Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On the Road Again...Schneider Continues His Social Justice Mantra

We have been alerted by one of our readers that Kurt Schneider, D181's Assistant Superintendent of Everything, is currently on his annual trek to Wisconsin for promotion of social justice and inclusion within educational settings. We wouldn't be surprised if Schneider is using his D181 Learning for All experiment as a self-promotional tool during his seminar sessions, especially with his trusted colleagues Frattura and Capper also listed as presenters.

Message to Dr. White: Is it acceptable that your newly minted administrator is spending an entire week away from the central office? We certainly hope that he is taking vacation time for this conference (as would be appropriate), however, we can’t imagine the work and responsibilities that are on hold just several weeks before the start of the school year.  Last year, 8 administrators and principals attended this conference and were reimbursed by the taxpayers for their expenses.

Will we be on the hook again this year? Guess we will have to wait and see . . . .

For more information about Schneider's activities this week click on the following link:

Be sure to scroll to the end of the web page to see the names and bios of all of the facilitators presenting at the conference.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Update on D86 High School Teacher Contract Negotiations -- Board President's Conduct Questionable

Moments ago, we received the comment below regarding recent activity pertaining to the D86 teacher contract negotiations. Because we believe this is critical information that calls into question the behavior and lack of transparency of certain D86 board members, we are publishing this as a free standing post.

Anonymous said:

"Is there a sister blog for District 86? If not, there really should be one considering what the 86 board just did (and feel free to make this a free standing post if you want):

Basically, two of their board members held a press conference to discuss how contract negotiations with the teachers were going. Apparently, to start off with, the federal mediator said that neither side may discuss publicly how the negotiations were going. Secondly, and much more frightening, is that they only allowed the press to be there. They did not allow teachers, parents, community members, or even OTHER BOARD MEMBERS! According the the above articles, a third board, who did not know in advance about the press conference, wanted to come and sit in the audience. This board member was asked to leave by the two other board members because then they would have a quorum and need to have the conference open to the public under the Open Meetings Act. Seriously?!? Oh, wait, I'm sorry. I thought for a second that District 86 was a PUBLIC school district. I guess not. My bad."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Special Board Meeting Announced for July 8.

A Message from Superintendent Dr. Don White

Dear District 181 Key Communicators,
Please note that we are holding a Special Board meeting on Tuesday, July 8 at Elm School (6:30pm). The meeting agenda is focused primarily on personnel, including the staff changes I outlined in my message to you, sent July 1. You can view the agenda on BoardDocs beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday. We invite you to tune in via podcast and to watch for the Board Summary to be postedon July 9. You can learn more about accessing the meeting audio on our website

I wish you and your family a happy4th of July!

Don White, Ph.D.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dr. White Announces Reorganizational Changes Including Promoting Oak Principal Sean Walsh to Director of Learning

Earlier today Dr. White sent out the following email. We invite our readers to sound off on the organizational changes.

Email from Dr. White:
Dear D181 Families,

As today is July 1, let me be the first to officially welcome your family to the 2014-15 school year! We have an exciting journey ahead.

Since coming to the District in May, I have been asking many questions and absorbing a great deal of information in pursuit of learning what our parents, staff, and community members feel are the immediate needs of our organization. One key component of my work has included processing how best to move forward in filling open positions in District Office, and I want to be transparent in sharing the result of that effort.

In the book “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins talks about having the “right people on the bus” who are also “in the right seats.” Below I have outlined a plan for reorganizing the “seats” to give greater attention where I believe it is needed and to most effectively utilize the talents of our team. What I am recommending is cost neutral and does not ultimately add to the total number of staff at District Office, but rather shifts some roles to better serve our community. Following meetings this week with the administrative team, staff association leaders, and District Office staff, I am confident these shifts will be the right move for District 181.

There are two sides to our District’s organizational chart (attached): Learning and Operations. Teaching and learning are what we do each day and will always be our first priority. Human Resources is being moved to the “Learning” side of our organization because people are at the heart of a strong educational system; John Munch was recently approved by the Board to fill the Assistant Superintendent of HR position. Also in “Learning” is Dr. Kurt Schneider as the Assistant Superintendent of Learning. Supporting that work will be Dawn Benaitis as the Director of Learning, Eric Danley as the Director of Technology, and a second Director of Learning. Sean Walsh will fill the second Director position. I am thrilled that Mr. Walsh has accepted this role. He is a respected educational leader with nine years of service as the Principal of Oak School, two years as a principal in Palatine, and three years as an assistant principal in Palatine. He has elementary classroom teaching experience and a very strong knowledge base. Please join me in congratulating Mr. Walsh on his new position! I know the staff and families of Oak School will be sorry to lose such an outstanding leader in their building, but fortunately Mr. Walsh will continue to serve the students of District 181. I anticipate making a decision this week regarding how to proceed in filling the Oak principal position. More information will be shared with the Oak community as we determine the next steps.

On the “Operations” side of our organizational chart, Gary Frisch will continue to serve as an Assistant Superintendent. Joining Mr. Frisch on the Operations side will be a new role, the Assistant Superintendent of Information Systems and Operations. Attached is a job description to clarify what this role will entail. Filling this position will be Ken Surma. Ken held a similar position in my previous district, and I have recruited him specifically to fill this role, beginning July 21.His expertise will be a major asset to our team. I look forward to providing you with more information on Mr. Surma’s background later this summer. The Director of Communications and school structure will remain the same.

As we finalize the work around open positions, it is important we also acknowledge the exceptional team of staff at District Office. The professionals in our Business, Communications, Human Resources, Learning, and Superintendent’s Offices continue to provide outstanding service and support for our schools. Before school resumes, I will be providing an overview of all that we have been up to this summer, along with an update on the exceptional progress of our Buildings and Grounds staff as they work hard to ready our facilities.

The changes in staff at District Office have been a challenge and we are saying goodbye to a group of fantastic leaders, but we can turn that challenge into an opportunity for stronger alignment from Boardroom to classroom. I am enthused by the team of educators in District 181 and the journey we are taking together with our District families and community.

I again wish you welcome to this new 2014-15 school year, and I hope you have a great summer.


Don White, Ph.D.

Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30: Out With the Old; July 1: New and Improved Going Forward

We parents would like to remind our readers of two important dates, one being today -- June 30, wherein several of D181 administrative contracts expire and we will permanently part with these administrators. This date is significant because it allows greater freedom for Superintendent White to now hire experienced and competent administrators to possibly fill these positions. New contracts typically begin on July 1.

Here is a updated rundown of the administrative positions to possibly be filled:

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources: Dr. White has already announced a replacement for Doug Eccarius, who will be greatly missed. We appreciate his hard work and dedication to D181 throughout the years, and we wish him the best of luck in his new district.  Perhaps one day down the road, he will return to us as an experienced Superintendent.

Director of Special Education: Now that Christine Igoe is moving on, there should be BOE discussion as to whether Ms Igoe’s position is really necessary.  She basically ran Special Education services, and as multiple parents have commented on this blog, she was challenging to deal with regarding Special Education and as a foot solider while promoting Learning for All mantras. Kurt Schneider was originally hired to run the Special Education Department before he morphed himself into a Learning-For-All-Curriculum-And-Instructional Expert. He alone can oversee Special Education services and we should use Ms Igoe’s salary to directly enhance the instruction of our children.

Assistant Superintendent of Learning: It’s no secret Kevin Russell has had aspirations of moving up the organizational chart since his first days with the district. He was a good principal of Walker, one of the smallest schools in D181. We would like to extend our best wishes to him as he departs. And Mr. er, (taxpayer-funded Dr.) Russell, as one of the architects and promoters of Learning for All, consider yourself fortunate that you now will have a fresh crop of subjects in your new district for your experiment. Those of us who sat across from you in RtI meetings where you seemed to be listening and taking notes feverishly, never saw the instructional plan our children were promised. Best of luck to you as superintendent.

We look forward to July 1 and beyond with the hope that Dr. White will seek the best candidates for the central office, and we are optimistic our district will improve and move ahead in a positive direction with a solid administrative team.

Our children deserve no less.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dr. White's Transparency a Refreshing Change

No need for us to post a summary of last night's meeting.  Dr. White quickly sent out the following email to parents and community members right after the meeting.  Thank you Dr. White.  We look foward to reading his full meeting summary, but appreciate his emailing everyone directly with news of what was approved by the board on the closed personnel consent agenda and posting a link.

6/23/14 Email from Dr. White:

"Dear District 181 Families and Staff,

I am writing to provide a brief update following this evening’s Board of Education meeting. First, I invite you to join in congratulating a number of new employees who have been hired in the District. Included in the unanimously approved personnel agenda, Mr. John Munch for the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources position and Mr. Michael Vilendrer for the Facilities Coordinator position, both effective July 1. Attached is a press release with more information about these incoming administrators. You can see the complete personnel agenda on BoardDocs. We look forward to welcoming each of the new members of our District team!

Also, I invite you to review my Superintendent’s Report and the administrative team’s 2013-14 Year-End Report, both posted on BoardDocs with tonight’s meeting. My Superintendent’s Report highlights a variety of work currently occurring in the District, while the Year-End Report is an overview of our progress toward achieving the 2013-14 LIFE Goals.

Please visit BoardDocs to access all of the meeting’s files, and watch for the Board Summary to be posted later this week.


Don White, Ph.D.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Public Has a Right to Expect the BOE to Respect and Comply With Open Governance Laws

UPDATE:  This morning we received a request from Yvonne Mayer to remove the text of her public comment from this blog and simply refer readers to the podcast of last night's meeting.  We have complied with her request.  Anyone who wants to hear her public comment can do so by going to the D181 website Board Meeting podcast archive.  In addition, Ms. Mayer asked us to post the following comment:

"Last night I made a public comment which has upset one of the board members I referenced.  For that I apologize.  My intention in making my public comment was to ask the full board to acknowledge their open governance violations and participate in additional training to further their understanding of the Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act and board policies.  To support my requests, I criticized the board for their actions during the October 17, 2013 executive session that was ruled to have been a violation of the Open Meetings Act.  After receiving the ruling from the Attorney General's office, I contacted the full board and requested a copy of the audiotape and for them to post it on the D181 website along with all other podcasts of open meetings.  It took a full week for the board to post the podcast, only after which I received a short email from an administrative assistant informing me of the posting.  I had hoped they would -- as a full board -- be willing to engage in a constructive public discussion about the ruling and decide as a group if they wanted further training. Unfortunately, they chose not to schedule a discussion of this important ruling on the 6/23/14 meeting agenda.  In my opinion it is important for a public body found in violation of open governance laws to discuss the issues.  It is very frustrating that the BOE did not want to do so, or that their Board President (who sets the agenda with the administration) may have made that decision alone.  As always, I believe its in the best interests of the community for the board to willingly comply with all open governance laws and to conduct their meetings and make all of their decisions within the guidelines of the existing laws and board policies."

Original Post:

This afternoon we received the following comment from community member and former D181 BOE member Yvonne Mayer.  She asked that we not publish it until after the public comment portion of tonight's BOE meeting, and then either publish it as a comment or as a free standing post.  Because we believe the points she raises are valid and on point, we are publishing this as a free standing post.  We thank Yvonne Mayer, and all other parents who show the courage to continue to publicly advocate on behalf of the public -- D181 parents. all taxpayers, students and teachers.  The district is a better place because of your efforts.

Yvonne Mayer's Public Comment removed at her request. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

D181 Parent Jill Quinones' Letter to Dr. Schuster, Dr. White, the BOE, Dr. Russell, Mr. Chisausky and Mr. Sonntag

Parent Jill Quinones has submitted via comment the following letter she sent tonight to Dr. Schuster, the Board of Education, Dr. White and various principals.  She also stated it can be published as a stand alone post. Because it is such a powerful message, we felt it warranted publication as a stand alone post.

Letter from Ms. Quinones:

Dr. Schuster,

I don’t know whether you are still receiving D181 email, but my comments here are equally relevant to some of your Administration and the BOE, so I am sending it to them as well. I also would like Dr. White aware of what has transpired so he can make it a top priority to make sure future processes are carried out with more integrity.

First, let me assure you that while my concerns are an outgrowth of the “process” used to select candidates for the Superintendent’s Learning Committee, this is not about not being included on that Committee. It actually never was my intention to apply for that Committee. Ms. Garg contacted me on the day applications were first due asking if I would consider it. I already have 25 hours of things to do in a 24-hour day, but as always, I would have gladly done my part if I had been chosen. I have no issue with any of the parents that were chosen – I am sure they will work tirelessly. However, the “process” was flawed from the beginning when you extended the deadline despite having received by your first deadline more than enough applications from extremely talented people from every school except Elm. The fact that you or some of your administrators didn’t like some of the people who applied did not justify extending the deadline. Obviously enough people knew of the first deadline given that more than you were looking for applied. The flawed process became unsupportable when you created your own secretive pre-screening and gave no thought to the resulting defamation.


I don’t know whether to call it ironic or disingenuous that you would set up criteria to prescreen applicants as possible bullies of teachers when not that long ago you personally (together with BOE Members) witnessed a then-BOE member of the community commit an assault and battery against another BOE member and rather than condemn the behavior you rewarded it by appointing that person to a District Committee. It seems to me at a minimum you pick and choose when to apply your own rules. Your actions suggest that your desire to keep bullies out of all aspects of the District only applies when it supports your purpose.


I am not sure who, when, or how you were approached by teachers with concerns about intimidation by parents being chosen to serve on the Committee, (I am assuming BEFORE March 1 or it would have been produced in response to my FOIA - perhaps I should FOIA specifically that issue), but the fact that you did not “advertise” that criteria reeks of non-transparency and collusion. You state that you didn’t want to embarrass anyone? How would advising applicants that teacher bullying was one of the criteria you were looking at when reviewing applications embarrass anyone? And why wasn’t the selection committee – including BOE Member Garg, informed of this criterion BEFORE you applied it. And frankly, why wasn’t the decision about whether an applicant could be deemed a teacher bully part of the selection committee’s decision making process – all of them? Too much unilateral power wielded in secret for a public school district. And I won't even discuss the fact that principals were asked outside of the selection committee process to bring forth recommendations as to whom they wanted as the parent representative for their building. Smoke and mirrors....


And again, either ironic or disingenuous – but certainly inconsistent – is your application of Board Policy 8:030. You have championed this Policy when it suits your purpose. Although it is entitled ”Visitors to and Conduct on School Property” you have on at least one occasion that I know of decided it applies to e-mails from parents as well. So, if any of the alleged teacher bullying happened either in person or through e-mail, shouldn’t this Policy have kicked in? Shouldn’t the “bully” have been notified of his/her misconduct and been given a chance to respond and/or request the hearing referenced in the Policy preferably at the time of the incident, but certainly before being excluded from consideration for a committee?


It seems to have become standard practice recently in this District (for those of us who have been around a while it has not always been this way) that when you, some of your Administrators, or even some BOE members are challenged on your Professional opinions, philosophies, conclusions, or practices that you, the Administrator, and/or BOE member respond by attacking not the critic’s opinion, philosophy, conclusion or practice, but by attacking the critic Personally. I have witnessed it happen by Administrators and/or BOE members to other Administrators and/or BOE Members, to teachers, and to parents. At a recent BOE meeting the teachers even expressed, "We do not want to be labeled as negative or complaining or questioning authority, but we do want to ask questions, get clarification, and offer suggestions." I have heard about (but not witnessed) other occasions where the parent was on the receiving end of a personal attack by an Administrator or BOE Member, and now, apparently, I have been on the receiving end myself. I just don’t understand why teacher, parental or Board Member questioning or criticism of educational philosophies, decisions, etc. cannot be responded to with respect for the person while disagreeing with the message. How can you not consider these personal attacks to be bullying?


Saturday, June 21, 2014

UPDATE to Last Post Submitted by Jill Quinones on the Superintendent's Learning Committee Selection Process

We have now received from Ms. Quinones links to the District's Responses to the Freedom of Information Act request she submitted regarding the Superintendent's Learning Committee.  She asked that in the interest of full transparency, that we provide the community access to these documents.

Click each link to open:

D181's Response Letter to Ms. Quinones dated June 20, 2014

Quinones FOIA Response to Request #1

Quinones FOIA Response to Requests #2 and 3 (Part 1)

Quinones FOIA Response to Requests #2 and 3 (Part 2)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Q: When is a Process not a Process? A: When it Comes to Selecting Who Will Serve on the Superintendent's Learning Committee

This evening we received the following information and chart from D181 Parent, Community Member and Taxpayer, Jill Quinones.  She submitted it via the comments page. She requested that we publish it as a stand alone post, and copy the chart from a link she included.  After reading through the content, we agree that the entire community should be made aware of the information she shared with the blog because in our opinion, it establishes that the artificially extended deadlines, incomplete applications, and behind the scenes decision making all tainted the process and the good intent of those who were selected.

Ms. Quinones' Post:

"Today I received the response to a FOIA I filed about the Superintendent’s Learning Committee process. I asked for the Applications and supporting material. I also asked for emails regarding the process. Being the data junkie I am, I prepared a chart. It was very easy to see who applied by the first deadline as the application was modified after that deadline to say that the deadline had been extended.

29 people applied in total – 26 parents and 3 community members. 

19 people applied by the 1st deadline, with more than one representing every school except Elm. No one applied from Elm by the 1st deadline although one person who applied as an HMS parent previously had children at Elm.

10 additional people applied by the second deadline.

Of the 19 people who met the 1st deadline, 5 were chosen (26%)
Of the 10 additional people who applied, 4 were chosen (40%)

Of the 4 people chosen who missed the 1st deadline, there were 2-4 other parents who had timely applied from CHMS, Madison & Walker. Guess Administration didn't like the choices! As noted above, no one timely applied from Elm.

Of the 9 parents selected, 3 are psychologists, 2 are lawyers, 2 have business / communication/ marketing backgrounds, 1 has an HR background and 1 is a PTO President, but no other information was included with her application. The Mission Statement for this Committee states in part that the members will "share relevant professional experiences... in the areas of curriculum, assessment, instruction and student services." As a result of this sharing, recommendations may or may not be taken to the BOE. 

Six (6) of the applicants, including 4 who applied by the 1st deadline, had curriculum backgrounds – NONE were selected.

Not enough information included with most applications to conclude whether grades and ability levels of children are diverse among those selected.

Even more interesting were some of the comments in the emails suggesting (1) before the selection committee met, at least two parents were weeded out of the applicant process based on allegations that they bully teachers, although no evidence of this was included in the materials I was provided, (2) at least one principal was asked to bring forth the name of whom he wanted to be the parent representing his school (so much for the committee selection process), and (3) while some parents submitted detailed applications, at least one who was selected provided nothing but their name and address.

Now while I am sure those selected are committed, eager, and will work their hardest to represent all of the children, the way the Administration handled this process is particularly disturbing."

CHART: (Green highlights denote selected members.)