Guest Column: Rockford schools still suffer from lack of leadership

September 5, 2012

By Jane Hayes

Once again, it’s time to address the lack of leadership in Rockford Public School District 205.

First, true leadership doesn’t bungle pre-registration of numerous students at Auburn High School. How can it be that all the work done in pre-registration process was rejected by a computer without human oversight, especially since it’s not a new software program? Where is your leadership team, Principal Ryan Reinecke?

Now, counselors frantically reschedule students who were assigned two lunch periods and no math class and other disasters while teachers must wait for the state-mandated 15-day cut-off point before class size is changed to the limit of 150 students taught daily by each teacher.

Three weeks’ time is far too long to wait while students and teachers form a bond and learn expectations. Dropped students often feel deserted by their teachers. And this district wonders why students fail, when the system and lack of leadership and supervision has failed them?

Now, because I am no longer an employee of District 205, I can stand up for a student’s rights to be in the right classes from day one, especially since they were pre-registered with parent/guardian approval. Now, I can speak out about the problem in leadership that exists at Auburn, which should be our flagship school because of its diversity and special programs, as well as this district.

And I will not be silenced by inept leadership readily changing schedules of gifted students whose parents’ voices are raised while traditional students lacking advocates wait in the wings. This is a failure of leadership, plain and simple, that needs to be remedied before the 15-day count for the state!

And another thing, I will now name names. Matt Vosberg and Angela Hite-Carter assured us that the Roosevelt library would have the same level of service this year as it had last year; now, a certified librarian will only be there one day a week with a half-time paraprofessional the rest of the time. Beginning this year, all middle and high schools are to have a full-time librarian, and the high schools are to have part-time paraprofessionals as well. Come on! Stand behind your words, or are they just vapid comments serving a public relations ploy?

It seems to me that once again one of the most pivotal places at Roosevelt, the school library, is being tampered with so Roosevelt will have to meet another challenge and eventually fail. That way, the district can support their beloved Ombudsman with more funding or another charter school that works with at-risk students in the building trades. Let’s support Roosevelt to succeed and not to fail.

Then, there is our illustrious interim superintendent, Dr. Robert Willis, who clearly took the opportunity to use a special teacher and coach, Coach Genelle Samuelson, who died recently. At the school board tribute to her, Dr. Willis didn’t even know who she was. He now used her as a rallying cry during the first days of teachers’ institute to support his Rockford Rocks public relations effort. Who buys that? Surely, no one who knew Coach Sam, or in the superintendent’s words, Coach Sams! If only there were two Coach Sams, and one less on the administrative team at the board office, which we know is too top heavy!

Last year, the Watchdogs for Ethics in Education met with Dr. Willis and selective members of his administrative team to inform him of a plethora of district problems that were never remedied. So of course, we were wasting our breath and time and endangering our contacts. Clearly, there have been too many missteps in Willis’ opportunism that lack sincerity. Clearly, he needs to put his speech writers and costly public relations staff on notice, skip his usual glad-handing, and really get to know the people he exploits for personal gains in his speeches. His lack of credible and transparent leadership astounds me!

Let’s remember Honest Abe’s approach to leadership: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. And you definitely cannot fool the Watchdogs for Ethics in Education, because we’re back!

Jane Hayes is a retired Rockford Public School District 205 teacher and a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education.

From the Sept. 5-11, 2012, issue

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