Thursday, November 14, 2013

Invitation to Sound Off

Since last week's Board of Education meeting, the D181 Administration has been quite busy.  Below we list the activities they have been involved in, many of which community members, parents, staff and Board members were invited to participate in, along with some other news worthy items.

We invite anyone who attended or was involved in these activities -- Administrators,  teachers and staff members, parents and community members -- to "Sound Off" on what you learned, how many people attended, which board members and administrators were present, compliments or criticisms and ideas to improve similar future activities.  

As always, your names are welcomed but not required.  It is important to gather the "facts" on what actually took place, as well as hear your opinions, since Dr. Schuster might summarize her own observations and impressions in the next Superintendent's report she will present at the November 18, 2013 Board meeting.

Please "Sound Off" on the following activities or news items:

1.  Dr. Schuster attended the 47th Annual Conference of an organization called the Suburban Schools Superintendents.  According to the SSS website (Click to open link), the conference was held between November 6 and 9 at "the Omni Royal Orleans in the beautiful and historic French Quarter of New Orleans, steps away from Jackson Square, antique shops, and the art galleries of Royal Street.  This elegant retreat is an ideal backdrop for relaxed conversations and the sharing of ideas." (Click here to open conference agenda.)

Meanwhile, back in D181:

2.  On Saturday, November 9, other administrators, teachers and staff members hosted a 3 hour "Family Symposium" as part of the Learning for All Family Education Series.  According to Dr. Schuster's last Superintendent's report, registrants (yes, you couldn't just drop by) could "choose two of the following sessions to attend during this conference-style event:
-- Preparing for an effective IEP meeting
-- Preparing for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences; Understanding Fall Assessments and Report Cards
-- Student Use of Texting and Social Media
-- What's SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Got to Do with it?
-- Homework Skills and Support

3.  D181 Parent, Staff and Community Online "Surveys"are underway, with a deadline of November 27 for individuals to complete the survey. According to Dr. Schuster's report, the "purpose of these surveys is to gather data related to communication, transparency, parent education, SELAS and the District Vision for 2020. " The survey does NOT include any satisfaction questions relating to the Learning for All Plan.  According to her report, Dr. Schuster stated that a "survey focused on the Learning for All Plan is being developed based upon the 2013-14 District Goals and the Board’s discussion about survey items. We anticipate that the survey will be administered in early January."  (Click to open Dr. Schuster's report.)

4.  The Administration and Board hosted two Community Engagement nights on November 12 and 13.  The first was held at Hinsdale Middle School, the second at Clarendon Hills Middle School. According to Dr. Schuster's report, the purpose of these sessions were to "gain[ ] input into the Vision for 2020.""Parents, community members, and staff are invited to attend. The ideas generated during the Visioning Workshop on October 7 and preliminary survey results will be shared. Participants will be asked for additional ideas and for input into the prioritization of the ideas that have been generated to date."  (Click to open Dr. Schuster's report.) Again, this was NOT an engagement opportunity for parents to discuss the roll-out of the Learning for All Plan.

5.  Today Dr. Schuster hosted her second Lunch and Learn Session which she described in her board report as "an additional opportunity to discuss the District Vision and other news with our community."(Click to open Dr. Schuster's report.)  Today's session was actually the first one, since as Dr. Schuster explained to the Board at their last meeting, when asked about it by a board member, the first one did not take place due to a stomach flu that struck and prevented people from attending.  We'd love to know what was actually discussed, how much time parents had to ask questions or state opinions and what Dr. Schuster's responses were.

And in the news and about town:

6.  This week's Hinsdalean reported on the unfortunate "bottle throwing" assault a former board member was subjected to at the hands of another former board member.  We'd love to hear from any of the past or current board members who were involved in or witnessed this incident.  Is the news article as written accurate?  Dr. Schuster and the board member are quoted in the article, but questions remain unanswered.  Did Dr. Schuster really threaten other community members with the conduct policy in question while ignoring it's application to the assault incident?  What does it mean when she says she simply "mentioned" the policy. We'd love to hear more "facts" from anyone who was actually involved.

7.  Finally, while this is not something initiated by the Administration, we want to remind everyone to check out the online Petition that a parent is circulating and that she will be presenting to the Board at next Monday's meeting.  The Petition is asking the Board to consider Full Day Kindergarten and an equitable distribution of the Differentiation Specialists between the schools.  As of tonight, 235 parents have signed it.  Check it out at:

We hope to hear from our readers who participated in any of these activities!  If you didn't but know someone who did attend, please refer them to this post.


Leslie Gray said...

Thank you for reminding everyone about the class size petition. This petition does not include full day kindergarten, but hopefully that is a topic we can tackle at a later date. I will be collecting signatures up until Monday.

I attended a community engagement night. Parent turn out was low - about a dozen parents attended the event. Dr. Schuster was there, two principals, two board members, a few members from the department of learning, and a few teachers. I actually left feeling very good about the meeting. I had personal conversations with administrators and board members and I felt like my view point was heard. We were asked to rank in order of importance ideas that were obtained at the last community engagement meeting. We were also asked to share ideas and concerns of our own. I even received a personalized thank you today from Dr. Schuster. In the past I have been critical of Dr. Schuster and the administration, but I give this event an A+.

Anonymous said...

As a parent who has attended past community engagement sessions, I can say with absolute certainty that Dr. Schuster and her administrators produced nothing of substance as a results of the discussions that ensued. It's great Ms Gray's points were heard, but we have never seen points of view expressed by many result in positive change in the district. These sessions serve little purpose if they do not result in better programs for our children.
By the way, we also received a hand-written note and an offer to meet the superintendent, and we did. It resulted in more frustration. Talk is cheap.

Anonymous said...

I gave my feedback numerous times last year only to see it misinterpreted and used to justify their predetermined outcomes. I attended the community engagement meetings, attended by maybe 70 parents, completed the surveys and attended some meetings. All I saw was parents being ignored. I decided not to waste my time this year and money on a baby sitter to provide feedback that was supposed to address the future, year 2020, with no attention to the previous, current or next school year. I filled out the survey which had the same points although not sure how this helps us right now. Most districts ask parents for input about the current year with some vision questions, not a 100% visioning survey.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please explain why Spinschuster wasted taxpayer dollars to go golfing and to play with IPads in the French Quarter?

Anonymous said...

Because our Board of Education lets her, that's why! Did you read The Hinsdalean yesterday? Maybe Mrs. Meyer got the bottle thrown at her because she stood up to the wasteful spending. Since they aren't releasing the audio tape of the entire meeting, I guess we will never know.

Leslie Gray said...

I do agree that the proof is in the pudding - lets see if they do anything with the thoughts expressed at the meeting. I have been VERY critical of the administration (just listen to my public comments) but they were trying so hard at this meeting. The tone was different than in the past. I am a big enough girl to admit when they do something right. It was a good event. Now lets see what they do with the ideas generated.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we can have a report from Dr. S on what she learned in New Orleans and the feedback she received from other superintendents. She might had the chance to have startingly insightful conversations with her peer educators on the Learning for All program.If only she had a blog that would allow her to present that information easily for all to see. Perhaps she should discuss possibly starting one with the Board.

Your friend

Eddie Cajun.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope Schuster's closest allies on the board (Turek, Nelson, Yaeger, and Clarin) realize that while she was riding around in a golf cart, there were frustrated parents who attended sessions last Satruday. I was among them and left bewildered with no questions answered. It was obvious that homework and curriculum is all over the board. But we weren't allowed to ask specific questions, so everything was answered in generalities. Do we see a pattern here?

Anonymous said...

Delay and obfuscation are the goal of these administrators. Time is on the side of the administration because if they never say anything, or commit to anything, they can continue to suck down gargantuan salaries and benefits, work four days a week during the summer, and have the community pay their tuition to get another degree. They will never have to explain anything. They really don't mind getting a little parental heat, because you will be gone and they will be jabbering generalities at the next round of parents.

Everything is always to be addressed tomorrow, with another task force, or survey, or tweak, and then, before you know it, that parent who made a lot of noise and upset your quiet time at a board meeting is gone, thank goodness, and you can get back to your vacation home, the New Orleans conference, and hiring your Missouri cronies.

Eddie Cajun

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 1 of 2 Part Comment: I am the board member who was assaulted during the April executive session. Here are the relevant facts that you should all know:

1. In a fit of anger, a former board member threw a water bottle at me and hit me in my right arm. All other board members were in the room, along with Dr. Schuster and her assistant.
2. The bottle left a red mark on my arm. I took photos and the board has them.
3. When I showed everyone my arm during that meeting, rather than express concern, Dr. Schuster accused me of marking up my own arm.
4. Board Member Brendan Heneghan stated then that he saw the bottle hit me. I told the Hinsdalean reporter this, but she did not call him to confirm. I told the Doings reporter this and I know he did confirm this with Mr. Heneghan but he did not publish this fact in his story.
5. The evidence on whether the bottle hit me is not "inconclusive."
6. Dr. Schuster took NO action against the former board member who assaulted me. Rather, some time after the board member stepped off the board, Dr. Schuster appointed her back onto a Superintendent's finance committee that she had served on while the board member was on the board.
7. This fall, Dr. Schuster threatened a community member who spoke out during a board meeting with a Policy 8:030 violation. That community member confirmed this to the Hinsdalean Reporter who rather than write about the fact that Dr. Schuster did threaten him, simply quoted Dr. Schuster as admitting to having "mentioned" policy 8:030 to two parents.
8. The second parent has already made a public comment at the last board meeting in which she stated that Dr. Schuster had threatened her and her husband with Policy 8:030.
9. After Dr. Schuster threatened the first parent, he contacted me to ask me what I knew about policy 8:030. I looked it up and realized that it directly applied to the April incident I had been involved in.
10. I was disgusted that Dr. Schuster would be going around wielding 8:030 as a "hammer" against parents who did nothing wrong, while ignoring its application to my case.
11. So I filed an 8:030 complaint myself against the former board member, asking that the enforcement language of 8:030 be applied and that this person be removed from the finance committee for up to one year.

(To be continued...)

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 2 of Comment.....

12. The complaint was handled by Dr. Schuster as falling under the "process" outlined in the Uniform Grievance Policy 2:260.
13. That policy calls for a Complaint Manager to be assigned to investigate the facts and submit a report to the superintendent who must then issue a Decision Letter. D181 has 3 complaint managers: The Assistant Superintendents of Human Resources, Business and Learning. Rather than use one of them, Dr. Schuster hired a lawyer who charges $200 an hour.
14. Everyone should realize that this should have been a simple matter to investigate. There were witnesses and an audiotape of the meeting. No attorney was needed.
15. In fact, what is crazy is that when an outside investigator is warranted, as was the case in the Donoroo financial impropriety allegation matter, Dr. Schuster kept it "internal" and had Mr. Eccarius, the Assistant Sup. of Human Resources, conduct the investigation. If you ask me, that is quite interesting.
16. The "attorney" concluded there was a violation, but not that the bottle was "full" or had hit me. He said the evidence was inconclusive.
17. Dr. Schuster then made up a new "enforcement" mechanism by issuing a "written reprimand." Now she tells the reporters that this was based upon past practice. I ask, WHAT PAST PRACTICE?
18. I then filed a Request for Review of Dr. Schuster's decision with the Board. President Turek violated Board Policy 2:110 and issued a series of decisions without consulting his fellow board members. Then after I called him out on this through the "attorney investigator," Mr. Turek asked the Board to affirm his decisions to not allow me access to information and materials I was lawfully entitled to, in order to prepare my Reuqest for Review. The board majority (minus Heneghan and Garg) affirmed his decisions.
19. It took me filing a FOIA request to obtain the fact finding report. The administration spent more money on a lawyer trying to prevent me from getting the report, however, after extending the time to respond to my FOIA request, I did receive the report. Unfortunately, it was AFTER the Request for Review deadline that I was required to meet. So I filed the Request for Review without the fact finding report.
20. So far the Grievance Process has been treated like a kangaroo court.
21. Why is it important that the Board reverse Dr. Schuster's decision? a. Because she is trying to paint me out to be a liar about what happened. b. More importantly, by not implementing the enforcement language as written, Dr. Schuster is suggesting that a person gets to physically assault another person 3 times before the actual suspension/expulsion language is enforced. (Read this week's Hinsdalean for confirmation of how Dr. Schuster feels violations of this policy should be handled.) Under Dr. Schuster's rules, if "equally applied," all students who are accused in the future of physical altercations with students apparently should now have 2 "passes" before they can be suspended or expelled. Not sure the parents of students they beat up will be very happy with this.
22. Does anyone really accept this? Does anyone really believe that if a person threw a bottle, let alone have it hit, a board member or an administrator during a public board meeting that all they would get is a written reprimand? Who are we kidding?

Will the BOE do the right thing on Monday? I doubt it, with perhaps the exception of Brendan Heneghan and Mridu Garg. I hope I am proven wrong.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

One last thing. Board Member Nelson is quoted in the Hinsdalean as saying at the October 28 board meeting, at which he affirmed Mr. Turek's unauthorized decisions, that "It's a monumental waste of time and I think we need to put an end to it right now."

You can't imagine how disappointed I am in hearing my former fellow board members treat me with such disrespect and want to minimize this serious incident. It is unfortunate that any male on the D181 Board would find that any person, male or female, who is physically assaulted is "wasting time" in trying to right a wrong.

Anonymous said...

Two points to make:

1. Good luck Mrs. Mayer. I hope the board votes to reverse Dr. Schsuter. If not, they have lost my future votes, should they ever run for another elected office. And that includes Mr. Turek, who I have heard has made it publicly known that he wants to run for governor within the next 10 years. If that were to ever happen, we can all kiss FOIA and OMA laws goodbye!

2. Mrs. Mayer raises a good point. Why would Dr. Schuster and the Board spend money on a lawyer to investigate this "assault" but not the Donoroo allegations? With all due respect to Mrs. Mayer and the horrible situation she has had to deal with, allegations of financial impropriety are far more serious because they evidence a possible pattern of financial misconduct that warrants the closest and most objective type of scrutiny. Board Member Garg wanted an external investigation, but the majority of the board did not. Instead, Mr. Clarin has "stepped up to the plate" to review the "internal investigation." Looks like Donoroo is on the agenda for next Monday's board meeting. Will Mr. Clarin's report actually expose the truth as we on the staff know it, or will it just roll up the rug that the Administration has broomed everything under?

Anonymous said...

How DARE Dr. Schuster waste our children's money and resources so that she can pay for lawyers to get herself out of more of her deceptions! All she had to do was speak the truth and stand up against the bully that assaulted another person. As only a professional bully could, she chose not to stand up for justice, and opted to blame the victim. Is this the moral leader of our district? If she was one of the few people in this meeting, and sitting at the same table with Mrs. Meyer, how could she NOT have seen the assault? If she actually did not witness it, as she claims, why did she proceed to mock Mrs. Meyer, and accuse her of injuring herself? The authorities and the community should be alarmed about Dr. Schuster's sense of professionalism and integrity. If she is so confident that she is telling the truth, play the audio tape at the next board meeting. It was the community's tape recorder, and we were paying Dr. Schuster to attend the meeting, so we deserve to hear it! When did our board of education turn into a select group of thugs hiding the truth? As far as I am concerned, the attorney general needs to step in. Why haven't they?

They need to save our community from being forced to sue for information, at the same time, pay for the legal bills of the perpetrators! We will never stop asking for and expecting that our God given rights as Americans are protected, no matter how hard Turek and Nelson try.

Again, as parents and teachers have been writing on surveys and saying in public at board meetings, "We don't want to be part of this experiment anymore!" The ALP, and the ensuing Learning for All plan must stop, immediately, until you can provide ANY evidence, or indication, that it will work. Quickly replace it with what successful school in Butler53, Avoca, or even Western Springs are doing, now. Before you waste any more of our tax dollars on new curriculums and new staff who have no clearly designated job responsibilities. You have to stop blindly throwing our money away on an unstated plan to somehow, teach our 4th graders "vocational skills"! Focus in teaching them 4th grade math first! THEN, simply prepare them for our competitive high school. Dr. Schuster's and Dr. Schneider's theories are HINDERING our children, and pushing our schools into chaos. It must stop.