Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Welcome Back to School and Good Luck!

This morning our children headed back to school. The D181 teachers have been busy over the last week getting their classrooms ready and engaging in staff development activities as they await the return of their young charges. Parents have been hard at play all summer with their children, enjoying time off from last year's chaos and turmoil in the classrooms and the ever changing curriculum model our kids were subjected to for four years. Now it's time for everyone to return to the business of learning and so we welcome both students and D181 staff back to all nine schools and wish them the very best for the 2015-2016 school year.

With the start of the new school year, we -- the bloggers -- have made a decision to "stand down" following this post. Our readers might expect that with all of the important issues D181 students, staff and taxpayers are going to face this year, that we would continue posting regularly in our continuing quest to ensure transparency in all things D181. However, we have decided not to.  Why is that, our readers might be asking? The reasons include:

1.  We have written about important issues for over two years and provided a forum for the community to speak out without fear of repercussion, however, it is time to pass the baton to younger parents who need to step up to the plate and push for accountability and transparency by the district authorities -- the administration and the Board of Education. As we drove or walked our older children to school this morning, we saw the smiling and proud faces of the district's youngest learners --  5 and 6 years olds, who are starting the first year of their nine year D181 educational journey.  For some of these children, they are the oldest in their family and their parents have no experiences with the curriculum turmoil that older students have gone through. For others, parents of older students --while they too were smiling -- they may have been feeling trepidation (as we were) over what this year will hold for their children. In both instances, these parents must now do more than smile and hope for the best. They need to stay engaged, alert, attentive and not tolerate any harm coming to their children from poor administrative and curricular decisions. They need to assume responsibility, get involved and stay involved in overseeing their student's education and not just assume that because their students are enrolled in D181 that everything is perfect and cannot be improved.

2.  We hope that the Board of Education will partner with parents to demand that the administration be held accountable for its poor (and in our opinion, harmful) past decisions and take the necessary steps to ensure that our children are no longer harmed academically by the continuation of the  experimental, social justice ideological, untested, unproven curriculum models that the administration forced upon our children for four years.

3.  Three new board members, Leslie Gray, Jennifer Burns and Richard Giltner have for the most part impressed us since they joined the BOE in May. Along with Board President Mridu Garg, they have been asking the right questions and were instrumental in forcing the administration to begin to change the one size fits all instructional model that clearly wasn't working for our students. In addition to asking meaningful and pointed instructional and assessment questions, they have also started asking tough questions about district expenses. It is our hope that they will not back down and will continue to demand answers and information on any issue that impacts our children and our pocketbooks.  In fairness to their efforts to date, we do not think it would be productive or constructive to (for lack of a better term) "micromanage" all of their actions. Change takes time and we believe the new BOE is well positioned to move the district in a positive direction. So we will give them the opportunity to assume the torch and shine a public light on the good and the bad in D181 and more importantly, fix the bad. We hope they don't let us down.

There will be many D181 issues that will impact students and taxpayers this year and it is our hope and expectation that the BOE will insist that the administration provide them and and all residents real, accurate, timely and unbiased information so that ALL OF US, can make well informed decisions. These issues include:

1.  Is Dr. White doing a good job as the superintendent and should his three year contract be renewed? He is starting year 2 of a 3 year contract and by the end of this school year, the BOE should decide whether or not he should be told his contract will/won't be renewed so, if necessary, there will be time to conduct a search for a new superintendent during his third year. What should influence the BOE's decision?

a.  Have the administrators Dr. White recommended the BOE hire and is responsible for overseeing been successful? Specifically, he recently split (with no reduction in salary) Dr. Schneider's job responsibilities and hired a second Assistant Superintendent of Learning. Unfortunately (as some of the new board members bravely pointed out at the last board meeting), hiring someone who is retired and can only work 100 days is very troubling. Whether that person works 100 straight days and then the district has to hire another interim, or works two months straight and then only part time for the rest of the year, the bottom line is that this is not an effective approach to address the curriculum crisis that they are walking into. Whatever the "real" reasons are for Dr. White's decision to hire a second Assistant Superintendent of Learning, in our opinion, this decision should have been made months earlier, well before the summer break, so that a PERMANENT, FULL TIME, QUALIFIED, EXPERIENCED CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTIONAL LEADER WHO UNDERSTANDS AND CAN RELATE TO OUR DEMOGRAPHIC could have been recruited and hired. The BOE must pay careful attention to the actual work done by the interim administrator(s) Dr. White brings on board, because our children cannot afford for any time to be wasted attempting to undo the curriculum mess. Someone should have been hired whose sole focus was to right the sinking curriculum ship, and not just do "projects" (as Dr. White stated in the district press release that the new interim would be doing). The BOE also needs to keep a close eye on the new assessment director who we are not confident possesses the correct skill set to effectively analyze our student's performance data and report on the effectiveness of our children's curriculum.

b.  Does Dr. White hold his administrators accountable? For two years we have written about the failure by the administration and the past BOE to hold staff accountable for poor decisions and the negative impacts on our students. We have argued this until we are blue in the face. Before the BOE renews Dr. White's contract, it must decide not only if the administrators he has hired are actually doing their jobs and doing them well, but if they have not, has Dr. White held them accountable, or has a "circling the wagons" mentality simply continued in order to protect under performing administrators. In addition to Dr. White's new hires, has Dr. White provided sufficient justification to the BOE to keep administrators that are not pulling their weight in the Department of Learning (you all know who we are referring to)? Taxpayers pay the extremely generous salaries of all D181 staff. We should not have to pay high salaries for bad administrators.

c.  Does Dr. White understand our community's demographic and really understand (or want to understand) the type of educational environment that will make all of our students thrive? Does he really want to hear what residents have to say or will this be another year where there is no meaningful, public forum such as a Town Hall Meeting despite repeated requests for one?

2.  Are all student's being taught to their academic level and are they being properly identified?  We have spent two years reporting on the curriculum mess in D181.  Rather than fixing the identification process for placing students into different academic tiers in math and language arts (or into the now defunct gifted programs), the district embarked on a four year curriculum revamp that morphed from an attempt to implement more effective differentiation for all students to an Advanced Learning Plan with math acceleration for all students, to a  Learning for All Plan with a one size fits all inclusive integrate class room model to what we have renamed the Learning for None plan.  Throughout this journey, despite brave parents stepping up to demand grade level instruction for their students who should never have been slotted in the "everyone will be accelerated in math" model, and despite a proper data performance evaluation of the curriculum changes and their impact on students, in our opinion, the administration's attitude was nothing more than a warped version of the Emperor's New Clothes.  The BOE and community were repeatedly told that the new programs were great and everyone should be able to see that, and the old BOE allowed the "Map" to be redrawn over and over again with no real destination in sight other than an experimental journey to reach a socially just nirvana.  Finally the NEW BOE stepped up to the plate and said, enough is enough.  Time to change course again and actually, reverse course.  So now academic tiers and placement testing into tiers have made a return to the district.  But with this most recent change, come the "same old questions" of years past.  Is the identification process currently being used to place our students better than the one that was thrown out four years ago?  How will we know if what the administration is telling the BOE regarding placement decisions is valid?  We hope the BOE will start the year by asking these important questions and not turning a blind eye to "Emperor's New Clothes" type answers.

3  Best Practices.  Anything that impacts our students in the classroom should be based upon best practices.  In another instance of the Emperor's New Clothes, our community has been asked to simply believe that all the curriculum changes forced upon our students were based upon best practices.  For years, brave parents and board members demanded to see the proof that would establish that best practices were being implemented through the Advanced Learning/Learning for All plans.  In our opinion, the proof of best practices was never presented to us or the BOE.  With the curriculum changes being implemented this year, we hope and expect the BOE to insist that if the administration says something is based on best practice that they actually have to prove it.  Otherwise, we fear that this year will be nothing more than a continuation of the past curriculum mess.

4.  Facilities and the Impact on Taxpayers.  We could probably set up an entire blog to track the decisions that will be made (first by the BOE and then by taxpayers) on the future of Hinsdale Middle School.  In the next month or so, architectural schematics on "what to do" with HMS will be presented to the community during public meetings.  Issues surrounding the future of HMS include: Should it be renovated and possibly expanded?  Should it be torn down and a new school built?  Is it "fair" that HMS students have to attend a school that some believe is sub-standard when compared to the 8 other schools in the district? What will the two options cost the taxpayer?  Will the community support a referendum for either option?  What will happen if a referendum fails?  Dr. White has told the BOE that a decision must be made whether to go to referendum to  raise money needed for either option as early as March 2016.  That is less than seven months away.  As we sit on the sidelines and watch Dr. White, the BOE, the facilities committee and the finance committee take first crack at debating the issues, we have to say that we are not confident that a referendum for either option stands a chance at passing, at least not the first time around.  Why do we lack confidence?

a. We lack this confidence because while the community has been asked to complete an online survey on the future of HMS, no actual financial information was provided in the survey. We know, because we have taken it. Yes, some broad projections were provided, but they were provided AFTER the questions on what option was preferred. And those projections were not based upon any actual schematics that were received by the district. In our opinion, the administration is wasting our time with useless surveys. They should have waited until the schematics were presented by the various architectural firms and once the actual cost of each proposal was vetted and converted to taxpayer impact scenarios (for more than an owner of a $500,000 home) THAT information should have been presented to us in a survey asking for our opinions on both options.  WE ARE ALL SUPER INTELLIGENT TAX PAYERS. The administration will not be able to snow us on such an important capital decision that will negatively impact our tax bill regardless of which option we might or might not support. What we need to know is what will the financial hit actually be and then tell us why we should be willing to support it. We are already troubled by the information stream we are being given before we are asked to give the BOE and administration our opinions. That approach needs to change if we are to feel confident in any referendum request.

b.  We also lack confidence in what option is best for HMS because even now, the much smaller project of installing extra mobile units to increase learning space capacity could not be completed in time for the first day of school. We have heard Dr. White and the administration blame the Village of Hinsdale for slowing down the permitting process. But in our opinion, the Village of Hinsdale did nothing wrong. It was the administration that should have decided months earlier than it did, that mobile units were needed for this school year. Had they asked the BOE to approve the mobile units in late winter or early spring, they would have been able to seek the permits and start the installation process right after school let out for the summer.  Instead, the BOE wasn't asked to approve the mobiles until late spring. Even under the best scenarios, the administration should have been foreseen that the mobiles would not have been ready on time with such a late start to the project.  The administration should have been more candid about that from day one, rather than represent that the project would be completed by the time school resumed.  Having to make the walk of shame at the last board meeting and admit the work wouldn't be completed in time was hard, but for the administration to not assume any responsibility for this poor planning was really shameful. What we are left with is the sad realization that the incoming 6th graders -- who by the way are the same "guinea pig" students who were experimented on and harmed by the acceleration for all, social justice/all inclusive, integrated classroom/one size fits all model -- are now starting their middle school experience as displaced students. While this inconvenience will hopefully only last a week or two, as parents, we should all be asking just how many negative experiences does the administration expect to put our children through before we are forced to consider moving them out of district? If we can't trust the administration to get a small capital improvement project done in a timely way, how can we trust them with the huge undertaking of renovating or building an entire building?

5.  Other Taxpayer issues.  A can that has been kicked down the road for the last several years by the Illinois legislators is how to fix the public employee pension system.  The legislators have debated options that include moving the pension burden to the individual districts and if this happens, the district will be forced to spend millions of dollars each year funding the teacher pensions.  That is money that will reduce our operational budget and may force the district to spend down its reserves or ask the tax payers to approve an operational referendum (beyond any capital referendum to fix/rebuild HMS).  The administration has not built projections on the possible impact of such legislation into the school budget, and we think this is irresponsible.  It is pretty clear from the ongoing political debate that school funding models will be changing.  In addition to the pension changes, the idea of freezing property taxes has been floated in Springfield.  All of these changes will affect our pocket books and schools. While the Illinois legislators have managed to delay school funding decisions, it is not in D181's best interest to pretend that change is not going to happen.  The administration should be planning for the "rainy day" and presenting these plans to the BOE.  The administration's failure to do so should cause all of us taxpayers to question any attempts to raise our taxes.

There are no doubt many more issues that we could list, but we will stop with these five. Our hope, however, is that all of our readers and D181 taxpayers/residents will not stop. Our hope is that you will all stay informed on any issue that you think impacts your children's education and your pocketbook. While this will be our last blog post, we do not intend to shut down the blog to community member comments. We encourage our readers to send in comments on any concerns or complements you have relating to D181. We also encourage the District Teachers to continue to use this as a forum to let us know if there are issues or staff concerns that parents should be aware of.  More importantly, we encourage our readers to be brave and fight for what you think is right for all of D181's students. Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to demand accountability.  Remember that the school board members were elected by all of you to do represent the electorate (not the administration) and they were elected to oversee and approve all expenditures, tax levies and financial obligations that will impact our pocketbooks. Most importantly they were elected to evaluate and approve all school programs and do what is best for our children.  Don't be afraid to publicly remind the board members of their obligations and remind them that as they do their jobs, they must also be fully transparent and hold Dr. White accountable.  

Finally, we want to thank all of our readers who have supported this blog and empowered us to continue to speak out.  Now it's your turn! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Comment of the Day -- If the D181 Administration Thinks All Voters Will Be Willing to Pay Higher Property Taxes to Build a New School, Then They Better Stop the Wasteful Spending of our Existing Tax Dollars

This morning we received the comment below, which we have decided to post as Comment of the Day because it expresses our (the bloggers') sentiments to a tee:

Anonymous said...
I would like to know what on earth the administration did for a team building event that cost $15,000? And why are tax payers paying $1100 for flights and $1500 for hotel reservations for 2 teachers? Who is expensing food at the airport? We're paying to check luggage? $500 for hotel stay for TASH conference? I could go on and on and on about these expenses. There needs to be a major crack down on the free for all spending mentality that is taking place here. Potbelly, Dunkin Donuts, Corner Bakery.....cut it!! And you want to build a new school? Stop spending money on unnecessary things!! This is tax payer money!!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Serious Procedural and Logistical Problems Exist with the Assistant Superintendent of Learning "Hire"

Apparently Superintendent White has spoken, although in our opinion, he has spoken out of turn. Yesterday afternoon, he sent out the following email to all D181 parents and staff announcing the imminent hiring of the new Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Curriculum and Instruction): 

"Dear District 181 Families and Staff,
I am writing to share the news that I am recommending the employment of Dr. Marcia Tornatore as Interim Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Curriculum and Instruction). Dr. Tornatore will begin work in the District on August 6, and will be officially presented for hire during the Board of Education's next meeting on August 17.

Dr. Tornatore will work in partnership with Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider. Dr. Tornatore is a retired school administrator and so can work only 100 days in the position due to Teachers' Retirement System limitations. She will be focusing on project-based tasks that are important to a successful start for the school year, so we anticipate she will be with us every workday through September. We will then determine an appropriate schedule for the remainder of the first semester so that we don't exceed the 100-day limit. Some of those project-based roles that Dr. Tornatore will lead include management of student and staff resources, development of an action plan to adjust the current curriculum renewal cycle, and special oversight of math as new resources are being implemented in all grade levels for 2015-16.

In regard to her background, Dr. Tornatore holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College, a Master's degree in Education (with emphasis on Reading) from the University of North Florida, and a doctorate in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) from the University of Oregon. She has worked in education since 1975, most recently serving as Superintendent of Itasca School District 10. She retired from District 10 in June of this year.

Dr. Tornatore brings a wealth of experience at all levels of administration and teaching. She has done curriculum design, development and implementation of a gifted education program for all levels of students, and has worked with Early Childhood Education. Her qualifications and background will be a great asset to the District.

We worked with the search firm BWP and Associates to assist in finding qualified candidates. They did an excellent job in identifying highly talented individuals, and I anticipate working with them again to post the position as a permanent role, with that person likely beginning in the 2016-17 school year.

I appreciate your taking a moment to read this news. I hope your family is enjoying the summer!


The purpose of today's post is not to address the specific candidate's qualifications (although we may choose to at a later date after we gather more information). Rather, the purpose of the post is to flag the issues we have with Dr. White's announcement and express our dismay at what we perceive to be his arrogance toward and disrespect of the BOE's authority.  

Unless there has been a full on violation of the Open Meetings Act, it is impossible that the BOE has met to have a single discussion about this candidate. The last BOE meeting was in July, before the job description (lackluster as it was) was posted on the D181 and BWP and Associates websites.  There have been no special board meetings called since then and therefore no legal opportunity for Dr. White to have had any discussions with the board regarding this candidate's qualifications, past experience in the area of curriculum, characteristics and ability to understand and be successful in our community, what her salary should be, what her job description is (since NONE has actually been posted anywhere yet), what the implication of the "100 day limitation" means for our students and teachers, and most importantly, allow for each board member to ask questions and have a meaningful discussion prior to the all important vote approving or not approving the hire.

We will address each one of these points briefly today and then ask our readers to sound off!

1.  Has there been an Open Meetings Act Violation?  Since there has been no publicly noticed meeting (special and/or executive in nature) since Dr. White's announcement that he was going to be hiring a new Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Curriculum and Instruction), the first questions to be asked are have the BOE members discussed this candidacy, has Dr. White polled them to see if they will vote to approve the hire and if so, when did these discussions take place?  Any of these discussions would not have been publicly noticed, as required by the Open Meetings Act, therefore, would have been yet another violation of the Open Meetings Act by the D181 BOE, and another action taken outside of the "sunshine and transparency" required of this public body.  

2.  Assuming that no OMA violation has taken place, because we would be extremely disappointed (especially in our new BOE members) if this had been allowed to happen, Dr. White's announcement that this candidate is starting her job TODAY (8/6) and that she will be "officially presented for hire" during the August 17 BOE meeting (almost two weeks from now), is extremely concerning as it reflects an undeserved cockiness by the superintendent and utter disrespect for the proper procedure he should be following.  While true that the BOE typically votes to approve all superintendent recommended hires, after the utter debacle D181 has been experiencing in the Learning Department and the harm many of our students have suffered at the hands of the experimenting-social justice at all cost-curriculum expert wannabe administrators, we would have expected Dr. White to actually present this candidate to the FULL board for meaningful (not phony) consideration and discussion and allow each and every board member to ask any question(s) they might legitimately have BEFORE voting to approve her.  If there is one thing our community, the BOE and Dr. White should have learned over the last three years, the board members cannot simply serve as RUBBER STAMPS to Dr. White's (or any superintendent's) recommended hires.  By allowing this candidate to start work today, Dr. White assumes her hire is a given...a slam dunk...a done deal.  Perhaps that will be true, especially now that he has manipulated the situation and set it up to make any possible questioning board member look like a dissenter who doesn't trust him, but the bottom line is that he shouldn't have done this.  Shame on Dr. White!

3.  The "100 day limitation" is a BIG PROBLEM!  Since this candidate is retired and collecting an Illinois pension, under Illinois law, she cannot work more than 100 days per year, or she will forfeit her pension.  The Assistant Superintendent position is a year long position, which means a full time administrator' contract would be for between 240 and 260 work days long.  Dr. White's announcement points out that the candidate will work full time through September, which means that by October 1, she will have worked 39 out of the 100 days, or more than 1/3 of her allowed days and there will still be more than 8 months of school left in the academic year and 10 months left on her contract (assuming she is given a one year contract).  So that means that starting in October, over the 8 months remaining in the school year, at most she can work 7.6 days per month, OR over the 10 months left in her year long contract, she can only work 6.1 days per month. Is this REALY the best situation that Dr. White could come up with to solve the curriculum nightmare our district's children have been experiencing for four years?  Isn't the 100 day cap an issue that he should have FIRST presented to the BOE for discussion BEFORE he announced the candidate's imminent hire?  

4.  Dr. White states that the candidate will focus on "project-based tasks."  For us this means that she is not being hired to RUN the Curriculum and Instruction portion of the Department of Learning, come in and assess the department and implement necessary changes to get our children out of the mess created over the last 3 years.   To us it means that she has no independence -- and certainly NO TIME -- to evaluate and address all of the issues that still exist. She is simply being hired to complete assignments given to her by someone.  Who is that someone?  Dr. White?  Dr. Schneider?  (What the heck does Dr. White actually mean when he says she will be "working in partnership" with Schneider?) Again, her "job description," role and responsibilities should ALL have been discussed in PUBLIC (since those are not specific to any individual candidate, but are applicable to the job itself and therefore must be discussed in open session) by the BOE BEFORE Dr. White announced that she was starting her job today.  

5. Finally, since she is starting work today, the candidate must have agreed on a salary that she will be paid.  Typically, interims are paid a daily rate.  For example former D181 Interim Superintendent Dr. Sabatino,  was paid $800/day.  See: (

So what will this candidate be paid? But more importantly, shouldn't the BOE have been consulted on, discussed and approved her salary BEFORE she started work?  Again, when (if at all) did this take place?  Was there an Open Meetings Act Violation or is this the superintendent overstepping his authority by circumventing BOE approval? 


There are way too many red flags raised by the way this "hire" is proceeding to give us, the bloggers, any confidence in Dr. White's recommendation. There is absolutely nothing that would have prevented him from calling and publicly noticing a Special BOE meeting to allow the BOE to discuss the candidate. Weren't at least four BOE members available? That's all it would have taken to have a quorum. If not, then he should have waited until they were available and noticed up a meeting giving the community the legally required 48 hours notice. While we understand his desire to get someone in place, his rapid fire approach and complete disregard toward the BOE in soliciting their questions or discussion about the candidate, her job responsibilities and her salary is (in our opinion) unacceptable.

So Sound Off!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Two Small, But Significant Acts of Transparency -- Board Committee Agendas Posted on Board Docs

Happy August Everyone!  With D181 schools starting in less than one month (and D86 high schools starting in two weeks -- that's right folks), the Board of Education is getting back to work this month, after a brief summer hiatus from regular meetings. Four meetings are scheduled this month that we know of -- two regular business meetings, a Facilities Committee meeting and a Learning Committee meeting.  The dates, times and locations are as follows:

Tuesday, 8/4 -- Facilities Committee Meeting, Administration Center, 9 to 11 a.m.
Wednesday, 8/5 -- Learning Committee Meeting, Administration Center, 6 p.m.
Monday, 8/17 -- Regular Business Meeting, Walker School, 7 p.m.
Monday, 8/31 -- Regular Business Meeting, Walker School, 7 p.m.

We want to point out a few things that we believe while small, are significant.

1.  The Administration Center moved out of Elm School this summer and into leased space in the office building directly behind the PNC Bank building (which is across from the Clarendon Hills Jewel) at the Holmes Avenue/55th Street intersection.  The official address is 115 W. 55th Street, Clarendon Hills.  This location is where the committee meetings are scheduled to take place.

2.  According to the BOE meeting calendar of meetings, all Regular and Committee of the Whole meetings will now take place at Walker School.  Click to open Meeting Calendar.  No more rotation between schools.  It will be interesting to see if the community embraces this change, since years ago, the locations were static at Hinsdale Middle School, the community complained that for the sake of convenience to parents, meetings should rotate through all the schools.   We personally don't think this change matters, since attendance at board meetings has been relatively light since that change (except during crisis periods -- mold-gate, ALP/LFA/Learning for none and Math Curriculum discussions), but we certainly hope the administration and BOE review this change in a few months and seek parent feedback.

3.  Finally, it looks like Board Committee meeting agendas are now going to be posted on Board Docs prior to meetings.  This is a small but significant act of transparency!  Since the new BOE, under Mridu Garg's presidency, decided to regain control over the committees by changing their structure from Superintendent to BOE run committees, the meeting agendas will now be noticed up pursuant to the Open Meetings Act rules and 48 hours notice must be posted at the location of the meetings and on the D181 website.  This week's two committee meetings were posted on Board Docs and their agendas can be accessed at:

Click to open Facilities Committee Meeting Agenda.
Click to open Learning Committee Meeting Agenda.

You will notice that public comment will also be allowed at these meetings, a change from when they were run as Superintendent's committees.  Another small but significant act of transparency!  We hope that D181 has a trifecta of transparency and decides to audio-tape and post Podcasts of all committee meetings on the D181 website, just as it does for the regular BOE meetings.  We have pointed out before that D86 does this for ALL meetings (actually they film and post the video-tapes, which is even more insightful and transparent), so if they can do it, so can D181.  We hope the new BOE members are reading this blog and will decide as a full board to have all meetings audio-taped and posted.


We encourage all D181 parents and taxpayers to begin attending all of these meetings because critically important issues and decisions are on the horizon that will impact all D181 students, teachers, parents and taxpayers.  They include:

1.  The hiring of a new Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Curriculum and Instruction). As we previously announced, this summer half of Dr. Schneider's responsibilities were removed and he will no longer serve as the sole Assistant Superintendent of Learning, rather his new title will be Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Personnel Services). Dr. White must now identify and recommend the hiring of a new Assistant Superintendent who will oversee the curriculum for the regular and "unique/advanced/gifted" learners. After four years of utter chaos and harm to many of our youngest learners, Dr. White better get this recommendation right. Our children can ill-afford another year of experimentation, lack of performance data analysis or poor administrative oversight. We are cautiously optimistic that since he made the decision to split the Assistant Superintendent of Learning position into two, that he recognizes the critical nature of this next administrative hire. We will be waiting, watching and hopefully soon reporting on who the new administrator will be, so stay tuned.....

2.  Last Spring, the new BOE decided it was time to change the "learning for all/learning for none" nature of the curriculum to one that once again required more placement criteria for automatic admission to advanced learning classes. There has been push back from some parents who are not pleased with the new "cut-offs." We, the blogger, believe that the "opt-in at one's request" option harmed the curriculum, since as teachers complained, it forced some of them to slow down or water down the curriculum.  However, we cannot forget that the old system that Dr. Schneider and company trashed when the ALP/LFA/Learning for none curriculum model was rolled out four years ago, also had significant faults since it was rigid and did not allow students to appeal placement decisions if they did not meet the cut-off scores to place into higher level classes.  The test this year will be whether or not there is flexibility and a legitimate appeals process to address student, parent and teacher concerns of students who do not place into the curricular level they believe they should be in. Again, we will watch this issue carefully over the next year and report on any discussions that take place, so stay tuned.....

3.  What direction will be taken regarding Technology in D181 this year?  Last Spring, Ian Jukes was hired to give some technology presentations to parents and teacher and after "Phase I" of his contract, the community is still waiting for his report and recommendations AND a decision on whether or not the district (and taxpayers) will proceed and pay him for Phase II.  When will the BOE and community see the report/recommendations and when will the BOE make the decision on Phase II?  It appears that the Learning Committee may be discussing the Technology initiative at the 8/5 meeting, so stay tuned for updates....

4.  Important Facilities issues will also be addressed this year:

a.  First off, anyone who has driven past Hinsdale Middle School can see that parts of the parking lot adjacent to the portable classrooms have been blocked off, and we assume it is to mark the spot where additional portables are to be installed.  The only question is why with less than three weeks until teachers report back to school (8/19/15) hasn't more work taken place and WHERE ARE THE PORTABLES? (Click to open 2015-2016 school calendar.) The district has had all summer to get the portables installed and ready to ease the overcrowding at HMS. Will the new portables be ready for the teachers to move their supplies in and for the students to learn in on 8/26, the first student attendance day? Hopefully this issue will be addressed at both the 8/4 Facilities Committee and the 8/17 BOE meeting. If this work isn't completed on time, will anyone be held accountable, or will this be another example of work not getting done or not getting done right with no negative consequences, except to our teachers and students? Cross your fingers that the work gets done and stay tuned for updates.....

b.  The Referendum -- Tentatively slated (per late Spring BOE meeting discussion) for a public vote on March 16, 2016 election is a Capital Referendum to raise tax money to pay for either a new Hinsdale Middle School, a renovated and expanded Hinsdale Middle School, a possible new administrative center, a possible new professional development center (REALLY??), and possible capital improvements to other schools. Critical decisions will need to be made by both the Facilities Committee and the full BOE on the scope of the referendum and the date it will officially be put on the ballot. All D181 taxpayers must closely monitor the discussions on the Referendum and become knowledgeable about the proposed plans, and more importantly how the costs will impact our pocket-books. So stay tuned for updates.....

After last night's storms, we appreciate the sunshine -- both in the weather and from the BOE. We end the late summer post by applauding the BOE for its small but significant acts of transparency.  Communication and engagement with the community -- students, parents, teachers and all taxpayers -- are necessary steps the BOE must take to regain the trust that was eroded under the Turek led BOE. We hope the new (and improved) BOE continues down this path, and next tackles the important task of accountability.