EC billboard knocks school chief
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 January 15, 2013 5:08PM
A billboard expressing a lack of support for East Chicago School Superintendent Michael Harding by East Chicago teachers is displayed at the corner of Indianapolis Boulevard and Columbus Drive in East Chicago, Ind. Tuesday January 15, 2013. The billboard is paid for by the East Chicago Federation of Teachers, Local AFT 511. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:30AM
EAST CHICAGO — The East Chicago Federation of Teachers is offering a visual reminder to the community of its displeasure with Superintendent Michael Harding and his administration.
A billboard, on the high-profile corner of Indianapolis Boulevard and Columbus Drive, tells passersby that teachers have “no confidence” in Harding, who’s been school chief since 2009. The union held a no-confidence vote last month and decided to announce the results publicly, said John Zarlengo, president of East Chicago Federation of Teachers Local 511. The billboard will be up for seven weeks, he said.
Harding couldn’t be reached for comment.
Zarlengo said 99 percent of the teachers expressed no confidence in Harding and 100 percent of non-certified school employees cast no confidence ballots. Zarlengo said the decision to put up a billboard came out of frustration.
“Teachers are at a point where we feel we’re not getting leadership we need to provide an excellent education for children in East Chicago,” he said. Zarlengo said teachers feel the sentiment on the billboard goes beyond their ranks and into the community.
“It’s been four years now under the superintendent and we’re really not making progress, look at our grades — we’re pretty much making straight F’s.”
The School City of East Chicago received F grades the past two years as a school corporation but not all schools received failing marks.
The School Board voted last month not to extend Harding’s contract, but it doesn’t expire until 2014.
Now, the district has a new nine-member elected board whose members took office Jan. 1.
“We feel positive and optimistic that the board will listen to teachers’ concerns,” said Zarlengo.
He said teachers disproved of the decision to remove guidance counselors from the secondary schools. After teachers objected, the administration added two more guidance counselors at East Chicago Central High and one more at the junior high, according to Zarlengo.
He said teachers disagree with the administration’s “no-grade” policy in which he said students receive an A, B, C, or no grade. “We think the policy doesn’t encourage responsibility for students. There’s a lack of consequences for discipline... Teachers don’t feel they have the administrative support and policies behind them.”