OPRF recasts discipline deans as 'interventionists'


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Oak Park and River Forest High will no longer have a dean of discipline position after this school year.

The school plans to revamp the discipline dean model entirely, moving the focus more toward intervening before students misbehave as opposed to punishing kids after they do. Along with recasting them as "student intervention directors," the new positions will also fall within administration, whereas the current deans are classified as "teaching positions," covered under the faculty contract.

The school plans to have the new model in place for the 2012-2013 school year. The goal is to move current deans into this new role. Administrators must have a Type 75 education certificate and three of the current deans have this certification. The fourth dean is currently working on getting the certificate and will also be offered the new position.

Per the Illinois school code, OPRF has to give prior notice to employees before a dismissal. The deans have yet to accept or decline the offer, said Lauren Smith, OPRF's assistant superintendent for human resources. The deans have until April 2 to do so, and if any decline, the positions will be posted publicly, Smith said. If the deans do accept, they could be hired as early as April 12.

"We'd like to hire them by our next school board meeting," Smith said, referring to the current deans. If they decline, Smith said the school hopes to hire the new staff by July.

Prior to the creation of the discipline dean position, OPRF school counselors handled discipline cases. The intervention directors will still work closely with students, Smith said. Each dean has a current caseload of about 800 kids. As intervention directors, they'll also take on administrative duties, including participating in teacher evaluations.

Smith described this new role as helping teachers with such things as classroom management or assisting department heads with evaluating new teachers. With respect to discipline, Smith said the school wants all of the adults in the building to help students improve their behavior.

At the March 22 school board meeting, trustees voted 6-1 to dismiss the current deans. Sharon Patchak-Layman was the lone dissenter, concerned that this decision is being made before the school embarks on strategic planning this upcoming school year. She also had concerns that the position was not being posted publicly. Another concern was that creating this position within administration would take the staff away from working with kids. Patchak-Layman urged the school to hold-off on the change.

"I think having one year left is a good opportunity to have this as a transition year where we can have all of these conversations take place," she said.

Other board members disagreed, arguing that this new model is in line with the school's ongoing effort to move toward intervention. They also supported moving the current deans into this new role.

"We have three people we're maintaining. We're changing their role and title but retaining that institutional knowledge of staff who have served us well," said board member Terry Finnegan.

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Elvia from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 12:50 PM

Bravo. I'm glad to see the district is actually taking some charge and actually tackling what the big problem is and has been for quite sometime. There is a huge problem, with the dean of discipline office at OPRFHS. Such as: #1 Power Complex, #2 Lack of Communication between Dean and Parent. I'll call you when I get the memo. #3 Rules- District BYLAWS apply to certain kids and not others ( if you are a athletes and you are making our school look good. I don't care what you do.

parent and taxpayer  

Posted: March 25th, 2012 9:34 PM

Some kids do have a good experience at OPRFHS. We need to work as a community to hold the hs accountable to enable a good experience for all kids. The honors program is pretty good, although not necessarily better than many other schools. But the so called "college prep" program is not living up to its name. Oh, I forgot, it must be the parents' fault.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 8:58 PM

@Another OPRF I'm glad you had a good experience at OPRF. I wish I could say the same thing. Far too many people I know who attended OPRF in my day were ill prepared for college level work upon graduation. I have actually encouraged people to drop out of OPRF, get a GED, and start taking college level classes at Triton. This approach seemed more practical than wasting time at OPRF. I have recommeded this same approach to impoverished kids stuck in a miserable Detroit public HS. It worked.

another oprf student  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 2:20 PM

They didn't get rid of Soffer...I heard they got rid of Greeenstone and Silver. And the deans...

Another OPRF grad from late 80s  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 12:31 PM

Thanks to the following teachers: Gini Williams, Greg Neumer, Kevin Pobst, Karen Urban, Marlene Spicuzza, Art Albores, Ron Anderson, Doug Hunt, Ms. Kohl (spelling?), Jim Locke, Tom Graziano, Barb Liles

Another OPRF grad from late 80s  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 12:16 PM

@TJ- Funny, I went to OP in the late 80s & had the opposite experience. I learned a great deal from excellent teachers and had many who were better than those I encountered in a semester at Cal Berkeley and the remainder of my time at U of M (Ann Arbor). Perhaps you did not take advantage of all that OPRF has to offer and/or were not open to learning from those teachers.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: March 24th, 2012 8:24 AM

Just for the record I have always maintained that my OPRF experience was terrible. Very little learning occured in the 4 years I spent at OPRF. I could teach someone what I learned in 4 years in about 2 months if I had to. My time at OPRF in the late 80s was a major waste of my time and taxpayer money.

OPRF parent  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 9:39 PM

Once upon a time Counselors had fewer students so being both advisor and addressing discipline was possible. The plus was that the counselors actually knew the kids and so could address discipline within the context of the whole student. Our (thankfully few) dean experiences were any problem = no questions, no context, no contacting parents, just conviction and punishment. I'm hoping the future will be an improvement.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park   

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 12:52 PM

Sounds like a great idea to me. How could four deans of discipline possibly each have a full day's work to do. Maybe they could use the money to hire some more math and science teachers. In the 21st century, that's where our money should be going.

Foreclosed from lost my home to taxes  

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 10:45 AM

Foreclosed to taxes residents are truely selfish. I agree. They need to get jobs to pay the drivers ed teachers.


Posted: March 22nd, 2012 11:14 PM

T.J., I'm guessing you went to the school a long time ago under different conditions. You are being pretty selfish in that you are more concerned about your taxes than the education of students. You talk about the "performing kids", but have you considered that the increase in disruptions due to disciplinary issues will cause more stress of teachers and "performing kids", and make the school plummet? YOU got YOUR education, give someone else a chance!


Posted: March 22nd, 2012 10:12 PM

(Ctd)That being said, the student is right about the deans. They are not fat to be trimmed but skilled mediators who work like dogs to prevent problems before they happen. This may be about saving money- a major concern of the current Board & Admin, who occasionally fail to recognize the educational implications of their cost-saving decisions. Reassigning deans as Admin may create flatter salaries & deans would be out of the bargaining unit, but it may also create a wedge between faculty & deans


Posted: March 22nd, 2012 10:02 PM

@T.J. Under the old system, the counselors had a smaller caseload, so OPRF would need to hire additional counselors to recreate your experience, which may not lead to savings. I agree it was a better system in many ways, but the school went to the current system due to concerns over equity. There was a perception that the old dean system resulted in unequal punishments for similar offenses. (Ctd.)

Student from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 8:36 PM

@T.J. how about instead of complaining that the tax payers pay to much for people who actually do a good job you complain about the over 100 million dollars the school refuses to use which could be put to keeping teachers and staff instead of these idiotic layoffs.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 8:25 PM

Back when I was an OPRF student the student's regular dean handled discipline issues. Go back to that system and save the taxpayers major money. The "discipline dean" position is a waste of money. Get rid of the fat and spend the money on tutors for kids who aren't performing. Maybe pay some of the top students to teach the struggling ones. Performing kids gain leadership skills and the under performing kids learn something. Plus by paying the tutors you create incentives all over.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 7:56 PM

If they need a new discipline person with real results, I can find you a few Drill Instructors that will get the job done, and shape up the school.

This Sucks!  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 7:50 PM

How about their decision to get rid of Soffer and Silver, two of the best teachers at that school? This school is going to hell.

Student from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 7:35 PM

This is honestly one of the stupidest decisions by this board of education. Are they planning on giving the disciplinary duties back to the ALREADY overworked counselors? Honestly, the four current deans of discipline are four of the best mediators and problem solvers when it comes to dealing with students. The school board should not be able to just dismiss the position and should definitely not be able to dismiss the staff members from working at the school. This is wrong, very very wrong.

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