Tracy Jackowiak has had a complicated year. She was arrested for cocaine possession last year and is currently on probation. She has just been granted tenure as a special education teacher at Proviso West High School And, most recently, she has been placed on administrative leave by the district, a seeming response to a catalogue of student written poems and short stories which she assembled in a booklet.
Jackowiak, 30 and a resident of suburban Schaumburg, confirmed that she received tenure from the district this spring. She refused to comment specifically on the advice of the district’s teachers’ union, but did not deny that she was placed on administrative leave after recently being granted tenure. She also did not dispute that the leave was in response to the booklet of student writing.
Jackowiak did separate the drug arrest from the other matters. “That (the drug case) has nothing to do with what happened this year,” she said.
Jackowiak was arrested in Fox Valley in April 2010 for being in possession of 3.4 grams of cocaine, and she received 24 months of probation as part of a plea deal, according to Kane County court records.
District 209 officials have refused to confirm whether Jackowiak was granted tenure this spring or to provide any documentation of Jackowiak’s tenure status.
“Legally we cannot discuss personnel issues in the media,” TaQuoya Kennedy, a district spokesperson, wrote in an April 25 email to the Review.
The district had previously requested that the paper file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information regarding Jackowiak. That request was filed on April 13. At the end of the allowed time for a formal response, five business days, the district denied the paper’s FOIA request. The Review has since asked the Illinois Attorney General’s office to review the district’s denial. That request is still pending.
In its response to the Review, District 209 included a lengthy list of possible reasons for denying information related to Jackowiak. Among the reasons listed were: the requested records are stored at another office, the request requires collecting a substantial number of records, the request requires an extensive search, the requested records need to be examined by personnel to make sure they are not exempt from disclosure, the request cannot be compiled within the 21 days that state law affords because it might disrupt daily operations or be burdensome for district employees, and or another “public body” might need to be consulted to fill the request.
Neither Kennedy nor Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart returned repeated phone calls seeking comment on the matter.
Jackowiak also refused to comment specifically, but did not deny that she was placed on administrative leave due to a controversial catalogue of uncensored poems and short stories written by her students.
The catalogue, titled, “The Pride of the Sophomore Masquerade,” has reportedly drawn the ire of parents due to its explicit and uncensored content. The entries include stories about students’ emotional difficulties and a story about a sexual assault. “Some tales will amuse you while others disclose details of tragic offenses. Undoubtedly a thought-provoking and eye-opening experience to read,” the catalogue’s cover reads.
Jackowiak’s tenure came on the heels of a major, district-wide firing of nearly 50 teachers earlier this year, including the controversial dismissal of Proviso West’s principal of 30 years, Alexis Wallace.
According to state law, Illinois teachers must successfully complete a four-year probationary period at a school before receiving tenure. After four years, tenure is usually granted if the teacher is not disciplined or receives satisfactory evaluations from officials.
Bob Cox, a Forest Parker who is retiring this spring as D209 board member, affirmed that some district officials refuse to speak with the Review, because of the newspaper’s critical coverage in the past. He added that there needs to be more of a balance between the paper’s positive and negative coverage of the district.
“It doesn’t give a clear accountability,” said Cox, in reference to the district’s silence. “I don’t like it. The formula of not talking to a newspaper does not make sense in the long run,” he added.
In her April 25 email, Kennedy did suggest the district would set a meeting with the Review to establish a line of communication in the future, but at press time nothing had been arranged.