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! 


Anonymous said...

Thank you blogger leaders for your thoughtfulness, creativity, and leadership for the past several years. I am a taxpayer who has put two children through D181 and Hinsdale Central and am astonished to see district's lowered test scores. Our kids went to Monroe, which was once ranked in the top 10 elementary schools in the state. Today, it is around 100.

I am astonished to see Hinsdale Central not included in Newsweek's top 500 high schools when Hinsdale South, and all the Naperville schools made the list.

I am disgusted when my taxes go up every year.

I am discouraged when we cannot seem to find a good district super, despite the pay and the outstanding resources of this district. We have churned through superintendents every two to 3 years, followed by a buyout package, and interim super ( which means nothing gets done) and a new superintendent that lasts a few more years. This is a district that is a career capstone. We should be able to find outstanding talent that wants to make a career and home in D 181.

The biggest issue is ignorance and apathy. Most young families are running very hard with careers, kids, traveling soccer, etc. to pay attention to the sometimes dry issues surrounding the school board. They just assume everything is beautiful, because it always has been.

I too, am very encouraged by the new members and leadership of the D 181 school board.

Come on young parents, step up to the plate and help bring this district back to what it used to be: a world class place to raise children to receive an outstanding education.

Anonymous said...

As a long time Hinsdale resident, I agree with the previous comment with one exception. While the board has attempted to make small steps toward improving the district, they appear to be dancing around words and avoiding serious, thoughtful public discussion with the superintendent and his staff of minions who are all over paid, under utilized, and suffering from a serious case of groupthink. Who is going to step up on the board and show some leadership to hold these people accountable? Anyone? There seems to be a majority on the board who believe the district is in good hands. This is not the case.
Our community voted for change and that's what we expect. Not the status quo.
Bloggers, thank you for telling the truth and presenting the facts. At least someone cared enough to do so, which is more than I can say for the taxpayer funded employees we have running the district. One look at the spin in the recently mailed district newsletter proves it.

Anonymous said...

Although I have not always agreed with some of the commentary I feel the bloggers have tried to to provide a lot of information over the past two years. It was especially useful during the tenure of schuster which was riddled with incompetency, lack of transparency and accountability. There was no planning due to lack of knowledge, just a bad hatchet job of programs. What's troubling is that the same people who raved about Schuster, now rave about Don White. How can you trust someone who has seemingly blindly trusted the one person who has the least knowledge about our district and curriculum?? Even though we have a position of an assistant superintendent of curriculum it is very concerning that this person will be strapped with baggage from the prior administration. It is obvious that White had no intention of getting another person to lead curriculum since the search did not occur till the summer. I just hope we can move past social justice and inclusion and do what is best for our children. Thanks bloggers.

Parent of a High, Middle or Low Math Student .... said...

Bloggers: Thank you for all of your transparency over the years and thank you for letting parents continue to submit comments. I wish you would continue with the blog, especially after the laughable report posted on board docs this morning regarding the new flexible groupings in math that are rolling out this year for grades K-5. The report was nothing but a bunch of gobbly gook gibberish. No objective criteria listed in the frequently asked questions sheet. No labels given to inform parents what level math their kids are in. It was bad enough when the word "gifted" was deleted from the D181 dictionary four years ago, but now "high," "middle" and "low" are also considered bad words? Sounds like more social justice mumbo jumbo and we all know who is the mastermind behind that mindset.... If this is the first "project" our new Assistant Superintendent of Learning worked on (although familiar names are attached to the memo as well) then I give her a big fat F. How's that for a label?

Anonymous said...

Thank you bloggers. As a parent who has tried to keep up with all of the changes in this district over the past 4 years, I can only imagine the time it has taken you to post the detailed information that you have. Agree with all of the conclusions or not, you have performed a valuable service to the community. At the risk of asking too much, since the blog is already the "go to" source for information about the District, perhaps the bloggers could occasionally make short FYI posts that direct parents to meetings/the website and/or highlight an issue so that parents can then follow-up with comments, etc...

The Parents said...

9:39: We'll consider your request, but really encourage others to post comments keeping all our readers informed. We will say that after receiving the comment posted by "High, Middle, Low Parent" we cringed that the first academic report of the year was so mediocre. We totally agree with the comment. So sad that in a district like ours we can't even speak about what level math our kids are in. No labels? These administrators obviously haven't lived in the real world. Best not to prepare out kids for the real world........

Anonymous said...

#7 in the math document is a huge problem. I thought the community and boe already discussed this! We are back to grade level for all except a select few.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you bloggers for all the time and effort put into keeping parents informed over the last couple of years and providing a forum for community members to sound off without fear of retribution by the D181 administrative staff. I, for one, hope that you will still "jump in" sometimes.

Now to tomorrow's BOE meeting -- the Flexible Ability Math Grouping report is more than mediocre - it's pathetic. The Department of Learning and our principals should be embarrassed to put this document out there. There have countless discussions over the last two years and several in the last few board meetings about a one-size-fits-all model NOT working. It's common sense but apparently our social justice following administrators don't get it or are just being insubordinate.

Admin was given the direction to fix it, but this effort certainly does not accomplish that objective. It's still one-size-fits-all and depending on what school your child attends, your child may never get an opportunity for advanced instruction even if he or she is academically ready for it.

I hope parents read this administrative report and start asking the hard questions of Dr. White and his staff. They are still playing games with our children's education and it needs to stop!!

Anonymous said...

Here is another problem with the document. Everyone needs to start at Chapter 1. Even those students who ended the year well into the next grade level.

Anonymous said...

If the BOE walks into Monday's meeting and speaks gingerly about this pathetic plan for math ability grouping, then shame on them. If parents don't show up to complain, then it will speak volumes about this community.
I can't believe what I'm reading. Dr White was given a mandate by the BOE and this is the best he and his staff can deliver for our kids.
We are in big trouble.

Elm Parent said...

Yes, yes, yes to the last four comments. The new math plan is PATHETIC and unfair to our district's highest achievers. Rely on just one spring map test to place kids for this fall? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Hasn't the Learning Dept. administration said over and over and over again that they DON'T just rely on one test? or one test cycle? Yet now they are doing exactly that along with reliance on purely subjective teacher input? Why doesn't the Q&A document provide parents with the OBJECTIVE CUT-OFF criteria for this all important map test?

Does the Learning Department administration or Dr. White (who is supposed to oversee everything) even realize how hypocritical they appear with this new attempt to continue to force the social justice, all inclusive, one size fits all model on our kids?

BOE, I think an earlier comment is correct in pointing out the obvious insubordination by the administration towards your clear directive last year to change course.

Now the ball is in YOUR court BOE. Are you going to push for answers during tomorrow's meeting? Are you going to allow yourselves and all our children to be manipulated by the Dept. of Learning? Are you going to hold anyone accountable?

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The information on BoardDocs about ability grouping in math is unbelievable. Dr. White is either not smart or he is insubordinate. At this point, I don't know what is worse. It would seem to me that he would be happy to be working in a district such as D181 and being paid what he is being paid. Does he just not get the fact that the Board has spoken? How much more clear do they need to be? In fact, as a parent who listened to all of the meetings regarding this topic, I don't think it is possible to be any clearer than the BOE was about this matter. And, the bigger question is, is this what the teachers were instructed to do this summer? How much of the school year is it going to take to reverse course AGAIN??? Parents are busy with the beginning of the school year and have tuned out on this issue. Is this what Dr. White is counting on? Will the Board members actually speak up and hold Dr. White accountable or will they let him pretend not to understand? Again.

Extremely disappointed and frustrated parent

Anonymous said...

Ironic that administrators advocate one size fits all learning and social justice, yet they refer to themselves as "Doctors." Aren't we all equal in Social Justice-land? Why are our kids all the same, but they are somehow all varied in their skills and abilities?

Note to Phd's in elementary schools who are not college professors - expecting others to call you "Dr." is extremely pretentious.

And let's get this straight once and for all: we parents are the idiots who get to pay for teacher and administrator advanced degrees, yet D181 does not offer any advanced learning for our children? They demand respect, yet they don't respect anyone else.

Another Bitter Pill to Swallow for D181 Parents

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the saber rattling ending with the sunsetting of this blog. Its time for honest discussion, not incessant divisiveness. This blog hasn't furthered the district, only damaged it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree with you 7:38. I think this blog is the only avenue the community has had in the last two years for honest discussion of the issues. I fear that with the bloggers standing down that this avenue will be lost. The administrations phone avenues of communication have been as far from open and honest as possible. I disagree that this blog has been divisive and hope parents and community members continue to post their opinions even if they are counter to the opinions of the administration, teachers or BOE members.

Anonymous said...

Correction to last comment: in third line I meant phoney, not phone.....

Anonymous said...

100 percent agree, 8:38pm! I hope community members continue to post their opinions and concerns.

Anonymous said...

To the 7:38 poster:

You sound like a disgruntled former board member. Maybe a parent who is frustrated by this district that has let you and your kids down? Whatever the case, you are sadly mistaken.
The 181 community is not divisive; parents have simply thrown in the towel. They realize the only peace they will have is to move out or transfer their kids to private schools. And judging by the wait lists at local private schools, this is clearly happening. To think anything dramatic will happen in terms of improving this district with the current administration and our passive school board would be an error in judgement. Don White and his pseudo administrators are clearly in the driver's seat and are taking this board, teachers and students for a joy ride. Big time.
So, go ahead and post your disgust. But understand that this blog is not the problem. The superintendent and the BOE are the core; everything else is just a symptom. At least the bloggers attempted to share truth and knowledge to those who had a mind open enough to consider it.
One more suggestion: when you are done blaming this blog for the condition of the community and the schools within it, you might try reading a recent 8/19/15 Opinion/Commentary in The Wall Street Journal entitled: "The Bright Students Left Behind: While Everyone Focuses on Boosting the Weakest Students, America's Smartest Children are No Longer Being Pushed to do Their Best." Then do some self reflection and figure out where your anger should really be directed.

The Parents said...

Link to article cited in last comment:

Read it and weep. Literally.

Anonymous said...

While this district has dabbled in becoming socially just and pretending there are no advanced students in any subject area it seems Nurturing Wisdom, now Vine continues to grow. They have gone from using only part of their area to almost using all of the classrooms. This should be evidence of the loss of our district schools but no one cares because we as a community are content with throwing money at private schools when the public school does not live up to our expectations. I think the divisiveness comes from the district leadership and think this blog is being given a little too much credit in that department. I also took the facilities online survey and am not impressed with how it was structured. I would give the district a "C" or "D" based on their ability to meet the needs of my children and a complete lack of clear communication. If mediocrity is their goal and "C"s and "D"s are considered acceptable grades for our children, then I guess they should be happy with these grades. They misrepresent the feedback we provide on the yearly surveys, so how is this process going to be any better.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly said, 12:00. And I agree with an earlier poster who pointed out how ironic and unfair it is that parents have to pay for staff and administration advanced degrees when our advanced students are not being challenged. When certain board members claim that the parents of Hinsdale don't want advanced classes, we need to look at the reason why. Only a minority of parents have children who need advanced classes. That's why less people support it. Since the majority of parents know that their children will never need advanced or more challenging classes, they choose to not support it. This is selfish and discriminatory. If my child doesn't play football or soccer at Central, I still want the athletic program to be funded. If my children don't take Spanish, I wouldn't ask that the Spanish program be cut because I don't care about it. Just because my child learned how to read at 3 doesn't mean I want all the RTI tutors and reading specialists to lose their jobs. Of course I want the students having a hard time to be helped. I tell my kids that every child is different and special and learns at their own pace. I teach them to help the disabled and never make fun of others.

But for some reason, some parents think it's acceptable to ridicule the quick learners. Parents themselves often label these kids brainiacs or nerds. Other children become annoyed when these kids already know the answers and shout them out before they do. It's not the student's fault the class curriculum isn't meeting their needs. With the money we all pay in taxes, why should any child to expected to sit in the wrong level class? It is so sad that SELAS folks in our district refuse to come to the aid of the "brainiacs". The district sure remembers the smart aleks when they ask them to tutor or co-teach. But why is it that no one wants to return the favor for them? Are people in this town really that selfish? Is it envy of a skill their child may not have? We don't neglect an artist or the singer with a beautiful voice, but when a child has a high IQ we push him to the side and tell him to stop annoying us with his ideas?

I don't think that just because a handful of teachers and board members don't believe all children should be served means that our entire community feels this way. Our community pays high taxes not only to teach the majority of our students, but because it wants to meet the needs of all students. That's why we moved here and sent our children to public schools in the first place. And that's why almost every house that sold in our neighborhood this year went to a young family with preschool and school age children.

Just because there are fewer children who need harder classes does not mean that these same children do not deserve services because they are outnumbered. We hardly have any ESL students or economically disadvantaged students, but we still help them because we want to. It is not only in the best interest of the child to learn English, it is better for the entire community. Same thing for kids with high academic skills who one day may have the power to discover a cure for cancer, build a skyscraper, or win you that case. We need to support those children for the betterment of our community. I am not saying to give these kids special or out of the ordinary services. Just provide them the opportunity to be as challenged and supported in their dreams as the rest of children in town.

Parents and taxpayers have been footing the exorbitant salary and pension bills for far too long and now need to start demanding that the pendulum begin to sway back to a more balanced, equitable way of spending money. Money needs to be spent not only teacher perks and structures, but also on student needs.

Anonymous said...

If we have C and D quality schools, they why the heck are we paying A salaries?? Which school districts pay better than ours? If it's LA Unified and teachers have to wear bullet proof vests to go to work, then fine. They deserve it. But our teachers don't need combat pay. Compare the amount of days, number of students in classes, the work hours, reimbursement and insurance benefits and compare them to what teachers in the rest of America, or even IL get paid. Realize that private school teachers get way less than public school teachers, too. Is it fair?

Time to figure our the real value of certain administrators and staff. Are they doing heir jobs well? We need to get rid of the ones who are not pulling their load. Our district has way too much on their wish list and not enough in their bank account. There is no way we could build an expensive school with the kind of money we are wasting on salaries, redundant administrators and their respective pensions. Once the district starts showing some fiscal restraint and cutting bad apples, then and only then will I trust them with millions and millions of our taxes to build a school.

A British Tar said...

Thank you bloggers. This has been a very interesting blog to read. I admit, I have to agree with 7:38 to some degree. Much on this blog has been focused on the negative, and somewhat ignores the good that's come out of it. Plus, many comments have been very disrespectful, rude, and provide very little constructive criticism. An example from a while ago is a comment long the lines of "Ha ha! That's a good one 5.35 (or whatever time another person posted). Have you thought about going into standup?" Comments like those don't make anything better, in my opinion.

I am also a little disheartened by some of the comments about the teachers being overpaid. I totally agree that property taxes are high, and some of the administrators may not do their best. However, I've lived in the district my entire life, and I've seen many teachers working their asses off trying to give the best education possible to our students, which is especially mazing considering how the administration works. Are there other districts that pay their teachers less? Yes, but look at how many of our teachers come in early or stay late to help students, do clubs, do lesson plans, etc. Plus, teaching 30 people under the age of 15 at one time, and up to around 180 kids total takes a LOT of time and effort. Just because the school day is 7:55-2:45 for the middle schools & 8:40-3:05 for the elementary schools, the staff stays much longer. Teachers cap out at about $110,000 a year. The average house in the area I've seen goes for at least $1 million. People complain that the teachers make too much, but also complain about them not living in the area. How are they supposed afford living here? Plus, 10:17 says it's pretentious to call yourself "Doctor" when you have a PhD but are not a college professor. Why is this? What makes college professors so much more respectable than elementary school teachers? Elementary school teachers worked just as hard to get those degrees, and probably work just as hard in their teaching careers. I find these kinds of comments very arrogant and dismissive. If you think it's easy to teach elementary school, you're very mistaken. There's a big difference between knowing something and knowing how to teach it.

But, too be fair, I do appreciate how this blog does let us vent and share our experiences. These ARE our children, so I totally understand getting emotional. But please, make comments in a respectful, constructive manner. Plus, don't forget the positive!

Anonymous said...

Well said, 12:06. Couldn't agree more. And what's really sad is that we actually have several elected board members who believe in this full inclusion, non labeling nonsense going on in our classrooms. I listened to the podcast of last night's meeting. One board member actually liked the idea of our kids going through two chapters of the math textbook before being identified as possibly needing advanced learning opportunities (whatever that means) and thought it was a "way to ease into it" compared to automatically starting the school year at an advanced level through previous identification. How were her kids identified? Did they "ease in?" Answer? No. And now we have a 100 day temp administrator stating she needs "live data" to analyze before making decisions about who gets advanced.
It sounds like the experimentation on our kids is continuing with no end in sight.

A British Tar said...

I just wanted to clarify my last comment. I think a lot of people are needlessly bashing the teachers when it's the administrators fault for not giving them the proper resources. I've dealt with many teachers and staff, and many say there's a disconnect between them and the administration. How are teachers expected to reach everyone in their class perfectly when there's such a wide range of abilities in their class? I've heard from time to time that teachers have to dumb down their classes to meet their lower students, many of whom are opt ins.

My advice: go after the real culprits of this travesty: the administration, and force them to give the teachers the resources they need. Also, pay attention to how your kids are doing. Have them learn at their own pace. If you think they can move to a higher level, great. If they need to slow down and go to a lower level, there's no shame in that. I think this would make it a whole lot easier to give our kids the education they need.

I just have one question for you guys. Many of you are saying how expensive this is and how high your property taxes are. How many of you would like to see public education gone? That would significantly reduce your property taxes, which you can use to send your kids to private schools. I'm just curious what you guys think.

Anonymous said...

To the poster at 12:36, your comments have been the most critical today. Can't you see that? Everyone has a right to their opinion, even you. But if you feel that you are the only one who has the right to complain, then don't read a blog. You are bound to be disappointed.

That post didn't claim that all teachers need to be fired. Just many are not pulling their weight. Do you seriously think that ALL teachers are fabulous in our district? I have come across many wonderful, caring ones. But I have also come across some that should have been fired or disciplined years ago. If those teachers can be helped and retrained, by all means keep them. But if they don't learn their lesson or respect their jobs, they need to be fired. By not getting rid of the terrible ones, you risk losing the good teachers who work with them and are tired of dealing with them. Many have suggested that this is the reason why we have lost a couple good principals lately. This is a school district, not a safe house for the unqualified.

It shows out of touch you are from the rest of the country if you think that 30 kids in a class in Hinsdale is a lot. Try teaching anywhere in any major city or suburban area in diverse or middle class area and there will be 30 kids in classroom. Only 2/3 of them will speak English. Sometimes only 1/3 of them will speak any English. And there won't be enough money for an aide or ESL.teacher. That is hard. Add in the equation that in the majority of city schools,
some of the parents don't have money for food, let alone school supplies. Then you might get a better sense of what the rest of our neighbors in IL have to deal with.

We are surrounded by tons of homes less than 1 mil. Just because the town's average sales price may sometimes be $1million, that's what happens when a couple $3 or $4 million dollar homes get sold. It brings the average sales price up. But the mode, or most of the houses that people buy or sell, are closer to $800, 000 or less. Finally, why do you think teachers in Hinsdale are the only employees who arrive early or leave late? I know that most schools have set start and end times. Usually an hour before start and an hour after last bell. It's in their contract, too, so they don't get paid extra to join a committee or tutor students. Before you start chastising people for expressing their opinions about the way local government spends or wastes their money, I suggest you sit down and really look at district report cards all over Chicagoland. Look across the country,too. Look at enrollment numbers, teacher:ratios and the number of economically disadvantaged students in each district. Check our teacher salaries and the amount of $ spent on each student. Look in the recent D181 brochure to see that Western Springs' scores are higher than ours, they have a more diverse population, yet hey spend much, much less than our district does. They score even better than Oak Brook. Hmmm. I wonder why? Probably because they have a much fewer district level administrators. And the ones they do have know what they are doing.

Remember, people with doctorates are not the only ones in this town who work their asses off. Lots of people have doctorates and don't ask that people refer to them with a title.

I doubt you will find this post respectful or constructive, but I can't help it if you can't see the positive and the constructive in what I have written. Reality isn't aways rosy or happy, but it keeps people and governments in check. And that's positively fabulous.

Anonymous said...

I went to the facilities thing the district hosted last night at HMS. There were three architectural firms there, each with a different design for a new school. All three designs were interesting, though not necessarily in a good way.

One design I felt was very cool; it has a green roof classes can go to, plus terrariums and a large auditorium. However, as we saw with HMS and the "open concept" design, what's "cool" now doesn't mean it'll remain "cool" for the entire life span of the building. Plus, I don't know how practical it would be.

Another design had the main building, plus three "houses" connected to it, one for each grade level. I find this interesting, but not in a good way. I also talked to the architects about student capacity: 825 students. I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. HMS has frequently had over 825 students for the last decade. So I asked how easy it would be to expand, and add portables. They looked at me like I had three heads. They told me that they had projected 800-850 students. How far into the future did these projections go? 5 years? 10? And for a building that should last 40+ years, that's unacceptable. Should the district get a large influx of students, where will we put them? Build a third middle school?

The third design was probably the most boring, yet most practical. Lots of classrooms, plus an auditorium & gymnasium/fitness lab available for public use. However, on the blueprints, there's a student locker room on the opposite side of the building from the gym. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity the locker room would be used for. So I asked one of the architects, and he agreed that the placement didn't make sense, so he gestured for another architects with the firm to take a look. She said that it was so that the public couldn't look into it. Um… you can still attach it to the gym, and have it inaccessible to the general public. To make it worse, there were already locker rooms attached to the gym, apparently for public use. ?!? What the heck were they thinking? Plus, it would take around 1-2 minutes to go to the locker rooms to change into gym clothes, another 1-2 minutes to go back to the gym, plus all that again to change back into regular clothes at the end of class. So in a 42 minute period, students lose about 1/8 of the class just to go to & from the locker room, which doesn't include actual changing time, which probably gets closer to 1/4 of the period lost.

All designs had similar issues though: where are the day-today, behind-the-scenes stuff? Where's the elevator? Is it in an accessible place? Where are the staff bathrooms, staff lounge, copy/work rooms, custodial work areas, IT room? The kind of stuff where if you're there once, it's a minor inconvenience. But for students & staff there all day, everyday, it's a nightmare. All of the architects said the same things: this is very early drafts, and can change. I hope they get input on the needs, and not just from central office administrators. They really need to actively get input from the building staff & students/parents. Plus, don't go with what's "cool": go with what's practical and lasts for the 40+ year life of the school. Plus, make contingencies for if/when we get a lot more students, and parking.

On a separate matter, I heard that the 6th graders were finally able to hold classes in the new portables. Woo-hoo! Unfortunately, with the rain, there were already leaks in each room, along with the ramp. Are you (expletive) kidding me? What bozos are running this circus? Fortunately, I hear it was small drips in the classrooms, but still leaks nonetheless. We really need more competent people here.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please no fads or passing trends on the new middle school. My children went to CHMS. It is a good looking building, and seems very functional. The gym, the cafeteria, and the performance areas ( shared with the cafeteria) all seemed to be logically located away from the classrooms.

Hinsdale is landlocked, so any new influx of students will have to come from teardowns. There are still a number of houses especially in the Madison district that will come down. Don't know if it is possible to canvass the areas and guess which houses will eventually be torn down ( Hint: all ranch houses and all split level houses) I am not a snob, I grew up in 3 ranches, a split level, and a raised ranch, but those styles are not popular today.

In any event, I don't think we need to plan for another 200 to 300 kids, but the plan should be flexible for another 50 to 75. Keep in mind, the young families buying these houses are not having as many kids.

I am betting the referendum will be a difficult uphill battle. I see this referendum being about more than HMS. This is about the years of waste, over spending, key position incompetence and turnover and overall execution of the current group. The BOE and administration must present a credible plan of how this new school will be built. Credibility is sorely lacking today. FYI, you guys can't have any more portable goof ups. The logistical and administrative skills to build a new school ( with permits BTW) while safely operating the current middle school will test the best administrators. I am not sure we have the best administrators on board today. I am a parent of two graduates of D181 and a very concerned tax payer.

Anonymous said...

Part 1: Bloggers: I'm copying an email letter D181 parents and community members received today and that is also posted on the D181 website regarding the upcoming state release of the PARCC assessment scores. That is the test that replaced the ISAT tests. I don't know about you, but I read this letter as preemptive excuse making, should D181's students score badly.....

Text of Letter: "This letter is to share news on the initial release of PARCC Assessment data and to provide an update on efforts to review our District 181 Assessment Framework.

Assessments are of critical importance for continuous improvement. They are used to support students by informing instruction, guiding differentiation, and measuring growth for individuals and groups of learners. Some assessments provide immediate feedback, and some are used to create comparative analyses over time. To this end, we have built a robust assessment framework that includes nationally normed assessments as well as formative assessments that help our classroom teachers make day-to-day decisions about students' content mastery and help our team of educators make long-term decisions about curriculum and instruction across the District.

Our Assessment Framework must include a balance of all types of assessments while also being sensitive to the time that is taken from the actual tasks of teaching and learning. We are currently reviewing this balance and considering which assessments could be eliminated in response to consistent feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators. It is important we continue to talk with our community about why we administer each of our assessments, how they benefit students, are how they are used in decision making.

The PARCC Assessment is not being considered for elimination, as it is state-mandated, having replaced the previous Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT). The first administration of the PARCC Assessment during the 2014-15 school year was a challenge for districts across the state. Change can be hard, especially considering the move from a written format to an online format and most importantly, the alignment of PARCC questions to the new Common Core standards. I am extremely proud of the partnership of D181 staff and parents in supporting our students' participation. We did not allow what seemed to be daunting hurdles to get in the way of our efforts to create a positive testing experience."

Anonymous said...

Part 2 -- Letter from Don White re PARCC tests:

"I recently received a communication from the State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith in which he notes that the State Board of Education will release "the initial, and still incomplete, statewide results from the PARCC test" on Wednesday, September 16. I am excited to see how Illinois students have performed. According to Dr. Smith, district and student level data is not ready for release to school districts and may not be shared until later this fall. We will post a link to the released data on our website as it is made available ( > Learning > Assessment > PARCC). On this same webpage, we have posted an important memo outlining changes to PARCC that have been announced for 2015-16.

I think it is extremely important we understand that PARCC is simply one assessment, a part of the District's overall assessment framework along with components like the MAP Assessment, end-of-unit tests, and teacher observations. We must be cautious not to overreact to any one set of data and should focus on how data can inform and ultimately improve our work. Dr. Smith highlighted this caution in regard to the PARCC data. He shared that while the numbers are not final, the percentage of students across Illinois who demonstrate proficiency are likely to be lower than the percentage of students who were proficient on the ISAT. The State Superintendent said it well when he offered that "the initial [PARCC] results are simply a new baseline from which we can move forward."

Taking on warranted challenges are worth the effort when students benefit and when educators are stretched to consider new strategies for improving our practices to better support the children we serve. I am confident that if the State can accomplish the goal of providing individual student results by the start of the school year in the future, PARCC will be a great tool to help educators provide improved learning opportunities.


Don White, Ph.D.

Jill Quinones said...

I guess I am most troubled by the last sentence that reads in part "PARCC will be a great tool to help educators provide improved learning opportunities." As we know, more and more states, both those that have and have not abandoned the Common Core, have dropped out of PARCC. Illinois is now one of only 12 or 13 states using it. A recent article in Education week revealed that cut scores were set by teachers sent from each state analyzing data and making recommendations to PARCC representatives who then looked at where the actual student test scores would fall using those teacher-recommended scores and then adopted "mid range" cut scores - whatever that means. I have never heard of test cut scores being based on actual student performance when you are trying to hold students to a certain standard of performance.

My understanding is that the scores posted tomorrow will not include those from students who took the test paper/pencil - only computer. In Ohio that meant 36% of the students' scores were not included.

As a teacher, no one has yet been able to articulate to me in any specific way how a student's score on this test will translate into improved learning opportunities. I personally have little faith that the scores will really reflect what the CCSS expect to be mastered.

Jill Quinones said...

For anyone interested, PARCC released today a mock score report:

Level 2 Standard score 700, Level 3 725, Level 4 750 and Level 5 depends on grade and subject. No word on how actual score translated into Standard Score....

Jill Quinones said...

PS - States are allowed to change the Pearson-set cut scores and set there own...

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: Please create a freestanding post for PARCC comments. Here's another one. Read this and weep:

Anonymous said...

No one in HS Math exceeded expectation on the PARCC assessment: