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Peoria Teachers’ Union President: Morale Low; PPS ‘Lax’ In Discipline

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The president of the union representing Peoria Public Schools teachers believes increased workloads are driving some educators away from District 150.

Jeff Adkins-Dutro of the Peoria Federation of Teachers said morale among his union members is very low.

“Teachers feel as though more and more is being put on them, and there's less and less time and it comes out with teachers resigning a lot during the school year,” said Adkins-Dutro. “They (administrators) talk about how we have a recruiting problem. We don't; we recruit plenty of teachers. But we do have a retention problem, (because) it just becomes too much and people drop off.”

Adkins-Dutro said teachers across the district have had more and more responsibilities added to their current duties.

“If the district were to lift some of the workload from the teachers at this point, that would boost morale,” he said. “They keep buying program after program after program, and teachers have to implement these. Plus the district got rid of coaches and interventionists, so they're trying now to put all of that work on to the teachers on top of what they already do.”

The union leader said how the district handles student misbehavior and inadequate academic progress has also produced more stress among teachers. Last week, the district held a town hall to discuss underlying issues that led to a series of recent school disruptions.

“At the town hall, one message that resonated across the board with teachers and parents and community members is accountability, both for behavioral actions and for academics. I think when it comes to behavior, the district is extremely lax,” said Adkins-Dutro. “You can't just try to apply ‘social-emotional learning’ supports to bad behavior without tight discipline.”

Adkins-Dutro said not holding back grade school students who miss significant time is also detrimental.

“You can miss, say, 80 school days and you're going on to the next grade level, no matter what,” he said. “The district will say that retention (holding students back) doesn't work, and the union in turn would say that social promotion doesn't work either. What happens is, eventually you get the high school and then you hit a roadblock, because in high school you do have to pass your classes in order to graduate.”

Adkins-Dutro said the best way to bring accountability back is through a return to alternative classes.

“If the district had a truly robust summer school, where students were taught by teachers instead of remediated by computer programs, where you just kind of click buttons till you get the answer right, I think we could make some headway,” he said. “We used to have alternative schools, we used to have a robust summer school, we used to have night school. All those supports have gone away, so there's really no way to get caught up.”