Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our Fact Based Endorsements for the D181 BOE: BURNS, CZERWIEC, GILTNER and GRAY

Before spring break writer's cramp sets in, we thought we would offer up our candidate endorsements as the election fast approaches on Tuesday, April 7. This election, more so than in years past, is crucial and a potential game changer for the district. In order for that to happen, parents must be well informed before going to the polls or submitting ballots through early voting. Make no mistake: every vote will count and will make a difference regarding the future direction of the district.
But before we launch into our endorsements, we would like to be very clear in our approach. Yes, we have opinions about the candidates and who should be elected. But our endorsements are also centered on fact. Let's compare this approach with the vapid, ill-informed editors of a local paper. Their recent endorsements of McCurry and Turek, we believe were mostly based on opinions, not on facts. Yes, that lack of journalistic integrity was front and center for all to see in their last edition. Remember, the editors do not have children in D181 schools, nor are they qualified to make claims that, for example, the Learning for All plan should continue, which seemed to form the basis for their endorsement of McCurry and Turek. This is irresponsible and unacceptable. 
So, we are approaching our endorsements with solid facts, track records, and experience because our kids have experienced the unfettered, unproven changes during the past several years that have caused great turmoil and frustration. We have a stake in this, and we want the best for all district children. At this point, we do not believe the D181 administration has the leadership and competence to move the district to a better place. It will take an engaged BOE to demand accountability, something that hasn't happened in several years.

We will be voting for the following candidates (listed in alphabetical order) and we hope you do too:  Jennifer Burns, John Czerwiec, Richard Giltner and Leslie Gray.  

These four candidates have the following practical things in common that we believe position them to best serve the district's students and taxpayers:

1.  They are parents of current D181 students.
2.  They do not have any conflicts of interest that could influence their votes on board decisions they will be asked to make in the next four years.
3. They have provided thoughtful, substantive answers to the many questions they have been asked by the press and during the debates that show that they have a working knowledge and understanding of the current D181 curriculum issues, facilities issues, financial and tax levy related issues.   They are knowledgeable about pending legislation that could shift pension funding state funding to our district and the impact such a change might have on lowering available revenue. 
4. The answers they have given have been raw, honest and thorough.  They have not been afraid to identify areas of concern, explain why they are concerned and then address how they would like to see the BOE tackle the issues.  They have not used buzz words to deflect away from critical issues that need both the administration's and the BOE's immediate attention. The thorough answers they have given, during the debates and in their newspaper interviews, actually sound like them; rather than carefully crafted answers that may or may not have been prepared  by their supporters.
5.  They have identified decisions and issues that the BOE has addressed that lacked supporting data, and have represented that they intend to make data-driven decisions; not simply rubber stamp administrative recommendations, especially in the area of curriculum.   For nearly two years now we have been blogging about the lack of data, lack of accountability and negative impact the Learning for All Plan has had on our district's students.  It will be a refreshing change to have board members who will want to make data-driven decisions and will not simply accept whatever recommendations the administration makes.
6.  Similarly, they have made it clear that it is not their job to micromanage the district, but that what has been lacking is accountability for decisions that are made. 
7.  The answers they have given to financial questions have established that they will be fiscally conservative, not tax and spend board members. 
8. Three of them -- Burns, Czerwiec and Gray -- have been visible and regularly attended D181 BOE meetings for several years.  They did not just start attending the meetings after deciding to run for the school board. They have spoken respectfully during public comment as concerned parents and taxpayers on a variety of issues (which will be further elaborated below). While Giltner has not attended meetings for as long as Burns, Czerwiec and Gray have, he began regularly attending the BOE meetings well before deciding to run for the board and before going through the Caucus process.  He has continued to attend the BOE meetings since receiving the Caucus endorsement.  The answers he gave during the Clarendon Hills debate, in particular, evidence that he did not just show up at the meetings to be seen, rather, he carefully listened to the administrative presentations and BOE questions, especially on the Learning For All Plan, and has processed and understands the complexity of issues that the board is facing.  

Next we want to highlight some of the individual characteristics and accomplishments that make these four candidates the most qualified to serve our community for the next four years.  We are not simply going to list all of the things that they have done or identified during the debates or interviews. Instead, we will point out the things they said or did that mattered to us most.

Jennifer Burns:

As a parent in D181, Ms. Burns has already shown her commitment to our district through all of the multiple PTO, volunteer, and district-wide committees she has served on.  During the debates, Ms. Burns emphasized the need for the BOE to have a strategic plan in place that will guide their decisions over the next four years.  Her marketing, strategy and management background and experiences will enable her to participate and even take a leading role in the development of a meaningful strategic plan -- a road map showing where the district is now and where the BOE wants to take it -- not just an ever changing "process." Her financial background (MBA) will allow her to quickly grasp all of the financial issues the board will face and any tough financial decisions it might have to make.

Ms. Burns' temperament is calm, cool and collected.  We believe her when she says she wants to work collaboratively with her fellow board members and the administration, build consensus for decisions while expecting accountability from the superintendent.  We have listened to pod casts where Ms. Burns has made public comment, and she has been extremely respectful while presenting critical comments and concerns.  Ms. Burns has recognized the need for each learner's needs to be met, but believes the current Learning For All Plan is lacking in supporting data and it is time for the administration to analyze and present student performance data to establish whether or not the plan is working. We couldn't agree with her more.
John Czerwiec:
Mr. Czerwiec's passion for education, fiscal responsibility, transparency in government and accountability shine through all of the public comments he has made and answers he has given in interviews and during the debates.  He is not afraid to tell it the way he sees it, and this is a much needed characteristic to have in a board member.  As with the other three candidates, he has concerns about the Learning for All Plan and the lack of data to support what is currently happening in the classrooms; however, we have gleaned his position to be that he does not oppose more inclusive classrooms as long as they do not diminish the educational opportunities for any of our students. Mr. Czerwiec has been a teacher and understands the role of teachers as the front line soldiers educating our children.  We believe that if elected, his educational background, honesty and open mindedness will allow him to work collaboratively with his fellow board members and administrators to insist that performance data be analyzed and presented to the BOE before any more phases of the Learning for All Plan are rolled out. 
Mr. Czerwiec has presented his ideas and concerns on capital improvements relating to our schools to the BOE for over 5 years.  Those who have followed the history of improvements at Hinsdale Middle School know that years ago, when the BOE was selecting a vendor to install central air conditioning at HMS, he correctly forecasted some of the structural issues the building could face if the job wasn't done correctly.  Many of his concerns came to fruition last winter during "moldgate."   His astuteness and desire to thoroughly vet all capital improvement options before taking anything to referendum is exactly the kind of fiscally conservative approach we want our board members to take.  

Richard Giltner:  

We, the bloggers, have been attending or listening to BOE meetings for over a decade.  We have become quite familiar with the parents who regularly attend them, make public comments, and keep parents who don't attend informed. Mr. Giltner "joined the party," so to speak, about six months ago. We have been extremely impressed with how quickly he has grasped the multitude of issues that have enveloped the Learning for All Plan roll out and his common sense approach to evaluating it. The answers Mr. Giltner gave during the debates convinced us that not only has he recognized, as the other candidates we are endorsing, the need for student performance data to be analyzed and the program's success be measured with concrete data, he has also recognized that we cannot lose sight of our student's next educational step -- high school.  He has identified legitimate, real world realities, that our children will face the minute they get to high school, and are no longer taught with the  integrated services model that is currently being rolled out in D181. Instead, he has pointed out that in high school, there are multiple tiers of classes, from regular grade level classes, honors and AP classes, just as there are multiple tiers for sports, and other activities our children are involved in.  We look forward to a board member who will talk candidly about the "real world" and hopefully make this part of the discussion as the new BOE decides whether or not to continue the Learning For All Plan roll out as has recently been proposed.

Mr. Giltner's financial background will also serve our taxpayers well.  He should have no learning curve in understand the district's budget, budgeting process or tax levy process, and we hope that he steps onto the finance committee as one of the two board committee members.

Leslie Gray

Ms. Gray has been an extremely active parent, PTO and district level volunteer during the eight years she has lived in D181.  Time and again, she has shown her commitment toward improving the educational experiences for all of our children.  We have seen and heard her speak during public comment at Board Meetings for over two years and she has always presented her comments in a calm, professional manner, backing them up with facts and asking -- not telling-- the BOE and Administration to please make data-driven and fiscally responsible decisions.  She has asked for the district to consider implementing full-day kindergarten for our students, something that Dr. White has also now identified as an issue that should be explored.  Ms. Gray successfully started a petition that led to smaller class sizes at Monroe School.  As a concerned parent, she advocated for equitable distribution of differentiation specialists at our schools.  In the past, each school had one gifted teacher assigned to it regardless of size, but when their role was converted to that of differentiation specialists, Ms. Gray  advocated for a different approach to assigning the differentiation specialists at each school based upon actual student population and the specific student needs at each school.
Ms. Gray has had first hand knowledge of the impact on students of the Learning for All Plan.  One of her children was in the 3rd grade class that was forced to participate in the math compacting and acceleration for all component of the Learning For All Plan.  Ms. Gray not only presented her concerns during public comment about the negative impact the compacting was having on students who needed grade level math instruction, but she also worked behind the scenes, meeting collaboratively with the administration to bring back grade level instruction. Now, math compacting for all has been eliminated from the Learning For All Plan at the elementary level.  Ms. Gray, however, has publicly stated that student performance data must be collected, analyzed and reported to the BOE in order for them to be able to assess the success of all aspects of the Learning For All Plan over the last three years.  We agree.
Ms. Gray's legal training and experiences give her the necessary analytical skills to objectively evaluate issues and decisions the board will be asked to make in the next four years.  Her past legal work on tax matters establishes that she has a working understanding of the tax laws and will be able to jump right into the budgeting and tax levy process without first having to educate herself on the how to's.  The district is facing possible cuts in state funding and with a possible capital improvement referendum looming, Ms. Gray's answers to financial questions have established that she will not be a tax and spend board member. Rather she will show fiscal restraint and make the interests of all taxpayers one of her priorities, while balancing the need to improve the educational programs for our students.

Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray are the four candidates who will collectively bring to the board table over 30 years of active volunteer involvement in D181, advocacy for ALL of our children's educational needs and a stated intent to remain fiscally conservative and responsible to all taxpayers. If elected, we have no doubt that they will be responsible board members, who come prepared to all meetings, well versed in the agenda items and ready to have meaningful, open discussions that the public can hear.  

In addition to all of the collective and individual reasons we have given above for why we will vote for these 4 candidates on April 7th, we saved the best for last:

All four candidates have publicly acknowledged that what has been sorely lacking in D181 is a proper forum for parents to present their concerns on educational and district matters that affect and impact all students and taxpayers. Some have stated that the community engagement sessions offered in the past did not provide a real opportunity for community members to engage in a back and forth exchange of ideas. It is no secret that public comments are one way exchanges and questions community members ask during public comment are almost never addressed by an administrator or board member. Nor is it a secret that only two board members, Heneghan and Garg, take the time to answer emails community members send to the board.  Nor is it a secret that very few parents are selected to work on district wide committees. Finally, the "surveys" parents have been asked to complete on a variety of issues, have been very limited, and in our opinion skewed with questions that will lead to the answers the administration is seeking.  What is needed is a regular open forum, such as a town hall meeting, for all interested community members, staff members and taxpayer to participate in an open exchange of ideas. More importantly, a forum where parents can feel empowered because others are in attendance and where there is no fear of repercussion for speaking openly. These four candidates have either publicly supported holding town hall meetings, or based upon the answers they have given in interviews and during the debates, we believe would agree to such a forum if elected. We fully support such an idea, and hey, wouldn't it be nice if open, town hall meetings, would obviate the need for this blog?

So, on April 7th, don't forget to vote.  In fact, you can still cast an early vote before leaving for spring break. On April 7th, vote for the candidates that you believe have the best understanding of the issues, will not take one to two years to get up to speed (as one of the candidates has suggested is the usual time frame), will serve all of our community and students in a fiscally responsible manner with the end goal being (as it should be) providing excellence in educational programs for ALL OF OUR CHILDREN.  

On April 7th we will cast our votes for Burns, Czerwiec, Giltner and Gray, and we hope you do too!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Parents for this comprehensive review of these candidates' qualifications!

Very well done and much better than the fluff from Pam Lannom who really showed her true colors by endorsing McCurry rather than Leslie Gray (who is probably the most qualified candidate).

I had been planning to vote Gray, Burns, Giltner, but wasn't quite sure how to cast my 4th vote. You've convinced me to vote Czerwiec also!

The Parents said...

Here is a letter published in the 3/26 edition of the Hinsdalean in support of Burns, Giltner and Gray:
I’m writing today to express my support
for three candidates who are running for the
D181 school board — Jennifer Burns, Leslie
Gray and Richard Giltner. All of these candidates
have lived in Hinsdale for years and,
in addition to significant careers in business
and law, have volunteered extensively both
in the schools and the community. They are
intelligent, hard working, experienced and
thoughtful people who are committed to giving
back to the community and its children
and improving education in our district for all
Additionally, they have been vetted and
nominated by the Hinsdale Village Caucus.
They have regularly attended school board
meetings and are very familiar with the issues
currently being debated by the board — new
math materials, looming teacher pension
concerns, HMS facilities issues, the Common
Core and the Learning For All Plan. They
believe strongly in transparency, accountability,
data-driven decision making, fiscal
responsibility and ensuring the best education
for all students. They also believe in a strong
partnership between the board, members of
the community, the teachers and administrators.
I believe they will bring an educated
and informed perspective to the board. These
candidates not only understand the complexities
of the topics that will be facing the board
over the next four years, they have also shown
a deep commitment to the education of the
children in our district in the past and understand
what it takes to serve on the board and
work collaboratively with all stakeholders.
Vote Gray, Burns and Giltner for the children
of D181. — Susan Owens, Hinsdale

The Parents said...

Here is a second letter published in the 3/26 Hinsdalean in support of Burns, Giltner and Gray:
I support Leslie Gray, Jennifer
Burns, and Rich Giltner for D181
Board of Education.
These candidates have legal/tax,
strategic planning, and financial
backgrounds. They all understand
the curriculum issues facing our district
and would work collaboratively
in fiscally responsible ways. They
understand that falling and substandard
test scores indicate a serious
problem. They understand facility
issues with HMS, overcrowding and
poorly designed/aging building.
They understand pension reform.
They will prioritize how our tax dollars
are spent, which should not be
on a Learning For All plan rooted in
educational theory.
I don’t believe that a BOE should
micromanage, but when there is lack
of leadership in the administration
it is the responsibility of the BOE to
hold people accountable. These candidates
would bring that leadership
to the board.
I am disappointed that I brought
my family to this community
because of the focus on a learning
plan that targeted my child’s grade
level and harmed him academically
and emotionally. I don’t want my tax
dollars spent on a left-wing, social
justice academic program masked in
the words “integrated classroom.”
I trust Burns, Giltner and Gray
with my tax dollars and to restore the
stellar, academic reputation of this
district that will support our property
values. — Dave Alex, Hinsdale

The Parents said...

Here is a letter written by John Czerwiec and published in the 3/26 Hinsdalean in which he clarifies his position on standardized testing:

Although the campaign coverage
of The Hinsdalean has provided
some insight into the important
choices for D181 Board of Education,
it seems that my position on standardized
testing may have been mischaracterized.
I passionately believe
that the district needs to be more
honest in reporting on the performance
of each school. Standardized
testing is a necessary component in
that reporting.
There are, however, legitimate
questions about how disruptive
the now multiple cycles of both
state-mandated tests such as PARCC
and the various iterations of MAP
tests have become to students and
the learning process. Of particular
concern is the technology environment
of the district, which has necessitated
that students missed out on
much of their core instruction as
each group used the computers that
connect to PARCC. The ISBE has said
that the results from PARCC tests
will not be available until well after
the start of classes next fall. As such,
the data will provide little input into
modifying instruction in any positive
way for students that may not
be reaching the appropriate level of
Such concerns have been raised by
many education professionals from
all ends of the spectrum — those
who believe Common Core standards
are too low a bar have been
just as vociferous as those who worry
that a single national curriculum will
leave too many feeling alienated.
D181 deserves better. I will advocate
for standards that go beyond the
minimum competency of Common
Core. Our district can utilize more
efficient and equitable assessments.
— John J. Czerwiec, Clarendon

The Parents said...

Here is a letter published in the 3/26 Hinsdalean supporting Gray's candidacy:

I was surprised and disappointed
The Hinsdalean did not endorse
Leslie Gray for the District 181
Board of Education. As you write,
Leslie has been an engaged community
member. She has been
at every D181 board meeting I’ve
attended over the last two academic
years. She worked collaboratively
with the D181 administration to
bring back grade level math to the
current fifth-grade class across the
district. We should all thank her for
saving our children from further
suffering after that disastrous experiment
two years ago. She is also a
member of the Superintendent’s
Learning Committee and continues
to works closely with the administration.
From personal experience,
I know that the selection process
for the Superintendent’s Learning
Committee was lengthy and carried
out with great care. I am also very
familiar with the Hinsdale Caucus
and the level of attention they gave
to each applicant. The caucus is
comprised of volunteers from our
community who dedicated hours
and hours of their time last spring,
summer and fall to interview candidates.
The caucus then spent
long hours to review the interviews
and decide on the best people to
serve on the board of education.
Leslie was one of these candidates
the caucus endorsed. So I can’t see
how The Hinsdalean could ignore
her passionate commitment to our
whole community. Since when did
speaking out for smaller class size,
full-day kindergarten and differentiation
equate micromanaging? Vote
for Leslie Gray on Ap

The Parents said...

Here is a second letter published in the 3/26 Hinsdalean supporting Gray:

D181 has a strong history of excellence
in education. But we need to
acknowledge that turmoil currently
exists. Let’s get back on track by
electing board members who have
the expertise, tenacity and passion to
steer us onward and upward. Leslie
Gray would be a tremendous asset to
the D181 Board.
Leslie has been a visible and positive
presence at Monroe Elementary
— she is always open to sharing
viewpoints and ideas, and collaborating
to drive better results for our
Moreover, Leslie’s background in
law and tax will allow her to make
immediate contributions as the district
faces challenges such as teacher
negotiations, tax levy issues, upcoming
legislation that could reduce state
funding and shift pension liabilities
and the potential construction of a
new HMS.
Yes, there is turmoil and we need
proven leaders like Leslie to help
build a foundation that will result
in current and future excellence for
D181 and our children. — Mark and
Lisa Regal, Hinsdale

The Parents said...

Here is a letter submitted by Candidate Gray to the Hinsdalean (3/26) in which she clarifies for the readers abbreviated information published by the Hinsdalean in their election coverage:

In the March 19 Hinsdalean, the
editors stated that my tendency
toward micromanaging made them
uneasy. In the March 5 edition, I
am quoted as saying “The board’s
second most important responsibility
is to oversee district policy and
to manage its one employee — the
superintendent.” The rest of my
submitted statement, which was not
published, read “The Board should
act in a high-level advisory capacity,
support its management and not
micromanage the day-to-day affairs
of the district. At the same time,
the board should not rubber stamp
everything that the administration
proposes. The board should thoroughly
review all materials before
board meetings, come to meetings
prepared to ask thoughtful questions
in a respectful manner, and
demand accountability when warranted.”

My objective in running for the
D181 school board is to promote
academic excellence and fiscal
responsibility. Last year I spearheaded
a movement in the district
calling for full-day kindergarten,
and I have been an active advocate
for smaller class sizes. My efforts on
behalf of all students also resulted
in the distribution of differentiation
specialists throughout the district
based on the number of students
enrolled in each building, rather
than one specialist per building.
Finally, I worked collaboratively
with the administration last year to
bring back grade level math for the
current fifth-graders.
I am thankful for all that this district
has offered me and my family,
and I am running for the D181
Board of Education to give back
to the community. — Leslie Gray,

The Parents said...

Here is a letter submitted to the Hinsdalean (3/26) by former D181 Board Member Ann Mueller in support of Candidates Gray and Burns:

As a parent of two previous D181
students, a two-term D181 Board
of Education member, a two-term
member of the D181 Foundation,
a D181 taxpayer and a current
member of the D181 Facilities
Committee, I wish to express my
support for two of the Hinsdale
Village Caucus-endorsed D181 BOE
candidates, Jennifer Burns and
Leslie Gray.
Both Jennifer and Leslie have
been active participants as parents
in our elementary and middle
schools. At the district level,
Jennifer was a member of the interview
committee for the assistant
superintendent for learning in 2013
and a SELAS PTO liaison from 2011-
2013. Leslie is currently serving
on the Superintendent’s Learning
Committee as a parent representative.
Jennifer’s background in marketing,
strategy and management, and
biology would benefit the district’s
strategic planning and continuous
improvement process. With her
background in economics, law and
tax matters, Leslie would successfully
address fiscal and legal issues.
Having attended D181 BOE meetings
over the past year, I have heard
both Jennifer and Leslie make articulate,
respectful public comments
and ask key questions that impact
our students, teachers and taxpayers.
These community members
realize the need for data-driven
decisions and the importance of
involving all stakeholders in the
decision making process. They
would bring their passion and
knowledge of district matters to the
D181 Board and good stewardship
of a $58.5 million budget.
I encourage members of the D181
Community to support and vote for
Jennifer (No. 1) and Leslie (No. 3)
in the April 7 D181 BOE election. —
Ann Mueller, Burr Ridge

Anonymous said...

Some readers of this blog may have heard about a recent endorsement for the D181 BOE by an ex-politician. Politicians and former politicians really should be a bit more discerning about who they endorse.

A little over a year ago, there was a headline in the Champion "Kirk Dillard wants to turn Illinois over to Aaron Schock". The interview was conducted on Feb. 19, 2014 by Lennie Jarratt".

The caption under the interview (picture of Kirk Dillard) says: "I’m 58 years old. I have the fire in the belly. Then I want to turn it over to Aaron Schock or somebody younger."

Here's the link:

Good call Mr. Dillard!

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, Kirk Dillard endorsed the D86 slate of Planson, Carpenter and Hirsman, not D181.

Anonymous said...

Our local papers have behaved very poorly in this election. These editors do not live in our district, do not send their kids to our schools, nor pay our taxes. Yet their reckless behavior could have long lasting effects for the rest of us. Our papers bend too easily to groups that buy ads and they appear beholden to the current administration. They clearly are not objective. When they disregard highly qualified candidates in favor of candidates with a financial connection to their papers and who have no working knowledge of the tax levy process we have a clear problem. The papers have also done everything in their power to cover up a conflict of interest. Even people who do not read this blog are disgusted. It is so sad that something as benign as the local school board has become corrupt. I agree with other posters that the Women's league should be in charge of election debates and coverage going forward.