Brooks teachers rank leadership, discipline lowest in survey

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A survey of parents, students and teachers at Brooks Middle School show mid-range satisfaction in most areas, with teachers?#34;especially white teachers?#34;voicing less satisfaction in the areas of leadership and discipline.

Teachers were the only group to give average less-than-satisfied rankings in both categories.

"Definitely a lot of work needs to be done" at Brooks, said Ade Onayemi, president of the District 97 Board of Education.

But the scores were not surprising, Onayemi said, as other consultant-led surveys identified leadership and discipline as two of four main areas of concern at the middle school.

The scores are considered a baseline, with two more surveys to be conducted over the remainder of the school year to judge whether the improvement process at Brooks, now in its second year, is having any effects.

"We'll see if some of the efforts being made are hopefully improving some of those things," Onayemi said.

Over the summer, four "charters" for leadership, discipline, communication and instructional delivery were formed, stating improvement actions for each issue. Updated charters were presented to the board at its Dec. 1 meeting, where Joe Frattaroli, the consultant leading the process, told the board that 70 percent of the action steps had begun.

Given the timeline of three months, "That's significant progress," Frattaroli said.

The survey was conducted by Tamara Sher, an associate professor psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Sher is also a Brooks parent and member of its School Leadership Team.

Sher told the board that the survey results "reminded me that the individual stories we hear are anecdotal...this is the science of it."

Panel renamed, expanded

The "Blue Ribbon Panel" the district will call to review superintendent semifinalists in January has been renamed and expanded.

The Superintendent Candidate Review Committee could be as large as 22 members, if representatives from every organization identified for the group respond.

Groups included were parent/community groups (SEA, APPLE Plus), district groups (PTO council, unions of teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries and custodians, one principal, one administrator, Middle Level Oversight Committee, the disbanded Finance Task Force), civic groups (Coalition for Early Childhood Care and Education, League of Women Voters, OPALGA, Hephzibah, Regional Housing Center, Chamber of Commerce) and government groups (village, township, parks, library, District 200 board).

Five semifinalists will be presented to the board on Jan. 4, with board-only interviews on Jan. 7 and 8.

Semifinalists will each eat dinner one night during the next week with the board, and afterward will meet with the Candidate Review Committee and the board. The board will pick finalists on Friday, Jan. 14, and hopes to announce a new superintendent on Jan. 26.

Visitation policies discussed

The board continued its discussion on two proposed policies on school visits and meetings with teachers that it began in April.

The latest discussion, which lasted 45 minutes, began with board members making minor changes to language in the policies.

But then Board Vice President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz asked the board whether it should be deciding on such "granular," or nitty-gritty, aspects of school rules at all. She felt it better to include specific how-to's of the policy, such as visitors signing in, in a procedure that the board could endorse.

In general, the board determines broader policy issues and directs the superintendent to carry them out.

Supt. John C. Fagan disagreed with Newberry Schwartz, saying other policies "are very granular," such as the district's sexual harassment policy.

"The devil's in the details here?#34;not the philosophical," Fagan said.

Board President Ade Onayemi agreed with Newberry Schwartz and cautioned against being too precise in the policy. "Where do we say, 'Turn your cell phones off'?" he said.

?#34;Drew Carter

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