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Community Unit Sch. Dist. No. 60 v. Maclin





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. JACK HOOGASIAN, Judge, presiding.


Elaine F. Maclin, a tenured teacher, brings this appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of Lake County which upheld her dismissal by the school board of Community Unit School District No. 60 (hereinafter School Board).

Elaine F. Maclin was a teacher in various elementary schools over a period of more than 25 years. She had a B.A. degree from Spellman College in Atlanta and did graduate work at Minnesota and Southern California Universities. She had received an M.A. degree from Columbia University. She had taught kindergarten and fifth and sixth grades. During the 1977-78 school year, Maclin taught fifth grade at Andrew Cooke School. In the 1978-79 school year, pursuant to a faculty desegregation plan, she was assigned to Oakdale School, to teach fifth grade.

Gene Hawkins, principal of Oakdale School, testified that in the spring of 1979, particularly March through May of that year, there were disciplinary problems with Mrs. Maclin's class and that parents had complained of lack of progress of their children. He testified that because of these problems, he consulted with Maclin and did some demonstration teaching for her. In March and May of 1979, he made formal observation of her classes and in his testimony indicated that while these were formal visits, he had been concerned about and had visited her classes on many other occasions. He testified that Maclin had complained that the children were inattentive and were not doing their work. He observed the class frequently and made some suggestions. On March 6, 1979, in a formal observation visit, he noticed lack of attention and that the class was very noisy. At that time he suggested that Maclin devise a folder system, with a folder for each child, with numbers assigned to each assignment made to them so that it would be easier to keep track of assignments which were not completed. In April of 1979, Hawkins wrote another letter to Maclin again suggesting the use of individual folders with numbered assignments, and called attention to the complaints of parents and Maclin's own lack of punctuality.

On April 24, 1979, a meeting was held at the office of George Latham, assistant school superintendent, with Maclin and Hawkins being present, to consider deficiencies in Maclin's performance as a teacher. Following this, a letter was sent to Maclin by Latham outlining her deficiencies in teaching and her absenteeism and reminding her that she had previously been a source of concern in 1977 for her deficiencies as a teacher and warning her that if her deficiencies continued she might face a recommendation for dismissal.

On May 17, 1979, Hawkins again, in a written memorandum, called Maclin's attention to the lack of discipline in her classes and the fact that some students were not completing their assignments. On June 8, 1979, Maclin wrote to Hawkins telling him she thought his "close monitoring" of her class showed that a dual set of standards existed, one for her and one for other members of the faculty, and that she felt his allegations "are slanderous, lack substance and are biased." With this letter she included a note stating that copies of her letter were being sent to Operation PUSH, NAACP and the Urban League, and that she would be "selecting a lawyer from the Chicago area" to represent her. Upon receipt of this letter, Hawkins wrote to Latham requesting either that Maclin be dismissed or that she be reassigned to another school.

On June 26, 1979, after the 1978-79 school year was ended, a notice was sent to Maclin by the School Board designated "Second Remedial Notice" calling her attention to the previous remediable notice of January 1977 (of which we have no record), indicating deficiencies in her teaching performance and stating that she was directed to remedy and remove her deficiencies as listed in the attached memorandum entitled "Deficiencies in Teaching Performance." These consisted of the following:

Failure to (1) maintain proper discipline; (2) organize her classroom for effective instruction; (3) present clear explanations and instructions; (4) satisfy parents of her pupils; (5) keep up-to-date test records, making it difficult to monitor progress in her class; (6) number assignments, maintain pupil folders and communicate with parents as to assignments not done; (7) respond in a positive manner to supervisors' suggestion; (8) arrive at school on time, and (9) establish a satisfactory work attendance record. In the School Board's letter of June 26, Maclin was informed that she had until November 2, 1979, to remedy the deficiencies noted above.

School began on August 28 for the 1979-80 school year. In September — immediately after Labor Day — Hawkins notified Maclin that as part of her remediation program her classes would be observed on certain occasions by selected faculty supervisors, specifically Mrs. Morrissey for reading and language, Mrs. Reinhardt for social studies and Mr. Witt for science and mathematics, as well as himself, and that she would be notified in advance when the observations were to be made.

Pursuant to this program, Mrs. Morrissey observed Mrs. Maclin's class in reading on September 14. The day before, she had notified Maclin she would be observing her class and they had a "pre-observation" conference in which Maclin advised Morrissey what the class would be reading. Accordingly, Morrissey visited Maclin's reading class. In a letter to Maclin dated September 21, following the observation, with copies to Hawkins and Latham, Morrissey commented in summary as follows on the class she observed: (1) Maclin failed to maintain proper discipline — students were talking instead of listening; (2) there was a lack of intelligent instruction in reading; (3) there was a failure to present clear explanations and instructions — time was wasted in giving assignments.

Mrs. Reinhardt observed Maclin's class in social studies on September 19 and 24, following which she wrote a memo to Maclin, copies to Hawkins and Latham, in which Reinhardt noted that Maclin's teaching showed a lack of preparation, that she introduced the concept of latitude and longitude, which was actually prescribed for the following day and had gotten latitude and longitude reversed. The use of the globes in the geography lesson was poor due to lack of instruction and there was a great deal of boredom and inattention. Maclin handed out maps but there was no adequate explanation as to the use of the maps, and it was Reinhardt's impression that the children were confused. On September 24, Reinhardt returned for observation of the same area of study. At that time, she testified, another mistake was made in the maps when Mrs. Maclin handed out ditto sheets with a sketch of the globe on them, which placed the equator at the latitude of 10 degrees instead of 0 degrees. The result was that the two halves of the globe denoting the two hemispheres could not be put side-by-side because the equator line was askew. Although Maclin verbally corrected this error, the children were unable to use the ditto sheets properly. Reinhardt came again on October 18 to observe the class. Her comments on that observation did not indicate any specific errors, but did indicate that Maclin continued to have trouble getting the children's attention and she complained that they were misbehaving. Reinhardt gave it as her opinion, based on 20 years of teaching and observing, that Maclin was not qualified to teach in the school district. Morrissey again observed Maclin's reading class on October 3. Maclin was notified in advance of this visit. In her report about this session, Morrissey noted that the instruction was poor and the class discipline deteriorated as the class went on. She ascribed the poor quality of instruction to the lack of preparation and noted that Maclin should have been prepared since she had advance notice of Morrissey's intended observation. At the end of her testimony, in response to the direct question, she gave her opinion that Maclin was not qualified to teach in the school district. In reply to the question: "On what do you base this opinion?" she replied: "I base my opinion on my observations and my conversations with Mrs. Maclin. Mrs. Maclin cannot thoroughly prepare lessons. She cannot maintain discipline. She cannot organize her class for effective instruction. She makes mistakes. She has a negative attitude toward students' ability to learn and a negative attitude toward receiving help to improve her teaching."

Mr. Witt, mathematics and science supervisor for the School District, observed Maclin's class on September 28, pursuant to a "pre-visit conference" on September 25. As a result of his observation he wrote a report commenting that Maclin caused "confusion and misunderstanding of the questions you asked and your procedure of cutting off answers before the child could communicate what he or she meant." He also noted haphazard use of the teaching materials and misunderstanding as to the assignment, which was not corrected. Much time, he noted, was spent correcting "small behavior problems." A lab problem could not be done because Maclin had not brought along the necessary materials even though she had gone over the intended lesson in a preconference with Witt. Witt believed the children were confused about the concept of the earth's various layers, and this was not corrected by Maclin. On November 1, he observed her class again. He noted a mistake in Maclin's reference to "area" when she actually meant "volume." He noted that a worksheet was distributed but before it was completed another worksheet was distributed having to do with the previous day's lesson. Toward the end of the hour, the class began to be restless and the noise level increased. Maclin then explained the problem on the second worksheet but her explanation was wrong. It involved measuring a line segment, first to the nearest inch, then to the nearest half-inch, and finally to the nearest quarter-inch. The children apparently did not understand the concept of "to the nearest." She told them to disregard the second and third parts of the problem because she had not taught them "estimations," and she would take that up another day. As a result, the students who had done the problem correctly thought they had done it wrong and started over. Witt noted that the noise level was loud and some students wandered about the room. At the end of the testimony, he gave as his opinion, based on his education and experience and his observations of Maclin, that she was not qualified to teach in the school district.

Mr. Hawkins, the school principal, observed Maclin's class on October 11 and 25. She had advance notice of these visitations. He noted that Maclin did not get the children's attention before beginning to explain the lesson, children used ballpoint pens on the maps instead of the pens with washable ink, so that they could be erased, and that only six out of 24 students did the assignment correctly — six did not do it at all and the other 12 did it partly right. Hawkins visited Maclin's class again on October 25. This was a library session. He noted the children were noisy and inattentive and that upon returning from the library, instead of proceeding with the assignment that had just previously been given on language and spelling, Maclin went into another social studies' lesson and had the children listen to a tape. Nothing was done with the actual assignment that had just previously been made. He noted that a mistake was made in locating a city by longitude and latitude. This was thought by the children to be Cairo and Mrs. Maclin agreed with this answer. However, upon playing the tape back the class learned that the correct answer was Alexandria. He noted that if Mrs. Maclin had properly prepared for this lesson she would not have made this mistake. Again, he noted discipline problems. In his testimony, Hawkins referred to visits he had made to Maclin's classroom the previous school year, March through May of 1979, as the result of her poor teaching and inability to keep order. He gave it as his opinion that she was not qualified to teach in the school district because of lack of organization and poor preparation and too many disciplinary problems.

On November 13, 1979, Maclin was given notice that she was dismissed as a teacher in the school district ...

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