‘Rift’ a subject for the Columbia School Board | Republic Times

With the recent controversy surrounding the job of a district administrator still on the minds of many teachers and staff, a Columbia Middle School teacher approached the school board Thursday night with suggestions for moving forward.

And the board responded.

Amber Haven, a fifth-grade CMS teacher, was one of 11 district employees who approached the board to support CMS deputy principal David Ackerman in February when she learned her contract was in danger of running out. not be renewed.

Eventually, the board reached a settlement agreement with Ackerman paying him $50,000 plus a letter of recommendation in exchange for his resignation.

Haven spoke again at the May school board meeting, saying there was a clear rift between the board and some teachers and staff in the district.

“Everyone in this room knows that what happened to Mr. Ackerman was not transparent and it didn’t feel right, but the teachers still haven’t given up on building a relationship with the board,” said she declared. “We want your cooperation, but we want to make sure that council members practice what we have instilled in our children and expect from our community.”

Haven provided suggestions on how the council can help bridge this divide, such as visiting – and even replacing in – schools, directing community members to put written complaints to the council and engaging with employees. of the district when dealing with such concerns.

“You can talk with the teachers, talk with the building administration, and get to the root of the situation before you make a decision that directly and negatively impacts a human life,” Haven said, later adding, ” Doing one, some or all of these things could help bring our community together.

During the council chairman’s prerogative at the end of the meeting, Greg Meyer acknowledged that there was a “rift” between the council and some district employees and that he “would like nothing more than to find a way to bridge that and bring everyone together.”

He said he would visit the schools as Haven had suggested.

Meyer also used the time to explain that while the vast majority of council business should be conducted in public, there are certain circumstances – such as discussions between the council about employment – ​​that cannot.

“Council business is absolutely everybody’s business in this community,” Meyer said. “As much as everyone has a right to know about District business, (employees and others in the District) have a right to privacy. We respect people’s privacy and that’s why we can’t comment on some things. These things are handled in the (closed) executive session. (Topics) such as individual students, employees and legal matters are kept confidential due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

“I love transparency, I would love to sit here and tell you all the reasons for every decision we make, but that’s just not possible and I’m sorry about that,” Meyer concluded.

Ackerman did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

In other matters, the school board decided it would hold a public hearing for the 2021-22 Amended District Budget at 7 p.m. June 23 in the District Council Chambers at 5 Veterans Parkway in Columbia.

Columbia typically holds budget hearings at its regular meetings, but because it’s required to post the budget publicly for 30 days before each hearing, it couldn’t do so at its June 16 meeting.

The budget is posted on columbia4.org under the “Board of Education” tab. Columbia Schools Superintendent Chris Grode said the budget the board received at its May meeting was updated, except for the pending payroll.

Carla Wantuck, former chair of negotiations for the Columbia Education Association and teacher representative for Parkview Elementary, asked the board during the construction report to consider adding an allowance for teachers engaged in mentoring new teachers.

She said that might be feasible given that a past legislative session increased the budget for such programs.

“Mentoring a new teacher is a huge responsibility,” Wantuck said. “It takes a lot of time, and it’s the job of the mentor teacher to make sure the (new) teacher succeeds. It weighs heavily on the shoulders of this mentor teacher.

Deputy Superintendent Alyssa Smith said she looks forward to “revamping” the mentor teacher program this summer, but did not say whether that will include stipends.

In his report, Smith also said the district was completing year-end benchmark testing, as well as compiling data.

“To see the growth our students have made year-to-date is amazing,” Smith said. “I think it’s directly related to the fact that our students are excited to be back in school – we’re not hybrid, we’re not in distance learning, they’re back in school where they love being and they thrive and they love at work – but it’s also the dedication of our teachers because there were a lot of gaps when our students went through this pandemic and so they worked exceptionally hard to fill them. .

In a follow-up to the facilities survey report Smith presented at the April meeting, Grode said high school teachers fill out surveys in which they indicate what they think the high school renovations should entail. .

The council had yet to hear whether the Illinois Department of Transportation had responded to the council and city’s joint request to modify Route 3, which Grode said would be a key part of the city’s expansion. high school.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see a third lane on Route 3 between Bottom Avenue to Sand Bank because of everything that’s going on at 11 South. A third lane to Sand Bank would make a lot of sense. A right out of the high school parking lot next to (Route) 3 would also be something we expect,” Grode said.

The district is currently looking for vocational and technical education instructors, a sign language interpreter, and a guidance counselor or social worker to serve elementary students.

The board approved extending the term of the Mississippi Valley Employee Benefits Cooperative Intergovernmental Health and Benefits Pools, and named Grode as a board member with Smith as substitute.

The council also approved the first reading of PRESS 109, which outlines recommended changes to council policy, with Grode noting that further policy discussions will take place.

The Harcourt Houghton Mifflin Into Math Curriculum has also been approved.

The next regular meeting of the Columbia School Board will be at 7 p.m. on June 16 in the District Council Chambers.

Jessica C. Bell