Sunday, January 31, 2016


Moments ago, we received the following comment that poses some great questions on the proposed HMS design concepts.  We agree that the answers to these questions should provide some clarity to the voters on what exactly has been developed and how the proposed $65 million might be spent.  

We'd love it if someone on the Facilities Committee or D181 Administration would take a crack at answering them, since they are not that difficult, but it shouldn't be up to individual community members, or us (the bloggers), to dissect all of the design concepts since Cordogan first presented it's original one in early December 2015.

We hope to have answers submitted.......


Anonymous said...

Can someone clear up the following questions which I think will provide clarity on the process, price and purpose of the new HMS.

Cordovan's original design concept was priced at $46.8 million. This did not include an administrative center. That design would have cost $50 million. When that design concept was priced out by Pepper, the construction firm said the concept would actually cost $73 million. IS THAT CORRECT?

Then the BOE said, this is too expensive. IS THAT CORRECT? My question is whether the Design that Pepper priced out had MORE features than the original WINNING design concept?

Then did the Facilities Committee or Cordogan (WHICH ONE OR BOTH?) worked with the teachers (???) to modify the original design and bring a cheaper alternative to the BOE BEFORE they voted on language to put on the March 2016 ballot? DID THAT HAPPEN? And Version A cost 66.4 and Version B cost 63.7? Is that CORRECT?

And the BOE split the baby and settled on Ballot language of $65 million BUT they did not settle on a specific design concept at that time. IS THAT CORRECT?

But even then it sent the design concept BACK to the facilities committee and Cordogan and said, bring us a $55, $60 and $65 million version. IS THAT CORRECT?

And last week, the facilities committee "arguably" discussed Version C, D, E, F and G. Version C was a $55 million version, Version D a $60 million version and E, F and G were all $65 million versions and they settled on Version G which they will recommend to the BOE on February 8. IS THAT CORRECT?

HOW IS VERSION G different (in terms of features, square footage and bells and whistles) from Cordogan's ORIGINAL $46.8 million design concept?

And my final question -- what was the price per square foot Pepper calculated for Cordogan's Original Design concept and what is the price per square foot of Version G?

CAN ANYONE PLEASE ANSWER THESE BASIC QUESTIONS? After 2+ years, someone on the Facilities Committee should be able to (perhaps Mrs. Mueller) or perhaps the D181 keeper of all knowledge (I mean, the Director of Communications) or perhaps one of our readers who can analyze the hundreds of pages of documents that are on the D181 website and Board Docs to determine the answers.

Thank you.

January 31, 2016 at 8:04 AM

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Comment(s) of the Day -- HMS Referendum Chronology

We'd like to thank the anonymous reader who over the last couple of hours has submitted a series of comments tracking the chronology of events leading up to the March 2016 HMS Referendum Question.

We are publishing them below (along with all the useful links) so that anyone interested can quickly access board meeting documents.  What is fascinating to us is how this chronology shows that in a short span of 2 years, a Facilities Committee was formed and tasked with creating a Masters Facility Plan for all 10 schools, only one school -- HMS -- was ultimately selected for any large projects and despite the focus on only one school, virtually every deadline set was missed by the administration.  Compounding that is the reality that the winning design concept, originally priced at $46.8 million was completely off the mark and the true cost (as estimated by Pepper Construction) was $73 million.  It is no wonder the BOE balked at this number and pushed for a cheaper version, but a mere four days later 5 of 7 board members settled on $65 million as an appropriate amount to ask taxpayers to fund.  

We ask, is it really appropriate to have a design that is nearly $20 million higher than what the board selected in October?  After months of delay in selecting an architect and many missed deadlines, why would anyone trust the "urgency" and rapid fire decisions and changes made in late December 2015? 


Comments of the Day:

Anonymous said...
Many people on this blog have been commenting how long the facilities committee has actually been in place. A search of board docs located the following memo which clearly states it was created in October 2013, less than 2 1/2 years ago.....$file/BOE%20Report_Facilities_1_13_14.pdf
Anonymous said...
Healy Bender, the go to architect the district had used in the past, was contracted for $26,000 to complete a Master's Facility Plan.$file/BOE%20Report%20Facilities%20Master%20Plan_12_9_13.pdf
Anonymous said...
The facilities committee presented a lot of useful information at the April 21, 2014 board meeting on HMS and the history of the building and past expenditures. Check the documents out at:
Anonymous said...
Less than 1 1/2 years ago, Wight and Company was hired to complete a Facilities Audit:$file/BOE%20Report_Facility%20Assessment%20RFP_10_27_14.pdf
Anonymous said...
Only one year ago, January 26, 2015, Dr. White announced that Wight and Company had completed a 350 page report on the facilities needs at all 9 schools. His report also stated that Healy Bender's Educational Adequacy Analysis which also dealt with school conditions would be ready in April 2015 and that by June 2015 (only 8 months ago) a Master's Facility Plan would be ready.$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Supt%20Report%2015-01-26.pdf
Anonymous said...
By February 2015, the completion date for the Masters Facilities Plan had been pushed back to July 2015.$file/BOE%20Report_%20Supt%20Report%20_2_9_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
In April 2015, additional information on overcrowding at HMS was presented to the BOE as a basis for their approval of additional mobile units:$file/BOE%20Report_HMS_Options_4_13_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the May 11, 2015, discussion began on the creation of the Masters Facility plan, but the date for completion of the Plan was once again pushed back to September 2015. Embedded in this presentation was the suggestion to issue an RFP for an architect to do renderings of a new HMS and to select a firm by September 4, 2015.$file/BOE%20Presentation_Facilities_%205.12.2015.pdf
Anonymous said...
An updated calendar on facilities planning involving a possible new HMS was presented at the June 8, 2015 board meeting. This calendar still had an architect firm being selected between September 28 and October 5, 2015 (another push back on the original date suggested in May).$file/Timeline%20Update%20for%20the%20Board%2015-06-08.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the June 22, 2015 board meeting, Ken Surma presented a report indicating that in late September or early October (2015), the BOE would be asked to determine whether to put a Referendum Question on the March 2016 ballot, and whether it should include other schools besides HMS. (Remember, the October "deadline" was not met and the BOE didn't decide until December 19 to go to referendum.)$file/BOE%20Report_Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20Engagement%20Research%20Planning_6_22_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
Another timeline update was presented at the August 15, 2015 board meeting setting October 19 (another delay) as the dates for possible board action on selecting an architect and deciding whether to go to referendum in March.$file/2015_08_17_Facilities_Planning_Timeline.pdf
Anonymous said...
On August 31 summaries of recent committee meetings were presented to the BOE, including one from the Facilities Committee:

It still showed October 19 as the target date for presentation of the Masters Facility Plan, Selection of Architect and Board decision on going to Referendum in March. The date for selection of the Architect had been pushed back yet again from the originally proposed date...$file/BOE%20Fin.%20%26%20Fac.%20Com.%20Mtg.%20Min.(2)_8_18_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the September 28, 2015 board meeting, the BOE was provided a summary of where things stood on the HMS facilities front. On September 8 and 10, three architect firms presented their HMS concept designs at the Hinsdale Public Library.$file/BOE%20Report_Engagement%20and%20Research%20Update_9_28_15.pdf

A draft 10 years Masters Facilities plan was also presented to the BOE:$file/Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20-%209.27.2015%20-%20reduced%20size.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the September 28, 2015 BOE meeting, HMS options and the controversial ranking of architects (but no selection) were also discussed:$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Options%20for%20HMS%20-%209.28.2015%20(Revised).pdf

Facilities Committee minutes were also presented:
Anonymous said...
A mere 4 months ago, at the October 19, 2015 BOE meeting, the board was presented with more information on selecting an architect for the HMS project:$file/Facilities%20Committee%20Pros%20and%20Cons%20for%20Architectural%20Firm%20Decision%2015-09-29.pdf
The three firms were "reranked" following the concerns raised at the prior board meeting and the results were presented at:$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20Ranking%20of%20Architects%20for%20HMS%20Construction_10_19_15.pdf

Rather than being asked to approve going to referendum (per the updated timeline), the BOE was now only tasked with providing guidance to the administration on whether to proceed to referendum in March 2016:$file/BOE%20Report_Potential%20Referendum_10_19_15.pdf

The board took action by selecting Cordogan as the architect, did not decide whether or not to place a referendum question on the March 2016 and authorized 2 board members to enter into contract negotiations with Cordogan, See Minutes of meeting at:$file/Reg.%20Bus.%20Mtg.%20Min._10_19_15.pdf
Unfortunately, a Special Meeting needed to be called for October 26, to rescind the motion approving board member negotiators and bring that motion again. Apparently, there must have been some type of "error" (or perhaps OMA violation?) requiring this special meeting. (Interestingly, if one looks at the NOTICE of this special meeting, it doesn't list the reason for the special meeting, which is also required by law....another mistake?)

See Minutes:$file/Sp.%20Brd.%20Mtg.%20Min_10_26_15.pdf

See Notice:
Anonymous said...
On November 9, 2015 the BOE approved hiring Pepper Construction to price out the true cost of the $46,876,115.00 Cordogan design concept for an new HMS. (See Cordogan proposal, p.46 at$file/BOE%20Report_Construction%20Manager%20Cost%20Estimator_11_9_15.pdf
Anonymous said...
At the December 14, 2015 board meeting, the BOE and Community learned for the first time that in costing out the Cordogan design concept, Pepper Constructions estimated it would actually cost $73 million, not $46,876,115.00.$file/HMS%20Cost%20Estimate%20DRAFT%20Executive%20Summary%2012-13-15.pdf

The BOE failed to vote on whether to go to referendum and scheduled a special Saturday board meeting on December 19, 2015.

A mere four days after the $73 cost estimate, two new cheaper proposals were floated to the BOE:

One was for $66.4 million ($file/SD%20181%20Hinsdale%20MS%20Budget%20Summary%20Option%20A%20Revised%20121715.pdf

The other one was for $63.7 million ($file/SD%20181%20Hinsdale%20MS%20Budget%20Summary%20Option%20B%20Revised%20121715.pdf)

The BOE majority approved putting a $65 million question on the March 2016 ballot, barely meeting the ballot language submission deadline. 

The BOE tasked the facilities committee to explore cheaper options but based upon last week's facilities committee meeting "due diligence" (as Don White refers to it during the meeting), the committee will be recommending a $65 million design to the BOE.

How can anyone trust this number? Perhaps Pepper should be asked to take a look at the latest Option G design and cost it out....

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Comment of the Day: Another Open Meetings Act Violation in the Flawed HMS Referendum Process?

Moments ago we received the following letter from former BOE member Yvonne Mayer.  We are posting it as our Comment of the Day because we are disturbed that once again, there is another "flaw" in the referendum process that has been exposed.  How can the community be expected to vote YES on any referendum question in the face of all the problems and legal issues that have occurred during the process leading to the March 15 election? 


Comment of the Day:

Yvonne Mayer said...
Can they get nothing right? Below is a letter I just sent to Dr. White and the BOE. Feel free to post as a free standing comment.

Dear Dr. White and Board of Education Members:

I am writing to inform all of you of an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act that was disclosed during yesterday's facilities committee. As you all should know, it is illegal for three or more board members to discuss substantive board business outside of a properly noticed open or closed meeting, or make decisions that are represented as full board directives. I was, shocked to learn at the 1 minute 43 second mark during the 1/27/16 facilities committee that Mr. Clarin had discussions with two other board members in the last couple of days which led him to represent to the entire Facilities Committee that the BOE had decided to focus only on $65 million options for a new HMS.

All of this was revealed during the first five minutes of the meeting. The meeting begins with one of the Cordogan representatives attempting to begin a discussion on the $55, $60 and $65 million options for a new HMS. As you all should recall, at the last board meeting, the BOE was very clear that the facilities committee and architect should prepare these three options for further discussion. The BOE approved language for a $65 million referendum question on the March 15 ballot, but there was enough dissent expressed by various board members that it was agreed that the committee and architect should continue trying to lower the cost. During yesterday's meeting, the Cordogan representative stated that they had prepared various iterations but at some point they needed to stop and get direction from the BOE and with that direction from the facilities committee that they could share wit the board. He then said he wanted to go over pros and cons developed for each of the $55, $60 and $65 million options they had developed. 

It was at this point in the meeting, that Board Member Gary Clarin stopped him (00:1:42) and said:  

"I’m going to stop you there because I had a discussion with a couple of board members over the last couple of days and I think we’d like to, we approved 65, I’d think we’d like to move forward at 65, whatever that may be, I think our financing needs to reflect 65, cause the community is going to need something soon and I know finance is tomorrow night. Um, we need to just work at 65. 55 was not what the board approved, we approved 65. If we can come in at 55, then so be it, but I think we need to start looking at 65, 64, whatever that iteration is and we need to go with that. I’m only one board member, but that’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to narrow this down, so we can work towards one thing, without trying to do all these iterations."

There have been NO publicly noticed board meetings in the "last couple of days" at which Mr. Clarin could have legally had a discussion with fellow board members leading to his representation that the BOE wanted to move forward with the $65 million option. In my opinion, his statement is an admission of a blatant open meetings act violation.

My only question to you is, which other board members participated in the discussion with Mr. Clarin and what authority did the three of you have to make decisions for the rest of the board?

If, by chance, this discussion did not actually take, place, then I would ask you to have Mr. Clarin explain his misrepresentation to the Facilities Committee yesterday.

I would like to know what Mr. Giltner and Ms. Garg think of Mr. Clarin's revelation, since I did not hear either of them comment during this part of the meeting on Clarin's representations.

I would appreciate an immediate response from Dr. White and BOE President Garg as to how this alleged violation will be handled, so that I can decide whether or not to file a Request for Review with the Attorney General's Office.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer

Monday, January 25, 2016

Don White States $368,311 in Funding to D181 Could Be Cut By State this Year-- Is this Really the Right Time to Spend $65 Million on a New School?

This morning, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on the negative impact the proposed State funding cuts will have on local school districts.  Below is the link to the article:

According to the article, 

"The possible changes stem from the Illinois State Board of Education proposing to take $305 million from an account designated for special education services and giving that money to districts for general expenses. The change would mean more 'general' aid for public schools, but districts would still be expected to cover special education expenses." (Source:

Superintendent White was interviewed for the article and stated that "the proposed loss of special education funding would have cost District 181 $368,311 in fiscal year 2016." (Source:

He further stated: 
"Taking money away definitely impacts our ability to provide resources in other areas... Special education is a federally mandated program that is not fully funded. If we are to lose over $368,000 in funding, that means that we will have to shift current funding to comply with federal law. Ultimately, this will have an impact on our ability to provide other services... Even though I understand the intent, this may have a negative impact on our ability to deliver current services to students in our district."  (Source:
The proposed State cuts for Special Education services is just one of several proposals currently being considered that could cost D181 millions of dollars each year.  If proposed pension laws are passed, transferring funding responsibility to individual districts, or if property taxes are frozen, the district will be forced to spend down reserves or make cuts to programs since annual tax revenues will not be sufficient to fund existing services and salaries.
So we ask, is this REALLY the best time for D181 to be going to referendum to build a brand new middle school to the tune of $65 million?  Do we really want our property taxes to go up to build ONE school, or perhaps would it be more responsible and better for all of D181's students to go to an Operational Referendum in the next two years should state funding cuts and freezes actually be implemented?
Our choice is on funding student programs and teacher salaries, not building a Taj Mahal school with an elevated running track, auditorium and $450,000 atrium skylight (to name but a few of the bells and whistles in the current proposal).  With only 50 days to go before the referendum, the administration has still NOT made a recommendation to the BOE on how to fund the $65 million in bonds. Taxpayers still have no idea what the actual tax increase will be should the referendum pass, or over how many years they will share this additional tax burden.  It is not fair to taxpayers, parents, students or teachers, to keep us all hanging without complete referendum information.  But more important than that, it is not fair to any of these constituent groups to know that if we pass a $65 million referendum for ONE school in March, construction on this ONE building could be underway at the same time that services for ALL students are CUT, CUT, CUT.  How many tax increases does the Administration and BOE really think this community will support?  Wouldn't it be better for the Administration to bring these issues to the BOE to address at their next BOE meeting (on February 8, 2016) and be TRANSPARENT about the possible future negative impact that D181 may face?  Shouldn't the full BOE openly discuss the possible negative impacts State proposals may have on D181 and make plans NOW to avoid having to cut programs or eliminate teachers?
The onus is on Dr. White to show whether or not he can be an effective and strong leader.  It should not be enough for him to try and build one school and claim that as his legacy.  Instead, his priority should be on ensuring that no services or programs are cut for ANY D181 student, especially when (and if) $65 million in taxpayer money is poured into ONE school that will only serve a small percentage of our students.
Sound Off!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Comment of the Day: Jay Wick's Insightful Observations and Our Hope for the Upcoming Strategic Planning Process

This afternoon we received a comment from Jay Wick which we believe is on point.  We are publishing it below as the Comment of the Day.  Before you read it, we would like to make the following observations:

1. Tomorrow, the BOE will hold a Special Meeting that will focus on Strategic Planning.  The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at the Administration Center.  The agenda for the meeting can be accessed at the following link:  1/23/16 Meeting Agenda. We encourage our readers to review the documents posted for the meeting that can be accessed at the following link: Strategic Planning documents.

2.  In his comment below, Jay Wick notes that it is time for the BOE to overcome its "fear of micromanaging."  What is ironic about his comment (which we whole-heartedly agree with) is that one of the concerns ECRA (the Strategic Planning Firm) claims constituents raised in their survey and focus group meetings was that the BOE has done too much micromanaging.  The apparent disconnect between ECRA's finding and what people like Jay Wick (and us) believe about how involved the BOE has been or should be is something that we hope the BOE explores at the Strategic Planning Table tomorrow.  In our opinion, there have been a few board members in the last several years that have rightfully demanded administrative accountability and given specific examples during board meetings of how the administration has refused to implement board directives and not acted in our students' or taxpayers' best interests.  These board members have been in the minority -- until now -- and had no authority to effect the kind of change that Mr. Wick points out is needed.  

3.  The administration has been quick to call out past minority attempts to address needed change as micromanagement.  This should come as no surprise since some of these changes could have potential negative impact on their livelihoods.  But now it appears the winds may have finally shifted.  A new board majority spoke up at the last BOE meeting and demanded that the administration follow the BOE directives.  This same majority should insist that administrative compliance with BOE directives be implemented into any strategic plan that is board approved.  

4.  Finally, we want to commend the current Board Members who have raised their concerns and expectations during public board meetings. Board Members Garg, Giltner, Gray, Burns and Vorobiev have been serving this community well in recent months.  In addition to demanding that the Administration comply with its curriculum directive, the BOE majority has publicly criticized Dr. White for authorizing the recent mass student data release to a pro-referendum committee.  Dr. White was forced to admit at the 1/11/16 Board Meeting that he could have refused the request under FERPA and the Code.  He further admitted that he was solely responsible for making the decision to release the data.  The BOE was not involved in the decision to release the data and only learned about it after the fact. Once the BOE was made aware of this mass release of student contact information, Board Members Gray and Giltner immediately raised concerns which were ultimately discussed during the January 11 board meeting.  Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by a news reporter seeking release of emails in which the data release was discussed. These emails establish how the BOE had no involvement in the original release of this information and how its members were aghast when they learned about it. We urge our reader to take the time to review the emails which can be accessed at: FOIA Response. We believe you will be proud of the board members that did not sit silently by but rather demanded that Dr. White take corrective action.  

5.  We hope that the tenacity shown by the BOE majority in recent weeks continues as the BOE identifies additional "corrective steps" that should be part of the strategic plan.

Comment of the Day:

jay_wick said...
Those of us who have read all the information that was diligently provided through exhaustive FOIA requests and traced the 'evolution' of the curricular changes that were enacted, understand that when people work harder to provide cover for their preferred action than to actually move in the direction that clearly was desired by the BOE majority there will be negative consequences; we rightly look forward to regime change to undo some of those negatives.

It is necessary to fill in some of the relevant history. The impetus for modification to prior policies that served as "gate keeper" functions to the former accelerated offerings of the district was a desire by community members to expand access. The perverse response of the outside consultants was badly misappropriated by prior administrators; one would be hard pressed to say that the way prior offerings were dismantled did not reek of vengeful malfeasance. When the mostly "re-appropriated" plan was adhered to by central office staff after the departure of the prior administrator, the motivation might have been lack of passion for doing the hard work needed to actually craft a rational proposal or it may have been a case of a poor match between the skills need to accomplish the task and the personnel in the roles. Dr. White has made not so subtle hints as to which is truer...

While on some level this back story is now water under the bridge, the fact remains there are lots of kids in the district that very likely would be doing much better if they were being appropriately challenged. The harebrained idea that the whole district could be uniformly marched through mathematics that was not suited to their abilities STILL has consequences for kids that are at ALL points along the Gaussian distribution -- those that should be performing in the upper quintiles face a disorganized future as the pipeline of teachers that formerly expected their ranks in middle school has been treated like pariahs -- it is now verboten to mention acceleration that formerly was applauded. The kids in the lower performing groups have gotten a raw deal and many now are actually farther behind because of the silly assumption of stigmatization that refuses to give them personal attention they need to remain in sync with their grade-level expectations -- their floor has not been raised to the ceiling, rather they've been anti-assisted -- if not for parents that seek outside help, these kids would be badly floundering. Perhaps worst off of all are the big hump of kids in the middle that, combined with the haphazard PARCC testing and questionable adoption of new math texts, have been through so much drama that it could nearly be classified as trauma...

The literal arm-flapping techniques that are a favorite of folks that hold distinctly backwards understanding of the supposed basis of their goofy classroom strategies have to be called out. The damage that has been done to kids by slapping new labels on them is immense. The Myth of Learning Styles | Folks too busy to actually read the books that they think defend their goofiness should at least read the columns the actual researchers share Multiple Intelligences Are NOT Learning Styles | Howard Gardner Ph.D. | 

Our current BOE has many well meaning members that need to overcome their fears of micromanaging and insist that any new staff can clearly articulate a basis for progress. Refuting the Doctrine and Industry of Learning Styles | Psychological Science in the Public Interest

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dr. Schneider Leaving D181 for a Position in a North Shore Special Education Cooperative

Moments ago, the D181 Director of Communications notified all parents by email that Kurt Schneider is leaving D181 effective July 1, 2016.  Below is a copy of her email and the more detailed link content referenced in it.  We will make no comment at this time, other than to say, "Sayonara"* Dr. Schneider.

Email from Ms. McGuiggan:

Dear District 181 Families,
This message is first to share information from the Department of Learning regarding an important update on the schedule for PARCC testing. (A letter to parents is copied below.)
Also, we want to notify you that Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), effective July 1, 2016. NSSED is a special education cooperative that provides programs, services, coaching, and consultation to 18 member districts. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Schneider on his new position. Click here to read the full story in our website news.
Have a nice day!
Bridget McGuiggan
Director of Communications

Press Release:

Assistant Superintendent of Learning Dr. Kurt Schneider Accepts Position with NSSED

Thursday, January 21, 2016
District 181 Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Kurt Schneider has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), effective July 1, 2016. NSSED is a special education cooperative that provides programs, services, coaching, and consultation to 18 member districts in areas such as Winnetka, Lake Forest, and Deerfield. Schneider has served as an Assistant Superintendent of Learning in District 181 for four years. 
"I have truly enjoyed working with my District 181 colleagues," Schneider notes. "I am proud of the work we have done and what we have accomplished together on behalf of all students." Schneider remarks that he is committed to continuing his work with District 181 staff, students, and families over the coming months and that he will be working closely with the administrative team to create a smooth transition for incoming Department of Learning leadership. 
District 181 Superintendent Dr. Don White congratulated Dr. Schneider in his new position and thanked him for his service to the District. “Dr. Schneider is an outstanding person who has worked to always put the needs of students first. We are proud to see him take this next step in his career.” 
In regard to the vacancy, Dr. White notes that he will continue to evaluate the District's current organizational structure and plans to discuss the topic with the Board of Education at a future meeting. (Source:
Japanese for 'goodbye'; however, it carries more finality. Instead of being used at the end of a day, as in "Goodbye see you tomorrow," it would be used in situations where you will either not see the person for a long time, if ever again.   (Source:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Comment of the Day: Is Anyone Else Sick of the Administrative Spin?

Moments ago, we received the following comment which we are posting as our Comment of the Day.  Below it we have pasted text from the D181 Board meeting summary to save our readers time in accessing the portions that are referenced in the comment.  While in fairness to the administration, the summary does use the word "concerns" that Board members expressed on the Math plans, nothing in the summary indicates the strong level of discontent the majority expressed, a level that has not been exhibited before by this board. We also agree that there is no reference to the actual information -- Student Names, Grade they are in, School they attend, Parent's Name, Address, Home phone number, Cell phone number, Email Address -- that was released to the political group before the board intervened and demanded a reversal by the administration on the amount/type of information that should have possibly been released (if any) -- limiting it to email addresses.

Our only comment after reading this summary is that we are really sick of all the administrative spin.  Are you?  Sound Off!

Comment of the Day:

"Anonymous said...
The Administrative summary of Monday's meeting has been emailed to parents.

As expected, it is a total sham. While there is brief reference to the board's discussion on the the Release of Information issue and the Math Trajectory discussion, there is absolutely no indication that any board member criticized the administration on either important topic. When a MAJORITY of the BOE slams the administration and demands that they follow board directives (on math) and reverse course on a sloppy/shoddy decision to release student information en mass to a political organization, this should appear in the summary. In my opinion, the fact that it is glaringly absent proves once and for all that the Administration wants to keep the community in the dark. For goodness sakes, this was a five hour meeting. Parents might actually go to the podcast and listen if they learned that there were actual concerns raised by their elected officials. Keeping us all in the dark continues to be par for the course.....
January 15, 2016 at 11:16 AM "

Quotes from the Administrative Summary:

"Members Share Concerns Related to Advanced Learning Opportunities in Mathematics 
Podcast Recording: Approximately 03:22:55 
As part of the Board Learning Committee Report, Board members discussed concerns with information prepared for the January 6, 2016 Learning Committee meeting that outlined a trajectory of math courses and options by grade level. Board members discussed previous Board direction with regard to advanced learning opportunities, flexible ability grouping, and criteria for placement. Board members discussed that historically as many as 1/3 of District 181 students were receiving advanced or accelerated math instruction and want consistency across the District, particularly as it relates to middle school course placement and the chance to complete Algebra or Geometry as 8th graders. Board members requested that Superintendent Dr. Don White work with the Department of Learning to revise the plan further."

Podcast Recording: Approximately 02:12:45 
As part of his Superintendent's Report, Dr. White and Board members discussed a recent request for "Directory 
Information" from a citizens group that formed to support the referendum for construction of a new middle school. Board members shared concerns with the data that was provided by the District and the manner in which approval to provide the information was granted. They agreed on a number of action steps to consider revisions of the District's procedures, including a possible change to Board policy, updated handbook language, and revised registration materials. The Board also agreed to advise any individuals or groups who already received the data file to destroy the information, and to seek the committee's confirmation that only the email addresses provided by the District would be used."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Comment of the Day: Just for Kicks.....

Every once in a while, as D181 parents, students, staff and taxpayers attempt to "journey" through the "twilight zone" that this district has become, we receive comments that while funny on their face are seriously on point.  The following comment was submitted in response to another one that asked why criticisms expressed by Strategic Planning Focus Group attendees were mysteriously absent from the presentation given at Monday's board meeting.

We believe that the following comment says what we are probably all thinking.......


Anonymous said...

9:53: To use some of the terminology that is commonly used these days by the D181 administrators, no doubt what happened was that the administration took the comments collected at the focus group meetings, "triangulated" them with the data collected in the online survey, then had a multitude of "conversations" regarding the data during their "journey" to come up with a strategic plan, which led them to make some "logic" conclusions about the data -- conclusions which of course are clearly flawed and make no sense. What else would you expect? This is par for the course. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

NEW COMMENT OF THE DAY: Now We've Seen It All -- District Releases Thousands of Students' Names, Grades, Schools and Parent Contact Information to Political Group.

Moments ago we received the following public comment.  After reading the news article the comments provides a link to, we are left speechless.  Not really.  But we are outraged as current D181 parents that the Administration released all of our students names, schools they attend, the grade they are in, along with parent names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to a political group.  The article doesn't address whether or not the Board of Education was consulted before this information was released, but we would bet it was not. Hopefully this will be discussed during tonight's meeting and someone will be held accountable.

As always, SOUND OFF!

Comment of the Day #2:

Jill Quinones said...
I hope the District plans to speak on how it is going to revise its policy on releasing to the general public personal information, especially about our children. 


I'm glad the State Legislator wants to look at the State Code, but honestly the District needs to revise its own policy. Despite what Ms McGuiggan says, on the registration forms there was NO OPTION to opt out of public release - only release to PTOs and/or D181 Foundation. The Parent/Student Handbooks only refer to information to be released by building Principals - NOT the District Central Office Administrators. And it requires yet another hoop after registration of writing a letter to the Principal "at the beginning of the school year" - just how many days is that?

The policy should be one of opting IN to public release, it should be part of registration, it should require BOE prior approval unless a matter of health or safety (as a check and balance on the Superintendent), and there should be a link on the District website or an email to parents indicating when such a release has happened, to whom, and what information was released.

There is no way a political committee needs children's names, addresses, phone numbers, school attending and grade level - but that's what was given out without a thought!

Comment of the Day -- It is Critical to Attend Tonight's BOE Meeting at 6 p.m. at the Administration Center

This morning we were alerted via comment that the board meeting tonight will begin at 6 p.m., not 7 p.m., the usual start time (or time that appears on the D181 website BOE meeting calendar schedule). In addition, we received the following comment which we are posting as our Comment of the Day, encouraging people to contact the BOE and/or attend tonight's meeting.

We strongly encourage D181 parents to not turn a blind eye to the curriculum issues that should be of grave concern to all of you.

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...
We all know that this meeting tonight will likely be long-as all the other meetings are long and drawn out with no real change. If you cannot attend to show your support for great rigor in all of our grade level classrooms, K -5, by making public comment to support a more comprehensive math trajectory then please write a letter to your BOE.

They have to hear from the parents. One parent, two parents, three is not enough. We need to raise our voices. If every person who wrote on this blog demanding accountability, sharing frustration, and expressing concern over how ability based groups are formed and where children in the top 1/3 are getting their needs met wrote just one letter, sent just one email or made one phone call--that would be a powerful voice for change.

Once again they have updated the math trajectory proposal. For those who have been following it since its first placement on the Board Docs, you'll see they have now changed it from the Learning Committee post to the general Board post to reflect that in grades 3 and higher they will have a grade level group and an "advanced" group. In fifth grade, they will propose acceleration where kids will all of a sudden jump one or two years.

Until then, there is nothing. So what does it matter if they do away with the 2 SD criteria? If your child makes that as an elite top 2 percent, great. But the general math trajectory states nothing till 5th grade. Nothing. IF that doesn't make you write a letter, I don't know what will.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Comment of the Day: Call to Action -- Parents Must Speak Out Now to Ensure that the Board of Education Demands Accountability From the D181 Administration

This morning we received the following comment -- a call to action -- encouraging D181 parents to write letters to the BOE before Monday's (1/11/16) BOE meeting.  We completely agree with what the author says and hope parents take the time to send short or long letters to the BOE reminding them of their obligation to properly oversee our children's education.  

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...

It is once again time for parents to write letters to the BOE. The BOE will consider recommendations and criteria measures for D 181 advanced math and accelerated math placement and trajectory this Spring. They will discuss the awful recommendations of a math trajectory plan aligned to Common Core as Dr. Benaitis stated that limits advancement to 5th grade and beyond. 5th grade people. That means KG, 1st, 2nd and 3rd not to mention 4th grade students will languish in grade level math classrooms. Are you kidding? How can one mold fit all of our students in D 181?

Advanced learning opportunities are the hallmark of successful school districts. We need all children to be met at their instructional needs. Those children in the top 1/3 of their class deserve enrichment and advanced learning. Those children at the top 2 to 3 percent are on their own trajectory and deserve something else. Why can't we meet the needs of our learners?

It is clear that the DOL does not hear from enough parents interested in change. Please consider writing a letter, however short or long summarizing your feelings about the district criteria, the math trajectory, and what is happening in our curriculum. We have to rally the troops to write letters and make comments. Otherwise, it will be more of the same. Parents with older children who are now raising their 2nd or 3rd child will not enjoy the same opportunities for advancement if the current DOL initiatives take hold and are approved. Support our BOE members Gray, Burns and Garg who continually question and challenge. Demand accountability. Please take the moment to write a letter, have a meeting or attend public BOE meetings for public comment. Thank you.
We agree that the time is now to demand accountability from an administration that has, in our opinion, clearly done a disservice to our students.  Under the terms of the Department of Learning administrators' contracts, Dr. White will need to make recommendations on whether to renew the one year contracts or to terminate the multi-year contracts on or before April 1. 

Dr. Schneider is currently on a one year contract, however, if his contract is renewed, he will have tenure in D181.  (Click to open Schneider contract.)** Under Section 10 of his contract, "a decision on this contract's extension, revision or non-renewal will be made by the BOARD no later than April 1 of each contract year.  Failure to so act on this contract's extension or revision or to provide a notice of non-renewal shall automatically renew this contract for one (1) additional year under the same terms and conditions of employment at the time." Last year, the BOARD did not take formal public action under the terms of this contract, rather it FAILED TO SO ACT, with the result being that Dr. Schneider's contract was automatically renewed.  We were shocked at the time that each board member was not given an opportunity to vote publicly on extending the contract.  We expect more from our elected officials and hope that this year, they will hold a public vote so that the community will see how each of the seven board members votes on this particular administrator's continued employment in D181.

Dr. Benaitis is currently on a three year contract which will end on June 30, 2017.  (Click to open Benaitis contract.) Under the terms of her contract, the Board has the option of unilaterally terminating her contract (with or without cause) and it's only obligation to her would be to pay her salary through the end of the current contract year. If the Board informed her that it was terminating her contract on or before June 30, 2016, it would only need to pay her salary through that date.   If the BOE fails to terminate her contract before June 30, 2016, but chooses to at a later date, it will be required to pay her salary through June 30, 2017.  We hope the BOE makes a responsible decision that will cost the D181 the least amount of money!  

We are not going to elaborate on all the myriad of reasons why it is our opinion that Dr. Schneider's contract not be renewed and he not be granted tenure, or why Dr. Benaitis' contract should be terminated.   Previous posts have laid out the reasons.  Because the Board approach has been to look to the superintendent to make recommendations on all administrators (other than, of course the superintendent),  Dr. White should soon be bringing his recommendations on these two employees to the BOE.  In our opinion, the recommendation Dr. White makes should give the BOE a very clear direction on whether or not to extend Dr. White's contract -- a step no doubt they will begin to consider as Dr. White approaches the end of the second year of his three year contract.  Let's not forget that the previous BOE extended Dr Schuster's contract shortly after she started the third year of her first contract.  So it is quite likely that the BOE will shortly begin debating the merits of whether to extend Dr. White's contract or inform him that he will only be a one term superintendent.  

Frankly, we think there is sufficient basis to not give Dr. White a second term contract.  But if there is any chance that the BOE is considering extending his contract beyond June 30, 2017, that "chance" should end if Dr. White has the audacity to recommend tenure for Dr. Schneider and fails to realize that termination of Dr. Benaitis's contract as of June 20, 2016 is what is in the best interest of the district.

As always SOUND OFF and we hope you all attend the January 11, 2016 BOE meeting that is currently scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Administration Center located at 115 West 55th Street, Clarendon Hills.

** Note:  The most recent version of Dr. Schneider's contract that has been published for the community is the July 2014 to June 30, 2015 contract linked above.  However, since Dr. White allowed his contract to automatically roll last spring, according to the Section 10 of the contract the extension would be under the same terms.)