Glen Oak teachers ask PPS school board for more support, cite strenuous working conditions

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Teachers and staff, both current and former, at Glen Oak Community Learning Center are expressing concerns about the environment, citing stressful and strenuous working conditions.

Jeff Adkins-Dutro, the president of Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 780, said this is not the first time teachers have brought up these concerns.

He said 92% of Glen Oak’s teachers voted no confidence in the school’s principal last year. He said teachers wanted a change in leaders due to the lack of support they were getting.

Adkins-Dutro said those votes were turned over to the union and shared with District 150’s superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat. However, he said no action came from the vote.

During Monday night’s Peoria Public School Board meeting, Glen Oak staff members, dressed in the school’s apparel, decided to share their issues directly with the school board.

Aileen Kuypers, a former general music teacher at Glen Oak, said there’s been a few times where she’d not been given help in the classroom.

She shared a story of how she was filling in for 30 minutes and one of her students wet their pants and she couldn’t get a hold of the counselor, because she was busy dealing with a school fight. Kuypers said the school’s office didn’t have pants, she couldn’t reach the child’s parents and she updated the teacher when she returned and never heard back.

“This event was the moment I decided I needed to leave Glen Oak,” Kuypers said. “I had been thinking about it prior but I never came back to work after this specific incident because I couldn’t be in an environment that fails its children so frequently.”

She said the students’ safety and well-being should be District 150 leaders’ first priority.

“Glen Oak needs the district’s attention because despite the numbers, our students’ needs are not being met and our teachers are taking on so much more than what is written in our job description and it’s hurting us physically and emotionally,” Kuypers said.

Another former teacher cited harassment, lack of planning time, and micromanagement.

Danielle Ryser, a teacher at Glen Oak, also agreed that student and staff safety is a big issue in the school and it’s wearing down on teachers.

“Currently, teacher and substitute staff retention is being affected by the conditions of working at Glen Oak,” Ryser said. “Physical and mental health across the board is being affected and student learning and safety is being affected.”

She said the workload and stress levels aren’t sustainable and she’d like to invite interested PPS leaders to shadow her during the day or share the experiences of substitute teachers and staff.

Kim Thomas, another Glen Oak teacher, said if the school doesn’t see any changes, there will be more resignations and transfer requests.

Following the meeting, Dr. Kherat responded to the teachers’ concerns saying some of the concerns have already been addressed already and the district will continue to provide support and address additional issues.

She said they have many committees that are teacher led and said the administration at Glen Oak is working to improve any shortcomings.

“We know there’s always room for improvement and so I’ve personally challenged myself to continue to work with the team, to problem solve, and provide additional support when needed,” Kherat said. “We’re genuinely interested in listening and providing support and getting solutions and ideas from them [teachers,] as well.”

She said with everyones’ head put together, she’s confident they’ll land in a good place.

Dr. Kherat also gave an update on the district’s progress toward getting students ages 5-11 vaccinated against COVID-19. She said so far the district has received close to 300 parent consent forms.

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