Saturday, October 24, 2015

Comment of the Day: Before D181 Goes to Referendum, The Public Has A Right to Have ALL Options on HMS Fully Vetted and Priced Out

We have decided to publish the following comment we received today as the Comment of the Day.  It raises questions and concerns we believe deserve to be addressed by the D181 Administration and Board of Education.  As always, SOUND OFF!

Anonymous said...
The whole process of choosing an architect for HMS reminds me of the process the district used when they hastily decided to tear down all the successful curricular work of previous administrations build the brand new Learning for All plan. It also reminds me of the flawed way the Department of Learning run its math pilots the last 2 years. The few parents that showed up for Board meetings could tell that all BOE members didn't really seem to comprehend the details of LFA and math pilots - probably because none were given. Alternatives options to tweak or improve the current systems were not offered. When people asked for details and data to support the innovative plans, or inquired about the ramifications to students, the administration promised answers and success. None ever appeared. When the public looked on the website for details about the new plans, none were there. Since no one ever showed up to challenge the administration, the BOE felt compelled to submit to the the superintendents. The Learning for All Plan and the math pilots passed, and our kids are still suffering through the kinks. Yet the district refuses to address the growing pains they created in the curriculum, ignores the falling test results, and instead, wants to spend all our money building a new $60 million dollar school? We just spent $2 million on HMS last year. Why would we through that investment away? Our children are more important to us than a new school.

By denying the public the opportunity to see specific costs and visuals of remodeled schools, the administration is telling us again that they will not negotiate with us. They have limited our options, asked for 40% more money to finance a new build rather than remodel, yet expect full support. I don't know about you, but $24 million extra for the same size school in the same bad location is more than I am willing to hand over to the same folks who brought us Learning for All. If we do not explore and negotiate the best way to improve HMS before we hand over the checkbook, and provide these details to the public in writing, the BOE will be making the same, unanimous mistake they made when they allowed LFA to pass years ago.

HMS already is functional, it just needs some tweaking. Maybe the neglect in maintaining HMS for such a long period of time was the reason why the district was so successful academically back then. All of our resources were concentrated on providing the best education possible for students. The main mistake the lighthouse era people seemed to have made is that they did not Obviously, structural needs should not have been ignored, but do we really want to swing the pendulum so far away from educational excellence and spend all of our time and energy on a building a physically excellent new school? The Learning for All plan has been far more costly than ever expected. Especially since it occurred during the time we should have been preparing for the Common Core. The district's heart is in the right place by wanting to build a new school, but if we continue to allow such an expensive, poorly conceived project to occur in our district again, the results will be even more harmful. Before board members begin choosing architects and pulling permits, please slow down and consider all of our options. Show us what a remodel would look like. Tell us how much land we need, and how much other properties are. Make this information public. How much money could we make if we sold HMS' current property? Give us exact estimates, models, and time frames for the cost of a remodel before we decide to dismantle the district again. Now is not the time to build a new school or plan referendums. But it is the time to fix the mess the academic problems this administration created.


Anonymous said...

Parents: take the time review boardocs for Monday's meeting; you will be shocked at the Map data results along with the very simple reports that are posted. We must voice our concerns now. It's very clear the administration is focused on a new HMS building, when they should be fixing the curriculum mess that exists within it as well as the other schools.

The Parents said...

Everyone who lives in D181 should take the online Strategic Planning Survey that went live today. It can be found at the following website page and clicking on the Survey link on the left hand side of the page:

It went live today and is available through November 8.

For once the district has created a useful survey that will allow community members to give real feedback about the district in the following areas: Quality of Education (now and compared to the past), the Learning Environment (this including whether the district is leading our children in the right direction -- this allows for narrative feedback on the current curriculum programs in the district), Communication and community relations, Governance and operations, your district priorities, your vision (for the future) of the district, and KEY to the present -- whether or not you would support building a new Hinsdale Middle School.

We bloggers want to thank BOE member Jennifer Burns who is on the Strategic Planning Committee and who has been working with the strategic planning firm on the survey questions. We appreciate the real effort this survey makes in asking straight forward questions on the State of the District and what parents really want for their children's education.

The only question we are somewhat disappointed in is the HMS question. Rather than simply ask the responder to say if they will vote YES or NO if the referendum question is on the March 2016 ballot, the question provides you four options -- Definitely No, Probably No, Probably Yes, Definitely Yes. This will, in our opinion, create enough wiggle room to allow the administration to spin the responses. Unless people simply say they will vote No, the administration will paint a probably no as a possible yes, thus skewing the results.

Finally, we want to point out that the learning environment question is a good one because it asks you to rate whether or not the administration is making decisions in the best interests of the students. For all parents who believe the social justice, learning for all program has hurt your kids, this is your chance to let the Administration know how disappointed you are in their decisions.

Spread the word to all your neighbors that this is a real opportunity to SOUND OFF to the administration and BOE!

Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly with the above post on the District Survey released tonight on the Strategic Plan. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and write down their thoughts and answer honestly to the survey questions.

I also encourage everyone possible to attend tomorrow night's special BOE meeting called to discuss curriculum, assessment and MAP Data. Too often, the same five or six faces attend these meetings taking time to speak at the microphone. It is time for each and every one of you to take a step forward and instead of simply posting on this blog or voicing your frustration over the direction of math advancement and placement in this district to your neighbor, to attend tomorrow's meeting and voice your concerns publicly. Until more and more of our population comes forward to share their frustration and disappointment in how children are given advanced opportunities in math and reading and how unfair it is that some children are never given these opportunities despite assessment and performance data, nothing will change in this community.

Currently the district has this ridiculous criteria for 2 SD above the district mean on two consecutive tests along with 90 percent or better or in some cases 75 to 89 percent on the End of Year test in order to be accelerated to the next grade level for math. Does anyone at the DOL understand what 2 SD means? We are talking about 96 percent roughly of the student population falling within 2 SD above that district mean. This means a child in that remaining 4 percent is given advancement opportunities while the others are left to idle in a classroom. Never mind that in order to achieve 2 SD above a district mean for any given grade level you must demonstrate a breadth and scope of mathematical understanding far beyond just one grade level above. This is absolutely ridiculous.

So much has been made about this Singapore Math curriculum. I get it-Asia has been far ahead of the US in mathematical practices and achievement since time began. But since when does switching to a math program like Math In Focus mean that all of our children, including our high achieving learners need to re learn how they calculate or process a problem just so they can draw a picture? I thought the purpose was to visualize math as one strategy for problem solving but not the ONLY strategy. Otherwise, we are pigeon holing our students into having to learn one methodology to solving problems and down the lane when we switch to the next math program, they'll be struggling to understand what happened to MIF just like some are struggling from switching over from Everyday Math. Our higher ability learners already had strong number sense and mathematical reasoning. Our higher achieving students already successfully solved problems. We didn't switch our program to meet the needs of these learners. We switched our resource materials and direction because we were trying to reach a greater number of students and achieve a greater margin of success overall with our students by raising the floor of our mathematical abilities. As a country, the US needs emphasis on this--but why are we penalizing our students who are already at the high end of their mathematical abilities? Why are we punishing students who solve problems one way because it isn't the Math In Focus way?
I like Math In Focus. I find it to be a great foundational base and a wonderful way to explain and discuss mathematical reasoning. But it is just ONE WAY. I urge all of you who share these frustrations to attend tomorrow's meeting.

Anonymous said...

I am seriously concerned about the make up of the Facilities Committee. This is one of the most undemocratic, lopsided committees I have ever seen. 10 of the 16 people, are either current board members, employees of D181, or spouses of employees of the district. I may even be underestimating this as well since I don't know much about several of the community members who are not employees or board members. This is shocking considering ECRA was paid $58,000 to make sure that the process was democratic and fair. Wasn't Patron Insight paid a similar amount of money? Is this what $100,000 worth of taxpayer money for "expert consultants" and "scientific research" gets us? No matter how hard Jennifer Burns works to help create a fair survey, the information that gets presented to the community is inherently flawed. The other BOE members need to step up and correct this situation. If I were a board member, I would be concerned about putting myself at risk of being investigated by the attorney general's office. It is shocking that more business savvy residents are not included in this committee How were these committee members selected anyway? If the committee cannot be comprised of a more balanced cross-section of residents, all meetings should stop until this need can be corrected. No wonder the administration is in such a rush to take this to a referendum. They want to pass this before anyone realizes how corrupt this whole process has been.
What percentage of the district employees actually live in 181? 2%? 5%? THAT is the percentage of people who should serve on this committee. If taxpayers and parents will have to pay for this for the next 20-40 years, WE need to have more transparency. This committee smacks of collusion.

Of the 16, those with * next to their names are people whose households derive financial benefit from D181.
9 of the 16 people, or 56% of the facilities committee members households rely on paychecks from D181.

continued below.....

Anonymous said...

These are the people who have the power to decide how our public schools will spend OUR money:

* Gary Clarin, Board Member and Committee Chair (His wife is a full time teacher at HMS. He is already on the Board of Ed. and has power through his vote. He should not be given the additional opportunity to direct activities of this committee. As a former carpenter and builder, the decisions he makes might benefit his network of work contacts. He needs to be asked to step off this committee in the interest, or at least appearance of fairness. Bad enough that he was allowed to negotiate teacher's contracts since his wife is a teacher. BOE members need to step back and allow others, esp. parents to participate. There are plenty of parents in this district who are builders who don't have a BOE vote and who don't rely on 181 for salary or pension money.)

Julie Bryant, Community Member (Don't know anything about)

Mridu Garg, Board President (Already on the Board and privy to more information than regular parents and tax paying residents. Again, she already has a vote on this topic, so like Clarin, she should not also be allowed to control the way the committee works. Board members need to step back and allow other community members to participate in this process. )

*Leo Maas, Classified Staff Member ( He has been a custodian at The Lane for a few years. Nice man. How long has he worked in our district? Does he live in it? Smart person, but there are a lot of smart people who live in the district who don't work for it. He will opt to submit to the Superintendent and his bosses. )

*Bridget McGuiggan, District Administrator (She already has enough info and power. She is not a parent,an educator, nor is she a resident. Again, an employee of the district and obligated to agree with admin or risk losing her job. She should be allowed to publicize info from this committee, but should not be a MEMBER of this committee.)

Lois Mejdrich, Community Member (Good choice.)

Ann Mueller, Community Member (Good choice.)

John Norton, Community Member (Good choice. I think he has child in district.)

*Ruben Peña, School Administrator (Should be able to submit information, but again, is an employee of the district and obligated to agree with his bosses.)

Rama Raman, Community Member (Don't know anything about)

*Kelly Sledz, Certified Staff Member (Who is she? Does she live in district or currently have kids in the district? What is her education level? )

*Griffin Sonntag, School Administrator (Another employee of the district.)

*Ken Surma, District Administrator (Employee of the district who is already in charge of the money. It is absurd to give him decision making abilities in this area. We need a non employees finance expert to supervise Surma's decisions)

Tom Szurgot, Community Member (Don't know)

*Mike Vilendrer, District Administrator (Another district administrator and employee)

*Dr. Don White, Superintendent ( Another district administrator and employee)

Mike Woerner, Community Member (Good choice)

I could go read this information at the board meeting tonight, but if I did, I know my kids would be retaliated against. I would appreciate someone in the community or BOE acknowledge that this is a very unprofessional way to conduct a multi million dollar, publicly funded construction project.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Bloggers: Have you seen the Cost Estimate for the new HMS that was posted on board docs today? The school could cost as much as $73 MILLION! Here is the link:$file/HMS%20Cost%20Estimate%20DRAFT%20Executive%20Summary%2012-13-15.pdf

This is over $20 million more than the public has been told the building would cost? Please post this as a free standing post! The community has a right to know this.