Now for the story of teachers A to Z

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Marcia Frank

Jack Crowe recently recounted his negative experience with Teacher X [The story of Teacher X in Oak Park, Viewpoints, Feb. 16]. Let me share our family's experiences with teachers A to Z in District 97.

Our experiences with District 97 teachers have been tremendous, starting with the nurturing kindergarten classroom followed by a dynamic multi-age first- and second-grade classroom. We have had new teachers who brought new ideas and energy to their teaching, as well as veteran teachers who willingly embraced new technologies and new teaching concepts into their styles. These teachers were quick to understand the strengths of our children and work with them when they struggled. In middle school, we have been thrilled with the styles of teaching that both our children have experienced. Our children write a weekly blog for book reports and must also comment on their fellow students' blogs. They have collaborated with students internationally to create a website that has won international awards. We have teachers who know how to use new technologies and integrate them into their teaching as well!

Just for the sake of calculation, Jack, I will assume that you have had at least two children experience all of the grade levels of District 97, as we will have by next year. If this is the case, then your children will have been taught by about 75 teachers combined. These students have had educators who are passionate about teaching children and are exceptionally qualified to do so (just look at the number of Those Who Excel and Golden Apple nominees and winners in our Bright Red Apple district). Your students and ours have experienced music, the arts and literature. They can participate in sports, robotics, social-service clubs and other activities that can nurture a young interest. Which one of those teachers inspired your child's life and future or ignited a passion to pursue? Why not write about the benefits of merit pay based on the fact that we have a number of exceptional teachers who are worthy of merit pay?

Yet, our focus needs to be on what the qualified teaching staff of District 97 offers our children on a daily basis. I support this district and its upcoming referendum. Failure to pass the referendum means that all the learning opportunities that your children enjoyed will be gone. In fact, the district has already begun handing out pink slips to most of the teachers who are involved in the activities mentioned above. What made this district have the reputation as an exceptional place to learn will be lost.

The district has continually made budget cuts, has investigated and corrected areas of mismanagement and fiscal transgressions, and has yet to ask for any increase in taxes since 1989. What other major taxing body can say that?

We moved to Oak Park because we knew its school system to be challenging and forward-thinking, and that is exactly what our children experienced with their teachers. Although our time in District 97 schools is coming to a close at the end of next year, we support this referendum. Jack, your bio states that you are a third-generation Oak Parker. Don't your grandchildren (and ours) deserve the same exceptional schooling your children have had? It's now time for this generation to step up and preserve what's best about District 97, ensuring a quality, well-rounded education for the generations to follow. Vote yes on the referendum.

Marcia Frank has lived in Oak Park for 17 years with her husband and two children. She is a former member of the District 97 school board and is currently employed as the executive director of Pro Musica Youth Chorus.

Reader Comments

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Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 12th, 2011 11:27 AM

@DJ: This is an exciting moment for me...I agree with you (mostly)! The taxpayers' duty here is essentially to set the budget for D97 Board and Admin to react they respond we cannot impact. If people have an axe to grind about tenure, they need to find another way to express it. Do I think it has impact on D97 finances? Of course....but the issue won't be resolved on April 5th. Only the setting of the budget for the next several years (which is the first domino to fall)...


Posted: March 12th, 2011 9:03 AM

@Broke. Tenure and compensation are distinct issues. If the economics call for it, I'm sure the OPTA will negotiate wage concessions. They will not relinquish tenure. In any event, my point here is that opposition to the referendum should not be based on the tenure issue. Defeat of the referendum will have no impact on tenure, but is very likely to result in hardship for D97 employees and the reduction or elimination of valuable programs.


Posted: March 12th, 2011 7:29 AM

@DJ Tho the issue of tenure & teacher salaries seems to be irrelevant for this referendum I believe it's extremely relevant. To continue to throw money into the pot at a system that is no longer affordable just prolongs the inevitable. With no money it seems to me that the Board would have to renogiate with the union on all issues. With an average salary of $72,000 & 3% increases annually, it's how we got where we are. Tho not directly related it's certainly a big part of the problem.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:27 AM

@Undecided. There is hyperbole on both sides of this argument. Try to cut through it to the actual issues. The issue of tenure will not be resolved in the near term and is not directly relevant to the referendum issue.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:15 AM

You had me until .... "Failure to pass the referendum means that all the learning opportunities that your children enjoyed will be gone." These Chicken Little statements make the YES crowd lose credibility. If it's not Chicken Little then as a former board member you must share responsiblity for being in this alleged dire situation.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: March 11th, 2011 8:03 AM

I agree, to some extent, with Marcia and Jack. There are many great teachers in Oak Park, and they deserve the modest security that tenure gives them, especially in economically difficult times where I"m afraid districts are often tempted to cut tenured teachers just to save money. But tenure does not make it impossible to get rid of a few really lousy teachers, and everyone knows who they are. D97 just seems to be unwilling to put in the work required. Bad for kids and good teachers.


Posted: March 11th, 2011 6:54 AM

I agree with Marcia. Jack Crowe's anecdote from 20 years ago is not corroborated or verified. Indeed, Jack doesn't know one way or the other whether tenure prevented teacher X from being fired. The story intimates that the admin felt sorry for her because she was having "problems." But if Crowe's account is accurate, surely she could have been fired for cause under union rules. Crowe then uses this anecdote to oppose the referendum, as if D97 has immediate control over the issue of merit pay.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 12:26 PM

I am saying that the excellence in teaching IS the norm and the number of teachers who are exemplary far exceed the one bad teacher. His suggestion was to move to more of a merit-pay system. I was agreeing through the evidence of the multitude of good, not the bad. Should the incompetent teachers be weeded out - yes. Jack's focus on the one negative experience does not celebrate all the good that does occur in our schools.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:38 AM

Marcia, while excellence in teaching should be celebrated it should not be noteworthy. It must be the norm. You seem to be suggesting that the exemplary teachers balance out the bad ones so no harm no foul. Once again, what I think Jack was saying is that District 97 failed those students who had Teacher X for the 20 some years that she was in the system, even if other teachers later worked to fix the problems she left. That is a point that your comment did not address.

Marcia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:01 AM

Tom: I did understand his point. Hence, my sentence "Why not write about the benefits of merit pay based on the fact that we have a number of exceptional teachers who are worthy of merit pay?" Jack's article is so skewed to the negative and discredits the many positive influences that the children of Oak Park experience on a daily basis. It's like looking at a Seurat painting up miss the whole picture.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 9:52 AM

I think that you missed the point of Jack Crowe's piece. He acknowledged that District 97 has excellent teachers but he pointed to an instance where the district abided by a substandard teacher throughout her career allowing her to retire with significant benefits despite the fact that she did her job poorly for more than 20 years. Merit pay is fine but only in conjunction with a rigorous effort of clearing out those teachers without merit.

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