Saturday, October 25, 2014

Don't Treat Us Like We're Stupid, Dr. White. Math Pilot Presentation is the Latest Joke in the "Schneider Era."

Today we break our silence.

Dr. White's honeymoon is over.  What must now come to an end is the "Schneider Era." If Dr. White is unwilling or unable to realize this, then perhaps his marriage with District 181 should end in a swift divorce.  We urge Dr. White to read our concerns and act on them.

As our readers know, parents have been patiently waiting for the the Department of Learning, now led by Assistant Superintendent Kurt Schneider, to present a report to the Board of Education on this Fall's roll out of the 4 math pilot programs -- Agile Minds, Big Ideas, Investigations and Math in Focus.

Almost immediately after the Math Pilots started, we began hearing serious concerns parents and teachers have, in particular with two of them -- Agile Minds (HMS) and Investigations (Madison and Elm).  Concerns included:

  • disappointment in the administration for not better advertising the board meeting last Spring at which the Math Committee told the BOE what pilots had been selected, 
  • lack of information to the parents of students participating in the pilots (some parents didn't even know until yesterday that their children were involved in a math pilot), 
  • lack of data analysis to support any of the math programs (not just the pilots), 
  • a lack of differentiated instruction within the "inclusive classrooms" using the pilots, 
  • poor performance by students in pilots who last year did not have math performance issues, 
  • technical issues with computer based Agile Minds
  • non-alignment with Common Core standards, 
  • insufficient teacher training, and the list goes on.  

Parents have repeatedly complained to teachers and administrators that the math needs of students in are not not being met, regardless of whether they are in the pilots or programs that continued from last year.  In addition, information was provided to the Board last month that indicated that the Learning for All Plan's math component of acceleration for all is no longer going to be the norm, yet no data analysis has been presented to the board members explaining the rationale behind this change (which the BOE did not even approve). The administration's response to the parents' concerns and unanswered board member questions was to promise that a full report on the Math Pilot program would be presented to the board during the October 27 board meeting.

Imagine then, the growing concerns parents had yesterday, especially those at HMS, when they received a letter from Superintendent White -- not Dr. Schneider -- attaching a "Math Pilot Memo" that informed them them that a decision will most likely be made at the 10/27 board meeting to immediately discontinue Agile Minds at HMS, and that a similar decision might be made in the future regarding Investigations.  No specific reasons were given for these proposed changes, nor was there any discussion on the possible negative impact on our students from these pilot(s) or the specific steps the administration will take to remediate the failure of the pilot(s).  Instead parents were just told that a "materials transition plan" will be developed in the next "week or so" and discussed at the 10/27 Board meeting.  (See copy of Dr. White's letter published at the end of this post, excludes the charts.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Letter to the Doings Online Edition: "District 86 Board Must Work to Regain Trust"

We read this Letter to the Editor this morning on the online Doings.  We couldn't agree more and commend the community member for speaking out during the 10/20/14 D86 board meeting.

"Civil disobedience is defined as “the refusal to obey certain governmental laws or demands in order to influence legislation or policy, characterized by nonviolent methods.” Even at a small level,  it’s an act I take seriously. As a rule, I favor civil discussion over civil disobedience. I encountered an exception to that rule at the Oct. 20 Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting.
Board members were voting on a motion to delay a decision on the teachers’ contract. The argument supporting a delay was the need to share contract details with the public.  Throughout the contract negotiations, the board has either refused information requests (i.e.: the contingency plan) or mailed brochures with conflicting and misleading information. Given that record, I stood with a request: secure an unbiased company to supply that information.
I immediately realized I’d broken the rules. Richard Skoda banged the gavel repeatedly, loudly stating “Out of order. Sit down.” I had a choice to make: sit down and follow the rules or stay standing. I chose to stand. In this small act of civil disobedience, I wanted to make it clear that this board has lost its credibility and my trust. Based on audience comments/reactions at both October meetings, I am not alone. To regain our trust, the board must do something new and big. Approving the teachers’ contract is a great first step. An excellent second step: show your commitment to transparency and facts. Hire a firm that ensures the information taxpayers receive is accurate and unbiased.
Liz Sant

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

D86 Update: HHSTA Contract Approved After Way Too Much Drama

Last night the D86 BOE voted 4-3 to approve the new teachers' contract. This morning, a website called The D86 Report posted an update of the meeting. We are posting a link to this update because we couldn't agree more with The D86 Report's description of the circus that we witnessed last night. The only good news is that the contract was approved. Everything else about the meeting stinks.
(be sure to click on the image.....)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dr. White Proactively Addresses Ebola and Entrovirus D-68 Concerns in Email to Parents and Community Members

The following is a letter Dr. White emailed parents this afternoon that pro-actively addresses concerns they might have about the possibility of  Ebola and Entrovirus D-68 in D181 schools. Thank you to Dr. White for sending this out. The onus, however, will remain on parents to actually keep their sick children home from school, in the event of any illness -- whether it is Entrovirus, Ebola or the common flu. Too often, parents send their children to school with a fever. That needs to stop. It is time to take the district's requests seriously and keep sick children at home.

October 17, 2014

Dear D181 Parents,

Schools are great places for learning and socializing. They are also places where common illnesses such as colds and influenza can spread quickly. As we move into the winter months, students will be inside much more, and opportunities for the spread of these illnesses will increase. There is little that any school can do to completely stop the spread of illnesses, but there are some common practices that can be followed to help mitigate them. District 181 requires students with influenza-like illness to remain at home until they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medication. The nurses submit absentee information to the DuPage County Health Department to assist in the data collection for influenza and illness trends. Please let the school know if your child has a temperature of 100ยบ F or greater and a cough and/or sore throat in the absence of a known cause other than influenza.

Recent media reports have included concerns regarding the potential spread of Ebola and Entrovirus D68 (EV-D68). We have no reason to believe that anyone in our area has been diagnosed with Ebola or has been exposed to someone that was diagnosed with Ebola. District 181 has not received any information regarding the spread of EV-D68, but it is very likely that many people within our area have been diagnosed with this illness. According to the Center for Disease Control website ( ), symptoms of EV-D68 include mild to severe respiratory illness which may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing. If your child or anyone in your family exhibits these symptoms, please contact your physician immediately and follow their guidance on when it is safe to allow your child to return to school.

Just like the potential spread of any illness, it is important that we work together to make sure all students, employees,and visitors to our schools remain safe and healthy. If you travel to a country or location where there is an Ebola outbreak or you have concerns that you may have been exposed to Ebola, please contact your physician immediately and follow his/her guidance regarding when to allow your child to return to school.

I ask that all parents stay in touch with your school nurse if you have concerns about your child’s health and that you follow the practice of not allowing your child to return to school until s/he is  healthy. In addition, I continue to ask that you contact your school nurse or your family doctor if you have any reason to believe that you or someone else has been exposed to any type of medical condition that could easily spread. By following some common sense practices and communicating with the proper medical professionals, we will all be safe and healthy throughout the coming winter

It is always our goal to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. Your continued support in our efforts are greatly appreciated.

Don White, Ph.D.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

D86 Update: Video Highlights from 10/6 BOE Meeting

It seems that the D86 BOE meetings are even crazier than D181 meetings.  In the midst of a meeting that was attended by over 1000 people, at which over 3 hours of public comments were allowed, the beginning of the meeting captured a perfect example of the arrogance and disrespect shown by certain board members, in this case,  "Dr." Skoda, to the community and fellow board members.

For those of you who were unable to personally attend the meeting, the following are links to the video of the meeting.

The first link is to the video posted on the D86 website of what the "entire meeting."  Click on the link and then click on the video for the 10/6/14 meeting. Interestingly, the first 12 minutes of the meeting were not included.  Were they edited out?  And if so, by whom and at whose direction?

The next link is a video of the first 12 minutes of the meeting that has now been posted on YouTube.  Thankfully, someone else in the audience was filming the same meeting.

The final link is a clip from the first 12 minutes that shows "Dr." Skoda in action.

This final clip is significant because rumor has it that Dr. Skoda plans to run for re-election to the D86 BOE next April.

We leave you with one simple question.  Is this the the type of person who should be re-elected?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

D86 Update: HHSTA Asking Community to Remain Vigilant to Ensure that the Board Radicals Do Not Torpedo the Tentative Agreement

Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2014 20:22:34 -0500
Subject: Please Remain Vigilant
Community Members,
First, we would like to thank you for standing up and telling the Board of Education exactly how you feel about their handling of the current contract negotiations at the Monday October 6th board meeting. Because of you, the board chose a new team of negotiators that sat down with our team and hammered out a fair, reasonable, and sustainable tentative agreement that we are quite confident our members will ratify.
Unfortunately, several recent events have occurred since then that we believe are a concerted attempt by the board majority to undermine this recent agreement:
1) The additional round of inflammatory mailers sent out this past week.
2) A recent financial report with questionable financial assumptions that point to a (suddenly) dire financial situation for the district.
3) Rumors of a suspiciously-timed finance committee meeting to take place on Thursday or Friday of the coming week.
We are concerned that these actions are yet further attempts by radical members of the board majority to instigate a strike.
We are writing to ask all community members to remain vigilant in the coming days; we implore you to reach out and share this information with everyone in the community, email the BOE at, and show up en masse to all public board meetings and tell the board how you feel. Without your presence and your voice, there is a chance that the radicals on the board will try to torpedo this tentative agreement. Please do everything you can to stop this from happening.
To be clear, if the board chooses not to listen to the voice of the community and votes down this tentative agreement, our last attempt to compromise this past Thursday evening will have been futile. In the face of a total breakdown of good faith bargaining, the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association would have no choice but to strike immediately.

Thank You,
John Bowman (Hinsdale High School Teachers Association President)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Don't be a "Dummy"


In our last post, we published a summary of Monday's BOE meeting that was submitted as a comment. Part of that summary stated:

"Marty patted admin on the back and proclaimed "everyone grew." Did you look at the data Marty?????"

Earlier today we received the following comments:

"Anonymous said...

What has been done to this year's 5th grade class is inexcusable. How are we going to know where the gaps are? Oak kids had no measureable growth last year (sorry Marty, look at the data) and Prospect had growth but has lower than district average RIT scores from their disastrous 3rd grade year and despite district provided tutoring. The district and BOE need to admit that the plan isn't working for many kids and come up with a solution to fix it. Quickly! The only way that will happen is If people speak up and ask questions to teachers, principals, the BOE and administration..."

"Anonymous said...

So am I reading this correctly?

Growth Index for 5th grade from fall 13 to fall 14

Elm -3.7
Madison -2.6
Monroe -1.8
Oak -2.8
Prospect -0.8
The Lane +0.4
Walker -2.9

If I'm reading this correctly, this means that only one school grew slightly in 5th grade. Am I reading that Marty Turek said that everyone grew?"

We are going to get directly to the point: Board of Education members can not afford to be "dummies." Dummies have no voice of their own. Like wooden ventriloquist's dolls, they cannot think for themselves. They only mouth the words that their ventriloquist is saying. Dummies cannot see through the fog of obfuscation and discern fact from fiction.  

No, not all D181 students showed growth from Fall 2013 to Fall 2014. The facts and data speak for themselves. Sadly, not so for the Board Members, who we rely on to review facts and data, ask questions about what they mean and seek accountability from administrators who present conclusions  that fly in the face of reality.

Our children need thoughtful, committed board members who don't just mouth the words the administration wants them to say. 

So we say to the D181 board members:  Please don't be dummies.  Dummies won't cut it with our intelligent community members. Dummies won't get re-elected.  Our kids deserve better than dummies.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Obfuscation, Part 2. Or should we say, Remix of "The Emperor's New Clothes?"

Last night's D181 Board of Education meeting was a perfect example of OBFUSCATION. The following is a comment/summary we just received from a parent who listened to the live-feed of the meeting. As the writer points out, looks like the emperor still has no clothes! 

Please sound off if you have concerns. We would expect that you would. Write to White and push for answers to the questions posed below. We have highlighted some of the more provocative ones in RED.

Anonymous said:

I attempted to listen to the BOE meeting last night from home, but it was difficult due to the live feed being extremely faint and hard to hear. But these are my thoughts:

1. I heard a lot of big ideas and theories last night, but almost no analysis of data (funny since there was 328 pages of it). I almost thought it was Schuster, not White, running the meeting. The theme of the night was you cannot put too much importance on one data point. Then why do we take all these tests? And we now have 3 years of data since learning for all - and none of it is good. We need to stop discounting the data and start accepting the true state of affairs of this district.

2. Our administrators - including White - seem deeply invested in Inclusion. They seem more interested in this style of learning than the best interests of our children. Why is that? The data shows scores are declining, and it is expensive from a labor/teacher perspective. White admitted they don't have enough subs to pull it off. We also have a Senate bill looming that will blow our budget. At a certain point one must ask - why are we doing it??? White - do you remember that you had tiers in your prior district?

3. Our director of curriculum - Schneider - only contributed to the conversation by talking about SELAS.  What value is he adding to our district as the Assistant Superintendent in charge of all curriculum matters?

4. Despite the revelation at the last BOE meeting that we are not math compacting our third and fourth graders due to "a new era", the department of learning now says we are compacting. Funny, because my fourth grader started the year on 4.1 in the everyday math text book. And why isn't anyone talking about the fact that the Lane has an advanced fourth grade class that is compacting, and then a grade level class - but the other schools are all staying at the same pace? As Heneghan pointed out, no one has any idea what is really going on with math.

5. White said "studies show 85% of kids can have their needs met in the general ed classroom." Look at our data White - not "studies show" - Oak's fifth grade growth indicates otherwise. So does the epic failure with this year's fifth grade class. "Studies show" isn't good enough. One parent at the end challenged White to do better.

6. Last year the department of learning said repeatedly that they were pulling best practices from Oak and other schools that did well and applying them to other schools. Remember all that collaboration talk? Well it never happened. That was revealed last night. And evidently no one will hold Schneider or Benaitis accountable for that.

7. Marty patted admin on the back and proclaimed "everyone grew." Did you look at the data Marty?????

8. No one but a parent at the end brought up the actual dismal scores. It reminded me of the great Emperor has no clothes blog post from last year.

9. White did let it slip that 25% of our advanced learners didn't grow as much as they should have under Learning for All. So White - what are you going to do about it? Ball is in your court. 

10. When they were talking about the school improvement plans, they admitted that they never went back and looked to see if the goals from last year were met in these plans. When asked why that was, Benaitis answered that the plans were drafted mostly to go through the exercise itself. Why did no one on the BOE push her for an explanation of this ludicrous admission?

The future of our district under "White's Watch" is starting to look gloomy. Time for him to wake up and hire some new "tailors."

Saturday, October 4, 2014


transitive verb: 1.  to make obscure; 2. confuse
intransitive verb: to be evasive, unclear, confusing
example:  Their explanations only serve to obfuscate and confuse.

This evening we received the comment we have published below.  It raises serious concerns about  last Spring's ISAT and this Fall's MAP data that has finally been reported on board docs for Monday's (10/6) BOE meeting. The data reports can be found at the following link:

After reviewing the material ourselves, we feel compelled to publish this comment as a free-standing post because as the commenter aptly states:  "It is obvious that the report was intended to obfuscate the true state of affairs in the district."  

Neither Dr. White nor the BOE must ignore the negative data or the questions it raises.  If they do, they are not doing their jobs.

"Anonymous said...

Board docs is posted for Monday's BOE meeting. It is going to be a study session starting at 6:30pm. It is unfortunate that the BOE meeting is at the same day and time as the contentious D86 BOE meeting.

The reports on board docs contain ISAT data and fall MAP data. I just attempted to review all of the data, but my eyes quickly glazed over. There is too much data (328 pages worth!), but in the end it all really says nothing at all. It is obvious that the report was intended to obfuscate the true state of affairs in the district.

Where is the science ISAT data? We did very poorly in that area last year. So, how did we do this year?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Supporters of D86 Board Majority Show Little Regard for Students, Teachers and Quality High School Education

This evening we received the following comment from respected D181/D86 Parent Jill Quinones. Because the events that are taking place in D86 will have a direct impact on all D181 families and taxpayers, we are posting this comment as a free standing post. While Ms. Quinones has signed her name to this post, we are not disclosing the name of the other community member who emailed her.  The person's name is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the content of his email.  We were shocked to read it. Thank you to Ms. Quinones for clearly articulating why D86 students have every right to get involved in the D86 contract dispute debate.  Please sound off with your opinions! 

Dear Bloggers,

I recently wrote to a retired Hinsdale Central coach seeking some assistance on behalf of some D86 athletes and their parents in connection with the current negotiations situation in the District. My email went only to the coach, but he sent it on to some of his former colleague coaches at both D86 high schools. Somewhere along the way, one of these coaches or someone sent the forwarded the email to _________. ________ took it upon himself to contact me. 

Below is his email and my response.

I am asking you to post this exchange as a free standing post so your readers can understand what little regard the Board majority supporters have for students, teachers, and quality high school education. They are so focused on their anti-union political ideology that they refuse to see the big picture and how their actions are hurting the communities that make up D86 an the people who live in them. Whether your readers are pro-union, anti-union or neutral, this level of political ideology needs to be focused at a different level of government than a local school district. The collateral damage is too personal.
Jill Quinones

Email Exchange (read from the bottom up):

From: Jill Quinones 
Subject: Re: District 86 Unionists Now Organizing Children?
Date: October 3, 2014 at 7:18:53 PM CDT
______________ ,
Please see my responses to you below, in red.
On Oct 3, 2014, at 3:05 PM,  ____________  wrote:
I’ll be courteous and answer each of your questions first, then ask mine again. 
I “intercepted” nothing but received the below information.  The word “intercepted” would infer action or effort I would have taken to see such message, yet no action or effort was taken by me as the message was sent to me unsolicited.  Your e-mail address was included in the message.  In that message, you or somebody purporting to be you wrote, “Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions” so I did. 
In your note to me you referred to the high school students as "children" and you wrote “what child in D86 do you think is properly qualified to comment or contribute to the teacher pay and benefits issue before the board?”  Qualification presumes knowledge base.  And I do not know about your teenagers, but mine would explicitly take being referred to as children as perjorative – no inference needed. 
  It’s a fact that very few high schoolers are age 18.  I graduated from Hinsdale Central in June 1972 and was 18 years of age that June.  I recall being among the oldest in my class. 
Obviously neither of us have access to the birthdates of every student in D86, but in the mid-late 90s (it was recently changed) students did not have to start 1st grade until they turned 7.  They could start K at 5 and 1st grade at 6, but were not required to and some parents even had their children attend double kindergarten  (more often boys than girls), thus making them 7 when they started first grade.  This has become more prevalent in the last 10-20 years, long after you started 1st grade if you graduated high school in 1972.  A student who started 1st grade at 7 would be 18 by Senior year.  Obviously there are also students who started 1st grade at age 6, but even some of these children could be turning 18 during their senior year.  Only those who just turned 6 June-Sept 1 when they started 1st grade would not turn 18 before they graduated high school (as well as any child who was accelerated during his/her school career).
Very few of my classmates were age 18 by the time of graduation and none were remotely conversant in the art of employee pay, retirement benefits, regulatory budgets or union contract negotiations as evidenced by their absence at normalized school board meetings not involving contract talks or strikes.