Saturday, February 1, 2014

Plans Continue for HMS to Reopen on Tuesday

Pending a final clearance after Integrity Environmental Services tests the school, Hinsdale Middle School will reopen to students on Tuesday morning. We had hoped it would open on Monday so that students would not miss more instructional time, but after receiving Dr. Schuster's daily update on Friday afternoon, it appears that that will not happen. Her email is copied below. While we are thrilled  that "full time" school is going to resume, we still do not understand the additional day of delay. We have heard that community members have sent letters to the board asking for an explanation as to why it was not told at the 3 prior meetings that the Regional Office of Education and an architecture firm would first need to tour the school, and we hope to get an answer at next Monday's board meeting. If there is a regulation that requires the ROE to clear the school for occupancy we would like to know what the regulation is.

Dr.Schuster's email:

"January 31, 2014
Dear District 181 Community,

This is your latest Hinsdale Middle School progress update. The ductwork cleaning is complete and final building cleaning is underway. Integrity Environmental Services will begin their testing this evening and will complete this part of the process tomorrow. The District will get the test results late Sunday evening or Monday morning. Therefore, the split schedule will continue on Monday, February 3. A final inspection by the DuPage Regional Office of Education and architecture firm will take place Monday afternoon, following a fire safety inspection and after environmental testing results have been received. We plan to hold the HMS Open House on Monday evening (6:30 – 8:00 p.m.), and have classes resume at HMS on Tuesday, February 4.

We look forward to welcoming the community to the Open House next week. Please watch for a message Sunday evening confirming the event details.

Dr. Renée Schuster


Anonymous said...

Lets face it if some of the board members hadn't pushed for an alternative to making up all of HMS missed days at the end of year, we would not have gotten a split schedule. Dr. S seemed to be sure that classes would resume at HMS last week. If we hadn't had two days of the split, our children would have been out of school from 1/17 to 1/28 since they obviously didn't think their would be more weather related closings either. Then last week I heard her say that she was confident we would be back in the school 2/3. I don't think attending a basketball game now and then makes one a part of the community. Being in the business of running schools, don't they know of all of the factors to consider? Now it's not just tuesday but maybe wednesday. I cannot believe as a resident and parent at the level of incompetence and lack of commitment at the top.

Anonymous said...

This is in reference to a previous post by a Mr. Wick. I totally agree with his position that the BOE is not working well together. But every time a few of them ask questions, the president, Mr. Turek, last year's president, Mr. Nelson, criticize them. (Mr. Nelson, FYI, doesn't even have kids in the district, and has a dismal attendance record. )
An atmosphere of secrecy and compliance has been pushed onto the others by those 2 for years, and people who challenge it are labeled "whiners' or "crazy".

Parents aren't being given answers, and when they are forced to file FOIAs, Marty Turek belittles them. Now, we come to find that Turek is the king of FOIA filing? If the BOE forced the administration to be more forthcoming, and took all of the glaring problems more seriously, there would be many less people complaining in town. Obviously, you were lucky to have had kids in D181 during a time when your kid's had an administrator who knew what she was doing.

You praise a previous poster for being a good community member, but good community members support each other when there is a crisis. They don't call people names and post false information about our property taxes. Just because Mr. Joyce had a great experience when his kids were in elementary school does not mean that there are not valid problems now. And who is he to dismiss our problems, anyway? Does he consider himself better that the rest of us, or more worthy? He doesn't sound like someone I'd want to know. Calling people "whiners" over real concerns doesn't seem particularly kind or helpful to me.

I am not sure if Mr. Wick or Mr. Joyce heard the teacher representative speak a few meetings back about the health concerns the teachers of HMS have been facing for years, but I doubt they did. As other teachers have posted on this blog, and as other teachers have approached me and other parents, they are concerned, but are afraid to lose their jobs. Parents have to stop thinking that name calling is ever appropriate. With or without your name attached to it, those comments are still rude.

I have no doubt that Mr. Joyce cares about his own children and wants the best for our community, but if he and others angrily belittle people for trying to solve real problems, he is not helping the situation either.

Village Mom

Anonymous said...

Village Mom,

Sorry but your facts are seem off. The percentage of property taxes ARE about 2% of the market value on my house. I would guess yours are similar. (Fair market value and assessed value are two different things.) In addition, my taxes for D181 are approximately 43% of my total property taxes (not 91%). Perhaps there was an error in your calculations. In addition, the amount of D86 taxes are approximately 23% of my total property tax bill. These numbers make sense considering D181 educates students for 8-9 years vs. 4 years at D86.

Since this blog claims to rely to heavily on facts just thought I would correct some inaccuracies.

Anonymous said...

Enough with the bickering back and forth! This is about the children. My fourth grade son who is extremely smart cannot do his homework because he is being asked to do fifth grade math as a fourth grader. Important concepts are being skipped and rushed through and taught in a disjointed fashion. I do not care what my tax bill is. I care that my child's math foundation is being destroyed. And he is not alone. Can we all please work together and stay focused on the children.

The Parents said...

Thank you to the last person who posted and reminded everyone that the issues in D181 impact our children. We are still waiting on the presentation of data from the multiple administrators overseeing curriculum on how students are doing -- not on ISAT tests or MAP tests, but on their everyday work. With the math acceleration for all model, what percentage of students in each grade (and by school, not all lumped together) are performing above 90%, how many between 80 and 90%, how many between 70 and 80% and how many below 70%? Let's remember that last year, students needed to maintain 80% in a math level to remain there. This year Dr.Schuster lowered it to 70%. Why did she lower the standard ? This is just one of many questions that continue to go unanswered while we wait for data analysis from administrators who have no expertise in this area.

Anonymous said...

Here you go, Smarty Pants,

This Directly from the D181 Tentative Budget for

Check Board Docs. You will see a huge graphic of a pie chart and all of the explanations. If someone on the blog could create links to this info, or post a photo of the pie chart I would appreciate it.

By the way, it sounds like you are getting under taxed!

Operating Funds Summary
The Board of Education considers the Educational, Operations and Maintenance, Transportation, Municipal Retirement, and Working Cash Funds as the Operating Funds and looks to the aggregate of these funds to see if the total revenues exceed the total expenditures. For the FY 2013-14 tentative budget, the projected surplus before other financing sources is $1,060,638 and the projected surplus after other financing sources is $6,950. The District levied a 3% increase for tax levy year 2012 ($1.6 million) and is projecting to levy 1.7% for the 2013 tax year ($900,000). Salaries have increased 4.78% ($1.8 million) over the prior fiscal year. Benefits are projected to increase by 4.9% ($400,000) over the prior fiscal year. Capital Outlay has increased by $250,000 by providing the following: standard classroom equipment across the nine buildings ($100,000), furniture replacement in the Media Resource Centers, as part of the conversion to Learning Common Spaces ($75,000), building safety improvements ($75,000).
The District’s total revenue is comprised of Property taxes at 91% of the total operating fund revenues, other local revenue at 3%, state aid at 4% and federal aid at 2%.$file/Tentative%20Budget%202013-14_8%2012%2013%20m4-1.pdf

jay_wick said...

It seems that the decision by the blog's hosts to allow / encourage folks to post anonymously is a distraction.

There are lots of questions about important matters, chief among those questions the issues surrounding the math acceleration are almost certainly top of mind for most people. It is unlikely that they'll be answered if the blog hosts foster a tone of accusation against the administration.

BTW The source of property taxes are not just residential portions of the district but also commercial, not to mention medical, excepting those with sufficient charitable exemptions...

The Parents said...

Mr.Wick: Long before this blog was created, parents and teachers asked questions and raised concerns about the math acceleration for all model. Just like the mold concerns voiced by teachers for years, they were ignored. Don't blame the anonymity of this blog as the reason the administration is unable and/or unwilling to answer questions publicly. Parents who have either personally -- and without shielding their names -- met with Schuster, Russell, Schneider and Igoe, written to the board or spoken during public comment have been discounted. In fact, if you read some of our earlier posts you will see that Dr.Schuster started her own blog last fall and almost immediately took it down after only one community member raised questions on it and then pushed back on some of her answers. If you think you can get answers and data from the administration, please try. We'd welcome answers and info from any source. But blaming this blog for the walls Schuster and her "team" have put up is, in our opinion, a cop out.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Wick,

You said:

jay_wick said...
It seems that the decision by the blog's hosts to allow / encourage folks to post anonymously is a distraction.

There are lots of questions about important matters, chief among those questions the issues surrounding the math acceleration are almost certainly top of mind for most people. It is unlikely that they'll be answered if the blog hosts foster a tone of accusation against the administration.

I echo what the blogger wrote to you. It has made absolutely no difference. I appreciate that at least you are offering suggestions, but believe me, we have tried. If more of these parents you are speaking of would come forward and do what I and many others have been doing, you would know our perspectives.

Administrators ignored us when we completely filled the Elm School at a board meeting last Spring almost solely with 3rd grade parents complaining, in person, about the problems the experimental program was causing. We announced our names, brought research, textbooks and materials with us. It made absolutely no difference to them. They stared at us blankly, or looked at their computer screens.

When, this year, a 4th grade parent was appointed to the District Math Committee meeting, the parent was completely ignored and dismissed. We were even ignored when 250 parents signed a petition, with our names, pointing out the specific problems with the math program. Still, no response. Last month, we went to the Common Core talk at Elm. No mention of last year's 3rd grade math pilot/acceleration and the ensuring problems in the 4th grade was made, even though a large group of us were there complaining. Why not? We had been talking to teachers and principals since the beginning of our children's 3rd grade year, asking for help. When nothing was done, that was when the petition came out. It was a reaction to so many people being ignored when they politely, and individually, asked for help.

This is why there is a blog. NONE of the higher level administrators : Schuster, Schneider, Russell, Benaitis, Igoe ever responded to us. They couldn't provide the information or reasoning that we asked for. There was no data to support their acceleration model. That is why Dr. Schuster took her blog post down. People could see that she never directly answered people's questions, or provided any factual basis of how she does things. You will see this at board meetings. When she cannot control the line of questions, or the direction of the discussion, Turek quickly jumps in like a bulldog to protect her. Generally, she spins the answer into some sort of a bird walk that lasts so long that people's eyes start crossing, but the truth never quite seems to come out.

If the administration really wanted the best for our children, and their intentions were good, they never would have let the level of parental frustration reach this point.

jay_wick said...

While it is a certainty that there will be some parents / community members that will never be fully satisfied it seems that the lack of effectiveness BOE leadership is currently the key to the unresponsiveness of the district.

I recall that when the BOE devoted more time to sub-committees those meetings were often more interactive and productive.

If current BOE members cannot bother to attend the main bi-monthly meetings it is no surprise that they have no desire to re-establish subcommittees with additional meetings.

Perhaps the focus of people that are upset with current situation should be to urge more committed community members to step forward and offer to take the place of BOE members who find the burden of office too great.

Of course the often antagonistic tone of this blog's host as well as that of the many anonymous posters would make it unlikely that any of them would garner support as a BOE replacement.

One wonders if other community members would want to step forward given the harshness of the criticism often leveled against well meaning respected parents such as Mr. Joyce...

Btw I would urge folks to at least use a "handle" to keep discussions not just more civil but also so that comments can be tied back to other postings.

My own handle is easily traced and links me to numerous other posts that I make not just on local news sites but other professional and civic concerns...

Anonymous said...

The information from the District's budget report was a real eye opener. Why in the world are we going to pay for $100, 000 for "standard classroom equipment across 9 buildings" and $75,000 for "furniture replacement in the MRCs as part of the transition to Learning Common Spaces"? What is a "Learning Common Space" and what does it look like? Whose brilliant idea was it to do this when HMS has been deteriorating for years? I would be really interested to know, because all the years my kids went to elementary school here, their MRC's were great. They learned a lot.

The leaky roof at HMS and the mold accumulation throughout the building takes clear priority over new furniture for desks and libraries across the district. What specifically was the $100, 000 going to buy? Desks and new furniture for the MRCs (libraries) doesn't seem so important. Of course, say, 15 desks were broken, or we didn't have enough chairs, fine, but even that is not listed. What in the world are we paying $175,000 for?!? Please tell us. If HMS can't even get new flooring after this, whose crazy idea was it to put new furniture in all of the lMRCs across all of the schools in the district? Does this include the newer schools, like CHMS, too?

Most important, and clearly the biggest priority is the education our children are receiving and student and staff health and safety! If the schools and libraries were working so well for all these years, and parents never complained about the furniture in the first place, it does not need to be changed. The D181 and the Board needs to get its priorities straight and listen to what parents and teachers are really complaining about.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is - We pay high taxes and a majority of our taxes go to this district! I don't care what the numbers are. We had desperately needed some stability after quick exits of a number of administrators, some were great and some not. I think we all hoped this time would be better. It's gone from bad to worse due to lack of knowledge or experience or personal agendas. We are in a constant transition state which is going to last at least 4-5 more years, the results of which are questionable. Some of us can afford to sell houses at a loss to move out of moldurama but many of us are stuck. Also for the last 2 years this district has done a great job advertising about how high our rankings are in various local newspapers, constant emails etc. etc. It was endless. It should be no surprise that we're now all talking about the rankings since that's all that mattered until our rankings dropped. Another year is going to be wasted for many of our children while we wait for results which will be riddled with caveats and excuses.

Anonymous said...

I do want to thank Mr. Joyce, Mr. WIck, and Mr. Everett for weighing in. All three appear to acknowledge some important issues with d 181. I don't agree with all of their thoughts but want to comment on their discomfort with the blog. All three should honestly and squarely reflect on the following

1.) Prior to the blog, did they ever discuss the issues raised by the blog as they impacted the entire student population, as opposed to whatever issues faced by individual children.

2.) If they did consider district wide issues, did they have a source of information that would allow them, or other community members, to examine the relevant source material for a discussion.

3.) Do they believe that discussing the issues on the blog is a positive matter and may well be a trigger for others to become involved.

Prior to the blog, we could only see our children's issues, did not have anyway of considering the issues district wide, and were not even sure what action was appropriate.

Take the issue of math acceleration as an example. If your own child is struggling, how do you know if that is an individual of a district issue. If you suspect it is a district issue, where to do you go for infomation. With information, you can ask teachers, principals, and administrators questions without being brushed aside as a demanding and uniformed parent.

The bottom line is that this administration has used secrecy and the false claim that as "experts" they should be allowed to work their educational "magic" without interference from nosey parents. Thanks to the internet, they can't take that approach anymore.

Keep being involved and fighting for the children.

jay_wick said...

The fixation on "secrecy" sadly makes folks too easily dismissed as flakes / conspiracy theorists.

The inter webs have existed for many decades and conspiracy theorists / cranks have long used such anonymity to bully those they've disagreed with.

At one time the Doings and Suburban Life had good reporting on BOE matters.

It seems that as D181 has adopted podcasts the quality of reporting has declined and the depth of discussions that take place at regularly scheduled board meetings has diminished.

Perhaps if folks addressed the issues in way that was less the domain of the paranoid and more in the spirit of simply asking those BOE members no longer interested in serving the community to step aside for those truly interested in fulfilling the proper role of leaders all would be better off.

A return to more interactive subcommittes would also be beneficial.

Bellicose calls to sack employees are rarely wise.

The Parents said...

Mr. Wick: it is truly unfortunate that you want to label the bloggers and anonymous commenters paranoid, but again, you are entitled to your opinion. We can assure you that your suggestions have been tried by many persons, including former board members and long time residents and parents, all to no avail. If you have suggestions for change, please come to a board meeting and speak out. We would all welcome some new voices.

Parent Who Has Tried said...

May I suggest you also call or arrange a meeting with each individual board member to express your concerns and suggestions for change. But don't stop there. Schedule a meeting with Dr. Schuster, Dr. Schneider, Dr. Russell, Dr. (in training) Igoe and Dr. (in training) Benaitis to discuss what your concerns are. I hope you don't have to witness the happy spin dance that they all like to perform. I have personally met or spoken with many of them and been completely blown off after assurances and promises for investigation and improvements were made. I can also name parents (but I won't) who have met with or spoken to every single one of these people and gotten nowhere. The only 2 board members willing to listen have been Heneghan and Garg, and they are a powerless minority. The community cannot wait until the spring 2015 election to replace some of the board members. And if past contract renewal votes are any indication, the current board majority will lock current administrators in place right before the new board gets seated. So anything you can do to effect positive change now would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Jaywick, you make no sense. You say "bellicose calls to sack employees is rarely wise." Yet, a few sentences earlier you say just ask some BOE members to step aside. Isn't that they same thing as what you said not to do, except....when you do the asking it is not "bellicose." No, Marty T and Mike N are not going to "step aside" even if you ask them with charm and not in the "bellicose" fashion that you abhor.

Everything you say to do has been done, and is being done. For the sub-committees, yes that would be nice but if you actually knew what happens, that the committees are manipulated and ignored. Go sit on one.

All the friendly nice chit chat, the please please, and casual midwestern charm has been a failure. You are welcome to try. Although, your "bellicose" attacks suggest that if you actually presented views they might be less than friendly.

In any event, in all your posts to date, you have yet to identify a single fact that suggests the BOE as a group or the administration is serving the children well. You certainly don't seem a supporter of the Turek/Yaeger curriculum changes.

Nobody is paranoid--change does not come easily and airing facts and opinions have a positive impact. Your participation here is proof of that.

Anonymous said...

Look, it is clearly in the interest of our entire community to work together and cooperate, not argue. Jay Wick has a point. I am sorry if I offended any of the posters who have used their names. No one who puts his ideas and name "out there" deserves to be ridiculed. There are far too many people of weak character who could care less about speaking up against what is wrong. Also, there are too many who who feel threatened by others speaking up. People who come forward should be applauded, not criticized.

I think this is what the person who wrote the "Notsies" post meant. That if parents don't speak up about what is wrong, terrible things (like genocides, for example) happen. We must all speak up collectively against what is wrong or we will ALL get hurt. In WWII, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists were killed. Many people turned a blind eye initially because "they" weren't Jewish. They thought to themselves, " Well, it's really not MY problem. My family isn't being negatively affected because I am not Jewish". Or, "I am a good citizen. I trust that our political leader knows what he is doing and will not question him." We all know how that story ended. If everyone had spoken up and demanded an end to injustice in the beginning, the war would not have escalated to such a grand scale. (I am no historian, so please forgive my simplification of the story.)

Mr. Joyce is correct in criticizing the fact that people need to stop SIMPLY sitting on sidelines while they ridicule others. Action is needed, too. Free speech is our right, and name calling, even in self defense is just as wrong. It is understandable that emotions are running high. But these are our children's lives we are talking about. They are innocent and are relying on us adults to help them.

Of course, life is not perfect, and we do not always get was is fair. I know that struggle and challenge is good for our kids. It will make them stronger. But this life's lesson has gone on for too long! Parents and children have learned to compensate by hiring tutors at $60/hr twice a week. But to what end? Now they don't even have time to play after school and just be kids because they have appointments with tutors? These are not children with any specific disabilities. They are regular kids who are being cheated out of a fun, positive experience in school. Large groups of parents have been complaining about this and how frustrated their children have been since the beginning of 3rd grade.

Do we really want to pass this off to school social workers and psychologists so they can address the anxiety and low self esteem running rampant in our elementary schools? It is just a band aid solution. We need to adjust the curriculum. And to take the focus off testing of all sorts. The Advanced Learning Plan and acceleration that is not supported by research. And it really is not a plan. It is only a theory and a philosophy because there are no specific guidelines in how to implement it.

Parents are all for differentiation, and inclusive education, but we want it to be implemented correctly. If it was really working in the K-5 setting, so many problems wouldn't be occurring throughout so many schools.

Village Mom

jay_wick said...

Not me doing any labeling, just informing you of why rants are easily dismissed.

Fact is under Illinois school code there is little that can be done to dump an ineffective BOE member.

This should highlight the importance of being fully involved in the selection of BOE candidates. I know Mr. Joyce has been active in this process and I have too.

It is not easy to get neighbors to volunteer their time to vet candidates.

It is even more difficult to get potential candidates to step forward when the environment is rife with those that are quick to condemn anyone that does hew to their every whim...

Sadly even candidates that seem promisingly balanced often become worn down by the constant drone of dissatisfaction and fall into a pattern of ineffectiveness if they don't get support from those that should provide input...

I would like to think that folks that would be prepared to step forward should any current BOE submit their resignation are not afraid to identify themselves.

I would further hope that when the tradition election organizing meetings take place their will be an abundance of folks eager to serve however past experience suggests the animosity exhibited here will lead to ever small pool of participants...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wick,

I am expecting to hear you speak publicly at the next Board Meeting. I look forward to hearing your ideas. At the very least, I can not wait for you to write a letter of complaint to the Board of Education and Administrators of this District.


A Parent in D181 Who Has Already Spoken

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wick:
I can't speak for the bloggers, but I think a blog needs to have some style to be read. If the bloggers just posted documents they would not have nearly 100,000 hits. So, you are right, that the blog style may alienate some, but it gets attention and presents the facts, which is an important goal. Good blogs strike a balance between interesting opinion and over the top rants. I find that this blog strikes the right balance.

You are right that it is hard to get people involved at some levels but that is not always been the case. Parents in this community volunteer in droves and have been willing to serve on many committees and provice appropriate input. With this administration, the response to such volunteer efforts has been to delay, to dissemble, and to deflect. They will delay anything, as long as possible, as time is always on their side. After a while, you feel that it is pointless as you feel as though you are alone. So, I think it is a mistake to point to the purported "rants" as a cause of the problem, it is in fact a reaction, a healthy reaction, to an administration that is off course.

jay_wick said...

Speaking one time is rarely effective and sitting through more than a handful of the often interminable meetings is frustrating.

I may comment at the next meeting, though I don't think the math issues are yet on the schedule.

I have commented before, sometimes it leads to some positive action...

John Norton said...

Dear BoE,

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the HMS building system failure. I have two specific concerns to note.

1. CURRENT TESTING: I have not received any response to my email below asking for details regarding the contractor’s testing strategy and subsequent interpretation of sample data. I do not believe that either a sampling strategy or an interpretation approach exist.
a. I have tried calling Mr. Ravanesi at both his office and on his cell.
i. His office didn’t know his whereabouts,
ii. I left a message with his secretary that morning,
iii. He didn’t answer his cell phone,
iv. His cell phone mailbox was full.
v. I should also note that the contractor “Integrity Environmental Services, Inc.” has only ONE email for their entire company, that being Their secretary confirmed this to me.
b. The lack of a sampling strategy or an interpretation approach for the subsequent data is a tremendous failure. It is impossible to have or to provide an unbiased interpretation of the data if the assessment criteria didn’t exist PRIOR to the sampling event.
c. Despite the issues inherent to both 1a and 1b above, I do not believe that any significant airborne microbes will be measured. The reason is that, unless disturbed, there is very little correlation between surface microbial concentrations and airborne microbes.
2. LONG TERM PLAN: As a likely result of 1c above, I suggest that the data will “look good” and give the district false confidence to declare the issue “successfully managed” with ongoing efforts only focused on addressing the roof and insulation issues. In contrast, I believe there are several issues that still need to be addressed.
a. The HVAC system does not appear to be properly operated, designed, and/or maintained. It does not appear that the system is capable of maintaining either a dry interior or able to remove the various airborne contaminants likely to be present that can cause “challenges” within a teaching environment.
b. There does not appear to be any “action plan” or similarly-named approach for addressing the building mold issue.
c. There has apparently been a history of multiple complaints and issues with the building operations and maintenance that implies either the non-existence and/or inadequacy of in-place systems to address building issues.

Again, I volunteer to work with the BoE D181 Facilities Committee and/or whoever else, to work to address these issues in a positive and constructive manner so that our children, their teachers, and the community in general can feel confident that “all really is well.”

Respectfully submitted,
- John Norton

jay_wick said...

Mr. Norton:

I do not believe that D181 has a Buildings & Grounds Committee.; there is some mention of a Facilities Committee as well as Safety & Crisis Community but there no hint as to who serves on these nor is there a hint as whether any meetings have been held or scheduled.