Guest Column: In defense of LaVonne Sheffield

May 4, 2011

By Dyanna Chandler

She arrived in the city, April 2009, with a lofty peer recommendation, unanimous approval of the governing board, overwhelming acceptance by community leaders and residents proclaiming “Hosanna—Hail to our Savior.”

She began her work swiftly and efficiently, adhering to a directed mandate of change in the academic status quo; crafting a visionary plan to restore a dysfunctional education system, always focusing on academic success and equitable treatment for all children. Her passion and path centered on children and not adults.

Swift implementation of fiscal responsibility, teacher/administrator accountability, creation of centers of learning and not police states, professional development, methods to prepare pupils for college-level academic course work/future success were effective and measurable. Her love for children fueled the change, which, although successful, promoted the ire of a segment of the populace accustomed to preferential treatment, selectiveness and exclusion. The detractors yearned for the old path, which ultimately results in academic upheaval and failure. This persistent vocal minority deflected the attention of the community from academics for children to adult-oriented agendas. The group loudly shouted, protested and insistently demanded that she be crucified. They sought diligently, for false evidence to dismiss her. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Valiantly, she preserved a calm and composed manner throughout the impeding turmoil with a group of committed supporters; further seeking refuge, comfort and affirmation from a group who should have been “the vocal majority,” the black ministers, elected officials and residents. However, their support was marginally visible and virtually non-existent.

Finally, after a nearly two-year journey of consistently pursuing a goal of educational excellence everywhere for all children, she proclaimed: “Your will be done—it is finished!”

Dyanna Chandler is a former journalist and currently a grant writer. She is also co-chairman of Ellis Heights Neighborhood Group.

From the May 4-10, 2011 issue


  1. treefrogdk

    May 4, 2011 at 8:17 am

    are you kidding me?

  2. Dione

    May 4, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Ha Ha Ha—-Comedy time is over, Ms Chandler.

  3. Doug Clayburg

    May 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Many like me welcomed Dr. LaVonne Sheffield when she arrived in Rockford.

    In December of 2009 things began to change. Reported violence at several schools including Guilford and Auburn went seemingly unnoticed by Dr. Sheffield. Her superintendent’s reports took notice of local sports accomplishments but failed to inform the community on what she was doing to provide our children with a safe and quality education.

    July 24, 2010 a complaint was filed with the Office of Inspector General regarding the TASAP grant that Dr. Sheffield secured for RPS205. For those unfamiliar with the Technical Assistance for Student Assignment Project (TASAP), this is the grant that secured the consultant, Shannon Bingham and that took choice away from Rockford children. The complaint was made because Dr. Sheffield stated she had a prior nearly 5 year relationship with the consultant while she worked for the Detroit Public schools. DPS12 was unable to provide any record of the relationship and Dr. Sheffield, Shannon Bingham, nor board attorney Lori Hoadley provided documentation supporting the claims made in the federal grant. Consultant Bingham returned to Rockford just months later to close and consolidate schools for $125 an hour plus expenses, a 32% increase in pay to close our children’s schools.

    In December of 2010 at the Chamber of Commerce business luncheon where an ideal opportunity existed to bring the community together, Dr. Sheffield delivered her self proclaimed, “Courage to Put Children First” speech. Her words were focused to instead divide the school board and community, and were anything but for the good of our children.

    What followed in January after Dr. Sheffield’s secret budget committee meetings that questionably violated the Open Meetings act brought closures to several schools including Kennedy, Summerdale, and Ace schools without even prior notice to parents. All of the closures were based on the premise of a $50 million dollar assumed shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year. The panic was brought on by Dr. Sheffield’s administration over a claimed deficit when no actual budget existing to support it. Our children saw schools and services taken from them without any supporting date regarding school capacity or detailed financial data made public.

    The madness continued with Dr, Sheffield seeking to eliminate full day kindergarten and early education from the district, programs that included a high percentage of minority students. Thankfully our Board of education members stepped up and saved these programs that include some of our youngest and mot impoverished children.

    Even with Dr. Sheffield gone we still are cleaning up the aftermath. Her plan included eliminating sports programs for our freshman students. We struggle to keep kids in school and nearly eliminated a program that is know to retain students in school and give them hope of gaining a high school education for what amounted to $28,000. Thankfully our current Education committee had the fortitude to retain the program because our children deserve better than this.

    Rockford stakeholders were open to paying nearly $1/4 million dollar wage annually after benefits to Dr. Sheffield to take the reins as our superintendent and to provide our children with educational excellence everywhere for all children. Dr. Sheffield is gone, and it would seem because she failed to demonstrate she was capable of delivering that goal.

    Let us pray, our next superintendent loves Rockford and wants to make it a better place for our children and can provide the community with what Dr. Sheffield told us she planned to deliver, a world class education for our public school students.

    Doug Clayburg
    Parents Across America

  4. John

    May 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I guess no one noticed the overt racism? Yes, Ms. Chandler is a racist! Who do you think she is talking about with her statement, “Her love for children fueled the change, which, although successful, promoted the ire of a segment of the populace accustomed to preferential treatment, selectiveness and exclusion.” So, it’s all “Whiteys fault, right Dyanna???

  5. Susan

    May 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I feel sorry for the thousands of children and adults who suffered the last two years as a result of her and some of the school board members actions.

  6. Paul Gorski

    May 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I know Ms. Chandler, I like Ms. Chandler. She is not a racist.

    I will say that Dr. Sheffield and the school board seemed to consistently forget that we already had models of excellence in the schools, the gifted programs. Our elementary and high school gifted programs are both rated some of the best programs in the state. Why have we not tried to glean some sort of lessons from these programs, and apply the lessons learned to the rest of the district? No, rather Dr. Sheffield and the board nearly gutted some of the few successful programs we had.

    Dr. Sheffield is gone and we have a slightly different board, let’s see what progress we can make if we all work together.

  7. J Wilson

    May 6, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Gifted isn’t gifted anymore.

    The current push is to teach them as regular ED and take advantage of the students higher test scores.

  8. kitty

    May 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Paul, I know Dyanna too–she IS a racist. You must not have known her for very long. I have known her for OVER 30 years!! I like Dyanna too, she is intelligent, eloquent and a strong black woman BUT she is a racist.

  9. kitty

    May 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I would like to see the new board take on the issues of violence and disrespect to teachers, principals and staff that has grown since we removed the police from the schools. EVERY school district in the area have police in the schools. This was the dumbest idea that Sheffield ever had and WE, as a society, have had to pay for it every day. You cannot teach children who are afraid for their safety while attending school. Put the police BACK into the schools. These security people (now and before) were inept in controlling the violence perpetuated daily in our schools. Yes, arrest them if they violate other people that is the only way to curb this new gangsta mentality that is pervasive in our schools!! Kick them out of the regular classrooms and place them in the alternative schools to learn but DON’T subject the students who WANT to learn to these thugs!!

  10. for the kids

    May 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Doug: again you are right on target. Thank you.

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