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Education Reform Bill To Affect Two Burr Ridge School Districts

Districts 86 and 181 must change in labor-negotiation practices and teacher evaluation models with Quinn's signing of Senate Bill 7.

Though Senate Bill 7, the education reform legislation signed into law last Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn (reported here by WBEZ 91.5), has been talked about mainly for its effects on the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, Assistant Superintendant for Instruction Dr. Bruce Law said it will affect teachers and administration at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South, too.

Law singled out the new collective bargaining regulation that says district and teacher’s union best-offers must be made public if negotiations stall.

“It’s such a change from the past,” Law said.

The administrator said the intention of the regulation is to make sure there’s openness in the negotiating process. Law acknowledged that the new regulation makes it less likely a deal between the district and the teachers that's not in the best interest of the public could be made behind closed doors, but he said he didn't know if making negotiations public will be a good thing.

“If it were an ESPN sports event, I don’t know if that would help the process,” Law said.

District 86 is scheduled to have salary and benefits negotiations with its teachers union in 2012.

Other regulations set by Senate Bill 7 relate to the length of the school day and school year as well as new standards for deciding whether a teacher deserves to be granted tenure, which value performance over experience.

Law said the tenure change will only affect District 86 on a procedural level.

“We have a rigorous standard for granting tenure anyway,” Law said. “Now we just have to articulate our standards within the law so that we are complying it.”

Associate Superintendant Mary Ticknor of Community Consolidated School District 181, which feeds into District 86, said her district was in the process of implementing the new model of teacher evaluations, known as the Danielson Model, before Monday’s bill-signing. She said administrators have been “carefully monitoring” the direction the state was going and got a head start.

“Teacher-evaluation systems need to change with the times and this will ensure that it happens,” Ticknor said, noting positive reaction to the new model within District 181. “It’s been received positively by both the teachers association and administration.”

An emailed message from Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers' Association President Justin Horne confirmed his union's support. He wrote that tenure is meant for accomplished teachers who excel in their profession.

“When a teacher isn't performing at this high standard after mentoring and guidance have been offered, and their rights haven't been violated, then we have supported dismissal of those teachers,” Horne wrote. “This new law only highlights what tenure was always supposed to achieve and we support it.”

Both Law and Ticknor said their districts already have more instructional days than the state requires, so the new class-time regulations will not affect them.

Senate Bill 7 got near-unanimous support this spring from the Illinois General Assembly. The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 54-0 on April 15. The House passed it 112-1 on May 12.

Local state lawmakers Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) both supported the legislation.

“It’s a step in the right direction for education reform,” said Bellock, who said she was at the governor’s signing ceremony. “You need to take steps that you can get agreement on and then move forward. I think that’s exactly what they did here.”

Dillard echoed Bellock in saying Senate Bill 7 was not an end.

“This education reform is a major step forward,” Dillard said. “But the work continues.”

The senator said he particularly likes how the new law makes it easier “to fire bad teachers and reward good teachers.”

Lyons Township school officials and union leaders were in favor of the Senate Bill 7 changes. You can read why, here.

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