Saturday, April 19, 2014

4/21 Board Meeting Provides the Opportunity for BOE Members to Establish Credibility with the Community. Will They?

The Agenda for Monday's Special Board Meeting has been posted on Board Docs. (Click to open agenda.)  The open meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Elm School following a 6 p.m. Executive Session to discuss personnel.* Listed on the agenda are 3 significant discussion items: election of BOE officers, the Facilities Committee report on Hinsdale Middle School and Dr. Moon's report.   Each of these agenda items will afford the BOE an opportunity to prove to the community if they have any interest in re-establishing credibility and accountability.  We will briefly review each item in this post, suggesting what we hope the board will focus on.  We will report back after Monday's meeting with a summary of the BOE's discussion and actions taken.


Election of Board Officers
First up on the agenda is the election of the Board President, Vice President and Secretary.  Board Policy 2:110 sets forth the qualifications, term and duties of the board officers.  (Click to open 2:110. We have also copied the text of the policy below.)  The policy provides for one year terms, sets a limit of two terms for each position and spells out the administrative duties for each officer.  The position of President is obviously the one with the most duties, the most important of which include presiding over all meetings, making all board committee appointments, calling special meetings and serving as the board's spokesperson with the media.  The Vice President's main duty is to perform the President's duties when he is absent or unable to perform them.

The officer positions are currently held by President Marty Turek, Vice President Jill Vorobiev and Secretary Mridu Garg.  Between April 2012 and April 2013, Michael Nelson was president and Glenn Yaeger was vice president.  Anyone who has attended or listened to past board officer elections knows that "the fix is in" before the organizational meeting even starts.  Typically, it is clear that there has been wheeling and dealing outside of board meetings amongst the seven board members that culminates in the nomination of a single candidate by a fellow board member.  Then, after no discussion of any kind,  a vote is immediately taken affirming the nomination.  Rarely is a second board member nominated for a position, but when this has occurred, the candidates are not afforded an opportunity to state why they want to hold the position, before the votes are immediately cast.  In such cases where there is a second nomination, you can tell from the body language and facial gestures of the majority of the board that they are just going through the motions of a "contested" election since "the fix is in" and the first vote results in the majority voting for the first candidate nominated, with the second candidate getting at most 2 votes --his/her own vote and that of the person who nominated him/her. 


So what will happen on Monday night?  We hope that this time around, there is a new process followed, whereby whoever wants to serve in an officer position will be nominated, allowed to state their reasons for wanting to be elected, followed by a discussion by the board on each nominee before the votes are cast. 


Who should be elected to serve as the Board President?  To answer that question we need to look at what we've learned about our board members in the last two years.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UPDATED POST: Special Board Meetings Called for Friday, April 18 and 19 at 6 p.m. at Elm School and Ruth Lake Country Club -- Possible Conflicts of Interest?

Earlier today we announced that an agenda for a Special Board Meeting had been published on Board Docs announcing a Special Meeting, to be held on Friday, April 18,  in Executive Session at the Administration Center at Elm School,  for purposes of discussing Personnel.  (Click to open 4/18 agenda.)  We surmised that the meeting would be to conduct second round interviews of the Superintendent candidates, or for the board to deliberate their decision.  That agenda has now been revised to add Ruth Lake Country Club as a second location for not only the April 18 meeting, but also as a second location for a Special Meeting to be held on April 19 starting at 6 p.m. (Click to open 4/19 agenda.)

While it looks like the BOE is moving full speed ahead on the search for Dr. Schuster's replacement, these agendas raise some red flags:

1.  According to both agendas, the meetings will begin in open session followed by an opportunity for public comment, then adjourn into executive session.  The agendas state that the meetings will be held "at the Administrative Center, 6010 S. Elm St., Burr Ridge, IL. and Ruth Lake, 6200 S. Madison St., Hinsdale, IL."  How is it possible for each meeting to be at two locations at once?  Will only some of the board members show up at Elm School and some at Ruth Lake Country Club? Will the meetings open at Elm School and then following public comment, will all of the board members drive over to Ruth Lake Country Club?  Seems rather unusual to schedule a meeting for two locations.

2.  It seems likely that the continuing interviews will be conducted off site at Ruth Lake Country Club, just as the first round were held at the Hyatt Lodge on the McDonald's Campus in Oak Brook.  But is it really a good idea to use Ruth Lake Country Club?

3.  According to Provision 2 of the School Board Member Code of Conduct, all board members "will avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety that could result from my position, and will not use my Board of Education membership for personal gain or publicity."

4.  Everyone knows that Board President Turek is a member of Ruth Lake Country Club.  Unless Ruth Lake is "comping" the district free use of its facilities to hold these interviews, isn't it a conflict of interest for the interviews to be held at a location at which only a "country club member" is typically allowed to rent out the facilities and purchase food and beverages?  Is it possible that the district is paying for the rental fees of these facilities or any food and beverages that will be served during the interview sessions, but that these charges will actually be charged to Mr. Turek's membership account?  Is it possible that such charges -- paid for by the district -- will then be credited against the annual amount that Mr. Turek, as a Ruth Lake Country Club member,  is required to spend?  These are valid questions that should be immediately addressed by the School Board since no Board Member is allowed to benefit financially from their position.  Looks like a Freedom of Information Act request might be required in the near future to investigate these possible improprieties.

Author of Comment Represents that "Majority" of Facilities Committee will NOT Recommend a New Roof for Hinsdale Middle School at the April 21 Special Board Meeting

This evening we received the following comment, with a request to post on the blog.  We have decided to publish it as a free-standing post because the facilities needs at Hinsdale Middle School have been on the front burner of the issues D181 is currently facing.  Water leaks, burst pipes and the discovery of a mass infestation of 20 years worth of mold at HMS in January and February have led to the Facilities Committee addressing what should be the appropriate course to take to resolve all the HMS building issues.  Should the old roof be replaced with a new one?  Should a new school be built? The comment we have received below sheds some light on what we can expect to hear from the "majority" of the committee at the April 21 Special Board Meeting at Elm School at 7 p.m.:

"Anonymous said...

Please post on the blog that there is a special D181 BOE meeting on Monday, April 21 at Elm School at 7 pm. On the agenda is the subject of a new roof for HMS. The D181 Facilities Committee will be recommending the BOE NOT approve a new $2.33 million roof for HMS. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the Facilities Committee recommends that the BOE select Option 1, Patch and Repair. This option is a short-term (up to 5 years) roof solution that will keep the HMS students safe and allow the District to complete research to determine the community's interest in a long-term solution for HMS. The Patch and Repair Option deals with the remaining identified issues at HMS, while allowing the BOE to take informed, research-based action that would have long-term solutions for HMS. In addition, it would also allow time for the new superintendent to be involved in the HMS solution process. It is crucial that the D181 community attend this meeting in order to understand the situation and options for HMS, as well as demonstrate to the BOE the support for a permanent solution to the inadequate HMS building. Thank you."

The Facilities Committee is made up of D181 Administrators Schuster, Frisch and Benaitis, Board Members Garg and Clarin, former school board member Ann Mueller, former school board member and Hinsdale trustee Michael Woerner, current and retired D181 teachers and other parents and community members.  It will be interesting to read the official "Report" that the committee submits and listen to the live presentation during the meeting.  Hopefully the written report will be published on Board Docs over the weekend so all parents and taxpayers can review it prior to the meeting.

It will also be interesting to see if the written report aligns with the comment above. We know from past experience and comments made at board meetings from members of other "committees" (Click to open 8/31/13 Post.) that written reports prepared by the administration do not always reflect the understandings of all committee members. Will this be another example of committee members' recommendations being ignored by the administration? We have learned that there has already been dissension expressed about whether this committee should have been a Board Committee versus the Superintendent's Committee that Dr. Schuster insisted it be structured as. Will there be more dissension expressed on Monday?

As requested by the author of the comment, please attend the April 21 Special Meeting.  Any money spent on HMS now will be an investment in our students' educations and futures.  It is important for all taxpayers and parents in D181 to listen carefully to what the committee recommends, since millions spent now on a new roof might negatively impact the community's willingness to fund a new school in the near future, while a short term "patch and repair" option may give everyone the time needed to fully explore and plan for a longer term, state of the art solution in the form of a new middle school.  Most importantly, we hope the BOE listens carefully and then fully discusses whatever recommendations are presented. If the recommendations do not match what the comment above represents, we hope the BOE asks each committee member to state publicly on the record what their individual recommendations are.

So stay tuned.  We will report back on this issue after Monday's meeting.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kicking the Can Down the Road...

(Image source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013
01/22/congresss-addiction-to-kicking-the-can-down-the-road/)
It has been one week since the last public school board meeting.  As we all patiently wait for any kind of "word from behind closed doors" on the status of the superintendent search, we thought we would take a few minutes to draw everyone's attention to two issues that we believe the board should address as a group -- publicly -- without further delay, but which the administration seems bound and determined to delay or put off indefinitely.

Math Acceleration for All Students:

On April 9, 4th grade parents received a letter advising them that next year, when their students are 5th graders, some form of grade level math instruction will be offered.  (See below for full text of letter.) The letter stated that due to parent concerns raised this year and the BOE's request to address them,  teachers and administrators had met and determined that no changes will be made for this year other than to possibly modify, as needed, the pacing of instruction for some students.  At the end of this school year, students will be assessed to determine their placement for 5th grade.

We are very concerned about this letter for the following reasons.

  1. During the public comment the HCHTA co-presidents made at the April 7 board meeting, they stated that back on March 24, the board had received a report of the meetings.  Where is this report?  Why hasn't the board or administration published it for the entire community to read?  Why hasn't the administration scheduled a public discussion amongst the 7 board members of what the teachers and administrators discussed?  A discussion on math compacting and acceleration is not listed on the agenda items for the upcoming April 21 Special meeting or April 28 Regular Business meeting.  According to the Board Meeting Schedule available on the D181 website, there will only be 3 more board meetings after April 28 and before school adjourns for the summer.  (Click to open Board Meeting Schedule.)
  2. The administration has successfully avoided allowing the board members to participate in a public discussion where they can address the parent concerns that have been brought to their attention repeatedly since the 2013-2014 academic school year began.  The board finally asked for information to be gathered from the teachers in order that they could address the math concerns.  Rather than allow the full board to discuss the report publicly, the administration dodged by presenting them with a written report and failing to schedule a discussion on a future board meeting agenda.
  3. The letter is no substitute for the public discussion that the entire D181 community should be allowed to listen to and participate in.  Moreover, why was the letter only sent to 4th grade parents and not all parents?  Why didn't the letter address what is going to be done next fall for this year's 3rd grade students who have started the math compacting/acceleration model?  Why didn't the letter address what is going to be done next fall for this year's 2nd grade students when they begin 3rd grade?  Will math compacting/acceleration be modified for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, or just 5th grade?
  4. These are but a few of the questions that parents have and that the BOE members should have.  These are but a few of the questions that require a public discussion by our elected officials.  These are but a few of the questions that Dr. Schuster and the Department of Learning are continuing to avoid publicly addressing.  Could it be that Dr. Schuster and Dr. Russell are just trying to "kick the can down the road" until after they leave on June 30?  Could it be that Dr. Schneider is trying to "kick the can down the road" because he just doesn't want to answer the tough questions parents and some board members have been asking?  
  5. What is wrong with the D181 Board of Education members who seem to not care enough to discuss these critical parent concerns publicly?  What are they waiting for? Why aren't they demanding that Dr. Schuster schedule a discussion of this important topic on the next board meeting agenda?

The Administration is Being Insubordinate in Refusing to  Answer Board Member Heneghan's Question on Dr. Schneider's "Non-Negotiable" Principles

As everyone knows from an earlier posting on this blog, Dr. Schneider has been riding the "lecture circuit" espousing his social justice philosophy, Learning For All model of instruction, and "non-negotiable principles".  During the January 13, 2014 Board Meeting, Board member Heneghan asked for "a verbal explanation of the Non-Negotiable principles discussed by D181 Staff at the TASH Conference" at which Dr. Schneider was presenting.  

The can was kicked down the road.

No verbal explanation was given then, nor has it been given since then despite Mr. Heneghan's repeated requests.  In our opinion, this continuing conduct by Dr. Schuster has been a blatant act of insubordination. On March 10 and then again on April 7,  Mr. Heneghan reiterated his request in the Board member questions submitted to Dr. Schuster, asking her to "provide a written discussion of these principles and put this on for discussion at a committee of the whole meeting." Dr. Schuster refused to do so.  Instead, she responded that "Dr. Schneider's upcoming presentation that has been requested by Ms. Garg will cover the non-negotiable principles that were discussed by the D181 staff at the TASH conference."  On March 10, Ms. Garg had asked for an evening presentation on this topic for the community in March or April that would also allow time for Q&A's.  It is unbelievable to us that Dr. Schuster has managed to "kick the can down the road" for 3 months and refused to answer Mr. Heneghan's questions, put this topic on an agenda as requested by one of her BOSSES (since after all, lest anyone forget, she works for the BOARD OF EDUCATION -- all 7 members!). (Click to open 3/10/14 Board Member Q&A's.)

No, Dr. Schuster chose to ignore the request of one of her bosses and instead decided when and if to provide the requested information.  She has made everyone -- Mr. Heneghan and the D181 community -- wait 3 1/2 months to address the topic of non-negotiable principles, despite the fact that Dr. Schneider has batted this phrase around all year in discussing the Learning For All Model of instruction and gone on a lecture circuit to preach his various "mantras".  Now finally, according to the E-Newsletter the administration emailed to parents and "key communicators" last Friday, the "non-negotiable principles" will be discussed on Friday, April 25 and Tuesday, May 6:

""Non-Negotiable Principals for Creating Inclusive Schools for All" (April 25 at Clarendon Hills Public Library, 9:30-11am) and (May 6 at Elm School, 7-8:30pm) This session will focus on the non-negotiable principles that are necessary in order to create proactive, high achieving, inclusive schools for all students. Dr. Kurt Schneider, the Department of Learning, and D181 staff will share research, federal law expectations, and national, state, and local data trends. Time for Q&A will be included. Please RSVP by contacting FRN Parent Liaisons."

Fascinating.  Neither of these sessions are scheduled during a Committee of the Whole Meeting, as requested by Mr. Heneghan last January.  Neither of these are structured as a board meeting, where the full board can discuss -- as a group -- the topic or questions they might have.  Will PODCASTS of these sessions be live-streamed or made available to allow parents and community members who cannot attend the meeting -- or even board members who cannot attend those dates and times -- to listen in?  Will the sessions actually provide the content of what Dr. Schneider and other D181 staff presented at the TASH conference?  Neither of these sessions provide a written explanation of the non-negotiable principles as requested by Mr. Heneghan.  Why not?  What is so difficult about his request that Dr. Schneider or his assistant could not generate a written response that was actually substantive and not just a delaying tactic?  

How many more times will the administration kick the can down the road?

We close with one more point.  Why do people planning to attend either of Dr. Schneider's sessions have to RSVP?  Is this a subtle suggestion that if you don't RSVP, you can't show up?  That is how some parents will read this announcement, and if their schedule frees up to allow them to attend at the last minute, they may think they cannot attend because they did not RSVP.  Such subtle messaging needs to stop.  Meetings should be open to all, regardless of an RSVP.  This is a PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, after all! Enough with all of the formalities!
___________________________________________________



Text of Department of Learning's April 9 Letter to 4th Grade Parents:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Highlights and Lowlights of 4/7/14 Board Meeting: Praise for Ruben Pena, HCHTA Concerns, Approval of Mold Remediation Expenses, Superintendent Search Update and Yaeger's Rudeness


Now that spring is officially here and the weather seems to be following suit, we return to you energized and ready to continue reporting on important issues and events taking place in D181. We begin with a recap of Monday night’s Board Meeting* held at Hinsdale Middle School.  In our opinion, there were some significant highs and lows during the short, one hour meeting.

We begin by thanking the teachers for making two important public comments.  

PRAISE FOR PENA: 

On behalf of the faculty and staff at Hinsdale Middle School, a sixth grade Spanish and social studies teacher publicly thanked Principal Ruben Pena for all his work and support during the water and mold crisis. The HMS staff praised Mr. Pena for having  "tirelessly worked for the betterment of our building, he shared information in a timely manner and listened and reacted quickly when more water and mold was found. He kept things from escalating, he respected and supported our teachers who were were sick.  He took our concerns seriously.  He checked in with teachers to see how they were doing. He helped make classes safer and more comfortable during this time. He was on site every day to monitor the cleanup and rebuilding. He helped us to make the best of a poor situation. He deserves credit for all he has done during this situation."

We commend the HMS faculty and staff for expressing their thanks to Mr. Pena in such a public manner.  It is important to acknowledge such a committed building level administrator, who, along with the teachers, serves our students and community on the front line, day in and day out.  Mr. Pena went well beyond the typical Principal's job description when confronted with the water and mold crisis.  His commitment to addressing the facilities issues, along with the building engineer Tomas Rios (who has also been commended by staff in a comment submitted to this blog), stands in stark contrast to that shown by some of the upper level central administrators who we won't bother to identify by name in this post.   Mr. Pena is one administrator that we are extremely proud of and hope will continue to serve the D181 community for many years to come.

CONCERNS VOICED BY HCHTA:

Next up were the 2 HCHTA Co-Presidents and a third teacher from HMS, who began by acknowledging that following the March 10 board meeting, they participated in meetings with the administration to provide feedback on the elementary math program.  They stated that the information had been shared with the the Board in a Board Report they received on March 24.  They then discussed their perceptions of the current climate in D181.  They made the following points:
  • Throughout the years of administrative turnover, changes in building and district administration, and the implementation of curriculum and programming initiatives, the teachers "have provided consistency to all of the students who continue to remain our focus."
  • The Everyday Math "textbook is not, and has never been, the district curriculum. Teachers have always had the autonomy in the past to deliver the curriculum, utilizing supplemental resources that they have sought out on their own which they feel support the core content."
  • Teachers feel devalued. "Many teachers do not feel that their professionalism and educational expertise are often trusted and respected at times."
  • "Many teachers do not want to speak up publicly or address the BOE for fear of being publicly criticized or possibly being put under a microscope for others to scrutinize without having or understanding all the facts." Some teachers are afraid to do things differently than what is done at other schools out of concern "that their professional judgment of what works best in their classroom at their school at that moment in time will be criticized or devalued."
  • The adults must practice the concept of "acceptance of other's thoughts, feelings and ideas" that the teachers teach the D181 students.  "We do not always have to agree, and quite frankly, will have differing opinions, but there has to be a way to use our shared interest of educating our students to compromise and move forward.  Our work with these children is too important to lose a moment on discord amongst adults."
  • Teachers want to work on committees and be involved in the decision making process but "it is very frustrating to offer feedback and expertise only to have it looked over or ignored. If our opinions are truly valued, we hope that a willingness to act on them is taken.  We do not want to be labeled as negative or complaining or questioning authority, but we do want to ask questions, get clarification, and offer suggestions."
  • Teachers are in constant need of changing their lesson plans based upon how students respond and this is appropriate and expected.  The teachers "would like to see this happen at a district level as well....What we think might work perfectly on paper might not always be realized in practice.  Being able to work collaboratively, as we did in regards to the recent math compacting feedback asked of us, we know we can be better together than we could alone."
We appreciate the time the HCHTA took to prepare this statement. We believe it is imperative that the teachers, BOE, administration and parents all work together, especially in the area of curriculum, to ensure that every student's academic needs are being met. We believe it is critical that the teacher input not be devalued by any constituency group. We hope that under new administrative leadership, the teachers perspective and suggestions will not be discounted, and that necessary and appropriate curriculum changes can be implemented.

According to the speakers, the teacher feedback on the math compacting was submitted to the Board on March 24. Why hasn't it been shared yet with the entire D181 community or publicly discussed by the Board of Education? We are disappointed that this has not been done yet, as time is of the essence and the parent concerns regarding the negative impact of the math acceleration on some students must be addressed as soon as possible in order to make the needed corrections to the program and stop the harm that is currently being caused.

We encourage the HCHTA to continue to be vocal on not just this issue, but to speak loud and clear on any other issue that concerns the teachers and has an impact on our students.  We hope the administration and Board heed the HCHTA comments and not discount them.  We also encourage parents to support the teachers as they continue to work hard to deliver the highest quality education possible for our children.

CURRICULUM COMMITTEE AND YAEGER'S RUDENESS:

In line with the HCHTA's theme of groups working together collaboratively,  there was a brief discussion (of sorts) regarding the Superintendent's Curriculum Committee that is in the process of being formed.  As everyone knows by now, Dr. Schuster extended the application deadline to allow more parents to apply.  Now she is refusing to give priority to candidates who did apply in a timely manner. (Click to open Schuster's answers to Board Member questions.) During Monday's meeting, she also stated that a request had been made of her to solicit additional Board participation.   Board Member Garg was the only one who had volunteered to serve on the committee as of last night's meeting.  We found it curious that Dr. Schuster did not identify who had made this request.  In our opinion, her desire to add another board member or two, just as her desire to increase the parent pool of applicants, could well be an attempt by her to control who finally is allowed to serve on the committee. Time will tell if the selection process for the parent participants was a legitimate one.

Dr. Schuster's solicitation of more board member participation led to the "lowest light" of the evening when Board Members Heneghan and Yaeger got into a heated exchange.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hope Springs Eternal; A Spring Break Message from the Bloggers

(Taken from Wikipedia Spring Images)

As we prepare to enjoy Spring Break with our families next week, we would like to extend our appreciation to our loyal readers. Your active involvement and comments help us to continue our quest for transparency and accountability in District 181, which are the very reasons this blog was created. Our goal is to continue with our mission to inform the D181 community, and this will continue until a new superintendent begins. After our new superintendent starts, we want to give him/her the opportunity to provide the transparency that we hope we will no longer need to provide through this blog.

We look to the new spring season ahead as a time of renewal and hope. Yes, we want to believe we will collectively move beyond what has transpired during the past three years to a better direction under new leadership with positive results.

Spring is the season of hope, and we believe that with a change in leadership, good things can transpire in D181. We are looking ahead toward brighter days with cautious optimism. We would like to know if you feel the same way. Regardless, feel free to make a comment.

The upcoming change in D181 leadership gives us something to hold onto.

See you back here after Spring Break.

Monday, March 24, 2014

UPDATED: Breaking News: Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Doug Eccarius Resigns; All Administrator Contracts Renewed

Tonight, following a very brief Board of Education meeting, Dr. Schuster emailed all parents that the BOE approved a revised calendar. She also informed parents that Doug Eccarius has resigned.  Her email is copied below. The community is still left in the dark about what exactly was on the Personnel Consent agenda that the BOE approved unanimously.  Did the board renew all of the other administrators' contracts for the 2014-2015 school year?  We will have to wait until the administration posts the Personnel Consent Agenda on Board Docs.

UPDATED AT 11:30 P.M.:  The Personnel Consent Agenda that was unanimously approved by the BOE has been posted on Board Docs.  Click to open Consent Agenda.  All Administrator Contracts were renewed for one year terms.  Salaries for the 2014-2015 school year will be determined at a future date.  

Letter from Dr. Schuster:


"Dear District 181 Families,

This evening, the Board of Education approved the following 2013-14 calendar changes, outlined in the attached amended at-a-glance calendar (if no additional emergency days are used):
  • Friday, April 18: This will be an attendance day for HMS only.
  • Friday, May 16: This will be an attendance day for all students.
  • Monday, June 2: This will be an attendance day for all students.
  • Thursday, June 5: This will be a half-day for all students, with a teacher in-service in the afternoon for staff only.
  • Friday, June 6: This will be a half-day for all students (last day of school), with a school improvement day in the afternoon for staff only.
  • Monday, June 9 and Tuesday, June 10: These will be Institute Days for staff only. 
Also, in administrative news, District 181 Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Doug Eccarius has accepted a position as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources with Indian Prairie School District 204, effective July 1, 2014. Mr. Eccarius has shared a letter (below my signature) with all families. Please join us in wishing Mr. Eccarius well in this new position.

Lastly, as a reminder, the superintendent search survey closes at the end of the day on Tuesday. Thank you for your participation.

Sincerely, 

Dr. Renée Schuster
Superintendent

- - -

Letter from Mr. Eccarius

Dear District 181 Families,

It is with bittersweet emotions that I am writing to inform you that, this evening, I was approved to serve as the new Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for Indian Prairie School District 204 in Naperville. My new position begins July 1, 2014.

For the past 11 years, I have been fortunate to serve District 181 as the Assistant Principal at Clarendon Hills Middle School, Principal at The Lane School, Director of Summer School, and currently the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. I have been fortunate to build relationships with eager students, talented staff members, and involved parents. It has been an honor to serve as an administrator in two buildings that are nationally recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. This is a great community, and I have felt an enormous amount of support from parents and staff.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to serve as a leader in District 204, the district that gave me my first teaching position. I have fond memories of my time there and look forward to the opportunities and challenges that a unit district provides. Indian Prairie School District is a short commute from my residence and serves approximately 29,000 students across Pre-K through twelfth grade. There are 33 schools with close to 3,000 employees. 

During the remainder of the school year, I will continue to keep students, staff, and labor relations as top priorities, as well as preparation for a smooth transition to new leadership for District 181. One of my first priorities will be to assist the District in filling the vacant central office positions with leaders who will continue to help Community Consolidated School District 181 work towards its vision, “to be a school district where all students experience success and grow in excellence.”

Once again, I want to thank you for your constant support over the last eleven years. I am extremely grateful to have been provided the opportunity to serve the District 181 community.


Sincerely,

Doug Eccarius
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources"

Selection of Parent Members to Superintendent's Learning Committee Delayed

We have received the following comment from Parent Jill Quinones who asked us to publish it as a free standing post. Because we believe the topic covered is significant and addresses the "process" being used to select parent members to the Superintendent's Learning Committee, we have agreed.

Comment from Ms. Quinones:

"You can post this as a stand alone under Superintendent learning Committee and see how many other Blog readers applied and if any "missed" the communications....

Below is my email to Dr. Schuster when she announced today she was extending the deadline for applications to the Superintendent's Learning Committee and her response. I would have had more respect if she had just said, "you are right, we felt the applicants were too controversial and we were hoping there were some neutral folk out there.""

#1 on my wish list for a new Superintendent - one who is honest and transparent.

Dear Dr. Schuster and Board of Education,

Without looking to jeopardize my own application, I feel as if I have to write to you to express my displeasure over today’s decision to extend the deadline to submit applications to be considered for membership on the Superintendent’s Learning Committee. This extension will only serve to delay the committee from starting its work.


While I hope my conclusion is incorrect, this extension appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to manipulate the parent membership on that committee. I have drawn that conclusion based on the reasoning sent out today as to why it was necessary to extend the deadline and what I know about each "reason."

(1) Some schools are not yet represented in the applications received by the original deadline – while I applaud you in trying to seek out a parent representative from every school and the diversity that will bring to the committee; the fact is, you may never get a parent to volunteer from each school. Moreover, I personally know of parents who have applied for membership on the committee from both middle schools and four of the seven elementary schools. I am sure there are others of which I don’t know about as well. If you need to leave the application period open to try to get parents from the three unrepresented schools, I understand that, but parents who met your original deadline should be the ones who are considered from the schools they represent – unless, of course, you are trying to manipulate membership.

(2) There have been requests from parents for an extension as they had not seen the opportunity in our recent communications – for the life of me, I cannot imagine how a parent missed the communication on this one. News of the potential for a committee was included in the February 7 Newsletter sent around by Ms. McGuiggan to families and Key Communicators. It was discussed and included in the Board Docs for the February 10 Board Meeting. The call for applications was posted to the D181 website and included in the D181 E-News sent by Ms. McGuiggan to families and Key Communicators on March 7. It was publicized in the Suburban Life and Hinsdale Patch online on March 11 and 17, and probably other places as well. At Walker School and others, it was linked on the PTO website either directly or by a link to the District website .A reminder of the deadline for applications was again sent around on March 21 from Ms. McGuiggan to all families. If many parents missed this communication prior to March 21, it would be surprising. And if a few did and contacted you, then give them an extra few days to submit their application, but do not stop the entire process for another three weeks (two more weeks to accept applications and another to choose membership). The school year will be almost over before a first meeting can be called.

(3) The search for a new superintendent is progressing rapidly, and by extending the deadline for applications, the new superintendent may be able to participate in the committee member selection process – What? Even the most aggressive search will not have a new Superintendent approved much before May 31, and it could be later than that. If the new Superintendent is already employed somewhere it is doubtful that he or she will place selecting parental curriculum committee membership as a high priority prior to July 1. If the intent was to get this committee up and going this year (I think it was originally posted as membership term of 2013-14 and 2014-15), then this third reason is really a reach.

I would urge you to reconsider this extension to the general public and limit it to parents who contacted you and schools from whom you have no candidates. The original posting did not have you announcing membership until March 28. Using that original date the committee can start its important work soon after Spring Break. Additional members from missing schools, if any apply, can be added as you select them.

Thank you,

Jill Quinones


Her response (and no, she didn't sign it):

Dear Jill,

Thank you for your email. I appreciate your perspective and expected some of the people who met the deadline to feel the same way. I weighed that perspective with that from the parents who missed the other communications when making the decision to extend the deadline.

Sincerely,"

D181 Students to Be Subjected to More Unnecessary Testing This Spring

Last night we began receiving comments from parents who just learned that starting this week, some D181 students will be participating in FIELD TESTING of the new PARCC assessment.  PARCC stands for "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers."  Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, PARCC will be replacing the ISAT tests.  This morning we received a comment from parent Jill Quinones who asked that we post her detailed comment as a free standing post.  We are doing so because we believe the information Ms. Quinones provides is important for all to read.  At the end of this post, we will also be copying all of the comments we have received so far on the field testing.

Time for you to sound off.  Please let us know what you think about this additional testing? Should D181 have declined to participate in the field testing? Should parents individually opt their students out of this testing?

Ms. Quinones' Post:

Dear Parents

You can use this as a stand alone and put other Common Core Comments here:

PARCC Field Test

I will be piloting this with some of my 6th grade special education students next week. Here is some more info for you all:

Pearson, PARCC”s Field Testing Contractors sent letters to District’s on member states notifying them if school’s in their District had been selected for the Field Test. The final list of participating schools was compiled in December 2013, so yes; D181 could have been a little more forthcoming. Schools were selected to participate in a specific grade, content (math and/or reading) and mode (online/paper-pencil) and are not allowed to change that selection. Specific classrooms were selected by a minimum of 2 District representatives to make sure the selection was random. There were some other guidelines about this as well: 

http://www.parcconline.org/classroom-selection-guidance
Every pilot classroom for the online version will do a practice component that lasts 60-90 minutes. There is A LOT of technology involved with this test, the majority of which is available to all students: 

http://www.pearsonaccess.com/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=PARCC%2FpcPALPLayout_v2&cid=1205795411747&pagename=pcPALPWrapper&resourcecategory=Manuals+and+Documents
The actual testing sessions are 90-120 minutes ELA and 75-90 minutes Math. If they are taking the PBA test there are 3 sections of ELA and 2 of math. If they are doing the end of year later in May ELA and Math are both 2 sections.

Here’s the link to try the sample question that were released:

http://parcconline.org/computer-based-samples
If you want the whole Field Test overview:
http://parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/FAQ_FieldTestAdministration_3-12-14_0.pdf


Teachers should not be looking over shoulders as Pearson and PARCC over the top on the security on this one. Teachers are not allowed to be on their computers, phones, or eve grading papers while students are taking this test. They must be circulating around the room the entire testing period. All teachers administering the test sign off on a lengthy security agreement agreeing to such and more. Any reported violation could potentially void the test results once this is being given “for real.”

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this Field-testing. It seems outrageous that it is happening right after ISAT and there will not be any scores associated with it – it is just research for PARCC and Pearson to make sure everything works and trouble shoot for when it rolls out next year. On the other hand, perhaps they will realize it doesn’t work! Also, those students involved in the Field Test will have a slight advantage over those that were not in that they will have been exposed and have had practice. Not sure if this is good or bad. This is a major headache for teachers as well, as we keep getting updates and changes thrown at us. Whatever your thoughts about the PARCC in general – those are issues with ISBE, not D181.

That said, I do know many Districts are, in fact, scaling back their other assessments because this test going forward will be given several times a year. For example, in my District MAP will be given Fall only to grades 3-8 and we will use Fall to Fall growth norms.

Given that D181 has done away with pull-out gifted programming and any parent/teacher can opt their kids in to accelerated programs I don’t know why we need to waste instructional time and $ in D181 with the Inview and some of the other testing we are still giving. Our Dept. of Learning should take a look at all the assessments that are being given and when.

For a funny yet sad commentary, see: 


http://conservativebyte.com/2014/03/angry-mother-destroys-common-core-writing-sons-test/


________________________________________________________

Below are the other field testing comments we have received.  Future comments will appear as regular comments following this post.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Two Important Meetings Scheduled for Monday, 3/24. BOE Has Created a Scheduling Conflict That May Force Parents to Attend Only One.

There are two important meetings scheduled for Monday, March 24, that we encourage community members, parents and teachers to attend.  Unfortunately, the meeting times have some overlap that may make in impossible for interested persons to attend both.

The first meeting, announced on March 17, is the superintendent search focus group led by BWP (the search firm).  This meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Elm School.  The purpose of the focus group (as stated on the D181 website) is "to further capture staff and parent input in the search process" beyond that obtained through the BWP survey.

The second meeting is a Special Board Meeting that will also be held at Elm School beginning at 7:30 p.m.  This meeting was first announced to the public on March 21 in an email communication sent out by the Director of Communications.

The announcement stated that "[t]he meeting will begin at 7:30 to allow time for those interested in attending the Superintendent Search Focus Group at 7:00 p.m. to attend both events."

Nice attempt to dodge the criticism the BOE must have known would result by choosing to meet during the focus group.  Does anyone really believe that the focus group will start promptly at 7 pm and then conclude within 30 minutes?  If so, how interested is BWP or the board in providing a meaningful amount of time to gather input from community members?  Even if only a few parents show up, 30 minutes is hardly enough time to let each person speak.

No, it is painfully obvious to us that the BOE intended to create this conflict and intentionally scheduled both meetings at the same time in order to keep the attendance down at its board meeting.  You might ask, why would the BOE do this?  Well, here are the reasons we have come up with:

The last few meetings have been very well attended by parents willing to step up and make public comments critical of the board, administration and the Learning for All Plan.  By creating a scheduling conflict, it is likely more parents will choose to attend the focus group and stay away from the board meeting.

While there are only 2 items on the agenda for the special meeting (click to open agenda posted on Board Docs), Amended School Calendar and Personnel, both items are somewhat controversial and we are sure the board would prefer to address them quickly and quietly.

The Amended School Calendar is up for final approval.  It will result in Hinsdale Middle School students attending school on Good Friday, while the rest of the district has the day off.  There may be some parents who oppose this plan, but if given the choice between making a public comment at 7:30 or providing input for the superintendent search at 7, most parents will likely forgo attending the board meeting.

While we do not know what the Personnel item is, we can make a pretty good guess.  The board must publicly approve the renewal of Administrator Contracts on or before April 1, or they will automatically be renewed after that date.  Up for renewal are all of the Central Office administrators, the principals, assistant principals, deans and PPS administrators. We hope that the board will be formally voting on these contracts at this meeting, since no other meeting is currently scheduled to take place before April 1.  Each board member should be allowed to vote yes or no on each administrator.

Parents have been quite vocal on this blog, and in letters sent to the board, about their desire that one or more administrator contracts not be renewed.  We will not identify those administrators in this post, but we agree that change is needed in some of the Central Administrative positions.  As a result of the public criticism, it is clear that by scheduling these overlapping meetings, the board is hoping to deter public comments relating to the administrator contracts.

Wouldn't it have been possible for Board President Turek and Dr. Schuster to pick any other date between Monday, March 24 and April 1 to hold their Special Meeting?  If not, wouldn't it be possible to begin the meeting at 8 or 8:30 pm to allow people to attend both meetings?

In our opinion, not doing so is simply the latest in a series of attempts by Mr. Turek and Dr. Schuster to stifle open government and transparency.  While the district can look forward to a new beginning (of sorts) on July 1 with the hiring of a new superintendent, there is also the BOE officers election to be held during the annual Organizational Meeting (in late April or early May)(Click to open Board Policy 2:110.)  We hope at that time a new board president will be chosen.  The non-renewal of some administrators is not the only change needed in D181.