Guest Column: Rockford schools: Remove the shades!

By Jane Hayes

How many of you in this community really know about the rampant problems in Rockford Public School District 205? Well, as Watchdogs, we do!

Unless you personally know any of the teachers who have given their lives to their students and career in education and now have been walked from their classrooms in shame, you probably don’t know. It’s time for you to become aware of the problems to remove the shades!

REACT, an off-shoot group of WEE (Watchdogs for Ethics in Education), our watchdog group for ethics in education, has been meeting with teachers who have been unfairly dismissed, humiliated, and uninformed of their so-called transgressions by district administration and the REA, Rockford Education Association.

REACT stands for Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment. We have met with a lawyer and teachers put on administrative leave, and now correspond with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) about such abuses.

Poor teachers, as well as other professionals, need to be remediated, no doubt. However, we are finding many of those released were conscientiously doing their jobs. Perhaps they have spoken too loudly and resisted wrongs in this district! Perhaps they have been targeted because they are building representatives for their union? Perhaps their salaries are too high, so two new teachers could be hired for the one dismissed. Unfortunately, free speech suffers and is shackled by fear and intimidation when this happens.

It’s time to inform you — the public, parents and taxpayers — of this travesty of justice. Unfortunately, many such abuses occur to teachers who have tenure, admirable reputations and longevity in this district. We question the way they have been mistreated and if their civil rights have been violated by a lack of timely due process and/or legal representation. We are encouraging them to seek private counsel, which is costly but more effective than representation from the REA.

Is ageism alive and well in this district? Actually, it seems apparent and also seems to be a national trend, eliminating teachers with advanced degrees and numerous years of experience. Those of us who have been educators for many years remember the process of remediation. When that was not successful, a teacher was terminated.

Now, instead of the hassle of coping with indignities from the district and union, many of these teachers have chosen to leave the classroom and retire. What a shame, though, because these are the very teachers who often mentor the newbies encouraging them to maintain teaching as a noble profession and guiding them in classroom management skills! They also tend to be more vocal; now, they are silenced because of fear of retribution.

For their years of service, efforts and advocacy for students, these experienced teachers are exited from their classrooms and buildings, often during the school day. Humiliation beyond belief! Many have suffered inescapable health, financial and familial worries.

Whom do we thank for downsizing and humiliating our staff when the central administration keeps hiring more people to do their jobs? Hasn’t this been the business model so often decried throughout recent history? Where is the sense of loyalty or community veteran teachers remember?

Now, how does this impact you as parents? Think about your children being taught by substitutes. And then, think about how many buildings cannot even get adequate substitutes, which then overloads other teachers. Think about the cost entailed by our district paying for two teachers at a time; then, consider the legal costs incurred. Oh, but that’s right, we have to keep the lawyers busy with their $200-per-hour wages while subs in Rockford make about $65 per day! Since this is the lowest rate in the area, many subs choose to offer their services to other districts rather than District 205. Less hassle, more money — logical!

It’s time to be informed and become advocates! Ask your children if their classroom teacher has left the building. Be aware of their progress if they have a substitute teacher. This dire situation is apparent to most educators throughout our district, but now, the public needs to know so YOU can respond.

And just maybe, it’s time to write a book about the machinations of present and past school board members and administrators, the nepotism and rewards for the powerful elite, the impact of business alignments, the needless pervasive testing, the lack of support from District 205 for its staff, and the indignities and corruption so widely apparent throughout this district. There is almost too much to uncover in just one book!

If you really care to know the truth, here are some websites to keep yourselves informed:

Speak up for justice and civil liberties! Remove the shades!

Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment.

From the Feb. 13-19, 2013, issue

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