As we finalize Part 2 of our Post "Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere" (that we hope to post tomorrow), we have received the following comment by a "Concerned D181 Parent" asking us to publish as a free standing post. The title of the comment caught our interest and we know you too will find the content compelling.
" Dear Bloggers: I attended Monday's meeting and was so proud of the parents who spoke during public comment, bringing forward their concerns and questions. I was, however, very disappointed in the lack of engagement I witnessed by the board majority and their willingness to accept the administration's excuses and requests for "more time" to fix the district's math mess, without any talk of holding any administrator accountable. In particular I found Mr. Turek to be the weakest board president I have ever observed at a board meeting. Please consider posting my comment as an individual post if you think it will be read by more of your readers. I have been stewing ever since Monday night's meeting and have taken the time to jot down my own ideas. I hope your readers agree with them.
In one of Don White's first emails to parents (http://www.d181.org/news/item/index.aspx?LinkId=1863&ModuleId=37) he states that he would like to see the district goal become the Emerald City. In a film context, this city is a mythical, magical, delightful place where its residents are happy and content. And while this may indeed be Don White's goal, the path to it is now convoluted and illusive. For within his first weeks as Superintendent, he promoted Kurt Schneider, whose background focuses entirely on Special Education, to head the Department of Learning. I have followed this blog, information posted on the D181 website and board docs, and in my opinion, it is clear that he is not qualified to hold this new position as his resume confirms he has limited to no experience in curriculum or assessment (Go to: Blogger's earlier post on Schneider, including his resume.).
It is my opinion that the impact of this misguided decision is now being felt across the district as students have just completed about 20% of the school year, as one parent summarized at Monday's BOE meeting. Since Kurt Schneider took it upon himself to generate and explain (albeit with an occasional nervous laugh or mangiggle as he answered questions from board members) a list of 5 things that must happen in order for instruction to improve in the district, here is my own list of of 5 things that I believe must be done immediately to right the wrongs, if there is any hope for our childrens' education to improve:
1. Since the superintendent's honeymoon has been cut short, he should now remove his sunglasses and put on a pair of bifocals so he can see up close the mess that is unfolding under his very eyes. Accountability begins at the top, and yes, this pathetic BOE troop has yet to hold any administrator accountable. But there is an election looming and the majority may flip in the community's favor so that Don White and his rag tags in the Department of Learning will be on the line to produce results. In order for this to happen, parents must step up to run for the board and immediately contact the Caucus. Time is running out, and we cannot allow Marty Turek to be re-elected or those who share his beliefs to be elected next year. Parents, please step up as there are four seats on the BOE open that must be filled with thoughtful, concerned parents who want to see the district improve.
2. By my count, approximately 80 people (parents, community members and administrators) showed up at Monday's meeting, and this was impressive and must continue. Our community cannot just sit back now and not be present at these meetings. If we have learned anything from the recent D86 events concerning the BOE and a potential strike, it takes a collective loud voice from the community to put pressure on the BOE to create change. And yes, many D181 parents spoke on Monday. But I believe parents will have to continue to speak up loudly and consistently if there is any hope for changes prior to the next election.
3. If teachers continue to remain silent for fear of retaliation or dings on their evaluations, it will be up to parents to again voice concerns about this inclusive one-size-fits-all-social-justice-same-paced-limited-flexibly-grouped-sole-differentiated ideology. I believe Schneider was deceptive when he said teachers have not been told they couldn't use flexible groupings. Say what? Teachers were told 3 years ago that all classrooms were to become inclusive with no pullouts. Period. Ah, but wait. Some schools have bucked the trend and are ability grouping students this year. Yet another example of poor leadership on the part of Schneider and White, who appear to be comfortable with schools doing their own thing with no consistency among schools.
4. Data must be produced and demanded by parents. Since Don White stated he reads all emails, parents should be writing to demand results. By now everyone knows that MAP results indicate some disturbing trends in 5th grade, as well as other grades. But where is the discussion from the administration or BOE? Turek's lack of leadership is alarming; remember, he sets the meeting agenda with White and could easily demand data and results but is failing to do so. The administration should produce a breakdown of results across schools, grades, quintiles, etc. This didn't happen under Schuster, and it looks like it won't under White unless parents put the hammer down and demand it. By the way, ISAT results and the state report cards are due to be published any day now.
5. While the focus has been on the math pilot recently because of the dismal results of certain programs, I also question other programs in the district. The board should too. Our children are working in the workshop model of instruction, which involves a great deal of peer teaching (9-year-olds teaching and grading each other's work). This approach and the inclusive philosophy of reading within a single classroom will not challenge our students enough. Parents, we must be engaged. If you are happy with all students in a class reading the same book or worksheet and not allowing for pullouts or ability groups, so be it. But I believe the vast majority of parents want more than just differentiation in the classroom of 20 plus kids. And I would be remiss in my civic duties if I didn't point out that Don White's former district (Troy 30-C), in the cornfields of Plainfield, actually had and still has a "gifted" program with tiers and ability groups. Dr. White supported that approach, no question about it. But now it seems he has fallen prey to the administrator sharkmaster of spin, and everyone knows who I mean.
Today our district is far from being the Emerald City, with a BOE whose majority is apathetic and refuses to press for accountability, with many parents who have taken a backseat and have stayed diplomatically quiet only to see the quality of district education slide downward, with a superintendent who is supporting a department of learning administrative team that isn't qualified to hold the positions for which they are generously paid, with full inclusion and a single classroom teacher (with a few MRC Directors tossed in along with maybe one differentiation specialist) responsible for a one-size-fits-all philosophy, and with pitiful, embarrassing MAP scores across the district (except slight growth at one school) for 5th graders who have been subjected to the Learning For All plan for 3 years now.
What the heck? Troy is looking pretty good these days...."
(Concerned D181 Parent)