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.


Mr. Bousquette was appointed by the Board to serve as a parent member on the Goals Sub-committee after it was formed at the 8/12 Board meeting.  He attended the 8/21 Sub-committee meeting, and later came prepared to participate in the discussion of the proposed goals during the 8/26 board meeting.  During that meeting, both Board Members Heneghan and  Garg asked that Mr. Bousquette be allowed to participate in the discussion on the proposed goals.  He was repeatedly denied permission and was forced to wait until Closing Public Comments at the end of the meeting, before he was finally given a chance to address the board.  By that time, the Board had already voted down Members Heneghan and Garg's motion to approve the write up of the goals submitted by Mr. Bousquette, and that were described by Superintendent Schuster as "goals written by Matt Bousquette instead of the Board and the district."  This characterization was repeated during the Board's and Schuster's discussion, despite the fact that Member Garg clarified that Mr. Bousquette's write-up matched her recollection of what the Sub-Committee as a whole had agreed to. 

When Mr. Bousquette was finally allowed to speak, (and if you listen closely to the podcast of the meeting, you will hear that President Turek tried to adjourn the meeting without first entertaining closing public comments) he took issue with Schuster's characterizations. He explained that he took his responsibilities as a member of the Sub-committee very seriously, had cancelled a business trip to attend the Sub-committee meeting, had done extensive research and met with parent groups to get their input in preparation for the meeting and had come prepared and engaged actively during the meeting.  He advised the Board that he had taken accurate notes of the meeting, and that they did not match what Dr. Schuster (who had not even attended the Sub-committee meeting) had presented to the board as the goals of the committee. 

He expressed his "distress" in having spent an "enormous" amount of time trying to help the board develop "great goals for our kids to come here and discover what was essentially a sham." He further stated that "the discussion tonight does not bear any resemblance to what happened in that room" and that he was shocked that there were administrators at the Board meeting who were remaining silent about what went on during the the Sub-committee meeting.

He then reminded the Board that it is their primary job to set strategic goals for the district and that setting the performance goals is the most important one since it will send a message to everyone about where they and the administration want our kids to end up at the end of the school year.  He asked whether the board wanted D181 students to do better, the same or worse than kids in other districts that start at the same performance measure?  He said that the board needed to decide if it wanted our students to learn more, less or the same amount than kids in other districts who start the year at the same performance measure.  He explained that these were questions that needed to be answered but instead "we've just danced, hidden or whatever, we don't want to answer that question."   He explained that these were philosophical questions that the community wants answered and that once the Board answers them, then everyone in the district can go and do their jobs.   

Mr. Bousquette pointed out that it seemed that intstead of answering these questons, the Board was trying to rush through the most important job it was tasked with -- setting strategic goals.  He told the Board that he was deeply offended at how he was treated during the board meeting, deeply offended at the discrepancies between the goals presented by Dr. Schuster and his recollection of what had transpired during the Sub-committee meeting, that what was being represented by Schuster was "factually and completely incorrect" and that it seemed that parents shouldn't bother to serve on committees since it now appeared that the outcome of the sub-committee had been "pre-determined" and all he should have brought to the meeting was a "stamp."

We listened to Mr. Bousquette's public comments at Monday's board meeting and also those made by former Board Member Yvonne Mayer, who preceded him and expressed her "disgust" that he had not been allowed to participate in the discussion.  She pointed out that every other time there were "committee presentations" such as ALP or ELA or Math, every single committee member was invited to participate in the board meeting discussion, even student members, and yet this time, the one parent member was denied that opportunity.

We were dismayed that at the end of both comments no one on the board had anything to say except Mr. Turek stating "thank you" and then immediately adjourning the meeting.  We would encourage everyone to listen to the last 9 minutes of the podcast in order to hear Mr. Bousquette's passion and better understand how sad it is that he was discounted by Dr. Schuster and most of the Board members.  

On August 12, the Board approved transparency and community involvelment as two of what the Administration is now calling "LIFE goals."  Specifically, the LIFE goal in question states:

"Involvement and Transparency.  The Board and District will collaboratively foster community involvement, transparency and an environment of trust, with information and data used to improve learning and operations."

Source:  Click to open LIFE Goals Approved on 8/12/13.

Appointing a parent onto a committee, only to prevent his full participation and then to treat him with disrespect at the public meeting at which the committee work is being discussed, is not only the polar opposite of "involvement," it does not create an "environment of trust" and is precisely what Mr. Bousquette called it -- a "sham."  And as Mr. Bouquette pointed out, if community engagement is nothing more than a sham, then why bother to volunteer? While we completely understand his frustration, we hope that he will continue as a member of the Goals Sub-Committee because we believe his input as a parent is critical to the successful development of measureable performance goals.  

Equally concerning is the decision by the Administration to exclude from the meeting "summary" all reference to Mr. Bouquette not being allowed to participate.  Failure to provide complete "information" and report on Schuster and the Board's refusal to allow his participation does not mean it didn't happen and is far from transparent.  In our opinion, it is not the job of the Administration to "hide" information from us.  It is their job to be open and transparent in all things that concern our students.  Is that really too much to ask for?

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