Originally published on January 29, 2014 || Updated: February 5, 2014 || By Jean Lotus, Editor, The Forest Park Review
Nettie Collins-Hart will continue as superintendent of Proviso Township High School District 209 for another two years, after a joint meeting of the D209 Board of Education and the Financial Oversight Panel voted to renew her contract, Jan. 28.
Collins-Hart is the district’s longest-serving superintendent in decades. She is finishing her sixth year at the district’s helm. With the new contract, she earns $241,370 base salary after receiving a $5,000 raise in December. She also gets a $9,000 annuity and $48,888.60 in other benefits.
The vote was not unanimous. Board members Theresa Kelly and Kevin McDermott voted against the contract. The oversight panel voted unanimously to approve the contract.
McDermott had harsh words for Collins-Hart’s performance.
“I have lost faith, and lost my trust, in her ability to lead,” he said in a prepared statement before the vote.
McDermott complained in the statement that Collins had presided over the “shocking drop-off in test scores” for Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA). Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) math scores fell at PMSA by 11 percent and science scores tumbled 20 percent in one year.
McDermott also said Collins-Hart ignored requests from the board to explain the test-score drop and “actively obstructed board initiatives.” McDermott summed up the superintendent’s six-year legacy as leading to “a few marginal improvements.”
“I believe she has been untruthful with me and with others on this board,” he added.
Members of the oversight panel worked with board members in an ad hoc group to craft a contract for the extension.
Vice President Brian Cross said after the meeting he appreciated the cooperation between the board and the FOP, which soothes a rocky relationship between two boards sometimes at odds.
“I’m very pleased with the process,” Cross said. “It was extremely collaborative.”
“I hope this experience continues and we have a great relationship with the FOP,” Cross added.
Cross also praised Collins-Hart’s performance.
“We have made incremental changes, over the past six years,” he said. “I wish Dr. Collins-Hart the best of luck for the next two years. I hope for nothing but the best.”
Details on Proviso Superintendent contract
The new contract for Proviso Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart includes goals to be met in the next two years involving test scores at the district’s three high schools, financial goals and collaboration with the teachers union, board of education, and the Financial Oversight Panel.
Test scores: The new contract will measure the superintendent on the test scores of the district. Specifically, the goal is meeting or exceeding 35 percent or higher of state scores on all categories of the PSAE and the upcoming PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Currently, Proviso East’s composite test scores on the PSAE were 16 percent (meeting-or-exceeding standards). Proviso West’s scores were at 25 percent. The PARCC assessments have not yet been released but are expected in the next two years.
A second goal of the contract is a return of Proviso Math and Science Academy scores by the year 2016 to “at least the levels of the 2011-12 school year.” Math scores dropped last year to 69 percent from 77 percent. Science scores fell to 60 percent from 75 percent.
The contract also requires graduation rates to bump up to 80 percent for Proviso East and West high schools, and drop to no lower than 95 percent for PMSA. The contract seeks improvement on quarterly benchmark assessments by 10 percent per quarter, seeks increasing numbers of students enrolled in AP classes at PMSA, and boosts National Honor Society and college prep track participation.
Under financial goals, the board instituted an “Educational Cost Benefit Analysis” to be performed for programs costing more than $25,000. Although the language appears in Collins-Hart’s contract, at the Jan. 14 meeting the board balked at incorporating the procedure into school district policy.
Board member Brian Cross, having left the meeting early, called by speaker phone and tabled a motion to change the district policy to require the analysis. The board will vote again at the February meeting. Making the process a district “policy” will put more enforcement power in the board’s hands. The district already has a similar analysis policy for purchasing technology.
Also under financial goals are benchmarks for student attendance rates. School attendance affects the amount of money paid by the state. Goals are a 91 percent attendance rate by 2016 at Proviso East and West and a 95 percent rate at PMSA. Last year, chronic truancy rates reported on the Illinois Interactive Report Card rose to 73 percent at Proviso East, up from 43.5 percent in 2011-12, and 29 percent at PMSA from 4 percent the previous year. Proviso West’s rates remained relatively constant at 25 percent. The state average is 10 percent. Chronic truancy is defined as a student having nine or more unexcused absences.
Finally, the new Collins-Hart contract encourages a good working relationship with the Financial Oversight Panel, aligning the district goals with “stakeholders” and encouraging a smooth negotiation of the teacher contract next year.
The contract also encourages the superintendent to “improve relations with the teachers union” by encouraging teachers to participate in the state-mandated “5 essentials” survey. The computer-based survey, developed by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, asks 16 questions about school environment. Although 86 percent in other Illinois districts responded to the survey, according to the report card, less than 20 percent of students responded in D209.
Finally, the contract requires school uniforms to be in place by the start of the 2014-15 school year. VFP