Tuesday, January 21, 2014

HMS/CHMS Will Implement a Split Schedule Starting Thursday, January 23

The Board of Education voted 6 to 1 to approve "Option 1" and implement a split schedule that will allow HMS students to return to learning on Thursday, January 23.  Tomorrow the teachers will report and participate in a planning day.  On Thursday CHMS students will attend school from 7 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and HMS students will attend school from 12 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.  Logistical details will be emailed to parents tomorrow.

At a future meeting, the BOE will decide whether to waive the two days all D181 students missed due to the polar vortex and waive another two days that HMS students missed. According to Kevin Russell, the Assistant Superintendent of Learning, the current calendar had more instructional days built in than are required, so the weather absences can be waived (if the Board so chooses) and the school code also allows up to 2 days of required instruction to be waived if a school is closed due to an emergency.

With HMS students returning to school on Thursday, they will have missed a total of 5 days.  If four of the days are waived, they will only have to make up one day. It will be up to the Board to decide if the missed instructional days should be made up. Had the BOE approved Option 2, which was Dr. Schuster's recommendation, HMS students would have missed a minimum of 7 days.

During the discussion, Board Member Vorobiev asked Dr. Schuster to clarify exactly what Option 2 meant.  Under Option 2 a split schedule would begin next Monday only if it was determined that HMS could not reopen next Wednesday.  If HMS could reopen next Wednesday, then students would not attend school at all until then.  Board Member Heneghan pointed out that in light of this new explanation by Dr. Schuster, Option 2 was really the same as Option 3.  The only difference would be if the remediation work went beyond next Wednesday, in which case a split schedule would be implemented.

In light of the knowledge that HMS students might not return to school at all before next Wednesday, the Board voted to implement Option 1.  Board Member Nelson (who called in by phone -- again) initially expressed disapproval of a split schedule, but ultimately voted yes.  President Turek (who called in by phone) voted no.  Both expressed concern that half days would not provide a high quality educational experience and it would be better to add full days to make up for the missed days.

Vice President Vorobiev ran the meeting because of Mr. Turek's physical absence and before the Board
voted, she entertained comments from HCHTA Co-President Heather Scott and parents.  Ms. Scott stated that the teachers could support Option 1.  The majority of parents also supported getting the students back to school this week, pointing out that making HMS students attend school into the summer while all other D181 schools are off would be very frustrating and would not make for a good educational experience. Similarly, there could be conflicts with summer camps and vacation plans.  But the primary reason to start a split shift this week was because the students have been out of school for too long now and it was, in the words of one parent, "time to stop the bleeding."  CHMS parents, including former Board President Marc Monyek expressed support for the split schedule, with some parents pointing out how coming together as a community to help each other out will be a good lesson to share with our children.

We completely agree.  Kudos to the teachers at both schools; those at CHMS for sharing their classrooms and materials and those at HMS who are willing to do whatever it takes to get our students back on track.  Thank you to the CHMS community for supporting the HMS community.  Thank you to Board Member Vorobiev for running a smooth, interactive meeting and asking for parent input.  Thank you to Board Member Clarin for being so involved in the day to day oversight of the remediation work being done at HMS. Thank you to Board Members Garg and Heneghan for once again asking good questions and fleshing out the issues.  Thank you to Board Member Yaeger for supporting Option 1.  Thank you to both Principal Pena and Principal Sonntag for working collaboratively to get the HMS students back to school sooner rather than later.

Thank you to the Central Administration for finally meeting and getting a plan in place and presenting it to the Board for approval.  Amazing that it was done less than 24 hours after the Board asked for it.  We wish they'd done it sooner, so that our students would not have missed any school this week.  We still don't understand why it wasn't.  Some speculate that it was because Dr. Schuster was not on site and fully and directly engaged in personally dealing with all aspects of the crisis.  We may never know, but we think this is a legitimate question that should be explored by the Board of Education as they evaluate Dr. Schuster's performance, especially since there are many, many logistical issues that will need to be tackled in the next 36 hours before school starts on Thursday morning. These issues could have been handled more calmly and thoroughly if the planning for a split shift contingency plan had started shortly after the first or second pipe burst, and certainly as soon as mold was discovered last Thursday.

For the sake of the students, teachers and staff at both CHMS and HMS, we hope things will go smoothly over the next week and that this "short term fix" is exactly that, short term.  We hope to see the HMS students back in their home school by Wednesday, January 29, at the latest.  We will continue to provide updates as they are issued by D181 on the progress of the mold remediation and test results at HMS.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I was unaware that a crystal ball was needed in order to be an administrator in this district. Your criticism of the administration in unfounded and embarrassing. The administration expected to get the students back to class on Tuesday based on the information provided by the contractors working on the clean up. Once they were informed that additional cleanup was needed and the timing on it the did get a plan in place very quickly. If they had spent a considerable amount of time working on an alternate plan and it was only 1 day that HMS students were out of school I think you would have criticized the administration for wasting time on an useless plan. So please tell me where you buy your crystal ball. I'll go out and purchase one for all the administrators (and board members in the district).

The Parents said...

It doesn't take a crystal ball to know that once the remediation company told the administration that mold was being found in over 90% of the areas that had previously tested within acceptable air quality limits, that a plan should have begun for moving HMS students to an alternate location so that they could return to school. That planning and assessment of what option would work best should have begun well before Monday's meeting since the positive mold test results came back positive on January 17. There was no reason to wait for an emergency board meeting the next week to be proactive and work on a back up plan. You may not like our criticism of the administration, but as far as we are concerned, when the superintendent leaves town not once, but twice in the midst of the crisis after taking a two week vacation, and isn't on site to make sure EVERYTHING is being done to get our kids back into a school, any school, and delay after delay after delay is announced piecemeal, there is something seriously wrong. If pipes burst in your home would you move your kids to a hotel, leave them there while you left town and then let your cleaning lady handle the cleanup and restoration of your home? We doubt it. Maybe that's not a fair comparison, and certainly the administrators she left behind to deal with the mess are to be commended for their efforts to manage the district without her, but the bottom line is that she was not here. And that is a fact. It was her job to be here to not only oversee what everyone else was doing, but to be physically present and help to identify next steps.

Anonymous said...

Dear Person Who Suggests That This is A Crystal Ball Situation

The administration has admitted, through its formal spokesperson, that 87% of the staff had health complaints. That's right the administration, not the bloggers, not disgruntled parents, not anyone other than the "no [crystal] balls" administration have known that the building is at least allegedly adversely impacting everyone for years. It was the administration, not ehe bloggers, not disgruntled parents, not out of district crazies that arranged for and struggled roof repairs.

So, if you have known for years that a) virtually all of the staff have health complaints and b) you have had ongoing roof issues you don't need "[crystal] balls" to anticipate a building issue you just need to show up for work and do your job. And, even without a "[crystal] ball", if you know that the building is having potentially severe health impact on virtually every adult in the building and the roof is potentially troubled, you don't need "[crystal] balls" to have some type of plan of what to do if there are in fact problems.

I would welcome a cogent explanation of why it was ok to do nothing, to not plan, and to be surprised by building issues in light of what the administration admitted it knew. It takes crystal balls to suggest that doing nothing is what a real professional would do.

Thanks for spending your valuable time away from planning for the kids to write an email on this blog.

Anonymous said...

To the person missing crystal balls:

I don't understand your point. The administration had no plan whatsoever regarding a building shutdown which could happen as a result of mold, as in this case, or fire, or gas leak, or flood, or perhaps structural issues. You don't need to have a crystal ball to anticipate that something might happen one day that could prevent the use of one of the school buildings. The entire flaw in your argument is that the plan must tie to the specific issue experience by the building.

Are you suggesting that our entire team of administrators were prudent in not having any plan in the event of a building issue. Are you suggesting that it would not be prudent not to have any plan for any other building in the district?

Please write back and explain why an entire team of administrators can be face with a building issue and literally have NO plan. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that if you have zero planning you are failing in your responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Another example of Dr. Shuster's cavalier attitude towards D181. Any "good" leader would have been here physically even if they didn't know what to do next. In the meantime-other things are on the decline over her watch-our children's education, test scores, course work rigor.....

Anonymous said...

When Dr. Schuster finally did arrive at HMS, the only thing she contributed to the situation was telling concerned staff that there was no mold because she has a sensitive nose and she would have smelled it - some leader! Even though mold grows after 48 hours, she kept the old wet MRC carpeting because "it was clean water." If we continue to ignore the 4th grade math problem, it will implode like the situation at HMS. And for all of those parents who STILL refuse to get involved, here is a quote for you - "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "balls"...crystal or whatever kind, the one "no vote" from last night's meeting is the one that needs to FIND SOME BALLS!!! Whether it is to actually stand up to a superintendent that is totally "playing" this district for all she can get or to constituents that whined to him that they and their CHMS kids might be inconvenienced by helping the HMS kids. It is time for Turek to do his job or step down from being BOE President. Also, someone needs to tell him that the board president "entertains motions from fellow board members" and that HE doesn't make them himself! As well, when starting discussion on an issue, the board president allows his fellow board members to "weigh in FIRST" on the topic before the president then comments and provides a summary of what has been stated. What has been experienced with the current and previous D181 BOE Presidents is the reason the long standing tradition existed that the most senior individual on the BOE became the president! This tradition eliminated inexperienced and, in the current case, a much too "eager to please individual" from being board president. Established, operational traditions exist for a reason!

Anonymous said...

The person missing a crystal ball also seems to be missing a few marbles.

The administrstion's continuous ignoring of the mold problem for such a long time turned this into an emergency situation. The extent of the mold damage never should have gotten this huge. Contrary to what many believe, the mold was not just caused by the polar vortex - it was pre existing problem that was never dealt with.

Unfortunately, ignoring and denying that problems exist is Dr. Schuster's (and her entire Dept. of Learning, including Russell and Schneider) method of operation. They ignore you and do not respond to questions. They sit there, stone faced, perhaps take notes, and act as though they will take action, or rectify problems.
Perhaps they will even speak, but do not address the issues asked of them by parents. They focus on their own Interests and change topics until it is time for them to move on to their next fiasco.

Kudos to the teachers, parents, board members and bloggers who are working overtime, for free, to fix this enormous problem. We are eternally grateful that at least these folks have our children's health and educations in mind.

Anonymous said...

For the administration to show up at the emergency meeting on Monday night without a plan for the students is unacceptable. It was quite clear by Russell and Schuster's fumbling that they had done very little preparation regarding securing a facility and they knew for several days that school would not be in session for the week. They had ample time-they even had a holiday-to make preparations and to present options at that meeting. A parent had to bring up splitting time with CHMS and only then did Schuster acknowledge that was an option. But it was clear they hadn't even looked into it. Totally unprepared! And then to inconvenience families again to call another meeting 24 hours later to approve something that should've been presented the night before is absolutely absurd! Poor leadership and negligence are grounds for termination. Period.

Anonymous said...

Folks that are calling for a new superintendent almost certainly have no awareness of just how difficult it is to find anyone to take on a role like this -- despite the compensation there is not a lot of upside to be the "scapegoat in chief" especially in a district where plenty of people thing they "know best" and few people want to stick their neck out lest they make themselves social pariahs...

Should the BOE embark on a costly and time consuming search for a new superintendent there is NOTHING to ensure that any one person could make any real changes to bridge the gap between the entitled who feel no expenditure is too great for their child's betterment and the penny pinching tightwads that would slash budgets.

Certainly the mixed up priorities born of a desire smash down gifted education while 'accelerating' mathematics are just the latest example of the inconsistencies that come not from some screwy educational theory BUT THE DEMANDS OF THE COMMUNITY...

Further the schizophrenic efforts to both curse the hideously outmoded facilities like HMS AND continue to pour money into its incremental upgrades are yet another problem of not the superintendent but the often divided / short sighted demands of THE COMMUNITY...

Hopefully this new "crisis" will be another example of the foolishness of overreacted and serve as a lesson to illustrate that more thought needs to go into one's vote for those who serve on the BOE and the next time one gets some mass email touting some one as "great guy that loves his kids and town" that is not enough to ensure they won't just "phone it in"...

The Parents said...

To the anonymous author of the last Comment. Your thoughts have inspired us. We will be working on a response to your comment and highlight both in our next post (unless we have any Breaking News that require our immediate attention). Since we too have children in D181 and our "after school focus" is on them, we will begin writing our response later today or tomorrow. So stay tuned. We actually agree with many of your observations, but our conclusion is and will continue to be that despite all of points you make, we need a new superintendent. So stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Everyone once in a while I read something so jaw droppingly stupid that I have to read it at least five times to make sure that I read it right. So, here goes--if I actually read this correctly. Point a) Schuster really isn't in charge but the COMMUNITY (helpfully put in all caps by the poster) is and b) even though Schuster is not really in charge don't get rid of her because the next superintendent won't really be in charge either.

Lot's to say about this short revealing statement but a few points will suffice.

This poster suggests that the superintendent isn't to blame for her own curriculum, but the community is lives in a universe by himself or herself. The superintendent and her hand picked administration have personally taken full credit for the curriculum changes. They have attended multiple conferences bragging that these are ground breaking and novel changes that they personally developed. The program they implemented on their own was written by them and they won't even say how and why they did it.

How in the world could someone write " Certainly the mixed up priorities born of a desire smash down gifted education while 'accelerating' mathematics are just the latest example of the inconsistencies that come not from some screwy educational theory BUT THE DEMANDS OF THE COMMUNITY." The "Community" developed the "Learning for All" Plan? When did that happen? How did that happen? What did COMMUNITY do? It is a screwy plan created by administration screwballs; ask them, they are proud of it.

Also, how did the COMMUNITY become involved in decisions regarding building maintenance--as suggested by the poster. Hardly anyone goes to board meetings, the recent fungusgate being a prominent exception, is this poster really suggesting that the COMMUNITY, someone has secretly directed the superintendent and her staff on how to maintain d 181 buildings? Are they suggesting that parents are floating around Starbucks and Einstein's debating what type of roof repairs are appropriate at HMS? In fact, building maintenance is precisely the type of apparently boring issue that parents and the COMMUNITY pay no attention to and the administration must.

Also, rest assured, despite the issues in our community, we could not do worse than Schuster, she's never here, and out our pay level and with our students and teachers, we can surely attract someone better.

Nor is it a negative that our community is populated by high achieving and demanding parents. I thought the big problem in American education is that parents don't care, don't go to parent teacher meetings, don't become committed and involved in students education. Time and again teachers in other districts throw up their hands in frustration because they seem to care more than parents. So, how could it be a bad thing that our community has passion for eduction, passion for achievement, and opinions that arise from knowledge and sophistication. That is a great characteristic. This is not a problem, this is a selling point for this district.

In fact, the poster is right that the BOE is useless, just like Schuster. But what he or she gets backwards is the idea of leadership. Excellent leaders can rally a community with ideas and commitment. This community is filled with students, teachers, and parents of the highest caliber. It is a dream job to lead this All Star cast and we have a vacancy at the top even though it is filled. We can and should do better and fungusgate is proof of that.

The Parents said...

Wow to the last comment! In just a few paragraphs you captured many of the ideas we had begun jotting down for our response. We will happily incorporate your ideas, in fact, any one else out there who wants to share suggestions for our Responsive Post, please do so.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what the person is advocating in the previous comment, but his/her thoughts further support the need for a superintendent who:

1) Is qualified.

2) Will not bend to uninformed community
members when the community "demands" it.

3) Will have an actual plan, in writing, of what changes will actually be made before experimental curriculums are mandated and programs are eliminated.

4) They will respect teachers and parents and cooperate with both.

Furthermore, a qualified leader will have actual proof that the community, indeed, "demanded" changes. Here, 1 or 2 administrators thought it would be a fun project to switch everything up in the name of social justice for Hinsdale. But, the only ones breathing in mold were our children and our teachers. The Department of Learning offices are nowhere near HMS. How socially just is that?

It appears that D181 is having a hard time filling its administrative positions with qualified people, so we all should take a good look at how and why the process we currently have is failing.

Perhaps we should hire an unbiased headhunter? Or include more community members in the hiring decisions? What about including teachers from the high school in decisions? We should also should consider giving more access to the community during the caucus process. Persoanlly, I always find it odd how most of the "randomly" selected community members and parents on the hiring committees always seem to be supporters of current D181 administrators. Or, they know nothing about education. We need more informed, qualified people to make better decisions for our children.

Personally, I would prefer that District 86 absorb the failing D181. I would rather pay one set of administrators, HR people, and office staff than 2.
And at least that way, the elementary and middle school curriculums would actually align (in contrast to Dr. Schuster's theory that the math program in D181 need not build prepare our children for Hinsdale Central). Judging by the number of people I know whose children could barely get into some of the private high schools because they couldn't pass the entrance exams, I am not sure WHERE Dr. Schuster is preparing our children to go to high school.

Yes, it is difficult to find good employees. But in D181, it has been FAR to easy for our employees, administrators, to slide by on an extremely generous salary with unheard of perks, a pension, and vacation time. There are many, many people who actually WANT to serve the public, and would do it for far less money. At this point, our children, parents, and our teachers are suffering. It is time for this madness to stop.

Anonymous said...

A few other notes:

1. The ACE program was flawed. It needed to be tweaked not eliminated. The administration took the opportunity to get rid of the entire curriculum and blamed it on common core. No one wanted a one size fits all curriculum.

2. The community does not support higher taxes because this administration is irresponsible with our money - we do not trust them. They waste it at every turn. They wanted two math text books "because the publisher recommended it." They are agreeing to everything SERVPRO says (and those guys see big dollar signs) and only ask "is this a fair bid because I do not know how to evaluate it." Please!

Anonymous said...

Anyone with a glimmer of sense ought to understand that the foolish majority that is incompetently running D86 is the last place one should look for anything advancing education. The fiasco of becoming overly involved in things like the summer renovation that prioritized concession stands over education spaces is an excellent example of the dunderheaded way to waste funds.

The current D181 can't be blamed for wasting nearly $5M on HVAC, insulation and window upgrades at HMS, that distinction falls firmly on the shoulders of the previous board that soundly rejected the idea of further consideration of replacing that facility, again allegedly after copious input from the community...

Need more help on the ol' recollection of things past? The decisions to quash gifted education came directly from the aggrieved outcry of community members that called such differentiation elitist. The trigger was for this shift in direction was similarly a federal lawsuit filed by a parent. The BOE actively solicited input from the community and the overwhelming support was for the elimination of efforts to give the most talented students more challenging work and allow anyone to opt in to such classes.

No matter how "strong" a superintendent the district would have had there is little question as to community members preferring such an approach.

Of course the preference for such uniformity / egalitarian approaches could also be argued to be the basis for the "accelerated" math that similarly remains part of the schizophrenic desire of the community. Much input has been solicited and the feedback continues to support all students being pushed mathematics, some pushed harder... (sounds a little like Animal Farm...) While it is understandable that parents and community members would like to believe that such acceleration is desirable in an increasingly technical world, the fact is that forces such as Common Core are inarguably geared toward bringing up the weakest districts not advancing those which should be moving the bar higher. And faced with a lack of any unified curricular materials to support such acceleration is it any wonder that children continue to flounder.

What was the response of the administration? They proposed at least gathering staff to be able to come up with strategies for teachers to find out what was working in one building or another. When they solicited the opinion of the community the response was "but that will mean my schedule is negatively impaced" and thus that need went unanswered due to community pressure...

Are there superintendents that could do a better job? Highly doubtful. Paul Vallas did a terrific job with CPS for a while and then even he had to ask da Mare to spend a little more money and he got canned. Same story repeated in other cities that Vallas called home -- http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/22718806-418/paul-vallas-former-chicago-school-chief-fighting-to-keep-his-latest-job.html
Story is not that different for Michelle Rhee -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Rhee

Heck, anybody remember the "tough love" principal played by Morgan Freeman? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Louis_Clark

Believe me, you can rely on any fancy talent scouts, you can have lots of community members involved in the process (both of which were part of the superintendent selection / hiring...) but as long as their are folks who feel entitled there will be dissatisfaction. You will not find any of these jobs lacking in salary, benefits or what is broadly perceived as "opportunity" -- http://www.topschooljobs.org/Search/Superintendent_Jobs.asp The big difference is that for many of those positions there is less scrutiny, fewer contentious meeting that drag well into the night and overall a better quality of life...

Anonymous said...

I see the person without crystal balls took her balls and went home. No response to why you need a crystal ball to know that one of the buildings might experience an interruption. Oh well person missing crystal balls, we were hoping to hear from you again and explain why it was ok not to have any plan at all.

Perhaps is was just one of the administrators seeking to make excuses for his or her performance.

Have a safe flight back to Arizona person without crystal balls.

Anonymous said...

Please COMMUNITY, fatalism is for the intellectually lazy.

We should continue to hire and promote incompetent lickspittles such as Dawn Benaitis, who has a demonstrable track record of damaging Monroe kids? Should we continue to settle for inexperienced dimwits like Benaitis or Igoe as D181 administrators? Should we continue to settle for myopic, intolerant BOE lightweights such as Yaeger or Nelson, who literally phone it in or check sports scores for most of the BOE meetings?

Its obvious that the train has derailed. Let's come together as a community to demand better than the mediocrity that we currently have.

Anonymous said...

For those who don't like the members of the board, remember you have it in your power to get rid of them. If you don't like them, vote them out at the next school board election!

Anonymous said...

The next board election is a year and a half away - our curriculum problems cannot wait that long. Playing the blame game is futile. The reality is that this district is in a dire situation. We can either sit around pointing fingers or we can do something about it. It is obvious that our current administration is not capable of fixing the problems this district is facing so they must be replaced immediately. That is what any big corporation would do.

Anonymous said...

...this district is in a dire situation


By what measure?

The fact is that when our kids go on to high school they perform extremely well compared to their peers that attended other feeder districts like Butler.

When kids then go on to college, even highly selective ones where many of their classmates went to private schools, they report that they were extremely well prepared.

Where is the acorn that has pelted us?

Perhaps the cry to "can someone" is really just a setup to have something to grouse about...

Anonymous said...

According to the logic of the poster above, all of our children need to be subjected to a morally corrupt and ineffective administration that has produced a sub par educational experience because a few parents thought that ACE in its current form was unjust (it was) and other parents objected to late start because they work and expect our administration to be able to perform tasks after 3:00 pm. And we should let everyone continue to suffer because of this. Okay.... You are going to need to do better than that.

Anonymous said...

By what measure? Seriously!!! Our high school was ranked number four based on our old curriculum - that no longer exists. Everything has changed curriculum wise in the last year and a half. In 2009 all of our D181 schools were ranked in the top 25. Now only one - Oak - is. Monroe dropped from the top 25 in 2009 to 108 this year. Since 2009, Monroe has had a 40% annual rate of decline in the school rankings. Moreover, it has dropped 50% in two years time. In the last year and a half - since learning for all - we have had SHARP declines in MAP and ISAT scores (look up the reports on board docs). The majority of our children are not meeting their growth targets (see board docs). Teachers feel overwhelmed and do not support the curriculum (read the comment section of the surveys on board bocs) Yes, the situation is dire.

Anonymous said...

actually, the poster above is wrong. If they knew anything about the high school, they would know that if you look at the top students, Butler, ACS, and kids from Westmont are over represented in the honors classes and in top college admissions.
Yes, all our kids do well in college. Our students, teachers, parents, and our high school in particular are high performers and do well compared to most districts. Even so, many d 181 parents are paying for tutors in middle school and in high school just to keep up. So, "by what measure", by test scores, by high school performance, by the need to pay for private tutors, and by a grim future of even worse performance.

It would be difficult, but not impossible, to drag D 181 kids so low as to be unprepared for college or to be beyond the ability of the high school to educate.

However....and this what this blog appears to be about, Schuster and company are coming close. If you want to know why, run through the blog and read about d 181 falling rankings, the curriculum disaster, and the mismatch between the math program and the high school.

To say "by what measure" means you don't know the facts. And like this blog or not, it links to the actual source documents, rankings, test analysis, position papers and board documents. If you read those documents, rather than relying upon anecdotal evidence about how your friends' kids got into Cal Berkeley and kicked ass in his nuclear physics course, you would know that the answer is by every objective measure. If you have contrary facts, present them here.

Anonymous said...

The infighting here in today's blogs is so amazing. We are certainly not one voice working to regain a strong "lighthouse" district!

Anonymous said...

To the person who advises "a recollection of things past", I suggest you add some facts to base your arguments on. Although I think you have some valid criticisms of the administration's faulty plan to eliminate programs and instate mandatory acceleration, I can assure you that the parents were never given a choice. Perhaps a few vocal, yet uninformed parents liked the idea of leveling the playing field, but a qualified, experienced leader would never have allowed it.

The BOE last year, with the exception of 2, was filled with rubber stampers who blindly trusted Schuster. If they had ever bothered to do their homework, or even looked at what neighboring, or more successful districts were doing, they would have been able to see through the ridiculous plan.

Your recollection of "community members" rather than Dr. Schuster, asking to change programs and curriculums is flawed. Just because Dr. Schuster told us that people wanted the ALP doesn't make it a fact. As we have all come to see, she and her team never came up with a plan, even though they promised they would. They are flying by the seat of their pants and trying to discourage people from complaining.

I can tell that you haven't attended or listened to a Board meeting in eons. And, obviously, you did not bother to consult board docs to provide us all with any quantifiable, unbiased data that explicitly outlines what curriculum changes the community demanded. That is because there is none! It was Dr. Schuster's "spin" that "the community" wanted change. Just because she created a skewed survey and interpreted the results in a manner to suit her own plan does not mean that the community created that plan. I assure you, the teachers and parents had NO input and are still being ignored. if you don't believe me, go read the teacher comments from the surveys. They warned that it wouldn't work and most recently, point out the ways that the plan is now failing. Again, a qualified leader, especially not Paul Vallas to lead the Board and the community to an acceptable compromise.

As for the lawsuit, everyone knows that the old ACE/gifted program had flaws. Some kids could re-take the tests, but others couldn't. Some had excuses and got in, yet those same excuses weren't applied fairly to all. That is why people sued. If D181 followed its policies and "rules" fairly, there would NOT have been a lawsuit. I am sure that the lawsuit was warranted, but since you are not, why don't you go to talk to the person who filed the suit? Again, you would have some facts to base your opinions on. Clearly you are not interested in facts, though.

Just because YOU think a lot of community members were involved in these decisions does not truly make it so. WHO were these "aggrieved" community members who called for the elimination of differentiation for gifted children? And why, exactly does a recent poster think that children from Hinsdale 181 do better in High School than the kids from Oak Brook? Do they have their scores? Check the ISATs from Oak Brook District 53. All of our schools, with the exception of Oak, scored much lower. If you don't believe me, go check the 2013 ISAT rankings yourself.

Any by the way, whoever thinks paying incompetent administrators with public tax dollars, year after year, to lead our children to moldy buildings and experimental curriculums is not a "dire situation" must be pretty clueless.

Anonymous said...

Great points on the unified voices, really good examples of the kinds of bickering and attacks that make it easy to understand why administrators are less than eager to step into this pit of vipers.

Go ahead. Bang your shields. Get your scalps. Heck, build a new middle school while you're still fired up.

If that is what makes you happy it will only result in more wasted time, more ridiculous golden parachutes and no improvements to performance that is, arguably for a district with so many students / buildings, still setting the bar for the state...

Anonymous said...

Since you cannot back up your position with facts, you simply choose to attack us personally. That is the MO of this administration. When they have no facts or valid points, they engage in personal attacks.

Mr. Everett said...

Who is being attacked "personally" on a blog where everyone tries so hard to hide their identity?

Perhaps one ought to consider the lessons one is teaching their children by using anonymous comments...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Everett,

One also ought to remember that bloggers have the right to be anonymous. If you do not like anonymity, feel free to ignore those comments. Also, we were led to believe that this is a forum to support education. Not an opportunity to have our word choices criticized.

But if this your role, please allow me to be of some assistance to you. When people agree, it is called a consensus, not "shield banging". Referring to these same parents as "vipers" is certainly a form of name calling. Since you have taken it upon yourself to be the blogging police, please exercise more parity in the way you dole out criticisms. One would certainly like to think that one's every words will not be scrutinized with a microscope on public blogs, but if that is your calling, please do so in a more evenhanded manner.


Mr. Everett said...

Though people have a right to cloak their identity in any way they choose so to is it true that if people exercise that right they should also expect the consequences of other folks heaping scorn, derision and mockery upon such a cowardly decision.

Not a whole of support of education going on here. Much more of the sorts of one-upmanship that undoubtedly helped many of our village's residents get where they are today ... http://goo.gl/9sSSXf

The silliness of the moderator(s) of this blog choosing to have such a patronizing screen name (really, The Parents, as if...) is similarly indicative of the how little respect they have for actually putting forth views to which one could ascribe their name. Folks that go to such lengths so that they can seem to be "respectable" while formenting disharmony have earned their reptilian moniker.

In my view the powerless rants of an angry mob are very much like the shield banging of ancient Vikings fired up before a going on some raid. http://goo.gl/pC4Ksf

What some would call "consensus" seems much more like shared paranoia. One is reminded too of the processes of ancient Athenians that often used a kind of concensus to silence others http://goo.gl/wplOX5

The lack of perspective exhibited by many posters to this blog is truly shocking -- those who would ascribe postive qualities to somehow piggybacking leaders of D86 are apparently unaware of the lack of performance exhibited by nearby unit districts such as those that serve Westmont, Lisle or Elmhurst. Not too long ago a single superintendent was atop both Downers Grove High School D99 and Elementary D58 and no special coordination, advancement or cost savings was scene. Even more shocking such suggestions suggest a utter lack of the disarray with which D86's "friends" have wrought in their heavy handed rule.

Here's something that maybe somebody can try to dig out of the D181 archives -- back when Chevron Energy Solutions was awarded the $5 Million contract to put new HVAC units on the roof of HMS I recall that there was a need to have some concrete curbs added to the roofs. Any chance that work was the root cause of the leaky roof? Think it might be worth checking the warranty on that deal?

Go have a drink!

Anonymous said...

Part One of Two

Everett expresses himself well, but he still manages to combine bad facts, poor logical thinking, insults, and a sheer lack of interest in anything relating to the academic and emotional success of the kids in the community into a misleading, but well written, rant. I will address his bad facts, poor logic, insults, and lack of empathy in turn.

Let's start with the bad facts, particularly about the blog. He says that there is not much "education" going on on this blog. As I have said before, like the blog or not, it posts all the source material for readers to check. A blog is by definition a place for opinions and it achieves its highest and best function when it combines those opinions with the source material that the reader might not otherwise have access to. So, to say that there is not much "eduction" going on on the blog, is profoundly wrong. This blog is the single best source of actual facts on eduction in this area. Everett is like many other negative commentators here. Quick to toss out claims that the blog is full of vitriol and not much substance, but either unwilling or intellectually incapable of actually engaging the rich source material at his electronic fingertips.

He also is unaware or unwilling to come to grips with the reasons behind the anonymity. This administration is vindictive and secretive. How do we know that? Well, lots of reasons, but let's look at the most recent example. The administration admits now that nearly 90% of the staff at HMS alleged health isses as a result of the building. True or not, and it is likely premature to reach any conclusions, it certainly was worth investigation long before this recent debacle. Yet, not only was it not addressed, the superintendent apparently strolled into town, knowing of the history of health concerns, and claimed that her nose let her dismiss issues.

Anonymous said...

Part Two of Two

Also, Everett, if you read the material provided for you on the blog, you would know that board members have openly stated that they reject any idea of openeness in government and want to lobby representatives to limit public access and that the teachers who have posted have done so in fear of retibution.

As for poor logic, Everett seems to argue that because other communities and districts are in crisis we should simply move along. Illinois is plagued with many many smaller school districts, petty political wrangling, organization chaos, and other seemingly insurmountable structural problems in its school systems. The entire United States faces its own challenges, as we all know. But we can't solve the problems of the entire state or country, we can try to solve the problems here and perhaps, through a public forum, set an example for other districts.

As for the insults, it is entirely predictable that a commentator supposedly upset with the mud slinging on this blog embeds his own hatred of the coummunity in virtually every sentence. His commentary seethes with anger and envy for his neighbors. Comments such as

" Much more of the sorts of one-upmanship that undoubtedly helped many of our village's residents get where they are today ... http://goo.gl/9sSSXf" reflect the mindset of someone who criticizes for the sake of criticism, being unable to perceive positive motives in the actions of thers. My advice--get to know the people around here a little better. Some may well have the stereotypical Hinsdale personality, not too different from similar folks in any prosperous suburban area, but many others are quite different with a wide range of interests, polticial views, and backgrounds. Your posts do however make it clear that you are not one of those self-centered materialistic people who you are forced to see everyday constantly "one upping" others bragging about their Range Rovers, low handicaps, and skiing vacations. No way--Everett can see right through those people. And thus, even as you bad mouth your neighbors for their superior attitude, you show clearly that you consider yourself better, smarter, and more moral than the "mob" of thoughtless consumption focused rich people who you believe are not really concerned about eduction in this area but driven by their base impulses so less refined than your own pure intellectual and unbiased view.

Finally, mocking parents who care enough to devote their time to this forum, collect the documents for us to read, without offering one suggestion that would benefit the kids, says more about you than anybody else.

You do have some good thoughts in your posts. Education is challenging everywhere, D 86 is not the model for other districts, and it may well be worth it to go back and look at older projects. That value is lost, though, when your blog posts are merely a forum for you to proclaim to the world your own special nature.



Anonymous said...

I have been following the comments on this post and would like to point out that our current BOE has much more power than they currently wish to utilize when dealing with incompetent administrators. April 1 is the magic deadline for administrators Schuster, Schneider, Russell, Benaitis and Igoe to be released. You can look this up. These people are given one-year contracts, and the BOE must notify them prior to April 1 if they will be renewed for another year. This also applies to Schuster, despite the fact her contract ends on June 30, 2015. She also can be released prior to April 1, 2014. If there were ever a time for the board to take action, it is now. There is absolutely no defense for these administrators in how they have handled the HMS mold issue. Period. They have not been pro-active leaders, they have be re-active with no advance planning that could have been done 2 weeks ago. Not what we want or deserve. We also have a superintendent who believes her nose can sniff out mold. Boy was she wrong. She is also responsible the havoc the administration has waged on our children regarding the math acceleration and classroom inclusion, which will show up again in upcoming test scores that already show a downward trend. Any superintendent would have to be crazy as a loon to attempt such radical change in our district with the elimination of programs and instituting learning for all in the face of the Common Core, but if the shoe fits....

Anonymous said...

I think as a community we need to demand that Mr. Nelson step down from the BOE. Calling in at every meeting is not performing ones board duties. Community members do not even know what he looks like. One more board member would make a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

Dear "Mr Everett" (or perhaps Dr. Schneider):

Since we have your attention I would like to ask you two questions:

1. Since you were hired by this district to focus on special education, why are you not more focused on the fact that 1) only 50% of our children with IEP's are meeting or exceeding standards on reading, and 2) only 54% of our children with IEP's are meeting or exceeding standards in math?

2. What exactly did you mean when you stated at the recent TASH social justice conference that this district's Learning for All plan is based on the non negotiable principals of inclusive schooling from Capper & Frattura?

Mr. Everett said...

For the sake of keeping the volley going I will freely grant that I do consider myself having "overcome" the paranoia that still seems to gripe many that live in this community when it comes to governmental officials. Having sat through many BOE meetings as well as interminable Village/Library/Park District adventures in minutia I have come to understand that most elected office holders are simply overwhelmed by the complexity thrust upon them by buffoons in Springfield that largely carve out laws for the benefit of organized labor, themselves and big spending lobbyists. Doesn't really matter if the campaign funds are coming from "Illinois Association of Car Dealers" or "Illinois Association of Cheif School Business Officers" the legislators know where their bread is buttered...

When it comes to the adminstrators currently serving in D181 I have no doubt that many of them are less than "cream of the crop" because I know first hand that to be well versed in "educational best practice" is among the least strenous of all graduate school pursuits. Sadly the paucity of truly talented individuals capable of replacing the crew we have means the odds of even less impressive individual being paid even larger salaries forces me to advocate "sticking with the devil we know"...

The focus of the vast majority educational researchers is not on improving the performance of those with nice homes and every advantage. One need not be a particularly squishy liberal to understand that improving poor schools is far bigger boon to society that raising the top tier even higher. How the world's most improved schools keep getting better| McKinsey & Company I suspect that more than a few of the points of that report are not widely enough know but for me the most striking point is the last "Leadership continuity is essential" -- schools / educational ministries that too quickly turn over the higher ranks are less likely to see sustained improved. Further, in contrast, schools that do have stable leadership have better contuity of developing their own skilled replacements for internal promotion to maintain the pace of improvements. Things that are woefully lacking in our own topsey turvey environment where few BOE members even bother running for a second term...

As to suggestions that would benefit the immeadiate situation of HMS, I will point out that I distinctly remember the gleeful rush to plant new HVAC units of the roof of HMS being accompanied with additional concrete curbing that may have contributed to the leaky roof. Perhaps none of the partipants here had much to do with the district then but that would further bolster the value continuity, especially as that $5 million dollar no bid contract was accepted when we had an intrim superintindent after the last "dumping party"...


Mr. Everett said...

Those that advocate for new leadership might do well to learn from the experience of those that go through other kinds of separations -- Marry, Divorce, Reconcile | Psychology Today I would posit that , not unlike a spouse that is unfaithful, there is great deal of pain associated with having one's children enrolled in an educational system that one does not trust. The similarities between such a clash of educational values and the "irreconcilable difference" that often are cited as the reason for a divorce are not just supercificially similar -- one has literally a crisis that makes one believe this person does not share the best interests of one's children.

I would advocate, short of true criminal malfeasance, that the benefits of running a school district with <a href="http://goo.gl/zkXf6D> plebiscites</a> are grossly outweighed by the often heinous pecuniary results as seen when states like California or Michigan responding to voter action for caps on school expenditures. While that crowd is currently more engaged at D86 I have no doubt that they will insert themselves at D181 at the earliest available moment and the results will make the minor dislocation of our elementary schools seem like our zenith.

The most honest and through independant analysis of school performance is done for US News and World Report. For many years they were adament in avoiding an ordinal ranking of schools, prefering the much more realistic tiers of gold, silver, bronze, honorable mention. The top tier has long been soley the domain of selective admission schools like Payton Prep. In the next category schools like Stevenson, Hinsdale Central, New Trier and other well regarded schools that serve a very well prepped student body are the real standard bearers for what can be achieved in appropriately funded public schools with involved parents. Too often these things become distorted into silly "bragging rights". Notably no such national organization bothers to do any ranking for elementary / middle schools. The problems are not just lack of assessements across state borders, though that is part of it, but more fundamentally there is no uniformity of curriculum in the US until kids prepare for college. Frankly the very poorly constructed ISATs are almost certainly being tweaked to try to obscure the horrible performance of some groups of students in Illinois as opposed to demonstrationg superiority -- when folks get hung up on using poor tools for the wrong ends it leads to no good: would you want to see teams in the Super Bowl that had the greatest time of possesion or those that won the most games? How about "judging" a cross country race on same criteria as figure skating?

I wish I could say that I wrote all this while peacefully waiting in line on Chicago Ave but alas these thoughts are secondary in such a situation to frustrations with other drivers, the probably over paid / more generously benefit promised police and yes, district staff, but the roiling blood that some seem to have toward the present situation is most troubling...

Anonymous said...

Please list the reasons why we should trust this administration.

How have they served this community? Are test scores on the rise? (no) Are satisfied parents attending meetings thanking them for the changes? (no) Are they proactive and thoughful planners? Is our curriculum improving? ( it should-we have 2 administrators in charge of it.)

Maybe now whoever does the hiring will ask better questions.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with the majority of the posts written by "Mr. Everett"/Schneider/Monyek/Rhoades/Nelson, however he does pose an interesting question about the roof. Even a broken clock is right twice a day....

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier post that says Mr. Nelson should step down from the BOE. If he no longer can or doesn't want to fulfill his commitment to the community, then he should step aside. We need more Board members like Ms. Garg and Mr. Heneghan who ask the tough questions and don't just rubberstamp whatever the administration is asking for.

If the Learning for All debacle isn't enough, the current situation at HMS and the administration's mishandling of it (including hiding things from the BOE and ignoring staff and student health issues) should be enough to oust all of them. Dr. Schuster and team have caused enough damage in this district. Time to clean house.

Concerned HMS Staff Member said...

I am an HMS staff member and today was the first day of the split schedule for us and the students. I doubt anyone can say that the conditions at HMS are anything but horrible. However, the staff at CHMS has been nothing but hospitable and welcoming. Words cannot describe how wonderful it is to be with such wonderful, caring people.

Dr. Schuster, Dr. Russell, Dr. Schneider, and several other central office administrators were there today, making everything sure everything was going smoothly. Could they have done more/better to make this process smoother and better, if not prevent this, perhaps. I am not privy to all the information they have nor do I follow them 24/7. But to say they're slacking off and not taking this seriously is a lie and disrespectful. I have to say that I am so proud to be a part of the District 181 family and to see all this camaraderie and coming together to help. Just seeing the district come together like this and help one another is truly amazing.

What I cannot accept, though, is how hateful and disrespectful many of the comments on this site are. So many people being so rude to each other and to the administration. While I admit, the administration probably could have handled things better, I would rather help them out and take my concerns directly to them in a respectful way, not blast them anonymously on a website. It truly saddens me to see parents & community members berate each other for not knowing something, having different opinions, and complaining about things without offering suggestions on what would be better. While I have seen people on this site posting direct links to the information, and I am grateful for that, but there are so many more disrespectful comments. Many of you seem to be parents. Is this kind of behavior you want your children to see? If someone says something that's wrong, please, respectfully, correct them and show them where you get that information. If you disagree, please tell them your reasons and point them to the information you used to reach your opinion. All in all, please be open-minded and respectful of everyone. We are all only human. Please remember that. Thank you.

HMS Staff Member said...

I also work at HMS and while I agree that some of the comments on this site are biting and nasty, I guess I understand why. Parents and staff are angry. I am angry. Angry that HMS concerns regarding a potential mold issue, backed up with health concerns, were ignored for many years until a crisis that no one could ignore anymore led to the truth. HMS is infested with mold that has been making staff and students sick for years. Yes, Dr. Schuster and her staff have been working very hard since Monday night to get the students back to school. Things went very well today, so they should be thanked. But that does not excuse the delay in coming up with a plan and it does not excuse their ignoring past teacher and student concerns.

Concerned HMS Staff Member said...

The HMS staff member who responded after me is correct. Dr. Schuster, the other central administrators & BOE should be thanked for all their work, which is no doubt extremely difficult.

Also correct is how they have dismissed many concerns and instituted many quick & easy band-aid solutions for the symptoms rather than fix the actual causes. They also need to work on transparency. As I have said, I am not privy to all their information nor can I watch them 24/7. It needs to be clear not only what their decisions are, but how they came to such decisions.

However, bickering on a blog will not solve our problems. Something that will help will be to conduct research on issues that concern us, present it to the board and appropriate administrators. We should also help out carrying any recommendations we have. For those who feel administrators & board members should resign or get fired, bring it up at a board meeting, backed up with verifiable evidence that they are not up to snuff. It would be even better if you can recommend possible replacements and why they would be good administrators/board members.

All in all, just remember actions speak louder than words. Just make sure whatever you do is done responsibly and respectfully. Anything else would not help very much. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to thank the second HMS staff member for his or her post. Yes, we are all angry - and at this point our anger is justified.

Second, I just read the duct work report. It appears that there is significant dust in the ducts and the report states that the ducts have not been cleaned in some time. How often have the ducts been cleaned in our other D181 schools? My son's allergies are much worse at school than they are at home, so it begs the question - how well maintained are our D181 buildings?

Anonymous said...

Dear concerned HMS staff member,

Thank you for everything you do for our children - we appreciate your hard work.

Please know that most of us on this blog have respectfully voiced our concerns and have expressed alternative solutions on many forums for many years. We have gone to board meetings, we have spoken during public comments, we have met with board members, we have met with principals, we have met with Dr. Schuster, we have written letters, we have gone to community events - the list goes on and one - all to no avail. We are ignored, lied to, and belittled. We are talked down to. We are told we are not education experts. We are told our voice does not matter. We have tried respectfully for years. And now our children are suffering. So yes, we are angry.

D181 Staff Member said...

I'm absolutely p***ed off at the administration's and boards actions (and inactions in some cases). I believe we, both as individuals and as a community, should do something. I admit, I had written a long comment, but I find myself torn. On the one hand, I think we should storm all the board meeting and demand the resignations of Dr. Schuster, many of the central office administrators and the board (save Mr. Heneghan and Mrs. Garg as they do ask the hard hitting questions).

On the other hand, as people have mentioned in various comments on this site, there is an intense fear of retaliation among the staff of district 181. Many staff members are afraid to speak up. Look at how many years we've been dismissed by the board and administration. How would we know that they'll take us seriously? The only way I can think of is if we fill the entire room at board meetings. I've often been told that if you don't much time and effort into a message, why should the receiver? So why should the board & administration take us seriously if there's only a handful of people at board meetings?

Anonymous said...

Dear Concerned HMS staffmember

My oldest attends HMS and I have been very impressed with the staff and instruction she has received. It seems as if the curriculum at the middle school has remained more untouched (by Dr. Shuster) than in the K-5 levels.

However-I think most of the anger comes through in the posts because, as the previous poster states, we have tried being respectful, tried presenting data when making arguments, tried asking thoughful, probing questions-only to get canned responses (sometimes no response!!), repsonses that rely on no data or proven sources. It"s baffling.

I could go on and on-like what type of leader tells her teachers to "create" their own math pilot ( the infamous 4th grade math problem), then decides to abolish math tiers in the lower grades-well in some grades at certain schools, some grades still have them ...yet tries to accelerate all others.... I have one struggling writer/reader, yet find empty workbooks in her backpack at the end of the year. How about the outcry to hire more teachers for a few of the bubble grades-that was slammed down, yet check out some of the terrific raises some of the administors have received. Everyday math is rated as one of the worst math programs ( Investigations isn't rated well either-which was suggested as a replacement), yet it's still in place. My younger children have no grammar book and don't seem to work on vocab anymore.

And anyone that wants us to wait 5-7 years before we see the benefits of any curriculum change-well has no sense of urgency at all.

Sorry. I can't wait until they get to HMS.

Concerned HMS Staff Member said...

To the anonymous person who responded to me:

I cannot begin to describe how appreciative your response made me, and I totally understand where you come from. I am so frustrated with this whole district, I just need to vent, you know? Please know that if I offended you or anyone else reading my posts, I apologize. But many other posters seem (keyword being SEEM) so unmotivated to do anything themselves. And even then, I admit, I don't really know specific things we can do to make them listen. The only thing I can think of, and I'm not sure even then, is getting more people to not only attend board meetings, but speak up during public comments. I've been to several board meetings and only a handful of people come, and even fewer go up to speak. I was happy to see how many people came to the first emergency board meeting, plus however many listened to the live stream. The attendance at the second emergency meeting was far fewer, but still quite a bit bigger than normal meetings. Plus, the server that handles the live stream couldn't even keep up with the people listening at home. If we can fill up the meeting room and speak up, maybe then people will listen to us. The only other thing is to find great people to run fun for the board and elect them.

I apologize for ranting, but as probably everyone here can understand, I'm just angry, exhausted, and fed up.

Anonymous said...

Dear concerned HMS teacher,

Thank you for everything that you do. The parents are deeply appreciative of the enormous efforts our teachers put in and we support you. I too am deeply frustrated that more people do not attend board meetings and speak up. I do attend the board meetings, and I do speak up, so it is frustrating that others hide behind me and a few others. Change will only happen if we all speak up and show up. You are exactly right. And again, thank you for caring for our children.

Anonymous said...

The CHMS staff is fantastic and Mr. Sonntag runs a terrific school. I'm not surprised to hear that the HMS students and staff were welcomed graciously. We are a community and we will get through this difficult time together.

However, with all of Dr. Schuster's celebrating, I do take exception to the fact that no mention was made that many CHMS students were waiting outside this morning in -20 degree weather and in the dark for 15 minutes because of a late bus. It's not okay to endanger students and staff at HMS and it is not okay to endanger my CHMS student.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bloggers and other concerned community members -

Does anyone know why Servpro is on strike and picketing at HMS?