Members of the Proviso High School Teachers Union, Local 571 complained of scheduling conflicts and morale problems at the Oct. 15 Proviso Board of Education meeting. 

Following up on last month’s student council members’ complaints about scheduling changes and being taught by substitutes deep into the school year, union members told the board they were fed up. 

More than 75 teachers, parents and community members were present at the meeting as teachers, sporting yellow T-shirts with the quote “United We Stand,” addressed the board during the citizen comment period on district matters, which included everything from lack of instructional and moral support for teachers to overcrowded classrooms with reassigned teachers every few weeks.

 Scott Hendrickson, a social studies teacher at Proviso West and member of the union’s executive board, opened discussion about issues regarding inconsistent administrative support and undermining of teachers’ authority in the classroom.

 “The members of the union desire for the board of education to direct the administration to let teachers do the job they are hired to do and address concerns in a professional and timely manner without disrupting instruction and undermining the authority of the teacher,” Hendrickson said.

Following his statements, Melitta Deptner, an English teacher at Proviso West since 2001, expressed disgust with the fact that during her tenure she has witnessed five principals, six English department chairs and countless moments of the board falsely claiming improvement at the school. She said the district’s leadership has produced nothing but continued failure.

“[High staff turnover] speaks volumes about how things get done in this district,” Deptner said. “There’s no loyalty or respect for anyone who wants to do this right.”

Deptner went on to explain that the board turns a blind eye to the hard work teachers put forth, despite students sleeping and texting in class and showing blatant disrespect for their authority.

“I know that, on any given day, if a school board member or administrator would walk into my classroom, they could write a horrible review about what they saw,” she said. “And yes, once again you can blame the teachers. Go ahead and blame us; we’re such an easy target.”

Deptner stated that if positive changes are to be seen in the classroom, the board and administration must start handing down consequences for poor classroom behavior and assist faculty when they need it most.

 “[Administrators and the board] will not observe me when I’m close to tears because the students verbally abuse me and yet there are no consequences. If we want to see positive changes in this district, we first have to ask ourselves this question: Who exactly runs this place anyway?”

One teacher later elaborated on Deptner’s comments, arguing that, since this summer, things have gone from bad to worse.

 “Over the past five months, the district has been plagued with one crisis after another,” Matt Brown, music teacher at Proviso Math and Science Academy and vice president of the union, said. 

Brown explained that overcrowded classrooms, schedule changes for teachers and students, inadequate hiring practices and transferring teachers seven weeks into the school year has given the district nothing but a headache of a start to the school year.

His biggest concern involved the board’s removal of a career counselor from Proviso West and reassigning her to Proviso East after seven weeks of school had already passed.

 “Actions by administration to cover up poor planning has disrespected the work of the counselor and disrupted the function of the curriculum at Proviso West,” said Brown, noting that after the teachers union asked the board to reconsider the reassignment of the counselor, the board responded with a letter outlining that the move was justified to balance the 10 counselors at Proviso West with the five-plus-one vacancy at Proviso East. He demanded an answer to why it took seven weeks for the board to reassign counselors when it was found that there were 327 more students at Proviso West than Proviso East. The union once again asked the board to cancel the transfer of the counselor from Proviso West.

 “Is there anyone who will stand and hold the administration accountable?” Brown asked. “Can anyone from this board lead? If you can’t, then you will continue to allow this kind of mayhem to take place and continue to let students who deserve to be successful fall victim to the lack of leadership.”

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