Friday, September 22, 2017

School district labor
scene quiet at start of year

Four teacher strikes were called last school year.
There have been no teacher strikes since the school year began about a month ago for most districts in Illinois. Some contract disagreements have been reported, including one involving a federal mediator.

According to data provided by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, federal mediation is ongoing in Quincy SD 172, where the teacher union’s membership voted down a tentative agreement reached two months ago. The contract talks, underway since February, included sessions with a federal mediator on Aug. 31 and Sept. 12.

The talks reportedly will continue, even though the next scheduled negotiation is not yet scheduled. The mediator, who is now arranging the next meeting date, was called in from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides mediation services to schools, and government and community organizations, as well as to industry. Typically a mediator offers a helpful outside perspective, with the goal of bringing the two sides together to reach an equitable agreement.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board says school districts and unions commonly bring in a mediator after both sides cannot find common ground on issues following expiration of an existing contract.

Quincy public schools had previously encountered a strike just last school year: the strike began Jan. 11, and ended Jan. 19, 2017. The Quincy SD 172 Board of Education ratified the teachers’ current one-year contract Feb. 2, but in seeking a longer-term pact, recurring issues led to further disagreements. This may have been complicated by the fact that the union reorganized this year to bring non-teaching school district employees into the labor organization.

Statewide, four teacher strikes occurred last school year, each settled within a matter of days, except a stoppage in East Moline CUSD 37 that lasted more than two weeks. It involved 263 IEA teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and nurses, beginning Jan. 27 and ending Feb. 15.

Teacher strikes last school year also occurred in Red Hill CUSD 10 (Bridgeport), which involved 78 teachers, custodians, and cooks; Quincy SD 172, which involved 870 teachers; and Pinckneyville SD 50, which involved 30 teachers.

More recent strike authorizations by bus drivers were filed in two different Minooka school districts on Aug. 3, and in Decatur SD 61 on Aug. 31. None of those strike authorizations has led to a strike, but negotiations are ongoing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

State ESSA plan wins federal approval

U.S. Department of Education officials recently gave final approval to the Illinois plan for implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a 2015 law that broadened authority for local governance of schools.

ESSA, which supplanted the No Child Left Behind Act, requires testing in reading and math at various grade levels. Although standardized tests remain part of school accountability, each state develops its own accountability model. The accountability model in Illinois’ plan for ESSA incorporates factors of importance to local school leaders, such as post-secondary readiness, school climate, and school safety.

Accountability is measured for groups of students, but school districts can develop interventions based on local needs if a subgroup is identified as underperforming, with equity as the grounding principle.

State officials say the plan transitions Illinois to a system of balanced accountability. They say the plan gathers and examines multiple indicators of school quality and student growth to inform differentiated levels of support for schools.

The plan advances specific long-term goals for all students to attain by 2032: 90 percent or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level; 90 percent or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics; 90 percent or more of ninth-grade are students on track to graduate with their cohort; and 90 percent or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career.

“Illinois is committed to supporting the whole child in transforming learning opportunities for all students in our state” said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith.

The Illinois State Board of Education reports that it is still strengthening the state plan by engaging stakeholders, particularly through working groups assigned to develop grade-level accountability indicators and advise educators on school-based expenditure reporting methods. ISBE will finalize all indicators to be used in the new accountability system by Dec. 31, according to an ISBE memo dated Sept. 13.

The newly approved ESSA plan is available on the ISBE website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Workshop boosts division leaders’ skills

The second of three leadership workshops designed for IASB’s division officers, this one held in Mt. Vernon on Sep. 16, drew nearly fifteen board members. The training focuses on improving leadership skills and allows those in leadership posts to work together on best practices and to be recognized for their service to the Association.

The purpose of the event is to give division officers an additional professional development opportunity as they help the Association achieve its mission and goals.

Highlighting the day’s discussion and activities was guest speaker Patrick Muhammad, a terrific athlete from East St. Louis who went on to graduate from Kentucky State University, then teach for awhile, and earn his Master’s in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University. He ultimately became an assistant principal before completing his Education Specialist in Educational Leadership.

Muhammad said true leadership is about who you inspire. Emphasizing that decisions are made 60 seconds at a time and leaders have to make a number of decisions, “those sixty-second intervals can change a life,” he said. “The decisions you make determine a human being’s future.”

Muhammad added that leadership is not about management, adding, “Managers manage things; leaders lead people.”

After lunch, the division leaders split into groups for part two of the workshop. Activities focused on roles within IASB divisions and allowed members to share concepts and practices that they have found beneficial for their areas.

The initial exercise allowed division officers who share the same title/position to work together creating an elevator speech. Attendees were tasked with defining what their position means within the Association, why it is important, and how it impacts member districts. The speeches are intended to be no longer than 30 seconds, or the time it takes for an average elevator ride.

One board member noted the value of the activity, stating that members don’t always understand the governing roles within IASB, so it will help the division leaders to be ready to explain the process.

The final table activity split members into three groups with the goal to discuss division meeting planning. Each group was tasked with sharing success stories that have been well received by board members in attendance.

Everything from meeting locations within a school or at an outside venue, program speakers and topics, breakout sessions, and even candidate briefings were discussed. After the success stories were recorded, the groups reviewed the suggestions to find concepts that would work within their own divisions.

One more division leadership workshop is scheduled for Jan. 27 in Naperville. Registration is available only to division officers, which includes the positions of director, chair, vice-chair, and resolutions chair. IASB maintains 21 geographic divisions that serve as a basis for Association governance and service delivery.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

PARCC testing, school polling places, PTELL levies win resolution support

Resolutions will be acted upon at the Delegate Assembly Nov. 18.
The IASB Resolutions Committee met in August to review five resolutions, one amendment to a current position, a reaffirmation of an existing position, and a new Association belief statement. After debate among committee members and the sponsoring districts, the committee recommended adoption of two resolutions, the amendment, and the new belief statement.

Chaired by IASB Vice President Joanne Osmond, the resolutions committee is charged with recommending either approval or disapproval of the submitted proposals. The recommendation determines which resolutions are presented to the full Delegate Assembly at the Joint Annual Conference. Resolutions that get a “Do Not Adopt” designation can be appealed if the sponsoring district submits the appeal in writing at least eight days prior to the Delegate Assembly.

The resolutions suggested for adoption this year include the following proposals:
  • School-as-polling-place reimbursement, submitted by Indian Prairie CUSD 204. The Illinois Association of School Boards shall support legislation that amends the Election Code and the School Code to mandate that the appropriate officer or board having responsibility for providing a polling place for the election shall reimburse the school district for any costs, including security to ensure student safety, in acting as a polling place. Estimated costs shall be provided to the appropriate officer or board in advance of any decision to use a particular public building in order to ensure efficient use of public resources.
  • PARCC testing results, submitted by Altamont CUSD 10. The Illinois Association of School Boards shall petition the Illinois State Board of Education to fairly report discrepancies in the scoring of state-required standardized testing: (1) between paper-and-pencil, versus electronic, test results and (2) within the electronic testing method. Further, such discrepancies will be made public so that schools may provide said information to parents and the media when the testing results are reported as required under state law.
  • PTELL, no penalty for under levy, submitted by Naperville CUSD 203. As amended, The Illinois Association of School Boards shall support legislation that allows school districts to levy an amount less than the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) formula would allow without penalty in future years. When a district “under” levies, the district will have the ability to reassess the reduced levy taken in a given year and recover the full entitled levy for a period of three years from the effective date of the reduced levy. A district will not be entitled to reassess the reduced levy once the three-year limit has expired.
In addition to the new and amended position statements recommended for adoption, a new belief statement was suggested for approval. The statement reads:

The Illinois Association of School Boards believes school boards should employ competitive bidding practices for upgrades in technology and energy savings and should also provide an energy savings contracting model policy and training opportunities for school districts.

The panel also made motions of “do not adopt” for three resolutions and a reaffirmation of an older position statement. Resolutions that were not approved include proposals to permit school faculty to carry firearms on school grounds, a one percent statewide sales tax increase, and changes to the Open Meetings Act to allow closed sessions for discussion of shared personnel in districts that have entered a Joint Cooperative Agreement.

The committee’s Report to Membership will be mailed to districts in mid-September and made available online. In addition to the committee motions, the report also contains rationale provided by the districts for the suggested changes, and the reasoning offered by committee members for their recommendations.

“School board members once again showed that they are paying close attention to the education issues; this year topics include PARCC testing and school safety procedures,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB deputy executive director. “The committee process and meeting was impressive from a membership point of view. We had nearly 100 percent participation among our resolutions committee chairmen and the school boards that submitted resolutions.”

IASB member district delegates will meet at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago. Resolutions approved by the Delegate Assembly will be added to IASB Position Statements and used to guide Association policy for the coming year.

The current IASB Constitution and Positions Statements can be found online.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Division leaders’ workshop focus
is on roles, practices, governance

Small group discussions were included on roles
within IASB divisions and shared concepts and practices.
Kicking off the first of three leadership workshops targeted toward IASB division officers, the Springfield event saw nearly twenty board members gather on a Saturday. In addition to a focus on improving leadership skills, the training allows members serving in leadership positions to collaborate with colleagues on best practices and be recognized for their service to the Association.

“The purpose of the event is to provide division officers with an additional professional development opportunity as they help the Association achieve its mission and goals,” said Reatha Owen, field services director for the Blackhawk, Central Illinois Valley, Corn Belt, and Western Divisions.

To begin the day, participants were treated to the engaging and energetic words of a guest speaker
The Springfield workshop drew nearly 20 division leaders.
with deep ties to Illinois. Patrick Muhammad grew up in East St. Louis. A standout athlete, he went on to graduate and attend Kentucky State University. After moving to Georgia, Muhammad entered the classroom as a teacher and later earned his Masters in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University. He would become an assistant principal and complete his Education Specialist in Educational Leadership.

Speaking about the importance of leadership, Muhammad stressed that true leadership is about who you inspire.

Muhammad went on to explain, “Leadership has nothing to do with titles or seniority. Leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes. Leadership isn’t management. Managers manage things. Leaders lead people.”

After a quick lunch, division leaders were tasked with defining what their position means within the association, why it is important, and how it impacts member districts.

They also had an opportunity for small group discussion on their roles within IASB divisions and shared concepts and practices that they have found beneficial for their divisions as well as sharing their success stories.

Additional division leadership workshops are scheduled for Sep. 16 in Mt. Vernon, and Jan. 27 in Naperville. Additional division leadership workshops are scheduled for Sep. 16 in Mt. Vernon, and Jan. 27 in Naperville. Registration is available only to division officers. IASB has 21 geographic divisions that divisions serve as a basis for Association governance and service delivery.