PEORIA — Members and supporters of the newly organized community initiative, Change150, took their case to the Peoria City Council on Tuesday, urging council members to use their influence and position to help get rid of top administrators at Peoria School District 150, including Superintendent Grenita Lathan, and to hold District 150 board members accountable.
"We do not wish District 150 to fail; we wish to rescue District 150 from failed leadership," said Dan Dugal, vice president of Change150, during a rally before the council meeting.
The initiative grew out of a group of parents and teachers who originally organized to push the District 150 board members to reinstate former Charter Oak Primary School Principal John Wetterauer.
The popular principal, currently on medical leave, was reassigned after a school district investigation into testing irregularities and possible cheating on standardized tests given to special education students. The investigation found Wetterauer failed to train teachers properly in how to administer the tests. Four teachers also were disciplined, including two who were reassigned.
Several hundred people rallied before the meeting and later attended the council's special policy session at the Contemporary Art Center. Five addressed the council about District 150 issues.
They presented the council with an online petition, signed by about 1,000 people, declaring no confidence in Lathan.
John Meisinger, retired principal of Richwoods High School, spoke on behalf of about 30 retired school administrators. He gave council members a statement calling for the removal of Lathan, chief curriculum and instructional officer LaToy Kennedy, and three instructional improvement officers, Tim Delinski, Revonda Johnson and Renee McKinnon.
Though speakers said their movement has grown beyond initial efforts to save Wetterauer's job at Charter Oak, Wetterauer's presence was strong. Children carried signs asking for his reinstatement, speakers invariably mentioned him in their comments to council members. Though they emphasized positive aspects of District 150, they decried the toxic culture of fear and intimidation they say Lathan has created in District 150.
Many of their comments echoed issues brought up by the NAACP and others in 2012, ironically, at a School Board meeting at Charter Oak.
But the first speaker at Tuesday's council meeting, the Rev. Harvey Burnett, said much of the criticism of Lathan is misguided.
"Employees who do their jobs don't have an issue with her leadership," Burnett said.
Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.