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:
Reason #1:  Four years ago the Hinsdale Caucus got it right when they did not endorse Mr. Turek.  

Reason #2:  As the board president for the last 2 years, Mr. Turek's job has been to preside over the board meetings, however, his actual authority during said meetings is no greater than the other six board members.  (Board Policy 2:110.) Rather than facilitate discussions during the meetings, listen to and take his fellow board members' opinions on issues into consideration, he has attacked them and tried to shut them down. Case in point, suggesting during the 12/9/13 board meeting that well respected Board Member Brendan Heneghan was going down a "rat hole" when he suggested there should be a curriculum committee similar to the finance committee. Less than one year later, a curriculum committee called the Learning Committee has been formed.  We guess Mr. Turek got it wrong when he called Mr. Heneghan out.

Reason #3: Mr. Turek failed to oppose Dr. White's promotion of Kurt Schneider into the position of SOLE Assistant Superintendent of Learning, on July 8, 2014 (or at any meeting since then). (Link to 7/8/14 Superintendent's report.)  Schneider is now responsible for both the curriculum and special education departments. In our opinion, D181's curriculum chaos is the direct result of the lack of true leadership in the Department of Learning and Mr. Turek's support of poor leadership decisions evidences his inability to act in the best interests of D181's students.  We would be remiss in failing to point out that one reason Mr. Turek failed to publicly oppose Dr. White's critical organizational change in the Learning Department was because he did not even attend the 7/8/14 board meeting, the only board meeting scheduled last July.  

Reason #4During his tenure on the BOE,  Mr. Turek approved Dawn Benaitis' promotion from principal of Monroe School to Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction in the Department of Learning.  He also approved her raises. As we previously reported, in less than three years (from 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 school year), Benaitis' base salary increased 18.8% from $109,660 to $130,250. Further, despite community concerns regarding Ms. Benaitis, on May 29, 2014, Turek voted to approve a multi-year contract for her. (Sources: 3/18/13 Consent Agenda5/6/13 Consent Agenda3/24/14 Personnel consent agendaBenaitis Multi-year contract)  In our 6/4/14 Post we raised serious concerns about the multi-year contracts, including Benaitis', that Turek voted to approve on 5/29/14.  More on that tomorrow......Until then, in our opinion, Mr. Turek's votes to approve outrageous raises and promotions for Benaitis are further examples of poor leadership decisions that establish Turek's inability to act in the best interests of D181's students. 

Reason #5: In our opinion, Mr. Turek showed a lack of fiduciary duty and disregard of D181 taxpayers, when he voted (on 5/29/14) to approve multi-year contracts for 6 administrators that had effective dates of 5/30/14 (during the 2013-2014 school year). See 6/4/14 Post. As we explained in that post, the beginning date of the multi-year contracts was May 30, 2014, just one day after they were approved and overlapped with those administrators' 2013-2014 contracts approved on 3/18/13. Benaitis, for example, was given a multi-year contract that had a term of 3 years and 1 month, with an end date of 6/30/17. Click to open 5/29/14 agenda item with links to each contract. In our opinion, by approving multi-year contracts that overlapped with existing contracts, Mr. Turek (and the BOE majority) circumvented the intent of the Illinois Pension Reform Act for existing staff, negatively Impacting D181 taxpayers.  How? Under the Illinois pension reform act, pensionable salary is capped at $110,000 OR the highest salary specified at the end of an administrator's contract in effect on May 31, 2014. By starting the new multi-year contracts  prior to 5/31, the administrators' pensionable salary will be based on the highest salary specified in the last year of each of their contracts. By entering into multi-year contracts with a start date of 5/30/14, rather than 7/1/14, the administrators avoided having their pensionable salaries be their lower 2013-2014 salaries, as would otherwise have been required under the pension reform law. Instead, their pensions will be based upon their highest salary contracted during the term of the contract. This will directly impact D181 and all Illinois taxpayers whose taxpayer dollars fund the pensions. This will cost everyone more money to fund the existing administrators' pensions in direct contravention of the intent of Illinois legislators whose intent was to "stop the bleeding" by capping pensionable salaries. Is this really what our taxpayers want?(Note: On 11/21/14, an Illinois court struck down the pension reform act.  It is unclear at this time what impact the ruling will have, if any, on the existing administrators' pensionable salary calculation when they eventually retire.  However, when Mr. Turek voted on the overlapping contracts, the negative impact to the taxpayers was clear and he approved them anyway.) (Click to open Chicago Suntimes article.)

Reason #6: As we reported in an earlier post, we are concerned that Mr. Turek does not adequately prepare for meetings or spend the necessary time reviewing and reflecting on board materials in order to be able to participate in a meaningful way. During the 9/9/13 meeting, Turek, referring to his review of the annual ISAT data presentation included in the Board docs for that meeting, stated “I hope my boss isn’t listening because I read it today at work.”   His “admission” was greeted with laughter by some of his fellow board members and administrators.  Board members receive their meeting materials via Board Docs at least the weekend before a Monday meeting so they have time to review and prepare. We know from past board discussions that members are urged to submit questions they have to the superintendent by Monday morning.  How reflective can Turek be, especially in his role as the board president, when he waits until the day of a meeting to review board materials, and then does so while he is supposed to be working? The community should elect members who are willing to adequately prepare for meetings, not do so at the last minute and not shirk their other responsibilities in the process.

Reason #7: Mr. Turek has violated the board agreement that all board members are to have the same information from the Superintendent.  One example we discussed in an earlier post was that during the 8/26/13 board meeting, Turek acknowledged that he had known ahead of time that during the summer, 7 administrators had attended an all expense paid trip to a Social Justice Institute in Milwaukee at which Dr. Schneider was a presenter, and which at least one board member asserted could have been given internally, saving the district and D181 taxpayers thousands of dollars. (See: Meeting minutes.)  In spite of the board agreement that the seven board members agreed to follow, Turek did not share the information he received from Dr. Schuster.  By not correcting Dr. Schuster's violation of not providing all board members the same information, Turek also violated the agreement and showed a lack of respect towards his fellow board members.  

Reason #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.


jay_wick said...

Probably fits more along the lines of shameful than a "sham" but the dysfunction of the current Caucus is actually a reason to try to make it TONIGHT'S important meeting where the slates will be presented and voted on.

The new rules do not allow unvetted nominations from the floor BUT they still allow the suspension of rules should that be called for.

I urge anyone that wants to see the Caucus not endorse a wholly unqualified candidate to try to make to the meeting -- Wednesday, December 3, 2014: Third Regular Meeting of the 2014 Caucus - Hinsdale Library (Lower Level) 7:00 p.m.

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.

jay_wick said...

The Caucus was sadly uneventful.

While the three new candidates seem like they really can help return the district to the right track, they'll be burdened by the rut that has been dug by the current do-nothing BOE. Jennifer Burns, Leslie Gray, and Richard Giltner all seem eager to move in the right direction.

Bizarrely, the woefully uninformed "head" of the nominating committee for the district touted visiting all of three BOE meetings. Heaping upon this tale of ignorance, it was cited as an advantage to endorse the current titular head of the BOE "for much needed continuity". The fact is the district has never before suffered such a four year period when each of the district's schools has vanished from their once enviable rankings in the Illinois State Board of Education Academic Honor Roll.
Never before has the district seen such massive turn over in district-level staff.
Never before has the district so recklessly allowed for an opaque budgeting process that won't even acknowledge the increased expenditures for salaries are coming at the expense of needed resources for the classrooms.
Never before has the Caucus endorsed a candidate that previously ran a reckless rogue campaign has a record of ethical abuses in office.

Further, the out-of-touch organizers of the Caucus seem largely unconcerned that there is such lack of equitable representation from Clarendon Hills, where fully a third of the District's schools are located. Mumbling excuses about Illinois switched its spring election cycles belie the fact that this happened prior to the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency -- there is no logical reason not to align the Hinsdale Caucus with the calendar of Clarendon Hills' similar volunteer body when potential voters can be expected to motivated by back-to-school fervor instead of springtime malaise...

Let's hope these issues will motivate voters to understand what is at stake with continuing down the path of decline that the status quo Caucus endorsement confers upon the wholly unimpressive incumbent...

One finds it hard to believe that a superior candidate cannot be persuaded to run.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wick, can you run?

Susan Blumberg-Kason said...

I thought the meeting went well tonight. No one had any objection and the process was explained thoroughly.

Elizabeth Speziale said...

It is with a heavy heart and after a great deal of consideration that I write to you regarding the postings related to the D181 Nominating Committee for the Hinsdale Caucus, and in particular jay_wick's most recent comments. As the chairperson of that committee, I am deeply hurt and offended by the allegations that have been posted attacking the character of those community members who have served on this committee. In particular, I take exception to being called "woefully uninformed," ignorant, stupid, derelict, sheltered and ineffective. All of these words have been hurled at our committee on this blog. I am none of those things, and neither are any of the people with whom I served. It saddens me to see that people do not hesitate to denigrate their fellow parents, neighbors, and possibly friends, in such a manner. I fully understand that there are people who are not happy with our endorsement of Mr. Turek. I respect their right to their opinion. But I would ask people to please respect your fellow community members and not pass judgment on the individuals who volunteered to be a part of this caucus. We understand also that there are points of contention with how the caucus was formed. This is an issue to addressed with the Executive Committee of the caucus, through the appropriate channels. As stated in the meeting, the caucuses of both Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills are working together to forge a smoother path going forward. Additionally, we will be presenting this slate of candidates at the CH Caucus meeting on December 11.

I am asking you politely to please stop attacking and insulting the people who served on this committee. We worked very hard over the past five months to study the issues, meet with community members, administrators and board members, and seek out candidates in the community. I would have never volunteered for this job had I anticipated being raked over the coals by my fellow parents.

With respect to your comments, jay_wick, you clearly misunderstood when I said that members of our committee attended three board meeting to announce that we were accepting applications. I have been attending board meetings for over eight years. Considering that you do not know me at all, I am not sure how you feel that you can call me "woefully uninformed." I have been active in this school district (at both the school and district levels) since my children started here nine years ago. Your personal attack on me is uncalled for.

I am not writing to challenge the bloggers or try to change anyone's opinion of me or any of our candidates. I am simply asking, as a fellow parent and community member, for the negative attacks on the caucus members to please stop. Your words hurt.

Anonymous said...

To Mrs. Speziale, I agree, some of the posters on this blog could brush up on their social skills. However, they do have a point with Mr. Turek. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he makes for a poor public figure. For those of us who could not attend the meetings, can you explain how the nominating committee came to its conclusion to endorse him?

Also, I am a little confused. People can still put in petitions to run for school board until December 22nd according to the Illinois Association of School Boards web site: http://www.iasb.com/pdf/ElectionCalendar2015.pdf

How can the nominating committee already make endorsements of any candidate before all possible candidates have even entered the race?

Susan Blumberg-Kason said...

Bravo to Liz Speziale! The D181 caucus went way above and beyond. The more people post hateful and false accusations on this blog, the more people will become turned off to the issues and concerns of the District.

jay_wick said...

First I want to be clear that it is not my intention to denigrate the people that volunteered for the Hinsdale Caucus.

I merely want to draw a brightline that anyone who claims to be an informed observer of the district must take responsibility for endorsing its current titular head. There is no dispute that by previous running without endorsement the BOE was deprived of a fair more qualified candidate.

The choice is clear - if one values continuity over comptence, politics opportunism over community service, duplicitous lack of ethics over openness, dishonesty over accountability, continued decline over return to success one can vote for the endorsed incumbent.

If instead folks wait for the same process to play out as happened in previous contested elections there may be a far better choice.

Anonymous said...

I think the bloggers and commentators need to stop bashing Mr. Turek and the caucus. If anyone has a problem with the selection of Mr. Turek, they can run as an independent candidate. Then they can explain their objections to Mr. Turek in the appropriate forum of an election campaign (via meet and greets, debates ect.). There are other avenues to get on the ballot besides the caucus - the caucus is just one voice. But it is important to remember that the caucus members are hard working volunteers of the community who tried their best - it benefits no one to relentlessly bash them. We need qualified people to volunteer to make our schools and community great, and people will be hesitant to volunteer going forward if they fear being crucified.

The Parents said...

Sorry 8:36, we have no plans to stop our Daily Reasons Series. We are not "bashing" Mr. Turek. We are providing factual reasons why we do not think people should re-elect him. Sure there may be other candidates who run independent of the caucus. We hope there will be and they will get to present their positions on issues during debates. But even if no one steps up to run independently, we still have the right to express our reasons why we do not think Mr. Turek should be reelected. There are valid, good reasons why we believe he has made a poor board member, poor board president and does not deserve to have anyone vote for him --even if he runs unopposed. Sure, he might win, but if people don't vote for him, perhaps he will get the message that he needs to change. We doubt that will actually happen, but miracles do happen.....

The Parents said...

The caucus process is broken. For anyone on the caucus to make excuses about "continuity" as a valid reason to endorse an incumbent is shallow at best, especially since the incumbent wasn't endorsed by the caucus last time around. Ridiculous. LOOK AT THE FACTS!!! No one is stopping anyone from posting reasons why Mr. Turek should be re-elected. In fact, we challenge any of our readers or blog-nay-sayers to do just that. This is an open forum. Feel free to tell us why he should be reelected, but please do so with facts, not just opinions that he will bring "continuity" to the board, or that perhaps he is a nice guy, or you like him as a person. Lots of nice people run for office. That doesn't mean they will do a good job once elected.

Yvonne Mayer said...

8:36: "It benefits no one to bash them?" Are you kidding? So your definition of bashing is bloggers telling the truth and listing factual reasons why they don't think someone is a good candidate? So basically you want to silence the critics? That would be best for our community? Wow! I'm shocked by your arrogance. And as for the caucus "trying their best" that too is not true. Yes, there were a few caucus committee members, such as Ms. Speziale, who did attend the meetings and actively recruited candidates, but I know for a fact (since people talk -- that's just the kind of town we live in) that of the 7 or 8 committee members (not the 14 the by-laws require) not all of them were even present during each of the candidate interviews. If you sign up to serve on a caucus committee, you need to actually serve -- and that means attend ALL of the meeting, not just some of them. The blogger are correct, the caucus process broke down this year. What a shame.

jay_wick said...

The Caucus is spotty at best. The year I served on a selection committee for the BOE we had an excellent chair in Harvey Bergholz. Each of the members really got a wide range of candidates to show up for interviews. We had many well informed community members and some folks that pretty clearly were not focused on the best interests of the district / aware of what volunteer elective office entails.

Some un-endorsed candidates have been quite good -- though folks like Andrew Schmidt came with the 'backing' of the anti-tax crowd he mostly was a centrist, balancing concerns of teachers (which is how he makes his living) along with those of parents / community members.

If a candidate emerges that can demonstrate a grasp of the issues that matter and a dedication to fairness / ethical behavior it would be a nice complement to the three newly endorsed candidates of Jennifer Burns, Leslie Gray, and Richard Giltner.

As the owners of this blog have clearly shown the incumbent needs to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate that people are taking the time to post with their names, I feel they are out of touch with the real issue here: the caucus never had the correct amount of people on it, and more importantly, that year after year, Turek has proven himself to be a poor board member. Had the full amount of members been on the committee, perhaps they would have made a different choice. Judges dont proceed with a trial if there are only 8 jurors, so why did our caucus? If the intent of the caucus it to provide a fair, democratic procedure, they should have followed the rules and filled the other spots before endorsing anyone. The fact that they made the endorsments in a rushed manner, before the deadline for candidates was due is also absurd. How could the caucus have made an informed choice if people can still choose to run? The deadline was never extended, and no notice was ever given that more volunteers were needed. So I am not sure why caucus members claim they are working so hard at their jobs. Obviously, the caucus did not dot their i's and cross their t's, yet they became defensive when it was pointed out. Their defensiveness is uncalled for. They messed up, but instead of apologizing and correcting the problem, have chosen to stubbornly ignore the issues and blame the public for being upset. The caucus has a right to feel hurt, but they DON'T have a right to corrupt the political process. The fact that they are volunteers does not excuse them!

Also, as far as pitying Turek, I can't believe that people are ao naive that they think bloggers haven't written letters and complained to Turek, the superintendent, and the entire board personally. Anyone who has gone to or listened to ALL of the BOE meetings over the last 2 or 3 years would know that from the multiple complaints that parents have made public comment about. If anything, this blog has afforded Turek and the caucus, clear facts about procedures and protocol being violated. But instead of seizing the opportunities to proactively address concerns, he (and others) choose to ignore and call these issues "insults". Just because there is a problem, and someone points it out, does not make it an insult or a personal attack. If anything , I find it MORE insulting that these peole cannot use the constructive criticism to improve the situation.

I found Liz' post to be particularly arrogant. The same type of plea for us to blindly trust them .....while they lead us off a cliff with Turek leading the way is ridiculous. These people are clueless to educational issues, yet act like they have all the answers! They don't - but the disturbing part is that they don't bother to FIND out and admit what the problems are. The lack of knowledge about issues is shocking.

If the caucus really wanted to do a good job, they would have announced that they were lacking several caucus members and made every effort to FAIRLY assign a cross section of citizens to full those spots. They never did! So while Liz may feel insulted, keep in mind that poor decisions and leadership by the caucus are insulting to taxpayers and harmful to our children. If you are not up for the job, then don't volunteer.

Anonymous said...

How many of you bashing Turek and bashing Elizabeth Speziale have volunteered to serve on the caucus or run for the school board? You may not like all the decisions they make but at least they have stepped up. Clearly, Yvonne has stepped up and served. How about the rest of you?

I don't agree with many decisions made by the board but I this is a volunteer position and there are clearly more people complaining than serving. Step up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

9:12, I am not allowed to have an opinion unless I volunteer? What an elitist, juvenile, intellectually challenged position.

jay_wick said...

First- it would be an extreme distortion of the facts to call enumerating the many obvious failings of the BOE's titular head as "bashing" -- anyone that cares to listen to any of the podcasts conveniently available on the district web site will have ample evidence of the poorly run meetings he has presided over, the sycophantic congratulatory messages sent to undeserving district staff, lack of transparency and general cluelessness exhibited evoke eye-rolls from all in attendance.

For anyone to endorse such an incumbent and be unable to see through the obvious salesmanship that must have been used to snow the nominating Caucus is, at the least, worth highlighting.

Pointing out that folks from that committee did not fact check such obvious fabrications as "negotiated contract" when the record shows Clarin and Vorobiev (two of the three newest BOE members...) led that effort or the "remediations" at HMS when, again the evidence shows the titular head was attempting to side with staff whose "nose knows" while other BOE members (like Clarin) listened to teachers and worked with community members whose expertise ensured a proper clean-up or even the clear history that shows the titular head's unendorsed candidacy deprived the BOE of a community member with impeccable background, including a doctorate, is NOT "bashing" but merely pointing out the failings of the Caucus nominating committee / chair...

Finally, though I too agree that it is juvenile to suggest that there is any lack of commitment from any community members however they choose to participate, I will point out that I know from personal experience that most of the frequent posters here attend DOZENS of BOE meetings every year and have done so with more regularity than even some of the elected members. Some literally sprint to meeting from work. Further, I personally have served on the Caucus multiple times in multiple roles. I was on the D181 nominating committee headed by Harvey Berkholz, whose positive experience is highlighted on the Caucus web page. I also served on the Caucus Executive Committee two cycles ago. We saw no need to redo the calendar then despite the fact that Illinois did change the spring elections to accommodate the presidential run of our one time senator. I further was interviewed by the D181 selection committee for the 2013 elections at which time I explicitly told the committee that despite my interest in seeing the district return to greatness, that so long as qualified individuals with a greater desire to serve could be found who held no motives to slash finances I would gladly support such a slate. From that slate it is pretty clear that Ms. Garg is an extremely dedicated individual that often seeks answers to tough questions, Mr. Clarin devotes tremendous time to important financial and facilities concerns of the district, the slate also included Ms. Vorobiev...

Anyone unaware of Mr. Turek's overtures to the radical anti-tax groups needs to understand that Mr. Turek is not a "volunteer" in the sense that is consistent with Caucus principles but is in fact a self-serving politician in the mold of Blagojevich or Quinn who will spin any tale to hold onto office and climb ever higher in the hopes of some lucrative career advancement. Those who have seen him run the district like a patronage boss, forgiving contractual debts, looking for opportunities to sell products / services from his firm, touting his friendship with other elected officials and ingratiating himself with the power brokers is not inspired with thoughts of "continuity" but is instead appalled that our once desirable schools district has fallen from the Academic Honor Roll under the bumblings of his ineptitude.

Anonymous said...

Well said Wick. Please run for the school board!