By Doug Clayburg
Many, including 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 the Inspector General regarding the TASAP grant that Dr. Sheffield secured for RPS 205. For those unfamiliar with the Technical Assistance for Student Assignment Project (TASAP), this is the grant that secured the consultant, Shannnon Bingham, and that took choice away from Rockford children. The complaint was made because Dr. Sheffield stated she had a prior nearly five-year relationship with the consultant while she worked for the Detroit Public Schools. DPS 12 was unable to provide any record of the relationship, and neither 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 percent 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 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 exists to support it. Our children saw schools and services taken from them without any supporting data 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 most 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 known 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 a quarter-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 is a resident of Cherry Valley and a member of Parents Across America; see the website atparentsacrossamerica.org .
From the May 18-24, 2011 issue