Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Daily Reason #13" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

#13:  Mr. Turek is a FOIA hypocrite. While he publicly calls for Freedom of Information Act reform to limit the public's access to public records (Reason #12), as we reported in our 1/30/14 Post it seems that since Spring 2013, Mr. Turek has filed multiple, broad requests dealing with the technology infrastructure in Districts 86, 90, 13, 4 (and possibly more). And he has done so on behalf of the technology business he works for:  Vision Solutions. Considering that he has been so critical of others who have filed FOIA requests in D181, in our opinion, he has no right to be a self-righteous hypocrite. 

This will be our last post of 2014.  We will be taking a hiatus until early January in order to be able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.  We wish all of our readers and the D181 Community a safe and joyful holiday. Peace out!

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Daily Reason #12" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#12:  Mr. Turek does not believe in open governance for “others” as mandated by Illinois law. As we discussed in our November 3, 2013 post (click to open post), one of the"absurdities" that took place during the October 28, 2013 board meeting was Turek pontificating on his plans to meet with Illinois Representative Patricia Bellock to ask for reform of the Freedom of Information Act in order to limit the public’s right to access public records. If you haven't listened to the Podcast of the meeting, we encourage you all to listen to the FOIA discussion that took place. It begins at 2:15:20 (or with 8:05 left) on the time counter. It is important to hear how ignorant Turek is about the realities of the Freedom of Information Act and the reforms that the Illinois legislators implemented in 2010 to EXPAND, not LIMIT, the public's right to access public records. Illinois legislators realized that there was a need for more "sunshine"laws (as FOIA laws are commonly called), not darkness! Mr. Turek said: "I, as a board member, and possibly as a individual am going to be contacting Representative Patti Bellock who has historically spearheaded FOIA reform to get us out of this business of FOIA reports that take up our staff 60+ hours and over $4,000." In our opinion, Turek is exactly the kind of public official that FOIA reform was intended to protect the public from, rather than see re-elected into office.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Daily Reason #11" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#11:  At the same time that Mr. Turek has limited the public's ability to participate in a meaningful way during board meetings (see #9 and #10) and shown that he waits till the last minute to prepare for meetings (see #6), he has also downplayed the importance of people's actual participation in meetings.  Case in point, at the same 10/17/13 board meeting referenced in #10, he made the following (in our opinion) inappropriate statement:  "I am confident that everybody had something better to do tonight than to come here but I do appreciate it." We couldn't believe the board president would actually make such a ridiculous statement.  Is it too much to believe that all of the community members, teachers, PTO presidents, Finance Committee members, administrators and other hand picked invitees actually wanted to be at the meeting and viewed it as a priority?  We do believe that everyone who participated in the round table discussions took their job seriously and if they showed up, they wanted to be there.  Perhaps the disrespect Mr. Turek showed them in his comment was reflective of his own lackadaisical attitude towards participating as a board member, an attitude that no board member should have if they really want to be reelected.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Good News, Bad News -- Could the Winds be Shifting on the D181 Board of Education?

As we listened to the 12/8/14 BOE live stream last night, we heard a D181 Board meeting that in our opinion was a perfect example of the good and bad that exists in the administration and on the board. It also provided a possible peek into how the board might function after next Spring's BOE election when, as we anticipate, there will hopefully be a shift on the board majority -- away from a rubber stamping board to one that will push for data and accountability, in particular in the area of curriculum and all things that will affect our children.

To begin with, this is the first meeting in a long time at which all seven board members were present, something that should be the norm, but as we all know, has not been.  So we begin by saying THANK YOU to our elected officials for all showing up to do their job.   There was only one opening public comment, but we want to commend the student who spoke on the importance of human rights and asked the administration to set up a celebration of human rights during the next school year.  We wholeheartedly support this suggestion and are proud of this student for speaking out.

Now a quick rehash of the worst and best moments of the meeting.  We won't give a blow by blow because we believe community members need to start listening to the meeting podcasts, if they are unable to attend in person, and keep current with the district issues. Click here to open the podcast.

1.  The annual audit report.

The key point made by the presenter was that there were "no material weaknesses" in the district's finances discovered during the audit and that the district's financial records are well maintained.  That is good.  What is bad is that there was not a single board member question asked about the audit following the presentation.  While we are confident that board members such as Heneghan, Garg and Clarin read the audit, we don't know if the same can be said of the rest of the board members.  This board meeting was their only opportunity to discuss the review conducted by the auditors, and it was quite disappointing to us that they chose to breeze right over this important presentation and conduct no meaningful discussion.

2.  Discussion on the Excess Money in the Debt Service Fund.

Mr. Frisch reported to the board that there are between $1.4 and $2.1 million in excess reserves that have accumulated in the bond and interest debt service fund.  (Click to open report.)  The board discussed the need to further research the cause and exact amount of the excess reserves and a possible abatement back to the taxpayers in the future, or using the excess to fund the purchase of working cash bonds that can be spent on the operational side of the budget.  The good:  As Mr. Turek pointed out, this issue was put on the agenda after it was flagged by Mr. Heneghan as a topic the full board should be discussing, not just the superintendent's finance committee.  The bad:  For the first time that we can recall, Mr. Turek attempted to, in our opinion, throw the past administration "under the bus" by suggesting that it was the past administration's fault that committees haven't provided information to the board and that the new administration would try and get a handle on it in the next few months. (Begin listening to Podcast at 0:30:15.)  While pointing the finger is a good thing, especially if it leads to positive change, we find it hypocritical of Mr. Turek to blame Dr. Schuster's administration.  After all, Mr. Turek has served as the board president for two years and been closely involved in setting board meeting agendas.  There has been nothing stopping him at any time from asking Dr. Schuster or Dr. White to have members from the various superintendent committees present reports to the BOE.  COME ON MARTY!  Time to assume some of the responsibility yourself.

3.  Learning For All Plan Review Cycle discussion:

This was the part of the meeting that most impressed us.  During Dr. White's report, the board finally conducted a meaningful discussion regarding the three month "cycle" Dr. White proposed reviewing the Learning for All Plan, starting with a Macro level history and review of the plan in January, an overview of key terms and components in February and a discussion on current and future work in March. Mr. Turek said this proposal would allow for  "socializing the plan" over three months.  Say what?

Thankfully, the majority of the board did not agree and in a nutshell,  shut down this ridiculous drawn out "cycle" that would have wasted everyone's time.  Instead, most of the board members agreed to follow Mr. Heneghan's lead in suggesting that what the administration should actually create is a written document that describes exactly what the plan is.  Mr. Henghan emphasized that three years into the plan, such a document still doesn't exist.  He suggested that the report describe all of the elements of the plan before the board discuss the future.  Mr. Clarin furthered this request by pushing not only for a qualitative report but one that will also include quantitative data that addressing whether the students  actually learn more under the LFA plan than they did before it was rolled out.  Ms. Garg agreed and suggested the report provide the analysis of data that should have been collected over the last three years.  Ms. Vorobiev wanted the report to include what is happening in the schools right now, suggesting that perhaps a request for quantitative data was too big of an ask to do now.  Mr. Nelson agreed that a report was warranted stating that it is time the administration gets past the "concept level" of the LFA plan and begins to delve deep into the execution level of the plan in order to decide what is and isn't working and determine for those aspects that aren't working if we really want to keep "slamming our head into the wall," versus trying something different. (Nelson: Podcast 45:40.)

We think Mr. Clarin hit the nail on the head when he  he said it is "kind of a shame on our part that that we are sitting here 3 years into the learning for all plan are still trying to develop conceptual ideas. I mean, we should have that information by now and nothing against [White] or [White's] administration but it just seems that we keep coming back to the same thing.  We want to understand what this is all about but we are into it for three years already.  We should understand what it's about by now." (Clarin:  Podcast 46:32.)

In the end, Dr. White agreed to create the "seminal" document and bring it back to the board for discussion.  Kudos to the Board for doing the right thing and not just agreeing to a cycle that to use Turek's phrase would just "socialize"the plan.  Thankfully, the rest of the board was more thoughtful and finally realized that a narrative report that does more than paint a bunch of bubbles is needed.  Now the only question is who in the administration will write the report?  Obviously it should not be Dr. White, who only joined the district six months ago.  In our opinion, this task should fall on Dr. Schneider's shoulders since he is in charge of the Department of Learning and was intimately involved in the development and roll out of the plan.  We wish we could have seen his expression -- if he was even at the meeting -- when Dr. White agreed to create the report.  Frankly, if Dr. Schneider was present at the meeting, we are shocked that he remained silent and had absolutely nothing to contribute to this critical curriculum discussion.

We hope the BOE is ultimately presented with a report that addresses all of the questions they asked last night, and that they and Dr. White use the report to not only improve the curriculum, but to also identify any administrators in the district who perhaps should be held accountable for the problems everyone has identified over the last three years, or who perhaps are so weak in their current performance that they should not have their contracts renewed next Spring.

Last night's discussion on the Learning for All Plan was a refreshing change from the past rubber stamping attitude by the board majority.  We don't know exactly what swung some of the board members to push for substance rather than continue to accept fluff and bubbles, but whatever the cause, we are grateful.  Perhaps they realized that with a board election next spring, a "new majority" may take over the board that will push for data analysis and meaningful reports.  Time will tell.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quick Comments and Questions on the Upcoming 12/8/14 BOE Meeting -- More Delay, Lack of Transparency and Obfuscation?

The Board Docs for Monday's BOE meeting have posted.  (12/8/14 BOE Meeting agenda.)  We are going to keep this post short and simple because we are busy preparing for the holidays.  (Don't worry, our "Daily Series" will continue early next week.)  There are 4 agenda items we want to comment on:

1.  Tax Levy Options.  For the first time, on the eve of the tax levy vote, Dr. White is presenting three tax levy options for the BOE's consideration prior to voting at the 12/8 board meeting (click to open Tax Levy report): A) CPI 1.5% increase, B) an additional $210,000 levy to cover the projected 2015-2016 deficit or C) levy for new construction. The report explains the different options and their projected impact on taxpayers. Dr. White then recommends that the board approve Option B.   While we commend Dr. White for finally realizing that the MINIMUM the board should be levying are funds sufficient to cover anticipated expenditures in the 2015-2016 budget, we still do not understand why he is not recommending Option C, which would better protect D181's programs in the event that Senate Bill 16 be approved and the district lose over $1.5 million dollars in state funding.  In addition, the BOE discussed the tax levy at the last two board meetings, but the only option presented for its formal consideration was Option A -- a CPI 1.5% increase, leaving the new construction money on the table, and not covering the projected deficit.  The last 2 meeting discussions were intended to fully flesh out the tax levy options and provide board members with sufficient time prior to the 12/8 meeting to thoughtfully consider whether they would approve the administration's recommendation.  Why did Dr. White wait until the last week leading up to the tax levy vote to formally present multiple options?  Did he finally realize that he has been manipulated by anti-tax forces at work in our community?  Did he finally realize after hearing from community members, that tax payers are willing to sufficiently fund the budget to avoid future program cuts?  We hope that at a MINIMUM, the BOE approves Option B on Monday night, and not allow anti-tax forces and anti-tax board members to sway a board majority to vote on an under-levy option that will ultimately hurt our students.  And next year, we hope that Dr. White presents multiple options and the administrations recommendation in a timely manner.

2.  Dr. White's Report (click to open Report) discusses the upcoming Madison Principal search and a timeline for a "Learning For All Plan" Review to be conducted over 3 upcoming board meetings.

A)  Madison Principal Search:  We commend Dr. White's transparency in presenting the timeline and process for hiring Mrs. McMahon's replacement to the entire community.  Mrs. McMahon is an outstanding principal and her retirement will leave a void in our district that cannot easily be filled.  We urge Dr. White to guarantee to the community that a principal of Mrs. McMahon's caliber of excellence will not be replaced with a "starter" principal, who has never been a principal before. We also urge Dr. White to look beyond Troy 30C's employee pool to fill this opening.  While we take no issue with the administrators from Dr. White's former district that he has brought to D181, it will raise questions and send the wrong message to our community about the fairness and equal opportunities afforded all candidates if the next important administrative hire is also plucked from Troy 30C.

B)  Learning For All Plan Review:  The review process spelled out in Dr. White's report is flawed.  Dr. White proposes spending 2 meetings in January and February discussing the "macro level history and review of the LFA plan development" and "an overview of key terms and components" before finally discussing "current and future work" in March.  The board does not need yet another multi-bubble power point by Kurt Schneider and his department discussing for the millionth time the "history" of how we got to the point where the LFA plan was developed.  We -- and more importantly the BOE members -- can all read the numerous power points the administration has presented in the past.  It is quite sad, actually, that nearly 3 years after the LFA was "developed" there is still no BINDER or FULL REPORT created by Schneider and company that ANYONE in the community can review to understand the "history" or "key terms and components."  But more than sad, in our opinion, it proves that the administration is stalling for more time as its curriculum administrators try to understand what they have in fact done to our district and how they have wreaked curriculum havoc on our students and teachers.  Enough delay and obfuscation!  It is time for them to cut to the chase, do an analysis of what has worked and what has not worked in the LFA plan, present DATA to the BOE so it can make DATA DRIVEN decisions on whether or not the LFA plan should be scrapped in its entirety or modified.  For the sake of D181's students, we hope that the BOE is not "snowed" by yet another attempt to white-wash the facts and further delay a real discussion by the board on the "future" of LFA.

3.  HCHTA Report.  Gary Frisch, the Assistant Superintendent of Business will be presenting a report to the BOE on the net financial impact of the HCHTA contract that the BOE approved in May 2014.  (click to open Agenda link to the report.)  The report states that "a community member requested the cost of the new teacher contract at a recent Board meeting."  We recall that almost immediately after the contract was approved, community member Jerry Mejdrich made this request at the June 9 meeting.  (Click to open 6/9/14 Board Summary prepared by D181 Administration.)  In our opinion, a request SIX months ago is not "recent." We have only one question:  Why did it take the administration SIX months to provide this information?  The community has a right to expect timely responses to financial questions asked by either community. After all, we, the taxpayers provide the majority of the revenue to the district.  Our community can ill afford to have the administration or board lack transparency in financial matters.  Let's hope this doesn't happen again on Dr. White's watch.

Friday, December 5, 2014

D181 BOE President Turek: Flip Flopper, Flubber, and Facilitator of Farcical Tax Levy Fodder

As we wait for Board Docs for the next BOE meeting to post early Saturday morning, in lieu of a "Daily Series" post on Marty Turek, we are posting this instead:

Readers, if there were ever a time to pay attention to the actions of our elected school board members, this is it. Next Monday, December 8, 7pm at Elm School, a vote on the tax levy will take place. Our BOE will decide if they want to vote to the max or not, which has significant consequences given the cloud of uncertainty with employee pensions possibly being shifted to school districts. There has been limited discussion from the BOE and Dr. White, but as of this writing, we don't know the direction the BOE appears to be headed. 

Next Monday, we do know, however, that Marty Turek will probably be back after a long hiatus from his role as a strict meeting facilitator. Yes, there is a stark difference in his ability to squelch any form of discussion compared to the candid debate that was evident at the last meeting with Secretary Garg at the helm (Click to open 11/24/14 BOE meeting podcast). 
If we were placing bets, we would double down on the following: 

1. Expect to hear Turek grovel toward the Clarendon HIlls Anti-Tax Group, now that he has been endorsed by the Caucus. Turek will sputter, spin, and stammer while he tries supporting what they want to hear, which is a lower tax levy % than the maximum allowed under the tax cap law, leaving over $500,000 in taxes uncollected in order to keep property taxes lower by not capturing new construction taxes. 

2. Sir Corcoran or one of the D86 Anti Tax Majority BOE may show up with a statement in hand about keeping the levy lower. Corcoran graced the audience with his presence (in his own mind) one year ago, and the pressure was clearly on Turek to fall in line. But, gasp! After one or more of the D181 BOE members suggested going for the maximum levy, Marty was flustered, flabbergasted and subsequently flip flopped (click to open 12/9/13 BOE meeting podcast). 

3. Superintendent White may once again display his eagerness and willingness to go along with whichever way the levy (among other topics) winds are blowing, despite the fact that there isn't a superintendent within a tri-county radius who would ever consider not maxing the levy out to squeeze every last wheat penny known in existence from tax bills to supplement the district budget. Memo to White: You should step up and state that the monies that would be captured from new construction will be placed in a rainy day pension fund. This means travel requests from Kurt Schneider or his cadre of consultants should not be compensated using funds from a higher tax levy, among other things.    

Ah, yes. The tax levy vote is upon our elected board. 

Will we hear rational, measured discussion? The next election is April 7, 2015.  

Let the fodder begin.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Daily Reason #10" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#10: In our opinion, Turek has made no effort to accommodate community members' requests to participate meaningfully in community engagement opportunities; in the process he has violated board policy by failing to ask his fellow board members what their positions are before he announces "board" decisions. One example was at the 10/17/13 board meeting which was run as a round table "Visioning Workshop." Participation during the "workshop" was by administrative invitation only, although public comments were allowed at the beginning of the meeting. (See Post on the 10/17/13 board meeting.) During public comment, one parent asked the board to allow community members who were in attendance to join a workshop table.  Another community and former school board member, Ann Mueller, asked to be allowed to join a round table as a member of the Facilities Committee, pointing out that there would be room at one of the tables, since Board Member Michael Nelson, who was also on the Facilities Committee, was absent again.  At the conclusion of all comments, without seeking input from any of the other board members, Turek simply denied the requests, saying it would not be possible to add additional chairs to the round tables. His rationale for denying the request was proven false by community members who stayed at the meeting and reported that there were empty seats at some of the tables. Turek's failure to accommodate any of the non-invitees and allow them to fill empty seats at the workshop tables, along with his complete lack of engagement with his fellow board members to seek their opinion on the public's requests, show that Turek has assumed powers and authority not allowed by Board Policy 2:110. That policy states that while the president "presides" over the meetings, "[t]he President is permitted to participate in all Board meetings in a manner equal to all other Board members" and does not afford him the right to make individual decisions. The community deserves a board of SEVEN EQUAL members, all with the same decision making authority, not a board member that behaves as if he has more authority than the rest.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tonight the Hinsdale Caucus is Set to Endorse Turek. We are Left Shaking Our Heads in Dismay!

Rather than posting another Daily Reason today on why Marty Turek should not be reelected to the D181 BOE next spring, we are posting a comment we have just received from a community member.  We believe it is timely since tonight all of the Hinsdale Caucus delegates will officially vote to endorse Turek as a candidate for the D181 school board. We are still shell shocked by the ignorance and stupidity (in our humble opinions) shown by the D181 Caucus Committee in selecting Turek as one of the four candidates to endorse. We have heard of at least two other individuals who applied to the caucus, both who have regularly attended board meetings, are knowledgeable on the issues and have made public comments before the BOE that are thoughtful and well researched. These are the types of individuals the Caucus should be endorsing tonight, not Turek. Each delegate has to live with his/her conscience. Will anyone of them do the right thing and refuse to vote to endorse Turek? Each delegate who votes YES should do so ONLY IF they truly believe he has the appropriate character traits and skill set necessary to serve another four years on the board. Sadly, we do not believe he does.

"Anonymous said...
I agree that Mr. Turek has been anything but the community representative on the school board. Mr. Turek has during his first term been a successful rubber stamper and allowed scandals such as Donoroo, hinsdale middle school closure (moldarama)and the infamous bottle throwing incident to be successfully swept under the rug with a complete lack of accountability or any kind of fiscal responsibility. He was the only board member to have voted against a split schedule that allowed our students to go back to school at CHMS. He created drama over various issues including FOIA law... being the most opaque board president. If the nominating committee did not have enough members, it should have been dissolved instead of obviously continuing with a flawed process. Yes the few community members on the committee tried their best but the endorsements affect all 9 schools and all school areas should have been represented. I can't imagine there were no other suitable candidates besides Turek that interviewed that also cared about our schools and children. "

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Daily Reason #9" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#9:  Mr. Turek is rude to community members who attempt to participate at board meetings as committee members or who wish to make public comments.  He conveniently "forgets" that board meeting procedure allows for public comment at the end of each board meeting. One example was during the 8/26/13 Board Meeting at which the Board attempted to set the performance goals it wanted the administration to track and measure.  As we previously reported, a committee had been formed to develop the goals and included a community member, Matt Bousquette, who is highly respected in our community and currently serves as the D181 Foundation President.  Despite his service on the committee, and Member Heneghan's and Garg's requests that he be allowed to address the full board regarding the administration's recommended goals, which Mr. Bousquette believed were inconsistent with those developed by the committee. The administration and Turek (who as president runs the meetings), denied him permission to address the full board during the goals discussion. Not only did Turek refuse to acknowledge Mr. Bousquette and give him a forum to speak, at the end of the meeting, Turek attempted to adjourn the meeting without allowing public comment.  Fortunately, this did not happen and Mr. Bousquette finally had an opportunity to express his concerns, albeit, not in a timely manner that allowed the board to his issues during their goal's discussion. Mr. Bouquette pointed out that refusing to allow him to participate during the discussion,  and question the administration's recommendations that did not match those developed by the committee, proved that the committee a "sham." Appointing a parent to a committee, only to prevent his full participation and then to treat him with disrespect at the public meeting at which the committee's work is discussed, is the polar opposite of involvement, does not create an environment of trust and is precisely what Mr. Bousquette called it -- a "sham." The community deserves to have board members who respect all community members, especially those who provide a public service by participating on  committees, take  time to attend board meetings and desire to make public comments.  In our opinion, Turek's action show his disdain for community member input and establish yet another reason why he should not be reelected.
Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Daily Reason #8" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#8: Mr. Turek has been absent from critical board meetings.  For example, he missed the November 24, 2014 Board Meeting at which the board discussed Dr. White's 2013-2014 Achievement and Goals Review Presentation. As we explained in our 11/25 post, last year the board approved 3 performance goals that it directed the administration to track and assess at the start of this school year. At the 11/24 board meeting, the administration finally presented the board with its formal report on the indicators tracked and measured to determine if the 3 goals were met.  In addition, the administration presented this year's individual School Improvement Plans.  As the Board president, Turek works directly with Dr. White to set the meeting agendas.  Turek scheduled these two important matters on a date that created a conflict for principals and parents who might want to attend, but could not due to parent teacher conferences or Thanksgiving travel plans.  Even worse, in our opinion by failing to attend and particpate in the meeting, Turek showed a complete disregard to his board member duties spelled out in Board Policy 2:020 and in particular Subsection 10 that requires a board member to "[e]valuat[e] the educational program and approv[e] School Improvement and District Improvement Plans. Presenting the District report card and School report card(s) to parents/guardians and the community; these documents report District, School and student performance." Why was Turek absent? Was he on vacation? Was he attending evening parent teacher conferences, rather than schedule his for the next day?  Turek could have directed Dr. White to schedule these agenda items for another date much earlier in the school year, rather than the last meeting in November during a week that guaranteed poor attendance by the community and apparently by him. The board needs members and a president who will comply with the board policies and schedule agenda items in a manner that will promote transparency and community, staff and board member participation.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24 Board Meeting is an Example of How the D181 BOE Can Actually Function

This morning we received the following comment summarizing last night's board meeting (11/24/14).  The community member suggested we post it as a free standing post, after thanking us for all of our hard work in trying to bring transparency back to D181. We too listened to last night's meeting and agree with everything the author has written, so we are posting it as a free standing post. We will add a few additional comments at the end of the post. 

We are thankful for all of our readers' involvement in submitting comments and posts. It has made our job a little easier, especially this week. This will be our last post for this week.  We will be taking a brief hiatus in order that we can enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. We will resume next week with "Daily Reason #8  Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE."

Anonymous Said: 

"Ms. Garg ran the BOE meeting last night. She did a much better job than Turek. For the first time, actual issues were discussed in a meaningful manner and no one was rudely cut off. There was a real productive discussion. Clearly, Ms. Garg should be the next BOE president. Why does Turek feel the need to stunt real discussion and blindly pat the administration on the back? Ms. Garg showed last night that you can have meaningful conversation that is respectful and still run an efficient meeting.

Dr. White: I appreciate you posting the science ISAT scores on board docs. I enjoyed the format of the science ISAT scores and urge you to present data in that format going forward. It was easy to understand and to digest.

A few other thoughts:

1. The new way the administration is reporting MAP growth - using standard deviation - is disingenuous at best and it must stop. Even with the new 75% standard, it reports more kids meeting growth than the old 55% percent standard with no standard deviation.

2. We need an assessment director with a PHD in statistics who can crunch the numbers and also provide meaningful analysis on trends, areas of growth and problem areas. Data also needs to be presented in a short easy to digest format.

3. The compensation committee has yet to meet. They need to start their work quickly. Teacher salaries are growing faster than CPI. We will have a levy problem each year if we do not get a handle on this - levying to CPI will always produce a budget shortfall because teacher salaries are growing faster than CPI. We need to get a handle on this. We also need to be transparent about the actual cost of teacher salaries.

4. In times of tight budgets, all administrators need to be providing maximum value. Schneider and Benaitis added little value last night and White prepared the entire presentation himself. The one time Benaitis was called on to speak, she misspoke and later had to correct herself.

5. If a facilitator is brought on to reevaluate learning for all - and I think one should be - that facilitator must be a neutral third party with absolutely no ties to inclusion and social justice. I also think we should look to what Western Springs is doing. They far surpassed us in the recent rankings, and they have a much smaller operating budget.

6. The school improvement plans were discussed but no principals were present due to conferences. Next year there should not be a boe meeting during Thanksgiving break and these plans should be presented earlier in the year. Although the plans had much more substance than in years past, I was troubled by the lack of consistency in the district. For example, Madison is concentrating on flexible groupings, whereas Monroe is focusing on the workshop model. We are one district and we need to get this under control.

7. Science continues to decline, which is troubling because the Science ISAT questions did not change for common core. Yet Prospect had double the amount of meets and exceeds than the other schools. We need to determine why and perform that type of analysis when looking at the data."

Additional Comments from the Bloggers:

We want to piggy back onto # 1. With regard to the MAP testing, Ms. Garg suggested that rather than eliminate MAP testing (which seems to be under consideration), it would be best to discontinue the Winter MAP tests.  We agree.  Our students are suffering from test "overload," especially now that the new PARCC assessment will be given multiple times each year.  The MAP tests are good indicators of individual student's performance and skill levels and we do not believe the test should be eliminated in its entirety.

With regard to #6 above, it is a shame that no principals were in attendance to present their individual school's Improvement Plans or answer board member questions.  Last year (as was pointed out by a community member during closing comment), they were present and the improvement plans were presented in early November.  We believe that the building principals should have their improvement plans ready when school starts and the plans should be presented to the board at the first meeting in September.  After all, the plans cover the new school year, and it is troubling that they are not presented until almost 1/2 of the school year has elapsed.  Principals work during the summer months, as do the Central Office Administrators. It seems only logical that this is the type of work that should be started and completed during the summer when classes are not in session.

Last year, the BOE approved 3 performance goals that it directed the administration to track and assess at the start of this school year.  In addition to a report on the school Improvement plans, last night's meeting was the meeting at which the administration was scheduled to present the board with its formal report on the indicators tracked and measured to determine if the 3 goals were met. (2013-2014 Achievement and Goals Review Presentation.)  It is a shame that a meeting of this importance was scheduled during a week that was guaranteed to have minimal attendance, since school was out of session for all students, many families were traveling and for those that stayed in town,  the evening parent teacher conferences overlapped with the meeting. Worse yet, not all board members were in attendance.  We will say more about that next week in our "Daily Reason #8 Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE."

Better agenda planning is needed in order to ensure full participation by all board members and to encourage parents, community members, principals and teachers to attend a meeting of such importance.

Finally, we too commend the professional, efficient and productive way Ms. Garg ran the meeting in Turek's absence. Perhaps we should all be thankful that he missed the meeting. It was an example of what the BOE will be like if he is not reelected.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Daily Reason #7" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#7: Mr. Turek has violated the board agreement that all board members are to have the same information from the Superintendent.  One example we discussed in an earlier post was that during the 8/26/13 board meeting, Turek acknowledged that he had known ahead of time that during the summer, 7 administrators had attended an all expense paid trip to a Social Justice Institute in Milwaukee at which Dr. Schneider was a presenter, and which at least one board member asserted could have been given internally, saving the district and D181 taxpayers thousands of dollars. (See: Meeting minutes.)  In spite of the board agreement that the seven board members agreed to follow, Turek did not share the information he received from Dr. Schuster.  By not correcting Dr. Schuster's violation of not providing all board members the same information, Turek also violated the agreement and showed a lack of respect towards his fellow board members.  
Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Daily Reason #6" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#6: As we reported in an earlier post, we are concerned that Mr. Turek does not adequately prepare for meetings or spend the necessary time reviewing and reflecting on board materials in order to be able to participate in a meaningful way. During the 9/9/13 meeting, Turek, referring to his review of the annual ISAT data presentation included in the Board docs for that meeting, stated “I hope my boss isn’t listening because I read it today at work.”   His “admission” was greeted with laughter by some of his fellow board members and administrators.  Board members receive their meeting materials via Board Docs at least the weekend before a Monday meeting so they have time to review and prepare. We know from past board discussions that members are urged to submit questions they have to the superintendent by Monday morning.  How reflective can Turek be, especially in his role as the board president, when he waits until the day of a meeting to review board materials, and then does so while he is supposed to be working? The community should elect members who are willing to adequately prepare for meetings, not do so at the last minute and not shirk their other responsibilities in the process.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Daily Reason #5" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#5:  In our opinion, Mr. Turek showed a lack of fiduciary duty and disregard of D181 taxpayers, when he voted (on 5/29/14) to approve multi-year contracts for 6 administrators that had effective dates of 5/30/14 (during the 2013-2014 school year). See 6/4/14 Post. As we explained in that post, the beginning date of the multi-year contracts was May 30, 2014, just one day after they were approved and overlapped with those administrators' 2013-2014 contracts approved on 3/18/13. Benaitis, for example, was given a multi-year contract that had a term of 3 years and 1 month, with an end date of 6/30/17. Click to open 5/29/14 agenda item with links to each contract. In our opinion, by approving multi-year contracts that overlapped with existing contracts, Mr. Turek (and the BOE majority) circumvented the intent of the Illinois Pension Reform Act for existing staff, negatively Impacting D181 taxpayers.  How? 
Under the Illinois pension reform act, pensionable salary is capped at $110,000 OR the highest salary specified at the end of an administrator's contract in effect on May 31, 2014. By starting the new multi-year contracts  prior to 5/31, the administrators' pensionable salary will be based on the highest salary specified in the last year of each of their contracts. By entering into multi-year contracts with a start date of 5/30/14, rather than 7/1/14, the administrators avoided having their pensionable salaries be their lower 2013-2014 salaries, as would otherwise have been required under the pension reform law. Instead, their pensions will be based upon their highest salary contracted during the term of the contract. This will directly impact D181 and all Illinois taxpayers whose taxpayer dollars fund the pensions. This will cost everyone more money to fund the existing administrators' pensions in direct contravention of the intent of Illinois legislators whose intent was to "stop the bleeding" by capping pensionable salaries. Is this really what our taxpayers want?

Blizzard Arrives Early With Superintendent White's Report for BOE Meeting on Monday, 11/24 -- Elm School, 7 p.m.

We have reviewed Dr. White's presentation and Kurt Schneider's slides listed on the Board Agenda (Link 1 Link 2). Brace yourselves: you will need your snow boots and shovel to dig through the convoluted number crunching within these documents. Parents, once you read through this information you might be asking the following questions:

1. Why is a School Improvement Plan (Link 2) (Apparently developed by Schneider) being presented late in November, just before the Thanksgiving Break when students have a week off, many parents are traveling and not engaged? Shouldn't this plan have (with, in our opinion, questionable numbers and fudge factors) been presented at the START of the school year? Instead of preparing for a TASH conference or his annual summer trek to Wisconsin to promote his inclusive philosophy, he should have been working on this plan and had it ready to go in early August. Heckuva job, Dr. Schneider.

2. We were dizzy and disoriented after reading through the 70 plus slides (Link 1) in Dr. White's student performance presentation. A simple question: where is the actual analysis and what does it mean for our students? We continue to be unimpressed with student performance and now we have MULTIPLE POINTS of DATA to consider. What are you doing, Dr. White? 

3. Conveniently buried at the end of the side, er, slideshow, there is a question as to whether MAP is the best test to continue using. (See Slide 71 of Link 1.) Once again, we see the seeds of doubt being planted. Parents, this is the one test our children take that actually shows growth and teaching effectiveness. Why does the White-Schneider tag team want to get rid of it? Too much evidence that their Learning for All mandate is failing our students and not creating the growth we should be seeing?

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Daily Reason #4" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#4: During his tenure on the BOE,  Mr. Turek approved Dawn Benaitis' promotion from principal of Monroe School to Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction in the Department of Learning.  He also approved her raises. As we previously reported, in less than three years (from 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 school year), Benaitis' base salary increased 18.8% from $109,660 to $130,250. Further, despite community concerns regarding Ms. Benaitis, on May 29, 2014, Turek voted to approve a multi-year contract for her. (Sources: 3/18/13 Consent Agenda5/6/13 Consent Agenda3/24/14 Personnel consent agendaBenaitis Multi-year contract)  In our 6/4/14 Post we raised serious concerns about the multi-year contracts, including Benaitis', that Turek voted to approve on 5/29/14.  More on that tomorrow......Until then, in our opinion, Mr. Turek's votes to approve outrageous raises and promotions for Benaitis are further examples of poor leadership decisions that establish Turek's inability to act in the best interests of D181's students. 

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Daily Reason #3" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#3: Mr. Turek failed to oppose Dr. White's promotion of Kurt Schneider into the position of SOLE Assistant Superintendent of Learning, on July 8, 2014 (or at any meeting since then). (Link to 7/8/14 Superintendent's report.)  Schneider is now responsible for both the curriculum and special education departments. In our opinion, D181's curriculum chaos is the direct result of the lack of true leadership in the Department of Learning and Mr. Turek's support of poor leadership decisions evidences his inability to act in the best interests of D181's students.  We would be remiss in failing to point out that one reason Mr. Turek failed to publicly oppose Dr. White's critical organizational change in the Learning Department was because he did not even attend the 7/8/14 board meeting, the only board meeting scheduled last July.  

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

The Height of Hypocrisy: Superintendent White Ditches Former Advocacy for Gifted/Advanced Learning for Full-Inclusion-One-Size-Fits-All-Schneider-Turek Pipe Dream

As we continue our quest for accountability and transparency, we thought we would conduct a bit of research on ISAT, MAP and Gifted (Oh, my, we actually said gifted) presentations that have been conducted in Dr. White's former district, Troy 30C in Plainfield. Our readers will be interested in learning that while in Troy 30C, Dr. White provided that BOE  extensive assessment reports. In fact, on the website he maintained, he stated:

"I provided the Board of Education two comprehensive achievement reports at the October 16, 2013 Board of Education meeting.  These reports provide information about how our students have achieved on the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) and Illinois Standards Assessment Tests (ISATs) which were administered during the 2012-2013 school year.  These comprehensive reports can be viewed by clicking on the following links:"

This is significant because at the 11/7/14 Board meeting, he suggested that it was too time consuming for the D181 Department of Learning administrators to generate such performance data analysis reports. (See 11/13/14 Blog Post.)  At that same meeting, Dr. White also went on record as stating that he believes he should spend part of his time generating student assessment data analysis reports, along with running and managing our district of 4,000+ students, many teachers and staff. Since D181 does not have an administrator who is experienced in assessment, it will be up to Dr. White to develop reports on student progress. After all, Kurt Schneider, Assistant Superintendent of Everything Under the Sun, is far too busy with scheduling professional development for our teachers related to differentiation (for the bazillionth time), and promoting his pipe dream of one-size-fits-all-fully-inclusive-happy-happy-joy-joy-joyful-learning classrooms with the expense of his cadre of consultants. Ah, yes; such efforts take tremendous time and district resources in the name of taxpayer dollars. But, alas, such is a topic for another post. 
Keep in mind that one of the first reports Don White handed over to the BOE was the whopping 300 plus Power Point slideshow that contained convoluted messaging regarding MAP scores and student growth. (
Embedded within the report is the claim that MAP is just one data point, which is a meme White and Kurt Schneider constantly talk up to the board and to parents. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.   So the fact that only a few grades showed minimal growth and most showed stagnant or negative is nothing to be alarmed about? Apparently not within this administration. More importantly, White has taken it upon himself to allow a fudge factor of the Standard Error of Measurement when interpreting the MAP results ($file/D181_MAP_Standard_Error_%26_Standard_Deviation-2_10_6_14.pdf) which is NOT a common practice. Student growth should be reported for what it is, as is the case in the Troy report (2012-2013 NWEA MAP Assessment Report ). Seems like White is following in Schuster's footsteps of selective data interpretation. 
Along with the Troy MAP report, here is a link to a Troy 30C 5/23/14 Gifted report titled: Comprehensive Plans for Accelerated Programs of Education. (5/23/14 Troy 30C Report) You may be dazzled by the slogans and jargon used within the report. Below are a few key quotes (we have highlighted in red the ones we found most powerful):

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Daily Reason #2" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#2:  As the board president for the last 2 years, Mr. Turek's job has been to preside over the board meetings, however, his actual authority during said meetings is no greater than the other six board members.  (Board Policy 2:110.) Rather than facilitate discussions during the meetings, listen to and take his fellow board members' opinions on issues into consideration, he has attacked them and tried to shut them down. Case in point, suggesting during the 12/9/13 board meeting that well respected Board Member Brendan Heneghan was going down a "rat hole" when he suggested there should be a curriculum committee similar to the finance committee. Less than one year later, a curriculum committee called the Learning Committee has been formed.  We guess Mr. Turek got it wrong when he called Mr. Heneghan out.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Daily reason #1:  Four years ago the Hinsdale Caucus got it right when they did not endorse Mr. Turek.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A New Series: "Daily Reason" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

Today the Hinsdale D181 Caucus Committee released the names of the four BOE candidates it will present for endorsement on December 3 to all of the Hinsdale Caucus delegates (Source:  11/18/14 Hinsdale Doings article). We were utterly disgusted that they have chosen to endorse current BOE member and president Marty Turek.  We cannot fathom how in light of Mr. Turek's behavior on the school board  in the last 3 1/2 years, that any group of informed citizens could have possibly concluded that he deserves a second term and will be a better candidate than any other applicant. Our conclusion is that the D181 Caucus Committee was not well informed and did not perform it's due diligence on Mr. Turek prior to selecting him.

So tonight, we are launching a new series intended to educate and inform our readers, old and hopefully new, of our "Daily Reason" why  Mr. Turek should NOT be reelected.*  Feel free to send us any reasons you would like to see added to the list.

And so we begin....

Daily reason #1:  Four years ago the Hinsdale Caucus got it right when they did not endorse Mr. Turek.  

* The Hinsdale D181 Caucus Committee also selected 3 additional candidates:  Jennifer Burns, Leslie Gray and Richard Giltner.  It would be premature for us to opine on these three caucus endorsed individuals without first conducting our own due diligence on their qualifications.  In addition, additional candidates may choose to run for election.  We certainly hope there will be at least one more candidate, so that Mr. Turek will not just waltz back into his board seat without a real contest. Our community deserves to listen to at least one public debate with all of the candidates during which they will have to present their positions on critical issues facing the district.  Once all the candidates have emerged, and we have completed our due diligence, no doubt we will endorse one or more of them prior to the election.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wick's Words on D86 Proposed Tax Levy and Our "D181 Reflections"

Today we received the following comment from Mr. Wick regarding the proposed High School District Tax Levy that will be discussed tonight at the D86 BOE meeting. With the threat of Senate Bill 16 looming, and the possible loss of millions of dollars in state funding, the upcoming tax levy votes at both District 181 and the high school district our schools feed into, D86, are critical to their long term financial well-being. Our communities cannot ignore the possible long term, negative impact on our districts' budgets should Senate Bill 16 pass AND should either district under-levy the full amount the Tax Cap Law allows districts to assess without going to referendum. We appreciate Mr. Wick's comment and urge you all to read it, after which we have added our "D181 Reflections."

Mr. Wick's Comment:
"I don't know how many folks that follow this blog also care about the operation of our associated high school, D86, but anyone that understands what really precipitated the ugliness earlier this fall should be aware there are still extremists running that BOE.

There is a crucial BOE meeting TONIGHT, Monday November 17, 7:00PM in the Cafeteria of Hinsdale Central High School, 5500 S Grant Street.
The levy for the upcoming year will be voted on.
The district 86 new CFO has prepared a detailed yet understandable overview of the entire tax picture.
In that presentation it is abundantly clear using projection based on the negotiated contract, a very modest increase of 1.5% in 'purchased services' and ZERO growth in either supplies or capital expenses the MINIMUM levy should be increased by 1.86% 
Levy Info D86 |Bill Eagan CFO See page 17. 

The success of the development of commercial property near the intersection of Rt 83 and Plainfield Rd (which was done with a TIF district, also covered in the CFO's presentation ) means that residential property tax be will safely under the the Property Tax Cap if the D86 BOE decides to levy the full amount as recommended by their CFO -- D86 CFO Recommends Maximum Levy| Chicago Tribune November 7 2014

It is troubling (and undoubtedly the work of the Finance Cmt. headed by a known anti-tax activist on the BOE that touts his MBA) that the CFO's levy presentation includes scenarios that would leave the district severely underfunded. Further the potential impact of such insufficient levies on even home owners' with a Fair Market Value of $1M (which is rather uncommon in the district, but is in fact less than the value of aforementioned anti-tax extremist's home) would be about $40.00 per year , or the cost of two fewer carry-out coffee beverages per month...

Save our Schools -- Give radicals on the BOE a Gift Card! 

I have been involved in watching local governmental bodies try to make decisions about setting a fair levy for decades and this is one the clearest presentations I have ever come across.

The illustrations of how changes in assessment and the impact of TIF districts can result in temporarily elevated burden for individual home owners followed by potential reclamation of revenue is clearly shown.

I highly recommend folks review this info.


Our D181 Reflections:

Now that you have read Mr. Wick's comment, we wanted to add our D181 reflections.  We agree that the D86 CFO prepared an outstanding presentation on the tax levy proposals and explained the terminology, formulas used and sources of property tax dollars (new vs. existing construction).  After reviewing this proposal and comparing it to the one presented last week  at the November 10th D181 board meeting, (D181 Tax Levy Proposal), it should be clear to all our readers that if the D181 approves its proposed tax levy, it will be leaving $538,678 in new construction money on the table.  Slide 11 of the D86 presentation explains the importance of new construction money and why it was included in the Tax Cap formula.  

So we ask Dr. White and his administration to answer the following questions before the D181 Board votes to approve the tax levy at the December 8, 2014 Board Meeting:

1.  Why didn't the administration explain clearly to the D181 BOE at the 11/10/14 board meeting that the proposed levy will leave $538,678 in new construction money on the table?

2.  Why didn't the administration provide more than one scenario for the D181 BOE's consideration, including one in which the new construction money would be levied to the maximum amount allowed?

3.  Why didn't the administration provide long term projections for the D181 BOE's consideration that showed the impact on the budget over the next four years should the board under-levy AND should Senate Bill 16 be approved, stripping D181 of $1.65 million dollars in state funding? The combination of both actions would strip the district budget of nearly $2.2 million each year going forward!

4. Why didn't Board President Turek raise these questions and ask the administration to answer them? Doesn't he understand the tax cap law? Doesn't he understand the long term effect of under-levying?  Doesn't he understand the long term  negative impact on D181 should Senate Bill 16 be approved? Or is Mr. Turek simply trying to get in the good graces of the Citizens for Clarendon Hills PAC that supported Mr. Corcoran, Mr. Cassini and Ms. Manley in the last D86 election -- a group that is anti-tax and has pushed for and supported the D86 board majority's efforts to under-levy? Remember, last year, the D86 BOE approved a flat -- zero percent increase-- levy.  Last year, Mr. Corcoran, a member of the Citizens for Clarendon Hills PAC, and a second member of that group, both attended the December 9, 2013 BOE meeting at which the BOE approved this year's tax levy.  Both gentlemen advocated for the D181 BOE to approve a flat levy.  (Source: D181 12/9/13 Podcast -- comments begin at 15:22.) The D181 BOE failed to pass a flat levy last year.  Is Mr. Turek now supporting an under-levy by D181 for next year in order to ensure the Citizens for Clarendon Hills PAC's support and votes should he decide to run for re-election next Spring?   

There is still one more D181 board meeting scheduled before the 12/8 meeting at which the board will vote on the tax levy.  The next meeting will be held on Monday, November 24 at 7 p.m. at Elm School. Hopefully one or more board members will insist that Mr. Turek put the proposed levy back on the agenda for further clarification and board discussion.  Our students' future educational programs, class sizes and capital improvements may all be jeopardized if the BOE under-levies and Senate Bill 16 is approved.  If Mr. Turek is unwilling to be fully transparent about the impact of what he is about to approve, another board member needs to demand full disclosure and discussion of this important issue.

Let's see if anyone on the BOE does the right thing.....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Snow. The November 10th Board Meeting was a White-out!

Monday night's board meeting was a "White-out." We are extremely disappointed with Dr. White and the majority of the apathetic board members (Turek, Yaeger, Clarin) who allowed White's administrators to effectively dodge important questions while "snowing" the board and community with a blizzard of distractions. (Nelson was absent, again.) We  encourage you to listen to the podcast of the November 10th meeting which is available on the district website (link to 11/10 podcast). We also urge you to review the meeting agenda (link to agenda) and questions board members submitted to Dr White prior to the meeting (link to questions).

What wasn't on the agenda for the meeting?

No discussion of ISAT scores or state rankings.

Following the release of the Illinois State Report Cards and State Rankings that showed most of our schools dropped in the rankings, we expected Dr. White to present a formal report and lead a board discussion on the scores and rankings.  We expected him to explain why -- in the face of the harder test and new cut scores used by ISAT --  6 out of 9 of our schools dropped in the rankings relative to other districts that showed improvement. While Dr. White did provide the basic ranking information that aleady appeared in local newspapers, he did so only after Board member Garg's pre-meeting request. However, during the meeting, there was no substantive discussion on the implications, if any, of the school rankings, or how they compared to last year.

Unlike last year's phony "celebration" of the 2013 dismal ISAT state rankings by Dr. Schuster (Click to open link post), Dr. White has apparently chosen to play a game of "avoid" the elephant in the room --  if data stinks, the board should hear nothing about it. There should have been a complete comparative analysis done between last year's scores and this year's scores. There should have been an explanation of why some previously lower ranked districts shot up in the rankings, while most of our schools dropped. The board should have demanded answers to these questions and asked what steps would be taken next year to improve the scores and rankings. None of this happened!

And yet, this morning, the Hinsdalean newspaper had a long story on the rankings and ISAT data quoting Dr. Schneider and Ms. Benaitis doing the Happy, Happy, Joy dance.  Here is what they said about the very data that they refused to discuss with the BOE on Monday night:

Schneider:  "In general our students are growing, students continue to make growth. You can have different conclusions depending on what type of data your are looking at. I think people need to be mindful of that. What we want to see is no matter what data you're looking at, that data gets into the buildings so the leadership teams at each school get a look at it."

Benaitis:  "That one test, one score on one given day, is a snapshot. We want to make sure we are looking at a photo album. This is one piece out of the whole picture, and I think it is really important that you look at multiple measures to get an accurate picture and make any conclusion."
(Source:  11/13/14 Hinsdalean, page 5 article titled: Report Cards Show Students Doing Well)

We agree that the ISAT tests are just one data point. The problem is that no one in the administration is taking the time to conduct an analysis of the multiple data points D181 has amassed over the last three years of the multiple tests our students have taken. Why not? In our opinion, it is because no one in the administration has the skill set, experience or qualifications to conduct such an analysis, report on it, formulate and implement a plan on how to improve the declining performance. Dr. White and Dr. Schneider, we don't want to know what the data shows "in general." We want the BOE to be presented with a detailed analysis of all of the data points the administration has been (or should have been) gathering over the last three years. We want the BOE to start making data-driven decisions, rather than simply buying into the bluster spewing out of the administrators' mouths.

The agenda did not include an update on the Math Pilots.

With the discontinuation in three schools of the Agile Minds and Investigations math pilot programs after last month's board meeting, and their transition back to last year's math programs, we expected the agenda to include a formal report on how the transition was going. After all, nearly 100 parents attended the last board meeting and justifiably complained about Agile Minds and Investigations, demanding their discontinuation and pleading with the administration to fix the mess.  Did Dr. White not realize that a follow up report and presentation to the BOE would be the appropriate course to follow?  Nope. Instead, it wasn't until Board member Garg asked him to provide an update, that he punted the question to Dr. Schneider and two principals, apologizing to them for putting them on the spot with the unexpected question. Unexpected? If anything, he should have foreseen it! Principal Pena was able to give an update on what the teachers at HMS have been doing to identify any gaps in the Agile Minds curriculum and the one they are using now. But then Dr. White asked Dr. Schneider for an update on the elementary schools. Dr. Schneider blundered his answer-- giving a non-substantive response about the two impacted elementary schools. Thankfully, Principal McMahon was present to give a more detailed update.

We have listened to this portion of the meeting several times now and are utterly disgusted that neither the Superintendent or the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum were able to provide a basic update without reliance on the principals. Isn't the central administration in charge of the curriculum decisions? Isn't the central administration supposed to oversee the implementation of the math pilots and any changes to the curriculum?  It is becoming clearer with each passing day that there is ZERO curriculum expertise in the central administration.  How can the BOE allow this to continue?

Nothing on the agenda addressing the impact of the proposed levy to Senate Bill 16.

While the agenda included a presentation to the board of the proposed 2015 Tax Levy the board will be asked to approve on December 8, the presentation was lacking in any detail that would have exposed it for what it was:  a proposal to under-levy next year, leaving on the table over $500,000 of new construction tax money that could be collected under the Illinois Tax Cap Law. Read the materials posted on board docs very carefully and then go back and listen to the podcast of the board discussion.  (Tax Levy presentation.) The discussion was very short. Not a single question was asked about why the board would under-levy in light of the possible future legislative approval of Senate Bill 16 that may strip D181 of over $1.65 million in state funding. There were no questions or discussion on the compounding impact of under-levying $500,000 of new construction money, nor the possible negative impact of Senate Bill 16 on D181's educational programs and teachers. There were no questions on why money should be under-levied at a time when the Facilities Committee is exploring building options that might require a tax referendum. Why weren't any of these questions asked or discussed?

In light of the very detailed discussions and debates ensuing in District 86, as well as that board's request for multiple proposals and scenarios laying out the impact of possible tax levies, it is disturbing that the D181 board is not conducting more detailed, serious discussions on the tax levy. Isn't President Turek responsible for setting the meeting agendas with Dr. White?  Isn't he following what our neighboring high school district is doing? Isn't he aware that the D86 finance manager is asking for the maximum levy to be approved this year -- including the maximum a district can tax on new construction?  The continued reference by certain board members, such as Gary Clarin, to the work being done by the D181 Finance Committee is a red herring and inappropriate. The Finance Committee only has 2 board members on it. It is a superintendent's committee. It has no taxing authority. It doesn't even present written or verbal reports to the BOE on what it is doing. The only entity with taxing authority is the BOE. That is the entity that should be conducting a detailed discussion before it votes on anything. Board President Turek is shirking his duties and obligations as one of seven elected official tasked with overseeing our district finances and ensuring the meeting agendas cover topics the full board should be discussing in detail.  And he wants to run for reelection?

So what was on the Agenda and what was discussed by Dr. White and the BOE during the meeting? If you take the time to listen to the podcast: