Friday, May 30, 2014

Update on HCHTA Contract: How Fair Is It, Really? Scant Details Provided By BOE When Compared to Details Provided When the 2011-2014 Contract was Approved.

While we commend Dr. White for promptly emailing the D181 Community a copy of the Joint Press Release issued by the BOE and HCHTA announcing approval of a 2 year HCHTA contract (2014-2016), we are troubled by the lack of meaningful financial data included in the press release.  

What we know from the information provided in the press release is that in Year 1, the contract "includes" an increase to the base salaries of 1.75% and in Year 2 a smaller increase to the base salaries of 1.5%. We also know that there will be an "increased contribution from teachers for family insurance."  The press release goes on to explain that a Compensation Review Committee will be formed that will spend the next two years reviewing the teachers’ salary schedule (sometimes referred to as the STEP ladder), continuing education, health insurance, professional development, retirement and other forms of compensation. 

We were a bit surprised with the brevity of the information provided on the actual terms of the new contract recalling that when the 3 year 2011-2014 HCHTA was approved, the community was provided much more detail.  So we dug into Board Docs and confirmed that last time around there was in fact, more transparency in the flow of information.  Below is the text of the Joint Press Release that was issued on October 24, 2011. 

Text of October 24, 2011 Press Release:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Two Year Teachers' Contract Approved Tonight By BOE; 2014-2015 School Year Start Date Pushed Back

Earlier tonight, Dr. White emailed D181 parents and attached the following Joint Press Release issued by the BOE and HCHTA. Please sound off and let us know what you think of the new contract.

Absent from Dr. White's email was any discussion of the terms of the new Administrators' salaries which were also approved tonight.  We will have to wait until the approved Consent Agenda listing each administrator by name with their new salary is published on Board Docs.  (As of publication of this post, it had not yet been posted.) We will report the administrators' salary increases as soon as the information is available.


"A Joint Press Release from District 181 and the HCHTA


On Thursday, May 29, 2014, the Community Consolidated School District 181 Board of Education unanimously approved a new contract with the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association (HCHTA). The members of the HCHTA voted in favor of ratifying the agreement on May 28. Representatives of the Board and the HCHTA remark that the process was extremely collaborative and resulted in a contract that is a “win win” for all stakeholders.

"The Board of Education values the highly talented and dedicated teaching staff of District 181. We wanted to ensure that the contract reflected our respect for their professionalism while being responsible to the community," said Board of Education Vice President and Negotiations team member Jill Vorobiev. "The contract also supports the Board's commitment to providing staff with the necessary structural supports to implement District and legislative initiatives and continue fostering an environment of excellence in education."

“The teachers of District 181 are very pleased with the new contract,” agreed Sarah Hoffman and Heather Scott, Co-Presidents of the HCHTA. “The process was a great partnership.”

HCHTA and District representatives had an initial negotiations planning meeting in September and began meeting formally in February. Teachers Matt Haeger and Erika Sajpel, Negotiations Chairs for HCHTA, explain that the group’s decision to use interest-based negotiations made for a more open and productive dialogue from the start. “In traditional negotiations, the representatives are in different rooms, exchanging information and sharing positions on issues in an indirect way, rarely interacting,” Sajpel explains. “That is how we have historically conducted negotiations in District 181, but in the interest-based process we used this time, all meetings were together in a large group or as sub- committees. The round-table format allowed us to addresstopics more openly and problem solve as a team.”

“Through this process, we have worked toward the same goal like we do on all other important District issues,” notes Assistant Superintendent for Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider. “We listened to one another’s stories and made a very conscious effort to understand the other perspective.” Though the interest based process takes more time, Schneider says the journey to get to the end result was time well spent. 

The new agreement is effective May 30, 2014 through June 30, 2016. The contract includes an increase to base salaries in each of the next two years. Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Gary Frisch notes that the base increases closely align to the latest consumer price indexes for the most recent years (1.75% in 2014-15 and 1.5% in 2015-16). The contract also calls for an increased contribution from teachers for family insurance. “The higher contribution will assist the Board of Education in recouping the increase in insurance costs to the District,” Frisch explains.

Frisch notes that one of the most significant components of the contract is the formation of a new committee that will begin meeting in the fall. The Compensation Review Committee will review the teachers’ salary schedule, continuing education, health insurance, professional development, retirement and other forms of compensation. “A team of representatives from the Board and HCHTA will consider how these contract features should be designed in a 21st century education system,” Frisch says.

Recently named Superintendent Dr. Don White says he is enthused by the committee’s charge. “The committee will look at ways to be creative and flexible in teacher compensation while ensuring that the design is sustainable over time. We want to continue to attract and retain outstanding teachers, and we also want to encourage and reward staff for meeting District goals through professional development.” The two year agreement will expire as the work of the committee is scheduled to finish, in the spring of 2016.“Creating a committee to fully vet these issues now will ensure that long-term solutions in the next contract have been well thought out and collaboratively designed.”

“We are in a new economic reality and a new education reality,” Dr. White remarks. “The Compensation Review Committee work will allow us to take a modernized look at our practices and be agile in responding to the current financial picture, as well as to the many educational changes happening at the local and national level. The Board has expressed a commitment to providing teachers with the tools and resources to accomplish this work.”

To help address the changes in education, both the Board and HCHTA wanted staff professional
development to be an area of major focus of the contract. “We are committed to being up-to-date with current best practices and working with the Board and administration in putting the structural supports in place to allow for ongoing professional development,”explains Hoffman and Scott.“It is important that teachers have opportunities to plan and discuss together how we can best serve students and be most effective in the classroom.” Schneider says he is confident the professional development plan will be a positive step forward. “We now have a modernized, data-driven professional development plan with a goal oriented focus that is more consistent and clear.”

The plan also aims at reducing the amount of substitute teacher use by moving some staff development time outside of the school day. Hoffman and Scott say teachers are looking forward to preserving in-class time as well as having their professional development schedule for the next school year provided well in advance.“A sub-committee working during negotiations has mapped out the professional development plan for 2014-15; when teachers end this school year, they will know what next year will look like. We are excited that the new plan provides more opportunities to meet and collaborate throughout the year.”

In addition to seeing what both sides hope will be a decrease in the number of substitute teachers that are called upon during the year, families will be impacted by a second change to the professional development plan.The first day of school for 2014-15 will move from Thursday, August 21 to Monday, August 25 to create additional staff development opportunities at the start of the year. Therefore, also on May 29, 2014, the Board of Education approved the 2014-15 school calendar which reflected the change in start date. The last day of school will now be Friday, June 5 (if no emergency days are used); winter break and spring break dates were not affected by the change.

Dr. White commended both groups for their successful efforts. “I am excited to join a team so committed to building a positive climate and working together to resolve challenges. This has been a model of the kind of work we want to continue cultivating - open, collaborative, and centered around providing the best possible education for students.”"

Dr. White Off to A Great Start: Perhaps Transparency Is Returning to D181?

Moments ago, Dr. White sent an email to D181 parents announcing tonight's Special Board of Education Meeting and explaining what is on the agenda.  The text of the email is copied below.  He also stated that following the meeting and the approval of the new HCHTA contract, he will send another message highlighting what is in the contract and the negotiations process and noting any Board action that is taken.

Bravo and thank you Dr. White!  Proactively announcing such an important board meeting, and not relying on parents to monitor Board Docs on a daily basis, is a refreshing change.  We look forward to your future communiques to the D181 community!

Text of Dr. White's Email:

"Dear District 181 Families,

Please note that we are holding a Special Board meeting this evening at Prospect School (7pm). The meeting agenda includes the presentation of three items for approval - the 2014-15 school calendar, administrator contracts, and a new collective bargaining agreement with the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers' Association (HCHTA). We invite you to tune in via podcast; you can learn more about accessing the meeting audio on our website. I will send a message to families again after the meeting to note any Board action that is taken and, pending approval of the HCHTA contract, will share a substantial overview of the key highlights of the contract and the negotiations process.


Don White, Ph.D.

Lowlights of the May 27, 2014 Board Meeting and a Look Ahead to the "Special" Board Meeting Scheduled for Thursday, May 29.

This post will address the Lowlights of the 5/27 Meeting and look ahead to what is on tonight's (5/29) Special Board meeting agenda.

Lowlights of the 5/27 Meeting:

Tuesday night's board meeting left many people in the D181 community feeling like they'd been kicked in the gut.  We do not plan to summarize the entire meeting, but focus on a few key lowlights we heard upon listening to the meeting and speaking to people who were in attendance.  We encourage you to listen to the Podcast, from start to finish, because it will give you a very good idea of where Dr. Schuster's and the current BOE's priorities are not.

1.  D181's retiring teachers and staff were disrespected Tuesday night. Despite a good turnout of teachers, staff and community members at the retirees' (and lest us overlook Dr. Schuster's resignation) reception, rather than immediately follow it with the reading of the "resolution" and have the parents and students who were in attendance for the Ambassadors awards listen and honor these teachers and staff, Dr. Schuster chose to present the Ambassador awards first.  As has happened after every awards presentation this year, almost every parent and student left immediately after the presentation of the awards.  Parents don't typically stay for the board meetings, especially if they have to drive their kids home.   Last night, most probably didn't even realize that anything special was about to happen, and some even left as the "generic" resolution was read by Communications Director Bridget McGuiggan.   Dr. Schuster did make a brief announcement  as parents and students were streaming out, but it was too late.  Had the Ambassadors awards ended AFTER an announcement was made that the retirees were about to be recognized, or had the retirees' recognitions been part of the awards presentation, this might not have happened.   But no one seemed to anticipate this and so the reading of the lone resolution was disrupted as people exited.  It is a shame that this happened.

2.  D181's retiring teachers were not shown the respect and personal recognition by the Administration or the Board of Education that they each deserved.  Board members did not read individual, personalized resolutions for each retiree.  Nor did Dr. Schuster. Rather, one generic resolution was read by the Director of Communications, after which each retiree was called up to receive a paper certificate, not the beautifully framed personalized resolutions past retirees have been given.  This impersonal recognition was like a slap in the face to our wonderful teachers and SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!  If Dr. White reads this blog, we hope he realizes how demoralizing the reception and reading of a generic resolution was to the retiring staff.  We hope he adds this to a growing list of concerns and and hope he finds a way to return to the traditions established by past administrations in ensuring that future retiring teachers are properly thanked and recognized.  Sadly, it is too late to do so for this year's retirees.

3.  When the meeting started, there were very few people left in the audience.  The usual group of principals, central administrators and 10 to 12 parents who regularly attend board meetings were there.  Yet almost all of these die hard parents left before the meeting ended (well after 10 p.m.).  Some of these parents tried to stay to the end with the intention of making closing comments regarding some of the math curriculum issues discussed during the meeting, but eventually gave up.  

4.  Elementary Math Pilot:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Most Heartfelt Thank You to D181's Retiring Teachers, Nurses and Staff

A reception for D181's retiring teachers, nurses and staff will be held tonight (May 27) at Prospect School at 6:15 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by a reading of individual Resolutions honoring each one. While the D181 Family E-Newsletter and the Board Docs agenda reference these events generally, we thought it important to identify these wonderful teachers and district staff by name, in order that all students and parents whose lives they touched in the past or present will know and have the opportunity to attend and share in the celebrations.  We believe these 16 individuals deserve a celebration all their own in recognition of their MANY years of service and commitment to D181.

We are deeply honored and humbled that they have educated, molded, helped and guided our children. So, we give thanks to (in alphabetical order):

Arlene Berger, CHMS

Marilyn Bottorf, Instructional Assistant
Nancy Costea, CHMS
Maria Bradley-Farias, HMS
Victoria Freiberg, CHMS
Betty Hogan, The Lane School
Barbara Johnson, HMS
Mary Ellen Kuikman, HMS
Carol Kwiat, Business Office
Becky Marshall, Instructional Assistant
Joannne Medenis, CHMS
Kathleen O'Connell, School Nurse, Prospect
Sue Odelson, District Nurse, The Lane
Margaret Source, Monroe
Stephanie Stewart, HMS
Theresa Wilkie, HMS

You will be missed!

Monday, May 26, 2014

More Lack of Transparency: Required 10 Year Health Life Safety Report on Hinsdale Middle School Not Posted on Board Docs

Along the lines of the administration redacting safety concerns from the Facilities Surveys, it appears the administration has also chosen to withhold from the community -- and possibly even the BOE -- a copy of a Ten-Year Health Life Safety Inspection Report on Hinsdale Middle School.   How ironic and absolutely unacceptable, in light of the mold and water "intrusion" crisis at HMS less than five months ago.

According to Board Docs for the May 27 board meeting, the BOE will vote via Consent Agenda to approve the resolution.  Click to read the Resolution.  This usually means the BOE will have absolutely no discussion on this item (unless a member specifically pulls it off the agenda)  before the board will approve it unanimously.

So what does the Resolution say? It states that pursuant to the Illinois School Code (Section 105 ILCS 5/2-3.12), the BOE is required to hire an architect or engineer to conduct a Health Life Safety Inspection of a school every ten years. According to the resolution, a 10 year inspection was conducted and a report was given to the administration.  The BOE is asked to "accept" the report.

So we looked up ILCS 5/2-3.12 to see what it specifically calls for. Click to open ILCS 5/2-3/12. According to this provision, the BOE must do more than simply "accept" the report. It must approve and then implement in a "timely" fashion (within 5 years) the correction of any urgent items made in the report's "recommendations" in order "to effectuate compliance with the code." And then, to top it all off, once a year, the BOE must submit a report of progress on completion of any of the recommendations.

According to Subsection (b)(5) of this provision,

Published Facilities Survey Results Evidence More Lack of Transparency That Raise Concerns About the Safety of Our Children

In the May 23, 2014 D181 Family E-Newsletter, the Director of Communications made the following announcement:

"Staff Facilities Survey Results Online
We have posted on our website ( > Board > Surveys) the school-specific results of a recent staff facilities survey. The survey was designed to help guide our District Facilities Committee in supporting the planning of long-term facility needs over the next several years by gathering feedback from staff about each school in the District. The survey addressed a variety of building components, ranging from green space and classroom size to visitor parking and safety. Facilities Committee members will be reviewing the data and working with administration to provide suggested action steps in concert with the Buildings and Grounds staff."

For those of you who were unaware, following the mold fiasco at Hinsdale Middle School in January and February and the unfortunate expenditure of millions of dollars (that by the way, have driven the district budget into a nearly $1.5 million deficit*), a Facilities Committee was formed that includes some incredibly intelligent, dedicated, hard working and extremely thorough parents, community members and D181 teachers.  The Facilities Committee was tasked with developing a long term master facilities plan for all of the schools, as well as making recommendations on HMS's more pressing needs.  One of their suggestions was to conduct a district wide facilities survey to identify issues at each of D181's nine schools in order to help in the development of a master's facilities list.

At the April 28, 2014 board meeting, an HMS teacher on the committee presented a preliminary report on the results of the HMS survey.  The preliminary results showed that teachers at HMS are very dissatisfied with the facility.  Now, the final survey results have been made available on the D181 website.  Click on the following links to open the survey results for each of the 9 individual schools:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

We Are Not Alone: Neighboring Blogs Shed Light on Other Districts' Issues

We have received lots of criticism for running this blog in which we have tried to address a myriad of issues including D181's lack of transparency, lack of accountability, poor central office administrative leadership and the hypocrisy and poor behavior of multiple board of education members.  Well, we are happy to report that we are not alone.  We thought you all might be interested in reading some of the posts on two neighboring blogs, one run anonymously, one run by a named community member.  What you will read unfortunately establishes that dysfunction seems to rule the day in more districts than just D181.

An anonymous blog is run dealing with neighboring elementary and middle school Pleasantdale School District 107.  The blog can be found at:

Not only does it appear that D107's board of education has its share of problems, but they too are going to have a new superintendent soon, since their current one has just announced his impending retirement.  We encourage you to read some of the posts on just how bad the administrative situation got in D107 before a detailed survey was finally commissioned and an outside auditor was hired to figure out if representations made by the superintendent regarding Common Core alignment were true.  You will be shocked by what you read.

Closer to home, Hinsdale High School District 86 now has a blog that is being run by a community member.  This brand new blog can be found at:

According to the author's first post,

"This is my first blog in what will be a running commentary about the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board of Education. I will share my observations about their regular meetings, business items that are currently or soon will be before the Board of Education, and hopefully allow the reader to better track issues important to them during BOE proceedings. Today I will address what I see as major flaws in the philosophy and conduct of the current Board. In future blogs we will look more closely at specific decisions."

We encourage you to begin following this blog because many of your children currently, or in the future will, attend Hinsdale Central High School, and the actions of the D86 board of education today may significantly impact your children's education tomorrow.  

Now more than ever, it is critical that parents, community members and all taxpayers of our public school districts remain vigilant, informed and active.  The onus remains on all of us to demand transparency and accountability in all things that impact our children.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! Learning for All - Automatic Math Acceleration to be Scrapped by D181 Administration!

Well, folks, it looks like the failed automatic math acceleration for next year's fifth graders is about to be halted. Information has been streaming in to the blog via comment with requests that we put all the information together and publish a post.  We are more than happy to oblige. 

We have received the following information from numerous sources who attended one or both of yesterday's "Math" meetings for 4th Grade Parents held at Elm School.  All sources have chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves or their students from potential retaliatory behavior.  We are publishing the information, but encourage ANYONE in the administration who believes the information is not accurate, to send any "clarifications" or further explanation to the blog via comment and we will publish that as well.

During both meetings yesterday, the soon-to-be-ex-co-assistant superintendent of learning, Kevin Russell, stated that beginning this fall, there will be no automatic grade acceleration in math for all fifth graders. He also stated that there will be "tiers" in that a MAP score of 225 will be used to determine if students will be placed in advanced math. Parents will still be able to "opt in" their child, and the differentiation specialists will subjectively determine if a child needs further "acceleration" beyond advanced math. Hmmm, so we are back to subjective assessments after having disposed of formal testing measures to determine whether advanced placement is necessary for our kids? Isn't this the same administrator who disparaged the use of tiers in the recent past? 
Curiously, the one thing Russell didn't admit is that the automatic acceleration of math was and is a failed experiment imposed on the backs of teachers and our children. And when he and Igoe slip out of their offices in approximately 30 days, they will leave a mess behind for trainees Schneider (no background in curriculum) and Benaitis (no background in curriculum or assessment) to attempt to implement before a new assistant superintendent of curriculum is hired. 
The board meeting on Tuesday, May 28 at 7pm, at Prospect School should be interesting. Take a look at the agenda when it appears on Board Docs early Saturday morning and draw your conclusions about the last hurrah of Schuster's administration. We hope Dr. White will be in attendance to witness the last gasps of double talk and spin, which we parents have come to know as the norm.
 Stay tuned for further updates...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Breaking News: Christine Igoe, Director of Learning (Pupil Sevices) Resigns Effective June 30. Time for the BOE to Answer Tuition Reimbursement Questions. Time to Evaluate Whether All Administrative Vacancies Should be Filled.

Last night, Dr. Schuster sent an email to D181 parents announcing that " this evening, Director of Learning (Pupil Services) Christine Igoe accepted a position as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services with Naperville Community Unit School District 203, effective July 1, 2014."

With her departure, D181's new Superintendent, Dr. White, will have three positions to fill over the summer:

1.  Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction)
2.  Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources
3.  Director of Learning (Pupil Services).

As with the first two administrators who recently announced their resignations -- Dr. Russell and Mr. Eccarius -- Ms. Igoe currently has a Tuition Reimbursement Contract with D181. (Click to open 3/19/2012 Personnel Consent Agenda approving Ms. Igoe's tuition reimbursement contract.) She is enrolled in a  graduate program and is reimbursed with taxpayer dollars for the tuition she is charged.  If the tuition reimbursement contract language is the same as that in Dr. Russell and Mr. Eccarius' contracts, its provisions state that she is required to repay D181 100% of tuition expenses she was reimbursed if she leaves within one year of the most recent reimbursement payment.

It is time that the BOE address the following questions during the next board meeting -- scheduled for May 27, 2014:

1.  Will the BOE enforce the 100% repayment contractual obligation that these three administrators agreed to when they signed their current employment contracts?
2.  If not, why not?   More importantly, if the provisions as written are not enforced by the BOE, how much tax payer money is being left uncollected as these administrators are allowed to unilaterally resign and leave D181 in the midst of  or less than one year after completing their graduate programs?

In addition, we hope that Dr. White will use Ms. Igoe's resignation as an opportunity to evaluate whether or not the administrative vacancy her departure will create should even be filled.  Let's not forget that originally, Ms. Igoe was promoted to Interim Director when D181 withdrew from LADSE, and it was necessary to have an administrator oversee the withdrawal who had an Illinois license.  (Click to open 4/26/2011 Personnel Consent Agenda.) At the time of the LADSE withdrawal, the Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services did not have an Illinois license and therefore. one of the building level PPS administrators was promoted to the "interim" position. (Click to open 3/14/2011 Personnel Consent Agenda.)  Yet less than one year later, on the very date that the BOE approved Dr. Schneider's hire to replace the previous Assistant Superintendent of PPS, it made the interim position permanent, despite the fact that Dr. Schneider was hired with the necessary credentials to fill this role, and despite the fact that building level PPS administrator positions were left intact. (Click to open 4/9/2012 Personnel Consent Agenda hiring Dr. Schneider, Click to open 4/9/2012 Addendum to Personnel Consent Agenda making interim position permanent, Click to open and search ISBE Educator Licensure Information System.)

Perhaps now is the time for the new superintendent to evaluate whether or not the administration has become top heavy.  It may be the appropriate time to scale back and require the Assistant Superintendents in each department to assume more responsibilities, rather than add multiple layers of lower level administrators to handle day to day tasks.  Dr. Schneider was originally hired as the Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services.  He is licensed in Illinois and therefore, perhaps rather than oversee general curriculum programs -- such as the Learning for All Plan -- he should be tasked with focusing only on the services offered by the PPS department, including overseeing the in-house special education services previously provided by LADSE.  

Dr. White certainly has his work cut out for him this summer in filling these vacancies and evaluating D181's administrative needs, but we are confident that he is up to the tasks at hand. We look forward to seeing how he will address these important issues.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Parent's Commentary on How the 5/12/14 Board Meeting Exemplified Reasons Why The D181 Community Continues to be Frustrated with the BOE.

The following post was submitted in part as a comment from "Jay Wick," one of our loyal readers.  Mr. Wick thoughtfully discussed and commented on last night's Board Meeting at CHMS.  We asked Mr. Wick for permission to publish his comments as a free standing post, and he agreed, sending us additional supplemental material to publish.  Thank you Mr. Wick.

In light of Mr. Wick's post, we will not be posting our own summary of last night's meeting, although we may write up a commentary on the discussion the board conducted on the proposed Parent Survey that is set to launch later this week.

Jay Wick's Commentary:

For anyone that cares to listen to the BOE meeting it is up on the district’s podcasts —BOE Podcasts | Oddly still no sign of the L4A presentation. Oh well…. No need to rehash the whole meeting, not a whole accomplished. That said it is yet another interesting example of why folks get frustrated with how the BOE is run. The agenda seemed mostly light, as one might expect when there is transition from the outgoing superintendent to the new, but the fact there were inaccuracies in the agenda items points out how frustrating it can be for concerned parents / community members to figure out what the heck the BOE is trying to accomplish. 

One particularly glaring problem was highlighted with the item concerning a substantial technology replacement. Not bad enough that there was confusion as to whether BOE needed to vote NOW on nearly $500K worth of replacement laptop computers (there was no such urgency …) but the BOE certainly did not seem even to have clarity on whether they were making a decision about an expenditure or a more strategic goal. Apparently folks on the BOE do not really even understand the difference between Mac Book Airs and iPads, let alone things like Chromebooks. My kids know the differences. Here are some simple summaries — Mac Book Air vs iPadContrast that with -- Chromebook, cheaper, but not nearly as capable as Mac BookDifferent tools for different tasks…

In a pattern that is not at all uncommon for the BOE, the lack of a coherent meeting plan became painfully obvious. Discussion at about 45 minutes into the meeting drifted into talk of the BOE being unable / unwilling to budget for the training of district staff in appropriate usage of iPads in a “one-to-one” ratio with students. There was nothing but a quote / invoice for hardware. Sort of funny that this came after the BOE seemed glazed over by earlier discussion of revised budget for existing school year. The costs of unscheduled improvements at HMS put the budget nearly $2M out of whack, but through various fund transfers apparently all is well. Highlights the lack of any desire / interest / ability of BOE to actually repriortize things so that staff gets training. The majority of the BOE endorsed a sad status quo where the district “graciously accepts PTO / PTA gifts of hardware for student use after parents knock themselves out at fundraisers…

When asked for his general views on how to address these concerns, Dr. White wisely suggested beginning with considering the desired outcomes for in-class instructional experience. Wow. Imagine that, actually talking about educational end results! Looking forward to hearing more of that! Don't get me wrong -- I love all kinds of computer HW but unless staff has the right kind of environment, such HW won’t have much impact. 

In their defense, district technology staff tried very diligently to help BOE understand the very different needs of teachers using laptops vs the “one-to-one” ratio of iPads for student use that is in limbo. Apparently the district has not yet “recycled” away any iPads, even first gen units that don’t run the most current apps. With an excellent record of reliability and a great deal of utility, that seems to make sense, but still one wonders what could be achieved if there were actual alignment between strategic goals, appropriate training and the kind of support that parents have demonstrated…

Friday, May 9, 2014

Invitation to Sound Off

Section 1 of Dr. White's Contract with D181 states:

"Employment - The SUPERINTENDENT is hereby hired and retained from May 5, 2014 through June 30, 2014 as Co-Superintendent, and thereafter, from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017 as the Superintendent of Schools for the School District. From May 5, 2014 through May 26, 2014, the SUPERINTENDENT shall work on a per diem basis as determined by the Parties. From May 27, 2014 through June 30, 2017, the SUPERINTENDENT shall assume full-time responsibilities and duties." (Dr. White's employment contract, emphasis added)

We take this contract language to mean that since Dr. White is still (we have checked) employed full time at Troy District 30C, between now and May 27, he is sharing duties with Dr. Schuster through May 26.  But what does it mean that he is only going to serve as Co-Superintenent from May 27 through June 30, 2014 while assuming full-time responsibilities and duties?

Does this mean that he will be working WITH Dr. Schuster for his first month?  Does this mean that he will not be authorized to make all decisions without collaborating with her and both mutually agreeing to every decision?  Does this mean that his hands will be tied, for lack of a better phrase, from being the sole educational leader in D181?

The BOE has not voted on any revisions to Dr. Schuster's current contract.  Under the terms of her existing contract, she is serving as THE superintendent and not as Co-Superintendent.  There is clearly now a conflict between the language of the two "Superintendents'" contracts. (Click to open Schuster's Contract.)

To our knowledge, never before has a new superintendent come in, been paid a full time salary, and shared his responsibilities and duties with the outgoing, full time salaried superintendent, even if only for 1 1/2 months.  It has never been deemed necessary, and just because the pension law change prompted (as BWP search firm anticipated) the new superintendent to start work in D181 prior to May 31, 2014 in order to take advantage of the changes, is there really a need for 2 superintendents?

So we are inviting our readers to SOUND OFF on the following 3 questions:

1.  When Dr. White assumes his FULL TIME responsibilities and duties on May 27, 2014, what should happen to Dr. Schuster?  Should she be allowed to continue working on site at D181 as the Superintendent (with different goals and responsibilities set forth in her contract as those in Dr. Whites)?

2.  Since Dr. Schuster initiated and tendered her resignation effective June 30, 2014, and it was mutually agreed to by both her and the BOE, with the result being that she does not need to pay the district $20,000 to cover the costs of the search for her replacement (See Section 29 of Schuster's Contract), if SHE leaves on May 26, 2017, should the BOE pay her salary from May 27 through June 30.

3.  What three issues would you like Dr. White to focus on between May 27, 2014 and August 21, 2014 which is the first student attendance day for the 2014-2015 school year?

We look forward to hearing your answers to these questions.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We Welcome Dr. White to District 181 -- Our Hope Is That Under His Leadership D181 Will Come Back Into The Light.

As we previously reported, last Friday the Board of Education unanimously approved Dr. Don White as the next D181 Superintendent.  On behalf of the authors of this blog and its loyal readers, we would like to welcome him.  The purpose of this post is twofold:

First, we are providing links to his resume, contract, press releases and other information we have gathered on Dr. White's background and qualifications so that they are readily available in one place. We want to thank our readers for providing some of the links via comment.

Second, we are going to point out indicators that have given us hope that with his hire, D181 will turn a corner away from some of its darkest days in recent history and into the sunshine of transparency, accountability and a new tomorrow.  Based upon what we have researched in the last week, we believe that under Dr. White's leadership,  the potential exists for D181 to resume its place as a beacon of excellence in education for all of our students. We hope that we are not proven wrong.

Click on the following links to open:

In reading through all readily available information on Dr. White, we were impressed with three things:

Dr. White appears to be committed to being TRANSPARENT:
The information he regularly provides the Troy District 30C's community is impressive and we hope that he will provide the D181 community with the same sources of information.  In particular we watched (listened to, really) the You Tube Videos -- called Board Briefs -- for a number of board meetings in his current district. He personally explained -- in advance of each board meeting -- each agenda item.  We also noted that the Meeting Agendas actually published the names of personnel who were listed as "Action Items" for a vote on any number of matters  (hires, resignations, etc.).  We hope Dr. White continues this practice of making a YOU TUBE video in advance of each D181 board meeting explaining the agenda items, as well as OPENING UP the personnel consent agendas.  

For those of you who have followed D181's board history, years ago the practice was to publish the personnel matters being voted on (including names) with the agenda PRIOR to the meeting, but 6 or 7 years ago, the BOE stopped doing this.  Instead, the personnel matters were not published for the community to learn what the board was voting on via "consent agenda" until AFTER the meeting.  It is time the D181 Board of Education returned to the past practice of being fully transparent about all matters it is voting on.

The absurdity of the BOE keeping personnel matters that it is taking a public vote on secret until AFTER the vote, was most clearly evidenced last Friday.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kurt Schneider to Finally Give Presentation on "Nonnegotiables" Related to Learning For All Plan; Tonight, May 6 at Elm School.

Yes, the long-awaited presentation is finally here for parents to enjoy. We have waited for months, as has our elected BOE, for Schneider to finally step up and explain his perceived success of the Learning for All Plan, and his social-justice-fueled-all-inclusive-one-size-fits-all-non-labeled-non-research-based-ideology he has foisted upon the teachers and children in our district. But wait, he didn't do it alone. His comrades: Russell, Igoe and Benaitis have all had their input throughout the past two years. We're sure they will also be under the spotlight tonight, and we will be eager to listen and ask questions.

Tonight, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Elm School. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Breaking News: Dr. Don White Approved as New Superintendent

In a unanimous vote, moments ago the D181 Board of Education approved Dr. Don White as the new Superintendent. Dr. White is currently the Superintendent of Troy District 30C.

Updates to follow.....

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Hands of the Few Adversely Touch the Lives of Many: The D181 BOE Lets Another School Year Slip Away with Little to No Accountability

Yes, indeed. In our opinion, the winds of change during the last several years have ushered in a new era in D181 of unprecedented administrative salaries, undeserved promotions, and unfounded sweeping instructional changes gone wild that are clearly having a negative impact on our children. During this time, there has not been one shred of evidence to suggest that the Learning for All Plan has produced positive results. Period. MAP scores show little to negative growth across many grades and all schools. The ISAT results during the past three years have trended downward. Recent District 181 rankings among other school districts have been on a consistent downward slide. All of this with virtually no BOE oversight or accountability.

And to be fair, we realize that many BOE meetings this school year had sparse attendance by parents. There were several meetings, however, wherein parent comments were plentiful and served as a true testament to the frustration felt across the district. But ultimately, the community members who made such comments were labeled as “naysayers” and the “small fringe,” mainly by two board members: Gary Clarin and Marty Turek.

We have become increasingly concerned in light of recent comments made by Mr. Clarin, who seems to have his hands in many facets of the district. Not only has he served as a defacto project manager during the HMS mold crisis, he has also taken it upon himself to sit in a classroom observing teachers during a school day, meet with the administration (specifically, Dr. Schneider, as Clarin proclaimed in the last board meeting) and serve on the Facilities Committee. While Mr. Clarin has volunteered many hours of his services, he appears to be, in our opinion, set in his opinions about the direction of the district (which he deems as positive) along with the recent public statement that “Learning for All is here to stay” as if he were giving the public a heads up about where the district is headed, even before the new superintendent is announced. We would also like to remind our readers that Mr. Clarin also serves on the negotiations committee for the teachers’ contract, despite the fact his wife is a teacher at HMS. Truth be told: this might not be a direct violation of district policy, but in our opinion, it definitely creates the appearance of impropriety.

Is this conduct we are witnessing of an elected school board member acceptable?  We think not. Nor do we believe it is acceptable to have several board members consistently claim that their ideology and promotion of Learning for All is working, when they have zero evidence to back up their claims. This is simply wrong, and yes, it is ultimately harming our children. Let us remind you that two majority board members, Nelson and Clarin, have no children in the district. They have no direct experience with the changes that have taken place during the past several years, nor will they ever come to know how the changes Dr. Schuster and her foot soldiers implemented will impact the lives of our children in high school and beyond. Private tutors and after school teacher tutoring are not the answers to supplement or to provide the instruction that should have been delivered on a daily basis in classrooms. The board members in the majority should be aware that there are hundreds of students waiting to learn in this district on a daily basis, despite the best efforts by our great teachers. Is this what they believe to be acceptable for our children? Is this what they apparently want to continue in our classrooms, as evidenced by their public comments?

In our opinion, they are clearly out of touch, and our children are now almost out of time.

History can teach us many things, if we are seekers of truth, knowledge, and wisdom. But in a sea of constant change and turmoil, the path to what held D181 together and made it a great high-performing district has now become clouded and murky with floating debris like spin, mantras, and misleading double talk, by both the administration and the BOE.

Let’s hope the new superintendent is able to see through the haze and guide the district to a better place.

We look forward to the announcement of our new superintendent on Friday, May 2, 5pm at Elm School.