Protest follows involuntary teacher transfers in District 303

A group of more than 20 people, mostly high school students, gathered Monday outside a St. Charles Unit District 303 board meeting at the Haines Center to protest the district's decision to transfer two longtime English teachers out of St. Charles North High School.

The teachers, Alice Froemling and Brian Callahan, were told last week that they were going to be transferred to middle and elementary schools within the district at the end of this school year.

Froemling and Callahan have taught at the high school for 14 and 15 years, respectively. Callahan said he will be reassigned to Munhall Elementary School, but Froemling did not confirm where her new assignment will be.

St. Charles resident and retired St. Charles North English teacher Robin Roberts helped organize the protest. She said she worked with Froemling briefly before she retired and said her daughter loved having Froemling as a teacher.

Roberts said the message of the protest is that district leaders are making bad decisions, and her hope is that they will reverse the decision.

Tyler Moore, a junior at St. Charles North, was one of several students protesting before the meeting. He said he had Froemling for honors English his sophomore year, and she was one of the best teachers he ever had.

Moore said not only are Froemling and Callahan great teachers, they also are advisers for several clubs and organizations. He said started making signs and sending emails to the board shortly after hearing about the transfers.

"A lot of us (students) came together and said, 'We have to do something,'" he said.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said before the public comment portion of the meeting that last week, the administration informed nine teachers - six high school teachers, two elementary school teachers and one middle school teacher - that they would be involuntarily transferred.

"This is a decision that we did not come to lightly," Gordon said. "It was made only in accordance with existing processes used in previous years under the teachers association contract."

Gordon said the changes will ensure more consistent student-to-teacher ratios and ensure the long-time financial stability of the district.

"This is not about one or two individuals," Gordon said. "I recognize these are very challenging decisions that impact the lives of our staff. That is not lost on me.

"These are nine outstanding educators in D303 who are committed to student excellence, and I'm confident that these educators who are being transferred will continue to do great work for D303 students, their colleagues and our community."

Froemling got emotional during the public comments, both while listening to students speak and while speaking before the board.

"I've been told a few times this week that tough decisions had to be made, and in turn, I have a few tough decisions to make," Froemling said. "However, being a student-centered educator, I cannot do our most vulnerable students a disservice by taking a position I do not feel I'm best qualified for."

  Retired St. Charles North High School teacher Robin Roberts talks with people coming to the District 303 board meeting as she protests with students about the involuntary transfer of two English teachers at North. John Starks/
  St. Charles North High School teachers Alice Froemling, middle left, and Brian Callahan, facing camera, stand with the audience Monday during the District 303 board meeting in St. Charles. Both teachers are being involuntarily reassigned to other schools. John Starks/
  St. Charles North High School English teacher Alice Froemling speaks to the District 303 board Monday about her involuntary reassignment. John Starks/
  The District 303 board listens to English teacher Brian Callahan on Monday as he talks about his involuntary transfer to another school. John Starks/
  Several audience members cried as students and teachers spoke to the District 303 board Monday about the involuntary transfer of two teachers at St. Charles North High School. John Starks/
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