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:

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 #4: During 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 PostAs 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.
Reason #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.

Reason #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.

Reason #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.

Reason #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.

Reason #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. 

Reason #14:  One year ago, as a result of cold air from the Polar Vortex filling the poorly insulated walls at Hinsdale Middle School, 2 pipes burst on January 4 and January 8.  The flooding and clean up of the building resulting from the burst pipe ultimately led to the discovery of the 20 year mold infestation in the building, the closure of the middle school and split schedules for all students at HMS and CHMS.  It cost $2 million of tax payer money to strip and replace most of the dry wall in HMS and clean up the mold. In our opinion, from the onset of the HMS crisis, as the board president, Mr. Turek mishandled the situation.  As president, he had (or should have had) direct contact with the superintendent, who as we all learned later, was "on vacation" even while students were returning to school after winter break.  (See 1/12/14 Post.) Not only was she on vacation at the onset of the crisis, but communications that were sent to parents did not explain the seriousness or gravity of the situation. Board meeting agendas (set by the board president -- Mr. Turek -- and the superintendent) did not include information regarding the crisis.   It took two teachers exposing the true nature of the situation at the January 13, 2014 board meeting before the community was finally made aware that more was going on than a burst pipe and that teachers believed there was a mold issue.  At the January 13 meeting, Mr. Turek was quick to scramble and claim that a discussion of the HMS environmental concerns was on the agenda for board discussion, but as we pointed out in our 1/15/14 Post, anyone who reviewed the Board Meeting agenda would have been unable to find a discussion item regarding these concerns.  Mr. Turek tried to suggest that the Facilities Committee report that was on the agenda was intended to cover this topic, but the materials posted on Board docs proved otherwise.  D181 deserves board members who will be fully transparent with information, especially during a health and building crisis, will proactively provide information and ensure that the full board discusses the issues at the first opportunity.  D181 does not need a board member/president who avoids setting important health and safety issues on board meeting agendas and when "outed" about the gravity of the situation, will twist, spin and misrepresent the true nature of the agenda items.  As the board president, Mr. Turek should have used his common sense and understood the importance of putting the HMS crisis on the 1/13 board meeting agenda -- front and center.  His failure to do so is yet another example of his poor leadership and reason why he must not be reelected.


Anonymous said...

Here's the bottom line: It is absolutely ridiculous that after all of these years there is still not a document that states not only what the L4All plan is but also what the changes the administration put forth and forced on students and teachers as part of the plan and to achieve its goals. Dr. Schneider and Dr. White have chosen to blame the previous administrators. I don't buy it because Dr. Schneider was part of every committee, working group, consultant's meeting and presentation about the L4All plan since he joined this district. It is irrelevant if the plan was his idea initially, irrelevant if he agreed with all of its aspects. What IS relevant is that he was/is the senior administrator in charge of the development and implementation of the plan and always has been. Dawn Benaiitis has also been a senior architect of the plan. Yet neither of them can tell us what changes were made at a global level, what is happening at each school nor, most importantly, whether or not it is working. How is it that a document outlining such sweeping changes as inclusive classrooms, elimination of elementary ACE program and gifted pull-outs, lowered identification cut-offs for middle school ELA and advanced math classes, doesn't exist but also cannot be produced or created in a week, much less a whole month?! Have they forgotten the changes they've made? Has the BOE forgotten the changes they have approved under this plan? Was anyone besides Brendan Heneghan and Yvonne Mayer paying attention??!! Did anyone listen to any of the dozens of parents who wrote to the administration and BOE and spoke at the meetings. It is very clear that either none of the BOE members were listening, paid attention or bothered to make the time to understand what they were approving and/or how it would be implemented in the classroom. Yes, there were a few teachers who participated on committees but there were far more that disapproved of the changes. There were many social workers and librarians who thought the concept of "learning for all" sounded peachy and SELAS'y but no one seemed to care enough about what would happen to our childrens' math and language arts education to do some independent investigation or to ask for data after a year of implementation or to put Dr. Schneider on the spot and ask him questions such as why we stopped math compacting and acceleration, what has been the result of moving more students to middle school accelerated math? What have the teachers said about heterogenous, inclusive math classrooms. No, the BOE is too afraid of "offending" the administration so they sit there nodding their heads pretending what is happening when they, except Garg and Heneghan, don't understand what the plan is and what it did. Oh, and those parents who spoke at BOE meetings? They were/are dismissed as overachieving parents of kids who only cared that their students have lost the gifted label. The BOE gambled that they new better. And they were wrong. Our children's chance is gone thanks to them.

Anonymous said...

If the district BOE really wants to know how this ambiguous "plan" is working, they should survey the classroom teachers. Their voices have been lost in all of this. They couldn't speak up before in fear of retaliation under Schuster, but Dr. White is different. He seems very open to change and listening to staff, without silencing their questions or concerns. My only suggestion is that he (not the people currently working under him who have created this "plan" or worked for Schuster) create and distribute a comprehensive, anonymous survey. Perhaps one should be geared to teachers and another can be distributed out to parents (I believe Garg asked for this in the past). The concerns at each level and building are unique and need to be vetted before burying heads in the sand and pushing forward with something that simply doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about getting the teachers involved in a meaningful way. Candid grade-level and subject specific feedback is needed and should be able to be provided without fear of repercussions.

Anonymous said...

If parents are interested in the "lost voices" of the teachers regarding the implementation of Learning for All, consider opening up a blog entry for teachers to post.

The Parents said...

Great idea!

Anonymous said...

It is definitely a start, but I think that it would be unlikely to get a fair representation of opinions on this blog from teachers. There have only been a few teacher posts since the blog's creation and they weren't received well by those within 181. Dare I say they sparked a witch hunt for the anonymous bloggers? Teachers posting their concerns publicly would understandably be frowned upon by their evaluators and viewed as unprofessional. The feedback needs to be "solution driven" and comprehensive. There is probably a better, safer forum for doing so. Hopefully, the administration will see a need and provide that outlet.

The Parents said...

10:03: We understand what you're saying but will probably create a post in case any teacher wants to submit a comment. You are right, however, that there have been witchhunts since this blog was started. Rumor has it that the past administration kept accusing parents of being the bloggers. No one fessed up. And of course no one is going to because of the repercussions and fear of retaliation against the bloggers' children. The sad reality is that this blog would not need to exist if the administration and BOE created meaningful alternative forums for people to express their concerns and opinions. For example, host regular Townhall meetings open to everyone to come and vent. Or circulate real surveys that ask the tough questions, not just the fluff ball, superficial ones that past surveys have presented. And of course present actual data that has been analyzed by someone competent to do so in order that the Board of Education, our elected officials, can actually discuss what has been happening, what has worked, what hasn't and what needs to change. Why are they so afraid of doing any of these things?

Anonymous said...

Check out the learning for all document on board docs.

I was at the board meetings when the advanced learning plan, which later became learning for all, was approved. The premise was accelerating all students. Raise the floor to raise the ceiling was repeated a thousand times by Dr. Schneider.

Under this plan, no one can be accelerated unless they have an RtI. No one! Doesn't sound like a high performing district to me. Is Oakbrook, our competitor, doing this? No! They will get into Harvard, we will not. Our kids will now not be able to compete for the elite schools because it is bad to place labels on kids. We need fully "integrated" classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Ironically, Dr. Schneider keeps telling us to TRUST "his" people from Harvard, yet he isn't giving our children the opportunities and preparation that all of those "experts" benefitted from in order to get into those schools.

He also ignores parents with critical thinking skills - from Harvard or not. We are being ignored and criticized for not blindly trusting him. While our children are being taught to be critical thinkers and provide evidence and justification to support their ideas, the administrators do not have to?!? Perhaps if Schneider had the education, training OR experience in regular or gifted education, we could trust him. But he doesn't. And when we ask for specific answers, he becomes silent and haughty. He wants us to all sit mutely and ignore the fact that, not only does he not know what he is doing, he has made no attempt to find out what he SHOULD be doing to rectify this mess.

Anonymous said...

Comment at 9:12am: I agree with everything you say other than the part about our children being taught to be critical thinkers. Their education has been so watered down because of Schneider, Schuster, Benaitis, etc. and unfortunately, Dr. White has just allowed this horrible situation to continue. So disgusted with him and I had such high hopes.

This latest document about Learning for All is laughable. Unfortunately, it's my children's education we are talking about and I'm not laughing.

Monroe Parent