Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dr. White Announces Reorganizational Changes Including Promoting Oak Principal Sean Walsh to Director of Learning

Earlier today Dr. White sent out the following email. We invite our readers to sound off on the organizational changes.

Email from Dr. White:
Dear D181 Families,

As today is July 1, let me be the first to officially welcome your family to the 2014-15 school year! We have an exciting journey ahead.

Since coming to the District in May, I have been asking many questions and absorbing a great deal of information in pursuit of learning what our parents, staff, and community members feel are the immediate needs of our organization. One key component of my work has included processing how best to move forward in filling open positions in District Office, and I want to be transparent in sharing the result of that effort.

In the book “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins talks about having the “right people on the bus” who are also “in the right seats.” Below I have outlined a plan for reorganizing the “seats” to give greater attention where I believe it is needed and to most effectively utilize the talents of our team. What I am recommending is cost neutral and does not ultimately add to the total number of staff at District Office, but rather shifts some roles to better serve our community. Following meetings this week with the administrative team, staff association leaders, and District Office staff, I am confident these shifts will be the right move for District 181.

There are two sides to our District’s organizational chart (attached): Learning and Operations. Teaching and learning are what we do each day and will always be our first priority. Human Resources is being moved to the “Learning” side of our organization because people are at the heart of a strong educational system; John Munch was recently approved by the Board to fill the Assistant Superintendent of HR position. Also in “Learning” is Dr. Kurt Schneider as the Assistant Superintendent of Learning. Supporting that work will be Dawn Benaitis as the Director of Learning, Eric Danley as the Director of Technology, and a second Director of Learning. Sean Walsh will fill the second Director position. I am thrilled that Mr. Walsh has accepted this role. He is a respected educational leader with nine years of service as the Principal of Oak School, two years as a principal in Palatine, and three years as an assistant principal in Palatine. He has elementary classroom teaching experience and a very strong knowledge base. Please join me in congratulating Mr. Walsh on his new position! I know the staff and families of Oak School will be sorry to lose such an outstanding leader in their building, but fortunately Mr. Walsh will continue to serve the students of District 181. I anticipate making a decision this week regarding how to proceed in filling the Oak principal position. More information will be shared with the Oak community as we determine the next steps.

On the “Operations” side of our organizational chart, Gary Frisch will continue to serve as an Assistant Superintendent. Joining Mr. Frisch on the Operations side will be a new role, the Assistant Superintendent of Information Systems and Operations. Attached is a job description to clarify what this role will entail. Filling this position will be Ken Surma. Ken held a similar position in my previous district, and I have recruited him specifically to fill this role, beginning July 21.His expertise will be a major asset to our team. I look forward to providing you with more information on Mr. Surma’s background later this summer. The Director of Communications and school structure will remain the same.

As we finalize the work around open positions, it is important we also acknowledge the exceptional team of staff at District Office. The professionals in our Business, Communications, Human Resources, Learning, and Superintendent’s Offices continue to provide outstanding service and support for our schools. Before school resumes, I will be providing an overview of all that we have been up to this summer, along with an update on the exceptional progress of our Buildings and Grounds staff as they work hard to ready our facilities.

The changes in staff at District Office have been a challenge and we are saying goodbye to a group of fantastic leaders, but we can turn that challenge into an opportunity for stronger alignment from Boardroom to classroom. I am enthused by the team of educators in District 181 and the journey we are taking together with our District families and community.

I again wish you welcome to this new 2014-15 school year, and I hope you have a great summer.


Don White, Ph.D.


Anonymous said...

It looks like Dr. White has combined Russell and Schneider's roles. While it would make me very happy if we eliminated one of those positions as I think our administrative overhead is ridiculous, I'm disappointed that Dr. White hasn't seen through Schneider. In my opinion, I don't think he has done anything other than wreck havoc on our district and most importantly, our kids.

Anonymous said...

I think it's good that he's changing the roles of many in administration. I'm also pleased to see Sean Walsh step up into this new role. I know the Oak staff thinks very highly of him.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is good that Dr. White is changing the roles of many administrators. Our old structure clearly was not working. I also agree with combining the jobs of Russell and Schneider - it was wasteful to have both positions. What I don't agree with is giving that job to Dr. Schneider. He has no curriculum experience, something this district sorely needs. He also has been moonlighting at seminars and conferences for much of the year. Not to mention that he is an extremely polarizing figure - almost at the same level as Schuster.

Our curriculum problems are on the verge of imploding. What now? Full inclusion? More workshop model teaching?

Dr. White - we have been asking Dr. Schneider to produce data that inclusion is working at D181 across all levels of learners. We have yet to see any data to support this model. Please give us the data. How is it helping our high learners? How is it helping our special need learners and struggling learners? What about the kids in the middle? Where is the data that it is better than what we did in the past? And, speaking of data, who on this new team actually has the statistical expertise to analyze data?

Anonymous said...

Does this mean Schneider is going to push Dr. Friedman and the rest of his social justice friends on us?

Anonymous said...

Schneider has now gotten exactly what he wanted: to distance himself from Special Ed. He must have done some sell job. He has no background in curriculum and neither does Benaitis and Walsh. Dr. White, why did you do this?

Anonymous said...

FYI, workshop model teaching is effective and solid teaching: IF it is executed correctly. With good professional development, the workshop model is extremely successful for a huge range of learners. This is something that is being implemented in many districts across the country, and also in our area. Look at Western Springs, LaGrange, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton... These districts all implement the workshop model. It isn't a bad word, it's a good teaching model. If ALL teachers in this district let go of the "traditional teacher in front of the room all day" philosophy, and begin actually differentiating in small groups, many of our children can learn at their own level. However, if teachers don't have adequate professional development into HOW and WHY the workshop model works, it will never be implemented correctly and we will always have the issues we currently have today. Good education in best practices also needs to be extended to the families so they can understand fully why teachers teach the way they do.

Anonymous said...

All of what I have to say here is my opinion, however, it is based on years of teaching experience, as well as years of listening to Dr. K. Shneider speak, (or sit there mutely) in our district. I am not impressed that he, the man we have been paying for 2 years to be the head of the special education/pupil personnel department, is now the head of our district's learning for regular and gifted education. Shocking.

When did the BOE approve this? Kurt has no experience or training in regular or gifted K-8 teaching, but he now is in charge of all of the curriculum for the district? How did this happen?

He has been very wishy washy and vague as to what his Learning for All plan consists of. He dumped all of his special education job duties on Christine Igoe for the last 2 years so he could go on the lecture circuit, yet he is rewarded with a promotion? Not sure why any taxpayer would not vote to seriously cut funding for our elementary and middle school district. D181 is a joke and Gary Frisch, the district's finance guy, should be fired for approving this as fiscally responsible. Unbelievable.

Furthermore, I am not sure how many homeless children our district has, but I find it odd that Sean Walsh, in addition to helping Dawn, is the official supervisor for them. (Check D181 website under Dept. of Learning). Are there any numbers on how many homeless children we have in D181? It would seem to me that we have a lot more average and/or gifted children, but no administrators are taking any responsibility or job titles for the instruction of those children. Makes very little sense.

Not only did Kurt have no clue as to what was going on in the special ed classrooms in d181, he had even LESS of a clue as to what regular ed children and teachers were doing! Just a lot of "Rah, rah, inclusion is good!" jargon, while he wrote memos to other educators about how to cut services for our special ed children. If you could have counted the times K. Schneider said how he wants to "get more bang for our buck" in lectures and memos, then you might realize that his idea of "inclusion" is a sham and cover up for eliminating special ed specialists and one on one services for the neediest students.

If you don't have a special ed hild, so you think this doesn't concern your child's education, think again. When all the children with severe needs are in Johnny and Jane's class, begging for help in the socially just, accelerated classrooms, guess who the teacher will help? Not the average or advanced child. She will help, deservedly so, the child with the most obvious and greatest need. The children meeting or exceeding standards will be ignored, while the special ed students are "included" in the regular ed classroom and taught by a regular ed teacher with no background and training in special education. And, believe me, an aide without a teaching credential is not an actual special ed teacher. No matter how kind and helpful she is, nothing will make up for years and years of training and education.

If Gary Frisch, and the BOE had any background or training in special, or even regular K-8 education, they would have put Kurt in the classrooms 100% of the time and given him a teacher's assignment and salary in a school rather than an administrator's salary and a large office at Elm School.

The most recent round of administrative changes in our district is very disappointing and concerning.

Anonymous said...

While I share the concerns voiced about Schneider's "coup," I am more concerned about how Dr. White has hired employees from his former district to fill the HR position left vacant by Eccarius and to fill the new position he created. While Mr. Munch was at least board approved, unless the Board violated the open meetings act again, it doesn't look like they have approved this. There are protocols to follow and adding a new position and hiring someone to fill it require board approval, don't they? Then there is the issue of cronyism -- reminiscent of the Tenbusch days. Don't jobs -- especially new positions need to be posted so that equal opportunity is afforded all potential candidates who want to apply? And what of the salaries? Doesn't the board have to approve whatever salary Dr. White offered for the new administrative position? Or for Mr. Walsh's promotion? Will DR. White follow past protocol in filling the new Oak principal vacancy, or will he simply hand pick that person, cutting out teacher and parent input that has always been sought? Very troubling turn of events, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible Dr White felt some pressure from those BOE members (Turek, Nelson, Yaeger, Clarin) who fully support and are enamored by Schneider? Maybe they all had some influence on White's decision because it just doesn't make logical sense. Good thing Schneider just has a one-year contract so he can be dismissed when both curriculum and special Ed implode this coming year.

Jill Quinones said...

Jill Quinones July 1, 2014 at 6:39 PM
Part 1 - I think at some point in the past Dr. Schneider and Dr. Russell actually started sharing Dr. Russell's job - now it will just be him with 2 Assistants (Benaitis and Walsh). An earlier post on this Blog Notes:

"When Kurt Schneider was originally hired to start work on July 1, 2012, his title was Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services and his sole purpose was managing the Special Education or Pupil Services Department. This purpose has changed significantly in the year since he joined D181. After only six months, in January 2013, Schneider's title was changed to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) (at least on the following report: Click to open 1/28/13 Board Report), although we cannot find anything on Board Docs where the Board of Education approved this title change by that date. In April 2013, the title of Schneider's Job Description was changed to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) and yet less than 4 months later, the title changed a third time to Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Student Services) (Click to open 8/12/13 Succession Plan.) "

What is troubling about Dr. White's new structure is that what is commonly known as the head of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction (CAI) has been combined with what is commonly known as the head of Special Education. Perhaps it would be less troubling if educational training and expertise in both of these two disciplines were common in the same individual, but in my experience, they are not. Dr. Schneider clearly has the special education expertise but minimal CAI education and job experience. I have found that to be the case with most Special Education Directors I have known. Conversely, an individual who specializes in CAI usually does not concurrently have a specialization in special education.

Not that it wouldn't be nice to find CAI and Special Ed together as really a Special Ed student is first a general education student and second a special education one, but the fact of the matter is the field of education, starting with college training programs, has not yet adopted that approach (again - D181 the Trail Blazer and our kids the lab rats?). Also, from an Administrative standpoint, what is really Special about Special Education is the plethora of legal obligations at both the State and Federal level that must be mastered to assure compliance and quality instruction to students. It is a very tall order to ask one individual to be responsible for all of that as well as everything that goes along with quality CAI. Although Dr. Schneider has National CAI recognition on his To Do list, I cannot imagine too many other Administrators who would want to be hired for a combined Special Ed/CAI job when he moves on.

Jill Quinones said...

Jill Quinones July 1, 2014 at 6:42 PM
Part 2

Smaller School Districts like Butler in Oak Brook can often combine different Administrative roles under one person, but larger Districts like Maercker 60, Downers Grove 58, Highland Park 112, Wilmette 39 typically do not. No matter what they call it (Special Education, Pupil Personnel Services, Student Services), it is a separate Department from CAI (Student Learning, Teaching and Learning - whatever the District chooses to call that area) and they are headed by separate individuals.

Although Dr. Schneider will have 2 helpers for CAI, neither one of them has a whole lot of training or experience in those areas. Special Education will be handled by the 5? PPS Administrators - only 2 of whom have Special Ed Administrative certification from what I can tell (known as Director of Special Ed), although they all seem to have the Gen Ed Administrative certification. Nonetheless, their recent background was teaching (one was actually an Occupational Therapist, not a special ed teacher); most have no prior experience in leading Special Education and/or fluency with the nuances of special education law - again getting on the job training as they go from Dr. Schneider presumably, but not what on would expect in a District like ours.

I do not have a special education child in this District, but I have heard a lot of rumblings in the recent past from those who do about how things are not going well with building PPS Administrators running the show. If Dr. White expects this model to work it should include one Director well versed in CAI and one well versed in Special Education assisting Dr. Schneider. That does not appear to be the case.

Anonymous said...

8:52: most likely just Turek or Clarin, if the full board didn't discuss.

Anonymous said...

The thought of Schneider heading the entire Dept of Learning has sealed the deal for my family. For sale sign going up and in the meantime I hope my kids get off the private school wait list they are on. Dr. White - you have let one Clarendon Hills family down.

Anonymous said...

Who knows what might happen if Kurt actually has to go in to work everyday rather than going on the circuit talking his "plan". If Dr White actually requires him to work for D181 and oversees his work we might see something completely different OR Kurt may have to leave.

Anonymous said...

Schneider could work day and might and never be versed enough in curriculum issues and concerns. He is the mastermind behind L4A. How's that working out so far, Kurt? Loving those test scores and parent complaints?

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:27am. The old hierachy wasn't working wo we needed change. We have a new superintendent which means new rules. If the administrators actually work regular business hours, more time will be put into running the district. One can only hope that is the case. I, for one, am very excited about having Dr. White and the fact that he will have people around him that he has worked with before and he knows will step up to the plate.

Anonymous said...

oops - misspelled hierarchy - sorry

Anonymous said...

I'm also glad Dr White is now in charge, but I question his decision that puts Schneider in charge of our children's curriculum. And while I think it's easier for Dr White to begin his contract in 181 with people he knows, the fact is these are former administrators in Troy, which is not a comparable district to 181. I did not move to Hinsdale to pay high taxes and have second-rate administrators running my school district. I would like to be hopeful, but I have serious doubts at this point. I should have bought a home on the North Shore.

Anonymous said...

10:27pm - Did you see the qualifications that new posiiton is requiring? That's not someone coming in still 'learning the trade' and as for Schneider, the district has a contract with him, where else can they put him? With the new leadership, one can only hope that the existing administrators will have to step up to the plate. Here's hoping!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have seen the qualifications and the are what I would expect, nothing more. And yes, Schneider has a year to prove himself. But I'm past the point of hoping. My children have had two wasted years, and one person responsible is Schneider. What should Dr White have done instead of giving him a promotion? How about assigning him to the department he was originally hired for, special education. One of my children has special needs and I can tell you that children with IEPs and 504s are not getting the services they require or need. Another major headache that will obviously continue this year with no one having the credentials or necessary certifications, except for Schneider, and he doesn't attend parent meetings or respond to phone calls. So please excuse me if I don't share your feelings of hope and optimism. We should be very concerned about the lack of credentials within our administration, and a strategic decision to promote someone who has promoted himself rather focus on the needs of our kids.

Anonymous said...

11:14, ummmm, White could've put Schneider in Special Ed. After all, that's what he does. He does NOT have the background to be in charge of Curriculum and Assessment. He has turned a blind eye to parents and the soon to be 5th graders for the past 2 years while he and the other Schuster cronies pushed their own agenda. He has not a clue. Otherwise, he would've pushed to stop the entire grade level compacting/accelerating a long time ago. Instead, he just collected all of the data....the itemizing of every single test for every single child in last year's 4th grade....and did who knows what with it because we sure didn't see any of those results!!

D181 has a Special Ed Administrator in charge of Curriculum and Assessment. There is something very wrong with this. I would rather Dr White bring someone from Troy for curriculum. They clearly have a better handle on Common Core. While that school district was getting its act together (on something we have no choice but to adopt), this district was hung up on LFA and that just b/c this town is full of money and successful parents that somehow they all produce gifted children. News flash!!! That's not how it works. Just b/c a father is a high powered executive, doesn’t mean he produces a child with that same drive to get that job some day. Our children may go down very different paths than those we took. Does that make them less successful? There's more to success than academics and somehow the people in this town are forgetting that. Where did a lot of these parents come from?? The southside of Chicago, and other less privileged areas, where they weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouths and it took a lot more than academics to get them to Hinsdale.

So let's start focusing on the whole child!! Not just the academics!! Get someone in curriculum that understands that and that realizes that there has to be different tracks/tiers for learners. Someone who is in it for the right reasons, unlike Schneider who just wanted to capitalize on the LFA theory. We know how that theory panned out!

And Jill is spot on!

Anonymous said...

With all this going on, I am thankful our administrators were not granted a four day summer work week schedule! With these cool temps I doubt we are incurring much additional energy costs.

Anonymous said...

Having a gifted child (which I know is not PC to say), I can tell you that Learning for All did nothing to help my child.

As for Schneider, just because he has contract for the year doesn't mean he should be in a position to further impact our students. I would rather have him be someone's administrative assistant, waste his six-figure salary, and keep him away from the children until we can get rid of him next year. Same for Benaitis. At least this past year, they had her managing the registration process where she couldn't do much harm.

Anonymous said...

I am very concerned that there isn't a clear leader of special ed. Not that Schneider nor Igoe did a good job (if anything at all) I'm worried that these kids will get further behind with no one focusing on fixing the broken Special Ed and RTI processes in some of our schools. I sincerely hope that Dr. White has a plan to make sure those struggling learners get what they need, and fixes the problems.

Anonymous said...

I agree with July 3rd~ 7:26 am….Troy has certainly got their Curriculum Department headstrong above 181~ while it was quoted from Anonymous July 2, 10:27 that Troy is second rate to Hinsdale..maybe this blogger should check into how much farther ahead Troy is over 181 from not only its Curriculum Department, but the 3 administrators you now have and 1 prior Troy teacher. Troy may not have the wealth that Hinsdale does, but it has hard working teachers, administrators, and more importantly a phenomenal Curriculum Department that you all would thrive for this school year~ now that is another year 181 children will suffer. What a shame? The knowledge, expertise, and articulate professional development along with phenomenal curriculum maps and resources provide the Troy teachers with the tools needed to produce high achieving students with data driven results. Troy is a leader, perhaps 181 can learn a few things from. Troy does not let money and power get in the way of producing high achieving students. Perhaps Troy does not let power struggles from BOE and community (as noted clearly in all of these posts- politics is what I read between every line) get in the way of what is really important….successful college and career ready students that can produce. problem solve, express themselves, be creative thinkers, write, critique, critically analyze, and reason along with many more amazing skills. I think 181 will have a rude awakening when PARCC testing comes out in 2015 and Common Core Standards are not being met because the community and board members are letting politics get in the way of producing their own successful children. Understandable that 181 is not happy with some of the administration changes…but move on and support them to make the right changes for this district. No more wasting time complaining about who is where and why that is not going to work but rather get on with how we can move forward together so we can make 181 as successful as Troy and get our curriculum and common core in place to create what is really important~ the success of our students and no more years wasted…time is ticking! Our children's future is at stake and they need us!