Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Comment of The Day: Former BOE Member Calls for Board Action and Accountability of D181 Administrators

This morning we received the following comment from former Board Member Yvonne Mayer that was a copy of a letter she sent to the Board of Education last night.  We agree with the points she has raised regarding the negative impact the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan has had on D181's advanced learners and the need for the BOE to take action this year.  As always, SOUND OFF!

Yvonne Mayer said...

Bloggers: I am submitting (in several parts) a letter I emailed the Board of Education last night. After attending the Learning Committee meeting earlier this month and listening to the podcast of Monday's BOE meeting in which curriculum and data was discussed, I felt compelled to express my disappointment and anger.

Dear Board of Education Members:

I write to you today as a former Board Member who voted to approve the Advanced Learning Plan. Out of respect for my former status as an elected representative, parent of four D181 graduates and fourteen year resident, I hope that despite the negative opinions some of you have of me, that you will each read this entire email and carefully consider its content. While some of what I will say is harsh and critical, in my opinion, there is no benefit at this point in holding anything back. The district's reputation of providing the highest quality instruction for all students is teetering on the brink of destruction because of the continuing harm caused to advanced learners by the Administration's refusal to identify and implement changes needed to reverse their academic decline resulting from the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plans.

As you know, and as I have publicly reminded Mr. Turek since my term ended, I voted yes to approve the Advanced Learning Plan (despite expressing concerns about the plan and how it might negatively impact the district's highest achievers) because I wanted the administration to have a unanimous vote that they would take seriously. My naive expectation was that they would collect and analyze performance data to ensure that the "Raise the Floor to Raise the Ceiling" plan would actually benefit ALL D181 students. Following the vote, Mr. Turek personally thanked me for being a team player and assured me that he would make sure the data was collected and analyzed and there would be accountability.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years to Monday night's BOE meeting. The data presented to six of you on Monday night (and which was presented earlier this month at the Learning Committee meeting which I attended) established that math students performing in the top 10 percent (using Dr. Larson's virtual MAP analysls) in grades 4, 5, 6 and 8 have not met their growth targets. As Board Members Gray, Garg and Burns pointed out, the conclusion must be that the math programs implemented over the last four years have not benefited them. As Jill Quinones, an educator and parent on the Learning Committee, pointed out during closing public comment, the district is worse off today that when she moved here 15 years ago, because of the elimination of programs offered to advanced learners to meet their needs. (I urge Board Member Vorobiev to listen to the entirety of last night's meeting.)

t has been six years since a qualified Assessment Director (Dr. Strykowski) worked in D181, a position that was unfortunately eliminated at Dr. Schuster's recommendation when the BOE cut $5 million from the budget. It took six years before a qualified assessment director -- Dr. Larson -- with actual educational training in statistical analysis, was hired. In three short months she has thrown herself into her work, analyzed the performance data and publicly informed you and the entire D181 community of the lack of growth shown by the district's advanced learners in Grades 4, 5, 6 and 8.

It took Dr. Larson to analyze and explain the data, that as Board Member Gray highlighted, proves that the advanced learners in the 6th grade class have shown the most stagnation in meeting their performance goals in math. And you all know that this 6th grade class is the guinea pig class (as it has been referred to by concerned community members) that was subjected to the experimentation, acceleration for all, one size fits all, "socially just" curriculum changes in the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plans.

Further, it took Dr. Larson to inform you that the way MAP data has been presented to you over the last several years -- Fall to Fall and by quintiles -- was inappropriate and essentially useless, and that what should have been analyzed is Fall to Spring data, using a Virtual Comparison group method. As I listened to Dr. Larson's explanation during the Learning Committee and BOE meetings, it made me very angry to realize that the assessment administrators that were promoted to that position during Dr. Schuster's superintendency, and were renewed and/or further promoted by Dr. White, were unaware Fall to Fall reports were inappropriate and never once proposed the use of the Virtual Comparison group method.

As concerned community members, including myself, have pointed out to you over and over again, D181 should have been filling administrative positions with qualified and experienced individuals, rather than with individuals who had to learn on the job, and had no educational expertise in statistical analysis or general and advanced learning curricula. Over the last four years, the district paid over $500,000 in salaries to assessment administrators who did not analyze the data correctly, yet there has been zero accountability for their failure to do so.

Over the last three years, the district paid more than $500,000 in salaries to administrators who rolled out programs that I and former Board member Heneghan kept arguing were not ground in best practice research or supporting data. You all are aware of recently released public records that show that the "best practice research" and power points presented to the BOE in support of the Advanced Learning for All Plan were virtually non-existent. Yet no one has been held accountable.

It has been nearly four years since the radical curriculum changes were rolled out that ignored Dr. Moon's recommendation that what actually needed fixing was the identification method being used to place students into advanced learning and gifted classes, and expansion of the advanced learning programs so that these students' needs would be met every day. It has taken 4 years for the data on the "socially just" programs to be analyzed by a qualified statistician and data analyst. It has taken FOUR years for a candid presentation on the findings of this data to be presented followed by an actual discussion by the board members.

It is, therefore, sad (not to mention infuriating) that despite Mr. Turek's personal promise to me that he would insist on proper data collection and analysis in order for the BOE to be able to effectively evaluate the Advanced Learning Plan as it rolled out, that last night he came off as a boorish, angry, defiant bully who wanted to ignore the harsh conclusions that you ALL should have reached following Dr. Larson's presentation. The conclusion? That D181 has utterly failed the advanced learners ever since the Advanced Learning Plan was implemented.

Yet instead of all of you who were in attendance supporting Board Member Gray, Garg and Burns' concerns about the implications of the data, and then turn to the administration to present what steps they are going to take to fix the programs THIS YEAR, Mr. Turek tried to minimize the data analysis. Equally disappointing was Board Member Giltner's suggestion that additional changes to the curriculum to address the underperformance of the district's advance learners should be delayed until more data is collected.  

The time to act is NOW, not six months from now or one year from now. How many more years must D181's young learners have to wait for a program that actually meets each of their individual needs? How many more years must go by before all seven of you acknowledge that the dismantlement of the gifted program was a huge mistake that needs to be rectified this year. How many students have to NOT LEARN at their potential and NOT GROW during an academic year before you realize that the district has come full circle to where it was when Dr. Moon was hired to evaluate the gifted programs?

The flexible ability groups that you directed the administration to implement last spring as a first step to address the problem (which was becoming evident even before Dr. Larson's full data analysis) is not enough. The manner in which the administration has chosen to implement your directive is unrealistic. As pointed out by another parent during public comment last night, the administration has set cut off's that have most likely resulted in the exclusion of many advanced learners who should be learning at a faster pace or higher level in math than grade level. The cut-offs make no sense and I would ask you to direct the administration to explain what data was used (and how best practices were followed to analyze the data) to select the cut-offs.

As pointed out last night, the district has gone from identifying 1/3 of its students as needing acceleration to one where only students who have proven that they are already two years ahead in math can receive ONE year of acceleration. In other words, even these few students will not learn anything new if one applies your identification standards. Admission into any type of accelerated math program has become even more exclusive that the gifted program criticized by Dr. Moon. And yet the administration doesn't seem to be concerned about this fact.

I would remind you that you are required under Board Policy 2:020 to "[e]valuat[e] the educational program and approv[e] School Improvement and District Improvement Plans." You are also required under this policy to "[a]pprov[e] the curriculum, textbooks, and educational services" AND "represent[ ] the needs and desires of the community in educational matters."

I am well aware that since the BOE I served on approved the original Advanced Learning for All Plan, the administration tweaked and changed the plan multiple times WITHOUT ever seeking the required formal board approval. This fact was brought to your attention by existing board members, yet the Administration continued to make modifications without providing you with best practice research or data to support the changes. It wasn't until your directive last Spring demanding reinstatement of flexible based ability groups in math, that you took any action, and yet now that you have been presented data that allows you to EVALUATE the past programs, as required by board policy, Mr. Turek baulks and Mr. Giltner suggests delaying action steps.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Clarin for showing support for some of the concerns Ms. Gray raised last night. Sadly, his statement that suggested that academic mediocrity, rather than excellence, now exists in D181 is true. It is time to return D181 to excellence and for you, the community's seven elected representatives, to "represent the needs and desires of the community in educational matters," rather than the desires of certain administrators.

I am, therefore, asking again, that you please demand accountability from the D181 administrators. Ask Dr. White and his administrators to explain how it is possible that before Dr. Larson was hired, four years of improper data was collected and not analyzed using an appropriate statistical methodology. Ask again for the administration to present the best practice research and data that they claim supported the original Advanced Learning Plan power point presented to the BOE nearly four years ago. Ask Dr. White to justify what each Dept. of Learning administrator is actually doing NOW, what they actually did over the last three years and how he is evaluating their current work?

If the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All programs that were rolled out by certain administrators resulted in underperformance of the students at the "ceiling" -- a ceiling that the data has now proven has been lowered, not raised over the last four years -- then you must demand an explanation from these administrators. You must demand that Dr. White hold them accountable. You cannot simply ignore the negative impact of these programs on the students and ignore the fact that the changes recommended by certain administrators caused them.

If the data over the last four years wasn't even properly collected or analyzed, then these administrators must also be held accountable. You cannot simply ignore their missteps and suggest that another year go by with more data being collected and analyzed, this time by a qualified administrator.

And finally, if Dr. White is unwilling to hold the administrators accountable, then it is time to hold him accountable.

As our elected representatives, you hold the power. The onus is on you now to fix the mess because no one else is going to do it. All seven of you must act together now, in the best interests of all D181's children. Please don't let them down.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer
Former D181 BOE Member


Anonymous said...

Well said. We all know this is true, but will anything be done?

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to take the blame for this, own it, and apologize before anyone can trust the administration again. Someone needs to also help the 6th graders who are still suffering the effects of these poor decisions.

Anonymous said...

Why do so few parents seem to care that the administration has reduced the gap between high and low performers by just dumbing down the high performers, instead of doing the hard work of raising the poor performers?

A STEM-focussed parent told me long ago that the "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" experiment was an intelligence test. It should be intuitively obvious that the advanced math students will not get better at math, if we stop teaching them advanced math. However, like the emperor's new clothes, an authority figure has assured them it is true. Even though they had no evidence. So, like sheep, they went along.

The intelligence test is how long the BOE will stay in denial, and make excuses before they admit to themselves or others that the emperor has no clothes. It turns out that the answer is, "A lot longer than you would think." That will be followed by some even more amazing rationalizations about why they could not see the blindingly obvious before.

Funny that people only seem to be so easily gulled about math. What if someone told you that we are going to quit having the best English students read advanced books, and instead, we are going to have them reread more easy books? They tell you that if you do this, a miracle will happen and kids reading the easy books will magically be more advanced than if they had read advanced books. Would anyone believe this? You say no, but that is what they did at math, and half of them don't believe it is not working.

I have to say that I am stunned that Giltner and Vorobiev do not seem to clearly see this. When they finally get enough data to figure out that the administrators have made fools of them, they are going to be mad.

How can so many seemingly intelligent adults fail, for so long, to understand that if a school has three math tracks and you want to improve math scores, the best solution would be to work to prepare more students for the higher tracks? Shouldn't even Mr. Turek understand that?

Earth to BOE, Santa Claus is not coming.

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed and continue to be disillusioned by the BOE discussion and DOL commentary on above grade level material, advancement and/or acceleration opportunities.

Otherwise, how could we have arrived at this crazy criteria of 2 SD above the district mean? When I ask people in the community at large if they truly understand this criteria most are upset about their own children who are advanced. Many parents say-will this affect my child? Will she have to take a step down and go back to her grade level class for math? All parents should want for their children to be appropriately placed and challenged. All parents should want their children to have equitable opportunities. The real valid worry is that once a child is taken out of their accelerated track and returned to their normal grade level classroom the odds of he/she gaining access to that accelerated track later are insurmountable.

I respect and value the need for criteria. But is our criteria meant to do more harm than good? I feel that we are neither meeting the needs of those outliers who are in the 2 to 4 percent or the needs of those children who fall just short of that criteria. Why? Because for a child to be achieving 2 SD above the district mean, they are true outliers. They are so far beyond grade level material (they can't achieve 2 SD otherwise) so we should devote resources around how best to give these children the rigor they need. But kids who are performing at a higher bar above their peers but short the 2 SD , should also be given opportunities for pacing and advancement into above grade level material perhaps at mid year too.

The real question is not how many children do we accelerate in D 181? The real question is--how do we as educators and parents do a better job of ability based grouping our students? What criteria? We should meet the needs of our outliers- Kids who are double accelerated and meeting that criteria of 2 SD for two grade levels above should also be on a different path. But kids who are in grade level math and are higher achieving with 1.5 SD should also be given quicker pacing opportunities. That is a group in and of itself.

The second real question is when do we begin this journey? Much has been said that KG, 1st and 2nd grades don't need anything. But in a community where the average child spends 3 to 4 years in preschool and many children are held behind a year because of summer and late spring birthdays, the entering KG student has changed in 2015. Now children enter school with higher number sense, math facts, critical thinking skills, reading (some are reading at levels H, I, J or K), better vocabulary and social skills. Not all but many children. Should a 5 or 6 year old child reading at this academic level along with capabilities of number sense, identification, and both procedural and conceptual math skills be held another year before actually learning a more rigorous math curriculum? Or in our case in D 181, held back until 2nd grade?

By the time a child reaches 2nd grade with no enriched or advanced learning opportunities or no hope of acceleration, they have already developed early study skills and patterns in behavior. They have begun to understand that math is about regurgitating the same information they already know. They will become sloppy in their homework and class performance because asking them to learn 1 plus something = 9 is a task they were performing in montessori or preschool or KG.

see next comment.

Anonymous said...

What message does this send to our learners? our parents? What more evidence do we need in an KG classroom besides children reading, writing and capable of math concepts in 1 st or 2nd grade? These students do exist. Just as students meeting the criteria of 2 SD exists. And parents of children not meeting that criteria but currently given advanced and accelerated opportunities? You should worry-these opportunities won't be around for future students. These opportunities won't be there for the other children in your family (if you have more to attend D 181 schools). Fight for those children too. And fight for those children who are 2 SD above the district mean for one or two or even three grade levels. Those children deserve your fight too. That child today could be your child tomorrow.

In my opinion, before we build a better school and raise tax dollars for a new HMS, we need to clean up our curriculum. A beautiful house means nothing if the people inside are poor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Oct. 30 at 7:47 PM

Your asked: Why do so few parents seem to care that the administration has reduced the gap between high and low performers by just dumbing down the high performers, instead of doing the hard work of raising the poor performers?

Exactly. It is hard work to teach the poor performers. Sometimes it costs more money. It is a lot easier and cheaper to lump everyone in a big group and just teach to that group.

If the administration really wanted to "raise the floor to raise the ceiling", they would teach the struggling learners instead of allowing them to languish in their classrooms with children who are 1, 2 or 3 years ahead in the core subjects. Many poor performers are capable of grade level work but the teachers and administration need to do more to ensure these children are getting what they need to catch up. What they are doing now isn't working: once a poor performer, always a poor performer in our district.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up. Parents of the struggling learners need to ask their children's teachers what they are doing so their children catch up. Parents of the advanced learners need to ask their children's teachers what they are doing so their children are challenged.

Come on folks! We need to hold the administration, the board and the teachers accountable. Hold their feet to the fire before it is too late for our children.

We need change and we need it now. We don't need to wait for more data. We don't need more numbers to show us what is going on with our children.

"Inconvenienced Parent" said...

Will there ever be accountability of any D181 administrator? I have been a parent in the district for many years and I cannot believe how even the simplest thing such as paying the annual student fees has been made virtually impossible to do by a clearly incompetent administration. When my kids first started in D181, every spring I would pay the student fees for the following school year at the same time that I had to deliver proof of residency documents to the school my kids were enrolled in. I would pay by check. Then a few years ago, a new online option was made available and while glitchy, payment was still due in the spring, again at about the same time that proof of residency was turned in.

I don't know why, but for this school year a new online program was started. I don't know why, but this program wasn't ready last spring, so no fees were collected I don't know why, but it wasn't until October that the administration announced that the online program was ready and fees were finally going to be collected. Each year, the district collects over $600,000 in fees and according to a question/answer posted on board docs that a board members asked for the Oct. 19 board meeting, between $650 and 700,000 in fees will be collected for this school year.

So imagine my absolute frustration when I tried to finally pay my students' fee online only to get the following email back:

"Dear Parent/Guardian:

You recently made a payment for your child’s District 181 fees through our Acorn Fee Management Program. However, your payment was NOT processed and your credit card was NOT charged because our system was in “test” mode. With the system in “test” mode, it prevents payments from being accepted or charged through to the credit card company.
We at Rycor Software realize the inconvenience this causes you, and we wish to sincerely apologize to all parties involved. While this did not affect all the families that paid their fees, we feel that if it effects one family, that is one too many. We have corrected the issue, and wanted to make you aware of it as soon as possible.
If you have any questions concerning this matter, you will be able to direct your questions to our customer support services at 1-800-310-3660.
Thank you,
The Rycor Software Team"

When I got this email, I thought, IS THIS A JOKE? After months and months of delay, where 3/4 of a million dollars was not collected, the system wasn't turned on correctly but left in test mode?

The email from The Rycor Software Team apologizes for the inconvenience. Really? What a ----ing joke! The only apology I and other parents should be getting should come from the D181 administrator who screwed up this simple task. Instead, they try and throw a software company under the bus? I think it is high time that the D181 administration, starting with Dr. White, realize that he and his central office administrators are responsible for every communication that goes to parents and if they say we can finally pay our student fees, then they better be sure we can do so. Someone, and I would bet it's the Asst. Superintendent of Operations and Finance, is probably responsible for this mistake. But whoever it is, don't throw a vendor under the bus. Take ownership for your screw ups!

More importantly why don't you explain why you think its ok for fees to go uncollected in the first place? I would bet that many parents aren't going to pay them now, they will be so confused. Good luck to the administration in collecting late fees.....

If the administration can't do something as simple as collecting student fees, how can we trust them to set an appropriate tax levy, negotiate appropriate architecture firm fees or build a new middle school? The answer is simple. We can't trust them. And by the way, this is the same bunch of idiots who are complaining that they work too hard.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Too bad Illinois doesn't have a recall option for voters to oust board members who refuse to do what is in the best interests of students and hold their superintendent and central office administrators accountable. Check out the following news article from Colorado where voters do have some say. D181 voters should be able to demand accountability from their elected officials, and if those officials simply prop up a weak administrative team time and time again, we should be able to oust them. There are two board members (possibly four) currently on D181 who should be demanding accountability from Dr. White and his team. Too bad the common resident is powerless to force their hands.

Anonymous said...

I'm not paying their stupid fees. The administration can't explain adequately what it's for, they can't collect it and I'm sure they can't spend it effectively.

The incompetence of D181 knows no bounds. My kids are going to private school next year. This place is a joke. I'm tired of peeing up a rope. The administrators are unreasonable and dishonest. The learning for all plan was built on a complete lie and nobody lost their job for it. The learning for all plan is not working and nobody lost their job for it. Test scores are dropping (or among the top 10% stagnating) and nobody lost their job for it. Worse yet, there is no sign of a reversal in sight. None.

If these people had to work in the private sector, they'd be collecting unemployment. That would actually be a better option for all of us because at least then they wouldn't be hurting the education of our children.

Anonymous said...

10:57 is spot on. The hilarious thing is, despite all of the administrations failings, they have the audacity to think that people will be willing to entrust them with $60 million for a new school. Like they haven't taken enough of our property taxes already! If these same people cannot figure out how to effectively address their falling test scores, or even collect checks in the mail and then keep track of them, what makes them think that they are capable of building a new school? Too bad there is no PARCC test to see how stupid our administrators are compared to all of the other administrators in the country.

It is bad enough that 181 uses our money to outsource basic things like fee collecting to yet another overpaid outside consultant, especially since the # of administrators and assistants keeps growing along with their bloated salaries. Maybe if the superintendent stopped appointing his own staff to curriculum and facilities committees, these same employees would have the time to do what they are being paid to do: their jobs.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is at a school where a large number of kids are acceleratedl. She is currently not accelerated. She scored well on the most recent MAP test-better than most of the students in her class. I know this because the 2 Standard deviations cut off indicated a RIT score of 214. My daughter missed this by just a few points. Her margin of error puts her at the standard deviation. Why isn't she given a chance to move up?

I asked this question to my child's teacher. I am still waiting for a suitable response. I understand that a MAP score is just one score. I get that class performance is important too. But what of the child whose class performance is high, whose MAP score is high, whose quizzes and worksheets are done well and still nothing? What are you doing for those kids who are close but not quite at 2 Standard Deviations? And how do you justify kids who are given accelerated opportunities but are in a group where no one scored 2 Standard deviations? I admit I do not understand 2 standard deviations all that well. I'm not a stats person. I'm not even a math person. But i am a parent of a child who scored well on the MAP and is given nothing. That makes me angry.

Yvonne Mayer, Former BOE Member said...

Part 1 of 2: I attended the first 90 minutes of last night's Learning Committee Meeting. I went to hear any updates on the MAP presentation and Math Acceleration discussions that took place last month at the Committee level and at the BOE level. Here are my observations and take aways, and as I stated in the letter I sent to the BOE after the last meeting, I am not holding back, because I feel there is no point in doing so any longer.

The data has proven that D181's top performers have not benefited from the Learning for All plan and they are not learning at the level they should be. In my opinion, the follow up discussion at last night's committee meeting was shallow and pointless. Dr. Tornatore and Dr. Benaitis were the primary spokespersons for the administration and sadly, what I heard was the following:
1. Most of Dr. T's comments were compliments aimed at Dr. Benaitis for apparently all of the efforts and hard work she has done to work with teachers to have conversations to discuss following the learner to make sure that no one is held back and to make sure that teachers are comfortable and progressing with the Math in Focus program and to monitor the work of the math specialist, yada yada yada. I hope you catch my drift. My head was spinning by the sixty minute mark out of frustration for the lack of answers or real substantive information that was provided to the committee (most of whom sat silently). But most importantly, I was very sad that there was no real discussion about the CHILDREN and their parent's genuine concerns about what the data shows. Conversations are great, but ENOUGH ALREADY with all the talk. What is needed is ACTION. Why doesn't the administration get that? And Dr. T -- why did you so obviously go out of your way to praise Dr. Benaitis? It was loaded on so thick that one wonders what the motivation for doing so was.

2. Board President Garg and Committee member Jill Quinones did their very best to try and jump start a discussion on why kids who are in the 97th or 98th percentile on Math MAP nationally, may be one or 1 1/2 standard deviations above the District mean (which is much higher than the national mean) are not allowed to accelerate in Math because they missed the 2 standard deviation requirement. The only answer was that the teachers are following the learners and no one will be held back. Really? Because I have spoken to parents who have told me that their kids missed the 2 standard deviation cut off by one or two points and have asked for the acceleration only to be told NO. In my opinion, this is a return to the nightmare that Dr. Moon identified of inappropriate identification of district learners who should be allowed to try the harder level. It is not about allowing anyone to OPT IN, forcing the teachers to water down the curriculum. It is about providing REAL opportunities to children who SHOULD be given a chance to show they can do the harder work at the faster pace (with no watering down). That is what happens at the high school. You can bet there is no watering down of the curriculum, but students are allowed to try the harder level, and if they can't maintain an appropriate grade, they return to the lower level.

(to be continued)

Yvonne Mayer, Former BOE Member said...

Part 2 of 2: 3. Ms. Benaitis spent a lot of time talking about the conversations and the conversations and the conversations that she is leading at the middle school level with teachers about implementation of the programs. And when asked a question regarding data at one point in the meeting, she stated "I am no statistician." I just about fell out of my chair when I heard her make this statement, since of course that is what I and many other parents have been screaming about for several years when we complained that she had been promoted to Director of Assessment under Dr. Schuster's reign. Despite her not being a statistician, she was responsible for the data assessment following Kevin Russell's promotion and it wasn't until Dr. White was hired to be the superintendent that he suddenly took over the data analysis role. Yet instead of trimming the budgetary fat of administrators who were not doing the job they were hired to do, he simply changed her job description AND gave her a raise. WOW. So now she gets to have conversations followed by conversation followed by conversation followed by converation with teachers and get paid (per an earlier comment posted by the bloggers) $132,204/year plus benefits of more than $31,572.00/year (excluding all the extra contract perks) for a total of $163,776??

I am completely disgusted. You all should be too.

Anonymous said...

Benaitis was worthless at Monroe and worthless at the district level. I'm so disgusted that she is paid so handsomely, but as I have heard others say, we would be better off putting her in a position not involved with curriculum whatsoever and at least not let her marginalize another child's education.

Anonymous said...

One can assume that Don White has kept Dawn Benaitis since he needs people who can shut down parents even though she never really says anything of substance. I keep hearing them complain that parents in this community expect too much. While this is true to some extent who can blame them after the amount of taxes this county and district levies on them. Parents have been ignored by prior boards for the past 4 years and now they expect them to roll over and support them. The administrative team salaries seem to have grown considerably over the past few year while no one has any experience in curriculum and no new programs have been added. They continue to minimize all data as a snapshot in time as stated by Bridget Mcguiggan in the hinsdalean. Do any of these people ever follow the news around the country? Arne Duncan recently resigned and people are leaving the sinking ship but we continue to have hopes for common core and parcc. The future of our district is pretty bleak with current leadership. Read the following article but this is just one of several.

"Common Core test consortium PARCC – which has dropped from 26 member-states down to fewer than 10 – is in a “death spiral,” says the Boston Globe."

"A]ll serious studies have found Common Core academically mediocre, trailing behind international high achievers in its expectations. As for the proponents’ definition of “alignment,” they consider having the same content but in a different grade as “aligned.” One is forced to conclude that Common Core’s “excellence” exists only in the mind of its peddlers."

This is just great! But maybe this is also just a snapshot in time whatever that means. Why do we use any test results and why do we give our kids grades since it's all just one snapshot.

Anonymous said...

Dr. White's Superintendent's report for the 11/9/15 BOE meeting states:

"Fee Payment System
On Sunday, November 1, we notified families that the our new fee payment system is open to accept payment of field trip and curriculum fees for the 2015-16 school year. I want to commend the Business Office staff for their efforts to successfully change providers, and we thank families for their patience. We believe the added security, convenience, and features of this system will provide many benefits to families and to the District. Parents are asked to complete fee payment by December 1 and can access the system through a link in the Infinite Campus parent portal."

Earth to Dr. White -- how about you acknowledge your administration's inability to get the "fee payment system" functional in a timely manner? I thought the whole point of adding a position of Assistant Superintendent of Operations when you were first hired was to add "processes" and efficiencies to the D181 systems? Looks like you and the administrator you created the position for (who followed you here from Troy 30C) didn't do a good job.

Anonymous said...

Dr White's Superintendent's report for the 11/9/15 BOE meeting states:

"Holidays and Observances Task Force
We are forming a short-term task force of District 181 parents, staff, and community members to talk together about observances and holidays, and how we can best educate ourselves around the impact of those dates on students and staff related to the school day and the District calendar. We hope this will also be an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about our diverse community. All are welcomed to participate in our initial meeting, being held Thursday, November 19 (4pm) at the District Administration Center. Interested attendees are asked to RSVP online or call Director of Communications Bridget McGuiggan at 630.861.4924."

This is all too little too late, if you ask me. Again, Dr. White, why don't you front load this suggestion with an acknowledgement of how your administration disrespected the Jewish community AGAIN this year with calendar screw ups? And for the love of pete, why does everyone always have to RSVP to McGuiggan before they can attend your events? This is a public school district and not some private institution where only respondees get to show up to stuff. If I or any other parent want to show up at the last minute, are you really going to stop us? Or are you actually hoping that we will be deterred from arriving at the last minute if we are led to believe it is RSVP only?

Anonymous said...

Dr. White's superintendent's report for the 11/9/15 BOE meeting states:

"Board Summaries
A Board member shared a concern that the October 26, 2015 Board Summary did not adequately reflect the discussion that occurred at the Board meeting, specifically the concerns raised by some members following the presentation of assessment results. I would like to discuss this topic with the full Board so that I can give direction to staff in hopes that the Board Summary is meeting the desires of the full Board."

Am I the only one who read the condescending tone that White is using to try and slap down the board member who called him and his highly paid administrator out for the continuing spin that appears in the Board Summaries that are emailed to parents after each board meeting? Dr. White -- STOP IT!! Stop trying to make any board member who criticizes you or your administration look bad. You so obviously are hoping that the gang of three -- Clarin, Turek and Giltner - will put the board member "in her place" for raising concerns. Let's hope that Giltner doesn't take your bait, because we all know Clarin and Turek will.

And why do we need McGuiggan's summaries anyway? Why not just have the Board Minutes that are prepared by your assistant (who is at every board meeting taking diligent notes) for Board Docs be the official board meeting summary? Oh right, it will make it harder to justify paying the communications director her high salary if she has less to do.

We all see this paragraph for what it is Dr. White. We are not fooled.

Yvonne Mayer said...

I hope everyone remembers to take the D181 Strategic Planning Survey that is available on the D181 website at the following link:

It asks great questions and allows you to comment about things you think need to be done. I was candid and said that underperforming central administrators should be fired and if Dr. White won't do it, then he should be let go as well. It also asks whether you will support a new HMS. I answered definitely not, since I cannot support expenditure of tax money on a new building until the administration fixes the curriculum mess in the buildings that it created with the Learning For All plan.

It will be interesting to see if comments are published for the community to review and if they are, whether they are sanitized...

Anonymous said...

i too believe that the solution to our problems is not a new HMS and certainly not one as lavish or expensive as the models proposed. The direction of our curriculum, the academics here--that is the REAL issue.

I'm extremely frustrated by the limited opportunities provided to our students in the areas of reading and math to foster excellence. I'm tired of teachers and DOL staff who preach common core standards and yet our reading program emphasizes fictional writing, prose and poetry when non fiction should have an equal place at the table. At our school, my son and daughter have not read a non fiction book in their entire three years in guided reading. The teachers only evaluate on fiction.

Additionally in areas of math, i have one child meeting the district criteria and one child who is not meeting the criteria. Both are deserving of advanced opportunities in different ways. And yet, my daughter who is advanced and accelerated is not at the same level as my son who achieved the 2 standard deviations. And I can imagine that once the gate keepers open the door to more students for advanced opportunities that my child who is 2 standard deviations above the mean will be lost. It muddies the water so to speak.

Parents are always complaining-that's what someone said to me. All true-but it isn't about meeting the demands of every parent every single time. It is about fairness and criteria and standards. And right now our standards are poor and not meeting the needs of a larger number of kids. Disappointing D 181. That's what I echoed in my strategic survey.

Anonymous said...

I just recently moved to community. My child is in an accelerated math group receiving math instruction. The math is hard. I'm not quite sure how he got on this track. I dont know what or how many assessments were made. Right now, I've heard that some kids are not on the track and their parents wish for them to be. I also understand that some kids have better scores than my son. I think those kids deserve an opportunity too. But I also think that just because my son doesn't have good scores doesn't mean he can't do well. He is doing well. And he deserves a chance too. Some times kids need a push. Just a little. Why can't we be a school system that does that?

Anonymous said...

A new HMS in no way guarantees that our children's needs will be met. It just a nice little notch in Don White and the administrators' belts. If they can't handle their primary duty of educating our children, why would we hand them millions of dollars?

Our teachers and administrators are among the most highly paid in the US. Our teachers have a contract that is the envy of teachers throughout the state and country. Meanwhile our children’s test scores are falling, our children are suffering and the board continues to allow our money to be flushed down the toilet, money that could be used to educate our children.

I just read the fall Citizens for Clarendon Hills newsletter. Check out page 3 of its newsletter. It succinctly lays out the numbers: double-digit growth in the number of personnel and total expenditures while student enrollment and our school rankings have declined in the last 10 years.

The newsletter refers to:
• Over $10,000 spent on two teachers traveling to New York City for Professional Development

• $220,000 spent on architects fees

• $23,000 spent on lunches & dinners (Chicago Sun-Times article - Sept 16, 2015)

• $24,000 spent on out of district travel

• $6,500 spent on a Teacher’s Retirement Penalty (Chicago Tribune article - May 22, 2015)

• $103,000 spent on legal fees

Legal fees? Too much of this $103,000 is wasted fighting against residents of district 181, the very residents that paid their property taxes so the administrators could turn around and fritter away our money. The board should be questioning every penny that is spent on legal fees. Gosh, wasn't it the Board that spent nearly 2 years fighting against one FOIA request? Look how that worked out.

Our administrators and teachers make more money than a lot of our residents. They should be paying for their own dinners.

If you’re reading the C4CH newsletter, read the article about COD on page 2. It says in April the federal prosecutors began a criminal investigation of administrative expenses and contracts with Foundation board members. How do we get someone to look into our district?

The district is squandering our money. November 4 at 10:57 AM was right. If these people had to work in the private sector, they’d be collecting unemployment.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that this crazy benchmark of two deviations above the district mean is not being applied uniformly. Some kids are getting pacing and opportunities for enrichment and some schools and while other kids are not getting that and none of these kids in question have two standard deviations. So if they are making exceptions, why isn't my kid being considered? at what line are they drawing the exceptions?

if your kid misses it by a few points, then you get an exception? but if your kid misses it by 6 points you don't? or if your kid has the two deviations, are you grade skipped for that subject or are you still paced? i'm confused. i think the department of learning is more confused.

what is the criteria? because from what i hear and what other parents hear, some kids are getting mid year tests and end of year tests and getting pacing and some kids have to get two standard deviations. and in some schools kids are grandfathered. Forgive me, I thought we were turning over a new leaf.

Anonymous said...

704 I read the C4Ch newsletter and was sickened at the waste of taxpayer dollars. So I looked at the Check listing and you will see someone charged for a manicure at Magic Nails...we paid for another adminsistrators iphone cover? who knows what we pay for from Amazon? Will the madness ever end? And can they explain why they are paying three months of electricity bills at once? Was the online system for Comed not working yet?
And tonight they will ask for a levy increase

Yvonne Mayer said...

I listened to the lifestream of tonight's BOE meeting (11/9) and a parent made a public comment at the beginning of the meeting which really was shocking. She advocated for allowing kids who missed the two standard deviation cut-off requirement to get into accelerated programs into those programs and explained that this is happening at Oak School where kids have been "grandfathered" into accelerated math because last year 15 4th grade students were accelerated, completed 5th grade math plus one chapter of 6th grade math. Some of those students DID NOT meet the 2 standard deviation cut-off required of 5th graders at other schools and therefore have not been allowed to take 6th grade math this year. She explained that the grandfathered students have been successful even though they didn't meet the 2 standard deviation cut-off, which proves that this requirement may be too rigid.

I totally agree with what she said and would urge any parent whose child missed the 2 standard deviation cut-off but has exhibit bite the capacity to do higher level math to demand that there child be allowed to get on the accelerated track. I have now learned that the same "grandfathering" may be happening for 5th grade students at the Lane. It is absolutely outrageous that Dr. White and the Department of Learning allowed 2 of the 7 elementary schools to teach math so differently from the rest of the schools, with the end result being that many 5th graders have now been disadvantaged and not offered the same educational opportunities as students at Oak and the Lane. This may actually be discriminatory. Perhaps parents of aggrieved students need to consult with attorneys to seek legal redress of these discriminatory actions, if the DOL and Dr. White are incapable of correcting this situation immediately.

Inconistencies between schools. Grandfathering. Arbitrary cutoffs. All sound so familiar to what was going on pre Dr. Moon. When will D181 learn from past mistakes? When will Dr. White realize the damage the current DOL administrators who rolled out the Learning For All Plan have caused to our districts' children?

Jennifer Burns made a point of stating that a priority must be to hire an expert in curriculum to fill the permanent Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum position. Dr. White then explained that BWP search firm has identified some sitting "directors" who might be ready for promotions into an Assistant Sup. position. I sincerely hope the BOE nips that idea in the bud right now. D181 is not a starter district. D181 needs to hire an experienced Asst. Superintendent who has proven themselves in another high achieving district. Jennifer Burns hit the nail on the head when she said that D181 may need to offer a higher salary to attract a proven administrator away from a comparable district. I hope she and others on the BOE make sure that this time, the right administrator is recommended for hire by Dr. White. If he can't get it right this time, it's time to cut our losses and not renew his contract. Enough is enough.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Just to clarify my last comment, the 15 students at Oak were allowed to remain on the accelerated track even though some of them missed the 2 standard deviation cutoff. This is contrary to students at other schools who didn't meet the cutoff and have not been accelerated. The difference is that students at Oak (and Lane) were apparently taught more math chapters than at other schools during 4th grade. Once again, lack of consistency between schools has created an unjust situation with the end result being that some students now have the advantage going into middle school and in three years going into high school. So much for "social justice."

Anonymous said...

Yvonne Mayer -- thanks for sharing. That's what happens when you allow idiots with no advanced learning/gifted experience to dismantle existing programs, rather than fix the identification process. That plus allowing each school to implement things differently from other schools, leads to discrepancies in teaching and outcomes. All of D181's high achieving students are not just enrolled in Oak and the Lane. Yet only those two schools implemented an acceleration model for 4th graders last year. Why did White or the BOE allow this to happen? it is so unfair and unjust. Someone should be fired over this! Or perhaps, as you suggest, sued!

Anonymous said...

I also listened to tonight's meeting and as bad as the comments on curriculum were, what was worse were the financial presentations. Am I the only one that is disappointed in the superficial and delayed monthly financial reports? Am I the only one who felt that the Finance administrator and Dr. White were making a lot of excuses for all of the delays? And if one more administrator makes veiled or direct references to being overworked, I am going to go nuts.

Anonymous said...

Fire Benaitis and free up $150,000+ in salary and benefits to add to the salary pool needed to attract a high quality Assistant Superintendent of Learning!

Anonymous said...

Spot on 11:30! A certain over paid administrator sure sounds a lot like a smooth talking, excuse making, used car salesman. I cringed with embarrassment as i listened to the tax levy presentation. Everyone should listen to it. D181 can and must expect more from it's financial administration.

Anonymous said...

I also listened to the meeting last night and I will clarify that at Lane my child who is accelerated in 4th grade was not grandfathered. Not all children have been grandfathered. Some children had 2 standard deviations under the old model too and some children continue to achieve that high bar. The question is more about-what percentage of students are actually high achieving learners? I agree that the 2 SD is a ridiculous high bar. But 1 SD might be too low. And if it isn't, then how do you account for the differences in kids who are 2 SD and 1 SD? are those two separate groups? They should be and if they are not, then you are ignoring the needs of those high achieving learners in that 2 SD or greater criteria.

At The Lane, things have not always been done fairly. While The Lane gave mass opportunities to many people, there are many children in the lower grades who received no opportunity. And there were many gross injustices made that resulted in unfair opportunities for many children. The wrong children have been accelerated and advanced sometimes. And then children who were accelerated were sometimes lumped with the wrong groupings and forced to re learn material they were beyond--as is evidenced by the 2 SD standard that some children district wide are achieving. At The Lane it is 6 kids in 4th grade.

Be careful of comparing yourself to other schools. Things are not always rosy or as they appear. And The Lane has had injustices right and left because of previous leadership. There were no standards before. Now there are poor standards that don't meet the needs of advanced learners. And then there are slippery slopes--pacing guide for kids who meet 2 SD and a pacing guide for kids who don't meet 2 SD but came close? Why are these two groups treated the same? And why are these two groups given similar opportunities for enrichment? This community school district is a big joke. A disappointment in how they run curriculum. I won't be voting for a new middle school and I encourage anyone who will listen to not vote in favor either. Until you clean up the mess, there is no point in building a new school.

Anonymous said...

My child is in second grade at The Lane. She is not accelerated. She scored very well on the MAP and they are going to pace her. She is just a few points from the 2 SD above second grade and at The Lane no child scored 2 SD above in 2nd grade and yet, 13 of them are accelerated! This is so unfair.

My child deserves higher math opportunities. While she didn't get he 2 SD I think she is capable of 3rd or even 4th or 5th grade math at this point. I am going to teach her at home. I've bought the books and I can certainly teach her at the pace or faster than her home teacher.

Anonymous said...

7:01 aqnd 7:26: Thank you for the information on students at the Lane. You are right. It is completely unfair that kids who didn't meet the 2 standard deviation cut off are accelerated while others are not. The issue is with why and how this arbitrary cut-off was selected. What best practice methodology and research was used to select this criteria. What best practice methodology and research was used to decide that your children or others who didn't meet this cutoff should not be accelerated? What best practice methodology allowed 2 of 7 schools to treat their 4th graders differently last year from how other 4th grade students were taught? What best practice methodology or research was used for any part of the Learning for All Plan? You should ask and see if you get answers because others who have asked have not.

Instead, FOIA'd documents (available on the D181 FOIA log) have shown that a special education power point prepared by an outside consultant for a non D181 presentation was changed by a D181 administrator to add the words "Advanced Learners" and then presented to the BOE. No one has been held accountable for this power point modification and the research behind this change has never been produced by D181. Someone should have been held accountable for this modification.

The administration is unconcerned about this power point. The administration is also unconcerned by emails that show that administrators are collaborating with "experts"/paid D181 consultants by using their personal emails when they are discussing D181 issues. These additional emails were not produced by D181, and the parents who submitted the FOIA were smart enough to go to another public entity to see if "more" emails existed. They did exist and were produced by the University of Wisconsin, yet the administration is unconcerned that the additional emails reveal that a high level D181 administrator believes that "D181 is deadly" and that he is being "watched" and "has to be careful", believes he is being "stalked" and openly discussed this with "experts" that were used as D181 consultants. The icing on the cake are statements that "Unless you are in a culture like ours, you just can't imagine how fierce this is, and quite frankly, deadly."
There are also references to police reports being filed.

I'm not making this stuff up. Call Yvonne Mayer and ask her to email you the documents that were produced to her and a group of concerned parents. These emails were shared with the administration and yet the administration is doing nothing about it. Talk about lack of transparency. Someone should ask the Hinsdalean, Patch and Doings to do an investigative report into what is really going on in the D181 castle, because it is more than just spinning the emperor's new clothes. This is the administration that holds the keys that allow your children to either enter accelerated tracks or not. Is that acceptable to you?

Anonymous said...

My daughter missed 2 STD by 2 points (within standard error) 3 tests in a row and is getting 100's on all the tests. She puts minimal effort into the homework and test. She is in the 99th percentile for MAP. I met with the teacher and principal and was told she did not qualify for subject acceleration. Dr White it is not true that the needs of all kids are being met. She has learned nothing new in school this year.

Anonymous said...

Another parent from my home school flagged this blog to me in an email. I'm disappointed at how people talk about their individual schools. I recognize that injustice and unfairness occurs at school with teachers, principals, and other staff. Have you tried talking to your school leadership? Have you set up an appointment with the teacher? Been frank and straightforward in your questions? I think complaining on this site provides users with an opportunity to vent but no change will happen unless you lift your voice like the other concerned parents at meetings district wide.

I've had a good response reaching out to some of the staff at my home school. While that hasn't always been the case, every year is a new year and we start fresh.

Fairness is a huge issue. But fairness does not mean equal. Fairness is more about providing the opportunity than how it is doled out. At these two schools, The Lane and Oak--i imagine the teachers and staff are trying to correct the wrongs that happened in the past. For the parents of the 2nd grade daughter and 4th grade son above, ask these questions of your school. Sometimes in life, it isn't about what others are getting or have gotten. It is more about what is right for you and your kid. Focus on that. The rest will come. And if it doesn't, take your concerns to the top. There should always be accountability for all students and faculty. If a child isn't performing, they should be given support. If a child is excelling, they should be offered enrichment and in some cases acceleration. How we offer that though should be uniform. A child performing at 2 Standard Deviations shouldn't be the same as a kid at 1 standard deviation. A child at 1.5 standard deviations shouldn't be ignored. And we shouldn't concern ourselves with what Tom or Mary or Susan are getting. We should focus on what we need for our kids.Isn't there room for all of these children to be successful in D 181?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is very important to be factual and understand what is going on where and in what grade. Jumping to conclusions and making sweeping generalizations and demands is not helpful. Saying that the Oak 5th graders working above grade level were "grandfathered" is not entirely accurate. There are 2 groups of accelerated students in that grade. A handful that are 2 SD above and who, I believe, are bussed to the middle school or are receiving separate instruction somewhere. Then you have the group that the Oak parent referenced last night. These kids have been moving at a faster pace since 3rd grade. Because of good teachers who truly worked to "follow the learner" despite being hampered by an ability inclusive classroom last year, they have covered more material than the other grade level students. There were no guidelines for advancement 2 years ago when this begun and so they are not really being "grandfathered" into anything. The good situation these Oak 5th graders are in is entirely due to the tireless efforts of their teachers, the support of the principals and (very important) the educated involvement of their parents who came to meetings, met with teachers and principals and paid attention to what was happening in the district and the classroom. Unfair? Yes. But it wasn't a case of uninformed parents insisting that their students were advanced more than others, it was a matter of informing themselves and asking for what was right and needed. Parents at other schools need to get the facts, organize and hold their teachers' and principals' feet to the fire if they want the same opportunities.

This situation has been coming for 4 years. Kudos to the parents who advocated for their students and even more kudos to the parent who spoke last night. As she said, her son's needs are being met. She could have kept quiet and been satisfied with that. Instead, she has gone out on a limb to advocate for the hundreds of other advanced students whose needs are not. 2SD are the outlier kids who should be placed in an above grade classrooms. Advanced kids are the next 30%, or so, below that. These are the kids who have had the opportunities taken from them and whose MAP scores are showing the result of those lost opportunities and challenge. And, let's not forget that elementary acceleration in language arts was also taken from these kids 4 years ago. Shame on the teachers and principals who put career aspirations ahead of advocating for ALL students and for the parents who didn't pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Each and every one of the parents posting here should also be speaking to their teacher, principal, adminstrators and other parents about these issues. Posting on this blog will do nothing for your child. Is speaking up uncomfortable and time consuming? Yes. Is it necessary? Also yes.

Yvonne Mayer said...

8:49's comment is accurate.

Anonymous said...

9:37 and 9:51: You may be right in theory, but this is a public school district where parents move because they trusted that their children would be afforded equal opportunity and the highest quality education. When parents send their kids into the D181 schools they do not expect that they have to monitor not only how their students are performing, but figure out if they are not getting the same thing in School 1 versus what they would get if they were enrolled in School 2. Even if they tried, curriculum in D181 has been nothing but a run away bounding ball for 4 years. A ball no one can catch as the names of programs, qualifications for programs and content of programs are changed over and over again with no best practice research to back up the changes, just the phrase best practice attached to the changes. Parent can advocate all they want now, but the trenches have been dug deep by the DOL administrators and it is not true that all you have to do is ask to get appropriate services for your children. I listened to the podcast of last night's meeting and when Dr. White encouraged parents to simply ask, I just shook my head. It is not true in my experience or the experience of other parents I know. 9:51, I can assure you that I don't just post on this blog. I have spoken to teachers, principals and central office administrators. Nothing has changed for me or others who have simply been labeled troublemakers.

And the problem will certainly not be solved if D181 hires a lower level curriculum director from another district to be the new Assistant Superintendent of Learning. What expertise will that person really bring? Instead, they will be so grateful for the promotion into D181's ivory tower, that they will be beholden to the superintendent and simply do his and Schneider's bidding. What is needed is someone who currently is an assistant superintendent in a high achieving district, who has proven themself and understands a community like ours. Bottom line, D181 will have to pay to attract that kind of leader. If the Finance guy can be paid an outrageously high salary for a performance like he gave last night, then taxpayers can certainly expect a high salary for the curriculum leader!

Anonymous said...

This is 9:37. 9:54, I agree that parents move to this district for the schools and that parents shouldn't have to be "watchdogs" over their children's education It is very unfortunate and unfair, but it is also the reality of the past 4 years. This situation s particularly difficult for parents of younger children who don't understand what is coming in middle and high school and what used to be offered at the elementary level. You're right, it is all extremely confusing and difficult to keep track of. That's great that you have spoken out but, unfortunately, one or two voices probably won't have an impact. Many parents need to band together to effect change and get the administration to pay attention. In most cases, it has been just too few voices. And, there is definitely a group of teachers and pricipals who believe in all of the DOL mumbo jumbo. Too bad for their advanced students. I don't understand how they can ignore the MAP data or accept the weak excuses of the administration as viable.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that the two standard deviations criteria did not exist until the end of the last year. For the last two years students in ALL d181 schools were differentiated to by teachers following district guidelines to "follow the learner". Because of that, some students at some schools were able to move at a pace that placed them further ahead in curriculum. So these teachers were not disregarding the 2 standard deviations criteria, that was not a factor. Teachers were told to pace the children in their classrooms by proven ability and they did. Now that this new and very exclusive criteria exists, the district can't disrupt the learning of those children by making them repeat material. What should be being focused on is where we came up with 2 standard deviations, our previous advanced learning programs were not nearly as restrictive. We now know that by not addressing the needs of advanced learners, we are seeing a negative trend in growth for our top 30% of students. The reality is that once the students in this group of faster paced math learners move on, the rest of the kids will have to meet the new criteria unless parents speak up and make their opinions heard.

I agree with 9:37 that the way to change is for informed parents to speak up. Learn what the middle school opportunities are, ask your teachers and your principal how your child is being prepared for those opportunities. If based on test scores and grades you feel your child needs to be more challenged, speak up both within your own school and to the administration and the board. If you agree that the 2 standard deviations criteria is too exclusive, say something. There will always be outliers, there always have been. This is not about sueing or taking away learning from current students, it's about letting the administration know that there should be a uniform program for advanced learners in the top 30% who are able to move at a faster pace and maintain a certain grade level. Right now that does not exist at the elementary level.

The district hears from the same few people over and over again. There will need to be a louder chorus of voices if our programming is going to change.

Anonymous said...

10:18: The community elected 7 board members to speak for us. Only 3 on the current board have spoken out against the inequities and curriculum mess -- Garg, Burns and Gray. Occasionally, Giltner has expressed concerns. Even recently Clarin said our district has become mediocre. Yet they seem to have no power to effect change. As for the rest of us speaking up, the administration does its best to make sure that doesn't happen. I know some parents who planned to go to last night's meeting and drove to Walker where all meetings haveb been held -- that is until last night when suddenly they were moved to the Admninistrative center. The "communications director" waited until late afternoon to email an announcement about this change in location, so these parents didn't see it. Parents and board members have asked for town hall meetings. They have been refused. This is not a district that wants to facilitate an open discussion on the needs of children. This is a district that has fallen prey to the social justice ramblings of administrators who should never have been allowed to touch the general curriculum in D181. And the BOE has been powerless to stop him. D181 has turned into a joke, so it's no wonder that administrators are not inclined to interview for the Asst. Superintendent position. Would you? I would, but I'd need a very high salary and assurances that I would actually be allowed to fix the curriculum mess, even if it upsets certain social justice administrators. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

I am stunned by 8:49's comment. The D181 administration needs to publish the emails referenced and have an open discussion at the next board meeting about their content. I agree that the press needs to investigate. Someone should call the Chicago Tribune reporters have exposed other email scandals.

Yvonne Mayer said...

I have just submitted the following Freedom of Information Act request to D181.

Dear Ms. Duggan:

Please treat this email as a Freedom of Information Act Request.

In the interest of transparency, I am requesting production (and posting on the D181 FOIA log) of copies of all the emails Yvonne Mayer gave physical copies of to Dr. White and Board President Garg during the 4 pm meeting she had with them on August 28, 2015 at the administration center. The purpose of this request is to ensure that the public has access to these public records that were produced to Yvonne Mayer by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.


Yvonne Mayer

Yvonne Mayer said...

I filed the FOIA request because nearly 2 1/2 months have gone by since Jill Quinones and I met with Dr. White to share the emails and our concerns. I don't think anything has really been done to substantively address our concerns. The emails are public records, so everyone should have equal access to them. I'm sure some people in the community will villify me and other concerned parents for exposing their content, but that's a risk I am willing to take to expose the truth.

Anonymous said...

This is 10:18. I think we should stop using the term "grandfathered". These kids remain on a math track begun for them long before the new criteria came about. Grandfathered implies students that cannot maintain standards are being allowed to continue in a program. The students doing 6th grade math in our elementary schools are there because they legitimately completed 5th grade math within the district's inclusive classroom model under the D181 Learning For All plan.

They were being successful before the newly imposed criteria came about. That is a reason to question not only how stringent the criteria is but why - despite having high achieving populations in all our schools - we have such inconsistent results under the Learning For All plan.

Anonymous said...

If anyone listened to the podcast from the April meeting, Mr. Heneghan, Ms. Garg and Ms. Vorobiev raised concerns about the subject acceleration criteria and how only 2-4 students would be accelerated or advanced in Math per school if used. I think one parent made public comment. No one in the community seemed to be there or spoke up and the prior board was more inclined to be a part of the old boy club than do what they were elected to do, look out for our children's needs. They didn't care since their kids weren't affected. Once the new board was seated Dr. White continued to confuse everyone with his use of the criteria and how kids would be challenged by diving deeper. It seems we actually don't have that many advanced learners. We are a mediocre community, much more so than his own prior district which had a special gifted school. He keeps saying the teachers aren't seeing any more kids who are ready to be advanced because they have confused the heck out of them with this crazy Math in Focus program and conceptual learning. Well thanks for really showing us how we are paying high taxes for our now average learners. Thanks learning for all and Dr. schneider and all of the staff who believe in social justice for dumbing down the education so that no one will be ready to be advanced. For years prior administrators and boards duped us into thinking we have more advanced learners along with Dr. Moon who we paid thousands of dollars. So instead of having more advanced learners, we have fewer. Dawn Benaitis sat along with the rest of the advanced learning task force led by none other than Schneider and was adamant that all learners would rise to the challenge and were ready to be advanced. This included teachers, gifted specialists etc. Well no one has acknowledged they were wrong and that we really have very few kids who are advanced learners. So that's two or three years down the drain. Well now are we sure that the statement of we have very few advanced learners is really true and that we have a much more rigorous math program. Because now we are being asked to waste more time and money, our tax money! At the end of it all I am confused by what a prior post said that Dr. Schneider took the time to alter slides to add advanced learning when he and Dr. White really believe that we have very few advanced learners. Why would someone do that if they don't believe in it. Seems quite unethical. This whole business of talking to the teachers and principals is also overrated. It is very hard to actually get more during the year. Everyone is busy and wants more data. It's like kids getting the run around by their parents "go ask Mom" or "go ask Dad".

Anonymous said...

I would guess the reason it has been 2 1/2 months since Yvonne and Jill met with Dr. White is because he is hoping they'll go away or move on to something else.

When an administrator tries to avoid the law by conducting district business on a personal email, that should be a big problem for the board and the administrator's boss. We have FOIA laws for a reason. If this administrator does not want his emails to be subject to a FOIA request, then he needs to go to a private employer.

The change in the power point presentation sounds like more than a modification. It sounds like a deliberate attempt to falsify data to push through a specific agenda.

If this were a private business, someone would have had to answer for these things by now.

Anonymous said...

"Have you tried talking to your school leadership? Have you set up an appointment with the teacher? Been frank and straightforward in your questions? I think complaining on this site provides users with an opportunity to vent but no change will happen unless you lift your voice like the other concerned parents at meetings district wide."

Lol! Have you been living under a rock? Have you heard the public comments at the BOE? Where have you been?

Parents have told the administration that this math approach was doomed to failure since the beginning. We were told that we could not see the emperor's new clothes, essentially because we were not as smart or degreed as the administration. Unfortunately for them, the data and test results tell a different story. In the end, facts are stubborn things, and this path will eventually be reversed. Scores are now falling, as expected, but of course, they take no responsibility, and to continue to beguile the board into acquiescence with mumbo jumbo and excuses. Hope springs eternal.

The question is how much longer the students will have to pay the price before one more Board member comes out of their administration-induced coma and comes to the stupidly obvious, but inexorable conclusion that, no matter how slick your story is, you can not really raise math achievement by doing less advanced math. That is what the test results have consistently shown, and will continue to show. Hello!

How long do you think it will take?

Anonymous said...

The failure of the district to create a logical and equitable way to teach math in our district is a huge problem. But an even bigger problem is the way the district turns a blind eye to parents who speak up. It is a clear sign that the administration has no intention of listening to any parent or teacher who has a valid concern. Anyone who thinks that parents haven't spelled out the problems well enough for principals and administrators to make a difference either hasn't listened to any board meetings in the last few years, or is on the payroll. Wake up. These problems have existed for the last 5 years, and parents have been asking for solutions to them until they turned blue in the face. No one in the administration wants to do anything about it because it would mean looking in the mirror and holding themselves accountable.

Even though we have too much for expensive headhunting firms, and over pay our administrators, we keep getting the bottom of the barrel administrators. The people brought to us are not from comparable districts, nor do have they had any success here. Yet we keep these administrators. Even more ridiculous, we keep this same headhunter firm? Instead of suing the headhunter firm, we give them more money?

Everyone on the board who is allowing this corrupt administration to proceed with the building of their fantasy school instead of directly addressing the sham department of learning should be ashamed of themselves. Whoever the person was that posted that all parents need to do is talk to teachers, principals and administrators is completely clueless. Has that person ever gone to a single board meeting? Or actually listened to one? Parent after parent has gotten up to speak over the last few years, yet they are ignored. There is no attempt to address concerns. The district's dysfunctional culture of ignoring parents until they finally move out of the schools is straight out of the movie Bad Teacher. Or Twilight Zone. One of the only successful surveys in the state that pinpoints the schools with poor communication skills and disengaged parents is called the 5 Essentials Survey. I was pleased to see that our district finally was forced to participate in this survey last year. So imagine my surprise when, last night, I heard Dr. Schneider suddenly advocating for the elimination of this survey. How typical of Dr. Schneider. As soon as this valid (and free) survey result showed that there was room for improvement, instead of using it to address and solve the problems facing our schools, the administration moronically decides to simply eliminate the survey.


Anonymous said...

This state recommended, University of Chicago, evidence based survey has been proven to be improve schools. Here are some more facts about it that I was able to find in less than 10 seconds after googling the words 5 Essentials Illinois Schools:

"Over the past two decades, the 5Essentials survey has been refined repeatedly to ensure accurate measurement and to reflect changing practices in schools. The surveys have been administered to students and teachers in Chicago since 1994 (11 total administrations as of 2013). After each administration, the survey measures reported to schools are evaluated for consistency, reliability and item fit, and data quality. UChicago CCSR employs a psychometrician, a survey methodologist, and quantitative social scientists to conduct these annual evaluations of the survey."

Any administrator who supports Dr. Schneider's attempts to eliminate this survey from our district should be fired. This is a free, evidence based survey that works. It is probably the only thing left in our district that carries any scientific weight, yet the SELAS people want to do away with it? And use what? Spend another $20,000 on consultants to create another skewed survey that avoids asking relevant questions? D181 thinks that their own falsified and manufactured research is the only data that counts. Obviously, Dr. Schneider and his administration have something to hide. Or else, they would welcome the opportunity to show how concerned they are about cooperating with parents and improving our schools. All they seem concerned with is protecting themselves and their salaries. If the Board of Education and administration truly had any inclination to listen to parental concerns or improved the curriculum and culture of our school, they would never get rid of the 5 Essentials Survey.

Parent of 2

Anonymous said...

If you look at the 5Essentials survey it is interesting that the principal teacher trust is quite low for some schools, madison being the lowest. Also principals and teachers don't seem to share the same vision in the few that I looked at and teachers don't have a say in policy. It's better to denounce the survey just like the everyday math program from U of Chicago was too easy compared to the MIF program.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is easier to simply denounce a program than try to make it work. Remember, this is what the district did when they decided to denounce the gifted program and eliminate it altogether. Instead of taking valid recommendations for improvement, or asking for help from experts, our district decided it is easier to scrap the whole program and come up with their own unscientific and illogical ideas. This is especially attractive to D181 administrators since they don't have to pay for the purchasing or implementation of the new programs and books - taxpayers do.

This is what D181 did a few years back when they decided to scrap LADSE and create their own, unmonitored version of a special education program. Not to say that LADSE was perfect, because it wasn't, but the special education program now is significantly worse. And it isn't saving any money. Instead of using the economic savings to provide more services to our children, they decided to put the money towards their administrators salaries. These leaders are incapable of admitting that they made poor choices or didn't implement programs correctly. Like petulant children at recess, instead of learning the rules, seeing their errors, and addressing them, they decide to quit and make up a whole new game. Too bad the recess monitors on duty are not directing these children to make wiser, more cooperative choices. Or that no one is punishing them for being bullies.

Administrators here cannot tolerate getting constructive criticism. They refuse to admit that other points of view, especially those backed by reason and cost benefits should be considered. This is why so many people on this blog point out that if these people were employed in the real, non government sector, most would lose their jobs. Immature thinkers believe it is easier for to scrap years of success backed by hard work and cooperation. Or that their ideas are always better than the ideas of others. Through their own narrow blinders, they refuse to acknowledge that neighboring school districts do better with less money and resources. In the last 5 years, an incompetent, totalitarian regime has taken the reins of our children's educations. Too bad no one wants to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Dr. Moon and her associate who has a phd maybe in math evaluate Everyday Math and say it met 7 of the 8 mathematical principles for common core. It's obvious these people haven't bothered to read the past gifted evaluation since they don't want to advance any kids by saying the past program was too easy. This "expert" said most of our students may be ready to be advanced in math by one year. Are they calling her a liar? Someone from UVA who was touted as the expert in her field? How do you trust all of these consultants that are brought in by other administrators. They essentially say what the administration wants them to and line up the research accordingly. Obviously it seems Dr. Schneider lined up the research. Still such people obviously have support in our community but they set poor role models for their peers, subordinates and our students. Practice what you preach! Even social justice isn't about hypocrisy and misleading people to meet your end goal. The herd mentality shouldn't work in a community where most people are quite well educated.

Yvonne Mayer said...

I have received a Response to the FOIA request I filed on November 10. The district has produced the emails that I and Jill Quinones shared with Dr. White and Board President Garg in August. The FOIA request, response letter and emails are available for viewing by the public on the D181 FOIA log at the following link:

Please note that personal email addresses were redacted. Any public email addresses were not redacted. The content of these select emails received from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee raised many concerns which we shared with White and Garg. The yellow highlights were added by me prior to the August meeting with them. In particular, we were concerned about the yellow highlighted sections of emails dated:
September 29, 2013 from Dr. Schneider to Drs. Frattura and Capper,
September 29 and 30, 2013 from Dr. Schneider to Dr. Frattura,
July 20, 2014, February 8, 9, 14 and 24, 2013, March 10, 2013, November 8, 2012 from Dr. Schneider,
February 9, 2013 from Reva Friedman to Dr. Schneider,
February 1, 2013 from Dr. Frattura to Dr. Schneider.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the many parents who attended meetings after the Moon evaluation and was essentially lied to by Schuster and her staff and the majority of the board who obviously turned a deaf ear to the community and didn't want to dig into the research in fear that their goal of eliminating programs would not be realized. This is very disappointing. I wonder what Kevin Russell had to say about Dr. Moon's evaluation since they all treated the Moon evaluation as gospel at the time while trying to play down the "educational malpractice" to probably avoid a lawsuit. Why does Kurt Schneider feel it necessary to have his colleagues update their bio as well as Reva Friedman? "liberal plan" and advanced learning is an entry point to inverting the system. Wow. "Do schools for the "gifted" promote segregation" an article in washington post in this FOIA talks about "gifted fountains", gifted only bathrooms and lunchrooms. How can people who talk about academically talented children with such disdain be put in charge of their educational programming? What about all of the exclusive clubs, exclusive schools and drafts for sports etc.? Have you taken your battle against these organizations at a national level or are you people just preying on our children and wealthy school districts that can fund your research thanks to irresponsible and misguided board members. Some of these emails show paranoia and it's funny that parents and teachers were feeling scared of retaliation against their children or them if they spoke up against the board and admin. when did they make people feel welcome? They only ridiculed and discounted voices of reason. What about the club on the board, that seemed pretty exclusive. Oh, yes lets not forget the advanced learner in every presentation but who cares about whether they are bored out of their minds waiting to learn, serving a purpose in the education of their peers but not their own. Obviously there was a hidden agenda but no one cared then and no one cares now. It's all been pushed under the rug. Just for the record all children are important. People treat their budding sports stars in this district with so much pride as do the schools but no one wants other children to get ahead in academics. Sports, music, community work play more heavily into college placement, so please let our children at least feel good about being good at Math or reading or science. Academics alone will not get them to the Ivy Leagues but at least they will have a passion for some subject area that they can excel at in some other college and be successful. This district has pushed more kids to the private schools by their focus than provide better learning opportunities.

Anonymous said...

I am truly shocked by the following statements made by a D181 central office administrator in the emails that were released yesterday. In particular, the last two sentences in the first except is really scary. The following excerpts should raise huge red flags about whether or not this is the right person to have so much power in D181's central administration.:

"Just something to think about as we're dealing w/the fallout from this year's there a way to still include more language to offset the notion that some people get when they read this - that this is about 'bottom up', 'sharing the wealth', 'lower class', etc. When this population reads 'equity data', they instantly thinks it's not them, its a liberal agenda, etc. I know we need to be true to the work, but we also need to think about how to not eliminate out of the gate a segment either just bc of how it's framed, the title, etc. So, any way to help offset that would be great. Until you're in a culture like ours, you just can't imagine how fierce this is, and quite frankly, deadly. We are now being stalked and just went to the police, in addition to just the political pressures of this work.” (9/29/13)

"we're working on inverting our system to be inclusive, and are using the advanced learning door as the entry point."(2/14/13)

"ask about representation and also professional liability insurance. How do I keep myself protected?" (2/24/13)

"Hi, I have to be careful about meetings. The best is probably weekends or evenings. I'm being watched and everyday my calendar, phone and email is open records requested." (9/30/13)

"We have to make sure we're always including the advanced learner in everything we say, do, etc." (7/20/14)

There are some very serious allegations being made in the first excerpt. If true, what did the police do about it? Are these allegations even true? Has the administration and BOE discussed whether someone with such a critical opinion of our district is really the right fit to continue their "inversion" of our system? Where is the best practice research and data to support any of this stuff? Is anyone else seriously troubled by these emails? Thank you to the community members who tracked these emails down. They cannot be ignored by either Dr. White or the BOE. Doesn't the D181 community deserve to have administrators running the district and curriculum department who not only understand our demographic but respect us and don't want to radically change our programs to suit their agendas?

Anonymous said...

"Deadly"? "Stalked"? Since when did working for a school district in the mean streets of Hinsdale become such a dangerous job? Is this why he is getting paid so much, because his job has so much "political pressure' as an elementary school administrator? I would think cops and firemen in this town would have more dangerous jobs. Or even the crossing guards or bus drivers. How do the rest of us live here, in such a dangerous, fierce community. Wow, if it's this bad here, no wonder he is afraid to go work in an actual, urban school district where children and staff have to go through metal detectors every day. This guy sounds paranoid. Maybe he needs a leave of absence.

Isn't he in charge of SELAS in this district anyway? Maybe he should spend some more time trying to figure out where 181 has gone so wrong in the socio-emotional environment of our elementary and middle schools. If he is this stressed out, how is he going to think straight about our curriculum and programs? Especially when he isn't even working off real data?

I agree with 9:46 a.m. It makes no sense that Dr. Moon, a gifted education specialist/ researcher would vilify gifted education in the way that all of our administrators have. If she actually is convincing school districts across the country to eliminate gifted education programs she would, in effect, be eliminating her own job. I think our administration needs a little help with their comprehension skills. I bet next week they will pull aside the middle schoolers in ELA and ask these students for some peer tutoring help.

Anonymous said...

I am dumbfounded. Bridget McGuiggan, D181’s Director of Communications, asks us to recognize Board Member Appreciation Day in her most recent email.

October was:

o Learning Disabilities Awareness Month
o ADHD Awareness Month
o National Bullying Prevention Month

Did she acknowledge these in her communications? What did our district do to increase awareness of the impact and prevalence of learning disabilities, ADHD or bullying on our children? Doesn’t District 181 pay a SELAS person to coordinate and guide district activities?

Take a look at the district SELAS page; Kurt Schneider’s name is prominently displayed. ‘Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Why does he stay in our district if he feels so threatened?

Anonymous said...

5:54 -- Perhaps for the $$$?

Per an earlier comment, this Asst. Superintendent of PPS makes $149,414.00/year plus benefits of more than $22,675/year (excluding all the extra contract perks) for a total of $172,089 in a district of only 3914 students, 11.6% which are students with disabilities (per 2014-2015 Illinois state report card and district website). 11.6% is 454 students.

Contrast this with a district where a recent D181 PPS administrator was promoted to Asst. Superintendent of Student Services (Christine Igoe) -- Naperville District 203. As Asst. Superintendent of Student Services, she makes $140,938 base salary in a district of 16,917 students, 10.3% which are students with disabilities (per 2014-2015 Illinois state report card and district website). 10.3% is 1,742 students.

She makes less money and is responsible for 4 x's as many students with disabilities......

Speechless said...

Wow. The FOIA'd emails have left me speechless, other than to say, why is he still working in our district? Or perhaps better to ask, why has he been allowed to continue working in our district?

Anonymous said...

As a parent who has been battling the changes in our district for several years, I am beyond outraged at these FOIAs and the fact our elected school board continues to do nothing about the incompetent administration. Kurt Schneider continues to draw a hefty taxpayer funded paycheck despite the fact he has concerns about his safety. Who gave him a PROMOTION? Don White, who is responsible for this boneheaded decision and his continued, blind, willful support of Schneider and his cast of characters: Benaitis, Surma, Munch, McGuiggen, the list goes on.
Hey Don, do us all a favor and polish up your resume and take your staff with you to your greener pastures where you might not have to deal with such political pressures and a demanding community. Since you and your staff complain you all work too hard, we're sure there is a better district for you to continue your social justice and inclusive practices experimentation.
And the board is asking for my taxes to be raised? Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. And d181 is the poster child.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I'd like an answer to. Looks like a certain D181 central administrator who is on the Board of Directors for TASH will be presenting at their annual conference.

The presentation is on Friday, December 4, but the conference starts on December 1.

Question: Are D181 taxpayers going to be funding this junket? And if so, how much is this going to cost?

If you are reading this Dr. White, please submit an answer. We'll all be waiting for your response.

Anonymous said...

9:23: Good question. But even if he pays for this on his own and uses vacation time (which would be the right thing to do), the better question is will he be there for the entire week (since he is a Director), or just fly in and out for the Friday presentation? How can any central administrator take one week off during the school year, especially the one in charge of Special Ed services, which according to parents I have spoken to, are a complete mess right now.

Anonymous said...

I went and looked at but wasn't sure where it mentioned D181. I know that this is what they attempted to implement here but wasn't sure if D181 is actually mentioned. Seems like they are trying to re-brand.

Also this past summer the social justice institute doesn't mention Dr. Schneider:

But he is mentioned here:

Wonder if there is a reason for this. Wonder if we have become a failure story now... the system has resisted!

Anonymous said...

Well it's guaranteed that they will all ignore all of this information and pretend that they never did anything wrong or it was before their time. They acted like the community and two board members who raised concerns 3 years ago were off the wall or overly concerned. Just give it time they said so that they could all leave along with their kids and no one gets what they need. There is data and research, in some black hole obviously. They never presented any but we were all supposed to believe it existed, just like big foot! Pardon my sarcasm. There is no integrity if the current board and the superintendent let this go.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone going to the special board meeting tonight at 7? According to board docs, it looks like the board will discuss HMS and the architecture firm.

Anonymous said...

I just reviewed Board Docs for tonight's Special BOE meeting. Here are my observations:
1. I think it is laughable how Dr. White insisted on reducing monthly board meetings from two to one, certain BOE members criticized some of the women on the BOE who suggested that one meeting/month wasn't working, and yet now we've had two special meetings in the last two months.
2. Scheduling a Special meeting to give the administration more time to produce complete documentation for discussion of important issues, such as the tax levy, is evidence of the poor performance of central office administrators. The spin put on a second go round of tax levy discussion tonight is that the BOE asked for more scenarios. That may be technically true, but a comparative scenarios have always included CPI (with and without new construction), not to mention more detailed spreadsheets explaining each option.
3. In looking at the tax levy scenarios, I wonder what the Teachers Association thinks of the assumption that their salaries will not increase by more than 1% in 2016-2017 and insurance premiums will not increase by more than 5%. I believe D86 has projected a much higher cost in insurance expenses. Why would D181 be any different? And since the teachers are currently negotiating their next contract, how can the D181 administration assume the salary increase average will not exceed 1%?

I'm all for keeping costs down, but I also expect the scenarios to contain realistic projections. I don't believe these projections are realistic and unless the BOE agrees to levy to the "max" -- CPI plus new construction, I project that the budget will be in deficit. If that happens, what programs will be cut, because I highly doubt that White and company will do the right thing and eliminate positions of incompetent and underperforming administrators.

Guess we'll just have to wait to see how this all plays out.....

Anonymous said...

A certain D181 central administrator should do us all a favor and apply for the following job:

Superintendent/Executive Director
North Suburban Special Education District
Highland Park, IL
Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED)
Highland Park, IL

Position Available Superintendent/Executive Director

Hold or be eligible for the Type 75 Administrative Certificate with State Approved Director of Special Education Endorsement (required)
Illinois Superintendent’s Endorsement (preferred)
Successful and significant administrative experience required

Consultants Assisting the Board David Peterson and Harry Rossi

The Position

The Leadership Council of the Northern Suburban Special Education District seeks a proven and visionary leader to serve as the Superintendent of this nationally acclaimed special education joint agreement. The joint agreement supports students with special needs and the specialized programs that support those students in 18 member school districts. Reflecting the expectations of a supportive and highly educated community, the district offers a rich array of programs and support services.


NSSED delivers a broad range of programs and services, providing high quality programs which serve students with low-incidence disabilities and behavioral challenges. Services offered through NSSED include both direct services to students and indirect consultation to staff members and are delivered by specially trained, licensed and certified staff.

NSSED also provides a variety of support services including: adapted physical education, assistive technology, coaching/consultation services, health services, occupational and physical therapy, personnel and compliance services and vision services.

Student Enrollment

38,259 General Education students within18 member districts
6,100 Students Receive Special Education (15.9%)
5,208 Students Enrolled in District Based Programs (13.6%)
925 Students within the member districts receive Support Services (2.4%)
488 Students Enrolled in NSSED Instructional Programs (1.4%)
203 students are enrolled in the Educational and Life Skills (ELS) Program housed in 25 classrooms within our member district general education buildings
165 member and 56 non-member students at North Shore Academy (NSA) are served at two locations, North Shore Academy Elementary on Revere Drive in Northbrook, and North Shore Academy Middle and High School on the NSSED campus in Highland Park.
120 students are enrolled in the Early Childhood Program (ECP) Program housed in 9 classrooms within our member district general education buildings
760 Red Oak Lane
Highland Park, IL

Budget $48 million

Accepting applications through October 20, 2015
Selected candidates taken to the Leadership Council in late October
Final action by Leadership Council in December, 2015

Salary Offered Regionally competitive

District Website

Anonymous said...

UNBELIEVABLE! Listening to the "Special Meeting" which as I recall was scheduled to approved the contract for architect's fees in connection with the HMS project. Instead, the approval was tabled at the beginning of the meeting because the BOE was just given the contract tonight for review and needs time to look it over. WTF???? (pardon my outrage!) It is nuts that despite weeks passing since the BOE selected the architect, the fees contract wasn't ready at the regular BOE meeting in November and the BOE didn't get a timely document to look at before tonight's SPECIAL meeting? This is totally unacceptable and listening to Ken Surma chuckle and explain away the delay is, in my opinion inappropriate! For me, this is a BAD SIGN of how the entire project will play out if the BOE does approve going to referendum.

Anonymous said...

Now the BOE is having a conversation around design issues and yet 3 board members are missing from the meeting! White is completely clueless to the importance of engaging the ENTIRE BOE at a REGULAR BOE meeting to have the design discussion. Sorry, but this approach shows that he is the WRONG person to lead the district, let alone the construction of a new middle school.

Anonymous said...

7:35 you are so right. The whole HMS project seems very rushed. Now White and the architect firm is discussing parking as a first item? White has described parking in Hinsdale as a "community problem" which needs a community solution? Really, so the HMS project is already expanding? One of the things listed on board docs as part of the design discussion agenda is a parking deck. I've heard that parking decks are probably the most expensive type of building to construct. This parking discussion is all I need to hear to realize that everyone needs to VOTE NO. The design discussion should NOT have started with a presentation on a parking. Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

Parking discussion still continuing, although in fairness to Clarin, he has raised cost concerns echoed by Burns and Giltner. Agree with earlier comments that to discuss parking at the beginning of the design discussion shows how screwed up the process is, how stupid the administrators are and how they just don't understand our community.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Garg/White/Cordogan show. Most of the questions (on parking deck and now on drop off lane during construction are all coming from her. It is really disappointing that this design (if you want to call it that) discussion is taking place when not all BOE members are there and the meeting wasn't well advertised and so there are probably almost no parents there. THANKS FOR THE TRANSPARENCY BOE and Administration. It is clear that there is no real desire to engage the community in the design process.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the new Cordogan design presentation. Dr. White: You should have posted this to the D181 website, sent a link to this presentation to all parents by email and sent an invitation to the parents/community reminding them about this "Special Meeting." Guess you were too overworked to do this, but what about your overpaid Director of Communications? Was she too busy to do her job?

Anonymous said...

She is too busy filing parent and taxpayer rolls in D181 committee meetings. White needs as many yes-people as he can get.
Actually, she probably already took off for Thanksgiving Break. Unlike teachers and parents, she does not need to attend conferences.

jay_wick said...

I attended last nights special BOE. I believe I was one of only two "regular citizens" in attendance, which is kind of disappointing. There was lots of good discussion between the four members that choose to attend, they really are doing their best to impress upon the architects that the replacement for HMS has to answer the shortcomings of the current school, be respectful of its location in town, and be as cost effective as is possible.

The architects were very responsive to the limitations posed by working around the existing school. They presented several design concepts that were rooted in the more historic architecture of other schools in the district. More importantly the architects presented a building that would provide a much better environment for learning than the current building can offer. The well known bottle necks in the current building are largely eliminated -- the majority of classrooms would be accessed via traditional corridor. There are six dedicated science labs, two for each grade level. There is gymnasium that can be accessed directly from the parking area. There is well thought out space for tech labs, dedicated space for music instruction, arts, and physical education. The architects are continuing to refine solutions for an auditorium and dedicated space for those with special needs. Those refinements, and a cost break down for various levels of aesthetic exteriors will be presented in December. The BOE members present fully understand the factors that are important to the community and anyone that attended the meeting would have no doubt that there is a deep concern that this project been completed in a fiscally responsible manner.

The other major topic of the meeting was upcoming levy for annual property taxes. This too was approached in a serious way with the BOE members in attendance offering honest feedback as to the district's operating costs needing to be aligned with the reality of taxpayers. The district's business official made a presentation that included scenarios involving cost increases that the district is already committed to as well as implications of increased potential labor costs; essentially every 1% raise that certified staff is given will impact the district to about $350k.

There was brief discussion about the on-going maintenance items for the other district schools, a recent review of their condition suggested expenditures of approximately $29M in long term projects are needed over the next two decades, there was no sentiment for the BOE to endorse a referendum question that would fund these projects, though the BOE directed the Superintendent to seek potential ballot wording from counsel.

Anonymous said...

Maybe "regular citizens" don't attend these meetings because they get no respect when they do speak.

If district personnel and administrators can't handle their primary role (educating our children), why would we think they can do anything else properly? Even worse, the board does nothing to force them to do so.

If the board was listening, they would not be directing the superintendent "to seek potential ballot wording from counsel". The board would be talking to counsel themselves to see how to remove Don White, Kurt Schneider and the other administrators who have failed our children.

Anonymous said...

1. Why is the BOE continuing to investigate a new school?

Until the curriculum issues in math and science are resolved, and the citizenry is comfortable with the staff, there is no chance that a new school will be approved.

2. It is troubling to me that the BOE continues to want to give the DOL staff more time to bring down the scores of Hinsdale's kids, but have still not established expectations of what success or failure would look like. Why not agree that it will be the scores that were current when this "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" nonsense began will be the standard? If you can't beat those scores, the tiering elimination is a failure. I guess that would be too transparent without enough room for double talk.

3. Why isn't the BOE developing a plan for next steps, just on the 99% likely chance that the next round of scores is lower than hoped for? Why wait until the end of the year, and then say, "Wow, these scores are a disaster, what should we do now?"Be prepared!

4. Shouldn't the standard measure for the success of the Middle school curriculum ultimately be how well their students transition to high school math, and at what level? If an increasing percentage of students are prepared of Algebra II and Geometry, and are successful in those classes, then you are doing well. If the percentages are declining or the students are struggling, then you are not doing as well. This is not rocket science folks, no matter how much the staff wants to pretend that it is.

Anonymous said...

8:12pm "The question is how much longer the students will have to pay the price before one more Board member...comes to the ... conclusion that, ... you can not really raise math achievement by doing less advanced math. That is what the test results have consistently shown, and will continue to show. How long do you think it will take?"

I have to say, 8:12 that this is the million dollar question. In the end, it seems like everything else is a side issue. How long will scores slide before they change it back to the tiered system? The problem is that they have been so intransigent, that I don't think they believe that they really have that option. They think that admitting failure will get them fired, so they continue to see that the data are not showing what they were so sure was going to happen, crafting a story to explain it away, and begin working toward the next round of tests. Just extend and pretend. It isn't really a question of how long it will take, but who has the leadership ability to fess up to a mistake and fix it. It won't be the administration, and there are not quite enough votes on the board, so I am guessing that it will, sadly, take another election to shift the balance and do the right thing for the kids.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: Have you seen copies of the letters sent from the Middle School Principals to the parents of advanced math students? According to the letter I received from Principal Sonntag, there are many students struggling and they are proposing to offer assessment and tutoring to these students. Remember, this is the class that lived through the failed Learning For All plan as it was initially rolled out when these students were in 3rd grade. Every student was accelerated a full grade, ability tiers were eliminated and Everyday Math materials were pushed to the side in favor of DOL created curriculum. Of course, none of these facts are outlined in the letter. Instead, Mr. Sonntag blames only Common Core and the new materials. These things are not the cause of the students problems, they are just making a bad situation worse. We have to remember that MR. Sonntag was one of the key members of the Advanced Learning Task Force that was responsible for continuing and expanding this disaster of a plan. A plan that has failed so many students and teachers from Grades 3-8. Come on Mr. Sonntag, let's tell parents the truth about what has really happened to their students so that they can get them the help that they need in time for high school. Hiding the facts hurts students. HMS parents did you receive a similar letter from Mr. Pena?

The Parents said...

7:57: This is quite disturbing. Can you submit a copy of the Sonntag letter you and other parents received as a comment to the blog? Do you know if HMS students received the same letter?

CHMS Parent said...

Part 1: Bloggers: Here is a copy of the letter CHMS 6th grade advanced students received. I have deleted the teachers' names because I don't think they need to be identified on this blog. I agree that this letter raises many concerns, in particular, it is ridiculous that D181, such a high achieving district, is blaming Common Core for the problems this group of students is experiencing. The lunacy of that suggestion proves once and for all that the administrators running the department of learning are delusional and need to be fired en masse. Everyone with half a brain knows that the problems this GUINEA PIG cohort of students is having in math is a direct result of the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan, and yet those "plans" are not even mentioned in the letter. I wonder if the full BOE or Learning Committee were made aware of these issues before the letter was sent out. I would bet any amount of money that they were not. What a shame if this blog has now become their source of information. It should make them all realize that the administration cannot be trusted.

November 20, 2015
Dear CHMS Parents of Students enrolled in 6th Grade Advanced Math (7th Grade Common Core),
The CHMS Administration and Math Department would like to address some of the concerns that have been expressed regarding the 6th Grade Advanced (7th Grade Common Core) math class and our plan to support students whose performance fell below expectations in these classes moving forward. Thank you to parents who have asked questions or shared concerns through our PTO meetings and our Math Coffeetalk a couple of weeks ago.
I want to start by saying that XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX are doing an exceptional job teaching our students. I can’t say enough about how proactive, flexible and positive each of them has been meeting students where they are at and helping them move forward. We are very fortunate to have them teaching math at CHMS.

(continued in Part 2)

CHMS Parent said...

Part 2:

I think it is important to note the following grades were achieved during 1st quarter in 6th Grade Advanced Math: 37% earned A’s, 43% earned B’s, 19% earned C’s, 1% earned D’s. I am providing this information simply to provide context and information for this discussion as I have heard misinformation being reported. The vast majority of our students are proving successful (80% achieved an A or B during 1st quarter), and for these students, we need to maintain the pacing and rigor of the course. Remember, successful completion of this math course and the 7th Grade Advanced Math class will result in students taking high school Algebra as an 8th grade student at CHMS.
Some additional background information is important as well. As we continue to transition to the Common Core Math Standards, we are moving away from only memorizing how to compute math problems. The Common Core Math Standards support traditional algorithms and why and how the algorithms work. Last spring, District 181 adopted Big Ideas as a math resource that includes a component that teachers can use to explore concepts and teach the conceptual understanding behind the concept. These activities (or explorations) are provided by Big Ideas for each math lesson. Each activity begins with an essential question and students are given time to work with a partner. From there, the students may lead a mathematical discussion with the class. The activities promote curiosity, communication, perseverance, and learning. At times, these explorations may be frustrating to students that have been taught math through lecture for many years. Students are not expected to understand a concept based upon the activity alone. The activity is just one part of the multi-pronged lesson. Teachers spend approximately 3 – 5 days to work through one math lesson, depending on the concept and how quickly the students are understanding it. The additional time for each lesson allows teachers to teach mathematical proficiency, including conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and application.
Students are assessed throughout a chapter using formative assessments. Formative assessments are learning checks to tell our teachers if the students are learning what they are supposed to be learning. Some examples of these are mini-quizzes, exit slips, online homework, and accuracy checks. Our goal is to assess students for this mathematical proficiency during their learning. In addition, our chapter tests look different than they did in past years because deeper, essential questions from some activities and conceptual understanding questions are being included, often in short answer form. In a nutshell, students are being asked to do more than memorize and do the math. They are being asked to explain what they did and why they did it to show a deeper understanding.
At CHMS, we administered a short assessment assessing the prerequisite skills that would help students be successful with the new skills they are learning in chapter 3. Each student will come home (today) with a printed report showing their performance on this assessment. If your child does not come home with this today, please email me and we can send you a PDF of the report. For students who struggled with one or more standard on this test, we have put together a short list of resources that students can access from home to help them master these skills. The list of resources is attached to this email and contains links to IXL Lessons and Khan Academy videos. Students are not required to do this work over Thanksgiving Break, but we wanted to get the information to you prior to break in case this is a time that your child can devote to some review.

(Continued in Part 3)

CHMS Parent said...

Part 3:

After Thanksgiving Break, students in the 6th grade advanced math classes at both CHMS and HMS will administer a more comprehensive assessment of all of the sixth grade standards. We will use the results of this assessment to help guide our future instruction. For standards in which most of the class struggled, we will use class time to review and make sure that students have the skills they need to be successful. For skills that were challenging for only a handful of students, we will look at other options for filling these gaps. One option will be a self-guided set of resources, like the one we are providing for Chapter 3. We will also explore options such as after school support and/or a math lab class in place of encore classes. Finally, for some students who show significant gaps in their math knowledge, we may recommend that 6th grade standard math is a more appropriate placement after attempting to fill in these gaps.
Thank you for all of the support you have already provided your children, and for your patience and support as we work through how to best meet our students’ needs. We are excited about the plans we are putting in place, and we look forward to watching your children continue to learn and grow in math this year.
Please utilize the resources at the link below if your child needs them.
Griffin L. Sonntag, Principal
6th Grade Chapter 3 Prerequisite Skills Assessment Resources.docx

Anonymous said...

The focus on "showing a deeper understanding" is good. Students who understand it will be better off. Teachers who understand it will also be better off. The top students were already developing an understanding of this as they moved through the grades, so this is really not additive for them, although they may be understanding it a bit sooner.

The key among all of this distraction is buried in point 4 of 1:19s comment above, "If an increasing percentage of students are prepared of Algebra II and Geometry, and are successful in those classes, then you are doing well. If the percentages are declining or the students are struggling, then you are not doing as well."

What we need to know from the administration is whether d181 is on track to improve the percentage of students in each grade who are prepared to succeed in Algebra II and Geometry, when they are delivered to d86, or are those number going to deteriorate? If they can demonstrate that those percentages are improving and demonstrate that the students are in fact on track to get there, then, in my opinion, they are succeeding, regardless of current test scores.

If they are failing to launch students successfully into advanced mathematics in increasing numbers when they complete d181, then they are failing.

Why can't we seem to get a straight answer to this question?

"At the current trajectory, how is all of this impacting the percent of students who will be prepared to succeed in Algebra II and geometry when they begin 9th grade?"

Anonymous said...

9:56 your comment is a good one. Would you please post it on the freestanding post about this issue so that others will see it more easily?