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updated: 3/26/2011 5:53 PM

District 211 candidates talk tenure, teacher evaluations

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When money is tight and student learning must meet state and federal standards, teachers need to be judged on performance -- tenured or not, say candidates for Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 school board.

Five out of seven candidates running for four board seats shared their thoughts on the district's performance evaluations for teachers and the tenure system Saturday at a forum hosted by the Schaumburg Township Republican Organization.

Incumbents George Brandt of Palatine and Richard Gerber of Schaumburg, as well as challengers Mucia Burke of Schaumburg, Roman Golash of Palatine and Bill Robertson of Palatine, answered questions from about 50 audience members. Candidates Charles Fritz of Inverness and M. Bryan Neal of Rolling Meadows did not attend.

Brandt, a small-business owner and president, said the district must examine long-term compensation plans for teachers and make sure performance -- not just longevity -- factors into salaries.

"I'd love to see the tenure system adjusted," to make sure veteran teachers are continually held responsible for performing at a high level, Brandt said.

Golash, a retired Army colonel, said the district needs to be more responsive when parents complain about the poor quality of certain teachers. His call for principals to get more involved in "getting rid of dead weight" from each school's teaching staff drew applause from some audience members. Golash said he opposes tenure, or contractual continued service, for teachers.

Robertson and Gerber, who was appointed to his seat in October, reminded the audience tenure laws are set by the state and out of the school board's control.

Under Illinois School Code, teachers are eligible for tenure after teaching four consecutive years in the same district.

But even tenured teachers can be let go if their performance is not satisfactory, as long as the district follows the proper procedure, said Robertson, an assistant principal at a junior high in Rockford.

"I believe in (teachers) giving 120 percent," Robertson said. "We're not talking about a cubicle job. We're talking about something that affects our future."

Under the district's teacher evaluation policy, expectations rise with each year a teacher is employed, said Gerber, a real estate professional.

"Teachers have to earn the opportunity to continue with higher standards every year," he said.

Burke, a stay-at-home mom, said the concept of tenure contradicts with how employment works in the private sector, where job security depends on performance. But because tenure laws are outside the board's purview, she said board members should instead focus on executing the district's plans to hold teachers accountable for providing quality education.

"The goal is the same," Burke said. "Produce citizens that will be productive."