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posted: 2/28/2013 5:30 AM

Dist. 203 candidates weigh in on educator evaluations

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A majority of the 11 candidates vying for four open seats on the Naperville Unit District 203 support recent state law that changes how teachers' and principals' performance is measured.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), which requires districts to design and implement performance evaluation systems that assess teachers' and principals' professional skills as well as incorporate measures of student growth.

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In addition, student achievement will become a significant factor in every evaluation by the 2016-17 school year. Beginning this year, both teachers and administrators in all districts are rated using one of these four performance categories: Excellent, Proficient, Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory.

Jay Fisher, a 45-year-old stay-at-home dad, said it's time for the public and private sectors to get on the same page.

"We have to incorporate student growth in terms of the evaluation of teachers and I'm all in favor of that," Fisher said. "People who work in the private sector get evaluated based on how they do their job and I think employees of the public sector should be evaluated based on how they do their job. The job of a teacher is to impart knowledge on the students."

Heather Rajamoney, a 41-year-old physical therapist, also supports the change, so long as teachers are supported.

"Performance-based evaluations are good for evaluating students. It's more of an objective look at what we want to do," she said. "We need to make sure our teachers are supported. A lot of changes are happening as far as common core and state standards."

Charles Cush, a 42-year-old marketing executive, said he also supports the research.

"I think it's critical to make sure that we're creating an environment for our students, and it's critical to make sure that we have teachers following standards," Cush said, "We also need to make sure that we're providing our teachers with adequate resources and training to ensure they can deliver those high academic standards for our students."

Sabina Qadir, a local attorney, also believes such standards are necessary.

"We need to provide clear expectations to the teachers and support the implantation," she said. "I think these performance-based standards are a unique way for us to have growth in our school district."

Dave Fish, a 38-year-old attorney, said such a system is "only fair to the teachers."

"In the private world, we're all based on showing results and I think the typical steps and ladder approach that we have to compensate educators is not effective and we should move to a more results-based approach," Fish said.

"We have to make sure we are explaining these standards properly and allow teachers to be a part of the process so it's done in a fair and equitable manner."

Incumbent Jackie Romberg, a 55-year-old community volunteer, lauded the work of the district's committee of professional innovation that has rewarded teachers for seeking and completing training and development that impacts student growth.

"It's phenomenal," she said.

Derek Krauss, a 39-year-old senior project manager, said performance-based evaluations are important and should include input from students.

"I think they are invaluable and need to be a part of what we do here," Krauss said. "The hard part is defining what that top performance really is. I would also like to see those 360 evaluations that allow feedback from our students about those teachers."

Donna Wandke, 43-year-old church youth group leader and former teacher, said she supports the initiative since it's already in play.

"I support it because we are in the process of implementing it," she said.

Neil Samuels, a 58-year-old consultant, said he is in favor of performance-based standards forming a "small part" of teacher evaluations.

"What I'm more interested in is what we can do to help our teachers get really valid feedback so they can develop," he said. "We need to get them information that will help them teach our students better."

Kristin Fitzgerald, a 41-year-old health care consultant, also supports the goals of the act.

"Principals are already being evaluated in this way and they are setting and achieving the goals for their students," she said. "Now, we're going to work as a district to establish a measure for teachers that will be evaluated by 2016. We need to be sure that such a measure will be reliable and fair."

Incumbent Susan Crotty, a 46-year-old senior account executive, said some of the district's best teachers are working with the lowest performing students, and that needs to be taken into account.

"We have teachers that do an incredible job with our lowest achieving students, which would make it nearly impossible to compare when you have a gifted class and a really needy student in the same class," she said.

The candidates also answered several more questions in front of about 50 community members at Tuesday's candidate forum hosted by the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. The entire forum can be viewed online at www.naperville.il.us/granicus.html.

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