haven-middle-school
Haven Middle School

A former leader of the PTA at Haven Middle School says she is “100% convinced” that the reassignment of several Haven teachers to other buildings next fall is “retaliation” against those who spoke up for educators.

Nicole Jacob Marks was Haven’s PTA president from 2010-2014, and again from 2016-2019.

Her four children are all Haven graduates.

Late last week, the District 65 administration informed a number of teachers, including seven at Haven, that they will be teaching in other schools in 2022-23.

In a website communication, the district said that “given the substantial and continued decline in student enrollment” in the Evanston/Skokie schools, 22 teaching positions will have to be eliminated.

The district says in order to prevent layoffs, the reductions will “largely be accomplished through … attrition … and a small number of transfers of educators to other grade levels/buildings….”

However, Marks says the transfers out of Haven, which includes two union representatives, and other veteran teachers, is intended to “send a message to everyone else to shut up.”

In other words, if you dare to rock the boat, you will be thrown overboard.

Marks says she understands the need to adjust staffing due to lower enrolllment, but disagrees with how it’s being done.

“I think the administration wants to break up that group” of respected leaders at Haven, “so they won’t have that power” of speaking up, Marks says.

This has been a challenging year at Haven, to say the least. Student fights, discipline questions, and more than 100 teachers and parents packing a school board meeting to demand action on student behavior have grabbed headlines away from academics and social-emotional learning, post-pandemic.

Marks says the teacher transfers out of Haven are aimed at “the glue that holds everybody together” on the staff.

In its statement, District 65 said that “in the spirit of collaboration and transparency,” the administration and the District Educators Council (teachers union) leadership “designed a collaborative process to develop staffing plans.”

The district statement adds that “The school community cares very much for our educators, and it may be difficult to hear about a beloved educator moving to another building.”

However, the district says those being transferred will be supported, and there has been an “unparalleled level of collaboration with our school leaders, union leadership, and staff” on the transfer process.

But former PTA leader Marks says, “We’ve lost track of the most important people in the district. It’s the kids,” she says, “not the administration.”

It’s likely these issues will come up Wednesday afternoon, as Haven principal Chris Latting holds an in-person town meeting at the school at 5 p.m.

Evanston Now has asked both District 65 and teachers union president Maria Barroso for a reaction to Marks’ comments, but have not heard back.

And as if Haven has not had enough issues, the most recent District 65 COVID dashboard shows 25 new positive infections among Haven students as of Tuesday. That’s nearly 40% of the entire new district-wide total of 65 new cases.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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6 Comments

  1. I agree with Nicole that the most important people in the district are the kids. It is not in the best interest of the kids to move gifted middle school teachers to 3rd grade when they have never taught at the grade school level. This is precisely what has happened to more than one Haven teacher. It feels retaliatory when teachers who have spoken out about concerns at their school are moved and teachers with less seniority stay.

  2. It is unacceptable that the community is supposed to just be ok with families fleeing our schools.

    Evanston needs to wake up, fast, and realize that Dr. Horton does not know how to manage a school district. His tenure has been a complete and utter disaster for all kids of Evanston, regardless of race. And the Board has facilitated and defended his inept dismantling of the most critical thread in the fabric of our community – our public schools.

    1. I agree 100%. The main reason for declining enrollment is because it’s a terrible school district, plummeting in the rankings as a result of poor leadership and politics driving the decision making. This is not a new development, it’s been building for years. I agree with Ms Marks observation that D65 does not put students needs first any more. The teachers that they are relocating from Haven were the best ones our older children had when attended. It’s a shame and a loss for everyone. Clearly this is retaliation. D65 is all talk in public but no action or true concern for the kids. Our son is now thriving at a school outside of D65. Its devastating that many families in Evanston are fleeing because of poor leadership at D65. This current situation is totally resolvable but not under the current leadership.

  3. Thank you for enlightening our community with this accurate account. Everyone needs to be outraged that the school leadership, school board and district leadership are failing our children and our community at large. Whether you have a child at Haven, another Evanston school and even if you don’t, please pay attention. Evanston will suffer greatly by the decisions being made right now at our public schools. Demand to know about enrollment numbers. Demand to know why decisions are being made. The time is now.

  4. The school board is out of control. It’s amazing how far our community has divided in only a few years. We plan to leave D65 before middle school. I hope the city leaders will address this in time to save ETHS.

  5. How is the district moving middle school teachers to teach 3rd grade. This is ridiculous and need to be addressed. You are taking a teacher that has been teaching one specialized subject to teaching all core subject. This is definitely a career killer. Aren’t there different certifications for elementary teachers and middle school teachers? There is also different teaching styles between the grades that would need to be learned? Those teachers chose to teach middle school for a reason. To be honest with you I’m really wanting to take my child out of this school system too. I have seen the decline over the years and it’s definitely not getting any better. ETHS is also on a decline. Dr. Horton need to get it together and real quick, hell his salary should be a motivator. I haven’t heard or seen nothing about improving the curriculum by adding more science and math. We need more for our kids and it’s looking like the district doesn’t care about that.

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