Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24 Board Meeting is an Example of How the D181 BOE Can Actually Function

This morning we received the following comment summarizing last night's board meeting (11/24/14).  The community member suggested we post it as a free standing post, after thanking us for all of our hard work in trying to bring transparency back to D181. We too listened to last night's meeting and agree with everything the author has written, so we are posting it as a free standing post. We will add a few additional comments at the end of the post. 

We are thankful for all of our readers' involvement in submitting comments and posts. It has made our job a little easier, especially this week. This will be our last post for this week.  We will be taking a brief hiatus in order that we can enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. We will resume next week with "Daily Reason #8  Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE."

Anonymous Said: 

"Ms. Garg ran the BOE meeting last night. She did a much better job than Turek. For the first time, actual issues were discussed in a meaningful manner and no one was rudely cut off. There was a real productive discussion. Clearly, Ms. Garg should be the next BOE president. Why does Turek feel the need to stunt real discussion and blindly pat the administration on the back? Ms. Garg showed last night that you can have meaningful conversation that is respectful and still run an efficient meeting.

Dr. White: I appreciate you posting the science ISAT scores on board docs. I enjoyed the format of the science ISAT scores and urge you to present data in that format going forward. It was easy to understand and to digest.

A few other thoughts:

1. The new way the administration is reporting MAP growth - using standard deviation - is disingenuous at best and it must stop. Even with the new 75% standard, it reports more kids meeting growth than the old 55% percent standard with no standard deviation.

2. We need an assessment director with a PHD in statistics who can crunch the numbers and also provide meaningful analysis on trends, areas of growth and problem areas. Data also needs to be presented in a short easy to digest format.

3. The compensation committee has yet to meet. They need to start their work quickly. Teacher salaries are growing faster than CPI. We will have a levy problem each year if we do not get a handle on this - levying to CPI will always produce a budget shortfall because teacher salaries are growing faster than CPI. We need to get a handle on this. We also need to be transparent about the actual cost of teacher salaries.

4. In times of tight budgets, all administrators need to be providing maximum value. Schneider and Benaitis added little value last night and White prepared the entire presentation himself. The one time Benaitis was called on to speak, she misspoke and later had to correct herself.

5. If a facilitator is brought on to reevaluate learning for all - and I think one should be - that facilitator must be a neutral third party with absolutely no ties to inclusion and social justice. I also think we should look to what Western Springs is doing. They far surpassed us in the recent rankings, and they have a much smaller operating budget.

6. The school improvement plans were discussed but no principals were present due to conferences. Next year there should not be a boe meeting during Thanksgiving break and these plans should be presented earlier in the year. Although the plans had much more substance than in years past, I was troubled by the lack of consistency in the district. For example, Madison is concentrating on flexible groupings, whereas Monroe is focusing on the workshop model. We are one district and we need to get this under control.

7. Science continues to decline, which is troubling because the Science ISAT questions did not change for common core. Yet Prospect had double the amount of meets and exceeds than the other schools. We need to determine why and perform that type of analysis when looking at the data."

Additional Comments from the Bloggers:

We want to piggy back onto # 1. With regard to the MAP testing, Ms. Garg suggested that rather than eliminate MAP testing (which seems to be under consideration), it would be best to discontinue the Winter MAP tests.  We agree.  Our students are suffering from test "overload," especially now that the new PARCC assessment will be given multiple times each year.  The MAP tests are good indicators of individual student's performance and skill levels and we do not believe the test should be eliminated in its entirety.

With regard to #6 above, it is a shame that no principals were in attendance to present their individual school's Improvement Plans or answer board member questions.  Last year (as was pointed out by a community member during closing comment), they were present and the improvement plans were presented in early November.  We believe that the building principals should have their improvement plans ready when school starts and the plans should be presented to the board at the first meeting in September.  After all, the plans cover the new school year, and it is troubling that they are not presented until almost 1/2 of the school year has elapsed.  Principals work during the summer months, as do the Central Office Administrators. It seems only logical that this is the type of work that should be started and completed during the summer when classes are not in session.

Last year, the BOE approved 3 performance goals that it directed the administration to track and assess at the start of this school year.  In addition to a report on the school Improvement plans, last night's meeting was the meeting at which the administration was scheduled to present the board with its formal report on the indicators tracked and measured to determine if the 3 goals were met. (2013-2014 Achievement and Goals Review Presentation.)  It is a shame that a meeting of this importance was scheduled during a week that was guaranteed to have minimal attendance, since school was out of session for all students, many families were traveling and for those that stayed in town,  the evening parent teacher conferences overlapped with the meeting. Worse yet, not all board members were in attendance.  We will say more about that next week in our "Daily Reason #8 Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE."

Better agenda planning is needed in order to ensure full participation by all board members and to encourage parents, community members, principals and teachers to attend a meeting of such importance.

Finally, we too commend the professional, efficient and productive way Ms. Garg ran the meeting in Turek's absence. Perhaps we should all be thankful that he missed the meeting. It was an example of what the BOE will be like if he is not reelected.

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