Students call for superintendent’s ouster
A group of District 205 students protests outside administration building.
By Jim Hagerty
A group of approximately 30 Rockford District 205 students let its voice be heard today, Dec. 21, outside district headquarters, 201 S. Madison St. That voice called for Superintendent Dr. LaVonne Sheffield to resign.
Almost all of the students, several holding signs calling for Sheffield’s job, attend Auburn High School and marched in protest of the removal of former Principal Dr. Richard Jancek, let go last week after two students were arrested for bringing loaded handguns to both Auburn’s campuses.
Chants like “No more Sheffield!” and “We want a resignation!” echoed throughout the block.
At least two Auburn parents were on hand supervising the demonstration.
Renee Russell, a parent of an Auburn sophomore, marched with the group and said the removal of Jancek was just one of many bad decisions Superintendent Sheffield has made since taking over as district leader this year. According to Russell, Rockford schools deserve to be led by someone who knows the school system, the students and the city.
“I don’t know why they keep going outside our district and out of state for people to run our school district,” Russell said. “She doesn’t know the area. She doesn’t know our students.”
Russell also said School Board President David Kelley didn’t choose his words properly when he referred to some troubled Rockford students as “gang bangers” when he sat in for Dr. Sheffield on 1330 WNTA radio last Thursday, Dec. 18. Kelley, fielding questions from host Ken DeCoster, said many of the extreme behavioral offenses in the schools are being committed by “gang bangers.”
“I know some of the (so-called) ‘gang bangers,’” Russell said. “And they are somebody’s kids and they want to be accepted just like anyone else. Like anyone else, if you give them respect, you will get respect in return.”
Russell said she wants Sheffield to step down because of poor decisions and bad communication between school officials and the public. In regards to Jancek’s removal, Russell said every principal in the district should be fired if poor test scores and violence were the true reasons for his demotion.
“What she fired him for was wrong!” Russell charged. “He cannot control test scores. You can give students tools to learn, but can’t force them to use those tools. Teachers are banging their heads against the wall. When students don’t want to learn and can’t be controlled, they need to be kicked out of school. You don’t fire the principal!”
Dr. Sheffield, reportedly in the building during the protest, was unavailable for comment. Four Auburn students were scheduled to meet with the superintendent at 1 p.m., to discuss Jancek’s removal and other concerns. Details of that meeting are not known. Protesters were not permitted to attend.
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