Guest Column: Outsourcing Roosevelt: Abandoning its staff and students

By Jane Hayes

Under Dennis Thompson’s superintendency of the Rockford Public Schools, our custodial staff of nearly 200 was outsourced in 2005. According to a May 20, 2005, article in the Rockford Register Star, the retired Army colonel was a curriculum director in Nashville, Tenn. before coming to Rockford and was a tae kwon do black belt who admitted he liked a good fight. At the time of the outsourcing, the savings to the district was estimated at $2 to $3 million; however, the morale we lost has never been recovered.

The cleaning contract went to the GCA Services maintenance company, which created more havoc, discord and problems. At the time, I questioned this decision because the janitors I knew at Eisenhower and Guilford were part of our school families assisting with numerous tasks beyond their job descriptions.

At the time, what the uninformed populace didn’t understand was that more outsourcing was yet to come. Now, we have outsourced security at our schools. Next, we will be outsourcing teachers at Roosevelt Alternative High School, but the sad fact is that what we are really doing is outsourcing our minority and at-risk students, those marginalized because of attendance violations and tragic personal lives, students who have been unable to succeed in a regular classroom setting.

At Roosevelt, we work on credit recovery for our students; but in essence, what we really do is repair the damaged or sidetracked lives of our students by supporting them with psych-social-emotional stability and resources.

Our students have been denied the extensive support system elsewhere because of curricular restraints and overcrowding, so we at Roosevelt have offered an imperative lifeline to our at-risk students.

Just as Luke from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke unmasked the hypocrisy and injustice of the prison system, the ladies of WEE, Watchdogs for Ethics in Education, are still working to unmask the same in our public school system. WEE will not be puppets to the restraints and special interests of the Nashville Schools and their cohorts in Rockford, who are coordinating efforts to privatize our schools. Our strings are too tight with the students and staff we represent.

WEE will not condone this latest public school fiasco of outsourcing Roosevelt and its caring staff. When the Roosevelt staff received the news of the demise of their program, they were also told their replacement would be the Ombudsman Plus program, with strong roots in Nashville. Interesting connection, since our school board and administrators have been wooed into the Nashville scene by the Alignment Rockford program!

According to the priceless line from Cool Hand Luke, the movie from 1967, “What we got here is a failure to communicate!” We are appalled at the lack of respect and professionalism espoused by this administration, which excludes teachers from pivotal decisions impacting their futures and those of their students.

Investigative reporting has been done by Lisa Black of the Chicago Tribune regarding the lack of state-approved credentials for the Ombudsman Plus organization, and the article can be read at the source below. By the way, ombudsman is a Norse word meaning a neutral representative. What kind of neutral representative has a lucrative vested interest in making money from our at-risk students? What a misnomer!

According to the Tribune article, Waukegan’s district paid $560,000 for 25 students, and Lyons Township paid $705,000 to teach up to 30 students. Remember, this program is computer-based, so the interaction between the student and staff member is minimized. Remember, this Ombudsman program is a business looking for monetary gain and not a public school system looking for the best alternative education program for needy students. We at Roosevelt are qualified to work with at-risk students and offer them our personal, academic and social support, so why are we being outsourced?

Well, guess what? The WEE women understand the impropriety and unethical treatment done to the staff at Roosevelt and its long-term effects on our students, so we are ready and willing to uncover whatever we can to disclose the idiocy of this decision and the tangled web our administrators have with the Nashville connection! We will not walk away from the plight; indeed, we intend to fight for the cause of public education. And, we promise not to deceive but to disclose what we find in The Rock River Times!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” — Sir Walter Scott

Jane Hayes is currently teaching at Roosevelt High School.

Online references

From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue

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