Hancock tries to dispel rumors

chalk-board-KUSDLast night, the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) school board met for two hours.  Michele Hancock, superintendent of the district, made a PowerPoint presentation trying to dispel some of the rumors that she is hearing.  The rumors and facts that Hancock gave to dispel them are summarized below:

Rumor:  All staff will be fired when the contract expires on June 30, 2013.  Fact:  We cannot and would not do that.  State statutes protect that from happening.

Rumor:  Staff reductions and class size increases are the result of the Transformation Plan.  Fact:  No.  These changes are due to budgetary constraints and wage increases that have been included in the contract.  Eight hundred million dollars ($800 million) has been taken out of the Wisconsin education system.  I have never seen anything like it.

Rumor:  The Transformation Plan is not working.  Fact:  The changes are being confused with decisions being made based on budget constraints.

Rumor:  Honors classes are being removed from middle school and, in the future, from high schools.  Fact:  No.  The inappropriate practice of ability grouping has been eliminated from the middle school to meet all students’ needs.  I would love to bring more teachers back.  Tell me where the money is.

Rumor:  Everything is perfect in the district.  Fact:  No.  There will always be problems, but I believe in you.  We are teachers and educators.  Hancock then showed a video which displayed various teachers and parents discussing  flexible grouping, the multi-age experience, the Rosetta Stone language software, teacher confidence, and adding an eighth grade at Brompton School.

Rumor:  Staff is afraid to speak up.  Fact:  Fear = False Expressions Appearing Real.  Fear each other?

Rumor:  There are a huge number of retirements being planned in January.  Fact:  The number of retirements slated for January is 6.  The normal amount is 3.

Rumor:   KUSD refused to negotiate in the Spring of 2012.  Fact:  We did negotiate.  If you review the past board meetings, you would have heard me asking for concessions.

Rumor:   KUSD refused to negotiate now.  Fact:  No, that is just not true.

Rumor:   We are developing an employee handbook without the participation of the educators.  Fact:  That’s not true either.  Teachers are involved in the process.

Rumor:   We are hiring consultants rather than bringing back teachers.  Fact:  We have over 1,600 educators; some are in need of professional development.  We are providing increased professional opportunities.  We couldn’t provide evidence of increased educational achievement.  The amount of funding equals 8 teachers.  When I was hired on, I was advised not to use temporary funds to hire staff.

Goals:

  1. Restore positions to increase student achievement.  I would love to see us hire back 100 teachers.  But, we need the money to do it.  It can only come from the state and the taxpayers.
  2. Retain and recruit staff with competitive benefits and salary structure.
  3. Retain and expand educational programming, as outlined in the Transformation Plan.  Budgetary constraints, not grant money.

Hancock said, “On Friday, I was at Jefferson Elementary School with 50 kindergarteners teaching them about my family tradition, Kwanzaa, as the tragedy was unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut.  I wanted to share with you the principal’s message:  “Humanity matters more than anything else.  An act of kindness can’t go wrong.  Kindness matters.”

She continued, “I work for the board.  I was hired to do a job.  This is a very complex job with many financial decisions that must be made.  Go on the website and review the financial statements.  We have nothing to hide.  I would love to bring more teachers back.  We just need the funds.”

Public Speakers:

Former board member Gib Ostman was one of the people who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting.  He wanted to remind the board members of their duties:  hire the superintendent, pass the budget, and pass the curriculum.  He said that in December of 2011, a motion was made to transfer the curriculum responsibility to the superintendent, but it was voted down.  This same motion passed in January, 2012.  The board president changed her vote.  This is inappropriate, wrong, and maybe illegal.  He also spoke of the lack of continuity among the elementary schools.  “The educational system is regressing.”

Jakelyn Karabetsos said that her middle school son was bored.  “There are many students who don’t want to be there.  They are capable of more.  There are too many students.  We have excellent teachers.  But, they have to prepare multiple lesson plans, when they could be putting their time and resources into the gifted students.”

Juan Jimenez, assistant executive director of the Kenosha Education Association, talked about Bob Nuzzo’s Voice of the People (VOP) article which appeared in the Kenosha News.  He talked about the bullying culture.  I heard that he wrote this when he was angry.  We need to move the district away from fear.  His VOP reflects poorly on the board.  “The buck stops with the President.”  He questioned the $1.4 million that is being spent on consultants.  Was the bid process used?

Cam Marshall, from the Racine Education Association, said that they are working collaboratively with their district on an employee handbook.  The collaboration between the union and the district improves these difficult times of budget cuts and uncertainty.

Adele Fry is a sophomore who is taking all honors classes.  She found that the regular classes were chaotic, and she was unable to learn.  Then, she’ll be going to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and she feels that she won’t be trained properly.

Raydene Edenhoffer, a clinical psychologist, said that at last month’s meeting, a teacher made comments that middle school students were not developmentally ready for pre-algebra and algebra.  It’s not that they’re not developmentally ready; it’s that they’re not educationally ready.  Fourth grade math proficiency is 13%; that’s disgraceful.  By the eighth grade, it’s better.  “I can’t wait until the contract is done in June.  Then, we’ll be able to use Act 10 and let the teachers go who can’t do the job,” she said.

Former school board member Pam Stevens countered Ostman’s comments.  The real responsibility of the board is to hire the superintendent, and govern, not manage.  The superintendent is a professional.  Policies are written by the board.  “I came here to talk about the climate, fear, and the fact that morals are down in the classroom.  Teachers are not afraid to talk to me about needed changes.  I’ve been involved in this school district for 17 years, six superintendents.  I’ve never, ever seen the treatment given Dr. Hancock.  People are afraid of change.  It can be nothing but racism,” which brought a large burst of booing from the audience.

Kyle Flood said that the Transformation Plan is driving the district to the ground.  And, the fact that we are wasting $1.4 million on consultants doesn’t help.  “A divided board is an unproductive one.  We need to work together to succeed.  The Transformation Plan has had enough time.  We need to transform the Transformation Plan.  Put students first.  Teachers are intimidated.  Don’t be afraid.  We’re ready to get loud.”

Mary Caprillian spoke on the studied benefits of small class sizes.  The National Center for Educational Statistics says that the base is 17 to 25, with an average of 20.  There is a reason that Head Start calls for a class size of from 14 to 17.  “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Benjamin Lee also questioned the $1.4 million being spent on consultants.  Why is this necessary after laying off teachers?  Are we putting student education first?  There are mediocre behavior policies in the district.  We need to keep our schools safe.  Behavior issues need to be properly addressed.

Marlin Gascoigne, a concerned grandparent of a Roosevelt Elementary student, spoke about the enrichment program.  His granddaughter is in the third grade, and she is with third and fourth grade students.  “They said it wouldn’t affect the enrichment program, but it has.  What will happen next year?  One assignment is given to third and fourth grade students.  It’s a mixed-up program.  The teachers can’t do this.  Are we keeping dual classes?  Will my granddaughter be taking fourth grade all over again?”

Debbie Reynolds said that her son was assaulted in the classroom at Bullen Middle School by a girl in his choir class.  She was not called.  “This is unspeakable.  There has been no meeting with all the parties involved.  And, who does he get to sit next to in his next class?  The perpetrator!  I’m at my wit’s end.  But, I am resilient.  I will get to the bottom of this.”

Dan Mindel quizzed the board.  Do you know where education ranks in salary?  Near the bottom, 128th out of 130.  Do you know where Wisconsin pay for teachers ranks?  24th to 28th.  Do you know where Wisconsin ranks as far as ACT scores?  Third.  Near the top in performance, but only average in pay.  We need to support the teachers.  You can’t say that you support the teachers, but not the union.  That makes no sense.  Which side are you on?  “I’ve had two bad things happen to me in this last year.  I had cancer and had to have my prostate removed.  Plus, I lost my right to collectively bargain.  The loss of my right to collectively bargain was worse.”

And, lastly, Scott Farnsworth, the vice president of the KEA, told Pam Stevens to find out what became of Superintendent Bisciglia.  And, he then stated to Mary Snyder, school board president, that there was no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  To Bob Nuzzo, the KEA refused to negotiate in February.  The sole responsibility of the board is to save teaching positions.  The attorney said no.  The district refused to negotiate.

4 Responses to Hancock tries to dispel rumors

  • sara andrea-neill says:

    Kyle Flood* name wrong above…

    I would like to see the full quotations of some of these speakers… Jakelyn Karabestos said a lot more than what is quoted and pieced together above… All of Hancock’s power point was quoted but not all the citizen’s comments.. I think it would of been nice if they had beed written in full.

  • sara andrea-neill says:

    “Honors Classes have not been removed from middle schools” ….and the “inappropriate practice of ability grouping has been eliminated from middle school”. Am I not understanding something? Honor distinction is not looking like an honor class to me. And why are ability groupings inappropraite??? How the heck does being able to teach a group with a certain ability level range inappropriate? So it’s better to lump them all together and teach to the middle? The lower level group then feels lost and compares them self to the high achievers..If they were in a group of similar ability kids, leaders and role models would emerge within the low, medium and high groups. Giving more opportunity for improved self esteem for those who excel within each group. It’s like putting a kid with a sprained ankle in a race with a sprinter… How fair is that to make that kid try to shine in a room with higher level math students next to him. (plus the fact that teachers can’t differentiate thaty widely in one classroom w other behavior issues existing as well.

    The High achievers are bored and not challenged therefore their educational experience is not equal to the middle group. Trying to say that it is somehow equitable to have mixed ability groups is unreal to me! This kind of thinking undermines excellence in education and maximizing the brillience of ALL children. Ability grouping is the most efficient and equitable way to ensure students get the proper content taught for their particular level of understanding at that time. Students should always be able to soar upward from where they are without having their wings clipped!

    http://www.tip.duke.edu/node/903

    http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/

    http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10029.aspx

    • interesting….. Abstract: “Over the past three decades, the achievement of waves of American students with high intellectual potential has declined as a result of inequity in educational treatment. This inequity is the result of an extreme form of egalitarianism within American society and schools, which involves the pitting of equity against excellence rather than promoting both equity and excellence, anti-intellectualism, the “dumbing down” of the curriculum, equating aptitude and achievement testing with elitism, the attraction to fads by schools, and the insistence of schools to teach all students from the same curriculum at the same level. In this article we provide recommendations for creating positive change–recommendations that emphasize excellence for all, that call for responsiveness to individual differences, and that suggest basing educational policies on well-grounded research findings in psychology and education. Educational policies that fail to take into account the vast range of individual differences among students–as do many that are currently in us–are doomed to be ineffective.” (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
    http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=1997-02834-004
    my.apa.org

    read pages: 130-134 as they relate to dumping true honors programs and going to mixed ability classrooms for math and English:
    The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America’s Middle Schools.
    By Cheri Pierson Yecke
    http://books.google.com/books?id=O5q55bH8lZ8C&pg=PA134&dq=Robinson%2C+A.+%281990%29.+Cooperation+or+exploitation%3F&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FkC4UIbBKJSy0QH0iIEg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Robinson%2C%20A.%20(1990).%20Cooperation%20or%20exploitation%3F&f=false

  • Steve says:

    People, it is not going to get better, there is not going to be more money put into the system anytime in the near future. We are about to go over the fiscal cliff, if anything, we are going to see more budgets shrink! The solution is going to be involvement, not complaining. You are going to have to get involved for your childs sake. That means working at home and volunteering in school to lessen the effect of reduced class size. Your not going to complain your way to a better education for your children, but you can personally get involved and make a difference!

    There have been positive aspects of the transformation plan, many in fact! Yes I do have two students in the system and I have and will continue to be involved so my children have every opportunity available to them. I am not going to bitch about who is at fault, I am going to make a difference!

  • sara andrea-neill says:

    Steve great comment and I agree it won’t get better. We do all need to help in the grade schools, that will make a difference! I do however think you are not aware of the honors issue in middle schools, this was not a money issue this was a philisophical issue.

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