Sunday, April 19, 2015

Disrespect, Nastiness, Fear and Audiotape: Listen For Yourselves as to How the Abysmal Conduct of D181 Board Members and Administration is an Embarrassment to Us All.

It has been almost one week since the April 13, 2015 BOE meeting held at Hinsdale Middle School. It was a marathon meeting, 3 hours 49 minutes long, and even we couldn't listen to the entire meeting on Monday night without throwing in the towel.  With tax returns due on Wednesday and the craziness of everyday life, it has taken us until now to listen to the end of the meeting and decide what to focus on in this blog post.  We are going to keep this relatively short, because frankly, we are completely disgusted with the antics of the outgoing board and we want to say as little as possible about them, however, we are going to focus on three adjectives that we think describe the behavior of certain board members, but also certain D181 administrators: Nasty, Disrespectful and Afraid.

Mr. Turek, Mr. Yaeger and Mr. Nelson: You are nasty and disrespectful board members. Monday night's meeting was the most recent example of the obvious disdain you have for Board Member Garg. Monday night's meeting was also another example of how you have lost touch with the community and have made it your mission to squash like a helpless bug any community member who makes a public comment that you do not personally agree with or that calls out the administration for not being responsive to community concerns.

We urge our readers, and these three board members to listen to the meeting tape.You (and they) will all hear the nasty,disrespectful and condescending tone they took with Ms. Garg, whose only crime was to ask respectful questions and attempt to make comments after various motions were brought. Mr. Yaeger in particular told Ms. Garg at one point that she could only vote on a motion by saying YES or NO, completely disregarding her right to discuss or comment on a motion. Thankfully Ms. Garg pushed back and took a stand, refusing to be silenced by Big Bully Yaeger.

Towards the end of the meeting when Ms. Garg asked for questions to be added to the annual parent survey --  regarding parents' awareness of the proposed math plan, parent's knowledge of math groups their children have actually been placed in and community members' understanding of integrated classrooms and satisfaction with special education services since D181 withdrew from LADSE (the special education cooperative) -- Ms. Garg was once again shown disrespect, but not just by fellow board members, but also by Dr. White and the district's Communication Director, who essentially stated that there was no point in asking these questions.  SAY WHAT?

That's right folks. Listen to the Podcast (begin at Counter 03:32:28) and you will hear Ms. Garg's proposed questions and the defensive push back she received from White, the Communication's Director and Mr. Turek. They didn't like the proposed questions and, in our opinion, were disrespectful towards Ms. Garg by refusing to add them, stating throughout the discussion:

"What would we do with that information?"

"We don't agree about asking parents about implementing integrated classrooms."

"I don't think it's the right question."

"I'm not sure we agree that that's a question that is going to lead us anywhere."

"We don't agree about asking parents about implementing integrated classrooms because its, I don't think its the right question."

"I don't think we'd support adding those questions."

Mr. Turek argued that Ms. Garg was attempting to micromanage the survey, despite Ms. Garg's explanation that the survey is the only opportunity for the full community to weigh in on essential curriculum issues, and that if the survey is going to include questions about when to call a snow day, etc., parents should be afforded an opportunity to provide feedback on curriculum issues.

BRAVO Ms. Garg and shame on Mr. Turek, Dr. White and the Communication's Director for attempting to silence her, and for their obvious FEAR of what the community might say in response to the proposed questions.

It is pretty sad to realize that the administration and current board president really don't want to hear the truth from the parents and it appears they will only craft a survey that will provide feedback they want to hear, and not ask questions that might result in negative feedback. It is clear to us that the administration is AFRAID to ask meaningful satisfaction questions, just as they have been afraid to produce DATA in response to Board Member Garg, Heneghan and Vorobiev's questions.  If this is really Dr. White's attitude towards the community that pays his salary, then sadly, we hope the new board seriously considers if Dr. White and his administration are providing value-added services to our district in exchange for their very generous, taxpayer-funded salaries. If this is questionable, then perhaps Dr. White's contract and those of his administrators should not be completed through their existing terms and at the very least should not be renewed at the end of the contract terms. We, and especially our kids, deserve better than what we are paying for, period.

As bad as the nastiness and disrespect exhibited towards Ms. Garg was by Turek, White and our soon to be departed (and we can assure you, quickly forgotten) board members Nelson and Yaeger,  what was more offensive to us as parents was the complete disrespect Turek and Yaeger showed towards a community member who made a public comment in which she brought special ed concerns to the BOE's attention.  Listen to the parent's comment on the  Podcast at Counter 02:02:15. The parent stated that she did not believe the district was in compliance with certain federal and state special education laws and also asked for a question to be added to the parent survey regarding special ed services.

She stated that "Our pupil services administrators act as road blocks. They are either incompetent or they flat out lie, it's as simple as that."

Mr. Turek immediately tried to shut the parent up by stating: "I can't allow you to call people out as liars without sup..."

When she responded that she hadn't named names and wanted to tell the Board things she had heard had happened that resulted in no action by the central administration, Mr. Yaeger went after the parent trying to shut her down as well saying she'd already raised her concerns with the board.

The parent's response was "Then why is nothing being done?"

Of course her question wasn't answered and when the parent went on to reference the open special ed position, Mr. Turek told her that "I'm going to have to ask you to stop. We've heard this and we get it."

Really Mr. Turek?  You get it?  Really?  Because your inaction speaks louder than your empty words.

Turek informed the parent that he was not going to allow the back and forth exchange to continue, which we found laughable since HE started the back and forth exchange, rudely interrupting a parent's freedom of speech right to make a public comment!  But then in his overly condescending and pompous manner, Turek went on to say that the parent should schedule ANOTHER meeting with White who Turek said "I'm confident that he will grant you another meeting."

Grant her another meeting? Who does Turek think White is?  Oh yes, the Emperor....... Good luck to the parent.


We really can't believe what we heard during the meeting.  It was absolutely outrageous how a board member and community member were treated by Turek, Yaeger, Nelson and White. Completely unacceptable! And to what end? We sincerely hope that the incoming board members will take a lesson from what transpired at Monday's meeting and commit to never treating fellow board members or community members with disdain and disrespect. The outgoing board members need to hit the road, Mr. Turek's reign of terror as board president must end and the new board needs to be seated and move the district forward in a more positive and collaborative way under the leadership of a new board president.

We eagerly anticipate the new board members taking the oath of office. Let's remember that these new BOE members were elected to effectively make changes, examine the true state of the district and to right the course that has been wrong for the past several years.

The May 4th BOE meeting can't come soon enough.


Jill Quinones said...

Haven't had time to listen, and not sure I want to, but the special education parent you reference should seriously be thinking about filing a due process action against the District - you get a lot of answers fairly quickly that way and no one has to "grant" you a meeting. What a waste of our taxpayer dollars, however.

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting (and no I'm not going to identify myself as parent or staff) and I can tell you that it was very uncomfortable not only listening to the disrespectful behavior of the members the bloggers have named, but also watching their body language. It was quite clear that they were ganging up on Ms. Garg to shut her down. How could Dr. White allow this? Even he was disrespectful to her at times with his tone, which is usually so passive and calm that when his inflection changes at all, it is obvious to all. I also agree with the bloggers that the way the sped parent was treated was unbelievable. Mr. Turek reminded me of Dr. Skoda (D86 board president) who constantly interrups people who step up to make a public comment. Nothing the sped parent said was off limits. She is right, she didn't name names. She just told it the way she saw it. What has happened to our district? It wasn't like this 20 years ago, 15 years ago or 10 years ago. Then something started to shift and in the the last two years it has been at its worst. I hope the new board can turn things around both at the board table and district wide because if not, our children will only continue to suffer the fall out of poor decisions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ms. Quinones that its time for parents to start filing complaints. Why hasn't Dr. White answered Mr. Heneghan's question from a couple meetings ago in which he stated that the district is in violation of regulations requiring a SPED director who dedicates themselves 100% to overseeing SPED services, since the district pulled out of LADSE? Has the district been out of compliance? If so, I'd like to file a complaint. Where do I send it?

Anonymous said...

I hope that BOE takes all this into account when electing its leadership in May.

Anonymous said...

Just heard the podcast. Thanks bloggers for the time stamp. Maybe Dr. White doesn't understand what integrated classrooms are since he seemed to say he didn't understand the question to be added to the survey after a very good explanation of why it was important for the administration to ask that question. Lets just throw a glossary at the parents and close our ears and pretend we don't hear them. Just looked at the survey on boarddocs. They talk about our kids losing the ability to interact socially. Here are administrators hiding behind surveys, websites and other social media to avoid engaging in meaningful conversations about what people really want. There are 4 questions about cold/snow days. What are they going to do with the information if half of the respondents say yes close it and half say no. What about the question of when or how to inform the morning of. Do these people think we don't have jobs? Common sense dictates tell us the day before. There are hundreds of schools posting closures the day before but we want to be better in that area but not any other. Yes I am disgusted.

Anonymous said...

After listening to the podcast, it has become very clear Don White doesn't begin to understand integrated services let alone curriculum any more than I understand how to hardwire a school building. He will continue to play with Excel spreadsheets and juggle his balls in the air until he is called out by parents and the new board. The woman who had the courage to stand up and make a public comment related to her own child deserves a gold medal. The lack of action by White and his minions on just this issue speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: Can you write a post about the Circus "Carrousel" ride that our district is about to go on with Ian Jukes, the "international digital learning expert?" I went to his parent presentation last night and am more convinced than ever that he is the latest back door attempt by the administration to convince the BOE to fund one to one technology initiative for our district. I am so disgusted! He is giving the same presentation this morning at Prospect and then tonight he is leading what is called the "Carrousel" -- a goals setting round table discussion with parents who show up. Why such a ridiculous name? I am so sick of "educators" who have to come up with a new word to describe something.

A British Tar said...

I went to the Ian Jukes presentation as well. While I admire his energy and charisma, I don't see why the district needs him. He went over stuff that's either "Duh" or I learned in high school psychology. And I graduated over a decade ago. So why is this being presented as "new" research, especially research that the staff couldn't have done itself?

Yes, kids are being "digitally bombarded" a lot more nowadays, but the fact that people learn better interactively with images, colors and than passively with lectures, textbook reading is nothing new.

What I got from it is that we need to teach kids more interactively, have them do more projects. My main problem is how do we do that? I don't have a degree in education nor psychology so I don't know. I really hope Ian Jukes gives our teachers example lessons.

Anonymous said...

As a retired school psychologist, I am sorry to hear that Jukes is propagating the same old idea that students learn better by doing (or interacting) than by hearing (lectures) or seeing (reading). That idea continues to be spread but is not backed by research. It sounds good to most people, but sounding good does not make it good. Everybody learns differently and there is no one style that works best for anyone. Students need direct instruction and will learn what they are processing in their short-term memory, however it gets there. You don't need a computer to make this happen. There is a great book that shares this fallacy and others everyone should read, "Why Don't Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham.

There also is a very successful private school in Palo Alto where many of the tech geniuses send their own children that does not allow technology in the classroom until junior high. How interesting that the tech experts don't want their own children to be in school with so much technology, while the rest of the world seems to feel it is the only way to "look" successful. As we all know, looks can be deceiving.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with 7:20, the former school psychologist. I have been to educational lectures recently that point out that while more children are able to create art, movies, and other products using computer software, apps, and ipads, that the general level of originiality and creativity has decreased as a result of all of these programs. Yes, more children have access to this, but to what benefit? The only ones being creative are the ones who are creating (and selling) the software - not the ones using it. The children using software such as this are being limited by the parameters of the software itself! If the child thinks of something NOT in the program, then he or she will not be able to incorporate it into his work becasue it is not an option. Rather than thinking of his own original thoughts, he is now constrained to the imaginations of others.

That is also why Bill Gates and other tech gurus don't allow their children to use as much technology as children in wealthy public schools like ours do. Instead, they send their children to more traditional schools that foster children's sense of individuality and creativity. They wirte with their (gasp) pencils, and build with their hands. They paint with real paint and cut with scissors. Along with making sure that their children know the basics, they also make sure that their children read actual books, not just the information from books that now appears on computers.

Yes, our children are now "digital natives". But instead of encouraging parents to limit technology however, schools are contributing to the deterioration of our children's social skills and the shortening of their attention spans by providing our own children with even more technology. Its like pointing out that our children are eating more sugar and processed food than ever. But instead of asking parents to limit sugar intake, the schools are now catering to this unhealthy addiction by providing even more sugar and processed foods. Obviously, our children are facing an epidemic of obesity never seen before, yet instead of trying to stop it with a return to healthier foods, we are now asked to cater to our children's unhealthy addiciations. It makes no sense. We need to take a more balanced look at what our schools and curriculum are actually providing our children. Is D181 providing the protein, nutrients, and exercise that our children's growing bodies need? Or, is it simply caving into the fluff and empty calories that pre-packed software and ipads provide?

Our children are getting the educational equivalent of Ding Dongs and Twinkies, while more than ever, parents are being asked to foot the bill of hiring after school academic tutors to fill in the gaps. We want our consultation fee for Ian Jukes back. I honestly can't believe our district spent our money on more marshmallow fluff and is spooning it out to parents at "informational meetings" and carosel rides. We are sick of the carnies who are running this district into the ground. Time to get off the ride.

Enough Fluff

Anonymous said...

This technology push is 100% about integrated classrooms. The district can't be successful with this type of class if they don't have enough technology in the classrooms to occupy (babysit) students while the teachers are busy with all of the other different ability level students. IPads are less expensive than coaches and they keep the students quiet just like the TV does at home but sound better to parents than worksheets. Technology isn't bad but should only be used in the classroom if conclusively shown to increase student learning. Hinsdale Central has almost no technology and produces superior results.

Anonymous said...

I was at a couple of the presentations given by Ian Jukes. I did not find that he pushed technology at all. Not once did I feel that he was encouraging the use of additional technology in education. The message I took away is that we should be mindful of how we engage students. My impression was that this engagement did not require any technology at all to achieve. In fact my impression was that he didn't regard technology in the classroom all that great. He used an analogy of a pencil - basically saying that technology itself should not be given all that much consideration. It's how you USE it that is important. To me that utilization plan is critical. I was pleasantly surprised at this take and I give Dr. White and the administration credit for considering this before making a large purchase. I did not feel like there was a predetermined decision that the administration was pushing the community towards. My impression was that Mr. Jukes wants educators to be mindful of how we engage students. I think he would be as disgusted as many of us at the thought of using electronics as a babysitter in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

The administrator who posted at 5:59 is obviously in damage control mode. I also attended two presentations and here is my take away: Jukes is a carnival barker who is in cahoots with our administration to bring 1-1 technology (Ipads) to all of our schools. Jukes couldn't answer one question that was asked of him by parents. He deferred them or in a couple of cases I witnesses parents being told they were "wrong." And this circus clown is deserving of 50 grand? Are you kidding me? Jukes may have mentioned technology skills our kids need in a general sense, but he sure made it a point to say kids have short attention spans and need to use tech gadgets in the classroom in order to up their skills for the
workplace. The parents I talked to thought the presenations and the "carousel" were a joke and a waste of time and money. Get your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

I'm the 5:59 poster. I am not an administrator. I am not in cahoots with the administration. I am not in damage control mode. I gave my sincere take on what I heard and observed during the presentations I attended. It is very sad that if someone has a different opinion than you that they must be in "cahoots" with the administration. Posts like 6:59 are not what is needed in this district. It's time to stop pointing fingers and declaring someone wrong. I feel like people are more interested in tearing down each others ideas than in working together to try to find a solution that works for the greatest number of people. Stop the finger pointing and try to see someone else's perspective. It might be we could work together if we can all stop entrenching our selves into "I'm right - you're wrong" mentalities. Our children deserve for us to try.

Anonymous said...

To the posters from 4/22 @9:30 and 7:20, I too was at the Ian Jukes presentation, but heard something quite different. Jukes, at no point ever said he was sharing new information/research. In fact, he stated that this was information available for 40 years, and schools have not adjusted their methods-in essence, doing things the same way for a hundred years or more. Additionally, Jukes never appeared to push technology, even stating that he was not a techie. What he did assert is the need for balance within schools as well as in our homes. He did take a few questions, however, in the sake of time, some questions were not able to be answered. However, he did ask those with questions to email him the question, and he would email quickly with a response and sources. He also shared his phone number as well. Overall, a lot to think about and discuss.

Anonymous said...

To 7:50,
If, as you say, Ian Jukes wants people "to be mindful of how we engage students", and that "he didn't regard technology in the classroom as all that great", why did we need to spend so much money on the consultant's fee for him? Did our administrators really need to pay someone that much money to come up with such a commmon sense idea? This type of non-information being presented over and over in D181 is precisely the reason why I did not go to this meeting. Parents, administrators, and teachers themselves know that there are no shortcuts in creating excellence. That academic excellence comes from adminstrators and teachers reading, learning during professional development and receiving feedback. This is such a basic idea in education that it is unbelievable that we needed yet another outside consultant to tell us all this.

The thought that the Foundation and D181 paid Ian Jukes, the techonology guy, a large amount of money to present this type of information to parents and teachers is absurd. Especially since it apparently took several meetings to explain. Did he really even need to come and physically PRESENT his thoughts? We should have saved the taxpayers his airfare and hotel fees and just asked that he submitted an actual REPORT. This type of report is something that one of our multiple curriculum administrators should have been able to discuss and define with the other administrators during office hours. For the amount of money that we already pay our administrators, AND the consultant's fee, parents and teachers were all expecting a detailed PLAN about HOW D181 would implement this so called "Innovative" idea of how to appropriatelty bring technology into our district. But surprise, surprise, our adminstration wasted even more money on consultants yet again.

Yesterday my child came home and said that there was a brand new 3D Printer in our elementary school. Anyone know if this is true? If it is, I wonder what Ian Jukes would say about how necessary that type of technology is in elementary schools. Especially since our public library is less than 8 blocks away, already has one and already provides excellent educational programs at no cost to our children.

Anonymous said...

I attended the presentation and Ian Jukes's answers to questions were in conflict to his presentation. His presentation kept building up towards how we are being irresponsible as parents by not getting educated and accepting the fact that our children are digital natives. I would like to point out that I am quite well educated and feel adults in this community are all digital natives. If there is any question, you only have to look at facebook, twitter, and the number of children who have iphones/ipads/macbooks/laptops/gaming boxes etc. This is only because their parents buy them the devices. I didn't appreciate being told over and over again how our kids brains are wired, as though we are clueless. Not everyone is destined to be a video game developer like his son. His presentation presented a picture of our kids that was out of touch with reality. Yes our kids love to play video games and no I don't want math, reading and writing to be taught in the form of similar games. Do we feed a habit which is becoming an addiction or do we behave like adults. Yes the answers to the questions were more balanced but a direct contrast to his presentation. A device is a tool like a pen but a very expensive tool. Some parents feel they need to push for more but it's not what I want for my kids and I don't appreciate that my voice is never considered. This district has divided our community and continues to do so. They embrace parents who agree with them and shun others. I'm not sure what the value of the session was when there was no substantial time for questions.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 9:11. I agree with everything you just said. I have heard parents complain over and over about many things in this district (for example, terrible special ed dept. and the curriculum for all types of students) , but I have never, ever, heard a parent complain that they wish their children had MORE technology in the classroom. Where is this drive towards spending more money and resources on technology coming from? Special education, teacher professional development (not during the school day!) and the core curriculum should be the main concern that our district deals with now.

jay_wick said...

PART one of two
I attended both nights of the Ian Jukes presentation. I think it was a valuable use of the Foundation's resources and that of D181.

Like some folks, I did not find the presentation as riveting or eye-opening as it may have been hyped to be, but I do believe that as part of broader initiatives to truly engage the community about important issues that face our schools this was a step in the right direction.

That said, it completely makes sense that there are more than a few questions about what the right directions for technology really should be. It is unlikely that any single undertaking to revamp a huge part of how our district schools are organized / educational materials delivered will be pursued -- not only are the lessons from disasters like the Los Angles iPad /Pearson publishers too big to ignore but even in school districts where technology adoption is less controversial Seattle Area District Is A Model for Technology In Schools there are too many dissimilarities to our relatively conservative district.

I know that some of the BOE members were at the presentations and it will be on their shoulders to direct Dr. White to come up with a coherent plan that will win over the majority of the community. I have talked to most of the BOE members about the importance of success in such an endeavor and it is my belief that the majority of the BOE is capable of working cooperatively to ensure we get better value from our existing investment in technology, involve more students, parents and teachers more deeply in both that existing technology as well as future investments, and most of all leverage the knowledge and support of the community to really put the district in a much better place than it currently is. That will involve not so much "more spending" as wiser decisions.

Technology needs cannot be put on a backburner. The incoherent spending that leaves too many of our district schools unable to have enough of the right devices for classrooms to do the kinds of things that really can give our kids a better education in all core areas AND special education AND help kids also achieve goals related to SELAS cannot be ignored. Some hard questions should be asked about the relative cost differences of all kinds of hardware. I personally do not want to "mandate" anything that will limit the ability of teachers or administrators to do the best job they can but neither will I sit silently by if foolish decisions continue to be rubber stamped by elected officials...

jay_wick said...

PART two of two
My gut says a large percentage of younger families in our district have spent far more on technology that they underutilize than many of the people in towns that surround us however if we look instead at the whole of the community that picture probably is very different. For every home with young kids and a few thousand dollars worth of underutilized computer hardware there are probably several neighboring homes with folks from older generations that get by on much more affordable hardware. There is lesson in that for how our district purchases hardware and I hope Dr. White is bold enough to move in a direction that acknowledges that lesson...

Similarly, the idea that having just one 3D printer (or even a dozen...) in town for the use of kids at the library just does not hold water with the price of such devices falling, the utility of them to well-trained teachers increasing exponentially, and the overall shifts in what kinds of things can do with such devices ranging over an ever wider spectrum of valid educational goals.

Anyone that talks to folks not just on the radical fringes of using technology in education but in what is quickly becoming the fat middle of the curve knows that there are some really important shifts taking place. Things that once were accepted as a given need to rethought, from the need for people of varied skills / experience to assist in helping more teachers master technology to the preconceptions of even well educated parents about how much technology is appropriate for kids at various age levels. Part of the challenge too is how to put useful frameworks around these changes -- while even the most hardcore traditionalists would not make an argument that suggests students would do better with shingle sized pieces of slate and chalk, inkwells and kerosene lamps, neither would the more envelope-pushing futurists argue that all kids must be strapping on $500 Apple Watches, compiling the latest release of Linux in kindergarten, and streaming a 24x7 video-blog of their lives. There are a whole host of possibilities between those extremes that our district has been exceptionally shy in addressing.

One big reason is that the traditional roles that our mostly executive class residents have filled have, until recently, been rather detached from the roiling changes on technology. As more C-level people come to terms with the fact that if they do not re-tool themselves and their firms for "big data", "social media" and "constant web presence" they'll be ousted as incompetent. So too must our schools face this reality in short order. I hear those that say "but the high school ain't doing it" and part of me says "well that does not matter" but of course it would irresponsible to complete ignore coordination. So that too MUST be part of the way forward, but regardless of what happens with D86 we have to focus on the kids in our middle schools and elementary schools first as the bulk of what intellectual tools will embrace / carry with them are shaped in these years...

Anonymous said...

What do people think of Dr. White's email today? To me, it sounded like he was patting himself and his financial administrators on the back for their good fortune of working in Hinsdale. Let's face it, the auspicious financial situation that D181 finds itself in is almost entirely due to the very large, very exorbitant property taxes and fees that we parents and property owners pay every year. As Dr. White pointed out, his previous district (in a much poorer community) relied much more heavily on state funding. This district does not. Since he has brought over many of the same financial people from his previous district this year, this great success isn't a direct result of the administrators themselves. Credit should be given where it is due: to the parents and residents of D181 who not only pay far more in taxes to our elementary and middle school taxes than almost anyone else in the country, but also, to the generosity of private donors and the district's D181 Foundation.

Our teachers are some of the highest paid teachers in the state, if not the world. Who pays for that? The administrators, the government, or the residents and property owners of D181? Obviously, the answer is property owners of D181, as well as those parents who generously donate their time and money to benefit our schools. While the teachers are wonderful, they are all paid to work here. Dr. White should have thanked parents first, then given some of the credit to his administrators. It will be very interesting to see how successful this same award winning group of financial administrators will be if SB 1 passes.

Anonymous said...

Jay Wick,

Are you implying that you believe SELAS in our district could be improved with more money and/or technology? It was a bit unclear as to what you meant in your comment. In my experience, SELAS in our district lacks much more than just money. It is a mess because it lacks qualified leadership. Listen to the last BOE meeting if you don't understand what I mean. When the president of the BOE treats parents and other board members with such little respect, do you seriously think that money (or technology) is the only problem? If adults and parents volunteering their time to speak at BOE meetings are treated so poorly in public, just imagine how our children are being treated behind closed doors at school.

I don't agree with you at all when you claim that increased technology usage helps all kids learn and perform better. The United States is consistently beaten and outranked by schools in countries who have much less technology than students in D181 have. D181 is not a job or career training facility. Let D86 deal with the technology issues before D181 does.

If you really think that elementary and middle school students need to be on Facebook, Snapchat and Instgram at this age, you are misinformed. First of all, you are supposed to be at least13 years old to join those social media groups! Most children under 13 simply lack the mature judgement and reasoning skills required to participate in social media. If you don't believe me, spend some time listening to conversations in the cafeteria of HMS or CHMS to see what I mean. Or talk to a principal about inappropriate emails that children routinely forward to large groups of people.

Finally, just because a child does not know how to use social media before he gets to high school does not, in any way, correlate to that student's future career success. That is a bit of a stretch on your part. Anyone with a solid child development background should already be aware of this.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the previous comments. Mr Wick, I know you mean well, but my kids have plenty of technology at home. They don't need it at school except for basic keyboarding. My kids tell me the Ipads that are used in MRCs contaiin photos and Internet sites kids have taken it upon themselves to look up, some of which are inappropriate. This is what our PTOs have purchased with our generous donations.
As far as Don White's email is concerned, I am disgusted. I had high hopes for him but no longer. The fact he has to pat himself and his administration on the back tells me a lot. Usually this means a lack of confidence. Instead of writing up a rah rah email to parents, he should have spent the time observing what's going on in our classrooms. Praising yourself your highly paid employees only makes you look like fools.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous posts. When some board members and administrators clearly don't practice SELAS and don't even listen to well reasoned suggestions, they can't really talk about improving it. They need to practice what the preach. They sound like petulant little children insisting that they have to do things their way. Yet they continue to ask us for more donations towards technology and whatever else they feel is important so that the taxes can all be used to fund their high salaries and incompetencies by the excessive use of consultants.

Anonymous said...

And, remember how many of our teachers have been treated by administrators.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion problems with the use of technology in education is universal. Educators feel they must incorporate it in the curriculum but because they are not experts in the field they make many mistakes. This is not to forgive them but I think its just a sad fact.
The technology experts are in the private sector making higher salaries than any school district could afford. There seems to be little interest in the computer world to perfect the technology needs of school children and just create merchandise to sell to schools. The results looks like a lot of fun toys and programs that waste valuable education time.
Just my thoughts.

jay_wick said...

If a coherent plan is developed, that includes a recognition of what sorts of technology are truly needed (as opposed to just everything that is out there...) I have little doubt that instruction would include areas related to SELAS such as appropriate use / behaviour with online resources.

Such a plan need not involve any more total spending, just an acknowledgement that different tools are available to accomplish different goals.

Similarly if there are gaps in how the current hardware is managed or work-arounds for the filters that should be controlling access to inappropriate online sites, those should be addressed through existing means, including rethinking the staff responsible for such tasks.
Those are "low hanging fruit" that should easily be fixed.

There are bigger strategic issues that the district should be addressing. Some school districts are far ahead of ours in adapting to the reality of how much technology is changing what all of us do beyond school and how we accomplish a range of tasks that really did not exist just a short time ago. Part of how the district should be framing this strategic shift certainly should include a more comprehensive view of what really is age appropriate. For some kids that almost certainly would mean less time with tech devices and part of that message might be harder for a public school to communicate than it would be for a private school - the transmission of what really boils down to shared values is often easier to do in private schools...

It would be extremely foolish to assume that parents who live in the district but have kids not yet in kindergarten that are accustomed to iPads and online activities will willingly lock away such devices. It is, however, likely that parents who are presented with more compelling arguments about the most appropriate ways to have their children get maximum benefit from such devices will respond positively.

That same sort of thoughtful, pragmatic approach has too often been lacking in too many aspects of technology in our district. The devices we have largely DO NOT match the needs of the students. To use just one example, we absolutely could be doing more things to improve the ability of more kids to use keyboards HOWEVER too many people in the district are too afraid of mentioning this because it likely would trigger questions about not just such a strategy of "keyboarding" BUT ALSO questions about cursive writing, expenditures on hardware, time devoted to keyboarding vs other activities and probably questions about the relative abilities of children from the whole range of backgrounds to master the physical tasks associated with keyboarding, to say nothing of how our neediest families might practice this at home. If a leader with enough knowledge / skill / strength adequately prepared for these questions I am sure an acceptable plan could be implemented, but again this assumes that the BOE will direct leadership in such a direction...

It is my sincere hope that the new BOE really will direct district leadership to consider technology alongside nearly every decision they make over the coming term. If they fail to do that the disparity between what skills kids from our district bring with them will widen compared to kids from districts that are more decisive.

To reiterate, this is not about spending more, it is about thinking more! Mindlessly approving huge expenditures on shiny new computers for staff, or worse, being surprised that that those expenditures were "in the budget" only when the bill is due will NOT serve the interests of improving learning for students!

Elected officials that have been on auto-pilot and allowed staff to do the same have not served our district well, those who choose to avoid hard questions to further their own ambitions are especially loathsome. That so many community members who claim to care about schools could be duped is a matter that should be foremost in the mind of the new BOE. In setting their strategic goals how this is dealt with should be most telling...

Anonymous said...

Not to argue with Jay Wic but the problem I have seen is school districts repeatedly hire technology people who are not equipped to assist in making the kind of decisions you refer to. The right people demand higher salaries than districts can afford. Also, there has been too little technology education research to draw from, the needs of students vary from community to community, inner city children have different needs than students in a community like Hinsdale with great technology resources in their homes as well as the fact that technology is ever changing.
I have nieces and nephews in north suburban schools and I see the same problems there. It would be nice if we could find a school district with a model that works and learn from them but I don't know where that exists.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have any feedback on the Math in Focus presentation last night?

jay_wick said...

There are districts that are doing much better than our own, I posted a link to the district in the Seattle area. I know there are also districts much nearer to our own that also have a more coherent approach to technology.

I agree that the kinds of people that too often get tasked with the job of technology roll-out in schools are sometimes not really well equipped for all aspects of integrating the software, hardware, and new mindsets that also must go into the classrooms. That Seattle area district spotlighted not a superintendent or director of learning but somebody that started with the district running their network. Probably not ideal, but he got the job done. The best person would probably have experience in the classroom and as an administrator and also have specialized knowledge of what is worth pursuing and what is less promising. In many ways the same could be said for folks that head up the special education or other services that are not offered to every student but in the case of technology the challenge is to get the right devices, software and services to meet the unique needs of all learners...

I know what our administrators are paid as well as compensation in the tech sectors locally and respectfully disagree that there is any particular "compensation gap" that is a barrier to getting appropriately qualified staff. That said, I do know that there is not an abundance of folks that are well versed in how to get good value out of technology in schools.

Partly that shortage is because so much of the emphasis of most education departments in even the best colleges and universities is NOT on helping develop the best general classroom teachers but on promoting far less practical skills more suited to political policies than methods of instruction among those destined for administrative roles.

That is in marked contrast to even the most theoretically based computer science departments -- these departments always retain a great deal of emphasis on practical skills like writing code and understanding the available commercial products.

We are fortunate to have several quite good colleges / universities relatively nearby that do in fact have well regarded departments of both education and computer science. Similarly the staff at IMSA is also tasked with providing information from its internal efforts applicable to improving the performance of ALL schools in Illinois. Beyond that, the various offices of the Regional Superintendent of Schools also should be capable of coordinating efforts at sharing best practices among schools in the county.

It would be shame if our district leadership cannot find appropriate resources, including properly educated / experienced people to help meet our needs...

Anonymous said...

Can you share the school districts with successful technology curriculum? Is the administration declaring the value of their program in these districts or the parents in the community. Our district does not pay administrative salaries to Technology people.

Anonymous said...

I agree that appropriately and properly implementing technology into our district is a very complex subject. With SB 1 looming over our heads, now is not a smart time to begin this new, unchartered technology project. The amount of money that can easily be spent on technology in our schools is infinite, but without experienced guidance AND another successful K-8 model to emulate, the district should focus on oher topics for which it is better prepared and qualified. To me it seems obvious that keyboarding would be a basic, inexpensive place to start. Particularly since our elementary schools barely teach printing anymore and have almost eliminated the teaching and practice of cursive. However, keyboarding is not yet a part of anycurriculum is not offered for free to any of our children anywhere.

An even better idea would be for the district to continue focusing on the new Math curriculum, and then slowly introduce a science curriculum supported by ERIC, IMSA, the ROE and the K-8 education specialists at Fermilab. Nearby school districts like Riverside offer all of their students an assigned laptop for them to do their homework on at home. This is a relief for parents, because, ostensibly, the school would provide computers that already have restrictions on them which limit the amount of games and entertainment on the device. As a parent, it is very frustrating, not to mention nearly impossible, to constantly monitor what our children are doing on their computers at all times. About 95% of the time when I ask what my middle schooler is doing on the computer, she says "Homework". When I pop in unexpectedly, though, she is usually only doing homework about 50% of the time. How can I seriously take away my child's access to a computer when she says she needs it for Google docs all the time for school? If the schools have the nerve to request that our children use this technology, it is only common sense that the school itself provides it. If I refuse to allow my child to turn in assignments on Google docs, the school would make her feel like an outcast and I am certain that other students (and probably some teachers)
would ridicule her.

I am not a computer expert, so I don't know how to apply all of the parental limitations and restrictions. D181 has unscrupulously assumed that all parents have their own technology consultant at home at our beck and call! This is not the case. Honestly, I wish the school had never forced my children to do their homework on an iPad or a computer. I always feel like I have no idea what they are doing. I really miss getting to see corrected papers or feedback from the teacher. I feel like the school has forced this technology onto my family, even though the district is nowhere near ready with how to use it effectively.

jay_wick said...

It is almost certainly true that many parents do feel that the the district has not done a good job explaining why the shift away from traditional handwritten homework has happened, no doubt the desire of certain members of the BOE and district leadership prefer to avoid engaging parents when such questions may result in disagreement.

That attitude really must change!

In all frankness, having worked for top ranked firms like JPMChase where CEO Jamie Dimon answered UNFILTERED questions from any of the assembled staff in QUARTERLY all-hands meetings, the lack of transparency that some folks still try to get away in our district is wholly unacceptable.

The fact is many schools across the nation have adopted the Google platforms because doing so has some terrific advantages -- the software and content exists not on any individual device but on Google's centrally managed servers so that they can be accessed via any web browser. Using the Chrome browser (available for most devices) or a "Chromebook" makes it easy to store some things locally for when one might not have access to "the cloud" and this is too is largely becoming the standard for all kinds of organizations.

As I already alluded to, there are almost certainly "tips and tricks" that I am sure parents in the district (including teachers / administrators that are themselves parents and work for the district...) could easily share IF the district provided a platform for such collaboration / FAQs. One can use a search engine to see that other districts do in fact have such things. It may very well be that our prior superintendent's bad experience trying to run a blog has caused some reservations about going down such a path but maybe Dr. White will be encouraged by the new BOE to be more proactive...

In a similar way it is my contention that given the staff our district has, we perhaps should not be so timid as to only emulate existing plans of other districts but actually create something on our own, that best meets the unique needs of our learners. It has been said that one barrier to staff making progress on such initiatives is the amount of time that certain kinds of questions consume for our district staff. I find such an argument unconvincing; staff that has appropriate administrative support and modern communication tools ought to be able to respond concisely to nearly any request in a timely fashion and still create both a strategic response to the shifts in technology as well as carry out the necessary steps with staff to successfully implement appropriate changes. If staff feels unreasonable pressure from even the elected officials the fact is staff works for the WHOLE community and their obligation must be to allocate their time to meet the needs of the whole community not merely those that attempt to make the most noise. I might even go so far as to suggest that just as O'Hare has identified a very small number of people responsible for nearly all complaints about runway noise so too might our district staff consider categorizing the topics that generate the greatest numbers of inquiries; I have little doubt that technology questions, which in my view should be reshaping each student's classroom experience to some extent, does not rank near the top at all. Just as one board member put it, perhaps sometimes we ought to have the experts doing some leading...

The thing too is our district has been most generous in accommodating the need of some staff to earn necessary credentials to fulfil requirements imposed by the state. Might it not also be mutually desirable to help guide staff in undertaking appropriate training that would help enhance their value to the district? There are no shortage of such programs either online Masters in Education, Emphasis in Technology as well as locally -- Masters in Learning Science, Northwestern

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting article from the New York Times, "What is Lost as Handwriting Fades."
Seems to me Children should learn penmanship for when they don't have a computer etc just as they need to know their math facts for when they don't have a calculator.
They need penmanship and math skills so their not totally incapacitated in the absence of technology.
I had an interesting experience with a teen age check out boy at Kramers a few summers ago. I paid for my groceries with cash and included a few cents to make my change an exact quarter. I was impressed when he "got it" immediately. I had done this with other young people and found it confused them, too many calculators. I asked him where he went to school and he said Central. I told him I was proud of our school district math programs because often time people his age are confused when I did that. He said "oh no, I learned how to do that from working here all summer."

Anonymous said...

10 years ago, I probably would have agreed that, with great foresight, planning, and leadership, our district might have been able to pull some creative or innovative programs off. However, given all of the new administrators the last 3 years, the lack of consistency, and foremost, the lack of transparency recently, your suggestion is completely out of the question! There is no reason to believe that anyone currently on the DOL of our district is capable of creating something logical or necessary. Look at what their innovations have given us in the last 3 years: 1) Further lack of individualized, differentiated learning, yet concurrently claiming to embrace "Learnng for All." Still no specific guidelines to promote consistency throughout schools.
2) Terribly planned math pilot program this year with no buy in OR communication from parents prior to its adoption.
3) Poor faculties maintenance and supervision of HMS resulted in on going mild, major flooding, then over a week of school (?) being closed at HMS.
4) Ridiculous amount of money spent on Ian Jukes, when we were told that part of the reason that White was hired as superintendent was because he had school technology implementation skills.
Contrary to what D181 claims, our district is still facing many unresolved challenges the next few years.

I do give you credit for staying optimistic in the face of so much incompetence, but let's not get too excited yet. Let these folks handle more basic tasks and responsibilities first. Find the new assessment administrator. Analyze the data we already have. Cut the fat elsewhere and see how auccessfully and transparently administrators respond to these requests. If and only if they do a bang up job, THEN allow them the freedom and slack to be innovative and creative. Hinsdale is really not as unique and complex as the administration believes it to be. There are hundreds of public and private schools around the country (especially in Massachusetts and New Jersey) which have the same type of socioeconomic, suburban makeup as we, yet they are more successful than we are while spending less $ per pupil.

Let's start investing in our own facilities and students before we continue handing out any more tuition reimbursement checks. All too often, teachers are allowed to choose their own path of expertise, regardless of the needs of our students. This must stop. Everyone needs to be on the same page before budgets are rubber stamped. When the administration gets as overwhelmed and bogged down in problems of their own making, (Learning for All, special education deficiencies, lack of preparation for CC) there is not enough time for them to do their actual responsibilities - supervising the curriculum, communicating meaningful information to parents, and monitoring the teachers. Let's slow this train down before another wreck happens.

jay_wick said...

Well there are some interesting points made by the 5:14 poster.

I can't agree with all of them, but I will say that parts of their arguments certainly makes them seem much better informed than the sorts of community members that made it possible for the incumbent to hang on for another four years. That incumbent has made it abundantly clear that they're in no hurry to accomplish anything more than the absolute minimum / 'don't rock the boat' "continuity" going forward. Sorta odd how that could play out...

As well informed as I try to be I can't really claim to be able to benchmark either our district performance or spending against towns on the east coast, but my sense is that most of those towns are not known to especially good values for tax payers, but maybe a some links could help determine at least their per pupil expenditures. Until there are results from PARCC (which won't happen until well into the fall school term...) it is not really possible to determine comparative performance; I certainly do not want to allow district staff the luxury of visiting their former colleagues in far flung places as they mark time waiting for that test data.

At least if some of the staff is with working on a coherent technology plan now maybe there will be a something that they can be part of the "back to school" efforts that all district teachers participate in prior to the start of school. The superintendent has chosen to "ride the horses already in the stable" and add just a little new blood. Let's hope that works out...

Thing too is real soon the calendar really works against a whole lot of efforts that our schools should be working on. In a couple of days the new BOE will be seated and if history is followed there will be soon be some proposals to limit the actual time that will be required in the office for district staff. Maybe the physical move to the office space at 55th & Holmes will cut into the productivity of district staff too. Heck, maybe we'll hear tales that reduced summer hours will help keep the district utility bills low even in new leased space. Far be it for me to say what is really needed.

What I do know, beyond a shadow of doubt, if those that are opposed to new initiatives certainly got their "inside man" to stymie any efforts. Those that fancy themselves ancient up-holders of the sanctity of the the 'vetting' got their way too. It is awfully funny how these things will ensure that the clothesless emperor will easily preside over the continued decline of the once enviable domain.

It does make me something more than sad but not quite angry that so many kids in the district really have gotten a raw deal. The disaster of the compacted math and the utter deception of doing anything to move the floor any closer to the ceiling means that lots of kids that could have really benefited from improvements in the district have instead seen the influence of unfair imbalance of resources really become more intense. How much justice is there in that?

I will be reviewing the agenda for the new meeting as soon as it is published and I hope lots of the more than three thousand voters that came to the polls not even a month ago do the same. I very likely will be in attendance at the upcoming BOE meeting and it would be great to see a big contingent of folks that do want more transparency and accountability to be hallmarks of the next cycle also come out in force. I won't hold my breath.

Believe me there is no bitterness nor sour grapes in my statement. I am above all a realist and I fully believe that the sorts of folks that don't bother to show up get exactly the public services that suits them. If we have to wait until the madness reaches the levels of D86 that may happen yet...

Anonymous said...

Seriously, we can't even deliver a consistent and successful math and science curriculums to our students and now they was a technology initiative? I haven't seen any indication whatsoever that our administrators can do ANYTHING academically related well so I have NO hope that they will be able to pull this off well and, honestly, until math and science are fixed I don't want them too.

New technology is all about inclusive classrooms using the workshop model and "project-based learning" in those classrooms where our kids do project after project in groups of kids. The administrators say it is going well at some of schools like Monroe and Oak but talk to the parents. Those in know (those with older kids) are not happy with the changes in many cases. Watch out D181 parents, you're about to be led down the yellow brick road again.

The Parents said...

We would like to remind our readers that we will not publish comments that are filled with falsehoods. We the bloggers obviously know who the bloggers are and will not publish comments that claim that certain board members associate with the blog, when we know those accusations are utterly false.