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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