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Teachers protest ‘toxic work environment’ at District 65

Union head claims "power hungry administrators" are sticking teachers with "with unnecessary and cumbersome tasks" and says fights among students "are escalating and getting out of control."

Teachers turned out at a District 65 board meeting to protest working conditions.

Fifty teachers, some holding signs demanding “Respect” and “When are you going to start listening to us, believing us, trusting us?” showed their anger at working conditions in School District 65 late Monday afternoon.

The educators stood silently at a Board of Education committee meeting, as their union president, Maria Barroso, blasted the district again over what she termed a “toxic work environment.” They then burst into supportive applause when Barroso finished her remarks.

If anything, those remarks were even more pointed this time than they were at a meeting two weeks ago, when Barroso first challenged the Evanston/Skokie school system over the work environment teachers face.

Barroso, head of the District Educators Council, said “power hungry administrators” are not centering on students because of rules and policies which burden teachers “with unnecessary and cumbersome tasks.”

For example, the union president said the district is trying to “micromanage” teachers , with a “massive amount of paperwork.” She said educators have to “follow a scripted curriculum” with redundant follow-ups which are “a waste of time and energy.”

“This district wants to police our work,” Barroso said, “because they do not believe we are doing our job.”

She also said District 65 is not helping teachers do those jobs because expectations for student discipline are not properly spelled out.

Barroso cited the “TikTok challenge,” a social media phenomenon where students vandalize schools or slap teachers and then post a video.

Superintendent Devon Horton warned parents last week that such behavior would not be tolerated, and asked families to tell their children to avoid such destructive actions. Horton did not cite any specific District 65 incidents.

However, in a public online student newspaper, some students at Haven Middle School anonymously wrote an article called “The Bathroom Problem.”

In that article, seen by Evanston Now, the students say “people are destroying bathrooms and making it so bathrooms are covered in filth that the custodians have to fix and not only that but they post it on social media and get away with it!”

“The bathroom situation,” the students say, is “out of control.”

Those trashing the bathrooms are urged to stop, otherwise “students and peers will report you and you hopefully will get in trouble.”

Teachers stand in protest at board meeting.

Barroso did not address anything at Haven, but talked of discipline problems in general. She said at times students and educators in the district are not safe, because they are being “traumatized by students who are swearing or threatening them.”

“Fights among students,” Barroso stated, “are escalating and getting out of control.”

She said teachers know how to de-escalate conflicts, but the district needs specific plans on how to deal with serious infractions.

Under school board policy, board members do not respond to public comments during a meeting.

However, later in the committee session, during discussion of the budget, Finance Committee chair Joey Hailpern referred to ongoing issues in the community and the district.

“It’s not ideal now,” Hailpern said. “We just had 50 people in the room telling us that.”

keywords » School District 65

Jeff Hirsh

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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