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Letter: Dr. Jack Barshinger Says Teacher Mischaracterized District 101 Efforts

In a letter to the community, School District 101 Superintendent Jack Barshinger says teacher John Dryden was disciplined because he

Dear Members of the BPS 101 Community:

During a regularly scheduled Batavia Public School District 101 board meeting this evening (Tuesday), the Board of Education approved a Resolution Authorizing a Notice of Remediation to a Batavia High School teacher.

A notice to remedy is a written warning issued by a school board that warns the employee of improper conduct and the possible consequences thereof. Much of the information that was discussed in closed session is confidential and cannot be shared. Please rest assured that during the review of this employee matter, the Board of Education was given all of the facts, which may or may not be the same as information you may have read in the newspaper or on social media websites.

That said, there is some context that I feel would be appropriate to share.

In this case, District teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists and others worked together for over a year to select a data-gathering instrument that could be used to determine what social or emotional issues our high school students are experiencing, and whether individual students could benefit from new or increased supportive intervention by our staff. These purposes were shared with our parents and our teachers.

The issue before the Board (Tuesday night) was whether one employee has the right to mischaracterize the efforts of our teachers, counselors, social workers and others; and tell our students, in effect, that the adults are not here to help, but that they are trying to get you to “incriminate” yourselves.

Disagreement with District initiatives has happened before and it will happen again. What the BPS101 Board does not, and will not support, is any employee giving students false impressions about the motivations of those who come here every day to try to improve the lives of the students entrusted to our care. At no time was student discipline discussed or contemplated as a response to disclosures made by our students.

I understand that some people feel we could have done a better job explaining our goals and a better job working hand in hand with parents on these sensitive issues, and we will. The Board has asked my administration to take steps in the future to increase parental awareness and transparency when gathering data about sensitive issues such as mental health or substance abuse issues. When a plan of action is developed, we have agreed to share those details with our community.

We understand and appreciate the concern shown by our parents and our staff members for the welfare of our students. In all things we do, the best interests of the students must, and will, always come first.

Sincerely, Dr. Jack Barshinger
Superintendent, School District 101
kent taylor May 29, 2013 at 04:48 PM
"At no time was student discipline discussed or contemplated as a response to disclosures made by our students." At anytime was a guarantee given to the students or parents that any information gathered would never be used to incriminate a student? Was there a guarantee that the information would never be used as evidence of prior activity when a student faced disciplinary actions for future events? And even if a guarantee was given do we really believe that once a child has been identified as having "red flags" do we really believe that they will not be watched more closely, judged more harshly or even simply be treated differently for better or worse than they were before? "In all things we do, the best interests of the students must, and will, always come first." Many good intentions poorly performed lead to disastrous outcomes.
Matt Arnold May 29, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Dryden is one of the only teachers at that school who I TRULY learned valuable and usable information. This teacher honestly changed a lot of how I lived my life. He is one of the most admirable men I have ever met and actually cares about his students. You think this school board truly has your interests at heart? If they did then they would share more information, allow us to have more of a say in how this situation is handled, and especially because the student are the ones that schools are SUPPOSED TO FOCUS ON (Even though they probably forget this all the time), let the students and the parents have a say in what happens because after all, the students and parents are the reason why schools are supposed to exist... Don't let these bastards tell you and your children what you want. Tell them what YOU want out of the school and demand it. The school is supposed to be teaching our children, not hiding valuable information in order to get students to act a certain way. I went to this school. They feed on the students' inability to express themselves, know their rights, and don't even treat students as if they are true human beings. They treat you all like little projects they have to turn in/present on graduation day. Be thankful we have an educator of his stature in our public education system. We need more teachers, students, and adults/parents like Dryden. Demand copies of the surveys. These are your children and you are going to allow anyone to take advantage of them.
Matt Arnold May 29, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Said perfectly.
Dan May 29, 2013 at 05:58 PM
It made the channel 9 news at noon This is an criminal offense and a class action law suite waiting to happen
Talon Henderson May 29, 2013 at 06:03 PM
This is Barshinger's last year, but he should still be tendering his resignation immediately. Reprimanding a teacher who he should be rewarding, highlights how far out of touch he is.
Ellie E Olsen, EA May 29, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Thank you Mr. Philbert Downs; I believe you have quite accurately put this into the proper perspective SHAME ON THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS AND HE FOR THEIR IGNORANCE!! Mr. John Dryden in fact the real deal the type of teacher I wish we had all had for sure!! Thank You well said :o)
Kacey Salava May 29, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Dr. Barshinger, the only mischaracterization that has occurred here is of your doing. You have distorted John Dryden's true intentions in the situation so that you could make him into a scapegoat. It is his job, as a social studies teacher no less, teach these kids about their rights. He never told them not to take the survey or attempted to undermine the administration but rather, he informed his students of the possible consequences if they did take it. Your intentions may have been good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You screwed up and instead of admitting it, you pass the blame onto someone who doesn't blindly follow your rules. Right now, I'm ashamed to call BHS my alma mater
Jack May 29, 2013 at 07:00 PM
I applaud the actions of John Dryden. "Collecting data" relevant to a particular population does not require identifying an individual respondent. The students, and their parents, deserved to be warned that their information could be used punitively. The only offense here was committed by Jack Barshinger and his fellow persecutors on the D-101 BoE. How convenient that they can hide behind claims of confidentiality when it comes to their own actions, but would not extend the same to the students.
Randy May 29, 2013 at 07:37 PM
As I prepare to make the first installment on my real estate taxes, which have continued to rise as home values continue to fall, with the majority of my tax dollars going to the Batavia School District, I wonder about how many more programs and surveys are planned/been planned, that have nothing to do with the essential mission of a school. Too many administrative personnel seeking to justify their jobs or creating more work with dubious results/purpose
Glen West May 29, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Exactly right.
Ellie E Olsen, EA May 29, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Said perfectly - Thank You Mr. Dryden should be rewarded not reprimanded you are so right!! Thank You
Ellie E Olsen, EA May 29, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Well done and said - I am so proud of everyone for standing up regarding this - John Dryden should not be punished the teacher that he is makes him great he really has made a lot of people think now or maybe now with everyone saying it like it is the school will wake up. Thanks Ellie
Batavia Dad May 29, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Maybe Dr.Barshinger should have to take the government class, that all seniors have to pass, before he is allowed his pension. The new superintendent should take the class with him,so we don't have this in the future. How did they think having the students fill out this survey on one day was going to prevent anything in the future? Within the day a teenagers emotions can change.
bob dobbs May 29, 2013 at 09:06 PM
I don't believe it was a mischaracterization. The teacher was merely protecting the rights of his students - something the board failed to considerour perhaps even understand. The board appears to be incapable of admitting it acted in error. For that the board should be sanctioned and probably replaced since it has tried to obfuscate that error by going after the teacher. But everyone seems to know the board is the one at fault. I've seen no supporting comments for them and indeed they deserve none.
Harry May 29, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Another publication quoted a teacher who said he couldn't figure out why Dryden was "the only one in the stocks". The other teacher said many students had "questions and apprehensions" and that "we couldn't provide answers". Mr Dryden was smart enough to recognize the implications relating to right to privacy, including medical privacy, when he quickly read the survey questions, and to give students a heads up to alert them they had the right to say no. It was obvious how absurd it was to expect anyone to answer them, something the administration with all their PhDs apparently didn't figure out in the years they were looking into this. So he used the term "5th Amendment" as a proxy for "right to privacy" and it wasn't exactly the right legal term. Big deal. He first read the questions some ten minutes before the survey was to be administered, hardly time for a full legal analysis. Dr B, you're not a lawyer; You don't even play one on TV. I think you're just trying to deflect attention from the administration's terrible handling of this survey and jump all over a teacher who actually seems to have a brain.
Patti Pearson-Kotz May 29, 2013 at 09:27 PM
My son answered the questions in a comical way. I would have preferred to have the questions sent to the parents prior. I don't think it was clear enough the types of questions that would be on the survey. My older kids did a survey without the names on it. That would have been better. .....still waiting to get a call from the school about my son. Side note...I do not agree with the way that Dryden teaches in his classes from past experience with my kids, but I think it was ok for him to tell them that they did not have to answer based on their rights.
Harry May 29, 2013 at 09:28 PM
For the life of me, I can't figure out why any person, student or adult, would answer the questions on that survey. In this world of eternal information that comes back to haunt us twenty years later, why would anyone in their right mind even consider taking the survey? It's so "1984". Have we as a society come to the point that we are so naive to sacrifice our privacy in this way just because some PhD asked us to? Dr B. I understand you are trying to reach at risk students, but c'mon, be honest with yourself if not with the public. Did you really think this is the best way to go about it? So Dr B, would you answer the questions on the survey without hesitation and believe that it was for your own good? I hope not. Because if you would, and that's what you're trying to teach students, then it is a very sad day in education indeed. A survey is a poor substitute for real relationships. Real relationships like the ones that John Dryden has with his students, past and present, who have come forward to support him. That's how you're going to figure out which students are in trouble. Not with a 32 question survey.
Lou B. May 29, 2013 at 09:32 PM
I have a few personal question I would like to ask the teachers and admin in Batavia. 1. Ever lie? 2. Ever cuss? 3. Ever cheat on your taxes? ...and so on. Of course your responses are required to keep your job, and all answers will be kept entirely confidential.
Brandon Ganey May 29, 2013 at 09:35 PM
http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ppra/parents.html -> This link will explain thoroughly why the survey was not valid in the first place. Parents of students should contact the board immediately to have their child's responses destroyed.
Ellie E Olsen, EA May 29, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Thank God for people like you that have really nailed the issue and the problems that would come back years from now like when on of them wants to become President and this clutter would suddenly appear. Thank You for putting it where it should be and John Dryden is in my estimate one of the finest teachers we have Thank God for him also.
dave May 30, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Voters of Batavia: Supply your own "remedy" next time school board members are up for re-election. BHS school board - how embarrassing!
Jim Kirkhoff May 30, 2013 at 12:25 AM
"the Board of Education was given all of the facts, which may or may not be the same as information you may have read in the newspaper or on social media websites." Jack - Most of us know John as well as kids in the classroom. We do know the facts. Facts that your misdirection and Orwellian double-speak can't change. Fall on the sword. It is the only honorable thing that you can do.
FoxValley May 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM
TO ALL WHO HAVE COMMENTED HERE: PLEASE take some time to visit "OpentheBooks.com" and enter Batavia's ZIP Code. Dr. Barshinger's salary, and maybe more importantly the annual increases to his salary, will astound most. To some of the comments here, Dr. Jack will clearly NOT be at Home Depot as his taxpayer funded retirement is lined with gold. Regarding whether or not he is "out of touch", it should be obvious. If the Board Superintendent earns what the families of less than 1% of the District's students earn, he is CLEARLY out of touch with the Districts taxpayers. If you want even more angst, look up his profile on the LinkedIn site. This man is a shining example of EVERYTHING wrong with Illinois' so-called "public servants". Earning more than twice as much as the Sheriff of Kane County as School Superintendent is totally and completely UNJUSTIFIABLE and a clear abuse of the public's trust. WHEN ARE MORE GOING TO START PAYING ATTENTION?????
Oswaldo Le'mon May 30, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Wow! I went to OPENTHEBOOKS.com and entered Barshinger's name in. He made over a million bucks in the last 4 years.
Kurt Kasules May 31, 2013 at 09:40 AM
If this truly is a well developed and worthy survey, how about giving Patch a full copy so that all of us can see what our money is buying. If this legitimate and well intended document, paid for by those of us who pay for the operation of the Board and the Administrators and the School can better understand "who" gets the "Razzy" and earned an appropriate level of discipline. Not all of us have a kid in the school system now, but they sure didn't reduce my tax rate when the last one graduated. WE are apaying for it, and the time to mitigate this issue, and it is long past time that we see what we bought from our "experts".
Cindy Bender May 31, 2013 at 09:54 AM
A survey to find out if a kid needs "help"...How about those district teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists who "selected a data-gathering instrument" for over a year...get into the classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms and actually talk to their students...that's their real job!
michael f hopkins May 31, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Secondary School Costs Out of Line It’s a money pit. What do we get for all that money? The main thing we get is administration. At a suburban high school, the parents attended an orientation session for freshmen. On the auditorium stage was a phalanx of school employees, not one of them a teacher. Administrators, directors, advisers, psychologists, a dean, five guidance counselors (under a director), administrative assistants…..The director of mathematics was asked if he did any teaching? No, no time. Contrast this with a boy’s school in England a generation back. Same number of students, about 1000. They had forty or so teachers, a headmaster who didn’t teach. He was helped by an assistant who did. They had an office secretary, groundskeeper, several janitors, and part-time ladies for the cafeteria. The place seemed to work well. (This was lifted from a 2009 non-fiction book by British-American writer John Derbyshire.) MIKEE Batavia
Holly Sparks May 31, 2013 at 02:20 PM
This is so out of control. The school looks like a University with all the new amenities they have been adding. When I was there we worked on reading, writing, math, science, social studies. And NO I am not that old. If you had a problem you had the OPTION of talking to your Counselor. No surveys to fill out! Extra activities were nice but secondary. We didn't have all of these administrative people. This is ridiculous. How about they add more teachers and start teaching the kids the important things that they will need when they graduate. We don't need anymore "administrative people". What has happened to this town that had kids that graduated with good grades because the teachers cared and there were more teachers than paper pushers? I bet John Dryden wasn't even close to a million per year in salary and he taught the students and they liked him and most of all they learned from him. Can't say that about Barshinger.
w_petersen June 04, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Nice letter, but it misses the point! You have the right to remain silent if you THINK it might incriminate you. The intentions of the questioner, no matter how noble, are irrelevant.
Nancy Murphy June 14, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Look at how many counselors, psychologists and social workers they have pulling down fat salaries on the USD 101 payroll -- This was likely a ruse to justify their continued existence and fat salaries -- salaries listed here: http://chicagolampoon.blogspot.com/2013/06/batavia-usd-101-educrats-piss-on-us.html

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