‘Save our Public Schools’ speaker says he will not rip District 205 leaders
By Jim Hagerty
The keynote speaker at tonight’s (Feb. 21) “Rally to Save our Public Schools” says he won’t be involved in discrediting District 205 administrators.
Although the rally will focus on the closure of eight schools and other budget cuts proposed by Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield, Noel Hammett said his message will be one of hope and true resolution.
Hammatt will speak at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., as a guest of the Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE) group.
Hammatt, who was on the school board in E. Baton Rouge, La. when Sheffield worked for Louisiana’s Recovery School District, said he hopes to spark open communication between school officials, teachers and members of the Rockford community.
“What I see (in Rockford), are individual groups pitted against one another,” Hammett said. “What that does is spur disbelief and causes one group to assume the worst about the others. Battling doesn’t help anyone.”
Hammatt is aware of the ongoing tensions between Sheffield, WEE, and others, and said the same uneasiness was evident during his time as vice president of the E. Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
“People weren’t operating in the mainstream,” the former president of the Louisiana School Boards Association said. “Here, I see the same thing. When there are meetings behind closed doors and attitudes of ‘I am right,’ there is less accountability.”
It is a lack of accountability, WEE says, that has caused a divide between public schools stakeholders, and Sheffield’s office. The group’s goal is hold district administrators accountable to the people of Rockford.
At prior WEE sessions, however, members have been accused of publicly discrediting Sheffield’s leadership style and some of the decisions made by her administration.
Those are the types of discussions, Hammatt said, he won’t engage.
“I don’t want to be a part of that,” Hammatt said. “Doing what is right is not the result of opinion. Solving any problem starts with having all of the information. That information has to be made available for everyone to see. Communication is complex. You can’t do anything unless it is open.
“I hope I can get some conversations going. Right now, I don’t see a history of trust here.”
The “Rally to Save our Public Schools” is at 6:30 p.m.
Hammatt is also scheduled to attend the Tuesday, Feb. 22 meeting of the Rockford Board of Education.
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