Trotwood teachers at odds with school leadership again

Six months after a showdown between Trotwood-Madison teachers and district leadership, and with the parties currently locked in contract negotiations, the teachers union continues to lodge public complaints about changes made under superintendent Tyrone Olverson.

Union president Angela Bruno on Friday released a June 7 letter that she said had been sent to district and city leadership as well as the Ohio Department of Education. The letter alleges misreporting of attendance, changes to special education procedures without holding proper meetings, changes to school schedules that reduced academic time, and improper testing procedures that could put teachers’ evaluations in jeopardy.

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Bruno’s letter cites a previous statement from school board President Denise Moore, in which Moore said every district decision is “calculated for the best possible outcomes for each and every student.” In the letter, Bruno argues in bold, all-caps that district leaders’ plans have created “the worst possible outcomes for each and every student.”

Olverson said Friday that he would not comment on the letter while contract negotiations are ongoing. But he said preliminary state test score data for the district in 2018-19 is “showing an upward trend.”

Asked whether “worst possible outcomes for every student” meant dropout and failure rates were up, Bruno instead cited over-testing and test prep taking the place of teaching, and schedule changes giving students too little academic time. She said she was surprised to hear Olverson say scores are up, citing some individual grades and subjects where preliminary scores were down.

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Six months ago, dozens of teachers walked out of a meeting where the school board approved Olverson’s multiyear contract extension. In a letter to the board earlier that day, the teachers union had suggested only a six-month contract renewal and asked the board to study a list of concerns, including special education plans, school discipline and more.

Trotwood narrowly avoided state takeover based on its 2017-18 state report card improvement. That was the last year under longtime superintendent Kevin Bell. Bruno questioned why Olverson, who was hired in April 2018, turned the district upside down when things had improved the previous year.

Bruno said the union has filed grievances over some of the complaints, with certain ones resolved and others still pending when contract negotiations began. In the union’s June 7 letter, Bruno writes that her outreach to Olverson and Moore “was simply ignored” and says “we are simply out of options within our control.”

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Moore said the school board “takes the union concerns very seriously and is working to address those concerns,” seeking out “open and honest communication.” She said the board is devoting significant time to tornado recovery, after storms displaced more than 300 students. She said the board is also compiling the feedback from an early May staff survey “to gauge what our staff wants and needs, and how they feel.”

“We’re hearing a lot of good things from the teachers. I don’t know if this is isolated or a pocket of folks, I’m not sure,” Moore said. “My experience is we’re doing a good job. We’re trying hard, we’re not where we’re supposed to be, but I’m not hearing the same (comments) overall in the district from staff, as the letter depicts.”

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