Brooks Middle School Principal Flora Green and nine others defended her professional performance and urged the District 97 Board of Education at its meeting last Wednesday not to vote to begin a process that could remand her to teacher ranks.
However, the board voted 6-1 to do just that, with Sharon Patchak-Layman casting the dissenting vote because she wanted to discuss comments made by Green and Brooks teachers, parents and community members with the rest of the board.
Patchak-Layman moved to table the motion to pass a resolution giving Supt. John C. Fagan the green light to give Green notice of being reclassified next fall to teacher status. The move was not seconded. Green has been principal at Brooks, previously known as Emerson Junior High, for a decade.
Board President Ade Onayemi spoke sternly to Patchak-Layman about the motion, saying the vote on the resolution was just the first step in the process. Green will be given due process as afforded by state law, namely the opportunity to request private and public hearings with the board.
Green filed her request for a private hearing on March 11, but the hearing has not been scheduled yet.
Green came under fire from Brooks parents in April 2003 after the sudden dismissal of a teacher and director of the school's BRAVO! arts program. In the fall of 2003, the district hired a consultant, Teachers' Task Force, to improve communications and review parents' concerns at both Brooks and Holmes Elementary School. The consultant's report identified leadership as a major area of concern at both schools.
Green calls explanation for move 'nebulous'
During public comment at the meeting, Green said that Fagan had given her only "nebulous" explanations for the move, including that "things just aren't moving fast enough at [Brooks]." She said she had no performance issues prior to the building of the new school.
Fagan later said that he had discussed with her the decision to reclassify her, and that the decision was based on more than one year's performance. Performance evaluations of principals, which normally are conducted near the end of the school year, have not yet been completed this school year.
Green also said Fagan told her she would not be principal of Brooks the summer before the new school opened and after she had completed the preliminary work in getting the school built. Fagan later said, "I don't have any recollection of saying that," and that he supported her "through lots of ups and downs" over the years of her tenure.
Upon completing her address to the board, Green was met with a standing ovation from much of the crowd of more than 100 gathered in the Brooks Commons for the board meeting.
Supporters ask for data
Other speakers called on the board to produce data showing Green's performance warranted her removal. Employee performance information is typically kept private.
Fagan said the decision was based on his evaluation, which includes ongoing measurements and assessments.
"This isn't anything arbitrary," Fagan said.
Kathy Tortorice, a candidate for the Dist. 97 board, participated in the Critical Issues process at Brooks as a member of a study group that fashioned one of four charters.
She said data supporting the reclassification can be found in the charters, which track progress of improvements at the school.
"Progress hasn't been made in a lot of areas," Tortorice said.
She also pointed to survey information that "don't point to an excellent score."
"Nobody in this community wants a school that ranks as 'OK,'" Tortorice said.
No one spoke in favor of the reclassification at the meeting, but community members bemoaning problems at Brooks have appeared at other board meetings since the BRAVO! incident. WEDNESDAY JOURNAL also received letters from Brooks parents praising the action [see VIEWPOINTS, page 33].
Decision expected before April election
After the private hearing, if the board decides to continue with the reclassification, it would need to notify Green in writing within 15 days. Green then would have 5 days to request a public hearing. She has the right to have legal counsel at both hearings, according to state law.
Onayemi said he hopes the board will finish all of the business for this school year, including rendering a final decision on the reclassification, before the April 5 elections.
The timeframe set by law allows plenty of time to finish the process before a new board takes over, Onayemi said.