D97 principal contract adds transparency, VP says

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Nearly an entire school year later than anticipated, the District 97 Board of Education finalized a principals' contract at its March 23 meeting.

The performance contract sets three basic goals for the seven principals signed to the agreement: the academic success of all students, the specific success of African-American students, and establishing a positive school climate.

All of the district's 10 principals would have signed the contract, but John Hodge is serving as interim principal at Irving Elementary School, Paula O'Malley is retiring from her post at Whittier Elementary, and the board is in the middle of proceedings to remove Flora Green from her post at Brooks Middle School.

Board Vice President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz would not comment on whether the Green situation delayed development of the contract. She explained the delay by needing more time to include accountability elements and to discuss the contract with principals.

The contract will affect the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 school years.

For each of the three goals, five "indicators of satisfactory progress" are given. For the two academic success goals, indicators are similar: to regularly meet with school staff and parent groups, use data to identify needs, collaborate with parents and staff and to deliver a plan in October and a progress report in April of each year.

Because those plans and reports will be made in public, the community will be able to follow progress at each school, Newberry Schwartz said. The plans will allow the superintendent and each principal to localize goals to each school, she said.

Principals are to develop programs or strategies "specific to African American achievement in collaboration with the Multicultural Department and their research-based work with Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN).

To address climate issues, principals are to be "highly visible at school and district events," "regularly assess" climate, provide for "information interactions" between staff, students and parents, collaborate with parents' groups, and update the board each year with a plan and report, as with the academic performance goals.

Along with principals, certified teachers and incoming Supt. Connie Collins are also signed to three-year contracts.

Newberry Schwartz would not comment on whether signing Holmes Principal Laurel Muhammad indicated success at the elementary school, where a critical issues process akin to one at Brooks is taking place, instead saying that the contracts will allow the board and community to monitor progress at all schools.

"We're not singling anybody out," Newberry Schwartz said.

New software helps predict (financial) future

The district unveiled a new web-based financial planning program at the meeting. The program promises to track expenses and revenues while making projections years into the future.

"It's not the absolute values" of the projections, said Gary Lonquist, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, after the meeting. "It's the shape of the lines."

The district started plugging its financial information into the program, operated by PMA Financial Network, Inc. of Warrenville, in October, and used the program to chart how raises offered to teachers would affect its budget in the next three school years during negotiations in February.

A PMA representative presenting the program told the board it was a tool that will allow it and the district staff to make "data-driven decisions."

Board cheers state "tax swap" measure

The board unanimously approved a resolution supporting House Bill 750, one of several legislative proposals aiming to diversify and raise state taxes in order to increase school funding and give a break in property taxes.

Board Member Dan Burke said one projection puts Dist. 97's state payouts rising $4.5 million with the proposed legislation.

Proponents of HB750 or similar proposals say schools in poorer communities would be better served by higher baseline state funding, that the tax relieves some of the pressure on homeowners, and that it is a "progressive" tax, meaning wealthier people shoulder more of the burden.

Opponents say control of school funding should remain local, and that for many higher state income taxes would offset any savings on property taxes.

River Forest School District 90's Board of Education has expressed some concern over the effects of a tax swap proposal.
?#34;Drew Carter

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