school. I suspect other families are in the same boat. It is my understanding that the only way for us to fight this is to hire an education expert attorney and sue the school district. I would guess that many of us don't have the time, energy, or funds to do so. So we sit back and try to do what we can to help our kids. We need to be a part of the negotiations. Let us evaluate the performance of administrators and spec ed teachers.
Lisa Polisner January 31, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Though these meetings are frustrating, I strongly believe that it is important for all parents of IEP students to go to these meetings so that you have an idea of what they are saying. You can't affect change unless you have all the information. It is clear to me that though the district doesn't have money to offer the proper resources to our children and hire additional special ed teachers, they always have enough money to fight parents in court. Their reputation for fighting to the end is quite well known outside our community and it is not a good reputation. However, it is one they count on to intimidate parents from taking them on in court. As a group, the parents can make a difference and I am sure it is only a matter of time before a huge group of us unite and get our children's legal, emotional, and educational needs met correctly.
Katie Bittner January 31, 2012 at 03:08 PM
To all those reading these posts please send your e-mail to me katiebittner1@hotmail.com . We are starting a group for concerned parents and will be meeting in the next couple weeks. Please pass the information to as many people as you can (Sped parents and all parents, community members, etc)
Katie Bittner January 31, 2012 at 03:10 PM
HB please send me an e-mail. we are in the process of forming a group. katiebittner1@hotmail.com
Curious Resident January 31, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I agree with Ms. Meyer, what is the process to file a complaint if they are saying that special education issues such as taking a foreign language in middle school is mandated by law???? I think while the union is doing their best to help with what is going on, and I appalude all of the parents seriously applaude, I think a complaint should be filed. Remember it takes a village to run a school...well the village that is currently running the district is killing the morale of the teachers which will trickle down to the children...and all students are suffering. Boost gifted program/classes and drop special education classes that would help the students...makes no sense to me!
Curious Resident January 31, 2012 at 03:47 PM
How very sad that it is just another front that the district administrators are placing in front of the parents. Send the administrators that don't work well with the parents anyway and have them discuss the programming???? What does that mean???? The district will fight tooth and nail on litigation but what would they do if it becomes a group and a class action....I say talk to parents that have brought lawyers to meetings and nab that attorney if he or she is good and GO FOR IT!!!!!!! As a private provider please, please don't wait until high school where the services are appropriate...that is anywhere from two to three years in the middle school if not more of loosing very valuable learning time for your children. The union knows this and that is why they are fighting special education as well...it is impacting everyone!
Katie Bittner January 31, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Spanish Is NOT required by law in middle school. Complaints can and should be filed INDIVIDUALLY through the State. No legal representation is required to file a complaint . Please e-mail if you want further info katiebittner1@hotmail.com
Curious Resident January 31, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I know Spanish is NOT required by law in the middle school, however other parents don't know. Trust me as a private provider they force it in the middle school and if the child does not end up taking it, then they are told ruthlessly that they will be placed in a study hall and receive NO EXTRA SUPPORT FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL NEEDS!!!!!!!!
Katie Bittner January 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
They have to push for other services besides Study hall. A parent has a right to dissent and begin the due process procedure if they do not feel that the IEP is a reflection of the services that their child;'s present levels of performance indicate.
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I have been monitoring the chat and would suggest that litigation should be the last resort. It is costly and takes valuable time. A different approach is to advise the school board members that they have a fiduciary relationship with the community and need to safeguard the district's assets. Breach of fiduciary exposes them to personal liability. I am certain that board members wish to avoid personal liability that could affect their assets. Since they hold a public position that pays no compensation, the value proposition for them is negative. Perhaps an audit of their expenditures is in order? This is a simple matter today with Freedom of Information Requests. Any finding of improprieties can then be submitted to Lisa Madigan's office for investigation. That would certainly place them in a defensive posture and preclude them from using district monies for personal defense. Municipal tort immunity defenses can be trumped with Federal laws that violate student's civil rights. Manipulating district resources and depriving special education minutes and remediation mandated by the state would be egregious violations of civil rights. Nobody likes adverse publicity and some of these folks may be thinking of running for higher office as school boards are usually stepping stone positions. Calling for the resignation of the board would be a first step to a recall action. Under this pressure I would submit to you that these board members will cut and run.
Mara Meyer January 31, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Bob M is correct when he says the Board change is the only way. Then a clean sweep of all administrators - to be interviewed by the Board members. When educators think they know better than the parents in the neighborhood, without discussion and collaboration at heart - this is what you get! I suggest someone call the State to file a complaint and then the Department of Education - OSERS (Office of Special Education Regulation) to inquire as to filing a complaint. I also suggest class action as well as individual. There are several local advocates who could easily advise the group should one be created.
John Russillo January 31, 2012 at 05:40 PM
That looks to me like an outstanding letter to the editor, Bob. One thing I found out is that the Board and administration most certainly read the Deerfield Review.
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Become an educated consumer...here is a link to the Illinois Association of School Boards and school law in Illinois re Special Education http://www.iasb.com/law/icsaspeced.cfm
Harry Steindler January 31, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Taking a step back perhaps from the current level of discussion - I believe that the members of the board generally want to do what's right for the students and community - they have no vested interest beyond that. I also believe as I have stated here that public boards in general and this one specifically put too much credence in what their administrators do and what their administrators tell them. I know the board or their representatives are listening - reading the PATCH at least. I have received some response to my emails to the board - I should say more acknowledgments of receipt then response - but again - they are seeing the messages. Before legal action or an audit is needed I am hoping and trusting that the board will listen to the community and do as many have requested - reach out to teachers, other service providers and very importantly parents to find out specifically what has everyone so upset and concerned. Deerfield is a unique community - the passion of our parents is amazing - I see it in every endeavor I am part of - the level of engagement and the community's love of our children - especially children with special needs is immeasurable. The board needs to engage parents and teachers directly without administrators present to find out the depth of concerns - I am really hoping that happens in short order. I do believe working together to fix our special needs services is the best answer. Board - it's your turn!
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I urge the community to make Freedom of Information Act document requests to the board related to outside legal fees, outside consulting fees, minutes related to shifting funds from the special ed program, contracts with administrators, etc. This is public information and will provide a landscape of board actions that should be subject to public scrutiny. This tactic should keep them busy for the next week or so. It will be interested to see them handle 500 requests with 7 day response times. All Freedom of Information Act requests should be directed to the Superintendent at rgoier@dps109.org or in writing to Dr. Renee Goier, Deerfield Schools, 517 Deerfield Road, Deerfield, IL 60015. Request that all responses be via pdf file and email to insure speedy delivery.
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Here is a sample request that should provide an interesting response: In accordance with FOIA, please provide documents related to outside legal firms including name, address, monthly invoices and work performed. It is understood that you may redact specific information related to particular case identification of plaintiffs or defendants. This monetary information is not protected under privilege. Your response to this information can be provided in Excel format via PDF.
Katie Bittner January 31, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Harry I agree with you about stepping back from legal action but not from audit, complaints. Parents have spent too many years listening to what the school SAYS they can provide and not knowing that there is a process for voicing their complaints about IEP's and services not being provided. When meetings are held where we are not allowed to speak or ask questions, one board member shows up (and does not bother to speak to parents only administration ) and the district continues its same practices of "saying all the right things to protect themselves legally" instead of TRULY CARING ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE TO SAY...that is enough. People must speak out and complaints, audits are the only solution to show what is truly going on.
MSB January 31, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Thanks Bob and Harry, I submitted my request for information. Next steps we should consider: Filing complaints to the IBOE and getting the formal process of how to submit 1,700 signatures to remove an administrator. If someone has the list, please let me know.
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Mark thanks. It would be interesting to obtain public disclosure of district resources and dollars of a comparative analysis to support the special services programs. This complies with transparency and compliance with State standards. Here is another sample: In accordance with FOIA, please provide documentation related to the itemized number of students in District 109 receiving special services including gifted and special education. Please provide a breakout of dedicated staff (both teachers and administrators) by title/expertise and annual salaries of these individuals. Please provide an annual cost per student serviced by these programs. Please provide details of service minutes per week per student (e.g. "Student A", Student "B") In the interest of privacy, there is no request to provide the identities of these students. Please provide this information in Excel format via pdf file.
Mara Meyer January 31, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Bob - you are good. Any chance you have a legal background?
HB January 31, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Bob. Would love to see the details of services provided as I was told that no one had ever asked for that information.
Bob Mavet January 31, 2012 at 11:47 PM
OK, HB...go ahead and FOIA the info per the contact information that I provided above. Let us know when you receive the information and then feel free to post on this patch thread. Having seen improprieties with government administration by officials who game the system, I learned to use all the tools at my disposal to full advantage. FOIA is a powerful device to obtain information that belongs to the public. Too often, government officials and employees have concealed their improper behavior. It is time to obtain full disclosure and hold these people accountable. I am usually offended by government workers abusing the system and then earning obscene pensions at taxpayer expense. We are entitled to honest services from our public officials. Let this be a warning to the current board members....you are accountable to the folks who elected you and have no choice but to properly face these people and answer questions and concerns that are fairly raised. Stop reading prepared statements that do not address the issues. If you continue to hide you will find yourself out of office either through recall or via new elections. The funds of District 109 are not your personal piggybank but taxes raised to insure the public good. Same goes for the administration; let the community see how you are implementing policy through a transparent process. No more wired deals; no more smoke filled rooms. Let the light of day shine on the daily activities of those who serve the public.
Katie Bittner February 01, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Bob. Well said and so true! How sad that the administrators we hire to help our children are actually working against them.
Bob Mavet February 01, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Today's news... "Union, 109 Discuss Special Education" http://deerfield.patch.com/articles/union-109-discuss-special-education The pressure is getting to the board. Keep those FOIA's coming and make your voice heard!
Lisa Polisner February 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
The meeting last night was even more upsetting than the one on the elementary schools. The parents clearly did not want to hear the presentation that went on for over an hour. After an hour of listening, one usually not vocal parent stood up and read the above quote to Paula Owziak. Paula didn't care and continued giving her canned presentation. More parents stood up and objected, but Paula continued on with her agenda. As to the extensive question and answer session.....didn't happen. Additionally, they said the small break out groups would be where the token board member would sit and listen to what the parents are saying. I personally saw Nick Begley leaving the building when these meetings started. When I questioned him as to why he wasn't going to the small group discussions he just looked at me like a deer in headlights. When I told him it was my understanding that a board member was going to be a the small group discussions. He said, "thank you for your input" and turned and left the building.
Anonymous February 02, 2012 at 04:50 PM
As a parent at the meeting, the only thing that upset me was the continual unwarrented interruptions from the audience. I wanted to hear what the administrators had to say. I've already heard your issues and all about your kids; it's enough already! How am I supposed to learn about the administration's side if you don't let them talk! And my understanding was that this was NOT a board meeting, but rather an information session by the administration. I frankly didn't want to hear from the board either, and am glad that they did not speak. They made it clear that they would take individual questions after the meeting. I didn't have a problem with that since I didn't want to sit through everyone else's individual issues. I had my questions answered individually after the meeting, and I did not need to interrupt the session in order to get that result.
Katie Bittner February 02, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Most of the issues brought up WERE NOT OF AN INDIVIDUAL NATURE, they were reflective of the practices that this district has been allowed. They were specific to law and the legall rights protected by IDEA for all students with disabilities. The explanation of IDEA and the IEP process was not what we were told the meeting was to be. It was to be an EXTENSIVE OPPORTUNITY for questions and ANSWERS from District staff. Meeting is small groups to discuss what is working and not working is not a QUESTION/ANSWER Forum. If you and others to know what IDEA is that should have been presented at a Board meeting or separate strategic plan meeting. MANY parents had questions, maybe they were all not speaking, that does NOT MEAN they were not represented!
SK February 04, 2012 at 02:46 AM
And people wonder why the teachers don't have faith in the administration.
Bob Mavet February 13, 2012 at 12:42 AM
A vote to authorize a strike frames the current state of negotiations. So let's employ simple math and check out the scorecard. The teachers voted 261 - 2 to authorize a strike if an impasse in negotations is reached. The Deerfield 109 School Board is comprised of 7 members. So, at best their vote could only be 7 - 0 to maintain the status quo. Next, we should canvass the eligible voters within the District and get their opinion. A simple method would be to have people chime in on their perspective. I suggest that the concerned parents who recently organized circulate a petition for recall of board members. Use the model from the recent recall petition drive in Wisconsin that presented a strong indication of the will of the people. For illustration, the 2010 census indicates a population of 18,923. http://www.deerfield.il.us/assets/1/community_development/ExecutiveSummary-4.pdf There are 2.84 average persons per household. There are 6,586 households in Deerfield. A simple majority of 3,294 households is a nice target to achieve within the next two weeks. If you are concerned about the state of education in Deerfield Dist. 109 and wish to make a change....sign the petition. One person one vote...democracy works when people exercise their freedom of speech and their right to vote! Simple math. A few thousand trump 7 misguided individuals!! Katie, get cracking on circulating those petitions!
Bob Mavet February 13, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Regarding legal services required to comply with FOIA...it appears that the board is fiscally irresponsible and is abusing taxpayer monies. This is certainly not in the public interest. http://www.dps109.org/BOE/Community%20Packets/2-13-12%20Board%20Packet%20for%20Community.pdf As suggested in my previous post, a recall petition will bring this recklessness to a screeching halt!

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