Monday, May 18, 2015

We Have Heard Enough. Has the BOE? Find Out at Tonight's (5/18) Meeting at Elm School

It has been a busy time for us bloggers. Like many of you, we are in the throws of year-end activities while trying to stay on top of the business of D181. Fortunately, readers have made the effort to send in comments related to the recent events of the district and two in particular that are related; the resignation of The Lane Principal and the continuing social justice integrated services saga of the Assistant Superintendent of Everything, whose emails, in our opinion,  have finally confirmed what we have known all along....but more on that in a minute.

Yes, there is much going on, from class size considerations, to summer work projects for our building and grounds crew, to digital learning, and last, but not least, math programming for our students. (5/18/15 Board Meeting Agenda) But wait, we've read through the meeting agenda, and it looks as though the math programming discussion is listed toward the end of the meeting. What? And more importantly, why? 

In addition, we notice the level of detail related to math programming report is a joke. (See Board docs:  Math document 1Math document 2.)   It is scant compared to the reports dealing with class size and HMS portable classrooms. Heck, even the building and grounds summer projects report has more detail than than the two pages dealing with math. Remember, there is a new math program that will be implemented this fall, so principals and teachers will quickly have to review this programming so they are prepared to teach when the new school year starts. 

And this leads us to the departure of The Lane principal, who attempted to implement ability grouping to meet the needs of students at his school. We can only guess as to why he decided he had to leave D181, but we can speculate that his ideas for teaching and learning did not match those of the Central Administration. 

Speaking of the Emperors in the central office (and we used the plural because it is becoming increasingly clear that more than one administrator is in charge of the district), how about the three-year-old emails that surfaced because of a parent's FOIA! Wow, we were absolutely stunned to read emails that, in our opinion, support what our suspicions already knew: One of the Emperor's personal agenda is to promote social justice in inclusive classrooms. Period. And, in our opinion, that Emperor will do whatever it takes to make it happen (hint: it pretty much has right under our noses). Let's not forget that our highly paid Superintendent, in our opinion, is complicit in this social justice ideology in that in his first 60 days of employment, he threw his full support behind the Learning for All (Some) plan's mastermind and the fully inclusive integrated services directive for all classrooms. And even though the following quotes originated in October 2012, the Superintendent has continued his full support during the past year: 

"I went ahead and made changes.  Please review them to make sure you agree.  I'm assuming you will. That said, you audience is entirely about GIFTED/ADVANCED LEARNING.  It's not at all about special education.  So, your slides had a special education/deficit focus and I went through and changed them to match d181 and your audience. (October 29, 2012,  )

"Do either of you have any articles that present a "non-inclusive" approach from the gifted world?  I'm facilitating this advanced learner committee and trying to bring them along, but they are wanting to see if there is any research out there that speaks to the opposite.  I keep getting from some that advanced learners have to be w/their peer group - it supports them emotionally, meets them at their instructional level, that they need to see others like them, etc.  I have to address this w/them and engage in the opposing view discussion otherwise I'll get killed.....HELP ;)" (October 31, 2012,  )

Does this sound like an administrator who should be given blind support? We've heard enough. 

Folks, the time is now to make your voices heard. We are hoping the BOE is as outraged as we are and will demand answers and accountability while taking action. Parents, you should be angry that it now appears there is proof that our children have been a part of a social justice experiment with no evidence to prove that it has worked for the past three years. This is unacceptable.

Tonight's meeting (that will begin after the executive session at 6:45) is crucial regarding the future direction of our district. Sound off by writing the board. Show up and be heard! Silence and complacency will result in yet another year of the Learning for All (Some) integrated services model for our children, with no results to show for it. Our children deserve better than that, don't they?


Anonymous said...

So the actual meeting will begin around 7:30?

The Parents said...

No idea how long the executive session will last. Interesting to note that one of the things the BOE is going to be asked to take action on are Administrative Contracts. Since Dr. White allowed the contracts to roll on April 1 WITHOUT seeking board approval, the only action could be to modify the contracts, including giving the administrators raises. That should be quite eye opening because we wouldn't be surprised if White is recommending BIG raises for Schneider and Surma. He better not since the district cannot afford to pay them more than CPI increases (at most and only if the BOE really believes that each of them deserve any raise at all -- Surma does, but others might not) especially with legislation looming that could drastically impact district revenues.

The Parents said...

We received a comment earlier this afternoon suggesting that in light of the information disclosed in emails produced by FOIA, Dr Schneider's contract should not be renewed, or he should get a significant pay cut. We have elected not to publish the comment in its current form, however, want to point out that unfortunately, his contract was automatically renewed for another year when Dr. White failed to seek board approval of a new contract prior to April 1, 2015. Under the terms of his 2014-2015 contract, it automatically rolled, but under the terms of the 2014-2015 contract. This means that he is currently under contract for another year at the same salary he made in 2014-2015. If Dr. White recommends a modification of the contract, such as a raise in the salary, it will be up to the BOE to determine whether any kind of salary increase is justified. The other thing to note is that we believe that if he completes the 2015-2016 contract, Dr. Schneider will have tenure, since he will have worked a full four years in the district. In our opinion, the BOE should carefully consider whether it should exercise some of the options available in the contract to release this administrator from our district. This may cost the district some "buy out" money, but in our opinion, sometimes its best to cut your losses rather than continue down a path that is possibly negatively impacting our children's learning.

Anonymous said...

I did listen to the podcast and was happy to hear a good discussion about math programming but felt it was dragged out by the administration. I am tired of doing my homework as a parent and helping my children with theirs. I stopped attending and listening to meetings due to the lack of respect for parents by the board 3 years ago and no one cared about what might happen to our kids. After reading the post I continue to feel out district will not be able to forward with people who are not able to dialogue with all parents and make accommodations and be willing to change their way of thinking. Dr Schneider needs to move on maybe and our district should invest in getting someone with the level of curriculum experience that is necessary to support a district of our size and caliber. We need seasoned administrators who have experience in similar districts.

Anonymous said...

If someone says they can't personally support the direction they are being asked to pursue at a work place, that usually means the time has come to part ways. There is very little chance that philosophical differences can result in resolution when one is invested at the degree that is apparent here as it relates to social justice. I think people are welcome to their beliefs but its unreasonable to expect everyone to agree to these ideologies and certainly see them implemented in a place where little children and young students are being educated and don't always have a choice to speak up. I think inclusive schools should be an option in the private arena but it is something that is unrealistic in the public school system especially in a community that does not see many of the social problems associated with certain populations.

Elm Parent said...

12:38: I couldn't agree with you more!

jay_wick said...

I did not yet listen to the BOE podcast, though I likely will, and if there are things that should be on the radar of folks as we head toward the end of the school year I'll certainly comment on them.

For now I have more of an observation, based on limited evidence, but I suspect easily validated. I often eat lunch at spots in the western suburbs popular with parents of younger children in the area. One cannot help but be struck how many preschool aged kids are routinely supplied with iPods/ iPhones and even headphones in such settings. I peek at the screens as uncreepily as I can and what I see does not look good. The various "apps" and websites that these little kids are staring at are pretty crummy.
Look, without sounding too much like a "get off my lawn" old fart I gotta say I am more and more skeptical that there is even a fraction of the thought put into the creations of these offerings as there was by the producers of Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood or Sesame Street. And let me be clear, even that programming is far from as good as spending some time curled up in grandma's lap with a good book or out fishing / gardening / playing. To be sure, there is a place for some technology but increasingly the ease of using very poor substitutes for valuable interaction is going to create a whole range of new problems.

We are going to see some really dramatic shifts in what gaps in habits / knowledge / attitudes even our best cared for kids are going to be bringing with them to kindergarten ...

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, Jay Wick. Electronics certainly have their place but, in my observation, they have become an addiction for both parents and children. Kids don't know how to be bored and "make fun", parents are obsessed with checking texts and e-mail and don't want to be bothered by the demands of their children. Much easier to pretend that you don't realize how much "screen time" they are accruing each day. Makes it very difficult for them to get through a long, boring class or a challenging novel.

Anonymous said...

I agree. While I love the teacher that spoke at the recent BOE meetinng about the need for newer computers and technology, I am not sure if kids really need to learn Adobe Photoshop in school. I think it's a great skill, one that I wish I knew myself, but I don't think it should become a part of the curriculum. After school club, that parents pay for? Sure. But in the meantime, I just wish my kids knew how to spell.

With Illinois being one of the most debt ridden states in the country, and worker's pensions at risk, I have a feeling that soon, most schools won't even have access to keyboards and spell check. Sure, parents in 181 may have money to fund PTOs with ipads, but remember, our property taxes and state income taxes are going to have to go up to bail the government out of their over spending. I fear that, soon, the only updated technology that public schools will be able to afford are battery powered pencil sharpeners. Would that really be so bad?

Anonymous said...

I personally think the technology discussion on the district level should be tabled until the administration can address the identification process for accelerated learners. The district is back to square one with this task. They were given a directive by the Board Majority (5-1, Clarin's absence) to institute flexible ability grouping in all schools for math. For a district with experienced administrators in curriculum, this should be par for the course. But with our Learning Department led by a Special Education person it's not that simple. There are too many curriculum issues with math, reading/LA, and science to even be thinking about purchasing technology. The focus should be on curriculum right now. Technology should be secondary.

Anonymous said...

I fully support the majority BOE in their directive of flexible ability based groupings for math in the upper grades at the elementary level.

This method of flexible grouping is better for students, and also better for teachers. This district has many new initiatives - new math materials, common core is moving from procedural to conceptual, and learning for all has an increased emphasis on differentiation. In light of all these moving pieces, we need to simplify the demands on teachers. Teachers have said that differentiating to a wide range of abilities is very difficult. Likewise parents have voiced concerns about consistency throughout the district and whether all students needs are being met in a math classroom with such a wide range of abilities.

Flexible ability based grouping tightens the ability ranges to support teachers and it addresses the consistency concerns of parents. It is important to note that this type of grouping is flexible - not tracking - because there is movement between groups, the groups are fluid, and pacing is dependent on the specific classroom needs and teacher's discretion.

Furthermore, we still have heterogenous (inclusive/homeroom, etc) groups for ALL other subjects.

Anonymous said...

a friend of mine who teaches in this district told me about this blog. we went to school together, and i am a teacher in a lower - middle class suburb about 8 miles away. not quite the projects, but not a wealthy community. i subbed in many districts before my full time job, and have worked in 2 different schools in my current district for 8 years. another post implied that your teachers and administrators will continue to be scared off by the revolving door of other administrators and the negative tone of parents. but my question is, what is going on in 181 that everyone wants to leave? do teachers really judge the poor behavior of parents? i had to laugh. i wish my students' parents would show up and ask questions. i wish all of them spoke english, and that many of them weren't on public aid. having parental support is key, but why doesn't the administration sit down and ask why parents are so unhappy, and then do something about it? it sounds like the rules and standards change every year and there is no consistency. personally, i would refuse to work in 181 - but only because it sounds like an unorganized, poorly run mess. yes, our teachers get paid less than 181 and have a longer day. our aides only get paid $10/hr., not $17. but at least we all follow standard procuedures and routines and know what we are doing. if we need help, we are not afraid to ask for assistance because we have the support and knowledge of our admininstration to back us up. i would gladly take less money to work in a collegial school setting where teachers do not have to compromise their standards in order to earn a paycheck. or where the atmosphere is not toxic. i can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have conferences with educated parents and try to deny that what your district is doing makes no sense. i am not saying my district is perfect, but compared to yours and the amount of money your district has, i really would have expected more.

for the sake of my friend who works in your district, i am happy that it sounds like you are all returning to flexible grouping in math. however, FLEXIBLE ABILTY grouping needs to be happening in LANGUAGE ARTS, as well. for those subjects to be taught effectivley and with any success, math and ela need to be taught according to each child's ability level. to not do this is out of date and contrary to what current research supports. it is great that your boe members know this, but shocked that the latest group of administrators did not know this already. just how math can be taught and measured in various ways, ela needs to also be assessed according to the many different skills that fall under the broad umbrella of language arts. from what i heard about in your elementary schools, creating reading groups based on a fountas and pinnell reading level alone, or a MAP or ISAT score is not enough. children need to be assessed in writing and phonics skills, too. they must be assessed in what they are actually taught in school, not only tested in what the new common core dictates. testing children on what they haven't yet learned is unfair and inefficent. the children who need more support in these areas need to be explicitly taught these skills, and only then allowed to move on. to not do this is doing the child a huge disservice, and makes the job of the next year's teacher more complicated.

the earlier any deficiencies are noticed, and the sooner appropriate support is given, the less noticable it will be to that child and his peers. K, 1st and 2nd graders hardly notice when their classmates are pulled out for support, but by 5th grade, it becomes obvious to all when a child is struggling or coasting by. in this day and age, this is unacceptable. without accurate, meaningful assesments, and teachers who can correctly evaluate, group, and change their teaching to meet the needs of their students, i don't see how your district could survive without the support of your parents.