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.