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Staffing Cuts, Program Changes on the Way in Valley View

Mitchem: “Some of the changes are uncomfortable, but we cannot allow that to paralyze us when making these decisions.”

Three weeks after (RIF) of both teachers and support staff, the on Monday effectively reversed its decision.

With member Liz Campbell absent and Jim Curran abstaining from the vote, the board OK’d a proposal containing layoffs that will initially affect about 500 staffers, including first- through fourth-year teachers. The board also approved cutting first- through fifth-year support staff.

Executive Director for Human Resources Sharon Hawks said all but 30 to 40 teachers and 30 paraprofessionals will be called back in time for next school year.

The need for the RIF came from both financial reasons, including anticipated state funding cuts, as well as program changes needed to bolster middle school college and career readiness standards, according to officials.

Vickie Sutterlin, present of the Valley View Council, Local 604 of the American Federation of Teachers, thanked the board for taking time out to talk with union members after their initial vote on the proposal.

“It gave a better understanding as to the rationale,” she said.

Some parents questioned whether research shows that the program will produce guaranteed results, while others mourned the time students will lose in careers classes like art and music.

Mom Shirley Brady, who has two children at in Romeoville, said she did some research to find out what studies reveal about the Odyssey online intervention program.

She cited a 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Education showing little change in students who participated in Odyssey.

“Don’t implement the Odyssey program,” she implored board members, adding data shows that students involved in art, music and P.E. classes have lower dropout rates.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum for grades six to 12 Rachel Kinder noted that the program is more powerful when paired with the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress Assessment), which will be used to drive instruction for each student.

Program changes on the horizon

The board signed off the Odyssey program, along with cuts to the driver’s ed program.

Odyssey

Kinder said Compass Learning’s Odyssey program is aimed at filling the gap as changes are made to align the district’s reading curriculum with new standards. She cited MAP scores showing that more than 60 percent of Valley View sixth- through eighth-graders do not meet new college and career readiness standards.

“The target that we were shooting for has changed,” she said. “We need to supplement until we can kind of catch up to that increased rigor … The game has changed; the standard is higher.”

Board vice president Rick Gougis said waiting until the curriculum catches up to new standards would be disservice to students.

“We’ve had honors kids go to and then get placed in remedial English,” he said. “It’s a travesty.”

Kinder said the program will cost $51,000 per year for the next three years, down from Compass Learning’s original quote of $60,000.

Each student’s level of need would determine how much time he or she would spend in Odyssey and away from careers classes, she said. Odyssey also offers enrichment for high-achieving students.

Parent and local pastor Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle questioned the price of the Odyssey program, saying the $51,000 per year cited by Kinder was only a portion of the true cost.

Anderson-Hurdle pointed to another agenda item containing technology upgrades for the next two years — including hardware and infrastructure improvements needed for the Odyssey program. The updates, including 325 computers, 28 laser printers, furniture and electrical infrastructure, are expected to total a maximum of $390,650.

Kinder countered that equipment and upgrades would also be used during class periods other than Odyssey.

“Yes, there are related costs, but they will serve multiple purposes,” she said.

Anderson-Hurdle also balked at the loss of time in careers classes.

“Not every kid will go to college — frankly, not every kid should go to college,” Anderson-Hurdle said. “I want a well-rounded citizen of the world.” 

Driver’s education

The severity of the cuts to driver’s ed is still unclear.

Kinder said administrators will base that on feedback received from the board of education.

Currently, the district employs 13 full-time instructors at and six at .

The most severe cuts, which would save $1.1 million, would mean “significant reduction in staffing,” according to a report by Kinder, as well as shifting some of students’ state-mandated behind-the-wheel time to after school, before school or during the summer. Another possibility, she said, is a reduction in the district's fleed of driver's ed vehicles.

Kinder said the end result will fall somewhere between the current driver’s education program and the maximum cuts, adding the reductions are necessary to avoid cuts in core academic areas.

‘Uncomfortable decisions’

Superintendent James Mitchem responded to parents and staff who spoke out against the changes.

“We’ve exposed our kids to a subpar curriculum and have done nothing about it,” Mitchem said. “Some of the changes are uncomfortable, but we cannot allow that to paralyze us when making these decisions.”

Gougis said it’s not test scores he’s concerned with.

“I could [not] care less about test scores,” he said. “I care what our kids know so they have options in life.”

tom April 18, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Do you believe that Roger has a role in Downers Grove 99, Woodridge 68, IPSD 204, Naperville 203 and Plainfield 202 school district as well? Do you believe that John has an equal roll in VVSD? I'm not a troll. Just wondering what others think.
MrPeanut April 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I agree with the good Cap'n: Let's look at the Odyssey learning program. If you go onto Odyssey's site you will see testimonials for the program by the following school districts: Deer Creek Public Schools Crowley Texas (the closest district to looking like Valley View whose "success" from Odyssey Learning has translated into 42% of their African American population being "below standards" on their most-recent state tests, and 46% of their "hispanic [sic]" students testing below standards. Cliffside Rutheford County (North Carolina) Beaufort County School District (South Carolina) Milwaukee College Prep School Bosall Union School District Rochester City School District Andalusia City School District Maple Leaf Intermediate School Poinsetta Elementary School Ramona Unified School District Dorchester School District Two The problem is, NONE of these schools remotely look like Valley View - their success hasn't been proven in a district that mirrors ours. Spend five minutes Googling these districts and their achievement (I would have, had I been in charge of signing a 153,000 check). You will see, not only is the jury out on this program, they aren't even trying a case that applies to us. I will always contend, no matter how much Miss Butterworth disagrees with me, that the best place to spend money like this is within the district, growing our own curriculum. At which point will the district be willing to trust their teachers
Indy April 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Slag I found your comments about teachers using sick days and personal days a bit insulting. I am a teacher in the district and you can bet unless I am so sick I can not drag myself to school I am there and working with 21 six year olds that need your constant attention for six hours.
MrPeanut April 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
to develop a meaningful curriculum that relates to the common core standards? At which point does the district trust Rachel Kinder to work with teams of educators to develop a worthwhile and meaningful curriculum for our students? Paying a third-party for a prescriptive curriculum to apply to our "non rigorous" curriculum is like applying a Band-Aid to a lawnmower-blade accident: it will do nothing to solve the problem. Food for thought: by the most conservative estimate (Rachel Kinder's 151,000), the district could have employed their own teachers on Curriculum Planning Committees to re-work our curriculum for 4441 hours. How much curriculum planning - how much of a difference could we make - with 185 days (spread over many years, of course) devoted entirely to curriculum planning?! Would students have more buy-in, then? Would teachers and staff? At which point will we stop spewing rhetoric, spinning data, and adding on to a curriculum that is rotten at its core? Realistically, all you need are teachers, books, basic supplies, and a solid curriculum and learning can happen. Anything on top of that is a bonus, but we don't need to look at extending our school days and adding more programs until VVSD has the basics covered. Why add to the day when so much time is underutilized as it is?
Mark Warner April 19, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I think it's great that your oldest, Pastor is going to a great college and is doing so well, but you have to know that is not the norm. What is the norm? JJC recently said that over 50% of the kids coming from VVSD have to take some 098 level course in Math or English or both that they do not get credit for because it is a high school level course. A course they should have taken while going to RHS. I am happy about the changes, if something is working for a few that's ok, but it would be so much better if more kids could get the opportunity that your child got. So we have one "influential" parent's kid who didn't need the remedial class that being your son, and one who did. We can do better than 50/50 right?

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