Saturday, May 23, 2015

Distortion! The Administration's Board Summary of the May 18th Meeting Undermines the Board's New Elementary Math Directive.

We, the bloggers,are amazed at the administration's distorted description of  the elementary math discussion that took place at the May 18th board meeting.  That board meeting was a first for us in many ways, but also a sad reminder that more change is needed in the D181 administration.  To begin with, it was literally the first time in years that almost all board members initiated and actively participated in a discussion on a topic of great importance -- how math should be taught next fall at the elementary schools.  The board members who initiated the discussion were very concerned about the administration's plan to eliminate flexible ability groups in math across grade levels at each elementary school.  It was also the first time in years that a majority of the board (5 of the 6 members who were present) directed the administration to change course on the Learning for All instructional model -- and reinstate flexible ability groups in math across elementary grade levels, rather than continue the inclusive, heterogeneous integrated service model within each classroom.

Because we were so impressed with the new board's discussion and the positive direction the new BOE seems to be taking the district to ensure the best quality instruction for ALL of our children, we decided to give the administration first crack at reporting on the meeting in the weekly Board Summary prepared by the director of communication.  Boy, what a mistake that was!  In our opinion, the board summary that was emailed to parents on Friday afternoon completely distorted the discussion and undermined the BOE, excluding key points various board members made during the meeting and completely ignoring a disturbingly provocative statement the Assistant Superintendent of Learning made in response to the BOE's directive.  You can click on the link above to read the summary for yourselves, but we want to state that we can only imagine that upon reading the Board Summary, the board members who actively participated in the math discussion must have felt like they had been slapped in the face by the administration.

The May 18 Board Summary is a perfect example of why parents, teachers and community members need to listen to the actual podcast in order to realize just how misleading the administration's summary of the elementary math discussion is.  You can access the podcast at: http://podcast.d181.org/?p=382. The discussion begins at Counter 00:46:48 with Dr. White stating that the board requested the discussion.  There was absolutely no administrative presentation for the new board on the proposed math plan for next fall to kick off the discussion. The fact that the administration had NOTHING to present to the new board was, in our opinion, passive aggressive push back and immediately foreshadowed the negativity the administration was about to direct at the board members who wanted to have a serious discussion on our students' math future.

Dr. White stated that he and other administrators were available to answer questions during the meeting and then turned the discussion over to the board.  This was another first since typically the administration presents information and then answers board member questions. So Ms. Garg began the discussion by explaining that the administration last presented elementary math information to the board in February and April (Counter 00:47;10) and had explained that only 2-4 students per elementary school would be identified for accelerated math starting next fall. Garg stated that the board hadn't really had discussion yet on these plans, nor discussed how the administration was going to strive for consistency among schools.

We have listened to the podcast of the math discussion several times this week and, in our opinion, it can best be described in 3 points:
1.  The majority of the board members expressed real concerns about the negative impact the proposed inclusive, integrated service model will have on our math students.
2.  A majority of the BOE reached consensus to reinstate FLEXIBLE, ABILITY GROUPS in math across grade levels at each elementary school because this will best meet the needs of ALL students,
3.  The administration and lone board member Marty Turek expressed their lack of support and, in our opinion, feigned ignorance on how to implement the board majority's directive.

When you read the administration's Board Summary of the discussion, you will note that a KEY word is only used twice in the description.  That word is FLEXIBLE. The summary leaves the impression that what the board majority has directed is for creation of PERMANENT TRACKING of students in elementary math with absolutely no flexibility for teachers to move students in and out of ability groups during the school year.  Dr. White and the administration are cited as expressing concern for PERMANENT ability groups.  Dr. Schneider is cited as commenting on the negative effect of "creating what could essentially be a tracking system."

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! Each and every board member who advocated for reinstatement of ability groups in math made clear to the administration that teachers should have flexibility to modify students' placements during the school year as needed. Veteran and new board members expressed legitimate concerns as to the negative impact that the administration's inclusive model could have on our students, especially when they matriculate to high school and are put at a placement disadvantage against students from the other feeder schools that have retained ability groupings, advanced and accelerated tiers for more than the few students that our administration are now calling unique learners.  The board members who advocated for flexible ability based groups in math across grade levels clarified for the administration that there SHOULD be flexible movement in and out of the ability groups and that teachers should be able to change a student's placement.Yet the Board Summary fails to mention any of this, leaving the impression that the BOE wants to implement a rigid tracking system.

Since the Board Summary is, in our opinion, a distorted version of the truth, we feel it is our obligation to point out some key points and statements the board members in support of flexibility that were not mentioned:

Monday, May 18, 2015

We Have Heard Enough. Has the BOE? Find Out at Tonight's (5/18) Meeting at Elm School

It has been a busy time for us bloggers. Like many of you, we are in the throws of year-end activities while trying to stay on top of the business of D181. Fortunately, readers have made the effort to send in comments related to the recent events of the district and two in particular that are related; the resignation of The Lane Principal and the continuing social justice integrated services saga of the Assistant Superintendent of Everything, whose emails, in our opinion,  have finally confirmed what we have known all along....but more on that in a minute.

Yes, there is much going on, from class size considerations, to summer work projects for our building and grounds crew, to digital learning, and last, but not least, math programming for our students. (5/18/15 Board Meeting Agenda) But wait, we've read through the meeting agenda, and it looks as though the math programming discussion is listed toward the end of the meeting. What? And more importantly, why? 

In addition, we notice the level of detail related to math programming report is a joke. (See Board docs:  Math document 1Math document 2.)   It is scant compared to the reports dealing with class size and HMS portable classrooms. Heck, even the building and grounds summer projects report has more detail than than the two pages dealing with math. Remember, there is a new math program that will be implemented this fall, so principals and teachers will quickly have to review this programming so they are prepared to teach when the new school year starts. 

And this leads us to the departure of The Lane principal, who attempted to implement ability grouping to meet the needs of students at his school. We can only guess as to why he decided he had to leave D181, but we can speculate that his ideas for teaching and learning did not match those of the Central Administration. 

Speaking of the Emperors in the central office (and we used the plural because it is becoming increasingly clear that more than one administrator is in charge of the district), how about the three-year-old emails that surfaced because of a parent's FOIA! Wow, we were absolutely stunned to read emails that, in our opinion, support what our suspicions already knew: One of the Emperor's personal agenda is to promote social justice in inclusive classrooms. Period. And, in our opinion, that Emperor will do whatever it takes to make it happen (hint: it pretty much has right under our noses). Let's not forget that our highly paid Superintendent, in our opinion, is complicit in this social justice ideology in that in his first 60 days of employment, he threw his full support behind the Learning for All (Some) plan's mastermind and the fully inclusive integrated services directive for all classrooms. And even though the following quotes originated in October 2012, the Superintendent has continued his full support during the past year: 

"I went ahead and made changes.  Please review them to make sure you agree.  I'm assuming you will. That said, you audience is entirely about GIFTED/ADVANCED LEARNING.  It's not at all about special education.  So, your slides had a special education/deficit focus and I went through and changed them to match d181 and your audience. (October 29, 2012, https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/d181foia/15-05-13+-+Mayer+FOIA+Response.pdf  )

"Do either of you have any articles that present a "non-inclusive" approach from the gifted world?  I'm facilitating this advanced learner committee and trying to bring them along, but they are wanting to see if there is any research out there that speaks to the opposite.  I keep getting from some that advanced learners have to be w/their peer group - it supports them emotionally, meets them at their instructional level, that they need to see others like them, etc.  I have to address this w/them and engage in the opposing view discussion otherwise I'll get killed.....HELP ;)" (October 31, 2012, https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/d181foia/15-05-13+-+Mayer+FOIA+Response.pdf  )

Does this sound like an administrator who should be given blind support? We've heard enough. 

Folks, the time is now to make your voices heard. We are hoping the BOE is as outraged as we are and will demand answers and accountability while taking action. Parents, you should be angry that it now appears there is proof that our children have been a part of a social justice experiment with no evidence to prove that it has worked for the past three years. This is unacceptable.

Tonight's meeting (that will begin after the executive session at 6:45) is crucial regarding the future direction of our district. Sound off by writing the board. Show up and be heard! Silence and complacency will result in yet another year of the Learning for All (Some) integrated services model for our children, with no results to show for it. Our children deserve better than that, don't they?



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Comment of the Day: Two Years After Freedom of Information Act Request is filed, D181 Produces Questions that Raise Serious Concerns

Yesterday we received a comment from Yvonne Mayer, former D181 BOE member, in which she copied most of an email she sent to the BOE and Dr. White.  She asked that we publish it as a free standing post. After reading the email, we agreed that the issues it raises must be spot lighted by the blog. We hope that as requested in Ms. Mayer's email, the board will discuss the implications of the content of documents that were recently produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Email Sent to BOE:

Dear Dr. White and BOE Members:

I am writing today in my capacity as a D181 taxpayer, former parent and former D181 BOE member.  In October 2013, I filed a FOIA request with D181 seeking production of public records concerning a Social Justice Institute that seven D181 administrators attended in the the Summer 2013 and various categories of emails, including emails by and between Dr. Schneider and  Drs. Frattura and Capper (who Dr. Schneider consulted with and who worked with the Advanced Learning Committee in the development of the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan).  The district denied production of the documents, I filed a Request for Review with the Attorney General and last month the AG's office finally issued a determination.  The determination ruled in my favor on production of the Social Justice institute materials but denied production of emails on the grounds that my request was overly broad.  Following the determination, I filed a new FOIA request, limiting my request for emails to only those by and between Drs. Schneider, Frattura and Capper.  

On Wednesday, after nearly two years, the emails were finally produced to me (although some have been withheld on alleged grounds that they are not "public records", an issue which I will most likely have to appeal to the AG's office).  I have now had a chance to review the records that were produced.  These public records raise some very concerning issues regarding the process that was followed in late 2012 and 2013 in the development of the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan).  These public records also raise some personnel issues.  I am writing today to flag some of these issues for your consideration and to respectfully request that each one of you take the time to read through the documents that have been produced.  You can access the documents that were produced at:
  

In addition to your reading these documents, I am requesting that you discuss the implication of the content of these emails and whether or not best practices and appropriate research actually formed the basis for the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan.

To begin, I would remind all of you that I served on the BOE from 2009-2013 during the administration's development of the ALP/LFAP. I have continued to follow up on my appeal, despite the fact that I no longer serve on the board because Mr. Heneghan and I had serious reservations about the plan as it was developed and, through attendance at BOE meetings and and during conversations with community members, it seems as if many of the concerns I had at that time are coming to fruition. The plan originated following Dr. Moon's report in which she determined that services provided to gifted students  in D181 were insufficient, bordering on educational malpractice AND, that for all learners, there was insufficient differentiated instruction.  Dr. Moon further concluded that the identification methods that were used to place students into the gifted programs and advanced and accelerated tiers were inadequate and recommended fixing the system to allow properly identified students greater opportunities into these advanced programs under new, more appropriate (not necessarily lowered) guidelines.  Following Dr. Moon's report, the district undertook development of a philosophy statement and a plan to implement Dr. Moon's recommendations.  

Dr. Schneider was hired effective July 1, 2012 as Asst. Superintendent of PPS Services and having served on the BOE that hired him, I can state unequivocally that he was hired to run the Special Education Department.  However, shortly after his arrival, he was also tasked with working on the Advanced Learning Committee that was developing the ALP/LFAP.  In December 2012, the administration presented their "Vision of Advanced Learning" to the BOE.  A lengthy power point was presented to the BOE in support of the proposed vision/plan and it referenced research the committee had reviewed and relied upon in formulating its vision/plan.  Experts referenced in the power point included Elise Frattura and Colleen Capper, who at the time were described as colleagues of Dr. Schneider, experts in advanced learning.  At all times, the administration insisted that its advanced learning vision and plans were based on best practices.

Because of the radical changes that the Learning Committee was proposing in December 2012 and early 2013 - changes that included implementing inclusive classrooms where all students would be accelerated in math, gifted programming would be eliminated and a "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" approach would be the norm -- as BOE members, both Brendan Heneghan and I asked many questions.  These questions centered around best practices and asked for specific research that would support the Vision/ALP/LFAP that the administration was proposing. We asked for data from other school districts that would evidence that the educational model that was being proposed would be successful.  

Our questions were not answered.  Our requests for research and data to support the vision/plans were denied.  Instead, we got push back from Dr. Schuster and an insistence that the committee had relied upon extensive best practice research to guide them in their work.  When Mr. Heneghan and I began doing our own research, we concluded that Drs. Frattura and Cappper had a long standing professional relationship with Dr. Schneider, having worked with him at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and all were presenters at Social Justice Institutes that were offered during the summer at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. We read much of their research which seemed focused on Special Education/ELL/Low Income student populations, not on GIfted/Advanced Learner populations. After 7 administrators went to one of the Social Justice Institutes during the Summer of 2013, an institute at which Dr. Schneider, Dr. Capper and Dr. Frattura were presenting, Mr. Heneghan and I asked to see the materials from the conference. Our requests, both informal and formal (my FOIA) were denied.  

Now, nearly two years later, the Social Justice Institute documents  AND emails between Drs. Schneider, Frattura and Capper are finally being produced.  I believe the emails finally answer many of the questions that Mr. Heneghan and I asked in 2012-2013 and establish the following:

1.  (...)

2.  In my opinion, best practices were NOT followed in the development of the ALP/LFAP.  The NEEDS of Advanced/Gifted learners were not the focus of the Advanced Learning Committee, nor were best practices in meeting their needs followed.  Instead, the Learning committee was "brought along" to buy into a Social Justice/Inclusive Classroom/Integrated Services Delivery Model that resulted in the creation and planned creation of heterogeneous classrooms, the elimination of the gifted programs, implementation of an accelerated for all math program (that as we now know failed miserably) and that has led the administration to not only eliminate accelerated for all math, but now, by eliminating full-time ability based tiers in math that would provide for significant and consistent above grade level exposure and faster pacing for students who need this challenge wants to slow the majority of advanced learners down all in an effort to continue to promote a one size fits all, Socially Just, inclusive, integrated service model. 

3.  Dr. Schneider WAS and continues to be the administrator who introduced the Social Justice/Inclusive Classroom/Integrated Services Delivery Model to D181.  In my opinion there is no evidence that he or the experts he relied on brought any gifted/advanced learner expertise to D181; on the contrary, in my opinion there is evidence that the "best practices" he may have relied upon to support the ALP/LFAP were Special Education practices.  In my opinion, there is no evidence that best practice research existed in 2012-2013 to support the inclusive service model he was proposing as it would impact GIFTED and Advanced Learners. 

One of the emails that was produced dated 10/29/12 can be found at Page 34 of the documents published on the FOIA Log.  This is an email from Dr. Schneider to Dr. Frattura, who was apparently going to Skype in to present research to the Advanced Learning Committee in the course of their developing the Advanced Learning vision/plan.  Dr. Frattura apparently sent Dr. Schneider the power point she was going to present and he responded stating: "I went ahead and made changes.  Please review them to make sure you agree.  I'm assuming you will.  That said, you audience is entirely about GIFTED/ADVANCED LEARNING.  It's not at all about special education.  So, your slides had a special education/deficit focus and I went through and changed them to match d181 and your audience. 

The fact that Dr. Schneider changed Special Education slides to Gifted slides, in my opinion, is very troubling.  While I am in no way challenging an inclusive philosophy as it relates to special education or other disenfranchised categories of students for whom it is developed, in the case of D181, the ALP/LFAP was developed in response to an audit of the gifted education program and the administration touted the plan it presented to the BOE as a research based philosophy for the gifted student profile.  This email raises the question whether in fact there was ANY research that supported that.  In my opinion, good researchers would never extrapolate across populations in the manner in which may have occurred when Dr. Frattura's slide were changed from a Special Education to Gifted focus.  
A medicine found to combat one type of cancer would not be touted as the cure for all without research. Psychological practices to treat schizophrenia would not be blindly applied to all mental illnesses without research and support on these populations.  It is a real travesty to realize that our gifted students may have been guinea pigs for the D181 administration.  What a loss of learning! 

4. In my opinion, Dr. Schneider had a predetermined outcome in mind when he began his work on the Advanced Learning Committee and only when he was pushed by members of the committe to address non-inclusive practices as they relate to gifted students, did he reach out to Capper and Frattura for research he could include in the discussions, and it remains unclear whether any of them provided such research to the committee. See a 10/31/12 email that can be found at Page 41 of the documents published on the FOIA Log.  In this email, Dr. Schneider states:  
"Do either of you have any articles that present a "non-inclusive" approach from the gifted world?  I'm facilitating this advanced learer committee and trying to bring them along, but they are wanting to see if there is any research out there that speaks to the opposite.  I keep getting from some that advanced learers have to be w/their peer group - it supports them emotionally, meets them at their instructional level, that they need to see others like them, etc.  I have to address this w/them and engage in the opposing view discussion otherwise I'll get killed.....HELP ;)"

The conclusion that can be drawn from this documentation is that the Advanced Learning Plan, as it was designed initially, voted upon by the BOE and as it continues to be relied upon and implemented, was based in large part on research and information that was not truly "best practices" as the term was used, but, instead, was based on research and a philosophy related to special education services espoused by a group of colleagues associated with Dr. Schneider. Further, emails show that it required research by the expert consultants to even find 1 study in support of the gifted populations.  Subsequent emails that were produced from Capper and Fraturra show their responses to Dr. Schneider's request -- neither of the experts had research available to answer his inquiry and one suggested having her "TA" do research to find an article.  

While I was on the BOE and during the presentations the Advanced Learning Committee gave the BOE and community as it presented its proposed plans, the administration stated that D181 should not be satisfied with being the best in the state, and that our goal should be national recognition.  The reality is that the D181 communities (taxpayers) NEVER sought to have the district or any of its administrators in the limelight nationally as a goal.  The goal is, was and always should be to just have good, research based education programs delivered to our kids.  Kids' needs drive programming. Kids' needs should not be forced into a canned philosophy.  In my opinion, it was a travesty that so many BOE members hid behind a battle cry of micro-management instead of doing their job of asking to see if what administrators were foisting on our children was in fact supported with a research base, particularly as complaints started rolling in.

In my opinion, our district, the Advanced Learning Task Force, our teachers and our students have been misled.  I urge the Board to consider undertaking a review of the Advanced Learning Plan as it was approved to assess whether or not the recommendations and research it contains is truly best practices for not only advanced students but for ALL students in D181.

Please do not ignore the documentation.  Please do not ignore the parents and former board members who for three years have  raised concerns about best practices.  It is time for the NEW BOE to revisit what has transpired and no longer ignore the harm that has befallen our students.  It is time for the BOE to demand to see the DATA and BEST PRACTICE research on GIFTED/ADVANCED learning education (if it exists) that supports the original Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan.

Respectfully submitted,


Yvonne Mayer

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sad News: Casey Godfrey, The Lane School Principal, Submits His Resignation

Earlier today, Principal Casey Godfrey notified The Lane School families that this will be his last year in D181.  He has submitted his resignation and accepted a job as principal in another west suburban school.  We have copied his announcement below.  We have already received one comment on his resignation which states:

Anonymous said...

Lane School Families were saddened today to get news that Principal, Casey Godfrey, has resigned. He was an advocate for appropriate instruction for his students. This is a huge loss to the entire community.
Lane School Families,

I have always believed that we are put in certain places, experiences, situations and even positions for a reason. Whatever the reasons or circumstances surrounding them might be, I know that if we let them, these moments provide us with the opportunity to learn, grow and become better individuals. The past three years as principal here at The Lane have done just that for me. I have been pushed, challenged and molded into a more seasoned and well-rounded principal and individual.

I have dedicated the past three years to advocating for, supporting and loving your kids. In July of 2012, we started a journey together that has continuously enhanced and improved our school and the overall experience of staff, kids and families at The Lane. Developing relationships with our amazing staff, your kids and your families, as well as the work we have accomplished in the past three years, has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

With all that said, it is with extremely mixed emotions I share that this will be my final year as Principal at The Lane. I have poured both heart and soul into my responsibilities as your leader and will remain forever changed by the relationships created, storms weathered and most importantly the privilege of serving your kids. My decision to venture forth was not easily reached. However, after much thought and many prayers, I am excited and optimistic about the opportunity to continue my service to a profession I am extremely passionate about, as a Principal of another elementary school in the western suburbs of Chicago.

My cup runneth over when I think of how this community has so warmly embraced and supported me. I know you will embrace my successor with that same kindness and support as a new chapter is written in the story of The Lane!

With your support and the immense talents of the teachers and staff, I am confident that The Lane will continue to be known as “the best school in town.”

With Sincerest Gratitude,

CG
--
Mr. Casey Godfrey
Principal

The Lane School
2011 United States Department of Education
Blue Ribbon School


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Comment of the Day -- So Many Questions, So Few Answers. Will the New BOE Demand Them and Hold the Administration Accountable?

Tonight we received the following comment.  We found it so powerful that we are publishing it as a free standing post.  We'd love to hear from our readers what you think of the questions raised in the comment, so SOUND OFF!

"Anonymous said...
I am in the process of writing a letter to the BOE. I recognize that my letter isn't "breaking news" but since I want to make sure my voice is heard and know no other way to do so, I am writing a letter.

I am also writing my comments here in the hopes that the Board Members see my thoughts here too.

I urge our voted and trusted BOE members-both newly elected and seasoned-to review, assess, question and challenge evaluation criteria for advancement and acceleration in our district. I call upon them to ask the second and third level questions--how will children be measured? how will objective data vs subjective data be weighted? How will you account for differences in flexible ability based grouping? If cut off scores and 2 standard deviations above a district mean are to be used in MAP scores, then ask and challenge how those "means" are calculated. Ask what is a representative sample of students-don't assume.

I want to know how flexible grouping is going to look under Math in Focus. If children are grouped for ability IN the classroom what will be done to meet the needs of those kids who are not accelerated but who are head and shoulders above their peers? How will you meet their needs? How will you validate their strengths while not demoralizing the rest of the students? how will you meet their unique learning styles while still validating their abilities? 


There are too many variables that cannot be solved with a blanket three bulleted guideline like what is proposed on BOARD DOCS for subject acceleration.


RIght and left, injustice is happening. Our children talk to each other. They hear who is doing well and who is given opportunities that they themselves do not receive. Children know and understand flexible ability based grouping.

I am disappointed today. I am disappointed with yesterday too. I am worried that I will be disappointed with the future of my children in D 181. As a graduate of this community's elementary and secondary schools I can attest to the competition and responsibility that is present in our schools. We need to be responsible. We need to take action. And our BOE needs to DEMAND guidelines and challenge teachers and staff to identify step by step uniform standards among our schools. Children should be blindly evaluated and there shouldn't be an over emphasis on teacher input at the risk of ignoring factual data either. It should be a partnership. It is time for children's needs to be met. It is time for my child's needs to be met.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Our Ship is Adrift: It's Up to the New BOE and Parents to Stop it From Sinking

(Source:  Wikipedia)
Monday night's Board of Education meeting brought much needed change to D181.  Not only were three new board members seated -- Jennifer Burns, Richard Giltner and Leslie Gray -- but new officers were elected.  Mridu Garg will serve as the BOE president, Richard Giltner will serve as vice president and Jill Vorobiev will serve as the secretary. Congratulations to all of them!

The meeting mostly centered on seating the new members and electing officers, however, a couple significant issues were raised.  

1.  A two tier bus system was proposed for next year that the administration explained could save the district over $350,000 in the next two years.  Click on Report to read the details of this proposal which could result in middle schools starting ten minutes earlier (7:45 a.m. rather than 7:55 a.m.) and elementary schools starting 15 minutes later (8:55 a.m. rather than 8:40 a.m.).  There would be a 70 minute gap between the start times.  On the dismissal end, middle schools would end ten minutes earlier (2:35 p.m. rather than 2:45 p.m.) and the elementary schools would end 15 minutes later (3:20 p.m. rather than 3:05 p.m.).  There would be a 45 minute gap between the dismissal times.

We, the bloggers, do not support such a change.  Not only does it inconvenience working parents or those who drive their kids to school (since let's not forget some people live just under the required distance necessary to qualify for bus service and therefore will drive their kids to school, especially on bad weather days), but it will cause chaos in any household that has both sets of students.  Many of the middle school after school programs last about 30 to 40 minutes, thus would create conflicts for parents who would need to pick them up, while also having to pick up elementary students.  Not to mention the possible impact on non-D181 after school extracurricular activities, some of which start at 3:30 p.m. and will make it impossible for elementary students to participate. 

And what if a bus breaks down in the morning or after school?  Are we really going to expect our second tier students to wait for the replacement bus?  This may not happen often, but no doubt it will happen one day, and it's simply not fair to put our students in that predicament.

We see this as an exercise in diversion from the real issues our district is facing. We have much more serious problems related to curriculum, student performance, and learning philosophies than we do dealing with implementing cost savings from altered bus routes. Give us a break. What we should be seeing from our highly paid administration is an all hands on deck approach when it comes to reviewing the services our children receive and if the measures being implemented are of value and are improving the learning environment overall. Memo to Dr. White:  instead of focusing on tiered bus routes, how about analyzing the effectiveness of the non-tiered-fully-inclusive-nana-nana-boo-booed-soon-to-be-no-acceleration-learning for all (some) program pipe dream your rear Admiral continues to promote both in and out of the district on his presentation junkets? Hey, come to think of it, isn't the Admiral about to present this summer per standard ops? Ahoy, yes! (But don't take our word for it, check it out for yourself at: https://eop.education.wisc.edu/eop/professional-learning/conferences-institutes/ela.)

As one parent stated during Monday's public comment, if the goal is to save money, there are other ways to do it. The parent suggested that there should be a top down analysis of the District Administrative staff to see if any of their positions should be eliminated. We couldn't agree with her more. We all know who should be immediately terminated -- you can all guess, the overpaid former principal whose current central administrative position has morphed so many time in name and job responsibilities that no one really knows what, if anything she does that adds value to our district. Time to pink slip this employee and save the taxpayers at least $260,000 over the next two years, and that doesn't even include insurance and TRS benefits. No doubt there are other administrative positions that could be eliminated -- how many assistants and secretaries does the central office really need to have? 

We hope the new BOE will look long and hard for ways to save money before they put the savings on the backs of our students and parents!

2.  Digital Learning Initiative:  Despite Dr. White's reference in his superintendent's report that during the May 4th meeting he wanted "to engage the Board of Education in a conversation about pacing and next steps regarding the Digital Learning Initiative, for discussion purposes only. Board member input will help guide our thinking as we refine our timeline and plans," this did not happen.  Perhaps it was because of the shocking public comment made at the beginning of the meeting by a community member who attended one of the Digital Learning Parent Presentations a couple of weeks ago. The parent pointed out that the video of the parent presentation included criticisms made by D181's recently contracted digital learning expert/consultant during a portion of the meeting when parents were supposed to be talking to each other, and also included statements to suggest that the consultant was not going to be as objective and independent as the community had been led to believe. 

Following the board meeting on Monday, we watched the video and confirmed what the parent said. We wrote down the provocative statements which included the digital initiative consultant calling a parent a "trouble-maker" several times, "a real serious troublemaker," saying "you wait, we haven't heard the last of him."  We couldn't see who the consultant was speaking to when he made these comments.  Shortly thereafter, he spoke to another person and admitted that the parent presentation wasn't the one he originally planned to give, rather that he was told by the "customer" to give a different one. He states: "I wanted to do that presentation, and in fact tomorrow night when we do the caroussel planning thing I'm going to go do it again, but they absolutely insisted that this is what they wanted." The person he is speaking with says something (which was not picked up by the audiotape) to which the consultant responds, "I know, I know, I agree with you, in fact we debated tonight whether I should do instead of the one....they wanted continuity between all the presentations.  Ah yeah, well, you know what, listen..."  Person speaks again and then consultant says "I agree, listen, I speak 200 days a year and after you've spoken 200 days a year, you kind of know what works and what doesn't work. And I know this is a difficult audience, there's lots of agendas floating around this room right now, ok? That's not what I would have done, but you know, I can encourage but the customer's always right, ok?  But tomorrow, I'm going to tell you, in 25 minutes, I'm going to do a take no prisoners and I'm going to talk about different things I talked about the other day."  Other person speaks and then the consultant says, "this is what your superintendent needs to hear."  (Note:  When we took these notes, this portion of the videotape started at Counter 1:15:15 of the video.)

Wow. We couldn't believe what we heard. In addition to the inappropriate criticism of a community member who was invited to attend the presentations (as we all were) that the administration sold as sessions to engage the community for the purpose of identifying digital learning goals  -- we had hoped that the administration hadn't tied the hands of the $67,000 paid consultant (Click to open Consultant's contract), forcing a predetermined outcome/agenda on him. The comments the consultant made, however, seem to suggest otherwise.  

Rather than address this situation head on and release a statement about the implications of what was audio taped, the administration went into damage control mode. Sometime yesterday, the administration edited out the comments the consultant made during the parent presentation and replaced that segment of the video with a black screen. Really? That's their response? Are they kidding? Who do they think they are fooling? Why the cover up?

It's a darn shame that Dr. White chose this path to follow, rather than publicly address the consultant's comments. In our opinion, the BOE must seriously consider whether or not this consultant is the right fit for our district and whether Phase 2 of his $67,000 contract (worth $40,000) should be terminated.  We agree that as part of the strategic planning process, the administration and BOE must address digital learning, what skill set our students need to develop during elementary and middle school to make them successful in the ever changing digital landscape. We do not agree, however, that a false process where the administration has predetermined the outcome and simply wants to now "lead the horses to water" is the approach that our highly intelligent community should be forced to participate in.

*****

Lack of transparency, cover ups, pre-determined outcomes and lack of data-driven decisions:  these are just a few of the reasons why we, the bloggers, do not trust the administration.

If you need to clear the administrative decks, then so be it.  

Now that the BOE has changed hands and new officers have been elected to serve our community, we hope that substantive changes will follow. We hope that the new board shows a real desire to be transparent, demand transparency and accountability from the administration.  We hope that when the BOE and administration "engage" parents and seek their input, that they really want it and will actually use it to guide future goals and strategic plans. We hope that our taxpayer money will not be wasted on overpaid consultants who are simply being told what outcome to reach. We hope that our taxpayer money is not wasted on useless administrators who add no value to our district. Parents, it's our responsibility to speak up now! We owe it to our children to let the new BOE know what we think and what we expect from the administration.We hope that the BOE will right this sinking ship!







Sunday, May 3, 2015

Out With The Old, In With The New: BOE Meeting Monday, May 4 at Elm School, 7pm

We have returned from a much needed post election hiatus in order to remind our readers that the newly elected board members will be sworn in at Monday's meeting. It's one you won't want to miss because it will be the last time the previous board will be collectively present, ever. Yes, we will be saying a grateful goodbye to two of the old members, whose reputations are centered (in our opinion) on the despicable tactics and behaviors of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation. We say good riddance; you should pick up some SELAS pamphlets and handouts from your beloved Department of Learning to review as you waltz out of Elm School for the last time. 

Unfortunately, we will also witness the loss of one of the best BOE members, Brendan Heneghan, as he steps off. We can't say enough about his commitment as a board member during the past four years. We appreciate all of the time, effort and energy he has put forth to try to make a difference for our district; he will be greatly missed. We wish him all the best.

As the newly elected board members are sworn in, our expectations are high. We look forward to their input and dedication we know they will have as they move forward. After all, Jennifer Burns, Richard Giltner, and Leslie Gray were elected because the community spoke loudly and clearly at the polls: we all want change. If we didn't, then an internal candidate would have been elected. Ahem. Enough said. 

So, there you have it. Monday's meeting promises to be interesting in that we won't expect the status quo to continue as it has for several years. We hope the new BOE will immediately have an impact on the direction of the district, which is something that is long overdue. 

Check it out for yourselves. See you on Monday at Elm.

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: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Reining_slidingstop.jpg)

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
BOARD REPORT
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.