Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Breaking News! Russell Resigns.

Moments ago, we received confirmation that Dr. Kevin Russell has resigned to become the Superintendent of Chicago Ridge School District 127 1/2  effective July 1, 2014.  In a comment submitted to us, an anonymous teacher copied the email he sent out to all D181 staff last night and asked that we run it as a free standing post.  Since this is significant news, we are complying with his/her request.

We will be publishing a post in the near future on the implications of this announcement. Until then, we invite our readers to sound off on this news.

Email from Dr. Russell:

From: Russell, Kevin <>
Date: Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 9:13 PM
Subject: Fwd: Kevin Russell

Dear Staff,
This evening, the Board of Education of Chicago Ridge School District 127½ approved my hiring as Superintendent, effective July 1, 2014. I will be filling the position of Superintendent Dr. Joyce Kleinaitis, who is retiring at the end of this school year.
This is an exciting opportunity for me and for my family, but it will be hard to leave District 181. I have truly enjoyed working with our incredible staff in my seven years here. We are in the midst of incredible work that I know will continue to further strengthen the outstanding education we provide thanks to you, the amazing professionals dedicated to our students’ success.
I will be working hard with the Department of Learning to continue supporting our schools as we prepare for the months ahead.


Dr. Kevin B. Russell
Assistant Superintendent of Learning
CCSD 181


Comedy Writers said...

We weren’t’ joking – We weren’t joking about saying thank you and writing a pilot script.

No doubt, the suggestions of actors to play certain real characters are funny but the reality of script writing is the relationship between and among the characters is what makes it all work – plus, as writers generally have very little say in the casting as that’s mostly between the director(s) and the Producers (money) and to some extent, if you’re working with big stars, the stars, their studio contracts and availability – it can get complicated.

Also, we take great pains to avoid any comparison to real people as our lawyers tell us that can be actionable – and the human truth is it can be quite hurtful if not harmful to individuals and that’s not what our writing and screenplay is about.

What is funny is a basic premise and we’ve got quite a few to work with courtesy of D181.
The one we’re having the most fun with is the premise of “What happens if you miss 4th grade math?”

We’re creatively imagining all the vignettes (scenes) that could occur as a result of “missing 4th grade math” because the administration, BOE, teachers and parents couldn’t agree on the definition of 4th grad math and the curriculum of 4th grade math and guess what? The kids lose – and all the funny stuff that happens because of “What life would be like if you missed 4th grade math.”

Like it’s 20 years later in an operating room and the surgeon is “off on his math” and his surgical team reminds him, “that’s OK. You missed 4th grade math.”

Or the 4 star general who missed 4th grade math who now is calculating whether there are weapons of mass destruction at a foreign location and the Defense Secretary shames him in front of the President, “You don’t know. You went to that school without 4th grade math.”

And they just kinda go on from there.

The fact that if occurs in a largely Republican community with so called “high standards” and the myth of the “Blue Ribbon” nonsense and all the misplaced credentialism with the EdD doctor talk, really makes it hilarious.

The fact that the Governor of the state grew up in the town (but avoided public school to attend Catholic schools) and a current gubernatorial candidate (laugh at the “guber” part) grew up in Hinsdale, lives in Hinsdale and is a partner in a silk stocking law firm plus his dad was a teacher - all to funny to believe.

All that is pretty funny and a pretty good launching pad to get started on our pilot script.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of stuff we won’t write in – the mold’s not really funny and the whole “parking on the sidewalk by the school is ok” , well that would horrify audiences and most people wouldn’t believe it – the sidewalk mounting is not funny, just tragically and irresponsibly poor judgment.

Thank you – really – you couldn’t have done more to help us – we are grateful.

Anonymous said...

We wish you success, and hope you remember our kids when you make it big!!

I have a feeling a lot more parents might start attending board meetings if they think they might be able to make some ties to Hollywood on Monday evenings. I have a good feeling about your show.

Also, you might want to consider Pee Wee Herman for Dr. Kurt Schneider. I have a feeling he wouldn't' cost that much. ;)

Anonymous said...

The writers are awesome!!!

This ship is going down and the rats are on the run. They know it's sinking!!

Comedy Writers said...

Don’t get your hopes up – We write, write, write, knowing that most of the time it never goes anywhere.

We can tell you however, that Danny DeVito has seen several of the podcasts, trying on the character, improving on the President and such – Danny went as far as to express sorrow on the 1988 passing of his co-star Anne Ramsey in “Throw Momma from the Train” as he would play well against such a character actor in a different setting.

Sort of teh perfect "study buddy"

Like everybody, they always do better when it’s fun.

But don’t get your hopes up.

Anonymous said...

Is this blog really supposed to be taken seriously?! This is an embarrassment to our community and you should be ashamed that this is the type of material that you are posting! We'll see if you decide to post this....

The Parents said...

We want to remind our readers that we want comments to stay on topic. We are requesting that any future comments from "Comedy Writers" address the topics discussed in the posts or suggest topics you would like us to consider writing about. Thank you.

The Parents said...

Because some of the comments related to Dr. Russell's announcement have been posted under the previous post we will be copying them and publishing them under this post as well.

Anonymous said...

If it's true, Dr. Russell's departure would be a significant loss for this district, especially given Dr. Schuster's upcoming departure. This would mean that we would have Dr. Schneider and Dawn Benaitis leading curriculum for the district which would be disastrous. Dr. Russell was not part of the decision making for starting down the path of L4A and elimination of advanced learning services and to those who would expect him to risk his job and publicly oppose Dr. Schuster and Dr. Schneider are living in a dream world. Although Dr. Russell has moved up quickly through the district and may not yet have all of the experience of some in his position, he brings many other attributes to the table. Besides being a passionate educator, he brings significant familiarity with all aspects of the district, an extremely hard work ethic, he is well liked and respected by many of the staff and parents and he's smart. Dr. Russell will succeed wherever he goes, including in D181 if given the chance to grow in his position. Yes, we could have hired someone who had more job-specific experience but we could have done a lot worse than Dr. Russell (i.e. Dr. Schneider and Dawn Benaitis). Parents, be careful what you ask for and watch the pressure you put on these people. They have lives and families outside of this district and to be hell bent on driving out any and all of Dr. Schuster's hires because you don't like what she has done (I don't either) may have some very serious and unintended negative results. An arrogant attitude that assumes any administrator would feel lucky to work in a district such as ours will ultimately be harmful to us all. And, do any of us really have confidence in our current BOE to hire top-notch administrators anyway? Choose your battles wisely or live with the consequences of your actions.

Anonymous said...

If that's true, it's virtually guaranteed that Schneider and Benaitis's contracts will be renewed.

jay_wick said...

Re: Departure of staff

It should not really come as a surprise that ambitious younger staff would look to maximize the level of responsibility they can find in other districts. Further, given the perilous status of pension funding in Illinois it makes a great deal of sense for talented staff to find the best way to secure their future earnings.

I know in the past the district has conducted searches for staff that drew in candidates from outside the local region; given the financial disaster that Illinois has become that may not be as possible as it once was.

Studies have shown that the stability of leadership in individual schools (specifically the principal) as well as district level staff does contribute to increased performance -- it stands to reason that when a carefully thought-out a plan, crafted through unusually high levels of dedication is implemented in a multi-year manner it is far more likely to increase not just student performance but also staff and parent satisfaction.
In contrast hastily thrown together efforts to deal with a sudden (inexplicable ??) change in direction leads to the kind of situation we are now grappling with. Further if there are staff members whose personal initiatives are not consistent with the needed direction of the district / a shared philosophical foundation for the proper role of elementary schools it does no one any good to have them working at cross purposes.

The shortage of properly credentialed district staff in Illinois should make it easy for staff to find a place more suited to their ambitions.

I would urge the BOE to consider these things when they look to retain staff or prepare to realign leadership in a way to get back on track.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that the BOE will not make the grievous mistake of renewing Dr. Schneider and Ms. Benaitis' contracts just because Dr. Russell is departing. Why would we keep throwing away good money?

I know that many Monroe parents, myself included, have written to the BOE that Dawn Benaitis should never have been promoted after her disastrous time at Monroe. She certainly hasn't done anything productive at the administrative offices either. Doesn't anyone consider it odd that she did not present the MAP results at the last BOE meeting? Isn't that her role? Unfortunately, she doesn't understand the results and can't handle the questions.

Dr. Schneider's personal agenda needs to find another home as well. His research should no longer be conducted on our children.

Anonymous said...

If Dr. Russell didn't have the backbone to stand up for our children or provide adequate evidence to support the implementation of new textbooks or L4A plans, he was not operating in the interest of our community. I am pleased he was able to find another job, but I am much happier that he will not be a part of this district's administration. We can all sympathize with his being forced by his colleagues and boss to support a plan that he may have realized would be a disaster for our children. But HE did not sympathize with us and our children AT ALL when we went to him their time of need.

It is hard to forgive a person for allowing some of our children to go through such a terrible experiment and experience such deep levels of frustration, for almost two years. Negative experiences like this are exactly why so many children dislike math, and why other countries experience much more success in their math programs. If children are not given appropriately leveled, or differentiated, materials and lessons, and enough TIME to learn it, they will become unnecessarily frustrated and anxious.

Placing perpetually anxious, or, constantly bored quick learners in a one size fits all curriculum is not an educationally valid theory! I hope the gentleman with the ED and the PhD can let me know if I am wrong. Schools giving children an excessively difficult curriculum for so long, without proper support, is a clear disregard of Illinois SELAS legislation. Administrators have a responsibility to ensure that schools' curriculums are not CAUSING the stress that the children are experiencing. It should not be the parents' responsibility to TREAT the stress that the SCHOOL itself is causing! I have not seen anyone in the district address this, even though it has been brought up with administrators many times.

Our Department of Learning have put themselves, and their "NON NEGOTIABLE" philosophies ahead of our children. How our public servants and volunteer school board have allowed these educational impostors to ruin a perfectly good school district is beyond me. PARENTS and community members are the stakeholders and "employers". How has Dr. Kurt Schneider suddenly come to believe that HE has such POWER to to ignore us? To not have to "negotiate" or cooperate with us? D181 is not his science project! We pay his salary. WE are HIS boss - it is not the other way around. The information that he is using from our children's '"doctored" scores to try to substantiate his thesis is egregious! Who is HE to use our children as guinea pigs in an experiment so that HE can go on the lecture circuit and make extra money while he is on the clock in our district?

Dr. Russell allowed Dr. Schneider to force his philosophy on our children, and the entire Department of Learning is implicitly guilty of disregarding basic ethical and professional teaching standards. At least now, we won't have to pay for his PhD. I hope Ms. Benaitis leaves soon too, so we won't have to pay for her $40-50,000 PhD, too. That money can be used to hire more teachers or to provide professional development to teachers who want to help our children.

I am certain Dr. Russell is relieved to be free of the yoke of Dr. Schneider's experimental, "non negotiable" philosophies that are hurting our children, and I wish him good luck in his future endeavors.


GaryTietelbaum said...

Thank You Blog - If it weren't for a responsible teacher sharing an email together with the blog, who knows when we would have learned of Mr. Russell's departure - if at all.

This is exactly why we need the blog - to provide a public forum for transparency in hopes that the board & admininistration iwlll become more accountable.

The communication style of D181 is like a page out of Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent."

Lots of unnecessary "clutter communication" then thre "real stuff" goes unnoticed, which is what they want.

D181's communication style consistently breeds mis-trust among its consituency.

Marge Lesniak said...

Russell didn't quit - Russell fired D181

All Kevin did was say no, no to Schuster, no to Marty and no to a systematic failure.

Kevin's a good guy.

He knows right from wrong and did the right thing.

And who can blame him.

We need more like Kevin Russell.

Anonymous said...

God speed, Dr. Russell, you will go far.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

During my tenure on the school board, I voted NO repeatedly on approving graduate school tuition reimbursement contracts for the administrators. I was always in the minority. The majority reasoned that paying for D181 administrators to get a PhD/EdD would result in "growing our own" and would lead to longevity by these employees. I disagreed. Fortunately, there is a provision that requires the administrators to pay back the tuition reimbursement if they leave within three years after their last reimbursement check is paid. If my recollection is correct, if an administrator leaves within 1 year of the last check being issued, they have to pay back 100%. Dr. Russell finished his doctorate recently and had reimbursement payments made in 2013, so unless his contract has a different provision, I believe he owes the district 100% of what it paid for his tuition. As a taxpayer, I hope the board enforces this contract provision.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr. Teitlebaum and Mrs. Meyer. The district has veered so far off the straight and narrow path, that the notion we even have to mention such obvious contractual obligations is a sign that we have veered too far off course.
How tragic that we have to demand transparency and accountability in order to protect our own children and community schools.

The person who feels that parents in this community should "watch the pressure we put on these people who have lives and families outside of this district" sounds like an employee. Who else would expect parents and taxpayers in our district to somehow value the families and children of administrators more than our own flesh and blood? Talk about living in a dream world. Her dream, perhaps. Our nightmare!

Heaven Bent on Change

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to hire and retain good administrators, and tuition reimbursement is one way to do that. However, do we really reimburse their entire tuition, and is that really necessary? People have said it costs $40-50,000 for a doctorate. How much reimbursement do teachers get? I know there are far more teachers than administrators so the district can't afford to pay their entire tuition. But teachers are the ones who really get the job of educating our kids done, note administrators! What's the cost/benefit ratio of a teacher getting a masters compared to an administrator getting a doctorate?

Anonymous said...

If the goal is to grow from within and retain administrators for a long period of time, then the D181 tuition reimbursement plan has been a dismal failure. Not only is Russell leaving but Ticknor left before him after her doctorate was paid for by D181. Both left or are leaving to become superintendents in other districts. Most districts hire "doctors." All D181is doing is training our central administrators to leave. This is not a good investment of our tax dollars and needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

I have so many thoughts, but I will try to organize them:

1. Parents and community members still have not gotten an official announcement that Russell is leaving. We are the stakeholders of the community but we are treated like second class citizens. This must stop. Thank you to staff and teachers for keeping us in the loop.

2. Tuition reimbursements create weird loyalties in the upper administration (I do not have enough knowledge about teachers - it does appear to create teacher loyalty). Benaitis and Russell both have dissertations on learning for all. This causes them to be more invested in the plan than our children. I do not like it. I would also like them to be working on the so called plan, not attending school and touring the lecture circuit (both of which can cause stress - another poster worried about stress).

3. Why are we so worried about the stress level of our administrators but no one seems concerned about the stress these same administrators have put on 107 4th graders. These 107 fourth graders are in an accelerated math program they are not cognitively ready for and must endure 2x week after school tutoring for who knows how long.

4. Demanding Russell pay back his tuition and Schuster pay the 20K does not make us awful people - it makes us concerned taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Teachers and staff were notified on Tuesday night about Dr. Russell's resignation. It is now Friday, and parents still have not been notified. He is second in command, this is something parents should be aware of. If you do not read the blog, you still do not know about this news. I urge the administration to send out an official announcement this morning. Going forward, parents should be notified about events at the same time as staff and teachers. The news always leaks anyway, so they just end up looking like fools when they are not transparent.

Anonymous said...

It's up on the district website and a press release went out.

HMS Parent said...

It was not there yesterday when I checked and parents have not received any kind of email notification. How many parents actually check the website for news rather than wait to receive it directly via email? Another example of lack of transparency!

Anonymous said...

Teachers and staff got an email. Parents deserve an email. Most parents do not know about the resignation. If this was a blue ribbon award, there would have been multiple emails!

Anonymous said...

This is just another example of D181's dismissive and disrespectful attitude towards parents. We are expected to pay student registration fees 7 months before the next school year, but they can't even tell us that our own assistant superintendent has resigned. When, in the last 3 years have you ever remember this team or administrators ever being proactive or transparent? I hope none of them come back next year. Now THAT would be something to CELEBRATE!

Anonymous said...

The newsletter just came out. A few interesting points:

1. Russell's resignation was NOT mentioned in the newsletter. I asked 10 parents today about it, and none of them knew about the resignation.

2. There is an application for the curriculum committee. I am disappointed that meetings will be at 4pm. That excludes both stay at home parents and working parents. They really couldn't of picked a worse time.

3. Dr. Moon's report will be on board docs tomorrow.

4. The board meeting will start at 7:30 to allow for an extended executive session. Interesting......

5. The math committee will FINALLY be presenting.

6. The summer work schedule will be up again. Is this really a question? Five days a week - NON NEGOTIABLE!

Anonymous said...

Not every child in D181 belongs in the gifted program. Not every child fits in the special ed mold. But...D181 has no time to really get to know what is the right fit for all the kids - not just the ones whose parents are on the PTA. They only want test scores and conformation. Russell was spineless to stand up to the rest of D181 about everything from education to placement. He wanted a promotion, end of story. Turek and the rest of the Board are failed politician wanna bees. So glad we pay taxes in this community.