Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Board Majority Circles the Wagons To Protect Dr. Schuster

Source:  http://lifeaccordingtoryan.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/cirlce-the-wagons.jpg

Ever heard the expression "circle the wagons?"

To circle the wagons means a group of people working together to defend against an attack.  (Source: http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/circle-the-wagons)

That is exactly what the majority of the D181 Board of Education is doing right now.  They are circling the wagons around Dr. Schuster to protect, rather than hold her accountable for her lack of transparency, and in our opinion, her mismanagement of the HMS crisis.

How is the Board doing this?  Last night's board meeting was a perfect example.  Only Board Members Heneghan and Garg questioned when the "asbestos" issue was first discovered during the HMS mold remediation process and exposed that basic safety checks have not been done as required at all the D181 schools that contain asbestos. Only Mr. Heneghan expressed outrage that the Board had not been made aware of the HMS asbestos issues until after 5 p.m. yesterday.   No other board member took issue with the fact that Dr. Schuster sat on this information for nearly one week.  Mr. Nelson's "out of town voice" berated Mr. Heneghan, rather than push for an explanation.  Mr. Turek told Mr. Heneghan his words were inappropriate, rather than push for an explanation.  The rest sat silently or minimized the situation by having the remediation companies emphasize that the situation was completely contained and there were no ongoing safety concerns related to the asbestos.

The majority of the board effectively shut down Mr. Heneghan's attempts to discuss Dr. Schuster's failure to communicate the asbestos situation to the Board.  So what did we learn from the remediation companies' representatives and Mr. Heneghan pointed out last night?

  • On January 7 (three weeks ago), during the emergency cleanup of the water that had cascaded into the choir room at HMS, the wooden platforms secured to the floor were disassembled and removed from the room.  The wooden platforms had tiles with mastic -- containing asbestos -- glued onto them.  At the time of the removal, the company conducting the cleanup was not made aware that asbestos existed in the room. 
  • On January 21, the Illinois Department of Public Health, aware by then of the massive cleanup underway at HMS, contacted the remediation companies to make them aware that the district had an Asbestos Management Plan on file because 3 rooms at HMS -- 119, 124 and 126 -- contain known asbestos in the tiles.  After the IDPH contacted the company, tests were conducted on the tiles that had been removed with the wooden platforms and small traces of asbestos were found.
  • The choir room has been thoroughly cleaned and retested.  No traces of asbestos were found in the retests.  The remediation companies concluded that it is unlikely that any asbestos fibers were released into the air at the time of the platform removal.  They have concluded that the building is safe from asbestos exposure.
  • During this process, however, it was discovered that a "basic checklist" that is required every six months as part of the Asbestos Management Plan had not been done.  
    • Dr. Schuster's email to parents indicated that the May 2013 "basic checklist" had been missed and is now rescheduled for today, 1/28.
    • Mr. Heneghan pointed out that this required work was actually skipped TWICE. Once in May 2013 and once six months later.  But for the HMS water/mold crisis, when would anyone in D181 realize that the safety checks were not being conducted.
    • Mr. Yaeger asked if there is asbestos in any other D181 schools.  The answer was most likely.
    • Following questioning by Ms. Garg, the Board learned that the"basic checklists" were also required in other D181 schools besides HMS and were not done.
  • This information was know PRIOR to the second emergency Board meeting held on January 21, but Dr. Schuster did not release it to the Board or the Community until a couple hours before yesterday's board meeting.
So, what is the significance of the HMS asbestos issue?

First, we were relieved to hear from the remediation companies that in their professional opinion, there is no health risk to the HMS students or staff from the existence of contained asbestos in three classrooms or the removal of tiles containing asbestos during the mold remediation process. 

However, we are very concerned that no one from D181 alerted the remediation companies, BEFORE they began their work, that there were asbestos tiles in three classrooms, and that it took the IDPH to bring this to their attention on January 21.  It is very concerning that the "basic checklist" inspection that was to be done every six months in all buildings in D181 that contain asbestos was skipped not once, but twice in the last year.  It is very concerning that Dr. Schuster -- charged with overseeing the day to day operations of the district -- allowed this to happen.  It is very concerning that Dr. Schuster, once made aware of the asbestos issues, did not immediately inform her bosses --the D181 Board of Education -- OR the community in her daily updates. These updates were intended to keep everyone abreast of any new developments at HMS.  It is very concerning that she felt it was appropriate to pick and choose what to disclose to the community and BOE, or when to disclose it.

Why doesn't the majority of the Board share these concerns?  As concerned parents, we will NEVER be able to believe that any communication signed by Dr. Renee Schuster are accurate, complete or entirely truthful. We will always be left to wonder if there is something she is not telling us, something she has determined she can withhold.  We will always be left to wonder if she has put a "spin" on the information that will fall apart under close inspection or questioning by the Board Members or during presentations by experts contracted to do work for the District.  That is not the type of person we want running D181 and overseeing the education of our children and the upkeep and safe maintenance of the buildings we send them to.  

If the majority of the Board is unwilling to ask the tough questions or hold Dr. Schuster accountable for her lack of transparency and inability to ensure that all required safety "checks" are done by her staff, then not only is she the wrong person to lead the district, but they too are the wrong people to represent our interests.  It is time for the majority of the Board to take their jobs more seriously.  They can no longer minimize the problems and issues that continue to surface.  The Board must deal effectively with them now.  The long term success and health of our students and teachers require their immediate action.


Anonymous said...

The key point here is not that things go wrong but the lack of planning. Flood, leaks, bad test scores, asbestos, and other items are just what happens. A prepared school district has plans in place and procedures to follow. Instead, we have 100% reactive leadership. First, the problem, then the excuses, then the effort to clean up the mess. No serious enterprises operates that way. The bottom line is that Marty Turek is not a serious person. Schuster is not a serious person. These are not individuals who have shown any leadership at all. I don't count Mike Nelson, as he doesn't even show up.

It is time to stop reacting and start to show leadership. The balance of the board has the power to show that leadership and they should do so.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Heneghan did an amazing job performing his board duties last night. He was spot on and his word choices were more than appropriate. I sent him an email voicing my support and I encourage other community members to do the same. My favorite line of the night was after Mr. Nelson unfairly attacked Mr. Heneghan, Mr. Heneghan said "Mike, you may not have heard since you are not here......."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Heneghan was fantastic last night. I just don't understand how Dr. Schuster is allowed, over and over again, to be deceitful. Hasn't everyone had enough of her?

Thank you, Mr. Heneghan, for asking the hard questions. Your choice of words was very appropriate under the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I, too, agree that Mr. Heneghan's comments were appropriate in responding to the admin not disclosing the asbestos situation at the emergency board meeting.

Mr. Everett said...

The fact is that EVERYONE should have some serious questions about how the whole board is operating.

Gary Clarin seems like a decent person but he has to realize that no anointed oils have been conferred upon either the Board president NOR the superintendent. Though his past experience serving on other kinds of boards may have required that he defer to those who were divinely imbued with their job no such rites should prevent him from being not just "disappointed" but critical of many things that are happening in the district. If he feels that the spirit of retribution that anonymous posters talk about truly makes him fear for his family's economic security he can choose to either change that from within or resign.

Other board members have to make some hard decision very quickly if they really are on the BOE for the good of their children and the community...

While I scoff at the focus of some here on the recent crisis born of ice, the fact is that this WHOLE BOARD has been derelict in really putting all our students and teachers at risk at being thrown into an spiraling inferno of rudderless doom. Merely "reviewing" documents is far from the kind of oversight that is needed not just to sign off on monthly bills but to ensure that the education direction of the district is consistent with past excellence and future demands.

While now the "whole world" has "access" to the documents that the board reviews the FACT is in that past, when the BOE actually had functional subcommittees that could hash out issues like math curriculum or special education or enrichment for the most talented students or earlier access to foreign language or a coherent direction for technology in the classroom or needs of buildings and ground ALL of the community that choose to participate could! While theoretically this input was still subject to "final board action" the overall process was more responsive and the current lack of insight may very well be both harming performance AND the legitimacy of the elected board and appointed administration. It is not all clear that ANY the BOE members are at all capable of even moderating a discussion of these things. Is administration hamstrung? Is incompetence of BOE leadership to blame. This is something that truly something that community members be outraged about!

No one in this community needs do-nothing "seat warmers" at the BOE meetings. There is no shame in resignation if "this is not what I thought it would be".

Finally if any of the BOE members feel they've misunderstood their role and that their lack of oversight has left the superintendent overly exposed to criticism, the time to recover from such lackadaisical "leadership" is rapidly drawing to a close. Those who more viscerally want to adorn their belt scalps will only increase the intensity of their cries...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really believe that Board Members Clarin and Turek were unaware of the asbestos until 5 pm on Monday? Mr. Clarin made a point of announcing how he has conducted daily and sometimes twice daily inspections of the HMS work. If so, how could he be unaware of the asbestos issue unless the administration intentionally kept this information from him as he toured the school and spoke with the remediation company representatives. And what about President Turek? It is well known that he has not always shared information he has received from Dr. Schuster with the rest of the board, even though all board members are supposed to have the same information. So will any of the other board members publicly ask Turek and Clarin when they first learned about the asbestos issues? Or will there be more "circling of the wagons"--as referenced by the bloggers in another posting from today?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Everett,

I am pleased to see that that you have quickly come up to speed on current D181 issues! Well done. Although I disagreed with some of your earlier posts, (except your previous crticism of the entire board - Mr. Heneghan and Mrs. Garg seem to be our only hope) you have been spot on. I am also impressed to finally see someone from this district come forward and use his name. I hope you understand that most of us have children still in this district, and know how vengeful some of these administrators and their supporters are, so that is why we have not used our names. Although it often does not seem this way, the villages of Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge, and Hinsdale are filled with thoughtful, concerned citizens who want the best for our community, teachers and children. You are proving yourself to be one such person. Hopefully you will encourage other people to contribute and come forward to help solve problems.

By the way, did you, or anyone else catch Marty Tureck say, ..."have us by the 'short hairs'" at the Board Meeting ??? I had no idea what that meant, but my husband caught it and chuckled in disbelief. Crude comments such as these can be somewhat indicative of a general lack of respect, or, as you say, "lackadaisical leadership."

Thanks for stepping up and expressing your informed views.

Village Mom