Guest Column: St. LaVonne—sinner or saint?

By Jane Hayes

According to the Rockford Register Star, readers might think LaVonne Sheffield, Rockford School District superintendent, should be canonized. This suggests to me that she has had undue influence on the free press in Rockford. She has received innumerable articles regarding her and her regime, which unfortunately paints a more positive image than is accurate.

Whenever she is under fire, Sheffield deflects by using the press for some expensive summit, Visualizing 2015 (when we can’t even tolerate repression in 2010), or a multilingual summit, or finding district employees sleeping in their van at Guilford. However, where are the education reporters when we need them to disclose her Arizona outing or the Chicago trip with her solicitous Rockford School Board or the violence in the public schools? Hush, hush!!

You need to read The Rock River Times if you want a realistic view of local news, which somehow eludes the conglomerate called the Rockford Register Star. So many of my teacher friends have canceled their subscription because of the Star’s biased reporting and now choose The Rock River Times for their news.

Someday, we will wake up and wish we would have taken The Times more seriously for their dogged investigative reporting; but unfortunately, in the meantime, we have lost so many opportunities to right a wrong and correct the squandering of human lives and countless dollars.

Recently, when I tried to get an editorial published in the Star regarding the preposterous Guilford job fair, I was told it was too long. (A few months ago, they printed my editorial verbatim as a guest columnist, but did change my original title of “Undercover Boss” to a more innocuous title, “Three suggestions for school improvement.”) So next, I revised and shortened the unacceptable editorial to get an accurate rebuttal of the biased representation by the Star. Then, the Star said it was my account versus their education reporter, and they would have to check my statements. Well, they did, and said my account seemed to be accurate so they would publish a leaner version than my allotted 200 words. Of course, I refused. Isn’t an editorial a personal account? Hey, I was at Guilford that day, and everything I mentioned happened! Don’t public citizens have voices, views or credibility anymore? Many of us have more standards and ethics than those in power. Remember, power corrupts, according to The Prince by Machiavelli.

On the way to canonizing St. LaVonne (somehow this name just doesn’t ring true), perhaps the Register Star and its editorial board should do a Google search to see that LaVonne isn’t who she seems. After all, 98,000 hits can’t all be wrong. I find it ironic that the headline for the Register Star on Wednesday, May 5, read “Let’s try shaming legislators.” Chuck Sweeny calls for accountability from our Illinois lawmakers. How about common taxpayers and voters calling for accountability from the school board, the editorial board of the Register Star, and from St. LaVonne? Let’s try shaming the press, the school board, the editorial board of the RRStar, and of course, St. LaVonne.

Jane Hayes is a member of WEE (Watchdogs for Ethics in Education), a grassroots community group that seeks to hold the current school administration accountable.

From the May 12-18, 2010 issue

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