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Guest Column: Letter to Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield
By Dan Sears
Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Rockford School District 205 Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield Feb. 7, 2010. The writer chose to share it with us and the community.
Dear Mrs. Sheffield,
Just a note to let you know someone agrees with you concerning Mr. Wells [Reference: Register Star columnist Ed Wells] If you follow his column, it is usually “whine and complain.” But you have to remember he was instrumental in the “People Who Care” movement. The movement was started by people with a real desire for constructive change, but he was not around at the finish, and the lawyers filled their pockets without mercy. I think you can see from your short time here that it did not accomplish anything except create further divisions. Why doesn’t Mr. Wells take a sincere, active approach to our problems? Is it easier and more lucrative to take the “news commentator” approach and sit at his desk and snipe at the system? When it is broke (as our schools seem to be), use your bully pulpit and get out and help fix it!
But your letter leaves me feeling that you are only here to “put another notch” in your résumé!
(1) You do not mention why you took the Rockford job, without your proper credentials in order. This is like allowing a star athlete to participate in the state basketball tournament without having performed his classroom requirements, and then making excuses when it is revealed. Bad start, but our board has to share some of this bad procedure.
(2) What does one year as superintendent in East Baton Rouge and previous stays in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit do for us? It does not tell us that you cleared up their problems. It appears you only stayed long enough to gain access to another high-paying position? Please explain to us what you accomplished in these short stays.
(3) I like the pride you have in your parents. They sound like people right out of “the responsible generation.” But their accomplishments are not your accomplishments. It is still early in your tenure, but so far you seem to have only added to the turmoil in the Rockford School system, and that may be what Mr. Wells referred to as “the revolving door.” It is no secret how many “take-the-money-and-run administrators” the Rockford community has seen come and go (what happens in your district affects the entire region).
(4) Why is there a troubling racial imbalance in the number of students being expelled from our schools? Do you really feel our hardworking, dedicated teachers and principals are racist in their desire to provide an interesting, informative, exciting and SAFE educational experience for those who want to be in school? Did it ever occur to you that a child should be taught, while growing up, to respect others and know that there are rewards and penalties for their behavior? Why does your society expect a teacher, or principal, who have been stripped of all disciplinary support to be charged with making one little unsupervised, unguided darling a respected member of society? When a child, at any age, can feel free to threaten, abuse or strike an adult (or another child), we need to take that child aside, with his or her parents, and make sure they know the rules of society! And then advise (without legal ramifications) the parents that their Precious is on notice, and they are responsible for any further action!
(5) Yes, it does appear that you have a yes man in your entourage. Mr. [Mark] Bonne [chief communications officer] seems to cover your behind very nicely. I have not been able to keep a tally, but you seem to be conveniently out of town, or unavailable, when the disruptions have occurred at Jefferson, East, Guilford, Auburn, with a little possible side action at Wilson, and now Kennedy. Why aren’t you on site to personally view the chaos? But Mr. Bonne assures us that the incidents are blown out of proportion, and everything is normal. Perhaps you and Mr. Bonne would be interested in spending some of your expensive time in a classroom, as the actual teacher, for an extended period and get the full flavor of what “normal” is?
(6) How do you expect your principals to be role models for your students, when the predators look upon these hardworking, concerned, responsible types of people to be weak? Please, take some of your precious time and spend it in the hallways (perhaps in disguise) and see what is lurking there. Shouldn’t the parents have established what kinds of people should be role models, and make sure that Precious realizes that if Mom or Dad or Grandma has to go see the principal, there will be a serious discussion when Precious gets home!
(7) I agree that the mass media likes to create sensationalism, but if we did not have active local media, how would any message get to the public? Let’s get your act together and not give the media any negative opportunities.
The basic fact is you refuse to recognize that as long as you coddle Precious and do not hold Precious and his/her parent responsible for horrendous behavior, you are feeding the 900-lb. gorilla in the living room. Please do not tell me that their home life is “iffy”; there are too many good people who are products of poverty and/or horrible home situations, who have taken a look around and realized they did not have to follow the negative path!
How many and how long does it take educational administrators and board members to screw in a light bulb?
cc: Rock River Times, Register Star, Mr. Harmon Mitchell
Dan Sears is a resident of Roscoe.
From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue