Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Highlights and Lowlights of 4/7/14 Board Meeting: Praise for Ruben Pena, HCHTA Concerns, Approval of Mold Remediation Expenses, Superintendent Search Update and Yaeger's Rudeness

Now that spring is officially here and the weather seems to be following suit, we return to you energized and ready to continue reporting on important issues and events taking place in D181. We begin with a recap of Monday night’s Board Meeting* held at Hinsdale Middle School.  In our opinion, there were some significant highs and lows during the short, one hour meeting.

We begin by thanking the teachers for making two important public comments.  


On behalf of the faculty and staff at Hinsdale Middle School, a sixth grade Spanish and social studies teacher publicly thanked Principal Ruben Pena for all his work and support during the water and mold crisis. The HMS staff praised Mr. Pena for having  "tirelessly worked for the betterment of our building, he shared information in a timely manner and listened and reacted quickly when more water and mold was found. He kept things from escalating, he respected and supported our teachers who were were sick.  He took our concerns seriously.  He checked in with teachers to see how they were doing. He helped make classes safer and more comfortable during this time. He was on site every day to monitor the cleanup and rebuilding. He helped us to make the best of a poor situation. He deserves credit for all he has done during this situation."

We commend the HMS faculty and staff for expressing their thanks to Mr. Pena in such a public manner.  It is important to acknowledge such a committed building level administrator, who, along with the teachers, serves our students and community on the front line, day in and day out.  Mr. Pena went well beyond the typical Principal's job description when confronted with the water and mold crisis.  His commitment to addressing the facilities issues, along with the building engineer Tomas Rios (who has also been commended by staff in a comment submitted to this blog), stands in stark contrast to that shown by some of the upper level central administrators who we won't bother to identify by name in this post.   Mr. Pena is one administrator that we are extremely proud of and hope will continue to serve the D181 community for many years to come.


Next up were the 2 HCHTA Co-Presidents and a third teacher from HMS, who began by acknowledging that following the March 10 board meeting, they participated in meetings with the administration to provide feedback on the elementary math program.  They stated that the information had been shared with the the Board in a Board Report they received on March 24.  They then discussed their perceptions of the current climate in D181.  They made the following points:
  • Throughout the years of administrative turnover, changes in building and district administration, and the implementation of curriculum and programming initiatives, the teachers "have provided consistency to all of the students who continue to remain our focus."
  • The Everyday Math "textbook is not, and has never been, the district curriculum. Teachers have always had the autonomy in the past to deliver the curriculum, utilizing supplemental resources that they have sought out on their own which they feel support the core content."
  • Teachers feel devalued. "Many teachers do not feel that their professionalism and educational expertise are often trusted and respected at times."
  • "Many teachers do not want to speak up publicly or address the BOE for fear of being publicly criticized or possibly being put under a microscope for others to scrutinize without having or understanding all the facts." Some teachers are afraid to do things differently than what is done at other schools out of concern "that their professional judgment of what works best in their classroom at their school at that moment in time will be criticized or devalued."
  • The adults must practice the concept of "acceptance of other's thoughts, feelings and ideas" that the teachers teach the D181 students.  "We do not always have to agree, and quite frankly, will have differing opinions, but there has to be a way to use our shared interest of educating our students to compromise and move forward.  Our work with these children is too important to lose a moment on discord amongst adults."
  • Teachers want to work on committees and be involved in the decision making process but "it is very frustrating to offer feedback and expertise only to have it looked over or ignored. If our opinions are truly valued, we hope that a willingness to act on them is taken.  We do not want to be labeled as negative or complaining or questioning authority, but we do want to ask questions, get clarification, and offer suggestions."
  • Teachers are in constant need of changing their lesson plans based upon how students respond and this is appropriate and expected.  The teachers "would like to see this happen at a district level as well....What we think might work perfectly on paper might not always be realized in practice.  Being able to work collaboratively, as we did in regards to the recent math compacting feedback asked of us, we know we can be better together than we could alone."
We appreciate the time the HCHTA took to prepare this statement. We believe it is imperative that the teachers, BOE, administration and parents all work together, especially in the area of curriculum, to ensure that every student's academic needs are being met. We believe it is critical that the teacher input not be devalued by any constituency group. We hope that under new administrative leadership, the teachers perspective and suggestions will not be discounted, and that necessary and appropriate curriculum changes can be implemented.

According to the speakers, the teacher feedback on the math compacting was submitted to the Board on March 24. Why hasn't it been shared yet with the entire D181 community or publicly discussed by the Board of Education? We are disappointed that this has not been done yet, as time is of the essence and the parent concerns regarding the negative impact of the math acceleration on some students must be addressed as soon as possible in order to make the needed corrections to the program and stop the harm that is currently being caused.

We encourage the HCHTA to continue to be vocal on not just this issue, but to speak loud and clear on any other issue that concerns the teachers and has an impact on our students.  We hope the administration and Board heed the HCHTA comments and not discount them.  We also encourage parents to support the teachers as they continue to work hard to deliver the highest quality education possible for our children.


In line with the HCHTA's theme of groups working together collaboratively,  there was a brief discussion (of sorts) regarding the Superintendent's Curriculum Committee that is in the process of being formed.  As everyone knows by now, Dr. Schuster extended the application deadline to allow more parents to apply.  Now she is refusing to give priority to candidates who did apply in a timely manner. (Click to open Schuster's answers to Board Member questions.) During Monday's meeting, she also stated that a request had been made of her to solicit additional Board participation.   Board Member Garg was the only one who had volunteered to serve on the committee as of last night's meeting.  We found it curious that Dr. Schuster did not identify who had made this request.  In our opinion, her desire to add another board member or two, just as her desire to increase the parent pool of applicants, could well be an attempt by her to control who finally is allowed to serve on the committee. Time will tell if the selection process for the parent participants was a legitimate one.

Dr. Schuster's solicitation of more board member participation led to the "lowest light" of the evening when Board Members Heneghan and Yaeger got into a heated exchange.  
Mr. Heneghan commented that it would be difficult for some working parents to participate in the meetings of the committee if they started at 4 p.m.  and asked if they could start at 6 p.m.  Dr. Schuster refused to make a change to the start time stating that the 4 p.m. time was picked to accommodate the teacher participants.  Mr. Yaeger then stated that he agreed with the 4 p.m. start time and said "being involved with a lot of community things, when something is important to people they'll find the time to get there."

Mr. Heneghan then responded by asking "but Glenn does your comment reflect that you don't consider the finance committee meetings that important since you rarely attend them?"  Mr. Yaeger answered, "No I find them very important but I monitor the agenda, Gary informs me what's going on, I do have some family commitments that I find more important than some of those finance committee meetings and Brendan we can talk about that between the two of us."  Clearly in the interest of transparency, Mr. Heneghan said "we can talk about it here" to which Mr. Yaeger replied "let's go for it."

Mr. Heneghan then said, "I think that your comment was wrong and it was rude and if somebody's asking to have a meeting at 6 o'clock that's a legitimate request."

Yaeger said, "And I also think it's a legitimate request to put the meetings closer to 4 and to ask people that if it's important that they show up at 4.  Why is that rude?"

Heneghan responded by saying, "I think the implication of what you were doing is saying that if you thought it was important you would show up at 4, but if you are working that might not be possible."

Yaeger replied, "I agree." He then went on to call Mr. Heneghan out and said "And Brendan can you show up to the executive committee meetings on time?"

Heneghan replied, "Actually if my train arrives on time I will Glenn."

At this point both Members Garg and Vorobiev intervened and asked if any other board member wanted to volunteer.  Mr. Heneghan was the only one who then said he would consider it.  

We have transcribed this exchange for our followers to read because we think it establishes the following:
  • There is clearly discord amongst the board members.
  • Mr. Heneghan was correct in calling Mr. Yaeger out for his rudeness.
  • Mr. Yaeger should be embarrassed that his chronic absence from attending the finance committee meetings was finally publicly exposed.  He is only one of two board members serving on this committee and relying on the agendas and information received from "Gary" (Frisch? Clarin?) hardly seems like fulfilling his obligations and commitment to serve on the committee.  We expect board members to attend all meetings they are scheduled for whether they are regular board meetings or committees they have volunteered to serve on!
  • There is a difference between being absent and being late due to a transportation delay, and the "tit for tat" criticism attempted by Mr. Yaeger was childish and unnecessary.
  • Bottom line:  ONLY Mr. Heneghan stepped up to consider joining Ms. Garg on the curriculum committee. The silence of the other board members to volunteer, including that of Mr. Yaeger, speaks volumes. Put up or shut up. That's our suggestion!


Another lowlight of the meeting came in response to Board Member Garg's request for a more detailed explanation of an $800,000 check the Board was being asked to approve on Monday as part payment of a $1.2 million invoice from SERPRO for the mold remediation work done at HMS.  The Board did approve this payment after Mr. Frisch explained how the charges on the invoices received from SERVPRO had been verified as appropriate, and he also pointed out how the original bill had been negotiated down by $150,000.  While the expenses were all deemed appropriate, we believe that the Board should have been advised well before the expenses increased from the original $129,000 it approved for SERVPRO's work to the $1.2 million invoice that was received.  In our opinion, going forward, such a drastic deviation from an approved expense must be "re-approved" by our elected representatives in advance of the actual expenditures, even if this requires calling a special meeting.  

Further, Mr. Frisch's explanation was also disturbing in one respect.  He stated that as he had previously told Board Member Clarin, "we remediated probably 20 years of mold in the building, so we accomplished a ton in the short period of time and cleaned up a lot, so I think we can say that the building now is in great shape compared to what it was."

Listening to Mr. Frisch's admission that 20 years of mold growth was finally remediated was quite shocking to hear.  Less than three months ago, a high level central administrator allegedly told teachers at HMS (while touring the building and hearing their health concerns) that there was NO mold in the building because her sensitive nose would have smelled it. Now, we all know that the building was infested with mold and the cost to taxpayers after 20 years of failing to adequately address the root causes and the actual infestation of mold has resulted in millions of dollars in remediation and continued roof, soffit and leak repair work. Where is the accountability for having allowed this situation to exist for 20 years, let alone the last four years during which the teachers reported many health and environmental concerns?  


Finally on the agenda for Monday's meeting was a presentation by BWP, the search firm handling the superintendent search.  Two of their principals presented the results of the focus groups and survey they conducted last month to identify the qualities and characteristics the community wants in the new superintendent.  Click to open BWP's Superintendent Candidate Profile report.   The focus groups generated the following list of Characteristics/Traits that are desired in our future superintendent:
  • Experienced leader
  • Curriculum expertise
  • Communicator
  • Facility Manager
  • Good evaluator
  • Clear vision
  • Strong implementer
  • Committed and Visible
  • Trust builder/healer
Similarly, the results of the survey identified the following desired Characteristics/Traits in the future superintendent:
  • Leader
  • Communicator
  • Decision Maker
  • Integrity/Trust
  • Child centered
  • Successful superintendent
  • Instructional experience
  • Teaching Experience
  • Strategic Planner
  • Relationship Builder
The BWP principals reported that they would be presenting candidates to the Board in the Executive Session following the public meeting . They reported that they believed they would be providing the board with "solid group of people that mirror" the desired traits and characteristics.  For the sake of the district's future, we hope they are correct.

According to Board Docs, a special off site meeting to discuss personnel was held on Tuesday, April 8.  We assume it was for purposes of beginning the formal interviews of the superintendent applicants with the Board.  We close by reminding everyone of Mr. Yaeger's declaration that "when something is important to people, they'll find the time to get there."

We hope that all seven board members are present for each and every interview of the candidates that BWP presents for consideration for the superintendent's position. On Monday night, Board President Turek was absent from the Board meeting at which BWP presented the names of the candidates to the board.  Will he show up for all of the interviews?  Will the other six board members?  In our opinion, failure to be present for all of the interviews should result in that board member's exclusion from participating in the vote on any of the candidates.  Participation in the selection of D181's educational leader is probably the most important task any Board of Education can be tasked with.  We expect  all seven board members to consider this responsibility to be of sufficient importance for them to find the time to be physically present during the entire process. We will probably never know what actually happens, but expect the Board to act in a responsible and fair manner during this important task.

*Note: Below we are copying comments our readers submitted following the 4/7 meeting but before this blog post was published.

Anonymous said...
Well, well, well. The search firm just read the survey and community engagement results. Over 350 community members, teachers ect. responded. Strengths of district: teachers, PARENTS, facilities (not HMS), and students. Weaknesses: trust, curriculum, BOE relations. I hope you are listening BOE (especially Turek who is in Mexico). Qualities wanted in a super: integrity, honesty, curriculum experience, sitting super, child centered, good communicator, healer, and prior teaching experience (doesn't sound like Schuster at all). Also, TONS of sitting supers applied - guess the blog and naysayers didn't scare them off. The meeting also ended in an hour but there was no time to discuss anything of importance. Oh, and they are not sure when there will be time to discuss Dr. Moon's report. Pathetic!
Anonymous said...
Very interesting public comments from teacher union. Good for them!
Anonymous said...
My goodness!!! Are there 400 naysayers? You mean 400 people think our curriculum is in trouble? 400 people don't trust our current administration or board majority? 400 people think that integrity in our administration needs to be restored? 400 people think that communicating and actually answering a question when asked is an important quality for a superintendent? 400 people think that actually being a classroom teacher is also an important quality for candidates? Are these 400 people squeaky wheels??

Take notice BOE!! The PARENTS of this community are a strength!!! The parents in this town are speaking!!! It sure doesn't sound like everyone's too happy with the current direction of this district. You were elected to work for our children not to hobnob and fraternize with the admin!!!!!! Stop acting like an extension of this administration and get it done!!
Anonymous said...
Ok Heneghan is awesome! He was on fire tonight!!
Anonymous said...
Can someone who listened to the meeting clear something up for me? During the personnel section, did they fire a bunch of teachers and staff, or rather "honorably discharge them?". I was alarmed by this. Does this mean larger class sizes for next year?
Anonymous said...
Why is the boe ok with firing teachers but not administrators?
Jill Quinones said...
Every year at this time virtually every District in Illinois "fires" its nontenured staff until it sees what its enrollment numbers look like, and then begins hiring them back. It is a cost savings measure because at the end of the day if enrollment or needs are down or shifted, teachers cannot be let go after April 15, I believe, except for cause. Many, but not all, will be hired back between now and August. The downside is many good teachers who are not tenured and are let go will begin looking for new jobs "just in case" and some will find them. I believe in D181 hiring back is done on a seniority basis - not merit - but I could be wrong.
Jill Quinones said...
I also found the HCHTA comments interesting. One of the most interesting to me was that the Everyday Math book has never been the curriculum. It was interesting because I have now put 3 children through the Everyday Math program in D181, grades 1-6, over a 12 year period and not one of them ever brought home any other materials than the Everyday Math materials. One played some games for homework on the IXL website. While arguably the curriculum is what is taught, not the materials, I would be curious to hear what the teachers believe the curriculum that is not Everyday Math comprises.
Anonymous said...
The personnel agenda is posted. It lists the teachers that were honorably discharged. I think there were about 5.

I also found the teacher union comments interesting. I applaud them for speaking out for the teachers because many teachers were afraid to do so themselves. I was a little confused as to whether they were upset with parents, the administration or BOE? I got the sense a little bit of each, but mostly the administration. Anyone else's thoughts???

My thoughts on the Everyday Math issue is that teachers have always used supplements, but parents are on hyper alert this year (and maybe unfairly reacting to teachers on this subject) due to the lack of materials last year, the lack of communication from the district, the disparity in rankings (15 vs. 109), and the major inconsistencies across schools in terms of curriculum and its implementation.
Anonymous said...
I found the teacher's comments interesting, yet cyrptic. I'm just guessing here, but it seems as if their input isn't being valued by the administration. I also don't think there should be as much leeway, creativity, and discrepencies in math materials as in other subjects. I have one child who is getting loads of extra practice problems, one who is barely getting through the chapters, and not much homework.
D181 Staff Member said...
To the anonymous person who thinks the teachers may not feel valued by the administration: that is very much the case. There is a major fear of retaliation among the staff, feeling that the administration dismisses our needs and concerns too readily, etc. There have been many times when there have been staff meetings with a central office administrator present, and someone said "I'm probably going to get sh** for this, but..." There also have been times where we asked for a product or service that would make our jobs easier/better, but have been told that it's "too expensive". How would they know? Sure some things might be insignificant to do once, but when we have to do it multiple times a day, everyday, it adds up.

Also, when the district came back from winter break, and staff was complaining about mold, I believe it was Dr. Schuster who said that she had a sensitive nose and couldn't smell any mold. I'm sorry, but she wasn't in any particular area for an extended amount of time to really feel the effects, in my opinion.

On the bright side, I have to agree with the letter to the board presented at last night's board meeting about Mr. Peña. He truly was amazing during during the whole mold crisis. As he was here the whole time, he knew that there was a problem and he actually did something about it, and the staff is truly appreciative of him and bios work. However, some people not mentioned in the letter was the building engineer, Tomas Rios and custodial staff for working their behinds off with all this. Tomas is truly amazing. While the leaders like Ruben often get the credit, the people who actually do the dirty work, like Tomas rarely get their due. Tomas really knows his stuff, he's passionate about his work, tries to make things as good as possible, and just works so hard with so little acknowledgement from the administration. It just saddens me that Tomas and Ruben have been telling the central office administration about many of HMS' problems, but the central office admins seem to not listen. As I am not privy to all the information the admins have, I don't want to come off too harshly. With the mold issues, however, the administration has been very negligent.


Anonymous said...

It is curious that the agenda for the meeting was light, and yet the BOE had been sitting on the math board report for over a week. Why couldn't they discuss the report, math compacting and Dr. Moon's report? The meeting only lasted an hour. The agenda for the next meeting is too heavy to give each important item its justice. Moreover, that meeting is a month away. We only have 4 meetings left. This lack of urgency is troubling. Are we really expecting to put off all important district matters until a new superintendent is hired?

Also, I am troubled by the selection process of the learning committee. Obviously some underhanded dealings are going on and the BOE must step in! This is exactly why it should have been a BOE committee. Is Schuster really going to get away with this?????

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the Union Presidents' public comments, I am still confused about whether or not they are angry at the administration for the Learning for All Plan, angry with the Board for lack of action to address parent/teacher concerns, or angry with the parents who have been voicing curriculum concerns. Can a union rep please clarify?

Anonymous said...

I have just finished listening to the audio tape and was glad to hear applause at the end of the comment praising Principal Pena. He definitely deserved recognition. It's been a long time coming. I did find it odd the level of "overkill" Mr. Frisch made in his answer to Ms. Garg's question on the SERVPRO invoice when he took that opportunity to thank everyone else by name who had worked at HMS during the mold/water crisis. Plenty of people have already been thanked in the past and thanking SERVPRO is kind of laughable since they were PAID over one million dollars for doing their JOB! Hiring a project manager and then commending him for keeping the "cleanup" work on task during spring break is also questionable, since again, is it really that great that the district had to hire an extra administrator to do the work that wasn't getting done by Mr. Frisch and the building and grounds staff he oversees? And thanking Mr. Clarin again was not necessary. How many times is he going to be thanked, while people like Tomas Rios and Mr. Pena are overlooked by the administration? Looks like a case of sour grapes by the central office in response to Mr. Pena's well deserved praise.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Yaeger has always been a bully -- to people making public comments and to fellow board members, so his behavior on Monday comes as no surprise. What is interesting is the saccarine tone he took in supporting the teacher's request to start the curriculum meetings at 4 pm even though this may cause attendance problems for parents. Is he trying to butter them up before he slams down the ax during teacher negotiations?

Anonymous said...

I hope the Board does its due diligence on every single candidate it interviews and doesn't just rely on BWP to do this work. Perhaps a search to see if candidates' current districts have parent or teacher blogs would be one step to take to see what the "pulse on the street" may be on any sitting superintendent that gets interviewed by the BOE.

Anonymous said...

Making the connection now. Board Member Heneghan posed a question on Board Docs prior to Monday’s meeting. See Below:

Heneghan: It is not clear from the math report if there will be grade level options for all grade levels. Will that be the case for the 2014 - 2015 school year.

Schuster: Currently, we offer a grade level option at all grade levels either through differentation or a separate class. We will offer a grade level option next year; however, it may or may not be a separate class. The Department of Learning is working with our teachers to work through the details. It is critical to give our teachers the time they need to make this adjustment for next year. However, it is also critical to complete this work before summer break so our teachers will have the summer to prepare.

First of all, Schuster’s response is not true. If grade level math were offered right now in 4th grade, then 25% of the 4th grade students would not have been offered after school tutoring!!

2 or 3 board meetings ago, the administration said they would be seeking the teachers input on grade level math. Well, according to the HCHTA Co-Presidents, the teachers have already made recommendations on the math situation. Why has this information not been shared with the parents of D181?

I’m also wondering if D181 has had anyone from ISBE with Common Core training come in to evaluate what we are doing in math? I’m wondering where Russell came up with this Common Core is 6 months ahead of our regular his professional opinion as he stated in the board meeting that I listened to 2 or 3 meetings ago. I like how at the beginning of the year all students were compacted and accelerated a grade level beyond Common Core because they were all so smart. Now they’re compacted and accelerated to meet Common Core. Don’t think that this about face is going unnoticed!!! It's clear our Learning Dept has no clue!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster. The BOE needs to do independent research and look for news articles, parent blogs, ect. We have a parent blog, and so does Pleasantdale. I imagine there must be more out there. Sometimes a candidate can interview well and look good on paper but the reality can be in stark contrast. Due diligence is important because we need to get it right this time.

Anonymous said...

I have heard from multiple credible sources that Schuster has had Pena in her crosshairs for quite some time. This does not surprise me, as he is the ideal type of administrator that D181 should target in its hiring, instead of unqualified featherweights such as Dawn Benaitis.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that the BOE needs to do their due diligence and "google" each candidate to see if there are parent blogs and any positive or negative feedback about each candidate - not just read recommendation letters.

Apparently when Dr. Schuster was a candidate, everybody that worked with her gave her glowing reviews because they couldn't wait to see her go and now our district has shouldered the burden of her "leadership." If you "google" her now, it doesn't sound like she was so stellar in her previous positions.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Yaeger a Mr. Mom? He may have a bit more flexibility than others that have a more structured work environment.

In any event, another example of myopic, one dimensional thinking by an ethnocentric bully who can't see beyond his nose.

I know he's always makes time for HLL events.

Anonymous said...

Fourth grade parents just received the below letter. I am still processing the information, but I have two questions: 1. Will next year's third and fourth grade classes have a grade level option or only fifth grade?, and 2. Where did this 6 month figure come from?

Dear District 181 4th Grade Parents,

As we continue in Year I of the Learning for All Plan, it is important we continually reflect on the progress toward our goals, listen to feedback from parents and staff, and make adjustments as needed to ensure we are providing the best possible education for students. The compaction of the 4th grade math curriculum has been an area of concern for some parents. As one possible solution to address these concerns, the Board of Education requested that the District Office administrators, principals, and teachers examine the feasibility of offering a grade level option for 4th grade students. (Currently, all 4th grade students are taking 5th grade math, and students who are above or below grade level are receiving in-class differentiation.)

The administration and teacher leaders have met several times to discuss the Board request, and neither recommends changing the current plan at this point in the school year. However, all groups are in agreement that it is feasible to create a grade level option for 5th graders in the 2014-15 school year.

For the remainder of the current school year, all 4th grade students will continue in the 5th grade math curriculum with the goal of completing no less than Everyday Math Unit 6 because completion of this unit aligns to the expectations of the 4th grade Common Core. However, we do not want to rush students who need more time to learn concepts, nor do we want to slow the progress of students who are ready to move forward. Therefore, the pace of the units will be adjusted to meet the needs of the learners; all students may not be in the same unit at the same time. Parents will continue to be notified when their child starts and finishes a unit. Flexible groups will continue and will be determined at the building level using teacher input, assessment data, and in-class performance. Everyday Math will continue to be the core resource; teachers may supplement this resource with other materials they deem appropriate for their students.

At the end of the school year, building teams will assess the mathematical progress of all students using assessment data, in-class performance, and teacher input; they will recommend whether a student continue in the accelerated curriculum next school year. In any determined options, teachers will differentiate materials, pacing, and lessons to meet the needs of their students.

The administration and teacher leaders will continue to work together over the next two months to further develop this plan for the upcoming school year. The plan will be shared with parents prior to the end of this school year.

We look forward to our continued partnership with you in the education of your child.

The Department of Learning

Anonymous said...

I can't argue with this letter even though I'm sure many people will. Fact is, we need to trust our teachers to do what is best for our kids. I have two kids of varying abilities and they get different teaching styles and different materials from both their teachers. I don't agree that all schools/teachers should be doing the same thing across the board, different kids need different things and it's up to our teachers to provide that for them. I for one, am pleased and relieved that some initiative has been taken to allow for flexibility among schools and students. Isn't that what differentiation is all about? What I see in this letter is that they've taken the teachers concerns along with the parental concerns and have come to a 'realistic' decision that they should have a long time ago. At least we can look forward to 8 or 9 weeks of somewhat 'normalcy'. This is the way I remember the district. Maybe now the administration has finally listened to the teachers, because I trust my kids' teachers and that's about all I trust anymore.

Anonymous said...

Pleasantdale in Burr Ridge used a search firm and they got this loser...

Hopefully they will google and FOIA before they choose.

Anonymous said...

I don’t believe the person who posted the 4th grade letter and asked the questions regarding grade level math for 3rd and 4th grade next year, as well as the 6 month number, was questioning the teachers’ abilities to educate the students. I don’t think this person expressed a lack of trust towards the teachers. Those questions seem to be directed to the administration. Correct me if I’m wrong. Schools and teachers having flexibility to meet the needs of the students is paramount to education. That being said, the reason I think parents are questioning what the schools are doing is directly related to the fact that since September, Dr Schuster and Dr Russell have stated over and over that they will look into why some schools performed better on MAP and ISATs than others, that they will analyze what those schools have done/are doing so that best practices can be shared. And they have not done that. It has not been shared at BOE meetings despite 2 board members who consistently address the issue. I know b/c either I listen or attend the meetings.

Providing grade level and accelerated classes (tiers) next year is a step in the right direction. However, Dr Schuster stated in her answer to Heneghan’s question on Board Docs that they were not sure if it would be a separate class. In other words, differentiation, which is a ridiculous buzzword that has allowed the administration to get rid of gifted and tiers. If that’s the case, nothing will change. A curriculum audit should be performed by an outside source in order to make sure that our curriculum is aligned to Common Core. Although Common Core is controversial and causing major issues across the country, it has been adopted by Illinois and since Arne Duncan and Obama are buddies, Illinois is in it for the long haul.

Anonymous said...

How about this, parents: 1. Isn't Schuster and Russell and Schneider reinstating what they were so eager to remove - levels of instruction? At least they acknowledge the levels should exist, but they are still drinking the differentiation Kool Aid. 2. Have you noticed the "social justice" mantra has quieted down? Since Schneider's contract was up for renewal, we have not heard from him on how 181 should be promoting social justice within the confines of classrooms. Guess his lips are sealed until the ink is dry.

Anonymous said...

The D181 calendar is now showing a BOE meeting on 4/14 @HMS. It is on the calendar under the CHMS tab. It appears as:


When: 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Last night it appeared as a Committee of the Whole meeting. Is this the time set aside for interviews?

Anonymous said...

Several times the BOE has asked a member from the Learning Dept. to elaborate on his beliefs and the content of his "presentations" made elsewhere. So far, we've heard nothing! -yet this Learning For All plan is based on it. While the contracts are renewed, I think its important to hear from the Learning Dept. just so its out there because when contracts come up again next yea,r we'll know where everyone stands. Tired of questions being asked, then ignored.

Anonymous said...

When I wrote all the BOE meetings in my calendar in the beginning of the year I wrote down April 14 as well. But I think at some point they changed the calendar because the next BOE meeting is now listed as April 28.

Anonymous said...

April 14th more interviews

The Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board will interview six candidates from an applicant pool of 44 in the process of finding a replacement for Superintendent Renee Schuster.

“We discussed eight, and six will be interviewed,” said Mark Friedman of BWP and Associates, the professional search firm assisting the board.

Friedman, who presented the board with the candidates during a closed meeting April 7, said the final six are all superintendents in other Illinois school districts.

“The board here is very conscious about leaving sufficient time for another district to find its own replacement if that’s where they choose someone from,” Friedman said. “The plan here is to have someone chosen here by the end of the month.”

Following initial interviews of the six final candidates, which are to wrap up April 14, anywhere from one to three will be asked back for a second interview.

“All of the six people being interviewed are good people who are qualified in their jobs,” Friedman said. “The key is the match. You want to find the right match for your district, and that’s something the board will be able to get a good sense of when they spend the time with each of the candidates.”

Friedman said it wasn’t surprising so many candidates had superintendent experience.

“I think the resources of this district are attractive to a lot of people,” he said. “This is a high-expectations district. The key is to communicate and treat everyone equally. You also have to stand up and not take things personally. This is a community that is very supportive of its schools, but there always are people who don’t agree with things.”

BWP and Associates compiled its list of potential candidates following the collection of input from about 385 staff members, PTO representatives, administrators, parents, board members and other community members. The input was gathered using interviews, focus groups and an online survey.

“This gave us a sense of what people are thinking and areas that may be of need to look at in finding a superintendent,” Friedman said. “We needed a little bit of a trend in the responses, and we have that.”

Friedman said feedback indicated desired characteristics sought include leadership, communication and decision-making skills, as well as someone with integrity who is child-centered.

“When you interview candidates, you want to make sure they have the ability to focus on children, not just adult to adult,” Friedman said. “The relationship piece is very important.”

The biggest areas of concern from respondents were curriculum, educational options/programs, instruction, facilities, community relations and technology.

Respondents saw District 181’s biggest strengths to be excellent teachers and staff, academic achievement, available resources, supportive parents, the reputation of the district, and a supportive community.

Schuster announced her resignation Feb. 10 and is stepping down June 30 to return to the St. Louis area, where she has family. Schuster began work July 1, 2010 as superintendent in District 181.

Anonymous said...

Full Day Kindergarten at Brook Forest

Full-day kindergarten will be a reality in Butler School District 53 beginning this fall. In January, the Board of Education approved the measure.

At the Board meeting, Brook Forest Principal Kelly Voliva and kindergarten teacher Renee Tomita outlined the benefits of full-day kindergarten, research they conducted and goals of the program.

Full-day kindergarten provides children with a better transition to 1st grade and enhanced social, emotional and behavioral development. Research also shows that students have larger academic gains in literacy. Full-day kindergarten would give students an opportunity to learn through play, provide for more instruction in science and social studies and more structured time for social emotional development.

Their research showed that of 45 area school districts, 23 of them offer a full-day program and five more are considering it for next year. The biggest reason claimed by those who don’t have full-day kindergarten is space.

A recent study of the facilities at Brook Forest show that there are available classrooms that could be repurposed for full-day kindergarten.

A decision now allowed the District time to develop curriculum in order to implement a full-day program this fall. A half-day option is also be available to families.

jay_wick said...

Part 1 of 2
The sad reality is that with a just a few BOE meetings left this year there is little time to make any real progress on a whole lot of issues that are festering.

I.The criticisms that were leveled against the district in BOTH the original report by the district's staff-selected expert as well as the update that was recently delivered continue to show a reliance on "worksheets" and other crutches that under-prepared/overworked staff have used. These are NOT something that should be acceptable in our district. There is little doubt that all the teachers in the district that have taken Elementary School Methods of Mathematics Instruction, whether recently or decades ago, learned a much broader range of strategies that have been shown to result in higher degrees of student achievement! I am not unsympathetic to the what the district's teachers are dealing with: in the face of incoherent leadership they've instead retreated into methods that result in kids, regardless of ability, not meeting their potential. It is sickening that the BOE seems to behave in ways that seems incapable of holding staff accountable for such a situation.

II. While other high performing districts have been preparing staff to deal with the demands of Common Core and PARCC for several years, our district failed to find a way to get additional development time that would not cut into classroom instruction nor be overly disruptive to family schedules. Especially given the cuts to both instruction and development that resulted from not just our unusually harsh winter but the facilities issues that negatively impacted the district's middle schoolers there needs to be some real thought given to how staff can be brought up to the levels of those in other districts. Given the opportunity afforded by the expiring collective bargaining agreement, one might hope that such issues could be tackled in a productive way. Countering such hope is that fact that some members of the current BOE that were also present for prior contract negotiations seem to place a higher value on holding down expenditures than providing meaningful development while other members of the BOE may have personal incentives to be biased toward overly generous compensation... Unlikely that anything productive, innovative or positive for the learning environment can be accomplished in such a situation.

jay_wick said...

Part 2 of 2
III. Beyond the hugely expensive clean-up at HMS there is evidence that facilities issues have not been dealt with in a professional manner for quite some time. It would be bad enough if these issues just reflected poorly on the fiduciary responsibility that the BOE and senior district staff should demonstrate, but these issues have had a negative impact on the learning that students should be engaged in. Beyond the haphazard lack of care shown at HMS, the district has said that things like class sizes and all-day kindergarten are not compatible with the facilities of the district. Given the degree to which the district has invested in the construction and refurbishment of facilities such statements should be nothing less than shocking.

IV. Evidence of failures of the district & BOE to comply with standard measures of transparency like the Illinois Open Meetings Act continues to erode trust that is needed for community support. While the district has a good record of making some information available online, the lack of clarity even in how BOE members are presented information they need to fulfill their legally required roles of overseeing the district is troubling -- despite Illinois' reputation of insiders fleecing taxpayers, there are laws that are supposed to be followed by governmental bodies to properly plan out budgets in advance of monies being spent, seek open bids for nearly all services and goods, publish financials promptly, and manage the public's purse with care. Beyond the monetary aspects, there are also strict standards for what must be done in the "light of day" and the BOE's eagerness to retreat to "closed session" whenever the law affords them such cover (and sometimes even when it does not) does nothing to inspire confidence. Though given the recent lack of decorum exhibited amongst BOE members one can only imagine what happens outside the public's purview. Too often the BOE meeting have shown not that the district leaders are deliberating but only the twisted charade of matters that seem to have been per-ordained. If folks that are on the BOE are incapable of working together they should step down.

The BOE certainly seems to be moving rapidly toward finding a replacement for our departing superintendent. One only hopes that some of the BOE members are willing to perform due diligence in their selection. A suitably talented individual that has the dedication and knowledge needed to put the district back on the right track could go a long way toward helping restore not just confidence but also fixing declines that must be acknowledged. The BOE is also going to need to TAKE SOME INITIATIVES on its own. The evidence that the current titular head of the BOE actual decides anything is scant at best. The odd stance of the current BOE to avoid "micromanaging" has instead resulted in ship that seems if not headed for a wreck at least quite rudderless. No one has expressed any concerns of BOE members enmeshing themselves in minutiae nor is that needed but if the pattern of foolish adherence to some public face of unanimity is not soon abandoned the discord of parents and community members will only grow.

Anonymous said...

Almighty blog monitor,

Where is the transcript of the Hennigan Yeager exchange? Based on what you posted Yeager asked Hennigan to discuss the issue in private which was obviolsy personal at that point!

Hennigan plowed ahead. How is that Yaeger being rude? Not Hennigan? Your opinions paint you in a very biased light. it really discounts your opinions in all matters.

Anonymous said...

Agree! Heneghan was out of line and initiated the conflict.

Typical Heneghan, take an initiative that is in the best interest of the District, has Board, administration and community support and grill Schuster on the time of the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Hey Heneghan,

Take an earlier train so you don't miss the start of every Board meeting.

HMS Parent said...

To the last 3 Anonymous Posters: Your attacks on Heneghan are completely unwarranted. Mr. Heneghan was not out of line in calling out his fellow board member for being a hypocrite. Listen to the Podcast. It is very clear that Mr. Yaeger initiated the exchange with his subtle dig at Heneghan for wanting to have meetings start at a time that will not require people to leave work early. The teachers are not expected to leave work to attend the Curriculum Committee meetings. Why should parents or board members? Mr. Yaeger was the last person who should have made the crack about "importance" when he hasn't attended the committee meetings HE is on as our elected representative. It was high time his absences were exposed. THANK YOU MR. HENEGHAN!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous critics of Heneghan: You are off base. Discussions about board member behavior should be done in public and not taken behind closed doors or into the back alley as Mr. Yaeger clearly wanted to do. Of course he didn't want to discuss his absence from attending the finance committee meetings in public. It was embarrassing. Here's a thought. If you can't attend, then step off the committee! Reliance on "Gary" to report to you what happens is pathetic!

Supporter of Heneghan said...

Mr. Heneghan: I am proud to call you my elected representative. People like you are the ones who should serve on the board. Not Yaeger who is a bully and doesn't attend committee meetings he volunteers for, not Nelson who until very recently had missed most of the board meetings and not Turek who also seems its ok to miss important board meetings where the superintendent search committee tells the board what the community is looking for in a new superintendent. The next election can't come soon enough. Time for some real change on the board.

Anonymous said...

The attacks on Heneghan are unwarranted. He and garg are the only board members that come prepared and listen to community concerns. The other boe members are only concerned about their ego and don't like that Heneghan and garg make then look incompetent

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous: Did you listen to the podcast? Do you read this blog? Check out the attendance record of the board members. Why haven't you criticized Nelson for not attending meetings? Why haven't you criticized Turek for missing important meetings like the one last Monday? Why is it OK for Yaeger to blow off attending Finance Committee meetings and rely on the "agenda" and reports from "Gary" to tell him what is discussed at those meetings? Does the finance committee even keep minutes? If so, have they ever been shown to the BOE? I checked board docs and the D181 website and kind find any kind of written minutes or reports prepared about the monthly finance committee meetings. Looks like Mr. Heneghan was justified in finally calling out the slackards!

Parent of Middle School student said...

One of the last anonymous posters is correct that the Curriculum Committee is in the best interests of the community, so why not make sure everyone who had a genuine, timely interest in serving can actually attend the meetings. Why allow Schuster to play games with the deadline so parents who didn't meet the deadline for applying to serve on the committee can throw their names in at the last minute? How about Yaeger suggesting that "if its really important enough for you to serve on the committee, you'd have gotten your application in on time." No, it is very clear what is going on here. Schuster didn't like the names of the parents who applied for the committee. Many in the community already know who these parents are and they are the ones who have been regularly attending meetings, speaking out and have a genuine interest in righting this sinking ship. "In my opinion" Schuster doesn't want these parents on the committee because she doesn't like them, plain and simple. Why else wouldn't she give timely applicants priority in filling the parent slots on the committee? The deadline should only have been extended if enough parents didn't apply -- or if Schuster really wants one parent from each school she could have extended the deadline for schools where no one applied on time. Then to make things worse, she picks a time for the meetings that is very difficult for most parents -- stay at home or working parents -- to meet. Students have just arrived home at 4 p.m. Parents who stay at home should be able to have some meaningful after school time with their children and not have them come home to an empty house so they can attend the meetings. Parents who work -- especially those in the city -- would have to take time off work to attend the meetings. That is simply wrong and for Schuster to expect is is laughable, considering her attendance record in the district. Pushing the meeting by one or two hours would be in everyone's best interest. Or at least schedule the meetings on some kind of alternative basis -- 4,6,4,6, etc. But no, Schuster didn't suggest such a thing. It took Mridu Garg to do that. It is time everyone took a long hard look at the games the administration plays in trying to stack the deck to get the make up on committees that they want. It is time everyone demanded that all seven board members attend all meetings that they have made a committment to and stop making excuses when they don't show up. It is time for the next board election and new district leadership.

Anonymous said...

The cracks at Mr. Heneghan are ridiculous. Parents depend on the BOE to ask these questions. Next time he should just stay at his real job, or at home, and phone in his comments and questions like Nelson did for almost all of last year.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous, Yaeger, Turek, Nelson or whatever your real name is. Look whose calling the kettle black. Heneghan rocks! You don't.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that "rocks" about some of brainwashed, compliant BOE members are the ones bouncing around in their skull.

Incredulous Parent said...

So it's ok for Turek to bully FOIA filers and then get caught filing massive FOIA's all over the state? It is OK for Nelson to not attend meetings, but not have any of his fellow board members call him out publicly while he acts like a bully toward the community when he does show up? It is OK for Yaeger to miss most facilities committee meetings but question others' commitments to serving when they ask for a time change that will facilitate their attendance? But it is not OK for Heneghan to call board members out for shirking their duties and behaving in a rude fashion? What is wrong with this picture?

Anonymous said...

I agree that Schuster is trying to stack the deck on the learning committee. I personally know of 11 people who applied, and I believe all but two schools were represented. The parents who applied regularly attend BOE meetings and are invested in solving many of the problems facing this district. They have also been very vocal against Schuster - hence the problem in Schuster's eyes. There is a perception in the community that Schuster extended the deadline so that she can go out and cherry pick more suitable candidates. The selection process appears to be a sham because Schuster and the Department of Learning will be picking the candidates. This committee should have been a BOE committee - as one community member advocated for at a meeting - to avoid these types of underhanded dealings.

Anonymous said...

This is a voluntary, unpaid committee, NOT a paid position. Since when does the administration and BOE get to decide WHICH parents will be chosen for VOLUNTEER committees? Dr. Schister's attempt to cherry pick the members of the Curriculum Committee is setting a very dangerous precedent. What is next - only "certain" people will be allowed to run for PTO positions?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Why not have everyone who applied be on the committee. Dr. Shuster is leaving-so why does she still get to dictate/control this committee? The BOE should voice these concerns. The administration should not cherry pick the applicants. There is no voting, no campaigns. We are tax payers, let us be on the committee is we want to. The most interested and committed will show up and contribute.

Anonymous said...

I do not often praise the BOE and administration, but today I will!

Bridget just sent out an email. There will be a special BOE meeting Monday Apil 21 at Elm. Agenda items: boe officer elections, proposed data cooperative, HMS roof and Dr. Moon.

There will also be a "non-negotiable" presentation. And I applaud that there is a daytime and evening option. And there will be Q and A. April 25 9-11:30 am at CH library, and May 6 7-8:30pm at Elm.

This is a good step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

In the same email noted above
Friday, April 25 and Tuesday, May 6: "Non-Negotiable Principals for Creating Inclusive Schools for All"
Two questions: 1) is creating "inclusive schools" more important than learning the difference between principle and principal? 2) and more substantively, who has determined them to be non-negotiable? Since the content includes "data trends", this feels like a discussion being shut down before it begins.

Anonymous said...

KSchneider is telling teachers he is not going anywhere and neither is Learning for All. Perhaps he is also a non-negotiable.

Anonymous said...

I guess that explains the need to cherry pick the learning committee

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Schneider applied for the Superintendent position? Kinda scary thought.

Also, Governor Quinn & Bruce Rauner met each other in public for the first time yesterday in front of the Illinois Education Association yesterday. Very interesting answers, but mainly pandering. A lot of their decisions will impact education, the work environment for the teachers & staff, and learning environment of the kids. Honestly, I'm scared of both candidates. Here's more information:

Anonymous said...

If Schneider did apply for the superintendent position, heaven help us. He has zero knowledge of curriculum and he is only interested in furthering his own causes of social justice and learning for some.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope spelling is a part of Learning for All. It's very difficult to respect central administrators and their plans for the future direction of our district when their communication often contains spelling/grammatical errors.