Speaker: Dist. 205 admin has ‘utterly wrecked parent-teacher relationships’ and trust

By Dan McLeister
For The Elmhurst Independent

Seven hundred parents have signed a petition questioning the use of “student-led conferences,” which are being implemented at Sandburg Middle School where regular parent-teacher conferences have previously been held.

The student-led conference program allows students to set their own goals, then reflect on those goals at the end of the quarter.

John McDonough, a District 205 School Board member, spoke at the meeting on Tuesday, March 21.

People are saying the Board is not hearing us,” he said. “Well, yes, we are. There are differing opinions here and I think that’s important to realize.”

McDonough expressed his frustration with the structure of the public comment portion of a School Board meeting, where Board members do not typically respond directly to speakers who come to express their concerns.

Strong comments came from 11 speakers included resident Deanne Mazzochi.

It is baffling that the administration keeps fighting parent choice and holding themselves accountable to parents,” she said. “These administrators are in a bubble. We parents have been trying to burst it.

It is deeply troubling that they refuse to be responsive to the parents they were hired to serve, when we plainly have the best interest of our children at heart — and we’re tired of our kids being guinea pigs for their unfounded experiments. Over 700 parents, including ones from schools other than Sandburg, have signed a petition demanding their right to regular parent-teacher conferences.

Mazzochi contended that Sandburg has no data saying students actually did better with this format.

Hundreds of parents have told Sandburg’s administration that they are on the wrong track, and they keep doubling down on a bad idea,” she continued, noting that other Illinois schools that tried this approach eventually abandoned it and gave parents two parent-teacher conferences a year.

The latest proposal effectively denies Sandburg parents meaningful access to their child’s teachers,” Mazzochi said. “So Sandburg has made a radical change that has no proven efficacy behind it, violates the CBA (teachers’ collective bargaining agreement), conflicts with the State’s own recognition of the importance of PTCs (parent teacher contracts), cuts parents out of their child’s education, and rather than try to reach a mutually-acceptable solutions, Sandburg’s principal’s proposed ‘compromise’ was a format guaranteed to mean that 75% or more of parents can’t get access to their child’s teacher during a conference format.”

Mazzochi explained that the process began with a plan that proposed student-led conferences would remedy survey results showing low student-teacher trust.

Well, now the administration has utterly wrecked parent-teacher relationships and trust—and we certainly aren’t trusting their judgement given this shoddy research provided,” said Mazzochi. “And even if we accept the articles the administration provided as gospel, their own articles expressly state parents should be given their PTC’s if they want them.

I had to fight for five months to get a parent-teacher conference.”

To say that ‘everybody wants to go back to traditional teacher parent conferences, why don’t you do it?’ — that’s not true,” McDonough said. “It is great that this new format is being investigated, with adjustments being suggested. I understand the comments of the people coming forward and emailing, but there is a mixed response.

Is there a process going on where people are being heard? Yes. It’s an iterative process; it’s not going to be perfect the first time. I’m glad we have a school district that tries new things. I just feel like we didn’t provide an opportunity for discussion.”

Melea Smith, director of communications & public relations for District 205, stated that Superintendent Superintendent Dr. David Moyer supports Principal Linda Fehrenbacher and her leadership team’s approach as part of an overall effort to create a student-centered learning environment at Sandburg Middle School, which is tied to their School Improvement Plan.

She said Moyer indicated that there are no plans for other schools in District 205 to do what Sandburg is doing.

 

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