Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education Approves Several In-District Staff Transfers
Despite protests from teachers, staff members and parents, the board accepted the staff array unaltered from the one proposed at the June 11 meeting
The Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education voted 5-0 to accept several in-district transfers for teachers and staff members for the 2012-2013 academic year at their regular action meeting Monday night.
The transfers, or staff array changes, were hotly contested by a group of about 70 teachers, staff members and parents at the board's June 11 committee of the whole workshop meeting. In response, the board postponed voting until their June 25 regular action meeting.
At the June 11 committee meeting, several who spoke out alleged that the majority of changes were punitive and only done to those who spoke out at the May 21 regular action meeting against Lloyd Road Principal Louigi Louigelli, pointing out that the Owleus Anti-Bullying Program was never implemented at the upper elementary school. Since that meeting, Louigelli resigned citing personal reasons. They also argued that there was no educational benefit to the students in moving so many teachers and staff members around, especially after teachers received hours of training geared toward grade-specific initiatives.
"A number of people in the audience voiced several concerns and had questions that I quite frankly wanted to be able to review once again with my team. I heard you; I listened to you; I believed many of the things that you said were worth looking back into," said Superintendent David Healy at the June 25 meeting.
In an effort to explain the district's reasoning, Healy gave a presentation that described the process for developing the new staff array and emphasized that administrators believed the changes would positively impact student achievement, particularly in the areas of literacy at Lloyd Road School.
The process, Healy said, included six to eight weeks of formal and informal administrative meetings that ended with an administrative council meeting on April 25 where the array was finalized. On June 8 the staff was notified of the changes, and according to Healy, those affected by the transfers were explained the rationale behind them. The array was tabled at the June 11 meeting and on June 12, Healy said, all building administrators reconvened to review the transfers.
"We once again reviewed the staffing array, line by line, individual by individual. We discussed the validity and accuracy of the issues and concerns that were presented at our June 11 [committee] meeting, and the concerning and alarming student performance data and the failure to meet AYP that exists within our schools, specifically Lloyd Road and MAMS," Healy said. "Our consensus remains the same."
Next, the array went to a Personnel Sub Committee on June 18, which consisted of four board of education members, Healy, and all assistant superintendents, directors and building principals.
According to one of the slides in the presentation, the transfers and grade level reassignments for the 2012-13 academic year are to: address student performance concerns, accommodate anticipated schedule changes, address certification issues, minimize travel between schools, and support and strengthen new teaming structures in various grade levels.
The new array, according to Healy, is part of the district's larger literacy push in response to "concerning and alarming student performance data and the failure to meet adequate yearly progress that exists within our schools, specifically Lloyd Road and MAMS."
"The data tells us when students enter from the K-3 schools into fourth grade they do ok, but by eighth grade they are underperforming," Healy said.
According to the Department of Education school report card, Lloyd Road School has missed adequate yearly process for the last two years in language arts, meaning that not a high enough percentage of students NJ ASK test scores showed proficiency.
The benchmark percentage for third through fifth graders across the state increased to 79% last year. Students' scores are divided into three categories: partially proficient, proficient, and advanced proficient. Both proficient and advanced proficient percentages are included in the total proficient percentage.
In 2008-09, 30.8% fifth graders scored partially proficient, 59.7% scored proficient and 9.5% scored advanced proficient. In 2009-10, 34.8% scored partially proficient, 56.4% scored proficient and 8.9% scored advanced proficient. In 2010-11, 37.2% scored partially proficient, 54.5% scored proficient and 8.3% scored advanced proficient. Over the course of the three years, the total percentage of proficient students went from 69.2% in 2008-09 to 63.3% in 2009-10 to 62.8% in 2010-11.
Over the three year period, the number of students scoring partially proficient increased while the total percentage of proficient students decreased.
However, Joelle Nappi, a parent who is also a teacher in another district, pointed out that since New Jersey school districts received a waiver from No Child Left Behind, schools are no longer required to meet the NCLB requirements. She also questioned why the district believed a new teacher offering the same curriculum would be more successful.
"What was more upsetting to me was the question of what is happening between fourth and fifth grade. It's not that I find that question offensive, it's because it's the wrong question. The kids aren't making progress in fifth grade, but they were making progress in fourth grade," Nappi said.
"As if that one year is completely indicative to a turn around in test scores. It's not. When you see scatter in test scores, it's usually indicative of a curricular issue. I'm pleased that we're hiring an assistant superintendent of curriculum, however I think that it's concerning that we are attributing issues and problems to places where it may not be attributable," she continued.
Nappi was one of many teachers and staff members to again emphasize their disagreement with the array changes during the over two hour public comment portion of the meeting. Lloyd Road teacher Casey Barilka noted that there is a need for consistency in the schools.
"You (Healy) said a couple of comments that contradict each other. One is that teachers will receive meaningful and targeted professional development. If it's meaningful and targeted, then why move people all over the place. Secondly, you said to make changes in a building you need consistency. If you are already making changes now, why would we then change the staff at Lloyd Road who is being trained to make those changes," said Barilka.
Barilka also questioned the ethics behind having a principal who resigned be responsible for making huge changes to the staff.
"You had two principals sitting in on this meeting, who combined at that time had 13 months of experience in this district. One of whom was not honest with the district in relation to Owleus Anti Bully program and then chose to resign, and we're taking the advice of this person on strengths and weaknesses," he said.
Linda Forgie, a fourth grade teacher at Lloyd Road, said the board is wasting staff time and taxpayers' money by disregarding the hours of grade specific training each has received in literacy initiatives.
"I was told I was being swapped with the kindergarten teacher at Ravine Drive school and that she was coming to Lloyd Road as a fourth grade teacher. There was no reason, no explanation given. Neither of us asked for these transfers," said Forgie. "I understand transfers are sometimes necessary and teachers are certified to teach other grades, what I don't understand is how you can transfer teachers seemingly unnecessary after spending many thousands of tax payer dollars and many hours of training in these grade specific workshops."
According to Healy, $70,723 was spent to fund district-wide training in readers' workshop, effective literacy, and every day math over the course of 2010-11 and 2011-12. The board was unable to provide the sum total of the cost of training for the teachers being moved between schools.
Not all of the staff array changes, however, involve teachers. Linda McGuinnes, who worked in the main office of Lloyd Road for 18 years, was transferred to the main office at the high school. She questioned how her transfer would impact students' NJ ASK scores.
"My transfer has nothing to do with AYP," she said.
For some parents, it was not specific transfers that upset them, but rather it was the high number of changes occurring all in one year at Lloyd Road School. In addition to the movement of multiple teachers, the secretary to the principal, the principal and the assistant principal will be new to the district and the guidance counselor will be new to the school.
"If you change everything all at once, you will have no idea if it's the new teachers, the new programs, or the new administrators that are working," said Karen McFadden, a mother of two children in the district. "I am so frustrated as a parent."
Board members Todd Larchuk, Patricia Phillips, Dennis Daniels, and Elizabeth Hayward spoke prior to voting on the staff array changes, taking offense to the public's assumption that they were making a huge decision without knowing the facts.
"My daughter started in kindergarten here, next year she'll be a senior. My experience here wasn't great, it was pretty terrible actually, horrible. I had a lot of interaction with the district, probably more than most of you here. And it isn't because I found the district great that I wanted to be on this board and it isn't because I wanted to do everything the superintendent said," said Larchuk, who was the chairperson of the Personnel Sub Committee.
"And I entered that room probably more critical than any of you here and I expected that there would be no basis for anything and that it would be a really tough fight to convince them to reverse some of this," Larchuk said of the Personnel Sub Committee.
"The first thing I wanted to know is do they have a reason. Of course, when people say they are being moved for no reason, then when you ask someone, 'Do you have a reason?' They hum and ha and look at the ceiling. This didn't happen. This didn't happen to any of the principals or vice principals there. They all knew the intricate details of the transfers," he continued. "At that meeting you can see the dynamics of both the principal where someone is transferring out and the principal where someone is transferring in. Not one of them said, 'Dammit, I hate this move. This is horrible; this is going to kill the students.'"
Larchuk, along with the other four members of the board present at the meeting, voted in favor of the staff array changes. Kenneth Aitken, Jeff Delaney, Anissa Esposito, and Gerald Donaghue were not present at the meeting. Only five members are needed for quorum.
The board will hold their next regular action meeting on July 23 at 7 p.m. at One Crest Way in Aberdeen.