Thursday, December 12, 2013

Principal John Wetterauer: A man of integrity, compassion and honor

To: Peoria District 150 Board Members Rick Cloyd, Debbie Wolfmeyer, Rev. Linda Butler, Chris Crawford, M. Lynn Costic, Laura Petelle, Martha Ross

So what do I say to cut through the clutter of the hundreds of emails you as District 150 Board Members are receiving over the past few days? How do I eloquently reiterate what supporters of John Wetterauer and friends of Charter Oak School have been trying to say over and over? What can I do to get through to anyone who has any sort of power over this “force” that is from what I can see causing WAY more harm than good? 

I’m going back to the basics. 

I was a Charter Oak parent back in the days of Dr. Thom Simpson. Remember him? Wow, yeah, he was pretty awesome. He had that school running like a well-oiled machine and his reputation certainly preceded him. He knew every child’s name. If he turned out the lights in the lunchroom, you could hear a pin drop. He was accessible, intelligent, knowledgeable, forward-thinking, and incredibly well-respected and liked by both parents and children alike. 

When Dr. Simpson moved on to an administrative job at the district nearly a decade ago, I was not alone in my concern. Who could possibly fill that man’s shoes? And even if he or she could, how long would it take for the parents and children to “warm up” to him after having a leader like Dr. Simpson, who had made Charter Oak such a jewel of a quickly tarnishing District 150? 

That person was – and still is – John Wetterauer. 

I heard he had made great strides at Greeley School in the inner city, but it made me wonder what his attitude would be coming into the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" atmosphere of Charter Oak. What kind of guy was this? What would be on his agenda? What would he think of this posse of PTC members who were all very vested and involved in the school already? 

As he worked the room, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and providing lunch for the PTC meet and greet in the Charter Oak teachers’ lounge, I got the sense he realized he was walking into OUR school, and he knew he may have something to prove. He was humble, friendly, and very approachable. But my cautionary self said, “Wow, this guy really has a learning curve. We’ll see.” 

Short story long, Mr. Wetterauer in very quick fashion endeared himself to school staff, the PTC board, parents, and most importantly, the students. I was consistently amazed at how quickly he learned EVERY CHILD’s name, and he calls them by name, prefacing usually with a “Miss” or “Mr.” I would imagine standing at the front door every day holding it open for students and serving meals in the lunchroom helps quite a bit. Visiting each classroom every day and having an open-door policy probably doesn’t hurt either.

Mr. Wetterauer never needed to demand respect – he earned it – from everyone. Staff embraces him because he is open to their ideas and diligently works with them to improve teaching methods, curriculum, after school activities, in-school events, fundraising, parent participation and student achievement. 

When my children attended Charter Oak, from 2000 until 2011, I walked my sons to school every day and got to know many of the students. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to hear “Mrs. Kennard!” yelled to me and to be hugged multiple times as I walked down the class line, while I zipped up coats and backpacks and asked where their hats and gloves were. It occurred to me – in such an economically diverse environment, coming to Charter Oak School was the BEST PART of some of these kids’ days. And why? Because of Principal John Wetterauer. 

Let’s look at who this whole debacle really affects. The kids. The parents are trying to disseminate the ridiculously little amount of information that has been provided to them, as well as the staff, who have to continue to teach and nurture these children. Don’t think for one second that these kids don’t sense something’s not right. 

I’m not here to list out the facts, or the lack thereof. I’m not here to ask why John Wetterauer is not sitting behind his desk in the principal’s office at Charter Oak School right this very minute. I think we all know why, and I think it’s time to stand up to it. What we all need to do is embrace leaders like John Wetterauer, and use them as models for all schools in District 150, not use them as a scapegoat to cover up for an administrative leader's inadequacies. 

I stand with a mountain of supporters of Principal John Wetterauer when I say, “We demand he be reinstated, for the good of the district, the school, and MOST importantly, the children of Charter Oak, present and future.” 

Dig deep on this one, District 150 Board Members. There’s more to this than meets the eye. But in the meantime, let’s get John Wetterauer back where he belongs – immediately.


  1. Amen. This has all the earmarks of a witch hunt.

  2. This is absolutely wonderful, Amy. Very well put and precise. I wish this could be posted in the Journal Star. So glad I found it and read it!

  3. I had the pleasure of working for John Wetterauer. It was evident from my first day how much he truly cares about the students and staff at Charter Oak. He is a man of integrity, intelligence and compassion. These accusations against him are completely without merit!! Removing him from C. O. will be the biggest mistake the district could make!!

  4. I loved working with John, and I know my principal Mr. Robert Bethel also felt comfortable getting the heads up on any of the kids coming to Mark Bills from Charter Oak. Even after the 5th grade students would start the new year, Mr. Wetterauer was always available to talk to about any new student we had. Having worked with him directly and indirectly for 10 years I cannot imagine a better principal for Charter Oak. What the administration is pulling has yet to be seen, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. This man needs to head his school as he always did and have him reinstated to his position. The Administration better listen to the parents on this or there may be a greater problem than they have ever seen.

  5. Sounds like you wrote this from the heart.

  6. The special end teachers at charter oak reported District 150 to the ISBE for having unqualified staff administering minutes of students iep's. Since they have union backing it would be hard for them to retaliate against. So they did the next best thing...."investigate" Mr. Wetteraur. I think its time the media "investigate" Dr. Latham and the school board. These stories are told everyday in every building throughout District 150. Its time to get back to educating these kids instead of having to watch your back everyday from every direction!

  7. Amy, you do stand on a mountain of supporters. My personal experience with Mr. Wetterauer is aligned with yours- he is such an incredible person. My daughter is a Charter Oak student and the children miss him so much. He was not able to sing the Grinch in the Christmas musical and that heart their hearts. Hopefully, this all ends well and ends soon, but you hit on a much bigger issue. We need to take a more active stance on how this board is treating teachers and students. It's a real injustice and we can no longer be silent!


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