Monday, February 8, 2016

Board Votes 5 - 2 to Recommend Building a $65 Million Hinsdale Middle School

We will keep this short and encourage the community to listen to the entire 2/8/16 Board Meeting discussion and decision by the BOE majority to recommend building Option G - a $65 million Hinsdale Middle School.  Bottom Line:  Five board members -  Garg, Burns, Vorobiev, Clarin and Turek  -- voted to recommend building a $65 million school in the form of Option G.  Two board members -- Gray and Giltner -- voted NO.  Several board members voiced their hope that the price might be less than $65, but as we all know, these are essentially empty words until -- in the event that the referendum is approved -- a construction manager is hired to actually validate the latest Cordogan design and bids are made on the actual work to be done. 

We commend Gray and Giltner for reminding the rest of the board that the BOE must look out for the fiscal health of the entire district, and not just focus on building one school.  Gray reminded the board that there are many possible liabilities that the district may have to assume in the future.  In our opinion, it was fiscally irresponsible of the rest of the BOE and Dr. White in not having a substantive discussion on the possibility of the district incurring these additional liabilities.  Giltner further pointed out that he could not support a design that in his opinion included "wants" -- such as an auditorium -- and not needs, especially when there are so many other district needs that must be funded.

After the BOE voted to recommend Option G, the next item discussed was how to fund the $65 million in bonds in the event the referendum is successful. Again, we encourage our readers to listen to the meeting, since the opinions given by certain board members, in our opinion, initially showed their willingness to kick the can down the road versus having taxpayers pay for the new building as soon as it is built.  To keep it simple, the decision was whether taxpayers would have to start paying in 2018 (once the building was completed) versus waiting until 2024, the year after all other bonds taxpayers are currently paying down for the past construction projects are paid off.  By waiting until 2024, the taxpayer costs would essentially be flat until 2024 and would allow people to say "hey, HMS won't cost anything" for parents who will be sending kids to HMS in the next 8 years.  

According to Dr. White's Report/Recommendation,  he was asking that"the Board tentatively approve a solution that begins the payoff of debt just after a new school is built and includes debt payment decreases when current debt expires (similar to PMA Option 3C-1). It is further recommended that the Board of Education establish a targeted tax increase for a home valued at $500,000 and $1,000,000 so that the administration can ask PMA to update reports that can be shared with the community as soon as possible."
The board voted to begin paying down the bonds the year the building is completed (should the referendum pass).  Now the only question is what will this cost the taxpayer?  Unfortunately, Dr. White's Report/Recommendation did not provide the answer.  So we will continue to wait for this information.

Stay tuned.....

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Comment of the Day: Grown-ups Don't Make Decisions This Way. It's Time to Scrap this Mess and Start Over.

This morning we received the comment below which we have chosen as our Comment of the Day.  We think it is timely, especially in light of the new Design Concept Comparison Chart that has been posted on Board Docs for Monday's (2/8/16) meeting, along with the other documents that have been prepared to support the Administration's and Facilities Committee "recommendation that the Board take action to select HMS Option G" -- a $65 million concept for a new HMS.  (See:  2/8/16 Board Report on HMS Design Concept Recommendation)  We believe it answers most of the questions that one of our readers asked last week and the answers are disturbing.

Following the Comment of the Day are some quick observations and OUR recommended course of action. As always, SOUND OFF!
Anonymous said...
All these hysterical people are posing a false dichotomy. The question is not whether the community should support renovations or a new school. The question is whether we should have a 400 dollar square foot building rammed down our throats as the only choice when the price jumped tens of millions of dollars at the last minuted. I feel like I am being sold a time share, buy now or it will be too late. And I know this is how Illinois got to where it is generally, how we got where we are on curriculum, and how mistakes are made generally. Yes, I know the committees spent a lot of time, and yes I know people, good people, have an emotional affair with the idea of the new building, but grownup so don't make decisions that way.

Do we need the new building? Not want, Need. I have no idea. I want to see, open for all to see, what a comprehensive renovation would cost with a clear eyed view of the pros and cons of a renovation as opposed to a new building. Can we afford the new building? Illinois heading into rough waters, even in our prosperous little corner, where not everybody is so prosperous. Even if by some measure we NEED a new building, if we can't afford it we can't build it. Absent data and an explanation, nobody is going to rush me to buy a time share like this, let alone a 65 million dollar building.

7. Oh, and let's not forget that the WINNING firm neglected to include in their estimate site cost premiums, owner soft cost and contingency and escalation estimates.  All of these "exclusions" are now referenced in the Design Concept Comparison Chart.  Yet many of these exclusions were actually included in the other two architect firms' competing design concepts.  We point this out because we want everyone to ask themselves the following questions:
  • How could the Facilities Committee or the Administration have chosen Cordogan as the winning firm?
  • Shouldn't SOMEONE on the Facilities Committee or the Administration have flagged all of these EXCLUSIONS from the concept that Cordogan submitted and questioned what the actual price would be if they added these features into their design?  
  • Shouldn't that information have been requested BEFORE Cordogan was given serious consideration or selected as the winning firm?
  • The Winning Design which was sold to the BOE as costing $46 million could NEVER have been expected to cost that, if all of the basic features listed above were left out of the plan.  Why weren't all of these INADEQUACIES identified last September, October, or November BEFORE  a firm was selected?
We really think that someone must believe that D181 voters are simply too stupid to realize the unbelievable BAIT AND SWITCH that has been perpetrated on all of us.  In our opinion, in their rush to get a referendum question on the March 2016 ballot, and to ask the voters for more tax money BEFORE  D86 could, the D181 Facilities Committee and Administration were careless, sloppy and frankly, probably selected the WRONG architectural firm.  We urge the BOE to scrap this entire plan, inform the D181 community that while the ballot may still have a referendum question on it (since it is probably too late to have it removed), that it will NOT go forward with the current or recommended $65 million plans to build a new HMS at this time.  

It is time to START OVER, and this time, do it right.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Comment of the Day: Dr. White Needs to Clarify Once and For All if HMS is Dangerous!

Moments ago we received the following comment.  It speaks for itself.  However, we do think it would be important and responsible for Dr. White to once again state (this time hopefully on the HMS referendum page on the D181 website) whether or not HMS is dangerous.  He recently said it was not, yet apparently, not everyone has gotten the message.



I doubt students' parents were even notified. Just like they were not notified about the released directory information, were parents notified ahead of time of the recently posted photo of HMS children walking through the halls at HMS on the "Vote Yes for HMS" Facebook page? 

Surprise, surprise, another failure on the district's part to obtain parental permission. Sure the faces of most of the students are conveniently blurred out, but not all are. Hmmm....I wonder who would have had access to our children in the hallways of HMS and permission to take a photo of them? A teacher, an administrator, or facilities member? Someone must know who took the photo, blacked out the faces, then posted it onto the political group's Facebook page. This political group seems to believe that rules don't apply to them. I don't think it's ok to publish photos of our kids, even if they blur out photos. I can't believe they did this. If they were allowed to enter the school and take photos, then who authorized this? If they were given a photo by the administration, then who authorized it's release? 

And to suggest as their photo comment does that the picture shows the "overcrowded and dangerous dash" HMS students have to navigate when changing from the portables to the main building is downright irresponsible. Once again, didn't Dr. White already say that the conditions in HMS are NOT dangerous? Didn't this political group have to take their reference to the building being dangerous down from their website after he made this declaration at a recent meeting? So now, they are trying to fear monger using Facebook? Dr. White, please tell them to stop with the theatrics and misrepresentations. If Dr. White thinks the building or its conditions are causing a danger to the students, then it shouldn't cost the community $65 million to fix those conditions now. They should be fixed regardless of the spending that kind of money. And if he can't get it done without spending $65 million then he needs to be fired.

But let's get serious now. This photo is downright silly. There is nothing wrong with the amount of children in the hallway nor is there anyhing wrong with the portables. Take a picture of any middle school hallway in America and you will see the exact same thing - lots of kids walking to their classrooms. But their hallways will probably be older than those in HMS. And they will probably have metal detectors. In fact, lets all go over to the high school and see how crazy those WIDE hallways and stairwells are during any passing period. D86 needs to go to referendum too but you can bet they are not going to suggest a total new building because the hallways are dangerously crowded during passing period!

And one last note, I have 6th grader at HMS and my child never once complained about a lack of heat in the portables or crowds. So I'm not sure where those comments are coming from.....

February 3, 2016 at 8:35 AM

Monday, February 1, 2016

Comment of the Day -- Where Have the Good Ole' Days Gone?

We miss the good ole' days......

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...
Two True Stories Parents,

I am a parent of D 181 children who were educated back in the dark ages of late 90s, early 2000s, you know before electricity and the internet and we all milked cows every day:

Today, I meet a parent and a 4th grader at one of our fine elementary schools. Mom says they no longer give spelling tests in D181. The child learns 10 vocab words PER WEEK. Definition, how to use in a sentence etc. 

I tell her my child went through D181 back in the old days, when children were actually required to learn stuff. My child was required to learn 10 words PER DAY! Every Friday a spelling and vocab test with 50 words! The word lists were differentiated including " challenge words" Challenge words were were at high school level. You did not need to be in a special class to learn challenge words. Children 15 years ago were adding hundreds of words to their vocabulary each year. Routinely "non gifted" students were getting 28 to 34 on their ACTs because they were educated from Day 1.

Second True Story:

Went to Hinsdale Public Library around 4 pm one day last week. Cars were parked up and down Washington, library parking full, cars parked one block over east of Garfield. I asked the library lady if there was something special going on. She says it is like this every day because of all the kids being tutored at the library. I glanced around; there must have been 75 to 100 elementary and middle school aged kids sitting with their tutors. This happens every day! Plus more tutors at home! 

OMG people, what hath we wrought? It is one thing to use a tutor for ACT prep or SAT prep as a junior and senior in high school or to help cram for an AP calc or AP Bio exam. When kids this young are needing tutors what does that say? How on earth can we take spelling and vocabulary away from our kids??? What on earth are they replacing it with? Will they have to dumb down Hinsdale Central? How will are kids fare at Fenwick or another private school?

Please wake up parents. It is worse than you think.

I don't blame teachers; I blame the administration and this very sad curriculum.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Moments ago, we received the following comment that poses some great questions on the proposed HMS design concepts.  We agree that the answers to these questions should provide some clarity to the voters on what exactly has been developed and how the proposed $65 million might be spent.  

We'd love it if someone on the Facilities Committee or D181 Administration would take a crack at answering them, since they are not that difficult, but it shouldn't be up to individual community members, or us (the bloggers), to dissect all of the design concepts since Cordogan first presented it's original one in early December 2015.

We hope to have answers submitted.......


Anonymous said...

Can someone clear up the following questions which I think will provide clarity on the process, price and purpose of the new HMS.

Cordovan's original design concept was priced at $46.8 million. This did not include an administrative center. That design would have cost $50 million. When that design concept was priced out by Pepper, the construction firm said the concept would actually cost $73 million. IS THAT CORRECT?

Then the BOE said, this is too expensive. IS THAT CORRECT? My question is whether the Design that Pepper priced out had MORE features than the original WINNING design concept?

Then did the Facilities Committee or Cordogan (WHICH ONE OR BOTH?) worked with the teachers (???) to modify the original design and bring a cheaper alternative to the BOE BEFORE they voted on language to put on the March 2016 ballot? DID THAT HAPPEN? And Version A cost 66.4 and Version B cost 63.7? Is that CORRECT?

And the BOE split the baby and settled on Ballot language of $65 million BUT they did not settle on a specific design concept at that time. IS THAT CORRECT?

But even then it sent the design concept BACK to the facilities committee and Cordogan and said, bring us a $55, $60 and $65 million version. IS THAT CORRECT?

And last week, the facilities committee "arguably" discussed Version C, D, E, F and G. Version C was a $55 million version, Version D a $60 million version and E, F and G were all $65 million versions and they settled on Version G which they will recommend to the BOE on February 8. IS THAT CORRECT?

HOW IS VERSION G different (in terms of features, square footage and bells and whistles) from Cordogan's ORIGINAL $46.8 million design concept?

And my final question -- what was the price per square foot Pepper calculated for Cordogan's Original Design concept and what is the price per square foot of Version G?

CAN ANYONE PLEASE ANSWER THESE BASIC QUESTIONS? After 2+ years, someone on the Facilities Committee should be able to (perhaps Mrs. Mueller) or perhaps the D181 keeper of all knowledge (I mean, the Director of Communications) or perhaps one of our readers who can analyze the hundreds of pages of documents that are on the D181 website and Board Docs to determine the answers.

Thank you.

January 31, 2016 at 8:04 AM

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Comment(s) of the Day -- HMS Referendum Chronology

We'd like to thank the anonymous reader who over the last couple of hours has submitted a series of comments tracking the chronology of events leading up to the March 2016 HMS Referendum Question.

We are publishing them below (along with all the useful links) so that anyone interested can quickly access board meeting documents.  What is fascinating to us is how this chronology shows that in a short span of 2 years, a Facilities Committee was formed and tasked with creating a Masters Facility Plan for all 10 schools, only one school -- HMS -- was ultimately selected for any large projects and despite the focus on only one school, virtually every deadline set was missed by the administration.  Compounding that is the reality that the winning design concept, originally priced at $46.8 million was completely off the mark and the true cost (as estimated by Pepper Construction) was $73 million.  It is no wonder the BOE balked at this number and pushed for a cheaper version, but a mere four days later 5 of 7 board members settled on $65 million as an appropriate amount to ask taxpayers to fund.  

We ask, is it really appropriate to have a design that is nearly $20 million higher than what the board selected in October?  After months of delay in selecting an architect and many missed deadlines, why would anyone trust the "urgency" and rapid fire decisions and changes made in late December 2015? 


Comments of the Day:

Anonymous said...
Many people on this blog have been commenting how long the facilities committee has actually been in place. A search of board docs located the following memo which clearly states it was created in October 2013, less than 2 1/2 years ago.....$file/BOE%20Report_Facilities_1_13_14.pdf
Anonymous said...
Healy Bender, the go to architect the district had used in the past, was contracted for $26,000 to complete a Master's Facility Plan.$file/BOE%20Report%20Facilities%20Master%20Plan_12_9_13.pdf
Anonymous said...
The facilities committee presented a lot of useful information at the April 21, 2014 board meeting on HMS and the history of the building and past expenditures. Check the documents out at:
Anonymous said...
Less than 1 1/2 years ago, Wight and Company was hired to complete a Facilities Audit:$file/BOE%20Report_Facility%20Assessment%20RFP_10_27_14.pdf
Anonymous said...
Only one year ago, January 26, 2015, Dr. White announced that Wight and Company had completed a 350 page report on the facilities needs at all 9 schools. His report also stated that Healy Bender's Educational Adequacy Analysis which also dealt with school conditions would be ready in April 2015 and that by June 2015 (only 8 months ago) a Master's Facility Plan would be ready.$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Supt%20Report%2015-01-26.pdf
Anonymous said...
By February 2015, the completion date for the Masters Facilities Plan had been pushed back to July 2015.$file/BOE%20Report_%20Supt%20Report%20_2_9_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
In April 2015, additional information on overcrowding at HMS was presented to the BOE as a basis for their approval of additional mobile units:$file/BOE%20Report_HMS_Options_4_13_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the May 11, 2015, discussion began on the creation of the Masters Facility plan, but the date for completion of the Plan was once again pushed back to September 2015. Embedded in this presentation was the suggestion to issue an RFP for an architect to do renderings of a new HMS and to select a firm by September 4, 2015.$file/BOE%20Presentation_Facilities_%205.12.2015.pdf
Anonymous said...
An updated calendar on facilities planning involving a possible new HMS was presented at the June 8, 2015 board meeting. This calendar still had an architect firm being selected between September 28 and October 5, 2015 (another push back on the original date suggested in May).$file/Timeline%20Update%20for%20the%20Board%2015-06-08.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the June 22, 2015 board meeting, Ken Surma presented a report indicating that in late September or early October (2015), the BOE would be asked to determine whether to put a Referendum Question on the March 2016 ballot, and whether it should include other schools besides HMS. (Remember, the October "deadline" was not met and the BOE didn't decide until December 19 to go to referendum.)$file/BOE%20Report_Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20Engagement%20Research%20Planning_6_22_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
Another timeline update was presented at the August 15, 2015 board meeting setting October 19 (another delay) as the dates for possible board action on selecting an architect and deciding whether to go to referendum in March.$file/2015_08_17_Facilities_Planning_Timeline.pdf
Anonymous said...
On August 31 summaries of recent committee meetings were presented to the BOE, including one from the Facilities Committee:

It still showed October 19 as the target date for presentation of the Masters Facility Plan, Selection of Architect and Board decision on going to Referendum in March. The date for selection of the Architect had been pushed back yet again from the originally proposed date...$file/BOE%20Fin.%20%26%20Fac.%20Com.%20Mtg.%20Min.(2)_8_18_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the September 28, 2015 board meeting, the BOE was provided a summary of where things stood on the HMS facilities front. On September 8 and 10, three architect firms presented their HMS concept designs at the Hinsdale Public Library.$file/BOE%20Report_Engagement%20and%20Research%20Update_9_28_15.pdf

A draft 10 years Masters Facilities plan was also presented to the BOE:$file/Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20-%209.27.2015%20-%20reduced%20size.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the September 28, 2015 BOE meeting, HMS options and the controversial ranking of architects (but no selection) were also discussed:$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Options%20for%20HMS%20-%209.28.2015%20(Revised).pdf

Facilities Committee minutes were also presented:
Anonymous said...
A mere 4 months ago, at the October 19, 2015 BOE meeting, the board was presented with more information on selecting an architect for the HMS project:$file/Facilities%20Committee%20Pros%20and%20Cons%20for%20Architectural%20Firm%20Decision%2015-09-29.pdf
The three firms were "reranked" following the concerns raised at the prior board meeting and the results were presented at:$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Ranking%20of%20Architects%20for%20HMS%20Construction_10_19_15.pdf

Rather than being asked to approve going to referendum (per the updated timeline), the BOE was now only tasked with providing guidance to the administration on whether to proceed to referendum in March 2016:$file/BOE%20Report_Potential%20Referendum_10_19_15.pdf

The board took action by selecting Cordogan as the architect, did not decide whether or not to place a referendum question on the March 2016 and authorized 2 board members to enter into contract negotiations with Cordogan, See Minutes of meeting at:$file/Reg.%20Bus.%20Mtg.%20Min._10_19_15.pdf
Unfortunately, a Special Meeting needed to be called for October 26, to rescind the motion approving board member negotiators and bring that motion again. Apparently, there must have been some type of "error" (or perhaps OMA violation?) requiring this special meeting. (Interestingly, if one looks at the NOTICE of this special meeting, it doesn't list the reason for the special meeting, which is also required by law....another mistake?)

See Minutes:$file/Sp.%20Brd.%20Mtg.%20Min_10_26_15.pdf

See Notice:
Anonymous said...
On November 9, 2015 the BOE approved hiring Pepper Construction to price out the true cost of the $46,876,115.00 Cordogan design concept for an new HMS. (See Cordogan proposal, p.46 at$file/BOE%20Report_Construction%20Manager%20Cost%20Estimator_11_9_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the December 14, 2015 board meeting, the BOE and Community learned for the first time that in costing out the Cordogan design concept, Pepper Constructions estimated it would actually cost $73 million, not $46,876,115.00.$file/HMS%20Cost%20Estimate%20DRAFT%20Executive%20Summary%2012-13-15.pdf

The BOE failed to vote on whether to go to referendum and scheduled a special Saturday board meeting on December 19, 2015.

A mere four days after the $73 cost estimate, two new cheaper proposals were floated to the BOE:

One was for $66.4 million ($file/SD%20181%20Hinsdale%20MS%20Budget%20Summary%20Option%20A%20Revised%20121715.pdf

The other one was for $63.7 million ($file/SD%20181%20Hinsdale%20MS%20Budget%20Summary%20Option%20B%20Revised%20121715.pdf)

The BOE majority approved putting a $65 million question on the March 2016 ballot, barely meeting the ballot language submission deadline. 

The BOE tasked the facilities committee to explore cheaper options but based upon last week's facilities committee meeting "due diligence" (as Don White refers to it during the meeting), the committee will be recommending a $65 million design to the BOE.

How can anyone trust this number? Perhaps Pepper should be asked to take a look at the latest Option G design and cost it out....

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Comment of the Day: Another Open Meetings Act Violation in the Flawed HMS Referendum Process?

Moments ago we received the following letter from former BOE member Yvonne Mayer.  We are posting it as our Comment of the Day because we are disturbed that once again, there is another "flaw" in the referendum process that has been exposed.  How can the community be expected to vote YES on any referendum question in the face of all the problems and legal issues that have occurred during the process leading to the March 15 election? 


Comment of the Day:

Yvonne Mayer said...
Can they get nothing right? Below is a letter I just sent to Dr. White and the BOE. Feel free to post as a free standing comment.

Dear Dr. White and Board of Education Members:

I am writing to inform all of you of an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act that was disclosed during yesterday's facilities committee. As you all should know, it is illegal for three or more board members to discuss substantive board business outside of a properly noticed open or closed meeting, or make decisions that are represented as full board directives. I was, shocked to learn at the 1 minute 43 second mark during the 1/27/16 facilities committee that Mr. Clarin had discussions with two other board members in the last couple of days which led him to represent to the entire Facilities Committee that the BOE had decided to focus only on $65 million options for a new HMS.

All of this was revealed during the first five minutes of the meeting. The meeting begins with one of the Cordogan representatives attempting to begin a discussion on the $55, $60 and $65 million options for a new HMS. As you all should recall, at the last board meeting, the BOE was very clear that the facilities committee and architect should prepare these three options for further discussion. The BOE approved language for a $65 million referendum question on the March 15 ballot, but there was enough dissent expressed by various board members that it was agreed that the committee and architect should continue trying to lower the cost. During yesterday's meeting, the Cordogan representative stated that they had prepared various iterations but at some point they needed to stop and get direction from the BOE and with that direction from the facilities committee that they could share wit the board. He then said he wanted to go over pros and cons developed for each of the $55, $60 and $65 million options they had developed. 

It was at this point in the meeting, that Board Member Gary Clarin stopped him (00:1:42) and said:  

"I’m going to stop you there because I had a discussion with a couple of board members over the last couple of days and I think we’d like to, we approved 65, I’d think we’d like to move forward at 65, whatever that may be, I think our financing needs to reflect 65, cause the community is going to need something soon and I know finance is tomorrow night. Um, we need to just work at 65. 55 was not what the board approved, we approved 65. If we can come in at 55, then so be it, but I think we need to start looking at 65, 64, whatever that iteration is and we need to go with that. I’m only one board member, but that’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to narrow this down, so we can work towards one thing, without trying to do all these iterations."

There have been NO publicly noticed board meetings in the "last couple of days" at which Mr. Clarin could have legally had a discussion with fellow board members leading to his representation that the BOE wanted to move forward with the $65 million option. In my opinion, his statement is an admission of a blatant open meetings act violation.

My only question to you is, which other board members participated in the discussion with Mr. Clarin and what authority did the three of you have to make decisions for the rest of the board?

If, by chance, this discussion did not actually take, place, then I would ask you to have Mr. Clarin explain his misrepresentation to the Facilities Committee yesterday.

I would like to know what Mr. Giltner and Ms. Garg think of Mr. Clarin's revelation, since I did not hear either of them comment during this part of the meeting on Clarin's representations.

I would appreciate an immediate response from Dr. White and BOE President Garg as to how this alleged violation will be handled, so that I can decide whether or not to file a Request for Review with the Attorney General's Office.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer

Monday, January 25, 2016

Don White States $368,311 in Funding to D181 Could Be Cut By State this Year-- Is this Really the Right Time to Spend $65 Million on a New School?

This morning, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on the negative impact the proposed State funding cuts will have on local school districts.  Below is the link to the article:

According to the article, 

"The possible changes stem from the Illinois State Board of Education proposing to take $305 million from an account designated for special education services and giving that money to districts for general expenses. The change would mean more 'general' aid for public schools, but districts would still be expected to cover special education expenses." (Source:

Superintendent White was interviewed for the article and stated that "the proposed loss of special education funding would have cost District 181 $368,311 in fiscal year 2016." (Source:

He further stated: 
"Taking money away definitely impacts our ability to provide resources in other areas... Special education is a federally mandated program that is not fully funded. If we are to lose over $368,000 in funding, that means that we will have to shift current funding to comply with federal law. Ultimately, this will have an impact on our ability to provide other services... Even though I understand the intent, this may have a negative impact on our ability to deliver current services to students in our district."  (Source:
The proposed State cuts for Special Education services is just one of several proposals currently being considered that could cost D181 millions of dollars each year.  If proposed pension laws are passed, transferring funding responsibility to individual districts, or if property taxes are frozen, the district will be forced to spend down reserves or make cuts to programs since annual tax revenues will not be sufficient to fund existing services and salaries.
So we ask, is this REALLY the best time for D181 to be going to referendum to build a brand new middle school to the tune of $65 million?  Do we really want our property taxes to go up to build ONE school, or perhaps would it be more responsible and better for all of D181's students to go to an Operational Referendum in the next two years should state funding cuts and freezes actually be implemented?
Our choice is on funding student programs and teacher salaries, not building a Taj Mahal school with an elevated running track, auditorium and $450,000 atrium skylight (to name but a few of the bells and whistles in the current proposal).  With only 50 days to go before the referendum, the administration has still NOT made a recommendation to the BOE on how to fund the $65 million in bonds. Taxpayers still have no idea what the actual tax increase will be should the referendum pass, or over how many years they will share this additional tax burden.  It is not fair to taxpayers, parents, students or teachers, to keep us all hanging without complete referendum information.  But more important than that, it is not fair to any of these constituent groups to know that if we pass a $65 million referendum for ONE school in March, construction on this ONE building could be underway at the same time that services for ALL students are CUT, CUT, CUT.  How many tax increases does the Administration and BOE really think this community will support?  Wouldn't it be better for the Administration to bring these issues to the BOE to address at their next BOE meeting (on February 8, 2016) and be TRANSPARENT about the possible future negative impact that D181 may face?  Shouldn't the full BOE openly discuss the possible negative impacts State proposals may have on D181 and make plans NOW to avoid having to cut programs or eliminate teachers?
The onus is on Dr. White to show whether or not he can be an effective and strong leader.  It should not be enough for him to try and build one school and claim that as his legacy.  Instead, his priority should be on ensuring that no services or programs are cut for ANY D181 student, especially when (and if) $65 million in taxpayer money is poured into ONE school that will only serve a small percentage of our students.
Sound Off!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Comment of the Day: Jay Wick's Insightful Observations and Our Hope for the Upcoming Strategic Planning Process

This afternoon we received a comment from Jay Wick which we believe is on point.  We are publishing it below as the Comment of the Day.  Before you read it, we would like to make the following observations:

1. Tomorrow, the BOE will hold a Special Meeting that will focus on Strategic Planning.  The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at the Administration Center.  The agenda for the meeting can be accessed at the following link:  1/23/16 Meeting Agenda. We encourage our readers to review the documents posted for the meeting that can be accessed at the following link: Strategic Planning documents.

2.  In his comment below, Jay Wick notes that it is time for the BOE to overcome its "fear of micromanaging."  What is ironic about his comment (which we whole-heartedly agree with) is that one of the concerns ECRA (the Strategic Planning Firm) claims constituents raised in their survey and focus group meetings was that the BOE has done too much micromanaging.  The apparent disconnect between ECRA's finding and what people like Jay Wick (and us) believe about how involved the BOE has been or should be is something that we hope the BOE explores at the Strategic Planning Table tomorrow.  In our opinion, there have been a few board members in the last several years that have rightfully demanded administrative accountability and given specific examples during board meetings of how the administration has refused to implement board directives and not acted in our students' or taxpayers' best interests.  These board members have been in the minority -- until now -- and had no authority to effect the kind of change that Mr. Wick points out is needed.  

3.  The administration has been quick to call out past minority attempts to address needed change as micromanagement.  This should come as no surprise since some of these changes could have potential negative impact on their livelihoods.  But now it appears the winds may have finally shifted.  A new board majority spoke up at the last BOE meeting and demanded that the administration follow the BOE directives.  This same majority should insist that administrative compliance with BOE directives be implemented into any strategic plan that is board approved.  

4.  Finally, we want to commend the current Board Members who have raised their concerns and expectations during public board meetings. Board Members Garg, Giltner, Gray, Burns and Vorobiev have been serving this community well in recent months.  In addition to demanding that the Administration comply with its curriculum directive, the BOE majority has publicly criticized Dr. White for authorizing the recent mass student data release to a pro-referendum committee.  Dr. White was forced to admit at the 1/11/16 Board Meeting that he could have refused the request under FERPA and the Code.  He further admitted that he was solely responsible for making the decision to release the data.  The BOE was not involved in the decision to release the data and only learned about it after the fact. Once the BOE was made aware of this mass release of student contact information, Board Members Gray and Giltner immediately raised concerns which were ultimately discussed during the January 11 board meeting.  Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by a news reporter seeking release of emails in which the data release was discussed. These emails establish how the BOE had no involvement in the original release of this information and how its members were aghast when they learned about it. We urge our reader to take the time to review the emails which can be accessed at: FOIA Response. We believe you will be proud of the board members that did not sit silently by but rather demanded that Dr. White take corrective action.  

5.  We hope that the tenacity shown by the BOE majority in recent weeks continues as the BOE identifies additional "corrective steps" that should be part of the strategic plan.

Comment of the Day:

jay_wick said...
Those of us who have read all the information that was diligently provided through exhaustive FOIA requests and traced the 'evolution' of the curricular changes that were enacted, understand that when people work harder to provide cover for their preferred action than to actually move in the direction that clearly was desired by the BOE majority there will be negative consequences; we rightly look forward to regime change to undo some of those negatives.

It is necessary to fill in some of the relevant history. The impetus for modification to prior policies that served as "gate keeper" functions to the former accelerated offerings of the district was a desire by community members to expand access. The perverse response of the outside consultants was badly misappropriated by prior administrators; one would be hard pressed to say that the way prior offerings were dismantled did not reek of vengeful malfeasance. When the mostly "re-appropriated" plan was adhered to by central office staff after the departure of the prior administrator, the motivation might have been lack of passion for doing the hard work needed to actually craft a rational proposal or it may have been a case of a poor match between the skills need to accomplish the task and the personnel in the roles. Dr. White has made not so subtle hints as to which is truer...

While on some level this back story is now water under the bridge, the fact remains there are lots of kids in the district that very likely would be doing much better if they were being appropriately challenged. The harebrained idea that the whole district could be uniformly marched through mathematics that was not suited to their abilities STILL has consequences for kids that are at ALL points along the Gaussian distribution -- those that should be performing in the upper quintiles face a disorganized future as the pipeline of teachers that formerly expected their ranks in middle school has been treated like pariahs -- it is now verboten to mention acceleration that formerly was applauded. The kids in the lower performing groups have gotten a raw deal and many now are actually farther behind because of the silly assumption of stigmatization that refuses to give them personal attention they need to remain in sync with their grade-level expectations -- their floor has not been raised to the ceiling, rather they've been anti-assisted -- if not for parents that seek outside help, these kids would be badly floundering. Perhaps worst off of all are the big hump of kids in the middle that, combined with the haphazard PARCC testing and questionable adoption of new math texts, have been through so much drama that it could nearly be classified as trauma...

The literal arm-flapping techniques that are a favorite of folks that hold distinctly backwards understanding of the supposed basis of their goofy classroom strategies have to be called out. The damage that has been done to kids by slapping new labels on them is immense. The Myth of Learning Styles | Folks too busy to actually read the books that they think defend their goofiness should at least read the columns the actual researchers share Multiple Intelligences Are NOT Learning Styles | Howard Gardner Ph.D. | 

Our current BOE has many well meaning members that need to overcome their fears of micromanaging and insist that any new staff can clearly articulate a basis for progress. Refuting the Doctrine and Industry of Learning Styles | Psychological Science in the Public Interest

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dr. Schneider Leaving D181 for a Position in a North Shore Special Education Cooperative

Moments ago, the D181 Director of Communications notified all parents by email that Kurt Schneider is leaving D181 effective July 1, 2016.  Below is a copy of her email and the more detailed link content referenced in it.  We will make no comment at this time, other than to say, "Sayonara"* Dr. Schneider.

Email from Ms. McGuiggan:

Dear District 181 Families,
This message is first to share information from the Department of Learning regarding an important update on the schedule for PARCC testing. (A letter to parents is copied below.)
Also, we want to notify you that Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), effective July 1, 2016. NSSED is a special education cooperative that provides programs, services, coaching, and consultation to 18 member districts. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Schneider on his new position. Click here to read the full story in our website news.
Have a nice day!
Bridget McGuiggan
Director of Communications

Press Release:

Assistant Superintendent of Learning Dr. Kurt Schneider Accepts Position with NSSED

Thursday, January 21, 2016
District 181 Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), effective July 1, 2016. NSSED is a special education cooperative that provides programs, services, coaching, and consultation to 18 member districts in areas such as Winnetka, Lake Forest, and Deerfield. Schneider has served as an Assistant Superintendent of Learning in District 181 for four years. 
"I have truly enjoyed working with my District 181 colleagues," Schneider notes. "I am proud of the work we have done and what we have accomplished together on behalf of all students." Schneider remarks that he is committed to continuing his work with District 181 staff, students, and families over the coming months and that he will be working closely with the administrative team to create a smooth transition for incoming Department of Learning leadership. 
District 181 Superintendent Dr. Don White congratulated Dr. Schneider in his new position and thanked him for his service to the District. “Dr. Schneider is an outstanding person who has worked to always put the needs of students first. We are proud to see him take this next step in his career.” 
In regard to the vacancy, Dr. White notes that he will continue to evaluate the District's current organizational structure and plans to discuss the topic with the Board of Education at a future meeting. (Source:
Japanese for 'goodbye'; however, it carries more finality. Instead of being used at the end of a day, as in "Goodbye see you tomorrow," it would be used in situations where you will either not see the person for a long time, if ever again.   (Source: