Do parents, teachers mix?

D97 Board nixes 'civility policies' in favor of hearing teachers' concerns

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By DREW CARTER

When District 97's Education Council?#34;made up of teachers and administrators?#34;introduced five policies concerning parent-teacher interactions to the Board of Education last summer, disapproval from members of the board and school community placed a major speed bump in the path of instituting the policies.

Two of the polices?#34;on parent/teacher meetings and school visits?#34;underwent a months-long review process by the board, teachers, administrators and the community before being approved in December.

The remain three topics were rolled into two policies?#34;"Civility" and "Complaints and Grievances"?#34;and came before the board at its regular meeting last Wednesday night, only to be set aside by the board in favor of a discussion with teachers.

"I feel like I'm missing the storyline" about why the policies were generated, said Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, vice president of the board. She said she was unsure about what message the proposed policies would send from the district, and was not sure adopting policies was the best way to address whatever issues teachers might have.

"I'm very uneasy with [the civility policy] as to how it characterizes our relationships," Newberry Schwartz said.

District 97 spokeswoman Gail Crantz, who told the board the policies as presented Wednesday night had been revised based on comments from a prior board meeting, said teachers felt that they were not being protected "in ways they deserve to be protected."

While teachers are bound by certain codes of conduct, parents are not, Crantz said. That can cause problems in rare instances when "things go wrong."

Newberry Schwartz suggested meeting with the teachers union to talk about what has gone wrong with parents before addressing the policy.

Board member Dan Burke agreed, saying legislating a "code of conduct" could create a bad perception among many in the community, and that when problems arise they seem to be more of "a management issue and a building issue."

Regarding the Complaints and Grievances policy, board member Sharon Patchak-Layman said she did not think "requests" and "suggestions" should be put in the same category as "complaints" and "grievances," as suggested in the policy.

Board members hoped problems would be first addressed at the personal and school level, but admitted that they would not and could not stop people from bringing grievances before the board.

Michelle Harton, board member, asked, "Do we really mean etiquette?" something much different than outlining how the board might expect people to act.

"The feel of this [policy] is overbearing," she said.

Superintendent John C. Fagan said he would consult with teachers' union leaders about a meeting with the board.
Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

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