The Observer quoted an interview with departed Director of Career and Technical Education, Ed Bradle, in last week issue of this newspaper. According to the Observer, Bradle had been lobbyist for Dist 150 before he said he was “ambushed” by Board member, Aaron Schock and removed from that position. He was then tapped to head the Career and Technical Education Dept. by the now departed Superintendent Royster, where he remained in this position until he retired this September. At various previous times, Bradle handled the Academy programs at each high school. He was the one I was always referred to when I lobbied for greater opportunities for those students to position themselves to qualify and hold a so-called non white collar job, after they determined their school days were over.
Having met Dr. Royster shortly after she was hired, listened to her speak, served on her strategic planning committee, attended all three of her Summit sessions and put her on the program to address my social club, I felt I would like to talk to Dr. Royster one on one. I was never openly critical of her performance based on what I could interpret. But I was increasingly concerned about what appeared to be a breakdown in dialogue between herself and the School Board . I scheduled an appointment with her on July 13 this summer, and when I went to the designated room, Ed Bradle was there with Dr. Royster. She talked about the progress she had made and I asked why not much progress was being made on having curriculum for those kids who would not make it past high school or even thru high school. I mentioned that John Day agreed with my assessment that less than 50% of kids who enter the first grade in Dist #150 do not graduate from high school. I inquired why we had not progressed from the Academies serving about 270 out of a total enrollment of around 15,000. Mr. Bradle and Dr.Royster reminded me that the Adopt-A-School and other programs served an additional maybe 200 kids. I again pointed out that was only a total of approximately 500 and that was no where near the number that would never set foot in any college and in nay other educational learning situation. I said that we should be reaching kids in the Middle Schools, many of who were being socially promoted into the penal system because we were not preparing them to hold a job.
When Dr. Royster came to Peoria she talked about the problem of lack of vocational training in Dist. #150. She indicated that was one of her priorities was to expand vocational learning, yet there on July 13, very little movement in that direction was observed. She indicated the lack of money prevented her from accomplishing many of the things she wanted to do. She and Mr. Bradle defended the existing curriculum as being adequate for the need.
I asked her if she felt the communication problem with the board had anything to do with her communication skills. She responded by saying that it wasn’t her job to educate the board. I reminded her that the board was elected and she reported to her board.
Now back to Mr. Bradle and Representative Ricca Slone and their efforts to get more financial support for Dist #150. Mr. Bradle is quoted that when he was in Springfield lobbying “I pulled Ricca off the floor and told her how bad this House Bill 3495 would hurt Dist. #150. Ricca said the governor was in favor of it and so was Madigan and she would probably have to along with it. After getting figures from the districts controller/treasurer, he ran to the railing and screamed at Ricca. I yelled at her this bill would cost District #150 $2.3 million. She changed her vote and voted no and the motion failed for the lack of one vote.”
This was a noble effort on Mr. Bradle’s part but shows a lack of preparation and knowledge on the part of Ricca Slone. Aaron Schock is quoted in the Observer article as saying “Slone simply assured the school district received money it had coming, and added there was no new money in that bill. Maybe it’s time for someone else to make a difference.” (meaning himself)
Was Mr. Bradle was effective as a lobbyist? All I know is that he was removed from the position of lobbyist and offered a job back in the classroom before Dr. Royster interceded. What was his role in developing more vocational education? I know vocational education stopped being a priority about the time Dr. Strand was named superintendent However, Dr. Strand has been gone a good ten years. The opinion of the vast majority of people, whose opinion I respect believe it was a serious mistake that much of the vocational training was removed from the curriculum and I believe that many on the current school board feel the same way. But how much longer before the community and the administration act on this need?
I recently received an E-Mail from Board Member Mary Spangler. (I supported Mary in her campaign to oust Jan Deissler not because of any particular flaw in Mrs. Deissler, but I felt their were too many problems on the board and after 10 years, more progress should have been made. Also, she was Board President at the time of the hiring of Dr. Royster) Mary asked me if I had visited Pekin High School and observed their Voc/Tech School, a school within a school that should be a model to Peoria. She had visited it and was most impressed. I told her yes I had visited it several years ago and at that time I asked District #150 board members if they had visited it and if not why not? I was shocked when Board President Francis Duren told me he had not and was curious why I thought he should!!
I close with these observations:
No school board in recent history has listed the expansion of Voc/Tech as a priority. This board and administration appear to be making progress.
The leadership of Peoria does not want to put District #150 in the same class as Pekin because they think Pekin is still a “blue collar” community.
Ed Bradle and Dr. Royster did not do any appreciable expansion of vocation education during their terms in authority.
The financial condition of District #150 has deteriorated over the years.
Aaron Schock was on the board that hired Dr. Royster and he was quoted by the Journal Star as saying “I stand 100% behind Dr. Royster. I’m eagerly awaiting all these great things we’re going to see in the years to come.”
It is apparent some things went wrong. The key now is how well does Aaron work with the new and old board and with the new administration.
I and many of my Democrat friends feel that Ricca Slone could be more effective in Springfield and in her relationship with her constituency.
I will support Aaron in his election bid and if the situation in Dist.#150 doesn’t improve and he does not serve the community from Springfield better than the incumbent, then changes can be made in the next elections.
Ricca Slone has done a number of commendable things but we need a representative not so closely aligned to Madigan, the governor and the Chicago block.
I would discount what Mr. Bradle says because “he does have an axe to grind.” In the above mentioned interview I had on July 13 with Dr. Royster and Mr. Bradle, Ed strongly supported Dr. Royster. It is to be noted he retired two months later.
I close with this thought: Move forward in stages but MOVE FORWARD!!