Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review and Reflections on Straight Talk by Parents and Administrative Psychobabble Spoken at the January 26, 2015 Board Meeting

Introduction to this post:

It has been five days since the January 26 Board of Education meeting.  During that time, we have listened several times to the public comments, administration's presentation and board discussion on the Learning for All Plan "Part 1 -- the "definitional" portion of the Seminal Document that is currently being crafted by the administration.  We listened with an open mind, really hoping that after three years of the Learning for All Plan ("L4A") roll-out -- which started with the transition plan when today's 5th graders were in 3rd grade -- the administration would be able to provide the BOE and the entire community with clarity and a coherent description of how the BOE's past directive was and continues to be implemented, what L4A means and whether it has been a success.  We originally intended for this post to summarize the discussion, but we have decided to take a different path.

There were powerful comments made by parents before the presentation, in which they described their understanding of what L4A originally was supposed to mean, their concerns with how things rolled out, a lack of data analysis into the success of the program and their worry that what is now being presented in the Seminal Document is not the same, original plan.  Following their comments, Dr. Schneider and a small group of the original Advanced Learning "task force" members presented an unscripted (to use Dr. Schneider's word) presentation of the definitions of key concepts and terms that they believe make up the L4A Plan, and Dr. Schneider further elaborated on the document posted on Board Docs before entertaining BOE member questions and concerns.  (Click to open L4A plan document.)

It is clear to us that there is an obvious disconnect between parents' understanding of the original L4A Plan and the way the administration described it in the new document and during the meeting.  There are major differences in perspective and opinions of the board members.  There is certainly a lack of board consensus into what the plan meant or should mean, as well as between certain board members and the administration.  As we began summarizing what was said, and by whom, we realized that the best way to present this disconnect would be to actually quote what people said.  You will read for yourselves, in black and white, the coherent statements made by parents, followed by what we will describe -- for lack of a better phrase -- as a rambling, incoherent, disorganized, administrative psychobabble speech by Dr. Schneider and some of the other presenters.

We apologize in advance should any of the teachers who participated in the presentation take offense with our reflections and conclusions. Our intention is not to personally offend them, but to point out that we are opposed to what is happening in our district -- to our children -- and that the presentation proved that there is still confusion about the meaning of Learning For All.  Changes were made to the original plan without board approval and without any objective data support for the changes and this was, in our opinion, wrong.  We will not remain silent about this obvious fact or the mess the administration continues to perpetuate, since at the end of the day, our children are the ones who have been hurt and will continue to be hurt by the ever morphing L4A plan.

Below we have transcribed large portions of the meeting in black and white and we intersperse our reflections in red.  We do not think we have taken anything out of context, but we caution our readers that the best way to confirm that what we are quoting is accurate is to listen to the meeting.  (Click to open Podcast link to the meeting.) If you do,  we believe you will be left shaking your heads in frustration, anger and dismay, just as we were.  This post is quite lengthy, but we felt it was critical to everyone's understanding of what actually was said -- and by whom -- at the meeting, to read the actual words used.  So we thank you for your willingness to take the time to read this post and we look forward to your comments.

Parent Comments Made about the L4A Plan document:

The meeting began with approximately 40 minutes of comments made by 9 parents.  Of those 9, only 1 parent, Amy McCurry (who is currently a parent, paid district employee and also a candidate for the D181 BOE) expressed support for the Learning for All Plan.  (At this time we will not address the propriety, or lack thereof, of her comment  -- as was addressed during the meeting by former BOE member/president Ann Mueller -- however, we do plan to in a future post.)  Two additional parents who read a joint comment are also currently candidates for the D181 BOE -- Jennifer Burns and Leslie Gray.  Their comment identified 3 concerns they have with Part 1 of the Seminal Document posted on Board Docs. Their full comment follows:

Jennifer Burns and Leslie Gray's Joint Comment: (commencing at Counter 00:14:00)

"We are here to share 3 primary concerns about the Learning For All document presented tonight.... 

Our first concern is that the document presented is substantively different than the L4A plan approved on 2/25/13.  When the Advanced Learning/Learning For All Plan was approved by the board of education 3 years ago, it was about raising the bar for all students.  It was about giving all students access to accelerated  classes that were previously opened to only a select few.  It was about raising the floor to raise the ceiling. 

The learning for all plan was marketed as the common core plus 1 model, a plan that would not only prepare our students well for the new state standards, but also empower all students to achieve to their fullest ability.  Parents voiced concerns about the district's ability to implement such an ambitious plan requiring wholesale change for success.  After all, with the plan's elimination of pull out programs, teachers were going to be tasked with differentiating to a broader range of students within a single classroom.  Plus teachers would have to do this while adopting the new common core state standards and helping students understand and apply ideas like conceptual math. Furthermore, teachers would be required to meet these new demands with nominal additional resources to support them. Although many parents were concerned that teachers were being asked to do too much, too fast, the community was assured that successful implementation was realistic, and that the plan would be modified if performance warranted.  

The document presented tonight, let's call it Learning for All 2, for sake of clarification, is a plan for inclusive classrooms in which 'discrepancies in achievement between students are eliminated.'  With it's approval of the Learning for All Plan, the Board of Education agreed to make advanced learning services more inclusive, as compared to the services being eliminated, which had been available exclusively to students identified as 'gifted.'  They did not direct the administration to implement inclusive classrooms.  Further in Learning for All 2, as presented tonight, the Common Core state standards are a targeted goal rather than a minimum achievement level as in the approved plan.  Tonight's document does nothing to address the concerns of the approved learning for all plan.  What tonight's presentation does is raise issues of increased curriculum rigor for all students that were previously addressed by the approved learning for all plan.  It also raises concerns over process and accountability.  For while it would be appropriate to modify the L4A plan under its prior approval if warranted by an analysis of student performance data, it is not appropriate to make material differences to plans strategies and goals without board approval.  

Which leads us to our second concern.  (17:23) Despite continued requests for an analysis of the success of the Learning for All Plan, no analysis has been provided.  The L4A plan is supposed to be the jumping off point of the next strategic planning process and the cornerstone of the digital learning initiative.  And we still don't know if it's working.  Where is data to show that our children are better off now than they were before the L4A plan was implemented?  In fact fall MAP scores for this year's 5th graders suggest the contrary.  The performance of this group in math, the test group, if you will for Learning for All and therefore the first to begin implementation almost 3 years ago, has dropped significantly. Yes, this is a single data point but what can be learned from this group's experience so their struggles won't be repeated by the other classes? What was done or is being done to get this roughly 400 students back to where they would have been without the learning for all plan? As stated on page 22 of the document that will be shared tonight, "assessment is a major cornerstone of continuous improvement and the learning for all plan." Yet the document that will be shared tonight does not include measures of success for the L4A plan nor is it suggested that such a pre-post analysis of student performance will be included in the balance of the document still in development. Yes, change takes time, but isn't nearly two years or three, if the test group of today's fifth graders is counted,  enough time to assess performance?  Is the plan working?  Are our children better off now than they were before learning for all? Based on student performance, what improvements need to be made to the L4A plan? What is the feedback mechanism for continuous improvement? Data based decisions based on others' research are not the same as an analysis of the performance of our students.  We would be remiss to begin another strategic planning process without first analyzing the success of our current plan.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Socialization" Board Meeting Presentation Last Night Left Us Speechless -- Almost!

Last night we listened to a board meeting that left us speechless -- almost.  The Department of Learning's very own Kurt Schneider, along with a small army of staff, explained the report posted on Board Docs that they have begun to craft regarding the state of the Learning for All Plan.  We will be listening to the nearly 3 hour podcast again over the next two days -- yes we bloggers have a life too -- and working on a post dealing with the b---sh-- (yes we are mad) that went down last night will take us some time.  We want to make sure to back up what we say with choice quotes from Schneider, various board members and Dr. White. We hope to have our full post up by week's end.

So please stay tuned.  In the meantime, we want to provide a post for people to submit comments on their impressions from last nights meeting, and to kick it off, here are two that are directly on point.  Like we said, should leave you speechless.....almost!  We sincerely hope that teachers throughout the district will take the time to listen to the meeting and weigh in, even if anonymously.  It is very clear that the administration believes that what the few teachers who spoke last night said is the unanimous opinion of all of our students teachers.  If it is, then we all better put up our For Sale signs.  If Schneider is going to be allowed to continue his experimentation on our children, then we will be the ones who have to rescue our children by getting the H--- out of here.

Anonymous said...
Last night - too much for words.

Enjoy inclusive "integrated" classrooms d181. Should not be a problem because it is best practices and all kiddoes are getting their needs met. Trust me. Data not necessary.
Anonymous said...
Schneider that was brilliant last night! Brilliant! Yes, let's group by Popsicle sticks! Brilliant.
Anonymous said...
Yes Nelson and Clarin - your kids got great educations from this district. Things are different now! It is a different district. You told us to trust the experts about math compacting. Turns out the non educational experts - the parents - were right on that one, even though you disrespected them at every single board meeting. How can you be so sure the "experts" are right this time without data?

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Socialization" of Our Community, Part 1: Tonight's Presentation on the Learning for All Plan Shaping Up to be a Disappointment

As everyone should (but may not) know, Part 1 of the Department of Learning's attempt to "socialize" (Mr. Turek's words, not ours) the community on the Learning for All Plan takes place tonight at the BOE meeting.  The meeting will be held at Elm School immediately after an Ambassadors of Excellence Awards presentation at 6:45 a.m.  We hope that parents who attend the awards assembly will come in pairs and that at least one parent will stay to hear the Learning For All presentation.  Vigilance and attention are needed now more than ever, since it is our opinion that the presentation and questions (or lack thereof) by certain board members will be quite revealing into the current state of our children's curriculum model.

Board docs posted on Saturday morning (Click to open link).  The agenda includes a partial document called "The Learning for All Plan."  (Click to open the document.)  It is 32 pages long and we encourage every single parent in D181 to read it.  We did and were very disappointed its brevity, content and what it reveals about the continuing direction Dr. Schneider is leading the district.

The purpose of this post is not to summarize the report, since we don't want to do Mr. Turek's homework for him (in case he waits until today at work to read the report). We will wait to hear the formal administrative presentation tonight and listen to the spin we expect from certain board members.  Instead, the purpose of this post is to point out what appears to be missing from the report. We hope that more than two board members -- Heneghan and Garg -- express their dismay and concern with the content of the report. They should, but we doubt that they will. Our expectation (and we hope we are proven wrong) is that Mr. Turek and his minions (Yaeger, Clarin, Nelson and perhaps Vorobiev) will simply glorify and praise the report, doing the Happy Happy Joy dance at the expense (once again) of our children.

What is missing:

1.  Professional documents that cite to authority should actually cite to sources by name, author and page number.  They don't just slap a list of authorities at the end of the document. If our students did that in a school report (certainly by the time they get to high school) they would receive a poor, if not failing, grade.  So why didn't the administrators who wrote the report on board docs take the time to do this?  It was our understanding that the document presented tonight would include definitions on key terms used over the last few years in connection with the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan, terms which should reflect best practices, since Dr. Schneider and the other Dept. of Learning administrators have repeatedly stated that everything they have done to the curriculum model follows best practices.  In our opinion, the report should have cited a specific authority for each key term and concept the administration claims has or will be implemented in our district.  Even the quotes from sources they do copy into the report (see, for example, the quotes that appear on pp. 13 and 14 dealing with Collaboration Time) have no citations to which of the specific authorities listed at the end of the document they come from.  Such sloppiness should not be tolerated by the BOE.  The full board should direct Dr. Schneider to revise the report.

2.  The list of definitions in the report should have been fully "inclusive."  No pun intended, but since the words "inclusive" and "inclusion" have been used by the administration time and again over the last three years to describe parts of the ever-morphing Learning for All Plan, it was quite surprising that this word does not appear in the list and definitions of "Terms"(see pages 7-9).  Why were these terms excluded?

3.  Similarly, the word "heterogeneous" is not on the list.  That is another term that has been used over and over again by the Dept. of Learning over the last few years -- including in the first PowerPoint they presented to the board in December 2012 called "The Vision for Advanced Learning."  (See pp. 23-24 of the December 2012 Vision Powerpoint.)  Why is it missing?

4.  "Raise the floor to raise the ceiling" was the mantra Dr. Schneider used from the outset during his presentations on his vision of what the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan would achieve.  Yet this phrase is absent from the new document. Why?  We deserve an explanation.

5.  When details of the proposed plan were first presented by Dr. Schneider to the BOE on January 28, 2013, his bubble infested power point included slides outlining a seven year roll out of the new math, language arts and social studies programs that would accelerate math for all students, and result in ACE social studies and ELA being taught to all middle school students starting in 6th grade. (Click to open 1/28/13 PowerPoint presentation.)  The 7 year roll out is not referenced in the new document the Department of Learning is presenting to the BOE.   Why not?

6.  The report very briefly summarizes what has transpired over the last three years, but what is absent is a genuine recognition or discussion of the intensity of parent concerns with the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan as it rolled out.  Why this omission?

It will be interesting to listen to the BOE discussion of Part 1 of this report during tonight's meeting.  In fact, it will be interesting to see which board members asked any questions before tonight's meeting (which should be posted on Board Docs later today).  How much time will the BOE be given to discuss and ask questions?  Who will participate in a meaningful way in the discussion?  Will the administration dodge and dance around the tough questions the BOE should be asking tonight?

Stay tuned......

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Daily Reason #15" Why Marty Turek Should NOT be Re-elected to the D181 BOE

#15:  During the last board meeting, Mr. Turek supported the Administration's plan to explain the Learning For All Plan at board meetings over the next three months, starting with yet another Macro level presentation on January 26.  Mr. Turek said these meetings will "socialize" the community on the Learning for All Plan.  This statement sounded odd and so we asked ourselves, what exactly could Mr. Turek mean?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, "socialize" means "to teach (someone) to behave in a way that is acceptable in society."    According to "The Free Dictionary"  (available online), "socialize" means "to cause to accept or behave in accordance with social norms or expectations." Once we read these definitions, Mr. Turek's meaning in making his statement became clear to us.  It is our opinion that Mr. Turek expects that the LFA presentations will teach all of us -- parents, community members, teachers, and most importantly our children -- to accept and follow all the educational mantras that the administration has been espousing for over three years.  It is our opinion that he believes the "socially acceptable" way we must behave is by following and blindly accepting the LFA plan.  

Well, sorry, Mr. Turek. We are not that stupid. After watching our kids be subjected to and harmed by the constantly morphing educational plan that Dr. Schneider and his predecessors have forced upon our children, no amount of "presentations" will "socialize" us to behave in a manner that is acceptable to the administration. We will not blindly accept the plan as "best practice." We will not sit silently and ignore the damage to our children's education this ever changing plan has caused. And we will not RE-ELECT any current board member foolish enough to claim he sees the "emperor's clothes" and wants all of us to say we see them too! If Mr. Turek really believes that what our community needs is to be socialized to the LFA Plan, and he doesn't see that what is needed is a presentation to the board and community that includes COLD HARD DATA on whether or not this plan works, grade by grade, subject by subject, school by school, then he has no right to ask the voting public to support him for another 4 years. 

And so, our list continues to grow......

Running List of the Daily Reasons:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The White/Schneider Puppet Show Hits the Road: And We're Pretty Sure Who is Pulling the Strings

It has become painfully obvious that D181 has become a district that promotes unfounded and ineffective theories and trends on the backs of our children and teachers. First, Learning for All and whatever that means. The Advanced Learning Plan morphed into Full Inclusion with little to no pullouts to address the varied needs and levels of learning. Now, differentiation is touted as the district's saviour, along with heterogeneous classrooms. There is research we have presented on this blog that shows each of these district mantras are ineffective and are selling our children short. For a district of our means and the preparedness of students, our test scores and student growth should be off the charts and far ahead of other affluent school districts. 
Instead, what do we have? Downward trends in many cases. Zero proof of the efficacy of the strategies that Kurt Schneider and now Don White have embraced and continue to promote with little justification. 
And now comes along their math mantra, as evidenced by a recent PTO meeting at Walker School back in November 2014. Take a look at the meeting minutes that were posted and are available online:

The following excerpt is from the 11/19/14 Monroe PTO Minutes:
"VI) Introduction to Dr. White and Dr. Schneider
  • We are seeing the shifts in the Math Curriculum
  • 75% to meet or exceed their RIT growth
  • Fall and January 2015 assessments, and May for Spring 2015
  • Goals are 85-90-95% of MAP Testing and Growth Benchmark Data
  • Students within the fourth quartile to be maintained or increase at the building level and each
    of the grade levels
  • Teachers are offering Flexible and Fluid Instructional Groups
  • Eight Mathematical Practices are being introduced via the Common Core
  • Teacher is a facilitator of learning in the classroom. Child participation is encouraged and
    necessary in every situation. It’s no longer a teacher’s narration of procedure, it is teaching
    with interaction in every opportunity.
  • Student Driven Mathematical Discussions not just doing Math the way we learned as kids but defining it and looking at the problem from different perspectives and utilizing words to explain
    Kids are asked to show how they got your answers.
  • Deeper Conceptual Understanding and Application within problem-solving context

    Dr. White spoke to Common Core
    Teaching Math has become Procedural & Conceptual
    It was heavy on procedural in the ‘old days’ when we were kids.
    We are shifting to get a balance of conceptual and procedural when it comes to math
  • Now in our Math, Johnny requires the conceptual underpinning of the answer, and this differs from the procedural
  • conceptual needs to be embedded at the primary level or otherwise there is remedial math in college.
  • Feels front-loaded and heavy because of the need to hit home on conceptual.
  • District 181 is working to find balance between Conceptual with Procedural.

    Dr. Schneider spoke to the Common Core - “We are looking at what students accomplish in a K-12 curriculum.’
  • Deeper - supporting, writing and reading - ask your child, “How Do You Know This?”
  • What’s the difference between increments of (5)? Make it more than just memorizing...
  • Metacognitive Levels of children and how to help them learn.
  • History is less about the facts, but why those things happened...
  • Set goals, know the struggles and the areas of progress: social, emotional and readiness to
    be challenged." 

Notice the focus is on the conceptual understanding of math before basic skills are mastered. Huh? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

D181 Board is Buffaloed and Bamboozled By White/Schneider's Babbling Bull-pocky on the Learning For All Plan

(Image copied from Wikipedia.)
Monday's board meeting was a complete disgrace. It made us think that we were living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. We begin this post by publishing a comment we received yesterday from a community member who listened to the meeting.  It accurately describes the discussion surrounding when the administration will provide the board with the "Seminal Document" on the Learning for All Plan.

‪"Anonymous said...
‬I encourage all stakeholders - including the administration and BOE - to read this powerful and important article that was recently published in education week.

It is especially important to read this article after the fiasco of last night's board meeting. At the previous BOE meeting we made real progress. The BOE directed the administration to create a seminal document stating what L4A is, what it means at each grade level, and get down to specifics at the micro level. Mr. Nelson eloquently said "shame on us" for not getting past the macro level in 3 years time. There was agreement to make the L4A exercise 2 steps - not 3 - because we did not need another macro level presentation on learning for all.

Well, it seems like that meeting never happened. Suddenly, there is no need to create a seminal document. According to Mr. Clarin and Dr. Schneider, it already exists. Also, the L4A review will be 3 steps with the first one being a macro overview. Mr. Turek thinks that is important because the public needs to be "socialized" to the plan. We do not need to be "socialized" Mr. Turek! We have lived this plan for 3 years and it is a failure. Show us quantitative proof that it is working! And for that matter - what is it? It used to be grade compacting and acceleration. Now is it "going deeper"? Inclusion? Push ins only? Differentiation via technology? Everything under the sky you want to justify?

I was so disappointed last night. Dr. White and Dr. Schneider, along with the BOE majority, have once again failed this community. April cannot come fast enough. Time to spring clean this house.
January 13, 2015 at 8:46 AM"

We also listened to the board meeting on Monday, and then again yesterday via podcast, because we were quite shocked to hear the discussion on the "Seminal Document" and wanted to make sure we hadn't misheard anything. As we pointed out in our last post, in Monday's board questions, Mr. Heneghan asked the administration when the "Seminal Document" would be ready and reminded the administration that the board's December directive did not align with the 3 months of meetings Dr. White's report was suggesting take place. Dr. White's response did not provide Mr. Heneghan with a date certain when the document would be ready, however, nowhere in his answer, did he suggest that a document already exists. In fact, as Dr. White's (or more likely, Dr. Schneider's) written answer stated: "The administration is in the process of crafting a document....." (See Board Member Questions.)

So what exactly were Mr. Clarin and Dr. Schneider referring to during the meeting, when suddenly Mr. Clarin insisted that a document exists and he has seen it during a meeting he had at some point in time with Dr. Schneider? Mr. Clarin was quite insistent that the "Seminal Document" already exists, unless -- as he suggested -- he has been "buffaloed."  

Well, Mr. Clarin, may we suggest that is exactly what has happened. In our opinion, you and every single board member, community member, teacher, student and taxpayer have been -- and continue to be -- buffaloed and bamboozled by Dr. Schneider's Learning for All Plan. 

There is NO SINGLE "SEMINAL DOCUMENT" that sets out what LFA means. There never was, and all of the individual power points, charts, "action plans" etc that the administration has churned out in the last three years do not constitute a "SEMINAL DOCUMENT." All of those individual documents are moot now anyway, since over the last 3 years, the LFA has not only morphed repeatedly in name, but also in content. It doesn't even remotely look like  the original "vision" Dr. Schneider and company sold to the board several years ago. There is no more compacting of math. There is no real differentiation in the classrooms so that each child learns at his/her level. There is no more math acceleration for all. And that is just the math program. There is no road map -- as Mr. Nelson has pointed out at meetings last year -- meetings that he managed to attend on rare occasion.  

Instead, the LFA Plan has turned out to be nothing but a house of cards. Over the last three year, one card after another has been pulled out of the house,  leaving at best a faltering framework for inclusive classrooms. Time and again, Mr. Heneghan and Ms. Garg have asked for clarification, information and quantitative data on the state of the LFA plan.  Time and again, they have been ignored or essentially accused of being trouble makers.  Finally last month, they did not stand alone.  They were supported in their demands for information by Mr. Clarin, Ms. Vorobiev and Mr. Nelson.  

SO WHAT HAPPENED between last month and the January 12 meeting?

We noticed a lack of response from Ms. Vorobiev on the issue of the "Seminal Document."  Why?  

Mr. Nelson was absent, again.  We won't even ask why.

And Mr. Clarin babbled on about seeing THE DOCUMENT.  

Dr. Schneider who sat mute at the December meeting, found his voice and agreed with Mr. Clarin .

SO WE ASK -- what document are they talking about?  And if there is a "Seminal Document" then why did Dr. White say one is being "crafted."  Why hasn't it been turned over to Mr. Heneghan?  Why hasn't it been spotlighted on the District website as the "Seminal Document?"

Why?  Because it doesn't exist and it doesn't matter how many times Dr. Schneider and Mr. Clarin suggest that it does.  It is imaginary!  Just like the Emperor's New Clothes!

Dr. White is the district's New Emperor.  Has he really bought into this drivel? Does he really think the clothes exist?  Well, we are not falling for this bull-pocky.  We are fed up with all of the bull-pocky that the administration has been slinging at our children for the last three years.  

We will say it again and again and again: April 7th can't come soon enough. Time for the community to vote out those who are not engaged the way they should be and elect a new board majority that will demand answers and accountability.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Updated Board Docs for Tonight's (1/12/15) Board Meeting -- Non-Answers Given to Important Board Member Questions

Two additional documents have been added to Board Docs for tonight's meeting: an HMS Sprinkler Head Malfunction Incident Power Point Presentation and Board Member Questions.

We have a few observations to make regarding each document.

HMS Sprinkler Head Malfunction Incident Power Point Presentation:

Thank you to Board Member Heneghan for asking a question about the cause of the Sprinkler Head Malfunction in the Board Member Questions.  We are glad that his question pushed the administration to prepare a glossy visual report on what happened last week at HMS.  The report will be presented during Monday's meeting.  While we commend all of the actions the administration took to immediately dry the affected rooms and test the air quality, unfortunately, there is still no determined cause as to why the sprinkler went off, despite 3 possible scenarios being presented.  Bottom line for us parents -- we don't want sprinklers going off during school, potentially soaking our children with freezing cold water.  We don't want sprinklers going off at night, causing any more water damage to our classrooms.  We want the cause of the sprinkler malfunction identified and fixed.  End of story.  And oh yeah, we are crossing our fingers that the air quality test results, which according to the power point are due later this week, will not show a resurgence of mold.  Stay tuned.

Board Member Questions:

In typical fashion, the only two board members to ask any questions this week were Mr. Heneghan and Ms. Garg.  A continued thanks to both of these board members for asking the tough questions many of us have also identified.  It is our opinion, that the administration would rather ignore and disrespect the substance of many of the questions, rather than make a real effort to answer them.  Here are but a few examples:

Mr. Heneghan asked the following question regarding the Seminal Document on the Learning for All Plan:

"Your superintendent report says the board requested "learning around the topic of the Learning for All Plan to take place over a series of Committee of the Whole meetings, with the first such session on January 23.' My recollection is that the board requested a documented written report describing the plan and specifically rejected the need for three meetings for learning about the plan.  When can we expect that written report?"

The Administration's answer:

"The administration is in the midst of crafting a document that provides an overview of the Learning for All Plan.  This document will include a high level summary, relevant background, terms, information on each of the six key components of the plan....a subjective/grade overview, and future considerations, among other sections.  For January 26, we anticipate the focus will be on the summary, background, terms and the six components as shared in the written document.  We will highlight math in the Learning for All Plan on February 9, and the remaining information will be highlighted on March 9."

Once again, let us simply say:  FLUFF AND DRIVEL!!!!!

Mr. Heneghan's question is simply not answered, is it?  WHY NOT?  And to suggest the administration is CRAFTING a document is probably an accurate descriptor.  Rather than WRITE the seminal document, something that should have been done THREE years ago, now someone, most likely Dr. Schneider, is CRAFTING a document.  And of course, there is still no mention of any QUANTITATIVE information being included in the report, rather words such as "subjective grade/overview" are used.

We would predict that Dr. White did not write this answer.  No doubt, he receives board member questions and then circulates them to the relevant administrative department for a response.  This question probably went to the Department of Learning and the answer was CRAFTED by Dr. Schneider, Ms. Benaitis or Mr. Walsh.  Will any of them OWN this answer during tonight's board meeting?  Will any board member other than Mr. Heneghan point out the obvious -- the administration is clearly not equipped with personnel capable of providing straight forward answers, information and data on curriculum matters.

A blind man can see that Dr. White needs to make a change in the Department of Learning leadership!

Another example of a non-answer comes to one of Ms. Garg's questions:

"How was Ian Jukes selected?  Who are the other experts for digital learning, especially for school districts?  Any that have been used by school districts in the Chicago Area?"

The Administration's answer:  "During the brainstorming process for an outside facilitator to assist in the educational technology process, Ian Jukes was suggested due to his extensive experience in the field, and my expertise in this area."

Notice how the answer does NOT identify WHO in the administration suggested Mr. Jukes?  Was it Dr. Schneider or someone else?  Why isn't the person identified?  But more importantly, why weren't ANY OTHER technology experts even considered?  Sorry, but this is not the way a $67,000 "expert" should be selected by ANY district!

On the technology front, Mr. Heneghan asked:

"The report says that 'increased technology access is required to implement the New Illinois Learning Standards Incorporating the Common Core.  Is it the administration's position that D181 does not have the technology resources that are required to implement the Illinois Learning Standards?  If so what technology purchases are required to implement these standards?"

Mr. Heneghan's first question should have been answered with a YES or NO.  Instead, a long winded response is given about the history to the new Learning Standards and then the statement is made:

"As we move through the various curriculum renewal processes that will align us with these new standards, we expect to continue seeing increased demand for technology access and related professional development. We believe the Digital Learning Initiative will bring together all stakeholders under a uniform vision that establishes guidelines which will inform our curriculum renewal and technology purchasing decision making, and expect to make recommendations for purchases at the completion of the initiative."

So Mr. Heneghan's question was NOT answered at all.  Rather, justification for hiring Mr. Jukes is all the response appears to address.  Well, as D181 parents and taxpayers, we say NO WAY!

Enough is enough.  We believe this is nothing more than another attempt by the administration to try and convince the board to implement one-to-one technology.  Those attempts have failed in the past and so far the administration has been unsuccessful in providing any meaningful or "best practice" data to justify this.  But how much you want to bet that if Mr. Jukes is hired, one of his recommendations will be implementing one-to-one technology!

We certainly hope the BOE -- the current one, but more importantly the future one -- does not fall for this drivel.  We know we sound harsh, but frankly, we are fed up with the non-answers, non-data, non-substance that keeps coming out of the mouths of the administrators attempting to respond to board member curriculum or technology related questions.

In addition, to suggest that we -- a lucrative, high achieving district -- must revamp our technology in order to successfully implement the new standards, makes us wonder what the less lucrative, less fortunate, lower achieving districts must be facing.  How will THEY EVER successfully implement the new learning standards?  We are not fooled.  We believe -- and perhaps the administration can prove us wrong -- that the technology initiative is unnecessary at this time, the hiring of Mr. Jukes will be a waste of taxpayer money and it is time for the HIGHLY PAID Central Office administrators to each work a little harder, do a little research of their own and stop hiring OUTSIDE consultants to do their work!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Board Docs for the 1/12/15 Board Meeting Raise Serious Concerns about Administrative Recommendations to the Board

As we reported yesterday, Board Docs for Monday's Committee of the Whole Board meeting are now available at 1/12/15 BOE meeting agenda. Not only are the meeting agenda and superintendent's report completely devoid of any mention of the HMS Sprinkler malfunction that took place on January 8 causing water damage to five classrooms, the agenda is also disappointing in that it raises serious questions about the validity of committee reports Dr. White is suggesting be presented at future meetings, issues with the 3 upcoming Learning For All Plan BOE discussions, appears to reveal another Schneider "Bubble" of collaboration with an "expert" that the BOE will be asked to approve at a future meeting and issues with the process the administration used to select the Math Pilot Resources the BOE is being asked to approve.  

Let's take a closer look.

Committee Reports:

Dr. White's report suggests that at future board meetings, a board member and administrator serving on various  Board Committees (Facilities, Superintendents Advisory Learning, PTO Presidents, Finance and Technology) make short presentations so that all board members will be informed about what each committee is doing. (See Dr. White's Report.) In theory, that is a great idea and one that is a long time coming. The problem we have identified is who is really going to be preparing the report that is given to the board? Will it be the designated board member or administrator, or will they work together to prepare the report? How will a board member who doesn't attend the committee meetings on a regular basis be able to really contribute to the full board report or better yet, answer questions he/she may be asked by the full board?  

Case in point -- Glenn Yaeger -- who has been called out in the past for not regularly attending the Finance Committee Meetings. (See 4/9/14 Post.) We asked ourselves, has he been a regular attendee since these accusations were lodged? If not, why would Dr.White designate him as the reporting board member? Sadly, Mr. Yaeger has continued his chronic absenteeism as is evidenced by the online Committee Meeting Minutes we accessed at on the D181 website.  

The minutes reflect Mr. Yaeger's absence from 6 of the 8 meetings held in 2014:  2/6, 3/6, 5/8, 6/12, 7/29, 11/5. It appears he only attended meetings on 4/16 and 9/18/14.  Perhaps, as he stated at the 4/7/14 meeting, he only continues to "monitor the agenda, Gary informs me what's going on."  If that is the case, then why isn't Mr. Clarin the board member who will present the report to the full board?  The minutes reflect near perfect attendance by Mr. Clarin. Why pretend like Mr. Yaeger actually has first hand knowledge about what transpired at the finance committee meetings?  It makes no sense!  Only active, engaged board members who attend and participate at committee meetings on a regular basis should be presenting reports to the full Board of Education.  Come on Dr. White, get it right!

Upcoming Learning For All Board Discussions -- WHERE IS THE SEMINAL DOCUMENT?:

Last month we praised the board and Dr. White for refusing to rubber stamp Dr. Schneider's plan for presentations to the BOE spread over 3 months on the Learning for All Plan.  (See 12/9/14 Post.) Now we are left speechless by the Administration's apparent total disregard of the BOE's directive that a "Seminal Document" be created and presented to the board. Where the heck is the Seminal Document?  It certainly is not included in the 1/12/15 Board Docs. Instead, Dr. White's Report once again lays out plans for 3 presentations over the next 3 months by the Department of Learning and only briefly mentions the creation of a report without a date certain of when it will be ready. Worse yet, despite insistence by several board members, including Gary Clarin, that the report provide quantitative data on how the LFA plan has worked out over the last 3 years, there is NO MENTION of any quantitative data being presented to the board. Instead, the Administration simply states a report is being prepared and the three meetings will include a discussion of key terms in the plan, definitions, and "updates to the major components (Math, ELA, Social Studies, Structural Support, RTI) and their related actions" and "where the system is in terms of timeliness and next steps."  (See Dr. White's Report.)


Saturday, January 10, 2015

John Czerwiec, Candidate for the D181 Board of Education, is "Jay Wick"

Yesterday, "Jay Wick" -- one of our readers who has regularly posted insightful and relevant comments to our blog posts -- submitted two comments.  The first reveals that he is running for the D181 School Board and that his real name is John Czerwiec. The comment explains his blog nickname, reasons why he has chosen to run for the school board and identifies some of the election issues.  His second comment addresses D181 facilities issues. Thank you Mr. Czerwiec for your openness.  We appreciate that you have thrown your hat into the ring, making this a contested election that will allow community members to educate themselves on all issues and all candidates before casting their votes on who should represent the community on the D181 school board.

Below, with Mr. Czerwiec's permission, we have copied as a free standing post the comments he submitted.  

jay_wick said...
I have entered my name for the BOE election.

It pains me a little to oppose any Hinsdale Caucus endorsed candidates as I know what a shoestring budget the Caucus operates on. I have in the past been active in the Hinsdale Caucus (at several levels, including a member of the D181 Nominating Committee, Clarendon Hills Section Head and Executive Board) I cannot abide by their decision to endorse the incumbent. Information has come to light that suggests folks with an agenda that is odds with openness steered the selection toward the incumbent.

The record of the titular head of the BOE has been one of declining performance and increasing costs. Coupled with the lack of transparency this terrible combination does not merit another term.

In the interest of increasing responsiveness, I look forward to seeing as many community members as possible at the candidates night that Dr. White has tentatively scheduled for February 12th. I will soon be setting up my own web site to help people understand the issues. I will continue to post here as well.

I do sympathize with the desire of some folks to remain anonymous on this site. My own "blogger alias" was something I set up long before I started visiting the Parents for Accountability and Transparency site. The nickname is a play on the Anglicization of the my last name, though I can't entirely take credit for it. My grandfather, uncles and father all worked in the family business and in the early days of radio advertising it was decided that Czerwiec was a fine surname but "if you need lumber or building materials just say "Sir-Wick" had more of ring and that has sorta stuck.

With my son and daughter both already at CHMS I running as much for the many neighbors that might not yet have kids in school or those whose kids have moved on, not to mention the many residents that choose to send to their children to private schools -- the financial challenges that the district is facing must be met head on to preserve the the desirability of all towns served by D181 as well as ensure a sound and sustainable future for not just those living with no limits to their largesse but those like my own mother, retired property owners with a very modest fixed retirement income.

I served several terms on the Finance Committee of Notre Dame Parish in Clarendon Hills where we faced many challenges include ongoing leaks with new construction. Only by working with staff and contractors were we able to get these problems addressed in an equitable way. Similarly the "little things" often made the difference between a budget that stayed on track or one that would force cuts. The hard work of dedicated volunteers with expertise in accounting and finance was vital to modernizing our record keeping and managing the unpredictable inflows we faced.

I have similarly seen the value of volunteers when I served on the Home Rule Exploratory Committee. Although we learned much about how Illinois law might afford some flexibility to smaller towns, the ideologues capitalized on baseless fears.

The interesting thing about Home Rule is when I lived in Oak Brook and rose to the Presidency of the Civic Association I was skeptical about the potential benefits of Home Rule for the Village. When voters defeated the initiative I worked with the elected Village Board to persuade Springfield to separate out the setting of local sales tax and that has served Oak Brook well. I think this highlights the value of being results oriented and not being overly driven by ideology.

That said anyone that has no core values other their own desire to remain in office will dance to the tune set by kingmakers or powerbrokers that slate folks for higher office have no place on a school board. By maximizing transparency everyone will clearly see the best operation of an elected body and not be snowed by happy talk that obscures real problems.
January 9, 2015 at 1:56 PM
jay_wick said...


Board Docs for Monday's (1/10) Committee of the Whole Meeting at Monroe School has been posted. There is no agenda item dealing with the Sprinkler Malfunction at Hinsdale Middle School.  There is no mention of the incident in the Superintendent's Report. When will the BOE be allowed to publicly discuss this incident -- including causes, damage, costs and future ramifications? Will it really require one of our more responsible  board members (and we all who who they are) asking for it to be added to the agenda? How disappointing -- AGAIN.

Friday, January 9, 2015

UPDATE on Sprinkler Incident at HMS -- Disappointing Effort by Administration to Inform the Entire D181 Community

This afternoon the Hinsdale Middle School principal sent a second email, to HMS parents only, addressing the Sprinkler Head malfunction in Room 215. It stated:

"Dear Parents,
I would like to provide an update of the facilities at HMS.  
I want to reiterate that the amount of water released this year is far less than what we experienced last year.  All of the water has been cleaned up and all of the affected classrooms have been used throughout the day.  We are currently missing a small portion of ceiling tiles in two rooms, some baseboards have been removed and a small portion of drywall has been removed in two rooms.
Dehumidifiers and fans will be turned on at the end of the school day.  District staff will continue round the clock monitoring of HMS.
 In regard to whether or not this is a repeat of the issues from January 2014, there are several important differences to note:
•    This issue was caused by the release of water from a sprinkler head, not a burst pipe.
•    This issue took place on the 2nd floor, not the 3rd floor.
•    We proactively had assigned staff to monitor HMS 24/7 on cold weather days.
•    We have worked to ensure that classrooms, offices, hallways, and other areas such as storage and maintenance rooms are properly heated.
Thank you again for your patience as we work to resolve these issues.
Have a great weekend,
This email was sent to HMS parents only. It was not until 4 p.m. that a communication, of sorts, was sent to all D181 parents and key communicators in the D181 Newsletter. This newsletter which is copied in its entirety below, in our opinion borders on the same type of "needle in a haystack" cover that the Schuster administration used to deploy to avoid dealing with an issue directly and UP FRONT!  As we can all recall, Schuster's administration used to bury the facts deep within documents and newsletters they published. This newsletter seems like more of the same.
You will note that rather than front load the newsletter with the CURRENT incident that occurred last night, an incident that of course everyone should know and care about since after all, $2 million of taxpayer money was spent last winter to remediate the flood/mold fiasco at HMS, only a brief mention of the sprinkler incident is included as the 7th of 8 items discussed in the newsletter.  
Really?  And let's look carefully at what the newsletter says, or rather, fails to say about the incident. Unlike the first email that was only sent to HMS parents at 6 a.m. this morning, there is no mention that FIVE rooms sustained water damage.  Only 1 room is mentioned in the community wide newsletter. And the incident is described as a "minor" incident.  The phrase "the amount of water released was far less than last year" is smoke and mirrors. How much water was actually released in the 15 minutes the sprinkler head went off?  One gallon, two, fifty, one hundred?  What kind of damage was sustained, to books, papers, supplies, dry wall, and any other property that was in the 5 classrooms?  
But more importantly, why is there no explanation of why a sprinkler head would mysteriously go off, one year to the day that the second pipe burst at HMS due to cold weather, which of course the entire district was once again experiencing this week leading to the closure of all our schools for 2 days.  Did the cold weather cause the sprinkler head to trigger?  And if so, how?  If not, what caused it to go off?  Sure the newsletter says the district is "working to determine the cause," but it is quite troubling that a full day after the incident, the cause is not known.  What if the sprinkler head had deployed during school hours?  What if it had soaked students?  How do we know this sprinkler head, or others, won't deploy again?  Finally, the newsletter mentions that FOUR fire departments were involved in the "minor incident."  When we read this we laughed since a four alarm incident could hardly be classified as "minor!"  
Come on White administration -- you can do better than try and bury or minimize this incident!  Don't repeat the mistakes of the Schuster administration!

D181 Newsletter (we have highlighted in RED the sprinkler incident):

Deja Vu? Sprinklers Rain Down Again on Hinsdale Middle School.

What the heck is going on at Hinsdale Middle School?  Is it jinxed in some way? One year to the day after last year's second burst pipe at HMS, a "sprinkler head" malfunctioned last night in Room 215, spraying that room and five others with an undetermined amount of water for at least 15 minutes.

At least that is the information HMS parents were provided this morning at 6 a.m. in an email the district sent them. The text of that email reads:

"Dear Parents,

On Thursday evening, 1-8-15, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a sprinkler head failed in room 215.  The Hinsdale Fire Department responded to the alarm and shut the water off within 15 minutes. (The amount of water released was far less than last year.) The water damage was limited to 5 rooms due to the fire department and building staff working quickly to contain and begin cleaning up the water.  The Hinsdale Fire Department has given us permission to have school on Friday so district staff will be working throughout the night to have the building ready for the morning.

There is a possibility that some of the rooms may be missing ceiling tiles or baseboards will have been "pulled" to allow the walls to thoroughly dry.  We will have fans running to maintain good airflow and will secure dehumidifiers to aid in the drying.
Dr. White has had numerous conversations with myself and the Building and Grounds Director, Mike Vilendrer  throughout the night so he could have a thorough understanding of the events and stay updated on the progress.  Before students arrive in the morning he will be assessing the building to see first hand the condition of the affected rooms.

I personally want to assure you that maintaining a safe and secure learning environment is of the utmost importance to myself and all of the staff of Hinsdale Middle School.  We thank you for your support and your flexibility as we quickly resolve this issue.
Ruben Pena"

The community deserves answers and FAST! Why did the sprinkler head fail? What specific rooms were compromised? Were they the same "sick" rooms that were infested with mold last year? Will the clean up ensure that no new mold begins growing behind the dry wall in those five rooms? What will it cost this time to fix the new mess? 

Below, we are providing our readers with links to the posts we published last year during the HMS Pipe Bursting/Mold Crisis. You can read them to refresh your memories on the rooms that were damaged and infested with mold. They will also remind you that one of the biggest problems last year was poor communication to parents, teachers and the community about the true nature of what was happening at HMS. Let's hope that Dr. White and his new operations and maintenance administrators shine a very bright beacon of light on this whole situation, rather than try and shutter it in a dark (and wet) room the way Dr. Schuster and Board President Turek did last year...

In addition, we are copying below the comments we have received so far on this new situation.

Links to last year's posts:


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