Saturday, August 31, 2013

"LIFE" Goals of Transparency and Community Involvement Ignored by Dr. Schuster and the Majority of the Board of Education During the 8/26/13 Board Meeting.

Tonight we address the District's "LIFE" goals of Transparency and Community Involvement, and how less than two weeks after these goals were approved by the Board, they were ignored.

We have previously referenced the Smart Goals that the Board of Education was asked to approve on 8/26 in our post on that meeting's "low lights." We had originally planned to detail the discussion on the Smart Goals, however, we believe the 8/28 online Hinsdale Patch article on this agenda item gives an accurate description of most of the discussion that took place amongst the Board members and Dr. Schuster.  You can access that article by clicking here.  The Patch article focused on the debate that took place regarding how the goals presented for approval to the Board by Dr. Schuster did not match the goals that Board Members Heneghan and Garg motioned for approval.  Heneghan and Garg motioned to approve goals agreed upon by the Sub-Committee Members and that were summarized in writing and sent to the Board by Community Member Matt Bousquette. He was the sole parent appointed to serve on the Sub-committee.  At the end of the 8/26 Board meeting, a decision was made to have the Sub-committee reconvene in order to try and reconcile the discrepancies. Having listened to the meeting, we want to compliment new Board Member Jill Vorobiev for pointing out the breakdown in the process of drafting the goals and encouraging that the Sub-Committee meet again.  The goals are to be brought back to the next Board meeting on September 9 and we can only hope that the written report will match the decisions reached by the Sub-committee.

While it is good that the Sub-committee is going to take another crack at the goals -- especially since they are the goals that will lay out this year's performance expectations for D181 students -- we want to address what was not reported in the local press, and more concerning, what was completely omitted from the "Summary of the Board Meeting" prepared by the Administration and emailed to district parents on Friday (Click to open summary): the disrespect shown to Mr. Bousquette by Dr. Schuster and the majority of the Board during the meeting and their refusal to allow him to participate in the discussion of the Sub-Committee's proposed goals.  We then opine what this behavior means for our district.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Information discussed during the 8/26/13 Board Meeting regarding the Administrators' Attendance at Kurt Schneider's "On the Side" Symposium

Earlier this week we were asked by a reader to discuss the attendance of numerous D181 administrators at Kurt Schneider's summer symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).  This topic was discussed at some length during the 8/26/13 Board meeting after Board Members Heneghan and Garg asked for an explanation of the $2760 check to UWM for Administrative Professional Development that the board was asked to approve.   This post will review and discuss information regarding this expense that was provided prior to the meeting (Click to view Check run,  Click to View Board Q&A's)  and during the board discussion and what appears to be a lack of transparency in the release of documentation regarding the symposium.  

Information we have learned:

1.  Less than 2 weeks before the teachers in D181 were to report back for training and the start of the 2013-2014 school year (July 29-August 7), Kurt Schneider was a presenter at the National Leadership for Social Justice Institute.  The full title of the symposium was:  "Leading Proactive High Achieving Schools for All Students."  (Click to view symposium's agenda.)  According to what Superintendent Schuster said during the meeting, Schneider used vacation days to teach at this one week symposium.

2.  Seven additional D181 administrators, including the entire Department of Learning, also attended this conference.  They were:  Kevin Russell, Assistant Superintendent of Learning; Christine Igoe, Director of Pupil Services;  Dawn Benaitis, Director of Assessment; Principal Griffin Sonntag; Principal Casey Godfrey; Principal Eric Chisausky and Principal Justin Horne.

3.  The $2760 check was for the registration fees the District paid to have the administrators attend the symposium.

4.  More expenses incurred by these 7 administrators -- meals, lodging and transportation -- will be submitted for reimbursement and approval by the Board at a future meeting.

5.  Board Member Heneghan asked for an explanation of why so many administrators, including the entire Department of Learning, were gone from the district so close to the start of school to attend a seminar that had some topics that were not relevant to D181.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quick Post Regarding "Low Lights" of Tonight's (8/26) Board Meeting

In the next few days, we will be writing in greater detail about tonight's (8/26/13) Board Meeting, but after listening via live-stream, we felt the community deserved to hear immediately from us a list of the meeting "low lights:"

1.  Three days into the new school year, at the first "business" meeting of the Board of Education, we were shocked that there was NO "new business" on the agenda.  The lack of new business speaks volumes.  Guess Dr. Schuster has very tight reins over what the Board is asked to discuss.

2.  New meeting, NO NELSON!  Not really shocking, since we've come to expect his empty seat.  Last meeting, he was not physically present, but at least he called in.  Tonight, he didn't even bother to do that. Out of 18 meetings this year, he has only attended 7.  He's missed 9 entirely (50%) and only been present by phone at 2.  His seat has been "empty" for 11 meetings.  Disgraceful.  Please resign Mr. Nelson.  You have shown no commitment and should give up your seat on the Board.

3.  A new low was reached tonight, when Dr. Schuster and the Board (other than Board Members Heneghan and Garg) refused to allow Community Member Matt Bousquette -- an appointed member on the "Smart Goals" Subcommittee created at the last meeting -- to participate in the presentation and discussion on the proposed Smart Goals.  Dr. Schuster and the Board should be embarrassed by the hypocrisy shown -- not to mention the disrespect -- in refusing his participation. More later on that fiasco.

4.  There was confirmation that seven administrators (not six as previously reported) attended Kurt Schneider's "on the side" symposium and that access to the materials they received while attending the conference has been denied to Board Member Heneghan.  More later on that waste of taxpayer money.

Looks Like Kurt Schneider's "On the Side" Symposium was attended by Six Administrators at D181 Taxpayers' Expense

Below is a Comment that we just published from "Outraged D181 Taxpayer."  It is also posted as a comment to "Series Part 2: A Critical Analysis of the "Doctors" at the helm of D181...The Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Student Services) -- Kurt Schneider."  We agree with the concerns raised by Outraged D181 Taxpayer and will listen tonight to the D181 Meeting live stream to see if this "expense" is discussed by the Board.  We will follow up later this week with any additional information we learn.  In the meantime, we did look at Board Docs ourselves and found the Board Questions referenced.  Click to open Board Questions.  We also found the Checks that the Board are being asked to approve.  Click to open Checks up for Board approval.

Comment from "Outraged D181 Taxpayer:"

Anonymous said...
Hi Bloggers: Hope you are going to listen to tonight's Board Meeting and will consider investigating and publishing a follow up post that addresses the following. Checked out Board Docs for tonight's meeting and happened upon "board member" questions, concerning the expense checks the board is supposed to approve at tonight's meeting. I couldn't believe what I saw. It appears there is some potentially shady stuff going on in this district. The board is being asked to approve a check to the University of Milwaukee in the amount of $2,760 for Administrative Professional Development. Looks like this expense caught the attention of Board Members Heneghan and Garg who asked what it was for and if there were any other related expenses. The answer was really disturbing. According to the "administration's" answer to their question, the following administrators all drove up for a week -- at the D181 taxpayers' expense-- to listen to "Dr." Schneider toot his own horn and present on his, Capper and Frattura's ideas about "social justice" and the ICS Model the bloggers have talked about in this post -- Series 2: Dawn Benaitis, Christine Igoe, Kevin Russell, Casey Godfrey, Eric Chisausky and Justin Horne. And more expenses -- for lodging and travel (and probably meals) -- are all still going to be submitted by these 6 administrators.

What's more, while Board Member Heneghan asked the administration to post or show him the materials the administrators received while attending the conference, the answer was that these materials are copyrighted and cannot be publicly posted!

I hope the bloggers -- Concerned Parents -- are as enraged as I was to see this. First, Isn't it an ethical violation

Friday, August 23, 2013

Welcome Back to our Wonderful Teachers

At the close of this first week of the 2013-2014 school year, we want to take a moment to welcome back all of the wonderful D181 teachers. We want to express our appreciation for all the work they did over the summer to prepare for the start of school and recognize in advance all they will do for our students this year.

Last year, the teachers faced many challenges as the administration made radical changes to the curriculum.  Far too many initiatives were thrown their way.  Some were forced to come up with their own curriculum materials in elementary math,  which was a chaotic mess since the Administration refused to use the Everyday Math Common Core Supplements  (which, after a total about face by the Administration, will be used this year). Throughout all of this, the teachers did not receive the administrative support that they should have.  Nevertheless, the teachers worked diligently and did their very best to provide our children with an outstanding educational environment and experience. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, student performance suffered in the grades where the "experimentation" took place.

Teachers at all grade levels expressed frustration regarding the many changes that took place last year

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Series Part 2: A Critical Analysis of the "Doctors" at the helm of D181 and their Questionable Qualifications and Motives– The Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Student Services)

Kurt Schneider, PhD:  Assistant Superintendent for Learning (Student Services):  Field of Study: Special Education; Teaching Experience: 4 years of High School Special Education, 0 years of elementary or middle school teaching. Click to open Schneider's Resume at the time he was hired.

When Kurt Schneider was originally hired to start work on July 1, 2012, his title was Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services and his sole purpose was managing the Special Education or Pupil Services Department. This purpose has changed significantly in the year since he joined D181. After only six months, in January 2013, Schneider's title was changed to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) (at least on the following report: Click to open 1/28/13 Board Report), although we cannot find anything on Board Docs where the Board of Education approved this title change by that date. In April 2013, the title of Schneider's  Job Description was changed to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) and yet less than 4 months later, the title changed a third time to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Student Services) (Click to open 8/12/13 Succession Plan.)  

What is confusing is that while hired to run the Special Education services in D181, Dr. Schneider's official job description now includes the areas of curriculum, assessment, advanced learning (gifted) services, and strategic planning along with pupil services.  Strikingly, the term Special Education is absent. (Click here to open Job Description.) We have not found any Minutes of meetings at which the BOE substantively discussed these title changes, let alone all of Schneider's new job responsibilities.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Series Part 1: A Critical Analysis of the "Doctors" at the helm of D181 and their Questionable Qualifications and Motives– The Superintendent

Renee Schuster, EdD: Superintendent; Field of Study: Speech Pathology/Therapy; Teaching Experience: None  (Posted on the right side of this blog is a Page titled Schuster's Resume. You can open up the Resume on that Page or by clicking here.)

If we wonder why District 181 is in a perpetual state of chaos, we should look at who is running the show. After all, accountability begins at the top of any organization, and herein lies the reason(s) of why our district has run off the rails during the past three years. Let's begin with Superintendent "Dr." Schuster.  This post will analyze her "qualifications" to lead our district, as well as her questionable motives.

"Questionable Qualifications" to Lead District 181

In reviewing Dr. Schuster's resume (open the resume by clicking here), you will notice her 1:1 time with kids is extremely dated and she has no building leadership experience under current educational models. This is a critical point because she is now asking the D181 teachers to do what she has never done.

With the passing of "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) in 2001, public school educators experienced a significant paradigm shift in job expectations with the emphasis on assessing student growth through testing.   In addition, in 2010 the State of Illinois passed PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) that added further expectations to a teacher’s role.  Add to this the recent development of the rigorous Common Core State Standards and the job of a teacher today looks very different than that of the teacher 15 years ago.  Ask any veteran teacher and they will confirm this. 

Unfortunately, according to her resume, Dr. Schuster has not been on the front lines teaching children since 1993.  She has been out of the classroom (actually she was not a classroom teacher, she was a speech therapist) for the last 20 years.  Although it would not be impossible for someone so removed

D181 Board and Dr. Schuster should host quarterly "Town Hall Meetings" rather than "Attendee Paid For Lunch and Learn Sessions" with the Superintendent

The Agenda for Monday night's (8/12/13) Board Meeting has been posted on Board Docs  (Click to Open Agenda).  New business includes a discussion by the Board of the Community Engagement and Survey plans for the 2013-2014.  (Click to open Board Report.)  We hope the Board will not simply accept the proposed plans (some of which are certainly good ideas), but will publicly and substantively discuss the following proposal and "omitted" proposal:

New for this year are 4 "Lunch and Learn Sessions" described as "one hour events" at local restaurants at which community members can join Dr. Schuster for lunch, and listen to her provide "brief updates on district news, leaving the rest of the hour for open question and answer."  The "attendees" must pay for their own lunch.  No mention is made of any limits to the number of people who can attend these lunches, but unless the district reserves an entire restaurant, it is safe to conclude that there will be limited seating available.

While the idea of allowing community members to directly ask Dr. Schuster questions and then  receive immediate answers sounds promising,  the reality is that these "Lunch and Learn Sessions" are an attempt to limit the participation of community members in sharing,  asking and receiving answers to questions posed directly to the superintendent,  and such sessions provide no similar opportunity for the community members to engage the Board Members.

In the last three years, we have listened to or attended board meetings at which Community Engagement opportunities were discussed.  On each occasion, one or more board members suggested that Dr. Schuster host Town Hall Meetings at which community members can step up to the podium, ask questions of both her and the Board Members on any D181 topic, and receive answers.  Each time, the administration has said it would consider Town Hall Meetings in the future.  Yet once again, this year's proposed plans do not include them.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A New "Series" Introduction -- A Critical Analysis of the Superintendent and Administrators at the Helm of D181 -- Their Questionable Qualifications

As we prepare for the upcoming school year, we thought we would consider the following question: Why do we have very highly paid administrators making decisions that directly affect our children who lack sufficient qualifications to do so?  Today, we begin a Series of posts that looks at the qualifications (or lack thereof) of a number of D181’s Central Administrators. 

Why Parents, Teachers and Community Members Should be Concerned:

1. As you read this Series, remember that these district leaders -- who are making critical decisions about the culture of our district, philosophy and curriculum programs and teacher hires -- do not directly interact with the students.  They are not on the front lines; yet for the work they perform while sitting in their “protected” (by the majority of the Board of Education) ivory tower, they receive excessive compensation and benefit packages, especially when compared to the teachers and principals who have direct and immediate contact with the children; furthermore, the principals and teachers are being forced to implement the directives issued by administrators with questionable qualifications. 

2.  As will be discussed in "Part 1" of this Series, Dr. Schuster's work experience and obvious retirement plans (she double dips from her retirement in Missouri along with her more than $220,747.00 base compensation in D181) leave us with serious concerns about her ability to lead and to focus her complete attention on D181.  The Series will continue by

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Applause for "Signed" Comments regarding recent D86 (the High School District) issues and events

As we near the start of school for 4000+ D181 students, we want to take a moment to comment on the resignation this week of Dr. Wahl, the Superintendent of the high school district -- D86 -- that most of our students will be attending in the future.  Our comment has nothing to do with his resignation, the reasons for it, or what it means for the high school district.  This blog is about D181, not D86.  However, we want to commend all of the parents and community members who signed their names on comments they have posted after the Hinsdale Patch articles dealing with Dr. Wahl's resignation.  Comments supporting and opposing the resignation and recent conduct of the D86 Board of Education members have been powerful and well reasoned.  We hope that parents reading this blog will feel empowered to do the same and begin telling us how you feel about the Posts we have been publishing and our discussions on D181 issues.

Later this week we will begin a series on the Central Office Administrators who are "running" D181.  We hope you will weigh in with your opinions.  Stay tuned.