Sunday, September 8, 2013

Continuing Series, Part 3: A Critical Analysis of the "Doctors in Training" at the helm of D181 and their Questionable Qualifications – The Director of Learning (Pupil Services)

Christine Igoe is D181's Director of Learning (Pupil Services). 

Since joining District 181 in April 2010 as a building level special education coordinator (PPS administrator) for Madison and Hinsdale Middle Schools, Ms. Igoe has rapidly risen to become the administrator in charge of Pupil Services/Special Education with the newly added major task of providing Common Core Math units to this year's math program. How she has managed to become a leading contributor to the "Advanced Learning Plan" (now referred to as the "Learning for All Plan") remains a mystery in that Ms. Igoe does not appear to have the educational background nor the qualifications to be advising on general curriculum issues, especially the infusion of Common Core Math to the Everyday Math Program. The fact is Ms. Igoe's experience in special education prior to coming to D181 was in the form of being a special education teacher or a building level administrator in Plainfield, Naperville and for the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization. It does not appear that she has any background or experience in the areas of math or general curriculum. (Sources: D181 website and the publicly accessible Illinois Teacher Certification system found on the Illinois State Board of Education website.) To now be in charge of the entire special education program and the Math Committee overseeing the math curriculum changes in a district such as 181 is quite a leap, but this appears to be the new norm in D181 where background experience and education seem to matter little in who is promoted within the district.

We still are confused as to how Ms. Igoe took over the duties of Dr. Kurt Schneider, who was originally hired by Dr. Schuster to oversee the entire Special Education/Pupil Services Department in July 2012.  A review of Board Docs establishes that Ms. Igoe was originally promoted to Interim Special Education Director in April 2011 when D181 was withdrawing from LADSE (a special education cooperative) and it was determined that the then Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services did not have an Illinois certification required to oversee the withdrawal. (Note:  Former Assistant Superintendent of PPS Pam Kazee was highly credentialed, experienced, and an outstanding administrator, but was from and held an out of state license.)  When Dr. Schneider was hired, rather than eliminate this interim position, it was made permanent.  Since then, while Schneider has taken a backseat approach to Special Education and is moving toward his mantra of "Social Justice for All" (See Series Part 2 post published on 8/21/13), Ms. Igoe appears to be the main administrator responsible for Special Education Services in D181. She attends IEP and 504 meetings related to special education services, and now is overseeing the many RtI (Response to Intervention) meetings that once were held mainly for students who are struggling learners. Dr. Schuster has expanded RtI to all students without any standardized and consistently applied guidelines for what the process should be, and has yet to provide any data or  evidence that it is working for any group of students.  This would be an enormous amount of responsibility for an administrator with an advanced degree and years of experience as a Director, let alone for someone like Ms. Igoe with such limited experience.  The decision to expand RtI has also dramatically increased the use of substitute teachers due to the many meetings teachers are expected to attend during school hours. One can only imagine the impact this has on the learning of our children. 

Interestingly, not only has Dr. Schuster promoted Christine Igoe, she has rewarded her handsomely with a pay raise (approved by the majority of the Board) that most of us can only dream about. In just one year, Ms. Igoe's pay has risen 25%, from $96,774 to $120,915. (Igoe's initial salary was $84,000 when she joined the district in 2010.) This salary is way out of the range of most first time director-level positions locally and was questioned by previous board members last spring when Dr. Schuster presented the board with administrator pay raises. And if a 25% raise wasn't enough, on March 19, 2012 the board approved a Tuition Reimbursement contract for Ms. Igoe so that she can obtain a fully paid for educational "doctorate" over the next 4 to 5 years with taxpayer dollars. There seems to be no limit to how high this board and superintendent are willing to raise the administrators' salaries and benefits. 

Will the board be as generous this year when it comes to the teachers who have been on the front lines of trying to manage all that has been thrown at them since Dr. Schuster's arrival?

It is important as parents and taxpayers to ask how a former building level special education coordinator was promoted at such a rapid pace to oversee special education services for an entire district? Moreover, why is a person with no experience or background in math or curriculum now in the position of telling our teachers and children what they should be doing in math this year? Who would allow this to happen? Answer:  Superintendent Schuster and the majority of the Board of Education. We have heard many stories of how the special education services and RtI process in D181 are not meeting the needs of students.  These parents feel their children have been let down by an increasingly broken process but fear repercussion if they publicly criticize it.  We believe the only way to truly make change is to put all of this out in the public view so this community can really know what is going on and stand up together to expect much more for our children.


Social Justice? said...

Now it all makes sense as to why my children at Hinsdale Middle School, and last year at The Lane, never received adequate support for their IEPs. Friends whose children needed 504s or "differentiation" for advanced learning where treated dismissively, and Dr. Kurt Schneider and his team never even returned their emails and calls! Obviously, two FULL TIME administrators are needed so that they BOTH can continue to work PART TIME as Special Education administrators, and PART TIME as students (for whom we are all paying the bill).

If these special education administrators attended seminars in helping autistic children, understanding RTi, or figuring out what Carol Dweck's theories for gifted children actually are, and how to apply it to all of their students, I could see the relevance to our community. If either of them were actually IN the classrooms helping the regular ed teachers on the front line, I could sympathize with them. Instead, Dr. Schneider chooses to pursue "Social Justice". Let's investigate: in our community, District 181, 3.8% of students are "low income". (See our district's 2012 IL State School Report Card and compare it to CPS) Chicago City Schools, on the other hand, has a student poverty rate of 86%! WE have 151 low income students in D181, while Chicago has 34,720! Here's an idea: Fire one of our administrators and donate their salaries to our families who need it. Now THAT WOULD SOCIAL JUST.



We have 1.6% ELL (non English Speaking Students) students, while Chicago City Schools has 16.6%. 40 students vs. 6,655 in Chicago. Is Dr. Schneider confused, and think that Hinsdale is part of Chicago City Schools?

We have a chronic truancy rate of .2% (7 students) while Chicago has 11,827 truant children. WHY are we paying Schneider to toot his horn about social justice, when it does not apply to us?

Christine Igoe's pay raise is rather interesting. It appears that all the money she saves the district by denying services to our children gets funneled into bonuses for HER. Meanwhile, parents are being forced to reacher even deeper into their pockets for tutors and therapists. So much for Social Justice for us and our children.

Social Justice? said...

I accidentally left out some letters: NOW THAT WOULD BE SOCIALLY JUST. Please correct, if possible. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As a Monroe parent of two children with special needs, I totally agree with the last comment. After many phone calls and messages to Mr Schneider that went unanswered, I finally got the chance to talk with Miss Igoe about how my children's needs were not being met in the classroom. The conversation became heated, which resulted in her raising her voice to me, with the end result consisting of minimal cooperation and preaching of "monitoring" the performance of my children who were clearly underserved. I got nowhere with Schneider (who apparently has better things to do with his time dealing with social issues that don't apply to my children) and nowhere with Igoe, who is the "attack dog" to go up against parents who differ with her opinion. And this is what I'm paying high taxes for? I should submit my tutoring and testing bills to Dr. Schuster so she can pay them since she is so willing to pay these administrators such high salaries. Where is the "social justice" for me and my children in this district?

Anonymous said...

According to this article, you can submit your evaluation bills! That is, assuming they get back to you. :)

Schools Must Pay For Special Education Evaluations, Court Rules ...
Nov 28, 2012 ... School districts should reimburse parents for independent educational evaluations of students with disabilities, at least in some cases, a federal ...

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The Parents said...

This morning we deleted a comment submitted by a reader. We would ask the reader to resubmit however delete any name calling. Thank you for your consideration.