UPDATE: Staff to Stay at Carl Sandburg Middle School

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FREEPORT (WIFR) -- Nearly 30 staff members at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Freeport will be able to keep their jobs at the building.

The Freeport School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to keep the 29 staff members. Originally teachers were going to be shifted to other schools under a mandated restructuring plan for not meeting federal test standards.

But after learning of a state waiver last week the district will keep current staff and move forward with a new instructional model to hold students more accountable.

UPDATE: FREEPORT (WIFR) -- Nearly 30 staff members at Carl Sandburg may be able to keep their jobs at the middle school after all thanks to a federal waiver.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting the Freeport school board voted to restructure Carl Sandburg after not making adequate yearly progress five years in a row. As a result, 29 staff members are shifting to other schools.

But today we asked the Freeport School District about a letter from the U.S. secretary of education to the Illinois State Board of Education, which was dated April 18th, explaining a waiver.

The district says it knew the general waiver had been approved but didn't find out about which specific parts were waived, like removing staff, until yesterday. They say they had been requesting details everyday since they heard the waiver was approved.

If not for the waiver, the government gives schools four improvement options for not making AYP, which included removing staff.

The district will now hold a special board meeting early next week to reconsider shifting staff. However the district will still implement a new instructional model at the school to hold students more accountable.

To check out the complete letter and waiver, click on the ISBE link under Related Items.

A lot of frustration among teachers in the Freeport School District after the board votes to restructure Carl Sandburg Middle School. The plan means 29 staff members will be moved to other schools.

There were tears and emotion after the board voted 5 to 2 to restructure Carl Sandburg. This comes after the school failed to meet adequate yearly progress five years in a row.

There was a lot of discussion and questions among the board. Two board members said they weren't comfortable voting on this plan tonight since they just got a revised copy last night, saying they didn't have time to fully read it. Others say it's the board's responsibility to take action now for students.

The plan includes shifting 29 staff members to other schools and focusing on student-centered learning with individual education plans. They are two of the four options the federal government offers under restructuring.

"There was conversation about restructuring as far as reworking the curriculum and instruction, going to a more personalized system but up until last week there was no mention of reshuffling staff so that was a shock to all of us," said Just Yeager, president of the Freeport Education Association.

"I have discussed this with the president of the union last week and was he privy to the plan prior to it? No, because it was not a public document, this is a board of education's decision," explains Dist. 145 Superintendent Dr. Roberta Selleck.

Dr. Selleck says it becomes a board's decision and not the public's once they are in restructuring, which is why they didn't take public comment and get community input on this plan.

A board member and administrator both pointed out that this plan does not include the parental piece; making sure parents do their part to help students achieve, they say everyone plays a role.

Dozens of teachers could be forced out of a Freeport school after students fail to meet federal test standards five years in a row. Carl Sandburg Middle School could see some drastic changes after failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, known as AYP; they're changes that all schools nationwide are susceptible to.

Shelby Holloway pulled her son out of Freeport Public Schools about five years ago.

"They wouldn't cooperate with the fact that he needed to have more work to do and more things to keep him busy," explains Holloway.

If Holloway's son stayed in District 145, he'd be at Carl Sandburg Middle School this year, the same school that's being forced to make some drastic changes for not meeting federal test standards five consecutive years.

The federal government gives four restructuring options and schools must choose at least one. Freeport school administrators chose two, the first is to replace 29 staff members. None of the 29 staff members would be let go, their positions would shift, likely to other schools.

Teachers that would be replaced include all fifth grade teachers, as well as educators who teach English, Math, Language Arts and Special Education in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. The principal and a gifted teacher would also be shifted. The law says you must replace those who are "relevant to the failure to make AYP." But the law also says the school can bring back half of the staff members, so about 15 staff members who re-apply.

The second part of the proposal creates learning plans specific to children, requiring students to truly understand the material. "Now you can get a 'D' in a class, probably not really proficient, but can move on. That's not the case under a mastery or competency based system," said Helms.

Some parents like Holloway support that accountability.

"If (my son) would've got more individualized plans at school, he'd still be in public school."

Holloway says parent accountability is important too. She believes parents need to help their kids with school work as well.

The other two options for restructuring is to re-open a school as a charter school and to hire an outside entity to run the school.

This AYP restructuring applies to all schools. This is just a proposal in Freeport, the board will hold a special meeting on April 22nd, when they could vote.

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