Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is the Administration Following the Best Process to Hire the Most Qualified Teachers?

Below is a post we received today from D181 and D86 parent and taxpayer, Jill Quinones. She requested that we publish it as a stand-alone post. Mrs. Quinones is currently a special education teacher in a neighboring school district and previously taught in D181. She holds both a Masters in Special Education from Northwestern University and a Juris Doctor. We thank Mrs. Quinones for her contribution and willingness to publish her name.

Mrs. Quinones' Post:

One of the most important factors in the successful education of a student is the quality of his or her teacher.  Knowing this, it is simply shocking to me that the 2013-14 school year begins in only 55 days and D181 has just posted a classroom teacher position (5th Grade Walker School) for a vacancy it has known about for over a year.

Sometime before the 2012 school year began, two teachers at Walker School gave notice of their resignations at the end of the 2012-13 school year (4th Grade and Differentiation Specialist). 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

D181 Has Become a Starter District -- A "Congratulations" and A "Caution"

At the June 24, 2013 Board Meeting, the Board unanimously approved the promotion of Justin Horne, a 5th grade teacher at the Lane, to serve as the new principal of Monroe School, effective July 1.  We begin by congratulating Mr. Horne on his promotion.  Mr. Horne is an outstanding and well liked teacher who will bring youthful enthusiasm and energy to his new role.  We wish him well and hope he is successful.

We continue, however,  with a caution directed at the Administration and the Board.

1.  D181 is not a "starter district."  While we know that Mr. Horne will throw himself into his new job, we are disappointed that the Board approved the hiring of a principal who has no previous experience as a building administrator -- either as a principal or an assistant principal.

2.  With 428 students, Monroe School is tied with Madison School as the largest of the 7 elementary schools in D181.  Consequently, its principal supervises the largest number of teachers and staff in the elementary schools.  Monroe School has not been lucky

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mr. Yaeger, We Don't Pay our Administrators to Sulk!

During last night's Board Meeting, Kevin Russell, Chris Igoe and Dr. Schneider presented information to the Board on the Everyday Math Common Core supplemental materials that will be taught starting this fall.  The math plan that was presented was an alternative to the Math Pilots the Administration presented last month and that were nixed by the Board.  Board Member Yaeger commended the Administrators for coming back so quickly with what sounded like a very comprehensive, well thought out math program alternative, rather than simply "sulking" after the math pilots were not approved.

While we agree that the Math curriculum presented last night sounds promising,  let us be clear Mr. Yaeger:   "We do not pay our Administrators to sulk."  The very suggestion that they might do so is offensive.  However, we also do not pay our Administrators to do a complete 180 on a math curriculum that until last night's meeting, they had discounted as not being adequate to meet the Common Core requirements in math.  We are quite befuddled by the Administrators' actions.

Submitting Suggested Topics for Discussion or Community Member Posts

Today we received 2 signed community members' comments.   When we received them, we asked the authors for permission to publish them as stand-alone posts.  They agreed.  We want to encourage other community members to submit comments for publication as stand-alone posts.  We also want to hear from community members on topics you would like us to address.  Please do so by submitting a comment on the Welcome Post -- that is the very first post that appears on this blog.  Thank you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dr. Schuster's "Report" on the 8th Grade Algebra Students' High School Placements for 2013-2014

This evening, we received the following "Comment" from Yvonne Mayer, to the June 9, 2013 Posts on Middle School Math.  Mrs. Mayer is a current D181 and D86 parent and taxpayer and served on the D181 School Board from 2009-2013. With her permission, we are publishing this comment as a stand-alone post because we believe it addresses important observations and questions regarding the Algebra data presented by Dr. Schuster in her 6/24/13 Board Doc's Superintendent's Report, and that was discussed during tonight's meeting.   We thank Mrs. Mayer for her willingness to publish her name.  (You can access Dr. Schuster's report and data referenced in Mrs. Mayer's comment by clicking on the following links:  6/24/13 Superintendent's Report ; 6/24 Board Docs' Board Members' Q&A's)

Mrs. Mayer's Comment:

After reading the 8th Grade Algebra update in Dr. Schuster's 6/24/13 Superintendent's report,  and her answers to Board Member Garg's questions also on Board Docs, and listening to tonight's Board  discussion, I would like to address the data she presents on the 4th quarter performance and high school placement recommendations for these students.   I think Dr. Schuster left many important questions unanswered, and the mis-impression that these students have now improved their competitive edge when they apply to college.

News Flash: Nelson actually attends a board meeting!

After missing the last 5 meetings, Mr. Nelson attended tonight's Board meeting.  He has now attended 8 out of the last 15 meetings in 2013 (one being by phone), but with 7 absences, his absence rate is still at 47%.  Mr. Nelson -- will you now regularly attend the meetings, or was tonight an aberration?  Only time will tell.

The True Data behind the MAP Score Representations made in the District's "Summary" of the 6/10/13 Board Meeting

During the 6/10/13 Board Meeting, and in the District's Summary of that meeting sent to all parents, the Administration represented that the MATH MAP data showed that student results were "consistently in the 97th-99th percentiles."  We explained that Board Member Heneghan pointed out during the meeting that this statement misled parents into thinking that individual students' performance were all at those high percentages, when in fact, they were on average, lower.  Mr. Heneghan was correct.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dr. Schuster's Employment Contract -- Her Salary and Benefits Seem Excessive

As we were setting up this blog, we gathered various pieces of data and information, including a copy of Dr. Schuster's employment contract.  Posted on the right side of this blog is a Page titled Superintendent Schuster's employment contract.  This contract is the second one the Board of Education has approved for her.  Her first 3 year contract expires on June 30.  This second one is a 2 year extension that expires on June 30, 2015.  You can open up the link and read it in its entirety,  but we wanted to highlight the benefits that we believe the D181 community should be aware of. (A future post will focus on her "performance goals.")

Friday, June 14, 2013

The District's "Summary" of the 6/10/13 Board Meeting Misleads Parents about the MAP Test Results

Last Friday,  Bridget McGuiggan, D181’s Director of Communications emailed all parents a summary of the June 10 Board Meeting.  The summary is not accurate, although we applaud the detail of the meeting provided.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What was discussed during the June 10, 2013 Board Meeting -- The Good and The Bad

We'd like to comment on a few things that were discussed at Monday's board meeting. Some are good and some are bad.


1.  Thank you to Board Members Heneghan and Garg for asking questions about the MAP data and other items on the agenda.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's time to resign, Board Member Nelson

At tonight's Board Meeting, only 5 board members were present. New Member Clarin was absent for the first time since he was sworn in on May 6.   For the 7th time this year, Member Nelson was absent.

There have been 5 meetings since May 6 and Mr. Nelson has missed every single one.  He has not called in to participate by phone.  He has now been physically absent for 57% of the meetings.

Let us state the obvious -- it is time for Mr. Nelson to resign.  It is common knowledge in the community that Mr. Nelson started a new job earlier this year that requires him to travel a lot.  However, while he is doing his paid job, he is not doing or participating in his elected job.  There are other community members who would be willing to step into the Board Seat and represent the community and attend if not all, almost all of the meetings.

But that can only happen if Mr. Nelson gives up his seat.  For the sake of the students and taxpayers in D181, we ask that he do so.

2012-2013 Year in Review: Elementary Math (with focus on 3rd grade) -- What Will Happen Next Year?

With data showing that the 3rd grade Math Compacting Experiment was not successful this year, the biggest question is:  What about next year?  Our last blog posting ended with the following question that we hope the administration answers:

How will they make the current 3rd graders whole?  

2012-2013 Year in Review: Performance Data for the Third Grade Math "Compacting" Experiment

Our last post described the Third grade math experiment that took place during the 2012-2013 school year in which the plan was to compact 3rd and 4th grade math and have the students complete the 4th grade curriculum.  Did this actually happen and what did the performance data show?

2012-2013 Year in Review: Elementary Math -- with a focus on Third Grade -- The Transition Year Structure

We have already discussed the Middle School Math rapid acceleration plan that was rolled out in 2012-2013.  The next three posts will discuss the math changes that were implemented in Elementary School.

Important Agenda Items will be discussed at the Monday, June 10, 2013 BOE Meeting

Monday night -- June 10 -- there will be a BOE Committee of the Whole meeting held at Clarendon Hills Middle School.  It will start at 7 p.m.  Please attend and speak out on any issues that you may be concerned about.

You can access the full agenda by clicking on the "Page" called Current Board Meeting Agenda (in the right hand column of this blog).

This is an important meeting because the Board will continue the discussion it began on May 28 about the MAP test data.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

2012-2013 Year in Review: Middle School Math -- Implications and Concerns for the Future

Now that 3 quarters of data on the 2012-2013 Middle School rapid acceleration model has been presented, enough is known to raise questions and concerns about whether this plan was successful or in the best interests of all of the students who participated.  

2012-2013 Year In Review: Middle School Math -- What did the Performance Data Show?

How did the Standard math students who elected a Rapid 8th grade Math Acceleration Model perform?The administration tracked the performance data for these students.  Originally the plan was that the students would need to maintain an 80% in the class or be dropped back to standard math.  This 80% performance cut-off is the same that was used for students to remain in advanced or accelerated math classes in middle school. To date, Superintendent Schuster has presented 3 performance reports to the BOE.   

2012-2013 Year in Review: Middle School Math -- Math Tracks and this year's Rapid Acceleration Model

In the Spring 2011, the Board of Education approved a transition plan -- implemented immediately -- that allowed more students to accelerate in math.  The goal was for more students to complete Algebra by the end of 8th grade and enter high school taking Geometry or Honors Geometry. The next 3 posts will discuss the roll out, pros and cons of this acceleration plan.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Congratulations to D181's Retiring Teachers!

Congratulations and best wishes to the following Retiring Teachers for their years of service to our children: Sheila Chatham, Joe Durczak, Regina Griskelis, Lynn Kastholm, Cynthia Michaelis, Nancy Schifo, Donna Shelby and Linda Wright.  While the BOE acknowledged the dedication of these individuals at a Board meeting on May 28, we would also like to recognize the extraordinary commitment these educators had to our students and thank them for the years they spent teaching and supporting our children. We wish them a happy retirement and hope they enjoy the next chapters in their lives. They will truly be missed.

More Transparency and Respect towards community members needed from the Board of Education

Let's talk about the current D181 Board of Education.

1.  Board Member responsibilities:  We would suggest that all board members take the time to read and understand their powers and duties as defined in Board Policies 2:010, 2:020, 2:080 and 2:110.  In the past there has been a lot of criticism by the Administration that certain board members are over-reaching.  The reality is, however, that there are 16 defined duties in Board Policy 2:020 alone, all of which require oversight and action by the board.

2.  The new board members and officers:  A new board convened on May 6, 2013.  New members Jill Vorobiev, Mridu Garg and Gary Clarin joined the two year veterans, Michael Nelson, Brendan Heneghan, Marty Turek and Glenn Yaeger.  Immediately following the swearing in of new members, a reorganization meeting was held and board officers were elected for a one year term.  Turek was elected to replace Nelson as president, Vorobiev replaced Yaeger as vice-president, and Garg replaced out-going Sarah Lewensohn as secretary.  What was striking about this reorganization, was that it was obvious that the elections had been pre-arranged and most of the board members knew who was going to be elected for president and vice-president.

2012-2013 Year in Review: ACE -- The Dismantlement of the Gifted Program

Many changes took place with the ACE program in 2012-2013 and more are taking place that will end with the complete dismantlement of the gifted program.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2012-2013 Year in Review: How did the curriculum change process evolve?

How did the curriculum change process evolve?

To fully understand why Curriculum changes are taking place in D181, it is important to briefly review legislative and internal mandates that took place in the last few years.