Dozens protest possible demotion


Update: 12:00 pm, 2/17/17, Friday 

URBANA — Friday morning, teachers gathered to stand up and lock arms in support of an administrator. Urbana Middle School teachers stood outside their doors to greet Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum.

The deputy superintendent’s future in the district is uncertain after Superintendent Donald Owen announced a restructuring of the position.

Ivory-Tatum would become principal of Thomas Paine Elementary School, but teachers say it’s a demotion she doesn’t deserve.

Ivory-Tatum says they’re still in the negotiating process and she’s not sure what her next move will be.

The school board will revisit the issue at its meeting next week. 

Original: 10:15 pm, 2/7/17, Tuesday

URBANA — Dozens rush to defend an administrator who could be getting demoted. A school board meeting got heated when dozens packed the room to make their voices heard.

An email from Superintendent Donald Owen said Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum would be moving to a new role.

The email caused some controversy. Several speakers gave the board an earful Tuesday night. Current and former teachers, students and co-workers took turns dishing out an emotionally-charged defense of Dr. Ivory-Tatum.

The email’s text stated she would become the new principal at Thomas Paine Elementary School and the deputy superintendent position will undergo a “restructuring,” being advertised as the “Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning.”

Most of the people who went to the meeting say that’s an undeserved demotion for Ivory-Tatum and many powerfully denounced it.

“She is a big part of who we are,” says resident Jessie Knight. “She represents, not just the position she has, she represents our future children. She’s the voice for people who think they’re voiceless.”

One of the biggest issues people brought up is removing Ivory-Tatum from the administration would change its makeup. Many said the resulting lack of diversity would be unacceptable.

School board members said they were open to hearing all of the public’s comments, but at the end of the meeting, they said they wouldn’t be commenting. They say they can’t or don’t comment on personnel matters.

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