Sunday, April 19, 2015

Disrespect, Nastiness, Fear and Audiotape: Listen For Yourselves as to How the Abysmal Conduct of D181 Board Members and Administration is an Embarrassment to Us All.

It has been almost one week since the April 13, 2015 BOE meeting held at Hinsdale Middle School. It was a marathon meeting, 3 hours 49 minutes long, and even we couldn't listen to the entire meeting on Monday night without throwing in the towel.  With tax returns due on Wednesday and the craziness of everyday life, it has taken us until now to listen to the end of the meeting and decide what to focus on in this blog post.  We are going to keep this relatively short, because frankly, we are completely disgusted with the antics of the outgoing board and we want to say as little as possible about them, however, we are going to focus on three adjectives that we think describe the behavior of certain board members, but also certain D181 administrators: Nasty, Disrespectful and Afraid.

Mr. Turek, Mr. Yaeger and Mr. Nelson: You are nasty and disrespectful board members. Monday night's meeting was the most recent example of the obvious disdain you have for Board Member Garg. Monday night's meeting was also another example of how you have lost touch with the community and have made it your mission to squash like a helpless bug any community member who makes a public comment that you do not personally agree with or that calls out the administration for not being responsive to community concerns.

We urge our readers, and these three board members to listen to the meeting tape.You (and they) will all hear the nasty,disrespectful and condescending tone they took with Ms. Garg, whose only crime was to ask respectful questions and attempt to make comments after various motions were brought. Mr. Yaeger in particular told Ms. Garg at one point that she could only vote on a motion by saying YES or NO, completely disregarding her right to discuss or comment on a motion. Thankfully Ms. Garg pushed back and took a stand, refusing to be silenced by Big Bully Yaeger.

Towards the end of the meeting when Ms. Garg asked for questions to be added to the annual parent survey --  regarding parents' awareness of the proposed math plan, parent's knowledge of math groups their children have actually been placed in and community members' understanding of integrated classrooms and satisfaction with special education services since D181 withdrew from LADSE (the special education cooperative) -- Ms. Garg was once again shown disrespect, but not just by fellow board members, but also by Dr. White and the district's Communication Director, who essentially stated that there was no point in asking these questions.  SAY WHAT?

That's right folks. Listen to the Podcast (begin at Counter 03:32:28) and you will hear Ms. Garg's proposed questions and the defensive push back she received from White, the Communication's Director and Mr. Turek. They didn't like the proposed questions and, in our opinion, were disrespectful towards Ms. Garg by refusing to add them, stating throughout the discussion:

"What would we do with that information?"

"We don't agree about asking parents about implementing integrated classrooms."

"I don't think it's the right question."

"I'm not sure we agree that that's a question that is going to lead us anywhere."

"We don't agree about asking parents about implementing integrated classrooms because its, I don't think its the right question."

"I don't think we'd support adding those questions."

Mr. Turek argued that Ms. Garg was attempting to micromanage the survey, despite Ms. Garg's explanation that the survey is the only opportunity for the full community to weigh in on essential curriculum issues, and that if the survey is going to include questions about when to call a snow day, etc., parents should be afforded an opportunity to provide feedback on curriculum issues.

BRAVO Ms. Garg and shame on Mr. Turek, Dr. White and the Communication's Director for attempting to silence her, and for their obvious FEAR of what the community might say in response to the proposed questions.

It is pretty sad to realize that the administration and current board president really don't want to hear the truth from the parents and it appears they will only craft a survey that will provide feedback they want to hear, and not ask questions that might result in negative feedback. It is clear to us that the administration is AFRAID to ask meaningful satisfaction questions, just as they have been afraid to produce DATA in response to Board Member Garg, Heneghan and Vorobiev's questions.  If this is really Dr. White's attitude towards the community that pays his salary, then sadly, we hope the new board seriously considers if Dr. White and his administration are providing value-added services to our district in exchange for their very generous, taxpayer-funded salaries. If this is questionable, then perhaps Dr. White's contract and those of his administrators should not be completed through their existing terms and at the very least should not be renewed at the end of the contract terms. We, and especially our kids, deserve better than what we are paying for, period.

As bad as the nastiness and disrespect exhibited towards Ms. Garg was by Turek, White and our soon to be departed (and we can assure you, quickly forgotten) board members Nelson and Yaeger,  what was more offensive to us as parents was the complete disrespect Turek and Yaeger showed towards a community member who made a public comment in which she brought special ed concerns to the BOE's attention.  Listen to the parent's comment on the  Podcast at Counter 02:02:15. The parent stated that she did not believe the district was in compliance with certain federal and state special education laws and also asked for a question to be added to the parent survey regarding special ed services.

She stated that "Our pupil services administrators act as road blocks. They are either incompetent or they flat out lie, it's as simple as that."

Mr. Turek immediately tried to shut the parent up by stating: "I can't allow you to call people out as liars without sup..."

When she responded that she hadn't named names and wanted to tell the Board things she had heard had happened that resulted in no action by the central administration, Mr. Yaeger went after the parent trying to shut her down as well saying she'd already raised her concerns with the board.

The parent's response was "Then why is nothing being done?"

Of course her question wasn't answered and when the parent went on to reference the open special ed position, Mr. Turek told her that "I'm going to have to ask you to stop. We've heard this and we get it."

Really Mr. Turek?  You get it?  Really?  Because your inaction speaks louder than your empty words.

Turek informed the parent that he was not going to allow the back and forth exchange to continue, which we found laughable since HE started the back and forth exchange, rudely interrupting a parent's freedom of speech right to make a public comment!  But then in his overly condescending and pompous manner, Turek went on to say that the parent should schedule ANOTHER meeting with White who Turek said "I'm confident that he will grant you another meeting."

Grant her another meeting? Who does Turek think White is?  Oh yes, the Emperor....... Good luck to the parent.


We really can't believe what we heard during the meeting.  It was absolutely outrageous how a board member and community member were treated by Turek, Yaeger, Nelson and White. Completely unacceptable! And to what end? We sincerely hope that the incoming board members will take a lesson from what transpired at Monday's meeting and commit to never treating fellow board members or community members with disdain and disrespect. The outgoing board members need to hit the road, Mr. Turek's reign of terror as board president must end and the new board needs to be seated and move the district forward in a more positive and collaborative way under the leadership of a new board president.

We eagerly anticipate the new board members taking the oath of office. Let's remember that these new BOE members were elected to effectively make changes, examine the true state of the district and to right the course that has been wrong for the past several years.

The May 4th BOE meeting can't come soon enough.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Whoa, Nelly! BOE Meeting Agenda for Monday, April 13 at HMS, 7pm Gallops Toward Disaster; Parents and New Board Must Take The Reins

(Source: Wikipedia:

As we bloggers basked in the afterglow of the recent school board election results in D86 and D181 (minus one returning D181 BOE member), we had barely had a chance to radiate in the joy of our newly elected candidates when we suddenly began receiving comments regarding the state of D181 that we believe are dead on. You can see for yourselves under the most recent post dated April 8 . To top it off, we then received a comment related to the math acceleration plan that is listed on Boardocs for the Monday, April 13 meeting in which we discovered the following documentation from our own highly paid, master martyr Kurt Schneider:

Community Consolidated School District 181
CONTACT: Dr. Kurt A. Schneider, Assistant Superintendent of Learning
Sean Walsh, Director of Learning
Dr. Dawn Benaitis, Director of Learning
TITLE: Learning for All Plan, Math Programming
DATE: April 13, 2015
The Department of Learning has been working to update and revise the Learning for All documents/plan for the Board of Education. At the February 9, 2015 Board of Education meeting, a presentation was made on the proposed math programming for the 2015-16 school year. In this presentation, it was recommended that the vast majority of students would work with grade level content based on the implementation of the new Illinois State Learning Standards and the experience of the teachers using the newly adopted math materials. Students would also have access to above grade level content, as needed, through differentiated instruction.
While we anticipate the vast majority of students’ needs will be met through grade level curriculum, differentiated instruction in the classroom, and the newly adopted resources, there may be individual students who require subject acceleration. Tonight’s discussion focuses on the process to consider students who may need math subject acceleration to meet their needs.

But wait! Here is another document from Kurt and the Department of Learning:

Subject Acceleration 2015-16
Math subject acceleration will be considered for students who consistently require above grade level math content. Utilizing the RtI process, individual teams will make the decision using a collection of assessment data, teacher/team input, and parent input. Students must demonstrate strengths in all three (3) areas in order to receive math subject acceleration to meet their needs.

Student Assessment Data:
• A student’s overall MAP RIT must be 2 standard deviations above the district mean on 2 of 3 consecutive assessments
• A student must be above the district mean in the goal areas of Operations & Algebraic Thinking and Numbers & Operations (for the grades 2-5 MAP assessment) or Operations & Algebraic Thinking and The Real & Complex Number Systems (for the grades 6+ MAP assessment) on 2 of 3 consecutive assessments
• A student demonstrates mastery on the end of year grade level assessment (90%)

Teacher/Team Input
• Demonstrated application of the Eight Mathematical Practices
• Demonstrated motivation and perseverance with math content
• Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with above grade level peers
• History of enrichment
• Successful performance on chapter tests and benchmark assessments
• Trimester grades
Parent Input:
• Parent support for above grade level placement
• Knowledge of student’s math ability
*This chart reflects a proposed implementation for the 2015-16 school year. Decisions for future implementation will be based on teacher feedback and student data.

Impressed? We didn't think so. Disgusted? Heck, yeah. 

Yes, folks; several of the polarizing-unabashedly-disconnected-huckster-supporting-BOE members are to "discuss" this math "acceleration" plan that actually contains little to no acceleration for our students. Sound familiar? Ahh, yes. Our faint memories now recall that the "Advanced Learning Plan" did not contain a plan for advanced/gifted learners. Remember? The ALP was actually a hidden tribute to what now is known as Learning For All (Some) that many of us would characterize as a colossal failure. And how about this: not too long ago 30-40% of our students were identified and received advanced or accelerated instruction. How will the needs of this population be met with this limited inclusive ideology? 

Our point is pretty simple: parents should attend this meeting or write to the current and eventually new BOE and make their concerns known. We believe the newly elected BOE members will be in attendance and they should hear parent concerns. And because of the importance of the acceleration issue and Learning for All (Some), we question why this topic is placed as the last agenda item in the Committee of the Whole meeting segment. Gee, is it because the agenda is packed full and the Turek/White agenda-setting tag team figures that many parents will leave the meeting due to the anticipated late hour in which this item will be brought up, if at all? Whoa! We're on to you guys and how you attempt to manipulate and control the agenda items for discussion.

And speaking of control and manipulation, we thought you would like to take a look at the newly crafted district organization chart proudly presented and endorsed by Don White himself. You can take a look at the actual chart here: Proposed Oranizational Chart , but this information appears in his justification:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Breaking News: Election Results!

D181 Voters have spoken.

Final results are as follows: (NOTE:  Updated for all candidates on 4/9/15)

Burns             3407 votes
Giltner           3134 votes
Gray              3051 votes
Turek             2840 votes
Czerwiec       1926 votes
McCurry        2485 votes

Congratulations to the winners:  Jennifer Burns, Richard Giltner, Leslie Gray, and yes, even Marty Turek.

Here are our quick observations:

1. We are understandably disappointed that John Czerwiec did not win, but we are very grateful that he chose to contest the election and bring a real debate of the issues to our community. Mr. Czerwiec should be proud of the campaign he ran and the unselfish support he showed for Burns, Giltner and Gray.  Mr. Czerwiec, you are a CLASS ACT and we hope you consider running in 2 years!

2.  It amazes us that in a district with so many educational issues affecting our children, that there was still a very low turnout.  The Cook County election commission indicates that only 15.45% of registered voters cast a ballot.  We will post the Dupage County percentage as soon as it is published. Complacency is never a good thing.  

3. The motto, "Ignorance is bliss" is NOT a good thing, and in our opinion, that is the only reason that Mr. Turek was reelected.  He rode in on the coattails of the three other caucus candidates. He won nearly 700 votes less than Ms. Burns, and came in dead last to the three other caucus endorsed candidates.  By no means, should he take his "win" as an endorsement of his past behavior and actions on the BOE.  

4.  We sincerely hope that Mr. Turek realizes that he only won because the Caucus was stupid enough to endorse him and not because he has been a good or effective board member.  In our opinion, he simply got lucky. We hope he learns something from this election and begins to work hard to reclaim the trust of the many voters who refused to vote for him.

5.  But Mr. Turek has won, and now the D181 community is going to have to accept his "continuity" on the BOE.  We sincerely hope that the NEW BOE members will work with Mr. Turek and the other candidates to return academic excellence in the curriculum for ALL students AND accountability, not just in the decisions made by the Administration, but in the decisions made by the BOE.

6.  Guess the "vote for only one" candidate strategy didn't work out so well for the other loser..

One last piece of great news is that in the D86 BOE election,
Planson, Carpenter and Hirsman won!  We couldn't be more thrilled.  Congratulations to these three candidates who will bring much needed change to that board of education.

Well, that's all for tonight! It's been a long day and night and we are signing off.  But we invite our readers to SOUND OFF on the election results and what they might mean for D181's future.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Connect the Dots: McCurry NOT a Team Player

Yes, it's true.  Straight off of McCurry's facebook page that she has created for the D181 election, she is suggesting that everyone either only has ONE vote to cast tomorrow or should ONLY cast ONE vote.

Thanks Amy for showing your true colors on the eve of the important election of FOUR D181 Board of Education Members.

We are sure there will be a quick scramble by her "friends" to explain away this FaceBook post and argue that it doesn't mean what it says.  But we parents in D181 are NOT STUPID or NAIVE.  We know that this is exactly what Amy wants -- she wants all voters to only cast one vote, so as not to dilute her votes with those cast for the other voters.This type of campaign tactic, in our opinion, proves she is selfish and only cares about herself. In our opinion, this proves she is not now and will not be a Team Player if elected.

This latest Facebook post is just the latest DOT that the educated voters in D181 should connect before heading to the polls tomorrow.  Let's look at the rest:
1.  Her refusal to publicly address (AS IN HER OPENING OR CLOSING statements made at TWO debates) her CONFLICT of interest.
2.  Her convenient, yet "unapproved" resignation.
3. The lack of job vacancy on the D181 website.
4.  Her statement to the Hinsdalean that she is looking forward to learning about the tax levy process after her election and yet her revelation on her Facebook page that she has been meeting with Gary Frisch to learn about the district's finances - an interesting (and let us say another example of a conflict) expenditure of taxpayer money since he is salaried and no doubt has been meeting with her while "on the clock." Here is what she says on her Facebook page Q&A: "I have spent multiple hours with our Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, Gary Frisch, to gain further insight and knowledge of our finances." Has he offered or given time to the other candidates?  Or is an example of an administrative "favor" as a result of her employment status and their obvious desire to have her on the BOE?
5.  The convenient absence in the Clarendon Courier of the MANY letters that were submitted to it supporting the other candidates (that were published in all of the other local newspapers), and yet the full column the Courier ran by her husband in which he supports her.
 6.  The  "interesting" representations made by at least one person who has publicly endorsed her about her D181 job that apparently involves designing students' educational plans, something we find shocking if true, since she is not a certified employee of the district nor is she an administrator or teacher.  It makes us wonder exactly how Dr. Schneider is running the Special Ed portion of the Department of Learning since we have heard parents make public comments recently criticizing how their children's needs have NOT been properly addressed by D181.

It is a real shame that rather than encourage all D181 voters to casts FOUR votes tomorrow -- as all of the other candidates (except for Mr. Turek) have publicly done, either during the debates or their various websites and Facebook pages--she has turned her back on the very people she will have to work collaboratively with IF she is lucky enough to be elected.

Our children, taxpayers and PARENTS all deserve Board of Education Members who have made this election about voting for FOUR individuals who will work together.  Our children, taxpayers and PARENTS all deserve representatives who have not behaved in a selfish, arrogant manner during the campaign season.

On April 7th Vote for the FOUR CANDIDATES with integrity, who by their campaign actions have PROVEN that they are willing to support and work with each other:  BURNS, GILTNER, GRAY and CZERWIEC.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

More Community Members Support D181 Candidates We Have Endorsed -- Burns, Giltner, Gray and Czerwiec

The following letters were submitted to local papers support D181 Candidates we have endorsed:

Retiring D181 board member supports Burns, Gray
As a retiring District 181 school board member I would like to thank the D181 community for the oppor- tunity to serve a community that has so many talented students, dedicat- ed parents, hard-working staff and generous community members. It has been my privilege to serve you.
Last week The Hinsdalean noted that all six D181 candidates are well-qualified to serve. I agree. However, Jennifer Burns and Leslie Gray are uniquely qualified and
are the best candidates. Each has regularly attended board meetings during my term. Each is articulate and has command of the issues. They understand the tax levy and the importance of growing the bud- get at an affordable rate. From my personal knowledge, I know that they have the dedication, commit- ment, patience and the intellect
to move the district forward. For example, Ms. Gray spearheaded the charge to ensure that large schools (Prospect, Madison and Monroe) received an equitable share of resources and Ms. Burns articulately speaks for the education of all stu- dents.
I do not agree with all of their positions. For example, I do not support all day kindergarten, as Ms. Gray does, and I have a different perspective on HMS. Nevertheless, I am sure that each one will take their responsibilities seriously, make each decision conscientiously and treat all members of the community fair- ly. That is all that we can ask of any school board member. I urge you to vote for Burns (1 on the ballot) and Gray (3). Thank you. — Brendan Heneghan, Hinsdale 
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

Vote for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray for D181 board
I support Jennifer Burns, John Czerwiec, Richard Giltner and Leslie Gray for D181 Board of Education. They will work with the existing board members and administration to bring our district back to its past level of high academic performance.
Each of these candidates brings some-
thing to the table that will make this board a cohesive, well-rounded group that will best represent the stakeholders and tax payers. Collectively, their experience in strategic plan- ning, education, technology, finance, state legislation and tax law enables them to take an analytical eye to the decisions that the BOE is responsible for making. These candidates will make decisions that are fiscally sound and in the best interest of our students.

The responsibility of each board member is great. They must understand the current
educational climate, Common Core and its implementation, data analysis of our stu- dents’ assessments and implementation of a sound curriculum with updated educational resources. The curriculum should meet the needs of all our students, not just the majority. It needs to be standardized and data driven. Decisions to modify and change curriculum should be based on analysis of performance of the students living in this district. These candidates take these issues seriously. They understand that the success of our students hinges on an open and collaborative effort between the administration and BOE to
steer our schools back on course. The time has come for change. I believe that Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner, and Gray will work to make it happen. — Meeta Jain Patel, Hinsdale
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

 Four candidates will watch out for special education
As a parent of a special education child, I am voting for Jennifer Burns, Richard Giltner, Leslie Gray and John Czerwiec for the D181 BOE. The needs of special education children will be met under their watch.
This district pulled out of LADSE several years ago under the premise that the needs of our special edu- cation children would be met more effectively in house. There has been no analysis as to whether our children have been better served. In addition, this district does not currently have a dedicated special education director. ISBE guidelines mandate that one employee must be devoted solely to this position. In other words, D181 is in direct violation of ISBE guidelines; this is doing a great disservice to our special education children.
Special education children are the
most vulnerable members of society. School districts are responsible for actively locating, identifying and eval- uating all children who may qualify to receive special education or related services. Instead, as in the case of my son, D181 staff refused to evaluate him for a learning disability because he has ADHD. Moreover, D181 staff told us that if he has dyslexia, it is a medical diagnosis and not an educa- tional issue. Worse yet, district staff suggested that we hire a tutor for him. Statements like these are a clear vio- lation of state and federal laws, and open the district to liability.
Vote for Burns, Giltner, Gray and Czerwiec to hold the administration accountable and meet the needs of special education children. — Nadine Gilbert, Hinsdale
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

 Burns, Giltner, Gray bring right mix of skills to D181
I am writing today to express my support for three candidates who
are running for the D181 Board of Education — Leslie Gray, Jennifer Burns and Richard Giltner. These three candidates are parents with children in D181. They have the experience and skills necessary to make a positive difference and to contribute to the continued success of our schools. These candidates
have volunteered extensively in their children’s schools and on district committees. Most importantly, they have been vetted and endorsed by the Hinsdale Village Caucus.

Gray, Burns and Giltner are well
educated on district issues, and they have an impressive blend of financial, legal and business expertise. They
are objective and independent with no conflicts of interest. They are also fiscally responsible. These attributes will allow them to effectively address the host of curriculum, financial and facility issues facing our district.

Gray, Burns and Giltner will bring collaborative, thoughtful and respect- ful deliberation to the board table. They are familiar with the issues and can hit the ground running. Vote Gray, Burns, and Giltner on April 7! — Kim Towery, Hinsdale
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

 Vote 1, 2, 3 and 5 for best candidates for D181 board
We are at a crossroads in D181 as data points have dropped while the importance of metrics in changing curriculum has been eliminated altogether. I fully endorse the four best candidates for BOE D181: Burns, Giltner, Gray and Czerwiec. Vote 1,2,3 and 5.
After a successful career in corpo- rate America, real estate purchases and a portfolio prior to getting mar- ried and moving to D181, I have been a 24 x 7 full-time mother to two eager learners for over 12 years.
There are several reasons why I support these candidates. I know Burns and Gray from attending board meetings; they already are well- versed on D181 fiscal and curriculum issues. Respectively, they bring crit- ical strategic planning and tax/legal experience to the table. Giltner brings
extensive financial expertise and Czerwiec offers both municipal and an IT background. I cannot think of a more balanced, objective group to face our critical issues.
These candidates are not running for political or power reasons. They run to maintain and extend the legacy of educational excellence that district taxpayers rely on and expect. We deserve a board who oversees and measures all aspects of learning, just as both public and private company boards require all across the U.S. These candidates stand for transpar- ency, data-driven decision making, fiscal responsibility and ensuring a top-notch education for all. We sim- ply cannot afford or expect anything less. — Joan Fitzgerald Clopton, Clarendon Hills 
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

PTO colleague, friend urges vote for Burns for D181 

I am writing this letter to show
my support for Jennifer Burns who is running for a seat on the D181 Board of Education. I have known Jennifer in her roles as parent, neighbor, friend and volunteer for 7 years. She brings excellent creden- tials to this position; 15+ years expe- rience in marketing, strategy and management. Additionally, Jennifer has spent many years (seven) vol- unteering within our community
as chairperson and member of many PTO committees (SELAS, Sister School, PTO executive board nominating committee, Science Olympiad Fun Night), has served as district SELAS liaison and a class- room and school volunteer many times. Having been a PTO president previously and worked with Jennifer,
I feel she exemplifies honesty, fair- ness, thoughtfulness and thorough- ness. In addition to being an active volunteer, I have always found Jennifer to be someone who likes to stay informed and as someone who is willing to share information. At a district level she has attended numerous board meetings over
the past few years and has been an advocate for making data driven decisions, being fiscally responsi- ble and including all stakeholders
in the decision making process. Jennifer possesses all of the personal qualities, and characteristics our community values. Please vote for Jennifer Burns, the common sense candidate, No. 1 on the ballot, April 7.
— Charity Muscarella, Hinsdale
(4/2/15 Hinsdalean)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our Fact Based Endorsements for the D181 BOE: BURNS, CZERWIEC, GILTNER and GRAY

Before spring break writer's cramp sets in, we thought we would offer up our candidate endorsements as the election fast approaches on Tuesday, April 7. This election, more so than in years past, is crucial and a potential game changer for the district. In order for that to happen, parents must be well informed before going to the polls or submitting ballots through early voting. Make no mistake: every vote will count and will make a difference regarding the future direction of the district.
But before we launch into our endorsements, we would like to be very clear in our approach. Yes, we have opinions about the candidates and who should be elected. But our endorsements are also centered on fact. Let's compare this approach with the vapid, ill-informed editors of a local paper. Their recent endorsements of McCurry and Turek, we believe were mostly based on opinions, not on facts. Yes, that lack of journalistic integrity was front and center for all to see in their last edition. Remember, the editors do not have children in D181 schools, nor are they qualified to make claims that, for example, the Learning for All plan should continue, which seemed to form the basis for their endorsement of McCurry and Turek. This is irresponsible and unacceptable. 
So, we are approaching our endorsements with solid facts, track records, and experience because our kids have experienced the unfettered, unproven changes during the past several years that have caused great turmoil and frustration. We have a stake in this, and we want the best for all district children. At this point, we do not believe the D181 administration has the leadership and competence to move the district to a better place. It will take an engaged BOE to demand accountability, something that hasn't happened in several years.

We will be voting for the following candidates (listed in alphabetical order) and we hope you do too:  Jennifer Burns, John Czerwiec, Richard Giltner and Leslie Gray.  

These four candidates have the following practical things in common that we believe position them to best serve the district's students and taxpayers:

1.  They are parents of current D181 students.
2.  They do not have any conflicts of interest that could influence their votes on board decisions they will be asked to make in the next four years.
3. They have provided thoughtful, substantive answers to the many questions they have been asked by the press and during the debates that show that they have a working knowledge and understanding of the current D181 curriculum issues, facilities issues, financial and tax levy related issues.   They are knowledgeable about pending legislation that could shift pension funding state funding to our district and the impact such a change might have on lowering available revenue. 
4. The answers they have given have been raw, honest and thorough.  They have not been afraid to identify areas of concern, explain why they are concerned and then address how they would like to see the BOE tackle the issues.  They have not used buzz words to deflect away from critical issues that need both the administration's and the BOE's immediate attention. The thorough answers they have given, during the debates and in their newspaper interviews, actually sound like them; rather than carefully crafted answers that may or may not have been prepared  by their supporters.
5.  They have identified decisions and issues that the BOE has addressed that lacked supporting data, and have represented that they intend to make data-driven decisions; not simply rubber stamp administrative recommendations, especially in the area of curriculum.   For nearly two years now we have been blogging about the lack of data, lack of accountability and negative impact the Learning for All Plan has had on our district's students.  It will be a refreshing change to have board members who will want to make data-driven decisions and will not simply accept whatever recommendations the administration makes.
6.  Similarly, they have made it clear that it is not their job to micromanage the district, but that what has been lacking is accountability for decisions that are made. 
7.  The answers they have given to financial questions have established that they will be fiscally conservative, not tax and spend board members. 
8. Three of them -- Burns, Czerwiec and Gray -- have been visible and regularly attended D181 BOE meetings for several years.  They did not just start attending the meetings after deciding to run for the school board. They have spoken respectfully during public comment as concerned parents and taxpayers on a variety of issues (which will be further elaborated below). While Giltner has not attended meetings for as long as Burns, Czerwiec and Gray have, he began regularly attending the BOE meetings well before deciding to run for the board and before going through the Caucus process.  He has continued to attend the BOE meetings since receiving the Caucus endorsement.  The answers he gave during the Clarendon Hills debate, in particular, evidence that he did not just show up at the meetings to be seen, rather, he carefully listened to the administrative presentations and BOE questions, especially on the Learning For All Plan, and has processed and understands the complexity of issues that the board is facing.  

Next we want to highlight some of the individual characteristics and accomplishments that make these four candidates the most qualified to serve our community for the next four years.  We are not simply going to list all of the things that they have done or identified during the debates or interviews. Instead, we will point out the things they said or did that mattered to us most.

Jennifer Burns:

As a parent in D181, Ms. Burns has already shown her commitment to our district through all of the multiple PTO, volunteer, and district-wide committees she has served on.  During the debates, Ms. Burns emphasized the need for the BOE to have a strategic plan in place that will guide their decisions over the next four years.  Her marketing, strategy and management background and experiences will enable her to participate and even take a leading role in the development of a meaningful strategic plan -- a road map showing where the district is now and where the BOE wants to take it -- not just an ever changing "process." Her financial background (MBA) will allow her to quickly grasp all of the financial issues the board will face and any tough financial decisions it might have to make.

Ms. Burns' temperament is calm, cool and collected.  We believe her when she says she wants to work collaboratively with her fellow board members and the administration, build consensus for decisions while expecting accountability from the superintendent.  We have listened to pod casts where Ms. Burns has made public comment, and she has been extremely respectful while presenting critical comments and concerns.  Ms. Burns has recognized the need for each learner's needs to be met, but believes the current Learning For All Plan is lacking in supporting data and it is time for the administration to analyze and present student performance data to establish whether or not the plan is working. We couldn't agree with her more.
John Czerwiec:
Mr. Czerwiec's passion for education, fiscal responsibility, transparency in government and accountability shine through all of the public comments he has made and answers he has given in interviews and during the debates.  He is not afraid to tell it the way he sees it, and this is a much needed characteristic to have in a board member.  As with the other three candidates, he has concerns about the Learning for All Plan and the lack of data to support what is currently happening in the classrooms; however, we have gleaned his position to be that he does not oppose more inclusive classrooms as long as they do not diminish the educational opportunities for any of our students. Mr. Czerwiec has been a teacher and understands the role of teachers as the front line soldiers educating our children.  We believe that if elected, his educational background, honesty and open mindedness will allow him to work collaboratively with his fellow board members and administrators to insist that performance data be analyzed and presented to the BOE before any more phases of the Learning for All Plan are rolled out. 
Mr. Czerwiec has presented his ideas and concerns on capital improvements relating to our schools to the BOE for over 5 years.  Those who have followed the history of improvements at Hinsdale Middle School know that years ago, when the BOE was selecting a vendor to install central air conditioning at HMS, he correctly forecasted some of the structural issues the building could face if the job wasn't done correctly.  Many of his concerns came to fruition last winter during "moldgate."   His astuteness and desire to thoroughly vet all capital improvement options before taking anything to referendum is exactly the kind of fiscally conservative approach we want our board members to take.  

Richard Giltner:  

We, the bloggers, have been attending or listening to BOE meetings for over a decade.  We have become quite familiar with the parents who regularly attend them, make public comments, and keep parents who don't attend informed. Mr. Giltner "joined the party," so to speak, about six months ago. We have been extremely impressed with how quickly he has grasped the multitude of issues that have enveloped the Learning for All Plan roll out and his common sense approach to evaluating it. The answers Mr. Giltner gave during the debates convinced us that not only has he recognized, as the other candidates we are endorsing, the need for student performance data to be analyzed and the program's success be measured with concrete data, he has also recognized that we cannot lose sight of our student's next educational step -- high school.  He has identified legitimate, real world realities, that our children will face the minute they get to high school, and are no longer taught with the  integrated services model that is currently being rolled out in D181. Instead, he has pointed out that in high school, there are multiple tiers of classes, from regular grade level classes, honors and AP classes, just as there are multiple tiers for sports, and other activities our children are involved in.  We look forward to a board member who will talk candidly about the "real world" and hopefully make this part of the discussion as the new BOE decides whether or not to continue the Learning For All Plan roll out as has recently been proposed.

Mr. Giltner's financial background will also serve our taxpayers well.  He should have no learning curve in understand the district's budget, budgeting process or tax levy process, and we hope that he steps onto the finance committee as one of the two board committee members.

Leslie Gray

Ms. Gray has been an extremely active parent, PTO and district level volunteer during the eight years she has lived in D181.  Time and again, she has shown her commitment toward improving the educational experiences for all of our children.  We have seen and heard her speak during public comment at Board Meetings for over two years and she has always presented her comments in a calm, professional manner, backing them up with facts and asking -- not telling-- the BOE and Administration to please make data-driven and fiscally responsible decisions.  She has asked for the district to consider implementing full-day kindergarten for our students, something that Dr. White has also now identified as an issue that should be explored.  Ms. Gray successfully started a petition that led to smaller class sizes at Monroe School.  As a concerned parent, she advocated for equitable distribution of differentiation specialists at our schools.  In the past, each school had one gifted teacher assigned to it regardless of size, but when their role was converted to that of differentiation specialists, Ms. Gray  advocated for a different approach to assigning the differentiation specialists at each school based upon actual student population and the specific student needs at each school.
Ms. Gray has had first hand knowledge of the impact on students of the Learning for All Plan.  One of her children was in the 3rd grade class that was forced to participate in the math compacting and acceleration for all component of the Learning For All Plan.  Ms. Gray not only presented her concerns during public comment about the negative impact the compacting was having on students who needed grade level math instruction, but she also worked behind the scenes, meeting collaboratively with the administration to bring back grade level instruction. Now, math compacting for all has been eliminated from the Learning For All Plan at the elementary level.  Ms. Gray, however, has publicly stated that student performance data must be collected, analyzed and reported to the BOE in order for them to be able to assess the success of all aspects of the Learning For All Plan over the last three years.  We agree.
Ms. Gray's legal training and experiences give her the necessary analytical skills to objectively evaluate issues and decisions the board will be asked to make in the next four years.  Her past legal work on tax matters establishes that she has a working understanding of the tax laws and will be able to jump right into the budgeting and tax levy process without first having to educate herself on the how to's.  The district is facing possible cuts in state funding and with a possible capital improvement referendum looming, Ms. Gray's answers to financial questions have established that she will not be a tax and spend board member. Rather she will show fiscal restraint and make the interests of all taxpayers one of her priorities, while balancing the need to improve the educational programs for our students.

Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray are the four candidates who will collectively bring to the board table over 30 years of active volunteer involvement in D181, advocacy for ALL of our children's educational needs and a stated intent to remain fiscally conservative and responsible to all taxpayers. If elected, we have no doubt that they will be responsible board members, who come prepared to all meetings, well versed in the agenda items and ready to have meaningful, open discussions that the public can hear.  

In addition to all of the collective and individual reasons we have given above for why we will vote for these 4 candidates on April 7th, we saved the best for last:

All four candidates have publicly acknowledged that what has been sorely lacking in D181 is a proper forum for parents to present their concerns on educational and district matters that affect and impact all students and taxpayers. Some have stated that the community engagement sessions offered in the past did not provide a real opportunity for community members to engage in a back and forth exchange of ideas. It is no secret that public comments are one way exchanges and questions community members ask during public comment are almost never addressed by an administrator or board member. Nor is it a secret that only two board members, Heneghan and Garg, take the time to answer emails community members send to the board.  Nor is it a secret that very few parents are selected to work on district wide committees. Finally, the "surveys" parents have been asked to complete on a variety of issues, have been very limited, and in our opinion skewed with questions that will lead to the answers the administration is seeking.  What is needed is a regular open forum, such as a town hall meeting, for all interested community members, staff members and taxpayer to participate in an open exchange of ideas. More importantly, a forum where parents can feel empowered because others are in attendance and where there is no fear of repercussion for speaking openly. These four candidates have either publicly supported holding town hall meetings, or based upon the answers they have given in interviews and during the debates, we believe would agree to such a forum if elected. We fully support such an idea, and hey, wouldn't it be nice if open, town hall meetings, would obviate the need for this blog?

So, on April 7th, don't forget to vote.  In fact, you can still cast an early vote before leaving for spring break. On April 7th, vote for the candidates that you believe have the best understanding of the issues, will not take one to two years to get up to speed (as one of the candidates has suggested is the usual time frame), will serve all of our community and students in a fiscally responsible manner with the end goal being (as it should be) providing excellence in educational programs for ALL OF OUR CHILDREN.  

On April 7th we will cast our votes for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray, and we hope you do too!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Comments of the Day: What Our Readers Want Voters to Consider before April 7th

We will be posting our endorsements for the D181 BOE election on Thursday, March 26. Unlike the Hinsdalean's endorsements that were picked in large part by an editor who doesn't even reside in D181, our picks will name the candidates that we will personally be voting for. Our votes will count and we will vote for the candidates that we believe will best serve all D181 students and taxpayers. Until Thursday, we will be highlighting comments written by our readers discussing what voters should consider before voting.

Comments of the Day:
Anonymous said...
On the D181 election, I cannot support Amy McCurry's candidacy. While many in the community like Ms. McCurry, this is not a popularity contest and it is important to vote for the candidates that are ready to serve and have a working understanding of the district's finances or a true financial background. Ms. McCurry does not.In the information she gave the Hinsdalean on what she thought of the last tax levy, rather than answer that question in a substantive way, she said that she "looks forward to learning more about the tax levy process and all the factors that go into calculating a levy request." It is disappointing that she hasn't schooled herself up on how a BOE sets a tax levy, the most important task our elected officials are responsible for. With all of the upcoming financial issues that the district is facing, I and other taxpayers shouldn't have to wait for a newly elected official to learn the tax levy process before they can start making decisions. In the next year the BOE will not only negotiate a new teacher's contract, it will have to analyze the financials on an HMS referendum (whether it be for a new, renovated or expanded school). It will have to face the possibility of losing millions if Senate Bill 1 is passed placing the financial burden of funding teacher pensions on local districts. It will have to decide whether to potentially grow the budget or make cuts to existing line items to free up to $2 million needed to pay for "coaches" for each school to teach our teachers how to teach the integrated, social justice model Dr. Schneider is ramming through in the Learning for All Plan. Despite Ms. Lannon's recent glib statement in an editorial in the Hinsdalean, running a $50,000+ school budget is not the same as using a "common sense approach" in "balancing a family budget." That statement was "sophomoric" to borrow a phrase used by another commentor on this blog. No doubt, after interviewing Ms. McCurry, this statement was inserted in the editorial that ran the week before the Hinsdalean's endorsements, setting up the safety net to protect Ms. McCurry's financial weaknesses.
I have to agree with 10:03. I also agree with 4:54. But how do we know that having just one math coach per school will make any difference? There are still 22-25 kids per class with one teacher. How can one teacher meet the needs of all of these students from below grade level to accelerated and gifted? How many classrooms are in a school? How is one math coach going to make a difference? Schneider's and Benaitis's saying All Hands On Deck, well that's what these classrooms are going to need my friends. More hands! That $2 million dollars for math coaches is just a drop in the bucket compared to what it would really cost. Teachers will need help and to put in a program without the resources to help them is not fair to the teachers or to the students. And frankly the administration doesn't know what they'll need. None of them have any expertise in doing what they're doing.

It comes down to the community deciding do they want their taxes to pay for a learning plan that has already produced failing results for the current 5th graders or not? I'm all for supporting teachers and our children but not on a plan that has already produced failing results. I think it's somewhat fair to say (unless you have been fully engaged) that if you don't have a current 5th grader (the parent of a student in the experimental class) then you really don't know what's going on.

It's very important that parents vote in this election but understand what you're voting for. The integrated system will increase your taxes. Schneider and Benaitis have stated that they need all hands on deck. Teachers will need support. But let's be clear, this learning plan has not had good results with current 5th graders. You have to know what this plan means for your children. Know that it is one classroom and one teacher for students in grades K-5. Know that tiers will be removed out of middle school with grade compacting in math, and only ELA and ACE Social Studies for all students. And if you don't know what that means, you need to call the middle school. Reach out to a 5th grade parent and ask them what compacting means. And if you have students that are already double accelerated in math, you need to understand what an integrated classroom means in that situation.

Look at the Learning For All document. Go look at the goals. And parents need to understand that this administration doesn't look at data. They have not made one data driven decision in 3 years. They just do what they want. So don't be fooled by little * saying we'll look at data and talk to the teachers. They don’t care what the teachers say. Schneider may parade his little entourage of teachers in front of the BOE but those teachers are not representative of the entire population. And Schneider knows it!!

Make sure you understand who you are voting for on April 7th. I’m voting for Burns Giltner Gray and Czerwiec.
Anonymous said...
Did Ms. Lannom really make that statement comparing the school district budget to a family budget? I don't read The Hinsdalean so I didn't see it.
If so, that says volumes. I'm sure she thought that Mr. Giltner and Ms. Burns have strong financial backgrounds and so perhaps Ms. McCurry could lean on them but, in our community, we have a plethora of experienced candidates who are ready to serve on election day. D181 is not starter district for teachers, administrators nor BOE members.
Anonymous said...
The elementary classes that are currently inclusive are only consistently meeting the needs of the middle group and even those less than the former ability grouped system. The new math materials were selected, in large part, for how well they could be used in an inclusive classroom. The Madison parents spoke out against Investigations but what many don't realize is that part of what they didn't like was inclusive classrooms and less time with a teacher for their students. What they don't realize is that that is what is coming for them next year with Math In Focus. Better materials, maybe, but same delivery. I don't believe the DOL when they say that they will let teachers ability group with tiers using above grade level materials. That goes against everything Learning For All has been about since day 1. And, if that was the case, why didn't they use that delivery method with the pilot classes? Pilot classes were also limited to primarily use of grade level materials with the ability to "pull from" above or below.

Talk about haphazard and inconsistent. Every school/class/grade will be doing something different. Who will be keeping track of it all? How will we standardize and assess student growth and learning. And, the most important question of all, why are we doing it and what data supports it? The next question being, how can our district possibly support such a system financially and what else will we have to cut to make it happen? An improved Science curriculum, full day kindergarten, an improved foreign language program? And, again, WHY are we doing it? Inflexibility and poor identification issues were easily - and very inexpensively resolved. What a huge waste of resources this has been. Oh well, it's just money, the people in D181 have plenty to spare I guess... Vote Gray, Giltner and Burns.
Anonymous said...
For those people tempted to vote for only three candidates. That is basically a vote for Mr. Turek. If you do not want him back, vote Gray, Gilter, Burns, and Czerwiec!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Comment of the Day: D86 BOE Majority's "Circus"

This afternoon, we received a comment asking us to post campaign links for the D86 Skoda slate. We declined. To clarify, while this Blog focuses on D181, what happens in D86 will impact most of our students (some will go to private high schools). For the reasons stated in our 3:39 p.m. Comment to the 3/19 Post, we will not post comments that attach links to Skoda's campaign materials.  In the interest of respecting freedom of political speech, however, we will post resident's "comments" expressing their opinions on the D86 candidates, as long as they do not contain profanity, lies or unfounded allegations.

And so we begin with the the following comment that attached a link to highlights of D86 BOE meetings and the Circus-like antics of the Skoda/Manley/Cassini/Corcoran "Majority." This Comment of the Day speaks for itself and should, in our opinion, make anyone thinking of voting for the Skoda Slate on April 7th run for the hills OR make the right choice and vote for Planson, Hirsman and Carpenter!

Sound Off!

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...
British Tar: Thanks for your last comment and the link you shared. Here's another one, in case you haven't seen it:

Comments of the Day -- Bullying and Endorsements....

Thursday's themes were all about bullying and endorsements.  What is bullying and have the bloggers, D181 administrators, D181 BOE members, spouses of D181 candidates or others been actively engaged in bullying?  Who did the Hinsdalean endorse and does anyone really care? Two comments stood out and we are posting them below as our comments of the day.  As always, SOUND OFF!


Anonymous said...
4:32, just because you don't agree with me, I have a hard time understanding how a nice person like you feels so comfortable throwing out insults like "Use your comprehension skills!" That is just rude. And vitriolic. But let's make this clear - NO ONE thinks BULLY is a bad word. It is NOT a bad word. That is why schools and teachers use it each and every time they talk about bullies. That is why there are BOOKS about bullying in our elementary school libraries, and that is why Mr. McCurry used the word himself multiple times in previous paragraphs. Teachers never refer to it as the B WORD! For goodness sake is right! Yes bullies are BAD, but no one, not a 5 year old or a 50 year old says B word instead of the word BULLY! And if he really thinks that, then he is more out of touch with reality than I thought.

But just to humour you, let's just say that your incorrect understanding of the B word was correct. Wouldn't it also be somewhat BULLYISH to even call another child a BULLY? Or even a B? It isn't nice to call or label anyone in a negative way, especially a chilld. EVER. The point is: Mr. McCurry is a hypocrite. People shouldn't go around criticizing others on a blog OR a newspaper OR in person and think that bullying is only possible when it is on the internet! It is still bullying if it happens in a phone call, in person, with or without your name attached. It is still bullying if it happens at a board of education meeting, on the playground or in a fraternity. Look at what happened in D86 the other day when Manley berated a high schooler for starting a petition because she was offended by it! The petition was not respectful to Ms. Manley, but from what I understand, Ms. Manley has a long history of not showing respect. That's why everyone wants her to resign! Manley doesn't give respect to anyone else, yet somehow expect it from everyone! Skoda's group feels that they are the only ones who are EVER right. They refuse to see the point of views of others. Ms. Manley was so frightened of a child exercising her freedom of speech, that she started to berate her. Just like Mr. McCurry attacks the blog. Will Ms. Manley ever agree with the high schooler? Probably not. But that girl still has every right to pass out flyers or start a petition. And the blog has every right to exist.  

Like the Skoda crew, Amy McCurry believes that she and her ideas are above reproach, evidence and policies. That only a few deserve power over what is occuirng in our children's schools. They feel it's acceptable to berate, dismiss, or ignore others, but God Forbid someone else criticize THEM. That's just not ok. Bullying doesn't just happen at D86 meetings. It has been happening over and over at D181 meetings for for years now. It doesn't JUST happen on anonymous internet sites. It happens to teachers from Adminisitrators, principals to teachers, parents to teachers, and bosses to employees. It comes about when one person refuses to accept the FACT that in America, having a differing opinion is legal. Especially when it concerns your own child's public education. We don't have to agree with the people who run our public schools. They are not private! Parents need to speak up. People who do speak up are taking the time to GO to meetings and participate. They are LEARNING about the issues and concerns that are facing our kids. Just like the the McCurrys, these parents also deserve respect.

Criticism part of life, especially if you choose to put yourself in the public eye. Have you ever read Angie's List? A product review on Sears or Nordstorms? For your doctor? If you haven't, I am not sure where you have been. When my childrens educations are being led in uncharted, unsupported territory with my own tax dollars, you better bet I will speak up. And if the way I want to do it is through a public blog that gives access to EVERYONE, what is wrong with that? That is better than the secretive D181 administration does! Sure, I could post on The Wives of Hinsdale website or go laugh at the Commity House's spoof on our town, but I just think my time would be better spent posting on a blog that concerns itself with my child's education. What's wrong with that? If you don't like it, don't do it. And if I want to criticize an article that a candidate's husband writes in the paper, I can. That's my right. Just as it is yours to criticize what I write on this blog. But get over yourself. If you don't like what is on this blog, go start your own blog. But let's face it, you would be too narrow minded to ever post anything that you didn't agree with. Just like a bully.
Well Ms. Gray is not about the image. She is about the substance and one of the most qualified running for the board. Ms. Gray knows what the issues are. And guess what, so does Pam Lannom. But she’s about selling the image and not the truth.

I’m smart enough to vote for candidates who are qualified to actually DO the job and will not just pretend. The pretenders are all about perpetuating the idealistic view of Hinsdale. And this town can’t be propped forever on an image. Maybe the district used to be great. But from my vantage point, it’s not looking so rosy anymore. We have serious issues and need serious people to represent the community. If you’re new to this blog or if you have questions about what’s going on in this district, start reading right here. Learn what the issues truly are. I can promise you that you will not find them in the Hinsdalean.

I will be voting for Gray, Burns, Giltner, and Czerwiec.