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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.