Former 205 teacher questions hiring process, use of substitutes - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Former 205 teacher questions hiring process, use of substitutes

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Shannon Symonds questions the integrity of Rockford's hiring process. Shannon Symonds questions the integrity of Rockford's hiring process.
One elementary school starts the year with two substitutes. Administrators could have placed a dismissed teacher immediately. One elementary school starts the year with two substitutes. Administrators could have placed a dismissed teacher immediately.
REA President Molly Phalen says there are dismissed teachers who principals recommended for jobs, but Dist. 205's central office blocked those rehires. REA President Molly Phalen says there are dismissed teachers who principals recommended for jobs, but Dist. 205's central office blocked those rehires.
Dr. LaVonne Sheffield won't comment on Symonds claims but says in Symonds case, the hiring process was followed. Dr. LaVonne Sheffield won't comment on Symonds claims but says in Symonds case, the hiring process was followed.

By Marissa Alter

ROCKFORD (WREX) - Some students at Rockford's Beyer Elementary School start the year off with substitutes, even though about 65 teachers dismissed last year haven't been hired back yet.

There are two options right now for vacancies in the district. Principals can look at the list of laid off Rockford teachers, interview those that are qualified, and place them immediately. Or if principals want to look outside the district, the job has to be advertised for a specific time period. While that's being done, subs are used. Two positions at Beyer--one for third grade, one for fourth--were just posted.

And that decision doesn't fly with the Rockford Education Association. Leaders say there are dedicated dismissed teachers who deserve the chance to be back with District 205. One of them, Shannon Symonds.

"I want to be back in the classroom teaching the kids. It's breaking my heart that school's starting, and I'm not there."

Symonds has four years with the Rockford School District, two at Macintosh, two at Lewis Lemon. She's a day away from tenure.

"Round after round after round I have been overlooked for new to district candidates."

Symonds has a masters degree and excellent evaluations. At first, she thought she just got lost in the shuffle. So after the third hiring round, she contacted Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield. Sheffield responded that principals do the hirings; Symonds needed their recommendation.

"So in round 4, I applied at a school and within two hours the administrator contacted me and said, 'We love you. We're really excited to have you on our team, and we look forward to having you.'"

One week later the principal called Symonds back with an apology.

"'I'm so sorry the district placed a new candidate there whose name I'm unfamiliar with.' And it turns out that applicant is a new-to-district applicant."

Rockford's teachers union says Symonds isn't the only dismissed teacher in this position.

"Some of them have been recommended by building level administrators, like this particular one you're referring to, and those recommendations have not been accepted by 201 S. Madison," says REA President Molly Phalen. "Exactly why? I don't know."

Symonds thinks there may be personal reason. Last year she filed a student assault report.

We asked Sheffield if Symonds was unfairly kept off the job. "I can't talk about it, but the [hiring]process was efficient. In her case, we followed the process."

Symonds says the district's decision to use substitutes to start the school year isn't in students' best interest.

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