Moments ago, we received the comment below regarding recent activity pertaining to the D86 teacher contract negotiations. Because we believe this is critical information that calls into question the behavior and lack of transparency of certain D86 board members, we are publishing this as a free standing post.
"Is there a sister blog for District 86? If not, there really should be one considering what the 86 board just did (and feel free to make this a free standing post if you want):
Basically, two of their board members held a press conference to discuss how contract negotiations with the teachers were going. Apparently, to start off with, the federal mediator said that neither side may discuss publicly how the negotiations were going. Secondly, and much more frightening, is that they only allowed the press to be there. They did not allow teachers, parents, community members, or even OTHER BOARD MEMBERS! According the the above articles, a third board, who did not know in advance about the press conference, wanted to come and sit in the audience. This board member was asked to leave by the two other board members because then they would have a quorum and need to have the conference open to the public under the Open Meetings Act. Seriously?!? Oh, wait, I'm sorry. I thought for a second that District 86 was a PUBLIC school district. I guess not. My bad."
In response to the inquiry made in this post, as we published on May 25, there is one D86 blog that we are aware of:
In addition, the D86 Teachers' Association maintains a Facebook page that people can post comments on. The Facebook page is called Hinsdale High School Teachers Association.
I would urge all concerned community to members to read up on the extreme hypocrisy of Skoda. He reaped huge salary increases in a chronically under-performing district -- Presidential Posturing in District 86 and now that he is drawing on the fat pension he amassed he is wearing the mask of "friend of the tax payer".
Anyone with any sense of fairness would not allow this sort of charlatan to remain in office!
Attacking people is the wrong tactic, whatever the issue, it need not be done by denigrating somebody else. This is what some politicians and people in general do to distract the public from the weakness of their position. I have personally met a retired teacher who sincerely felt guilty at his tax payer supported six figure income, but he said"I take it because it is given to me." Does that make this teacher a hypocrite?
Let's explore what is at stake.
Anyone that reads my posts on this blog ought to see that I scrupulously avoid calling out individuals either elected to the D181 BOE or employed by the district.
Skoda's action show a special lack of consistency and deserve extraordinary scrutiny.
It is an undeniable fact that Skoda reaped unusually large salary increases in the years prior to retirement, no doubt by carefully using his role as a member of the organized bargaining unit. That was his right but what he is doing now is the polar opposite of that stance and such duplicity is what we don't need from those that hold elected office.
Skoda and those aligned with him are violating long held principles of negotiation, equating local teachers to those in completely distinct labor organizations like Karen Lewis of the CTU and challenging local teachers to be replaced by those from the ranks of the unemployed.
Such rhetoric is exceedingly hypocritical and damaging to the stated goal of a contract that is fair to all parties.
The record of what happens when districts are run by incompetents elected to a BOE is clear -- be they school districts like Morton, stacked with insiders from the corrupt Cicero township where Skoda amassed his years of service or merely the sorts of districts like York that saw a loss of talent when excessive retiree incentives replaced skilled staff with cheap new hires the resulting lack of performance is NOT what community members want in D86.
Is there are doubt that when Skoda was reaping his huge salary increases and his kids were being educated in D86 it would have cut deeply into both his personal earnings and the opportunity for his children had that BOE adopted a hardline stance?
These are not merely the actions of someone "along for the ride". Skoda ran on a ticket called "Friends For D86". He touted his experience as a union negotiator in Morton Township. He has proceeded to show himself to be nothing more than a typical Illinois politician that now that "he got his" his true colors come through...
It sickens me to think enough of my neighbors were taken in by this charlatan to gain office.
But then consider this:
I am shocked by the latest news concerning the majority of the D86 board. "Friends" don't prevent access to a press conference and should consider respecting their fellow board members and the teachers association. What is the point of having a mediator if these guys want to make up their own rules. We have 7 board members, not just 2 or 4 to represent the community. I am also disappointed that these people have no desire to work with other board members who were not part of the "Friends" and are controlling the officer positions. This will potentially continue for 4 years. I voted for one of these people and I am disappointed with their performance.
Part 1: From the referenced link: "A teacher opening in Hinsdale draws, literally, hundreds of applicants. The district has the luxury of choosing among accomplished applicants from dozens of top-notch schools." D86 has that luxury because it is a great place to work - including the high salaries - the fact that many teachers apply for open positions doesn't automatically make them qualified. Some are just out of school, barely older than the students they will teach, with no "bag of tricks" related to classroom management. Even the best 1st year teachers are more effective in their 4th or 5th year. Some are unemployed having been let go by their previous District. Given the 4 years it takes to get tenure in Illinois and the fact that a teacher loses it when they jump Districts, not too many (although I'm sure there are some) great teachers with 4 years of experience or more are looking to change districts. Numbers of applicants does not equal highly qualified applicants.
Part 2: "A one-year frozen tax levy in one of the state's wealthiest districts is not going to derail educational excellence." I totally agree, but belligerent BOE members who disregard law and accepted protocol to win at all costs, who disseminate false or stale propaganda, and want to fight a Union because it is a Union, forgetting that at the local level this Union comprises people who have always gone the extra mile for our children - will derail academic excellence. It is demoralizing and disrespectful.
It is a fragile balance between cost effectiveness and academic excellence. Both can be maintained in done in a manner where everyone feels they have a voice and something is not being slammed down their throats. We don't teach our children to work out their differences and come to common ground by being mean and voicing falsehoods. We should not tolerate such behavior in our BOE - they should be role models. Sometimes the means DOES NOT justify the ends.
So, a D86 brochure was in my mailbox today. Very one sided. Who prepared this? Moreover, I assume we the taxpayers paid for this.
Another blog is estimating that that mailer cost us the taxpayer 30k. Shameful
Check out the flyer from the d86 BOE majority that arrived in the mail today. It is terribly one sided and we the taxpayer have to pay for that flyer. One blog estimates a price tag of 30K (postage alone is 16k to send to 50,000 households). Shameful. I'm all for transparency, but this is just political jockeying.
Before the school board elections, I tried to convince my friends and neighbors about the dangerous nature of Skoda and his clown car of cronies. I hope parents are angry when their high schoolers are sitting at home due to a teacher's strike because this board is so unreasonable. The fact Skoda and his majority wasted taxpayer dollars on their tripe-laden mailer should infuriate everyone. But hey, this is what you voted for, right?
Interesting article which raises good points about merit based pay:
I have never met the author of the above linked opinion piece in the Patch but I would warn Mr. Frank that unless a fair plan of compensation / means of evaluation can be agreed to by the D86 "majority" and the labor unit that represents all teachers in the district very quickly the odds of his son starting his very important junior year on time appear bleak.
Should Mr. Frank's son not start school on time the detrimental effects that will have on his son are very real. Especially if Mr. Frank's son is scheduled to take a challenging course load that includes AP classes, where tests are administered on a national schedule, every day that is spent at home while the BOE "majority" digs in their heals to prove some political point will be another day that kids aiming for the same challenging colleges as his son are getting ahead.
The broader fact is that should the BOE "majority" make a wholesale effort to replace experienced teachers with random certified individuals from the "binders full of teachers" that probably are on file in the D86 personnel office the chaos that would result could very likely derail many students chances of getting into a highly selective college.
The experience that has come in the relatively recent past as large numbers of experienced teachers were given early retirement incentives and replaced with cheaper new hires clearly shows that schools like York which were once peers of Hinsdale Central have fallen significantly in achievement and struggled mightily to rebuild.
Let me be clear -- I have little doubt that the real majority of residents in D86 want a fair solution as quickly as possible but anyone that lends credence to the nonsense spouted by the unhinged ideologues that have seized control of D86 BOE will all but guarantee negative consequences both immediately and over the longer horizon.
No one supports out of control spending of tax dollars but the feckless D86 "majority" has engaged in just that with not only its recent ill advised propaganda but expenditures on recruiters to replace staff after forcing out capable individuals, half-baked construction efforts, witch-hunting expeditions and cronyism to political supporters, as well as plans for expanding pet projects. We simply cannot afford these things given the tax levy that the BOE supported against logic. Every other taxing body makes sane decisions about fairly capturing revenue from new construction while the strident D86 "majority" seems intent on grabbing headlines among the fringe "tax hostile" types.
Believe me I know how hard it can be to reign in governmental spending. The best way is often through diligently staying on top of the details of expenditures. I have called out D181 when they have been blinded by false promises of vendors. I have actively fought foolish give-aways and fat contracts that came with special tax districts in Clarendon Hills. I can personally count among my successes the savings of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in municipal projects through diligently questioning the bids received and false projections of revenue. I don't do this out of any particular political fealty but simply to help contain costs and get the maximum value for tax payers.
I would urge all concerned community members to support efforts to get a fair solution and work toward opening our schools on time with the experienced staff that will help all our communities' children maximize achievement. There is little hope of implementing any radical restructuring of compensation at this late date or in an environment of hostility and duplicity.
Something I have been wondering about: I've see quite a few comments on this blog saying certain people aren't qualified for their positions. What should the qualifications be for the different administrators, teachers and support staff? Are bachelors degrees enough for teachers? Masters, doctorates? In what areas? Should they have National Board certification? How much experience should they have? How much should they get paid? I remember seeing a comment somewhere that student teachers shouldn't teach Spanish. Should the teachers be allowed to take on student teachers? Why or why not? While I can understand wanting the best teachers only, how would future teachers gain experience? Just curious.
Pt 1 - In my opinion, to be qualified for most administrative positions in a district like D181, including size, high %ge of high performing students and a lower %ge of low performing ones, where almost all will go on to the most competitive High Schools in IL (public or private), where almost all will go on to complete at least 4 years of college, and where parents have high expectations and are not afraid to make them known, the person must have some specific theory training (curriculum, finance, etc) not just what is required for a teaching or general admin degree as well as some work experience in that job or one very similar (Director of Curriculum moving on to Assistant Super) in another District first. Not that we are a "better" district, but performing the job under less rigorous demands gives appropriate background to draw on in a more rigorous environment.
I think teachers can be promoted to Principal if they have worked for a good one and have completed appropriate internships for a good one. I think Directors can be promoted to Assist Super in the same area. I don't think a Principal who has no Curriculum, Assessment & Instruction training or work experience can be successfully promoted to that job in this District without leaving to do it for a while somewhere else first.
Again, my opinion only, even the most fantastic and motivated 1st year teacher is better in his her 2nd year and 3rd year and 4th year, etc. (although I think there is a point where we peak and come back down the other way). Part of the reason is familiarity with content of what is taught and how the students' react to it. Part of the reason is accumulating a successful "bag of tricks" when it comes to behavior, classroom management, optimizing student engagement, etc. Like anything else, the more you do it the better (hopefully) you become.
Future teachers gain experience by being mentored and watching others with whom they work. Everyone has to be a first year teacher sometime, but again, there are environments that are easier and more difficult to gain that experience and I would say this District is a harder one. A lot has to do with the team of teachers a new teacher is part of. 2 first year teachers on a team of 3 is not the best ratio. Or if a student happens to get a first year teacher 3 years in a row or something like that - not things always considered when placements are done.
Any advanced education by the teacher will ultimately benefit the student - new methods, new content, best practices. Foes it need to be a higher degree - not in my mind, but linking a financial incentive to a higher degree certainly helps motivate the teacher to take the personal time and money and pursue more education.
I am going post this here, but I hope that the blog's owner(s) move this (and perhaps the post's of Ms. Quinones and Anon@1:52...) to a new thread. This is all about what our district needs to move back to the forefront of success. With the changes mandated by Common Core now is the time to step up to challenge.
There was a lengthy but EXCELLENT piece from the NYT Magazines -- Why Do American Schools Teach Math So Poorly? Critical points from this article -- #1 There is widespread AGREEMENT that some approaches to teaching mathematics are FAR MORE effective than others.
#2 Countries like Japan have a much different approach to teacher preparation and ongoing planning than is common in the US. Though much of the best RESEARCH about how to better teach math comes from the US it is MORE FREQUENTLY adopted in places like Japan. ( the article delves a bit into what causes this, suffice to say there is lots of blame to go around, from the teacher colleges that often place no importance on the value of "methods" classes to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics that often spends more on its annual conferences than actually connecting to real teachers. All of which I, as former teacher of math and science can 100% confirm...)
#3 The efforts to improve mathematics instruction in the US often fail because of critical gaps in the ways the individual schools fail to allow teachers to learn from truly skilled teachers or even have ANYONE look in to see if they "got the point" of a seminar about new methods or just totally missed the point and are in fact making things WORSE NOT BETTER!
The person that is the narrative focus of the article, Akihiko Takahashi, is an experienced math teacher that actually worked at a school run by the Japanese Education Ministry for expats in Chicago. He is now on staff at DePaul in the School of Education.
How wonderful would it be for many parents and community to read this article, understand WHY so many problems exist in the instruction of mathematics, HOW different approaches have helped ALL CHILDREN master the conceptual understanding needed to feel truly confident in their knowledge of math and perhaps UNIFY behind a approach that would equip all the teachers in our district with the skills needed to truly raise the level of competency.
These are the kinds of things we need from our district level staff! We can find truly REMARKABLY TALENTED resources right in our own backyard! I know most teachers would be delighted to work toward helping more students succeed if only our district staff was help get the resources needed.
Another thought that I have been mulling over, as we get closer to what will be the start of another D181 school year, is perhaps the blog owners can run some "recaps".
It has been a busy year.
The recent change in top leadership has seen many changes to the district office along with a few holdovers. Parents may want to "update their scorecards" to understand who has done what in the past.
The relative "inaction" on the part of the BOE is regard to many important shortcomings in our district remains appalling. The minor tweaks likely will do nothing to improve the outcomes for parents concerned with how their children have done or felt about math. There is a glaring decrease in the attention once given efforts to increase access to the most challenging sequences in language arts and social studies as well as how the dilution of those offerings may be making them less valuable. The BOE has been utterly asleep at the switch as neighboring districts have redoubled efforts to respond to shifts in assessment comings with the Common Core. No progress has been made with regard to foreign language instruction. Even the widespread media attention given to the disastrous conditons at HMS have largely failed to do more than cause the BOE to kick the can down the road and turn to non-transparent groups to plot a future.
The lack of committment (dare I say incompetence...) exhibited by too many BOE members that have failed to move things forward is in some ways the polar opposite of the radical activism of the D86 "majority" but the results will likely be similar. While the D86 BOE is from all accounts forcing a path that will not see schools open on time and will hurt students so too is the inaction of the D181 board laying the groundwork for a school year that does not live up to potential.
In my view the "solution" to both is also similar -- act not on the narrow special intersts of insiders but think instead of the broad view. BE NOT JUST MORE OPEN BUT MORE TRUTHFUL! Don't cherry pick numbers to either paint things in a worse light than reality or paper-over shortcomings but strive for the most neutral reporting of data possible however flattering, unfavorable or downright boring that may be.
The kids that have come home "hating math" or "feeling stupid" are no more or less important than the kids hurting from the isolation/futility they now feel being unchallenged by their course work.
So too are the vocal minority with vindictive motives hellbent on undoing collective bargaining no more important than the quiet majority that want schools to open on time with experienced staff paid fair salaries.
Sadly the true responsibility for these messes should be shouldered by the apathetic and complacent hordes that have done nothing to prevent things from deteriorating to this. Though it is summer I know that if each person buttonholed just a couple of neighbors to get the word out the end result would be better schools for all our kids come fall.
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