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!


Elm Parent said...

Thank you Bloggers for pointing out the obvious. Honestly, why is almost every action/decision that comes out of the administration building riddled with problems? Is it really that hard to follow proper protocol?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the bloggers. Seriously, what is wrong with the administration? As Dr. White enters his second year of a three year contract, the BOE should be warning him not to overstep his authority.

Anonymous said...

Here are some links with additional background info on the candidate. Dr. White did a cut and paste job off of the info posted in 2008 at her old district:
Not sure where it says she has developed and implemented a gifted program, but its pretty clear that her current district is much smaller than D181 and has a different performance history. Only 965 students and three schools (Source: versus our nine schools and over 4000 students (Source: 80% met ISAT standards versus 90% in D181 in 2014.

Looks like she was at the same district for nearly 30 years -- first as a principal, then as the assistant superintendent and then as the superintendent.

Benefit package for 2014-2015 at her last district:

Also, interesting attempt to squash a student's freedom of speech rights? See:

Anonymous said...

All I could find so far on gifted program in her old district:

Doesn't sound like there are advanced learning tiers. Sounds inclusive with extension activities -- i.e. enrichment activities.
Can anyone find anything different? I don't want to jump to conclusions.......

Anonymous said...

How is it that personnel and salary matters are resolved in the blink of an eye, but student services, structural concerns, and children's special education needs drag on indefinitely for YEARS?

This is truly shocking and the BOE should take this latest action by Dr. White for exactly what it is - another slap in the face to the BOE and its board policies. D181 has turned into a lawless, despotic beauracracy that exists purely to meet staff's salary and personal needs. This most recent clandestine and unauthorized action needs to be addressed and punished immediately. The state cannot allow our public elementary schools to continue to become beacons of anarchy and corruption.

Stop the Lawless Insubordination!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your concerns, bloggers. I hope that the BOE addresses these issues in their next meeting. I am very surprised at this hire and hope that there is an explanation for it. I understand that school is starting and that time is of the essence but it seems as if waiting 2 weeks would not have been problematic, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Why would they hire someone who can only work for 100 days? Even a kindergartner would realize that's a huge waste of time, regardless of everything else mentioned.

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!!

Former School Board Member said...


Anonymous said...

That is the best idea I have heard in a while. If most former and current board members had as much common sense as the previous poster, our district wouldn't be in the mess it is in now. When will board members and complacent parents learn that simply throwing money around and making excuses is not enough to cover up incompetence?

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with putting your money where your mouth is but unfortunately most times board members don't seem to deliver on campaign promises and think it makes them look bad if they ask for some accounting of unnecessary expenses. Why do we have different standards for our work place and those for employees of our school district. More often travel is discouraged for training and if we are talking about the age of 21st century learning, why can't staff members sign up for courses via webinars and skype instead of spending money to go to New York. You pick the cheapest classes, lowest airfares, cheapest hotels and justify your expenses. Why aren't all teachers allowed to take these trips then instead of those hand picked. I have better hopes with the new board but do not trust the administration until there are certain changes and better leadership for Learning. Our children have had enough with three years of testing experimental philosophies and models. Too much tax money has been wasted trying to fight personal vendettas between prior board members and protect administrators instead of acknowledging mistakes and making improvements. That is not why we elect these officials. yes it's easier to criticize but once someone chooses to run and is elected, they need to look out for the tax payers and that doesn't mean just controlling the levy but actually making sure there are sound decisions being made for our children's education.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that Dr. White and his staff are playing fast and loose with our money. $117 for six people to eat from Potbelly is ridiculous and I could go on and on about other expenses. However, I would like to point out that if you listen to the podcast of Monday night's meeting, you will hear that Leslie Gray did her homework and called out Dr. White and his staff about these issues. We just need everyone else to step up in the same way and hold their feet to the fire.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the meeting. It was the board members who pointed out the bills and it was the board members who took the administration to task.

A British Tar said...

I'm glad that the board's finally holding the administration accountable to some degree. I've seen so much money thrown around for what I see as trivial things, while neglecting to buy needed things.

I've been to a few conferences for my employer, and they've reimbursed me for it, but only for the essentials (transportation, lodging and meals, but not snacks). Even then, I have a cap on how much I can get. So if I decide to go first class and eat beluga caviar, I'll blow throw my budget pretty quickly. Plus, I get reimbursed for only half a double room, so I either have to find a roommate to go with and split the bill, or I have to pay the other half out of my own pocket.

While I'm for paying for what the district needs, the district wastes too much of our hard-earned money.

Anonymous said...

I agree. And as far as airfare for professional development, school districts stopped doing this years ago. No wonder the state of Illinois is going bankrupt. Fools from Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills will gladly pay more taxes to finance even exorbitant government spending. Now I understand why Mike Madigan thinks SB1 is such a great idea. If districts like ours have enough money to waste on airfare and advanced degrees, then they have enough to take $1.8 million away from D181 kids every year to give to CPS.

The annual report showed us all that 91% of our property taxes PLUS additional student fees went directly to district expense - 75% of which went to teacher salaries and benefits. I refuse to vote for a bond or allow my taxes to go up yet again while D181 wastes our money like this. While patents are nickel and dimed to bring things like Kleenex, glue stcks, and 24 red pens to HMS, teachers are being sent to NY? There are more than enough classes and workshops in IL. This district buys their staff advanced degrees, provides them trips to New York, and makes them more marketable to other districts. Then, these same employees pick up and leave. At the very least, these teachers should have had tenure so there would be some guarantee that they wouldn't leave.

Will this teacher really provide the same type of professional development to ALL of the other teachers in every other school? Will the other teachers listen to her advice when they get back? With the egos of some of these teachers, I doubt it. District should have sent the whole staff for LOCAL ongoing professional development to a local college. or better yet, bring someone qualified to train to the district.

I went to HMS and saw the new portables. The connection from the main building to the portables was seamless. The new rooms were clean, bright, and comfortable. The only suggestion that I have is to plant evergreen trees and provide ore attractive landscaping to beautify the area. Maybe The Foundation could pitch in few thousand for some landscaping and repaving of the parent drop off lanes?

Anonymous said...

Since Marty Turek is now on record of saying the superintendent has a budget and can spend it how he wishes (even if that means on expensive airfare, conference fees and checked baggage fees) maybe Turek should volunteer to cough up more of his own cash to support this nonsense. If he, and apparently most of the board, think a fare of $550 to New York is fine for each teacher to travel to get TASH training, I guess this is what we can expect going forward. How disappointing.
Monday's meeting was a joke. Only one board member brought up these expenses that resulted in idle, passive discussion. Much like the boards of years past. I also heard brief general comments and nothing of substance. My kids are going to walk into classrooms next week, yet I still have no idea what to expect from the math ability grouping because it wasn't discussed on Monday. This is acceptable?
This is not what I voted for or expected. Our administration and teachers are highly paid and should not be wasting money and sitting on their hands, especially just before they want the community to support a possible tax increase.
I sure hoped for more accountability with my vote. Hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous said...

To Elm Parents & the Board of Education:

I recently had the pleasure of spending time with some Elm PTO Officers and chairpersons. One of these people was lamenting the fact that “ANOTHER BIG DONOR FAMILY LEFT ELM SCHOOL”.

Instead of trying to figure out how to make up the money this family contributed to Elm’s PTO, maybe these people should have been trying to figure out why the “big donor families” are pulling their children out of Elm and putting them in private schools.

As long as we continue to elect people like Marty Turek and the board continues to protect the abhorrent conduct of our administrators, teachers and staff, NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

Parents, wake up! High salaries don’t guarantee good teachers, principals, administrators or staff. It merely guarantees that everyone does EVERYTHING possible to hang on to those jobs – especially when they are among the most highly paid educators in the state.

Anonymous said...

UMMMM, I was not aware that our elementary schools relied on BIG DONOR FAMILIES for support. Our taxes ( due next week) are extremely high and should be more than enough to fund our public schools IF the money was spent wisely.

I am almost certain that we will be asked soon to support a referendum to rebuild HMS. Open school floor plans were a fad 40 years ago and sadly school administrators are still chasing fads such as Learning for All.

Until I see much greater accountability with regard to spending of our dollars and management of projects, I find it difficult to support higher spending on a new school. If we can't even get 4 portable classrooms finished on time, how do expect this gang to build a new school?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. If anything, taxpayers should demand that LESS money be given to D181 and more be apportioned to Hinsdale Central, police and fire departments. We don't need to raise taxes - just distribute the money more wisely. If the administrators do not take our children and this district's problems seriously, why are parents constantly being asked to give serious cash to the administration via fees and our property taxes?

Continued infrastructural improvements, such as buried power lines, street improvents and downtown parking lots would greatly improve the town. Even an underpass at the tracks would help improve the traffic flow problems at HMS more than a new school would. If there was an underpass, we would need fewer buses because kids could walk and parents could drop children off at HMS themsleves. That alone would save millions for D181 and 89 in busing. All ages of drivers and pedestrians would be safer. Giving 91% of our property taxes only to our elementary and middle schools is ridiculous!

This will make some people mad, but this is my opinion and I am entitled to it: CHMS parents should pay more taxes than HMS parents since our facilities are comparatively subpar. HMS isn't horrible by any means, but it's clearly not as attractive, well planned, quiet and spacious as CHMS. HMS Parents and their children should be rewarded for their sacrifices with lower taxes. Thusfar, I don't see attendance dropping at HMS, so obviously, it isn't deterring people from moving here. HMS is significantly more crowded. Yet a new HMS school is not the answer. The economy is very different now than 10 years ago when CHMS and other new schools were built. The state has been in an economic depression for years, yet some on the Board of Education don't seem to understand it. Can't people see that the money is running out? Haven't they read the papers lately? Hopefully when the economy changes, it will be time to reconsider a new HMS. But until that happens, let's focus on more reasonable, scrupulous concerns.

Back 10 years ago, when all the construction was funded, SB1 and pension reform were not issues. Now they are. Obviously, a new and improved Monroe School didn't help that school's scores go up. If anything, the scores have gone down ever since the huge renovation there. Yes, there was a revolving door of principals at Monroe over the last 10 years, but perhaps if the district had focused on administrator quality and the curriculum instead of construction, the scores wouldn't have dropped so low. If we focus on material things, only the material things will improve. We didn't move here so our children could go to a pretty school - we moved here for our kids to be well educated. If we focus on the curriculum and the learning, the emotional environment will improve. That is far more important. D181 should try focusing on successful teaching methods, PPS support and teacher professional development for a change. And by PD, I don't mean airfare to a TASH conference, or airfare and hotel for special education specialists from CA to fly to Hinsdale.

District mistakes, salaries and expenses are bleeding residents dry. Children's educational vital signs are flatlining. It's time for the nurses to quit using bandaids and for the surgeon to be called in to swiftly cut out the infection that is sickening our schools.

Anonymous said...

The TASH conference sounds like a boondoggle. TASH Conferences have always been audio recorded. They are probably video taped now. Why buy the dvds or audio tapes, when you can have a free, all expense paid trip to NYC?

TASH offers webinars. Have any of our faculty participated in these? Better yet, the TASH conference in December 2013 was in Chicago. Did any of our faculty or administration attend or do we only find out of state conferences beneficial?

I wonder why we send staff to these conferences if the administrators pick and choose what they implement so they do not inconvenience themselves or their staff.

Also someone might want to explain to Marty Turek and Don White that most reputable businesses operating in 2015 have accountability.

Maybe we can put a board member in charge of determining what percent of insurance costs most employees in the real world pay? Maybe we can put another board member in charge of determining the percent of employees in the real world who receive raises every year and what that increase is?

Maybe we can also look at other districts' teacher and administrator contracts. How long are their work days compared to our teacher and administrator work days? How much are our teachers and administrators paid compared to their peers in other districts?

I would never give the administrators or the schools in this district an extra cent. I work too hard for my money.

Anonymous said...

The above post describes my sentiments exactly. D181 administrators live in a bubble and seem to have no concept of the realities of today's workforce. People need to wake up and read some Bloomberg, the WSJ, the Tribune, or any news publication other than the Hinsalean or The Doings!