MINOOKA – Teachers from Minooka Community High School are living in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and feel strongly that the district’s administration needs to make some big changes, according to the union that represents those educators.
Speaking on behalf of the teachers, who packed the boardroom Thursday night in support, Minooka Education Association President Dennis Grosskopf told the District 111 Board of Education that educators are afraid of making mistakes for fear of disciplinary action by the administration, and are reluctant to carry out their own duties in certain situations because of it.
“We, as educators, need a safe environment,” Grosskopf told the board of education during the public comments portion of the meeting.
A safe environment focused on learning is one of the district’s four goals established in 2010 and teachers feel it is not being adhered to. Over the past two years, the administration seems to have moved away from their goals, Grosskopf said.
“We are at opposite ends,” he said.
Superintendent Jim Colyott was hired in July 2011 and Principal Darcie Kubinski in August 2012.
Minooka teachers took a vote on their confidence in Colyott and Kubinski on Wednesday. The district has 160 teachers and 132 voted. The overwhelming majority – 126 teachers – voted no confidence in Colyott, while six said they had confidence.
For Kubinski, 118 teachers voted no confidence, nine had confidence and five abstained, according to Grosskopf.
While a vote of no confidence by the teachers union has no legal impact, it’s a statement expressed by the certified staff members, Grosskopf said.
The hope is the board of education will seriously take the statement under advisement, he added.
Grosskopf asked the board to conduct an investigation into the causes of the negative working environment and create an action plan in keeping with the district’s goals.
“The teachers’ working conditions have a direct effect on student learning conditions and we need to move toward our goals,” Grosskopf said.
Grosskopf received a standing ovation and applause from the audience.
No comment was made by any board member, or Colyott and Kubinski, following the statement. Board member Karen Buchanan walked out of the meeting while Grosskopf was speaking, a move teachers later said they felt was a direct message to them.
In response, the following morning Buchanan said she was not walking out on the teachers but removing herself from the situation because she feared she was going to breach the rights of some administrators, as has happened in the past.
“I support the teachers and staff, and appreciate the fine group of individuals that work at District 111,” Buchanan said.
Following the open meeting, Grosskopf went into closed session with the board of education to further discuss the charges by the union.
Board President Mike Brozovich made a statement the following day. While he could not comment on the closed session discussion, he said he is very concerned about the morale of teachers and the effect it may have on MCHS students.
“As the success of our students is the primary goal,” Brozovich wrote in an email, “the board of education and I will take all necessary steps to insure our schools are positioned to create the most productive, effective and positive learning experience for our students.”
Neither Colyott or Kubinski immediately returned requests left Friday seeking comment.