Sunday, January 19, 2014

MORE BREAKING NEWS: Emergency Board Meeting Scheduled for Monday Night For Board to Approve Work at HMS that Will Keep School Closed Through Friday, 1/24/14.

At 5:05 p.m. this afternoon, Dr. Schuster sent another email to D181 parents.  It is copied below.  The key points include:
  • An emergency Board meeting has been scheduled for Monday, 1/20 at 7 p.m. at Elm School
  • The Board will be asked to discuss and approve additional expenditures related to the mold remediation issue at HMS that have been recommended by the remediation and testing companies and that need to be done before school can reopen.
  • These steps include cleaning the duct-work throughout the building and removing the baseboard and any drywall that touches the floor.
  • This work, if approved will have an "anticipated completion" that requires school to be cancelled through Friday, 1/24.
  • The two remediation and testing companies -- SERVPRO and Integrity Environmental Services -- will present reports.
  • The Agenda will include an opportunity for parent comment.
  • The Administration will "confirm" with the Regional Board of Education options for making up school  "as soon as possible."

Gee, thanks for this new bad news, Dr. Schuster.

What does this all mean, and once again, what is Dr. Schuster not telling us?  Here's a short list.  You can all probably add to it:
  • No mention is made of whether parents, teachers, staff, students or community members will be allowed to ask questions that will actually be answered.
  • No mention is made of whether "anticipated completion" means that the work will be finished by Monday, 1/27, or will require work over next weekend with the possibility that it could take longer than anticipated resulting in a longer school closure.
  • No mention is made of whether more work might be needed if, upon removing the baseboards and drywall throughout the building, more mold contamination is discovered.
  • No mention is made of how much drywall Dr. Schuster is talking about.  Parts of the building are constructed with cinder blocks, but how much is actually drywall?  Only removal of drywall is mentioned.  What about the replacement? Will walls be left open and exposed?  Will walls be removed in their entirety between classrooms?  What is the school going to be left looking like upon the "anticipated completion?"
  • No mention is made of whether all of the roof leaks have been identified and repaired.  What is going to happen when the new snowfall from this weekend begins to melt?  More leaks, leading to more mold? What is going to happen when the Polar Vortex roars back into town later this week as has been forecast?  More pipes bursting?  More water damage?  More mold?
  • No explanation is laid out for parents of what the options are for making up, what as of Friday, will be the loss of 7 instructional days.  All parents have been told is that options will be confirmed "as soon as possible."
  • Nothing is mentioned regarding what steps, if any, Dr. Schuster has taken, up until this point in time, to identify alternate building space that could be used to immediately move students,  teachers and staff into so that students will not have to miss any more school.
  • All that is referenced are "facility issues."  Nothing is mentioned about having a discussion during the meeting to address the medical issues that have been raised by staff over the last 3 years.  A requirement to clean out all of the air ducts could not possibly only be related to mold spores that developed in the last two weeks.  Cleaning an entire air duct system means that the companies must suspect that there is mold throughout the building.  We need an explanation of how long this would have taken to develop over time!

Once again, Dr. Schuster's communication to parents is sorely lacking in details. Unfortunately for her, the devil is in the details.  If she were doing her job, was on site full time "living" this nightmare with the rest of her staff, then she might actually identify all the issues that must be addressed and recognize that the communications she is sending out do not address all of the questions parents, students, teachers and staff have and that require immediate answers.

Perhaps tomorrow the Board will demand answers to these questions, questions that they should be asking themselves.

Perhaps tomorrow the Board will give parents the opportunity to ask questions and then hold Dr. Schuster's feet to the fire and insist that she answer them.

But none of this will happen if parents, teachers and staff do not attend the meeting and express their concerns.  Complacency by the community is what Dr. Schuster and Board President Turek are probably hoping for.   Don't give it to them! You must show up in full force, not just to listen to Schuster's spin and Mr. Turek's attempts to deflect the discussion away from the gravity of the situation, but to demand answers to questions that you should all be asking during public comment.

Do you really want your children to miss more than one week of instructional time?  Do you really want your children to sit home and wait for Dr. Schuster to get her act together and figure out an alternate plan of action?  Why wasn't there an alternate plan in place that would address the displacement of our students, teachers and staff for this length of time? If a tornado had destroyed the building, would we all be waiting around for it to be rebuilt before our students could return to school?  Of course not.  Emergency measures would have been implemented and alternate school facilities located immediately.  

It is time to get our students back into school.  Not another day should be missed without a guaranteed restart day at HMS or at an alternate location.  HMS Students, teachers and staff deserve this.  What is Dr. Schuster waiting for?

Text of 1/19 Email From Dr. Schuster:

January 19, 2014

Dear District 181 Community:

The District 181 Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting on Monday, January 20 (7:00 p.m.) at Elm School for the purpose of addressing HMS facility issues. The Board will hear reports from Integrity Environmental Services and SERVPRO, as well as consider expenditures related to additional steps to address facility needs at HMS. The agenda will include an opportunity for public comment. HMS parents and staff and any interested community members are encouraged to attend. The meeting audio and agenda will be available through the District website at > Board of Education.

Today, a conversation with representatives from SERVPRO and Integrity Environmental Services indicated that two additional steps to remediate the mold found in HMS should be recommended to the Board of Education for completion prior to resuming classes. These recommendations involve cleaning the ductwork throughout the building and removing the cove molding (baseboards) and any drywall that touches the flooring. These recommendations will be made to the Board for their approval during the emergency meeting on Monday. If the Board approves the recommendations, the anticipated completion time would require that classes at HMS be canceled through Friday, January 24. We will confirm with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) our options for school makeup days as soon as possible.

Please click here to view the HMS Facility Updates webpage: > Schools > HMS > Facility Updates. A Frequently Asked Questions page has been added to the site and is accessible from the Facility Updates page.


Dr. Renée Schuster


Anonymous said...

Dr. Schuster is sly as a fox. Calling the emergency meeting for Monday night may guarantee that few parents show up. Many families went out of town for the long holiday weekend and will be returning late Monday night. Many might not even open their emails until they return. If she or Mr. Turek even dares to suggest that inadequate parent presence at the meeting is an indication that parents are o.k. with how she is handling this situation, or o.k. with their kids staying out of school all week, they are both wrong, and perhaps certifiably crazy.

I would also like to point out another tactic Dr. Schuster used this weekend. After realizing that CBS news would probably want to interview her for a second story after she sent our the Saturday announcement that closed the schools through mid week, she ensured that no news story could be produced or broadcast on Saturday during the evening and late night news if she would wait to release her announcement until 10:38 p.m. after the late evening news. This would give her time to high tail it back to the district from being out of town, where many staff and community members suspect she has been since Friday afternoon. Guess she didn't make it back in time to be present for the meeting that another community member mentioned in an earlier comment today. Outrageous!

Anonymous said...

If the rumors are true that Dr. Schuster has continued to take vacation days while all of this was going on, instead of being present on the front lines leading, then we have even more serious problems than what we are now facing as HMS. A true leader does not abandon the ship when it is sinking. She should have been here front and center making sure there were plans in place to provide our children with a place to learn while HMS is being cleaned up. Do you really believe this would be acceptable in Lincolnshire or the North Shore, places Dr. Schuster likes to compare us to when it suits her purpose?

We also should know why these problems were not addressed in the summer. If teachers have been sharing their concerns for three years, how much of this mess could have been avoided if we had a true leader at the helm? You cannot expect to get things done if you are not present, especially when you have surrounded yourself with such inexperienced assistants. This behavior, if true, is an outrage, and our elected school board should be holding Dr. Schuster accountable.

Anonymous said...

To add to the previous comment about couldn't problems at HMS have been addressed over this past summer after three years of complaints by the staff, well, just remember our D181 administrators only worked Monday through Thursday during the summer months in order to save energy costs!!! Guess they didn't accomplish everything they needed to get done in that four day summer work week!!! Ridiculous! They all need to be fired. Let's start over with people who know what an acceptable work ethic is, as well as integrity and honesty!

Anonymous said...

Guess our Superintendent's "sensitive nose to detect mold" is on the fritz, eh? And this statement comes from the absentee leader our district who Turek, Nelson, and Clarin blindly support. We can already smell the sugar-coated Schuster syrup that will drip from the mouths of these guys tonight at the meeting. While in their haze of praise, they should remember the teachers were right all along about HMS being a sick building. Too bad it took a crisis for anyone to listen.

Anonymous said...

Old mold nose can sniff out pension benefits, at least we can that for her. Maybe living in the dry desert for most of the year is what confused her spidey sense.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schuster's inability to identify and remove an actual growing rot in D 181, her absence while the rot grows, and Marty Turek's apparent endorsement of her leadership on fungusgate is, sadly, an actual physical metaphor for the curriculum rot. Just as Schuster ignored teacher complaints about fungus, she ignored teacher complaints about curriculum, just as she said she had a "nose" for mold, she said trust me on the curriculum, and just as she tried to play down bad numbers on the fungus, she tried to play down the bad test numbers. With the mold, unlike the curriculum, even Marty T could not stop the remediation service from ripping down the wall and seeing the rot. Now maybe the community can ask Marty T and Clarin and MIke "in absentia" Nelson to rip down the walls hiding the rot in the curriculum and ask the desert flower to go bloom somewhere else.

HMS Parent said...

I am an HMS parent. I want to thank Principal Pena for sending out an email to parents today reminding parents about the emergency Board meeting tonight at Elm School. His email also suggests that teachers might be updating their websites to allow students to move forward educationally and also says that assessments students were supposed to take last Friday will be at the forefront of HMS' planning when students return to school. I take issue with these 2 suggestions. While I appreciate that the teachers will want to update their website, unless students have their textbooks at home, they will not be able to do any of the suggested work teachers might post. If the next suggestion is that parents be allowed in to the building to collect students books, then my question is why have teachers been told that they cannot enter the building to bring home personal items? If its not safe for the teachers, its not safe for anyone until the building is fully remediated. Plus many parents work and cannot come to the building during the day. As for assessments, I hope Mr. Pena meant subject tests and not MAP testing that was going on. No more instructional time should be used this winter to give students winter MAP tests, especially since almost all other districts do not give their students winter MAP tests. If he meant tests that students were supposed to take last Friday, then students need time to reacclimate to school before they are given tests. Please don't spring a math or science or english test on them on their first day back!

Once again, thank you for the reminder about tonight's meeting. I agree with the bloggers that it is really important that parents and teachers show up and express their concerns, ask questions and get answers. If Schuster and Turek refuse to answer questions tonight, they should resign.

Anonymous said...

I hope the news stations show up at tonight's meeting and film the entire "show." Someone should ask Dr. Schuster why she thought it was appropriate to leave town the last two weekends. If Mr. Turek suggests that her absence from the district has not been an issue, then he is crazy. What CEO of any company leaves to go out of town in the midst of a crisis? Who amongst us has not had to cancel personal plans or vacations when a work crisis arose? Why does Schuster think she can get away with this? Who cares if she has 30 vacation days? Who cares if some of the days she was gone were weekend days? She should have been in town, on site and physically present as SERVPRO and the testing company worked around the clock to try and get HMS reopened. Her failure to be present is reprehensible. How can the BOE not see this?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment. I bet Schuster will not address this. She will make it seem like she's been in town. By sending out emails, having her staff create a web page and showing up at tonight's board meeting, she will say she's been handling things. She might even say she didn't need to be physically present because she was available by phone. Turek and others on the board might actually "celebrate" all her "efforts." What a joke. They should fire her if it turns out that she actually was out of town the last two weekends.