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.
Since the BOE did not ask, the following question must be raised by the stakeholders: How is Kurt Schneider qualified to make decisions regarding the areas listed above (and detailed in his job description) when his entire teaching experience centers on special education at the high school level?

Since Schneider is now "co-leading" the curriculum department, who is overseeing Special Education/Pupil Services throughout the district?  Who really is in charge of district Special Education services including: Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Response to Intervention (RtI) and 504s? Why is it in the past D181 required a full-time Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and this was prior to the district dropping out of LADSE (LaGrange Area Department of Special Education)?  How is someone originally hired to oversee a multi-million dollar Special Education budget able to do this effectively when he appears to be leading the ALP (Learning for All), which is a drastic cultural shift in our district?  How can he possibly have time to supervise Special Education/Pupil Services and attend the many meetings with teachers, principals and parents, while also co-leading curriculum efforts?  As we see the shift from Special Education to Pupil Services to Student Services in the job titles of Kurt Schneider, we wonder what the true purpose of his employment is within D181.

With just 4 years of teaching experience (high school special education and no teaching experience in elementary or middle schools), Schneider is simply not qualified to be overseeing and proposing radical curriculum and structural changes to our K-8 district. If you have been wondering why your child/children came home last year with math “curriculum” that consisted of, or heard your child state he/she is waiting to learn in the classroom, the reasons rest squarely on the shoulders of Schneider, who is on record of believing that every child’s needs can be met in a single classroom.

Last year, Schneider was the main presenter to the BOE in describing the ALP – Advanced Learning Plan – that will be implemented over the next few years.  (Note:  The name of this plan was just changed to Learning for All.) Schneider’s “mantra” throughout these presentations was that the new plan would “raise the floor to raise the ceiling.”  By increasing the rigor and performance of the lowest achievers, the highest achievers in the district would also increase their performance.  No data was given to support this promise and the reality is that we have children waiting to learn across this district while Schneider and the administration have watched the “ceiling” fall not rise, as evidenced by last Spring’s 3rd grade MAP test results (3rd grader’s were last year’s guinea pigs for the ALP). 

Ask yourself: Why is someone who has a special education background leading the charge on what happens to our children and without good solid data to back it up?  Why is Superintendent Schuster and her administration experimenting (as evidenced by the 3rd grade math disaster this year) on our children with virtually no accountability demanded by the Board of Education?

Finally, you should also be aware that Kurt Schneider is using District 181 to promote his professional academic career as evidenced by a recent symposium in which he presented during the busiest time of year for our school district –  the two weeks leading up to the first days of the school year. Click to open Summer 2013 Symposium brochure. 

Text from Brochure:
“Dear Institute or Academy Participant: We are very excited to host the 2nd National Leading for Social Justice conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin July 29 - August 2, 2013 for new teams joining the Institute, and August 5 - 7, 2013 for those teams coming back to work through the next action steps. We have been completing this work for the past 3 decades within higher, state and regional levels, and district and schools across the country in support of Integrated Comprehensive Service (ICS). We will be collaborating with many of our School and District colleagues as well as those in Higher Education to bring their expertise as they share in the facilitation of this year’s event. The Institute and Academy have both been organized to assist novel and veteran teams learn alongside one another. We closed our 2012 Institute and Academy with words from our participants such as, eye-opening, amazing, timely, insightful, and can’t wait to start. We look forward to seeing you in Milwaukee! Elise Frattura, Colleen Capper, Kurt Schneider.

Dr. Kurt A. Schneider is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) for the Community Consolidated School District 181in Illinois, a western suburban district of Chicago, and is co-leading the Department of Learning. He also has served as part-time adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching courses within the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education Departments.”

The names of some of the co-presenters at this symposium sounded familiar, so we googled them and also went back through the D181 ALP presentations from the last year. It turns out that Capper and Frattura are the “experts” Schneider consulted with in developing the ALP.  And they also are two of the references listed on his resume.  (Note:  Schneider also taught with Capper and Frattura in a similar symposium in the Summer 2012.  Click to open Summer 2012 Symposium brochure.)

Capper and Frattura, along with Schneider. have focused their past research and symposiums on Social Justice issues -- improving the performance of underachieving disabled or minority students in poor demographic communities by implementing a heterogeneous classroom model.  They have written extensively about the ICS model they and Schneider taught during their summer symposium.  The following link opens up a book Frattura and Capper wrote in 2007 -- Leading for Social Justice:  Transforming Schools for All Learners --  and which seems to be describe the heterogeneous -- Learning for All structure Schneider has brought to D181.  Click to Open Excerpts from Capper and Frattura's book.  The only problem is, we have been unable to find any research to support the successful implementation of this model in a high achieving district such as D181.  

Let’s demand to know why Kurt Schneider is “co-leading” the Department of Learning in our district when he was hired specifically to oversee Pupil Services (Special Education). His background and qualifications support Special Education; they do not support curriculum and advanced learning emphases.

If you needed a heart transplant, would you allow a doctor to operate on you with no training or experience in heart surgery?  Why are we letting this happen to our children. Why is this happening to our district when we as parents are giving the district children who are ready and eager to learn?


Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are they trying to fix an imaginary problem with this Learning for All plan? For many years our schools have been very highly rated. Sure, not every district is perfect, but I view this current push and embracing Social Justice as destructive. I don't see how it is applicable to our community. All types of parents want their children to attend our schools for the quality of education it has provided in the past. Do we want to be part of this experiment? I think we have way too much to lose.

Parent of eementary children

Anonymous said...

Is this the same gum smacking, food chewing, sleepy eyed $140,000 plus taxpayer-paid employee who regularly shows up to Board of Education meetings in t-shirts and slippers? And if you have a special education child in this district, you will not see Kurt Schneider in parent meetings; now we have proof he is too busy consulting with his "higher education" buddies. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

As a father of two children in this district, I am disgusted that an administrator would consider dressing so casually to attend a board meeting. If I showed up for work in a tee shirt and sandals, I would be laughed out of the building. If you want to be treated as a professional, you have to act and dress professionally. Maybe Mr. Schneider takes his role with our district too casually and thus, believes he is dressing the part. He's getting paid way too much to look like he's on his way to the beach. Someone clearly needs to give this man some guidance, then again, he should know better.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of middle and elementary students, here is what I have to say. I spent most of yesterday afternoon reading up on Capper and Frattura as well as going back through the materials posted on Board Docs to see what data was presented. Their research has nothing to do with a community such as D181. It is outrageous that Dr. Schneider is trying to force their social justice model down our throats without presenting data from comparable school districts that shows it will actually improve the performance of all our students. If the data exists, and I just couldn't find it, then I challenge the administration to present it to the BOE and community at a public meeting. Could it be that D181 is being used as a testing ground for Schneider, Capper and Frattura's research, next book and next symposium? I hope not, because our children are not guinea pigs and should not be treated as such.

Anonymous said...

Why does this Board believe it is acceptable to experiment on our children? We had programs that worked and there is evidence to prove it. This new Learning for All is a bunch of hogwash and should have never been approved in the first place.

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 by Dr. Schneider to present at a conference that he is paid for by University of Milwaukee -- obviously with attendee "registration fees" -- and then require his colleagues to PAY TO LEARN what he is teaching? Why couldn't he, or didn't he, present this information to the entire D181 administrative staff FOR FREE???? Why is our D181 tax $ being spent on this kind of "Social Justice" Institute. The "answer" tries to suggest that the topics covered by the Institute are relevant to our administrators because the title of the Institute includes the words "High Achieving Schools" but if you've read up on Capper and Frattura's research, it is plain as day that they are concerned with demographically poor, underachieving districts.

As for not letting anyone in the community, let alone the Board Members, see the "materials" the administrators were given -- paid for by D181 taxpayers!! -- that is unbelievable. So what if the materials are copyrighted. Copyright law doesn't prevent the materials from being shared internally by other D181 staff. If so, then I guess only the principals who attended the Institute will be able to read this material and can't share it with the 6 other principals in D181. And if a board member wants to see materials essentially purchased with tax payer $, why can't they? In fact, why aren't these materials (since there are at least 7 sets in D181 -- the particpants who attended and Dr. Schneider's) kept in the Hinsdale library or one of the D181 school libraries for community members to look at, should they choose to?

Lots of questions to ask and hopefully lots of answers to be given. Bloggers, have at it!

Outraged D181 Taxpayer

The Parents said...

Thank you to Outraged D181 Taxpayer for your last comment and bringing this stuff to our attention. We will be listening tonight to the board meeting and perhaps some of your questions will be answered. Either way, we will address the issues you raise in a future post. For now, we will run your Comment as a full post since we want to make sure all of our readers see it.