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By MATT DANIELS
Rantoul Press assistant editor
Several veteran employees in the Rantoul City Schools district will retire in the next few years, including Northview Elementary School Principal Carolyn Hinton.
The RCS board voted 5-0, with board members Kevin Modglin and Kevin McCallister absent, to approve those retirements at its monthly meeting Thursday night.
Only one retirement — Eastlawn Elementary School kindergarten teacher Bea Pierce — will take place at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Hinton plans to retire at the end of the 2015-16 school year as does Northview office manager Mary Shields and Pat Morris, a teaching assistant at Northview.
Janet Withers, part of the cafeteria staff at J.W. Eater Junior High, plans to retire effective June 25, 2015, while DeAnn McMorris, the district’s business secretary, plans to retire June 30, 2016.
Pam Ideus, the nurse at Eastlawn, Northview and Broadmeadow Elementary School; Lyndal Kleinsteiber, a first-grade teacher at Eastlawn; Pam Martin, the physical education teacher at Pleasant Acres Elementary School; Susan Behnke, a third-grade teacher at Broadmeadow Elementary School; Rita Maupin, a fourth-grade teacher at Northview; and Garris Graham, a sixth-grade teacher at Eater, all plan to retire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.
“The way I look at this is as a double-edged sword,” board member Joan Fitzgarrald said. “That’s a lot of experience. All those people, in one way or another, are all excellent, excellent employees. They are going to be so greatly missed, but on the other side, congratulations for a wonderful career and a deserved retirement.”
Board member John Brotherton has similar sentiments.
“All I can do is echo Joan’s comments,” he said. “I’ve worked with most of these people. I’m sorry we’re going to lose them. I understand why, but we’re going to lose a great deal of experience. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
School safety: RCS Superintendent Michelle Ramage informed the board about the district’s plans for student safety in light of last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The board had not met since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14.
Ramage said the crisis plan is reviewed at the beginning of each school year, and any changes to the plan are made in conjunction with local law enforcement. All visitors have to be buzzed in before entering the school during the day. Each building in the district has airlock double doors, and security cameras are present in all schools.
Ramage said last August, the Champaign County SWAT team did a training exercise at Northview.
“The SWAT team was impressed with the school and the electronics we had in place,” Ramage said. “They said that we were by far the most electronically advanced school they had ever been in and used the camera system on site to (help in the drill).”
Ramage added drills are held on a regular basis in the schools involving intruders in the building and soft lockdowns.
“Of course, there’s no way to predict what could happen, and there’s things where if we would have unlimited resources, we’d look at,” Ramage said, “but I feel secure with what we have in place that we utilize that the best we can.”
Teacher evaluation changes: Eater Principal Mike Penicook gave a 35-minute presentation to the board about the teacher evaluation changes that are now in place across the state.
The changes have come about because of Illinois Senate Bill 7 and the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) that were signed into law within the last year.
The new evaluation rating system now has four categories (excellent, proficient, needs improvement and unsatisfactory). Administrators base their evaluation on preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.
“It’s better because now it’s not subjective,” Penicook said. “It’s objective. It gives us things we are actually able to look for and teachers (can) see how to be excellent or distinguished in a culture of learning. It is a rubric for teaching. That is what is so good about it.”
Non-tenured teachers receive three evaluations a year while tenured teachers who receive excellent or proficient ratings have two evaluations every other year. Each evaluation takes the equivalent of one class period.
If tenured teachers do not receive excellent or proficient rating, they would receive three evaluations the next school year just like non-tenured teachers do.
Included in the three evaluations a year for non-tenured teachers are two formal observations while tenured teachers have one formal observation. A formal observation involves a pre-conference, an observation and the post-conference between the administrator and teacher.
“The observational data is very specific on what people say and what people do,” Penicook said.
If a tenured teacher receives a needs improvement or unsatisfactory rating, they have two years to improve their ratings or they could be dismissed, Penicook said.
“Administrators are mandated to ... create a professional development plan for any tenured teacher that gets a needs improvement rating,” Penicook said. “If it’s unsatisfactory, the remediation plan (put in place) is even more intense. Tenure doesn’t matter. The only thing tenure does is it puts you on a different evaluation cycle now.”
Donations recognized: Ramage acknowledged the Rantoul Rotary Club for distributing dictionaries to all third-grade students in the district Dec. 21 and a $732 donation to Northview from Box Tops that Darlene Osterbur helped organize.
TAG program: The board heard a presentation from Steve Clark, a consultant with the Targeting Achievement through Governance program (TAG). The program is funded by grant from the Illinois State Board of Education and is provided through the Illinois Association of School Boards.
The program is designed for districts that are identified as not having met adequate yearly progress for four or more consecutive years under the No Child Left Behind Act. The first phase of the program will take about 18 months, Clark said, with board members attending several meetings every eight weeks on different topics regarding student learning.
“It allows you to receive free training that I think all board members should receive,” Clark said. “I think your participation in the TAG program will demonstrate several things to the community and the staff. It will certainly demonstrate to the staff your commitment to professional development. It would demonstrate to your community that you’re willing to go above and beyond your normal role to get extra training. We really look at this as an investment of time.”