Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Daily Reason #13" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

#13:  Mr. Turek is a FOIA hypocrite. While he publicly calls for Freedom of Information Act reform to limit the public's access to public records (Reason #12), as we reported in our 1/30/14 Post it seems that since Spring 2013, Mr. Turek has filed multiple, broad requests dealing with the technology infrastructure in Districts 86, 90, 13, 4 (and possibly more). And he has done so on behalf of the technology business he works for:  Vision Solutions. Considering that he has been so critical of others who have filed FOIA requests in D181, in our opinion, he has no right to be a self-righteous hypocrite. 

This will be our last post of 2014.  We will be taking a hiatus until early January in order to be able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.  We wish all of our readers and the D181 Community a safe and joyful holiday. Peace out!

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Daily Reason #12" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#12:  Mr. Turek does not believe in open governance for “others” as mandated by Illinois law. As we discussed in our November 3, 2013 post (click to open post), one of the"absurdities" that took place during the October 28, 2013 board meeting was Turek pontificating on his plans to meet with Illinois Representative Patricia Bellock to ask for reform of the Freedom of Information Act in order to limit the public’s right to access public records. If you haven't listened to the Podcast of the meeting, we encourage you all to listen to the FOIA discussion that took place. It begins at 2:15:20 (or with 8:05 left) on the time counter. It is important to hear how ignorant Turek is about the realities of the Freedom of Information Act and the reforms that the Illinois legislators implemented in 2010 to EXPAND, not LIMIT, the public's right to access public records. Illinois legislators realized that there was a need for more "sunshine"laws (as FOIA laws are commonly called), not darkness! Mr. Turek said: "I, as a board member, and possibly as a individual am going to be contacting Representative Patti Bellock who has historically spearheaded FOIA reform to get us out of this business of FOIA reports that take up our staff 60+ hours and over $4,000." In our opinion, Turek is exactly the kind of public official that FOIA reform was intended to protect the public from, rather than see re-elected into office.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Daily Reason #11" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#11:  At the same time that Mr. Turek has limited the public's ability to participate in a meaningful way during board meetings (see #9 and #10) and shown that he waits till the last minute to prepare for meetings (see #6), he has also downplayed the importance of people's actual participation in meetings.  Case in point, at the same 10/17/13 board meeting referenced in #10, he made the following (in our opinion) inappropriate statement:  "I am confident that everybody had something better to do tonight than to come here but I do appreciate it." We couldn't believe the board president would actually make such a ridiculous statement.  Is it too much to believe that all of the community members, teachers, PTO presidents, Finance Committee members, administrators and other hand picked invitees actually wanted to be at the meeting and viewed it as a priority?  We do believe that everyone who participated in the round table discussions took their job seriously and if they showed up, they wanted to be there.  Perhaps the disrespect Mr. Turek showed them in his comment was reflective of his own lackadaisical attitude towards participating as a board member, an attitude that no board member should have if they really want to be reelected.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Good News, Bad News -- Could the Winds be Shifting on the D181 Board of Education?

As we listened to the 12/8/14 BOE live stream last night, we heard a D181 Board meeting that in our opinion was a perfect example of the good and bad that exists in the administration and on the board. It also provided a possible peek into how the board might function after next Spring's BOE election when, as we anticipate, there will hopefully be a shift on the board majority -- away from a rubber stamping board to one that will push for data and accountability, in particular in the area of curriculum and all things that will affect our children.

To begin with, this is the first meeting in a long time at which all seven board members were present, something that should be the norm, but as we all know, has not been.  So we begin by saying THANK YOU to our elected officials for all showing up to do their job.   There was only one opening public comment, but we want to commend the student who spoke on the importance of human rights and asked the administration to set up a celebration of human rights during the next school year.  We wholeheartedly support this suggestion and are proud of this student for speaking out.

Now a quick rehash of the worst and best moments of the meeting.  We won't give a blow by blow because we believe community members need to start listening to the meeting podcasts, if they are unable to attend in person, and keep current with the district issues. Click here to open the podcast.

1.  The annual audit report.

The key point made by the presenter was that there were "no material weaknesses" in the district's finances discovered during the audit and that the district's financial records are well maintained.  That is good.  What is bad is that there was not a single board member question asked about the audit following the presentation.  While we are confident that board members such as Heneghan, Garg and Clarin read the audit, we don't know if the same can be said of the rest of the board members.  This board meeting was their only opportunity to discuss the review conducted by the auditors, and it was quite disappointing to us that they chose to breeze right over this important presentation and conduct no meaningful discussion.

2.  Discussion on the Excess Money in the Debt Service Fund.

Mr. Frisch reported to the board that there are between $1.4 and $2.1 million in excess reserves that have accumulated in the bond and interest debt service fund.  (Click to open report.)  The board discussed the need to further research the cause and exact amount of the excess reserves and a possible abatement back to the taxpayers in the future, or using the excess to fund the purchase of working cash bonds that can be spent on the operational side of the budget.  The good:  As Mr. Turek pointed out, this issue was put on the agenda after it was flagged by Mr. Heneghan as a topic the full board should be discussing, not just the superintendent's finance committee.  The bad:  For the first time that we can recall, Mr. Turek attempted to, in our opinion, throw the past administration "under the bus" by suggesting that it was the past administration's fault that committees haven't provided information to the board and that the new administration would try and get a handle on it in the next few months. (Begin listening to Podcast at 0:30:15.)  While pointing the finger is a good thing, especially if it leads to positive change, we find it hypocritical of Mr. Turek to blame Dr. Schuster's administration.  After all, Mr. Turek has served as the board president for two years and been closely involved in setting board meeting agendas.  There has been nothing stopping him at any time from asking Dr. Schuster or Dr. White to have members from the various superintendent committees present reports to the BOE.  COME ON MARTY!  Time to assume some of the responsibility yourself.

3.  Learning For All Plan Review Cycle discussion:

This was the part of the meeting that most impressed us.  During Dr. White's report, the board finally conducted a meaningful discussion regarding the three month "cycle" Dr. White proposed reviewing the Learning for All Plan, starting with a Macro level history and review of the plan in January, an overview of key terms and components in February and a discussion on current and future work in March. Mr. Turek said this proposal would allow for  "socializing the plan" over three months.  Say what?

Thankfully, the majority of the board did not agree and in a nutshell,  shut down this ridiculous drawn out "cycle" that would have wasted everyone's time.  Instead, most of the board members agreed to follow Mr. Heneghan's lead in suggesting that what the administration should actually create is a written document that describes exactly what the plan is.  Mr. Henghan emphasized that three years into the plan, such a document still doesn't exist.  He suggested that the report describe all of the elements of the plan before the board discuss the future.  Mr. Clarin furthered this request by pushing not only for a qualitative report but one that will also include quantitative data that addressing whether the students  actually learn more under the LFA plan than they did before it was rolled out.  Ms. Garg agreed and suggested the report provide the analysis of data that should have been collected over the last three years.  Ms. Vorobiev wanted the report to include what is happening in the schools right now, suggesting that perhaps a request for quantitative data was too big of an ask to do now.  Mr. Nelson agreed that a report was warranted stating that it is time the administration gets past the "concept level" of the LFA plan and begins to delve deep into the execution level of the plan in order to decide what is and isn't working and determine for those aspects that aren't working if we really want to keep "slamming our head into the wall," versus trying something different. (Nelson: Podcast 45:40.)

We think Mr. Clarin hit the nail on the head when he  he said it is "kind of a shame on our part that that we are sitting here 3 years into the learning for all plan are still trying to develop conceptual ideas. I mean, we should have that information by now and nothing against [White] or [White's] administration but it just seems that we keep coming back to the same thing.  We want to understand what this is all about but we are into it for three years already.  We should understand what it's about by now." (Clarin:  Podcast 46:32.)

In the end, Dr. White agreed to create the "seminal" document and bring it back to the board for discussion.  Kudos to the Board for doing the right thing and not just agreeing to a cycle that to use Turek's phrase would just "socialize"the plan.  Thankfully, the rest of the board was more thoughtful and finally realized that a narrative report that does more than paint a bunch of bubbles is needed.  Now the only question is who in the administration will write the report?  Obviously it should not be Dr. White, who only joined the district six months ago.  In our opinion, this task should fall on Dr. Schneider's shoulders since he is in charge of the Department of Learning and was intimately involved in the development and roll out of the plan.  We wish we could have seen his expression -- if he was even at the meeting -- when Dr. White agreed to create the report.  Frankly, if Dr. Schneider was present at the meeting, we are shocked that he remained silent and had absolutely nothing to contribute to this critical curriculum discussion.

We hope the BOE is ultimately presented with a report that addresses all of the questions they asked last night, and that they and Dr. White use the report to not only improve the curriculum, but to also identify any administrators in the district who perhaps should be held accountable for the problems everyone has identified over the last three years, or who perhaps are so weak in their current performance that they should not have their contracts renewed next Spring.

Last night's discussion on the Learning for All Plan was a refreshing change from the past rubber stamping attitude by the board majority.  We don't know exactly what swung some of the board members to push for substance rather than continue to accept fluff and bubbles, but whatever the cause, we are grateful.  Perhaps they realized that with a board election next spring, a "new majority" may take over the board that will push for data analysis and meaningful reports.  Time will tell.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quick Comments and Questions on the Upcoming 12/8/14 BOE Meeting -- More Delay, Lack of Transparency and Obfuscation?

The Board Docs for Monday's BOE meeting have posted.  (12/8/14 BOE Meeting agenda.)  We are going to keep this post short and simple because we are busy preparing for the holidays.  (Don't worry, our "Daily Series" will continue early next week.)  There are 4 agenda items we want to comment on:

1.  Tax Levy Options.  For the first time, on the eve of the tax levy vote, Dr. White is presenting three tax levy options for the BOE's consideration prior to voting at the 12/8 board meeting (click to open Tax Levy report): A) CPI 1.5% increase, B) an additional $210,000 levy to cover the projected 2015-2016 deficit or C) levy for new construction. The report explains the different options and their projected impact on taxpayers. Dr. White then recommends that the board approve Option B.   While we commend Dr. White for finally realizing that the MINIMUM the board should be levying are funds sufficient to cover anticipated expenditures in the 2015-2016 budget, we still do not understand why he is not recommending Option C, which would better protect D181's programs in the event that Senate Bill 16 be approved and the district lose over $1.5 million dollars in state funding.  In addition, the BOE discussed the tax levy at the last two board meetings, but the only option presented for its formal consideration was Option A -- a CPI 1.5% increase, leaving the new construction money on the table, and not covering the projected deficit.  The last 2 meeting discussions were intended to fully flesh out the tax levy options and provide board members with sufficient time prior to the 12/8 meeting to thoughtfully consider whether they would approve the administration's recommendation.  Why did Dr. White wait until the last week leading up to the tax levy vote to formally present multiple options?  Did he finally realize that he has been manipulated by anti-tax forces at work in our community?  Did he finally realize after hearing from community members, that tax payers are willing to sufficiently fund the budget to avoid future program cuts?  We hope that at a MINIMUM, the BOE approves Option B on Monday night, and not allow anti-tax forces and anti-tax board members to sway a board majority to vote on an under-levy option that will ultimately hurt our students.  And next year, we hope that Dr. White presents multiple options and the administrations recommendation in a timely manner.

2.  Dr. White's Report (click to open Report) discusses the upcoming Madison Principal search and a timeline for a "Learning For All Plan" Review to be conducted over 3 upcoming board meetings.

A)  Madison Principal Search:  We commend Dr. White's transparency in presenting the timeline and process for hiring Mrs. McMahon's replacement to the entire community.  Mrs. McMahon is an outstanding principal and her retirement will leave a void in our district that cannot easily be filled.  We urge Dr. White to guarantee to the community that a principal of Mrs. McMahon's caliber of excellence will not be replaced with a "starter" principal, who has never been a principal before. We also urge Dr. White to look beyond Troy 30C's employee pool to fill this opening.  While we take no issue with the administrators from Dr. White's former district that he has brought to D181, it will raise questions and send the wrong message to our community about the fairness and equal opportunities afforded all candidates if the next important administrative hire is also plucked from Troy 30C.

B)  Learning For All Plan Review:  The review process spelled out in Dr. White's report is flawed.  Dr. White proposes spending 2 meetings in January and February discussing the "macro level history and review of the LFA plan development" and "an overview of key terms and components" before finally discussing "current and future work" in March.  The board does not need yet another multi-bubble power point by Kurt Schneider and his department discussing for the millionth time the "history" of how we got to the point where the LFA plan was developed.  We -- and more importantly the BOE members -- can all read the numerous power points the administration has presented in the past.  It is quite sad, actually, that nearly 3 years after the LFA was "developed" there is still no BINDER or FULL REPORT created by Schneider and company that ANYONE in the community can review to understand the "history" or "key terms and components."  But more than sad, in our opinion, it proves that the administration is stalling for more time as its curriculum administrators try to understand what they have in fact done to our district and how they have wreaked curriculum havoc on our students and teachers.  Enough delay and obfuscation!  It is time for them to cut to the chase, do an analysis of what has worked and what has not worked in the LFA plan, present DATA to the BOE so it can make DATA DRIVEN decisions on whether or not the LFA plan should be scrapped in its entirety or modified.  For the sake of D181's students, we hope that the BOE is not "snowed" by yet another attempt to white-wash the facts and further delay a real discussion by the board on the "future" of LFA.

3.  HCHTA Report.  Gary Frisch, the Assistant Superintendent of Business will be presenting a report to the BOE on the net financial impact of the HCHTA contract that the BOE approved in May 2014.  (click to open Agenda link to the report.)  The report states that "a community member requested the cost of the new teacher contract at a recent Board meeting."  We recall that almost immediately after the contract was approved, community member Jerry Mejdrich made this request at the June 9 meeting.  (Click to open 6/9/14 Board Summary prepared by D181 Administration.)  In our opinion, a request SIX months ago is not "recent." We have only one question:  Why did it take the administration SIX months to provide this information?  The community has a right to expect timely responses to financial questions asked by either community. After all, we, the taxpayers provide the majority of the revenue to the district.  Our community can ill afford to have the administration or board lack transparency in financial matters.  Let's hope this doesn't happen again on Dr. White's watch.

Friday, December 5, 2014

D181 BOE President Turek: Flip Flopper, Flubber, and Facilitator of Farcical Tax Levy Fodder

As we wait for Board Docs for the next BOE meeting to post early Saturday morning, in lieu of a "Daily Series" post on Marty Turek, we are posting this instead:

Readers, if there were ever a time to pay attention to the actions of our elected school board members, this is it. Next Monday, December 8, 7pm at Elm School, a vote on the tax levy will take place. Our BOE will decide if they want to vote to the max or not, which has significant consequences given the cloud of uncertainty with employee pensions possibly being shifted to school districts. There has been limited discussion from the BOE and Dr. White, but as of this writing, we don't know the direction the BOE appears to be headed. 

Next Monday, we do know, however, that Marty Turek will probably be back after a long hiatus from his role as a strict meeting facilitator. Yes, there is a stark difference in his ability to squelch any form of discussion compared to the candid debate that was evident at the last meeting with Secretary Garg at the helm (Click to open 11/24/14 BOE meeting podcast). 
If we were placing bets, we would double down on the following: 

1. Expect to hear Turek grovel toward the Clarendon HIlls Anti-Tax Group, now that he has been endorsed by the Caucus. Turek will sputter, spin, and stammer while he tries supporting what they want to hear, which is a lower tax levy % than the maximum allowed under the tax cap law, leaving over $500,000 in taxes uncollected in order to keep property taxes lower by not capturing new construction taxes. 

2. Sir Corcoran or one of the D86 Anti Tax Majority BOE may show up with a statement in hand about keeping the levy lower. Corcoran graced the audience with his presence (in his own mind) one year ago, and the pressure was clearly on Turek to fall in line. But, gasp! After one or more of the D181 BOE members suggested going for the maximum levy, Marty was flustered, flabbergasted and subsequently flip flopped (click to open 12/9/13 BOE meeting podcast). 

3. Superintendent White may once again display his eagerness and willingness to go along with whichever way the levy (among other topics) winds are blowing, despite the fact that there isn't a superintendent within a tri-county radius who would ever consider not maxing the levy out to squeeze every last wheat penny known in existence from tax bills to supplement the district budget. Memo to White: You should step up and state that the monies that would be captured from new construction will be placed in a rainy day pension fund. This means travel requests from Kurt Schneider or his cadre of consultants should not be compensated using funds from a higher tax levy, among other things.    

Ah, yes. The tax levy vote is upon our elected board. 

Will we hear rational, measured discussion? The next election is April 7, 2015.  

Let the fodder begin.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Daily Reason #10" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#10: In our opinion, Turek has made no effort to accommodate community members' requests to participate meaningfully in community engagement opportunities; in the process he has violated board policy by failing to ask his fellow board members what their positions are before he announces "board" decisions. One example was at the 10/17/13 board meeting which was run as a round table "Visioning Workshop." Participation during the "workshop" was by administrative invitation only, although public comments were allowed at the beginning of the meeting. (See Post on the 10/17/13 board meeting.) During public comment, one parent asked the board to allow community members who were in attendance to join a workshop table.  Another community and former school board member, Ann Mueller, asked to be allowed to join a round table as a member of the Facilities Committee, pointing out that there would be room at one of the tables, since Board Member Michael Nelson, who was also on the Facilities Committee, was absent again.  At the conclusion of all comments, without seeking input from any of the other board members, Turek simply denied the requests, saying it would not be possible to add additional chairs to the round tables. His rationale for denying the request was proven false by community members who stayed at the meeting and reported that there were empty seats at some of the tables. Turek's failure to accommodate any of the non-invitees and allow them to fill empty seats at the workshop tables, along with his complete lack of engagement with his fellow board members to seek their opinion on the public's requests, show that Turek has assumed powers and authority not allowed by Board Policy 2:110. That policy states that while the president "presides" over the meetings, "[t]he President is permitted to participate in all Board meetings in a manner equal to all other Board members" and does not afford him the right to make individual decisions. The community deserves a board of SEVEN EQUAL members, all with the same decision making authority, not a board member that behaves as if he has more authority than the rest.

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tonight the Hinsdale Caucus is Set to Endorse Turek. We are Left Shaking Our Heads in Dismay!

Rather than posting another Daily Reason today on why Marty Turek should not be reelected to the D181 BOE next spring, we are posting a comment we have just received from a community member.  We believe it is timely since tonight all of the Hinsdale Caucus delegates will officially vote to endorse Turek as a candidate for the D181 school board. We are still shell shocked by the ignorance and stupidity (in our humble opinions) shown by the D181 Caucus Committee in selecting Turek as one of the four candidates to endorse. We have heard of at least two other individuals who applied to the caucus, both who have regularly attended board meetings, are knowledgeable on the issues and have made public comments before the BOE that are thoughtful and well researched. These are the types of individuals the Caucus should be endorsing tonight, not Turek. Each delegate has to live with his/her conscience. Will anyone of them do the right thing and refuse to vote to endorse Turek? Each delegate who votes YES should do so ONLY IF they truly believe he has the appropriate character traits and skill set necessary to serve another four years on the board. Sadly, we do not believe he does.

"Anonymous said...
I agree that Mr. Turek has been anything but the community representative on the school board. Mr. Turek has during his first term been a successful rubber stamper and allowed scandals such as Donoroo, hinsdale middle school closure (moldarama)and the infamous bottle throwing incident to be successfully swept under the rug with a complete lack of accountability or any kind of fiscal responsibility. He was the only board member to have voted against a split schedule that allowed our students to go back to school at CHMS. He created drama over various issues including FOIA law... being the most opaque board president. If the nominating committee did not have enough members, it should have been dissolved instead of obviously continuing with a flawed process. Yes the few community members on the committee tried their best but the endorsements affect all 9 schools and all school areas should have been represented. I can't imagine there were no other suitable candidates besides Turek that interviewed that also cared about our schools and children. "

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Daily Reason #9" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#9:  Mr. Turek is rude to community members who attempt to participate at board meetings as committee members or who wish to make public comments.  He conveniently "forgets" that board meeting procedure allows for public comment at the end of each board meeting. One example was during the 8/26/13 Board Meeting at which the Board attempted to set the performance goals it wanted the administration to track and measure.  As we previously reported, a committee had been formed to develop the goals and included a community member, Matt Bousquette, who is highly respected in our community and currently serves as the D181 Foundation President.  Despite his service on the committee, and Member Heneghan's and Garg's requests that he be allowed to address the full board regarding the administration's recommended goals, which Mr. Bousquette believed were inconsistent with those developed by the committee. The administration and Turek (who as president runs the meetings), denied him permission to address the full board during the goals discussion. Not only did Turek refuse to acknowledge Mr. Bousquette and give him a forum to speak, at the end of the meeting, Turek attempted to adjourn the meeting without allowing public comment.  Fortunately, this did not happen and Mr. Bousquette finally had an opportunity to express his concerns, albeit, not in a timely manner that allowed the board to his issues during their goal's discussion. Mr. Bouquette pointed out that refusing to allow him to participate during the discussion,  and question the administration's recommendations that did not match those developed by the committee, proved that the committee a "sham." Appointing a parent to a committee, only to prevent his full participation and then to treat him with disrespect at the public meeting at which the committee's work is discussed, is the polar opposite of involvement, does not create an environment of trust and is precisely what Mr. Bousquette called it -- a "sham." The community deserves to have board members who respect all community members, especially those who provide a public service by participating on  committees, take  time to attend board meetings and desire to make public comments.  In our opinion, Turek's action show his disdain for community member input and establish yet another reason why he should not be reelected.
Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Daily Reason #8" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#8: Mr. Turek has been absent from critical board meetings.  For example, he missed the November 24, 2014 Board Meeting at which the board discussed Dr. White's 2013-2014 Achievement and Goals Review Presentation. As we explained in our 11/25 post, last year the board approved 3 performance goals that it directed the administration to track and assess at the start of this school year. At the 11/24 board meeting, the administration finally presented the board with its formal report on the indicators tracked and measured to determine if the 3 goals were met.  In addition, the administration presented this year's individual School Improvement Plans.  As the Board president, Turek works directly with Dr. White to set the meeting agendas.  Turek scheduled these two important matters on a date that created a conflict for principals and parents who might want to attend, but could not due to parent teacher conferences or Thanksgiving travel plans.  Even worse, in our opinion by failing to attend and particpate in the meeting, Turek showed a complete disregard to his board member duties spelled out in Board Policy 2:020 and in particular Subsection 10 that requires a board member to "[e]valuat[e] the educational program and approv[e] School Improvement and District Improvement Plans. Presenting the District report card and School report card(s) to parents/guardians and the community; these documents report District, School and student performance." Why was Turek absent? Was he on vacation? Was he attending evening parent teacher conferences, rather than schedule his for the next day?  Turek could have directed Dr. White to schedule these agenda items for another date much earlier in the school year, rather than the last meeting in November during a week that guaranteed poor attendance by the community and apparently by him. The board needs members and a president who will comply with the board policies and schedule agenda items in a manner that will promote transparency and community, staff and board member participation.

Running List of the Daily Reasons: