Guest Column: Parents: ‘Beware the Ides of Ombudsman’

By Jane Hayes

The following letter was written on behalf of all teachers whose positions will be outsourced because of Ombudsman Educational Services, a business the Rockford School District intends to employ without public or staff approval.

This business will replace teachers and staff members at Roosevelt Alternative High School and Page Park School. Instead of hiring a public relations firm, a former Rockford Register Star reporter, and a six-figure salaried employee, as District 205 has done to disseminate its messages to the community, I stand alone to do the same in a rebuttal to the article in the March 14-20 issue of The Rock River Times by Allison O’Neill, chief operating officer of Ombudsman Educational Services in Libertyville, Ill.

I am a teacher who has given her life to her children and students in Rockford. After living in this community for the past 33 years, paying property taxes here to support our public schools, sending my own children to public west-side schools, and burying my son and heart at the urn garden at Greenwood Cemetery, I will not bury my voice when I see the privatization of public schools and the unethical decisions made by this district.

I don’t live in Libertyville or Nashville, because I want to make a difference in this community by improving its public schools.

I don’t need to tout my values to this community’s schools and students because my reputation will stand for that. I have spent time, my own money, tears and years doing what is best for my students because they are an extension of my family.

I believe each student has value and promise, a democratic ideal not measured by statistics or dollars, like those of the business-blended model of Ombudsman. In addition to teaching, I have volunteered my time in this community.

Though I am not a chief operating officer or administrator and my pockets will never be lined with gold, I know the value of human contact, honesty and transparency, and professionalism of educators. I believe in truth beyond unions, administrators and dictators. But then, I am just one of many remarkable teachers at Page Park and Roosevelt who dedicates time and talents to teach. I was opposed to Pearson and the ENI debacle ($5.1 million) that came and went at a great expense to this district, but then teachers didn’t have a voice in making those decisions, either.

Monday, March 12, there was an open forum at Roosevelt for all stakeholders. Oddly enough, not a single Rockford Board of Education member or District 205 administrator attended because they were encouraged not to do so. WEE, Watchdogs for Ethics in Education, personally invited administrators from downtown. No one was there to hear testimonials of former and current students regarding how valuable Roosevelt and Page Park schools and staff were to serving the needs of disillusioned students. According to Aesop, “Any excuse will serve a tyrant,” just one of our weekly quotes you’ll see displayed in the halls and library at Roosevelt.

When the board considered closing CAPA, the creative and performing arts school, which my own children attended, board members and administrators were present. In fact, the leader of the gifted parent organization was given extended time to speak while others were required to limit their comments to the allotted time. Just another example of the inequity that exists in this district because our decision-makers do not care enough about minority and alternative education! Instead, there are plans to expand gifted, talented, Montessori and honors and Advanced Placement classes without supporting the opposite spectrum of educating the impoverished, disillusioned and/or disobedient students. That is unconscionable and has been very costly to this district, because the people who should have cared did not care enough. Remember? The Watchdogs for Ethics in Education are People Who Care. WEE will continue to care enough to make a difference for those who don’t.

So, just as Julius Caesar, whose fate was sealed on March 15, 44 BCE, my fate was sealed when I received my dismissal, which I accepted March 15, 2012, the Ides of March. The soothsayer warned, “Beware the Ides of March.” A major theme in Julius Caesar is the struggle between “Fate and Free Will,” which seems a fitting source for this dilemma in public education.

Fate: Outsourced as a part-time teacher at Roosevelt Alternative High School next year.

Free Will: A sound mind to question, a caring heart to empathize, and the power of the pen or keyboard to comment.

So, I will continue to speak the truth about the Rockford School District, its top-heavy administration, its faulty and costly decisions, its lack of transparency and consideration of public opinion, the teachers’ union, Nashville, the Ombudsman business model, Alignment Rockford, privatization, and our school board, just as Cassius did to Brutus in Shakespeare’s version of Julius Caesar.

Men at some time were masters of their fates,

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Teachers apparently are not valued by this district, which considers us educated underlings, but our students and parents know just how valuable we truly are!

Jane Hayes is an outsourced part-time teacher at Roosevelt Alternative High School.

From the March 21-27, 2012, issue

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