Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Year -- We Hope!

Happy New Year to all our readers.  After ringing out the old year with the celebrated and welcomed departure of Dr. Schuster and the arrival of Dr. White, it is our sincerest hope that 2015 will be filled with more positive change for D181.

Our hopes for the D181 Administration:

A calm, of sorts, has settled over the district as Dr. White has spent his first six months getting to know his administrators, teachers, students and district parents.  We give Dr. White a grade of "B-" for the job he has done so far.  He would probably have earned closer to an "A" if he had made what we believe are necessary changes to the Department of Learning.  Rather than promoting Kurt Schneider to run the entire department (regular education services, gifted education services and special education services), and changing Dawn Benaitis' job description and responsibilities to provide her with more "duck and cover" from her inability (in our opinion) to effectively serve as director of assessment, Dr. White should have hired real experts in the areas of curriculum and assessment to run the Department of Learning, make data driven decisions and fix (once and for all) the Learning for All mess.

We want to express our continuing hope that well before the board votes on the possible renewal of any administrators' contracts (by April 1, 2014 -- and something that unfortunately will be one of the last acts the current BOE votes on before the new board is seated), Dr. White will announce that real change will take place for the 2015-2016 school year.  We hope that he either recommends that Dr. Schneider be reassigned to oversee Special Ed only -- since that was what he was originally hired to do -- or that his contract not be renewed at all.  In addition, we hope Dr. White will not recommend renewing Ms. Benaitis' contract.  If he chooses to recommend her contract renewal or the continuation of Dr. Schneider as Assistant Superintendent of the entire Department of Learning, we expect the Board of Education to seriously question these recommendations and do more than simply rubber stamp them.  Instead, the BOE should ask Dr. White to publicly discuss what value both of these administrators have brought to the district in their current jobs, and what specifically they have done to fix the problems caused by their insistence on implementing the Learning for All Plan over the last three years.

Our hopes for the Board of Education:

We are thrilled to report that there will be change on the D181 Board of Education following the April 7 election.  As everyone knows, 4 seats are up for election.  Good riddance to Mike Nelson and Glen Yaeger who thankfully have chosen not to run for reelection.  Nelson's chronic absenteeism and Yaeger's nasty attitude towards community members will not be missed.  Sadly, Brendan Heneghan will also be stepping off the board.  We cannot thank him enough for all of the positive things he has advocated for and the tough questions he has asked about the curriculum debacle the Schuster administration created.  Mr. Heneghan, your integrity, commitment, hard work, preparation for and participation during board meetings will be missed but not forgotten.

So we will definitely have 3, hopefully 4, new board members.  Mr. Turek, as everyone already knows, has chosen to run for reelection.  In our opinion, that is a real shame because we believe he has done a horrendous job as a publicly elected official.  We have already published a list of 13 reasons why he should not be reelected, and our list will continue to grow.  The list is made up Mr. Turek's specific actions, statements and positions over the last couple of years in his capacity not only as a board member, but also as the Board President.  We hope our readers will carefully consider his actions and agree with our conclusion that he must not be reelected.

So who will fill the four board seats?  The D181 election will be contested and not just decided with
the rubber stamping by the community of the four candidates the "Caucus" selected.  In addition to Turek, the following five D181 residents (in alphabetical order) have filed petitions:

Jennifer Burns
John Czerwiec
Richard Giltner
Leslie Gray
Amy Antrim McCurry

In the next couple of months we will post information on each of these candidates.  We encourage all of you to "school yourselves" on the positions the five candidates take on education issues.  We look forward to hearing what they have to say during live debates and reading their press interviews and answers they give to the local press's questions. For now, we have chosen to simply let our readers sound off.  We have already received comments about the candidates from readers who submitted them to our series on reasons not to reelect Marty Turek.  The comments are copied below for all to read.

Let us know what you think about some of the concerns our readers have raised -- especially as they relate to the candidate who will bring an obvious conflict of interest to the BOE should she be elected.

Tomorrow we will continue our series on Marty Turek, so please check back!  In the meantime, we hope for a very short Polar Vortex this year!  Stay inside and stay warm everyone!

Reader Comments on Candidates (other than Turek):

HMS Parent said...
I just read in the online Doing's that the D181 election will be contested. That is a relief. So glad that John Czerwiec is running. He is super smart, has been attending board meetings for years on a regular basis, is well versed in district issues and always asks the board responsible questions and makes meaningful observations during public comment. Good Luck John. You have my vote and I hope that you ensure that Turek will not be reelected.

I was disappointed, however, to read that Amy McCurry is running for D181. She is a paid parent liaison for the district who reports directly to Dr. Schneider. I find it curious that she submitted her candidacy paperwork in the last hour of the petition window. Could it be that someone put her up to it hoping to stack the board with a "loyal soldier"? More importantly, should she win, won't it be a conflict of interest to have a board member who is also a paid employee of the district? How will she be able to vote on any issue that she is involved in directly or indirectly as a paid employee -- in SPED, SELAS and Curriculum issues? She told the Doing's reporter I that she will "likely" step down if she wins. I think she needs to commit to resigning from her paid D181 position if she really expects anyone to take her seriously as a candidate. 
Anonymous said...
I agree. How on earth can Mccurry run???? Is the administration trying to stack the deck because they don't like the candidate pool? It reminds me of the learning committee debacle. If McCurry wants to run she needs to step down from her paid district job NOW. I also find the timing of her filing curious. According to the election web site she filed mere minutes before the end of a 6 day filing period. Something is fishy indeed.
Anonymous said...
Ms. McCurry told the Doings that she "would likely" resign from her paid district position if she is elected as a BOE member. Remember folks that Mr. Clarin told the voters when he was running that he would not be involved in teacher negotiations if he won the election. Look how well that turned out. I believe he was the lead negotiator and reports indicate that we left a lot of money on the table.
Anonymous said...
A D181 employee running for school board is an obvious conflict of interest. Surely there are rules to prevent something such as this from happening and, if not, it is obvious that it is inappropriate/unethical. Even if she were to win and resign, she will depend on the district and Dr. Schneider for job references and possible future jobs going forward potentially both during and after her term. This fact alone is enough to create divided loyalties and the inability to be completely objective and put the needs of D181 students first. This, in addition to the close relationships developed when working with the administration would prevent McCurry from doing the job she would have been elected to do. I, too, find the timing of the filing more than a little suspect. She must be a pawn in this "game". Another biased voiced related to Schneider. Add a bubble for her Parents.
Anonymous said...
It's obvious McCurry decided to jump into the candidate pool because she is supporting her boss, Schneider. 
Anonymous said...
I have nothing against McCurry personally. I know very little about her. But it is such a conflict for her to run. She inherently is biased and there should be a rule to prevent this. I will not vote for her.
Anonymous said...
I don't know who Amy McCurry is. She's probably a nice person and as a resident of this community, probably qualified to sit on the BOE. However, because she works for the district, she should not be allowed to run for the BOE. I agree that it's a conflict of interest and there should be rules/policiies in place to prevent this from happening. 
Anonymous said...
I too do not know Ms. McCurry. However, I am confused about why she is running. Why would she give up a paid district job in exchange for an unpaid BOE position? In the Doings article (thanks bloggers for directed me to it) she said she was running because she "felt like she had something to offer." It seems to me that she could exert more influence in her current paid position than in the unpaid BOE one. All of this has me scratching my head. There is something missing to this puzzle, especially when you factor in the timing of her application and the fact that she did not go through the caucus process. I think that missing something is her boss - Dr. Schneider. I am so sick and tired of his underhanded unethical dealings. I urge the administration and BOE to adopt some policies to prevent district staff and their spouses from serving on the BOE. There are plenty of other candidates that are qualified.
Anonymous said...
I actually feel sorry for McCurry. I bet she has no idea that she is being used as a pawn in Dr. Schneider's game of chess. This new board will decide Dr. Schneider's fate with the district. I bet Dr. Schneider is a little nervous and wants a few friends on the board.

The board of education and the administration need to be separate entities. Having a district employee as a member of the boe creates divided loyalties on a whole host of issues, including the hiring and firing of administration officials. It is just wrong and it offends me as a taxpayer.
Anonymous said...
I am glad John Czerwiec is running. I will vote for all of the endorsed candidates except for Turek, and vote for John instead.


    Anonymous said...

    Thank you bloggers for this post! A few thoughts:
    It is terrible that the current board will be voting on the administrators' contracts for the next school year. That is wrong on so many levels, especially since the election is one week after the contract renewal votes must be taken. Isn't there anything Dr. White can do to delay the contract votes until the new board is seated?

    Also, I will be voting for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray. Turek is an easy NO VOTE. He should be embarrassed about the running list of reasons why people should not vote for him. I will be horrified if he is reelected. As for McCurry, I agree with all of the earlier reader comments. Her current employment with D181 creates a conflict of interest that will not be eliminated even if she resigns. She will need D181 reference letters for future jobs and will be beholden to the administrator -- Kurt Schneider -- who she reports to now. In my opinion, all of her votes, especially if they deal with Schneider's employment will be tainted by a lack of objectivity. Perhaps it would be best if she removed herself as a candidate.

    Anonymous said...

    You have been generous with your B grade for Don White. In my book, a B grade means above average. This is not the case. The promotion of Kurt Schneider earns White a failing grade, F. I haven't seen any changes to Schuster's plan - White is continuing the status quo. I'm not impressed.
    I'm glad the upcoming election will mean change on board. I too will vote for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray.

    Elementary parent said...

    Change is needed, both administratively and on the Board. Schneider and Benaitis need to go. If White takes this important step and hires a real curriculum leader then D181 will turn a corner back to being a district of excellence for ALL students again and you can give him an A+. If he doesn't see that this change is needed, then I agree, he should get an F. On the BOE, Turek has had 4 years to improve the district and in those 4 years, there has been nothing but chaos and crisis -- at the building level (moldgate at HMS) and throughout the district with the Learning for All plan ruining the curriculum. He was fully supportive of this plan from day one and never demanded the accountability or data to show how it was working once it became clear it was riddled with problems. Only an idiot would vote for him. The board should avoid any direct or indirect conflicts, so McCrurry should not be elected. I too will vote for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray.

    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.

    The Parents said...

    Thank you Mr. Czerwiec for disclosing that you are Jay Wick. We would like to post your comment as a free standing post so that all of our readers will be sure to read it. Do you have any objections?

    jay_wick said...

    Post away...