Haven Middle School. Credit: Adina Keeling

At a town hall hosted by building administrators at Haven Middle School on Wednesday evening, May 4, many parents asked about a number of involuntary teacher transfers that Evanston/Skokie School District 65 informed employees of last Friday, April 29.

According to teachers and parents across the district, dozens of staff members learned Friday that the district was moving them involuntarily to new schools for the 2022-23 academic year. Due to enrollment declines, the district had to cut 22 total classroom positions through attrition and retirement, forcing a relatively large reshuffling of educators to consolidate classrooms and fill subject areas needing more educators, Haven Principal Chris Latting said at Wednesday’s town hall.

At least seven teachers at Haven alone are being transferred to other school buildings for the next school year, including several who have taught there for more than 10 years. The RoundTable also heard from multiple teachers who are moving from middle school to elementary school and vice versa, or from general education courses to the special education department in a different building.

Andy Mynard, for example, has taught middle school social studies at Haven for 22 years and found out on Friday that the district is transferring him to a third-grade classroom at Dawes Elementary School for next year.

Simone Larson, a language arts teacher at Haven since 2010, and Elizabeth Jackson, a language arts teacher at Haven since 2012 and a District 65 employee since 2000, also are being transferred out of Haven.

A current Nichols Middle School general education classroom teacher is also being moved to the special education department at Haven, which currently has more than a dozen position vacancies, according to teachers in the department.

According to Latting, an estimated six classroom sections will be cut from Haven for the upcoming year.

“How are those related, because that’s more teachers than sections?” one parent asked Latting at Thursday’s Haven meeting. “A lot of those teachers are rock stars.”

In response, Latting explained that the administration made most of its transfer decisions in order to ensure that all educators at Haven have “dual endorsement,” meaning they have certification to teach multiple different subjects or take on multiple roles.

He said at the town hall that four of the Haven teachers receiving involuntary transfers only had a single endorsement, so the district is swapping them out for four educators with at least two endorsements.

According to Jackson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Andalib Khelghati informed her that she was being transferred to Nichols.

Jackson said she was told that her transfer was necessary because she only had a single endorsement in English teaching, although she has a reading specialist certification in addition to her 22 years teaching middle school language arts.

In the future, Haven will take advantage of the dual endorsement teachers to have many educators take on more than one classroom subject or multiple different positions, whether they be administrative or teaching-centered, Latting said Wednesday.

For example, many educators at Haven will teach both science and social studies or language arts and social studies, according to Latting.

Also addressing ongoing concerns about safety and transparency at Haven, Latting said that he and the administration are working “to implement a schoolwide behavior system,” and he added that building a culture of collaboration and understanding between educators and administrators normally takes years of work.

When answering several questions about the teacher reassignments, Latting said he understood that involuntary transfers were difficult, but reshuffling some educators is a better alternative to firing 22 people.

One parent followed up by asking if the district took teacher preferences into account when moving employees to different schools.

“No, because we couldn’t utilize their preference based upon their endorsements,” Latting replied. “So in some cases, teachers’ preferences were able to be honored, but that wasn’t the first thing we were able to do, and again, based on the endorsements.”

Wednesday evening’s town hall was in-person at Haven as well as available for viewing on Zoom. One of the Haven assistant principals quickly removed the RoundTable’s reporter from the Zoom meeting because the town hall was only “for Haven parents and guardians” even though at least one other reporter was in attendance over Zoom.

Despite trying more than five additional times to join the meeting, the assistant principal removed the RoundTable reporter each time. The Zoom chat was disabled, not allowing the reporter an opportunity to communicate with officials about the decision.

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

17 replies on “Parents seek answers on Haven teacher transfers”

  1. With all due respect to Kristine and Kevin: your straw-man arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Mr. Agnew’s factual reporting has exposed even more of the autocratic–and debatably illegal under the Illinois Human Rights Act–actions of a board and administration who have chosen curricula that have not done children outside the lowest common denominator any good. These teachers have struggled to teach to a widely divergent student population using a one-size-fits-none STEAM/literacy program.

    District 202 has been raising the red flag every year over the past several years: elementary school students are not prepared for middle school; middle schools are not prepared for high school.

    It is well-documented that the D65 board and administration have responded with a distinct lack of concern for easily verifiable information. It could be argued that this is why ETHS has consistently dropped in statewide and national ratings year over year.

    Mr. Brown’s proxy attack on teachers echoes the current board and administration’s unwillingness to take responsibility for anything negative that happens in the district, and their complete willingness to punch out and down at parents, faculty, and staff who are struggling to meet school-level needs.

    What’s especially troubling is that these moves and cuts are happening, but the district is still hiring consultants and, indeed, more administration.

    Kristine, your arguments are not based in reality. It is not a changing demographic, it is an exodus of school-age children to private schools or other districts because their needs are not being served.

    Again, it is the students most at risk who are being hurt by poor curricula and staffing changes. Those who can afford to do so have swelled the local private schools and tutoring organizations, leaving children without those resources to fall further and further behind.

    It is not just Haven. It is all middle schools. It is all elementary schools. There have been negligible gains in actual improvement for minority students; instead, the infinitesimal closing of the achievement gap has been falling scores for all rather than rising scores for all.

    It sounds to me like Mr. Brown and Ms. Lofquist are both in favor of more retaliation against educators by a board and administration incapable of diagnostic introspection or accepting responsibility for curricula decisions that need to be reviewed for the best of all students.

    The coup that Ms. Lofquist seems to be concerned about is nonexistent. The “fake news” argument is yet another example of the tactics of the board and administration’s proxy war against anyone who disagrees with them. Facts are facts, regardless of whether you like them.

    We need to maintain pressure on the board and administration to do the right thing by all students and to be open and honest about the true state of student achievement.

    We need to demand transparency, accountability, and action from the board and administration.

    We need to keep up the pressure on the superintendent to do the right thing and own both his successes and failures.

    We need to find, support, and vote for candidates in the upcoming school board election.

    No more gaslighting by the board, administration, or their proxies.

  2. This is EXACTLY the kind of harassment politics that CPS has employed forever! So many administrators well-trained by CPS are now in District 65, sadly using the same tactics of harassment. Motivation: forced retirement for those earning higher salaries.

  3. Perhaps the Roundtable reporter should do some real reporting? How about looking into the levels of actual student performance over the decades those teachers taught at Haven. If those teachers were having success teaching Black students do you think they’d have been transferred? This is how white supremacy works. The Roundtable reporter is focused on the well being of unsuccessful teachers. Black children’s education matters. Like anyone else’s children they deserve the best teachers. News flash for you – when children in public school don’t learn the data says the fault is the instruction. Why don’t you start focusing on that?

  4. Can someone please explain the retaliation issue? Is it because the teachers don’t want to teach the new curriculum? Because that would be a concern of mine if I was a board member or administrator.

  5. I see a lot of concern here from readers who are afraid of change. The demographics of our city are changing and there are fewer school-aged children. It makes sense that there should be some changes. There will also be redistricting and that’s going to be painful for parents and teachers. My other concern here is that there appear to be a number of advisors to the Round Table who were former District 65 board members and I’m sure that they’re getting an earful from some of the current D65 parents (and teachers). My concern is a lack of journalistic integrity working toward a coup in an attempt to rid the community of a school board that was voted on by the majority of Evanston residents, not just the wealthy, white, and connected ones.

  6. The notion that these transfers are about endorsements and/ or certifications is insulting to any and all parents in District 65. As a retired school social worker I’ve seen this punitive response on the part of administrators many times. What is needed is a referendum to recall the school board. “Declining enrollment “ is only just begun.

  7. 1. It’s a bad look when administrators kick out the one reporter in Evanston who is doing a crack job of following this hot story.
    2. The district instituted a dual endorsement policy without telling people first? That’s not fully clear, but that is how it sounds to me. Insulting.
    3. Middle school social studies is a plum job. I would have killed for that job once upon a time. Moving someone out of that job into a third grade classroom? Wonder who that serves, if anyone? Did that teacher want to move after 22 years? Just wondering.
    4. Moving a career classroom teacher out of gen ed and into Special Ed? At Haven? Invitation to resign. NO ONE asks for that kind of move.
    Hey Duncan, you’re doing a great job. Ask some questions about this stuff. Bad juju here, in my (humble) opinion.
    If I were a parent in the district, I’d be going ballistic right about now.

    The question EVERY administrator needs to ask is not “how do I move these trouble makers,” but rather, “what is best for these kids?”—and I’d put money on the possibility that the former is carrying a lot more weight than the latter right now.

  8. I’m not sure how many educators have both science and social studies endorsements. Math and science, yes. Language Arts and Social Studies, yes. At Haven, I taught LA to my home room students and math to 3 classes. I find it difficult to see that a middle school teacher would want to teach 3rd grade students which is probably a self-contained classroom. I wonder how many teachers might decide to transfer to another school district for next year.

  9. I’m unclear if the “at least one other reporter” included a RoundTable reporter.

  10. Wow. My family group chat is blowing up this morning. Mr. Mynard being transferred to teach third grade!? Two of my three kids who went to Haven had Mr. Mynard and said he was the best middle school teacher they had. As my son texted, “Mr. Mynard explained the 08-09 housing crisis to a bunch of 7th and 8th graders. And the WWI trench day. Best teacher I had at Haven.” My daughter was so taken with Mr. Mynard’s enthusiasm for teaching about WWI that she asked if she could bring her great grandfather’s WWI scrap book in to show him. Not every day that a middle school girl gets inspired by a lesson in WWI. Perhaps Mr. Mynard doesn’t have dual endorsements and isn’t eligible to teach science as well as social studies, but this is crazy. Schools all over the country are begging for teachers and we treat our best so poorly. The explanation for the transfers sounds like a bureaucratic justification, at a time when we need great teachers but just seem to be hiring more administrative positions. So disappointed to hear this.

  11. The hallmarks of autocracy are rigorous opposition to dissent of any kind, opacity, and retaliation.

    The current district administration is emboldened, empowered, and enabled by the board. There is no way that the Haven administration’s actions weren’t guided by and sanctioned by the district.

    The district’s trend away from transparency now apparently extends to parents and the press. This should concern anyone residing in the district, with or without children.

    Moving teachers in retaliation will not solve the myriad problems at Haven. Ignoring parents will not solve that problem. Negating debate and reporting only make it worse.

    We must hold to the light behaviors and negative actions of the board, administration, and their proxies that affect the educational opportunities and well-being of children in the district both today and the future.

    Voting in the next election is critical. Demanding transparency and accountability is exhausting with this board and administration, but utterly necessary.

  12. Public meetings are just that – open to the public, as is required by the sunshine laws in the state of IL. “Haven parents and guardians” are not the only people served by District 65 schools, and they are not the only taxpayers.
    Evanston needs a free press! And we need to enforce open meetings!

  13. This is typical of the current board and administration, and the cronies who have been put in power. Stifling input and debate and aggressively choosing opacity over transparency is the norm rather than the exception. The autocracy is just the methodology to cover up the incompetence of the board and the district administration. If you dissent, you will be silenced. That goes for staff, faculty, school administrators, parents, and–apparently–the media as well.

    This is retaliation, plain and simple. There’s no logic to this shuffling. It’s just moving bodies to shift accountability and to provide the illusion of action and has become expected behavior.

    Vote. Advocate. Speak out.

  14. Duncan why did you edit this to take out the important parts

    According to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, any meeting held online or in person by a public body must be openly available to all members of the general public, unless that public body has explicitly voted to enter a closed executive session to discuss specific personnel or students, for example. Under Illinois law, the state defines a group of school administrators as a public body operating through taxpayer dollars.

    The RoundTable argues that a collection of school administrators hosting an open town hall constitutes a public meeting under the Open Meetings Act and plans to file a formal complaint with the state attorney general’s office to review the matter.

  15. Thank you Duncan for your continued reporting on what is happening at Haven and the greater D65 school community. We appreciate your willingness to not let our story disappear in the news cycle.

  16. The wellbeing of Evanston educators and students is everyone’s business. When reporters from highly reputable publications such as RoundTable are removed from meetings of public interest and policy, it makes me wonder what is being swept under the rug. My student is not at Haven, but I’ve been following the events closely. It is in the Evanston community’s best interest to act cohesively.

  17. Evanstonians, wake up. Central administration’s lack of transparency and as seen here, aggressive efforts to keep district actions out of the public eye should be added to the long list of concerns regarding Horton and his increasingly large crew, e.g., witness the mass exodus of talented local administrators from the district and the substitution of the superintendent’s friends. This administration has routinely denigrated teachers, scapegoated teachers in the face of administrative responsibility/failures, and possibly retaliated against teachers for speaking out against central admin. Are we now a community that chooses not to support our teachers and students? The pressure should be put on the administration, and put on now before we lose more talented educators and public school students.

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