Monday, February 8, 2016

Board Votes 5 - 2 to Recommend Building a $65 Million Hinsdale Middle School

We will keep this short and encourage the community to listen to the entire 2/8/16 Board Meeting discussion and decision by the BOE majority to recommend building Option G - a $65 million Hinsdale Middle School.  Bottom Line:  Five board members -  Garg, Burns, Vorobiev, Clarin and Turek  -- voted to recommend building a $65 million school in the form of Option G.  Two board members -- Gray and Giltner -- voted NO.  Several board members voiced their hope that the price might be less than $65, but as we all know, these are essentially empty words until -- in the event that the referendum is approved -- a construction manager is hired to actually validate the latest Cordogan design and bids are made on the actual work to be done. 

We commend Gray and Giltner for reminding the rest of the board that the BOE must look out for the fiscal health of the entire district, and not just focus on building one school.  Gray reminded the board that there are many possible liabilities that the district may have to assume in the future.  In our opinion, it was fiscally irresponsible of the rest of the BOE and Dr. White in not having a substantive discussion on the possibility of the district incurring these additional liabilities.  Giltner further pointed out that he could not support a design that in his opinion included "wants" -- such as an auditorium -- and not needs, especially when there are so many other district needs that must be funded.

After the BOE voted to recommend Option G, the next item discussed was how to fund the $65 million in bonds in the event the referendum is successful. Again, we encourage our readers to listen to the meeting, since the opinions given by certain board members, in our opinion, initially showed their willingness to kick the can down the road versus having taxpayers pay for the new building as soon as it is built.  To keep it simple, the decision was whether taxpayers would have to start paying in 2018 (once the building was completed) versus waiting until 2024, the year after all other bonds taxpayers are currently paying down for the past construction projects are paid off.  By waiting until 2024, the taxpayer costs would essentially be flat until 2024 and would allow people to say "hey, HMS won't cost anything" for parents who will be sending kids to HMS in the next 8 years.  

According to Dr. White's Report/Recommendation,  he was asking that"the Board tentatively approve a solution that begins the payoff of debt just after a new school is built and includes debt payment decreases when current debt expires (similar to PMA Option 3C-1). It is further recommended that the Board of Education establish a targeted tax increase for a home valued at $500,000 and $1,000,000 so that the administration can ask PMA to update reports that can be shared with the community as soon as possible."
The board voted to begin paying down the bonds the year the building is completed (should the referendum pass).  Now the only question is what will this cost the taxpayer?  Unfortunately, Dr. White's Report/Recommendation did not provide the answer.  So we will continue to wait for this information.

Stay tuned.....


Concerned Taxpayer said...

Wow. Last night's discussion on the HMS referendum revealed how little concern the board majority has for the district's fiscal future. Rather than recognize that the BOE's decision to go to referendum for a $65 million school was made in piecemeal fashion and without a real discussion at any time in the last 2 years about whether the district can really afford to do so, the board majority chose to ignore the fiscal concerns raised by Board Members Gray and Giltner. The district is building a house of cards and if even half of the state legislative proposals are passed, the district will find itself in a fiscally precarious position of having to decide how to sustain the existing programs and teachers without having to spend down the district's reserves. Will it cut programs? Fire teachers? Not fund needed maintenance at the other 8 schools? Will it try to pass an operational referendum? A board that has been so conservative over the last couple of years in holding the line and not levying to the max, apparently thinks its ok to aggressively pursue a $65 million expenditure. So why didn't the BOE majority want to address Gray and Giltner's concerns about D181's fiscal future? Why didn't it want to discuss the very real possibility that pension liability will be shifted from the State of Illinois to D181, or that there might be a property tax freeze or nearly $400,000 in special education funding might be lost? It appears that the BOE majority and D181 administration are assuming that since these proposals haven't been passed in the last few years, they won't be in the future. To make this assumption without having a plan in place to immediately address how current programs and teacher levels will be maintained in the event that these legislative proposals do pass, is simply stupid and irresponsible. Interestingly, one board member stated last night that perhaps the repayment of HMS bonds should be pushed out and not begin until 2024 because there may be residents in D181 who cannot really afford to have their taxes go up at this time. That their budgets are tight. If this board member -- or any board member -- really believe that such taxpayers live in D181 (and we all know that they do), then it is clear that the taxpayers (the very people who are paying for this building) cannot afford to have it built. Because of the way bonds are sold, D181 will qualify to buy more even with the high debt it is currently carrying (over $200 million and close to $300 if the referendum does pass). However, the ordinary taxpayer wouldn't qualify for a loan to build a bigger house if it carried this kind of debt or if it couldn't afford the increased property taxes that would accompany building a bigger house. Isn't it the job of the BOE members - all 7 of them -- to look out for the taxpayers and make decisions that are in all of our best interests? Apparently not. Let's just hope that the taxpayers don't vote yes on the referendum and silently contribute to the downfall of this district and in the broader scope -- the State of Illinois.

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers need to be able to trust the numbers. All of them. Anytime numbers are used in the discussion of funding a $65 million school, the numbers that are presented should be accurate. If not, how can anyone trust that the rest of the numbers are correct? So it was quite disconcerting last night that numbers that had been up on the board doc presentations since Saturday morning, and which the administration had published knowing full well community members would read them and assume they were correct, were flat out WRONG! From the projected student head count at HMS this fall (which apparently will not decline as much as Mr. Munch reported in his written report), to the square footage given by Cordogan on it's cheaper, "inadequate" HMS scenarios, there were mistakes that were only revealed by in response to Board member Giltner's questions. Why weren't these mistakes identified before the discussion began? Would anyone in the administration, or facilities committee or architecture firm have disclosed them up front? I plan to vote NO on the referendum because the mistakes revealed last night are just the latest evidence of the flawed process that has culminated in the selection of Option G - a $65 million proposal for one new school.

Elm Parent said...

It is really humorous listening to board members who supported the $65 million design state that once it is costed and bid out, the project might be cheaper. Of course we all hope that this will be true, but there is absolutely no evidence that this will happen. If this is how the board majority, administration or Vote Yes for HMS political group plan to sell the referendum to the taxpayers, then they must really think we are naive.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Giltner and Gray. You are the only fiscally responsible board members in the bunch. Thank you for your efforts last night to do the right thing for all taxpayers. Too bad you weren't able to convince any one else.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments. I too am disappointed in Burns, Vorobiev and Garg. Their vote to rubber stamp the flawed process (as some have referred to it) and proceed with a $65 million design without discussing the district's long term financial health and possible loss of revenue was really irresponsible. Thank you Board Members Gray and Giltner for doing your job and looking out for the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

When these same five members of our elected board become sock puppets for the administration, we know we are in serious trouble. I expect certain board members to roll over, but Garg, Burns, Vorobiev? Come on. Your judgment is beyond clouded.
My vote remains a big fat NO.

Anonymous said...

Shocking how the board majority talked big about deferring to the facility committee and administration on the design but then they ignored the advice of the head of the finance committee regarding the financial health of the district and the best financial decision for funding the new school. That was a telling moment. The board members wanted this over the top big school, and talked grand about how fantastic it was. Then when it came time to paying for it they recoiled and wanted to pass the buck. They wanted to say you can have this awesome school for only $17 more dollars a year - ignoring that it would add an additional $11 mil to the total. No one would buy a house like that but it is the Illinois way. Then they started talking about the old lady on a tight budget and Marty appeared to have a moment of truth about how this would affect his own tax bill. Shocking really.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Hinsdale over 20 years and see the same pattern again and again. We elect people to D181 that are smart and accomplished and independent and then hope for the best. Unlike D86, the boards have not been union shills or single issue members for the most part.

And yet after 3,4 or 6 months, these bright independent people slowly become pawns of the administration. They become enamored with experts and forget about common sense. They become awed by doctorates of education and forget that many of our taxpayers are medical doctors, lawyers, MBAs, and so on.

We don't want micromanagers, we don't want rude abusive boards. We want independent boards that set direction and respectfully challenge and guide our paid administrators.

Giltner and Gray are asking very good questions and demanding answers. All 7 board members should be doing that.

I don't have the answers here, but I have seen this same pattern across multiple decades with multiple D181 Boards.

Any body have an answer?

Anonymous said...

To 1:00:

The pattern you have observed is spot on. I have lived in Hinsdale for nearly 15 years. School boards have come and gone. Each one of them end up supporting themselves and their own interests first, the children are somewhere down the list. I have never seen this much apathy in our community. I no longer have kids in the district, but my several of my neighbors are not happy with the schools. In fact, a couple of my neighbors have switched their kids to private schools. This is a sad statement on the quality of the district. In the last election, I read up on the candidates and voted for people I thought would see the light. This hasn't happened. Now I'm looking at a possible increase in my taxes that are already high. For what? It seems to me that the teaching that goes on inside of a building is more important than anything. Why the board doesn't see this is troublesome. In answer to your question, I think at first their intentions are good, but over time board members get sucked into the lingo of what appears to be an overpaid, verbose, self-indulgent administration who could never make it in the real world of the marketplace. I have attended meetings and I see no leadership from anyone on either side. Most of these people are just motivated by their own interests. It's as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps. Board members change after being elected because they are forced to deal with parents like the ones who made public comments last night. I will not give those parents - who preach politeness but do not practice it themselves - the moment on this blog they so obliviously were baiting for. However I encourage others to listen to the public comments at the beginning of the meeting and then ask yourself which administrators had their hand in that. Also notice who chickened out of her public comment at the end. Then 1:00 I think you will have your answer.

Anonymous said...

Why so cryptic, 6:28?

If you have a point, make it. Right now, nobody understands you.

Anonymous said...

My point is listen to the public comments

Anonymous said...

I think 6:28 needs to review her high school civics class and review the duties of being an elected official. Being a board member is a voluntary position that these people all actively pursued. They relied on the votes of their neighbors and other residents. Voters chose these candidates because they each promised to represent US. Not because we entrusted them to think FOR us.

If certain board members can't deal with being a public servant, then they never should have run for office. 6:28's attempts to excuse these board members' poor behavior is a joke. If board members can't handle dealing with the parents who elected them, then they muat step off the board. If they don't, residents should, and can, hold them personally and financially liable. Why would a board member want to expose him/hersef to that risk?

How did Hinsdale 181 end up with a BOE majority who think like a North Korean Dictator?

Anonymous said...

8:13: What are you even talking about?

Anonymous said...

The public comment of the 2 administration supporters was largely inaccurate. I know because I have actually listened carefully to everything that has been going on in this district for 2 years. They obviously have not. I liked when one of them said that she had talked to Hinsdale Central about the math programming. Doesn't she know that Central is ability grouped out the wazoo? And that there are at least 4 different ability tracks so that all student needs are met? Perhaps she thinks that HCHS should follow our DOL in its stellar math improvement performance. It's a good thing that the lower level math class at Central was formed because, in 2 short years, there will be far fewer kids who are even qualified any more for the higher level class. Thanks D181!

D181 Resident said...

So you all peaked my curiosity. I listened to the public comments. Whoa Nelly! I've attended a lot of board meetings in the past ten years and I have never heard such a rude attack on board members and a community member as took place last night. It was a clear set up by an outgoing administrator who lined up his followers to attack board members and a former board member. True, public officials must be able to handle public criticism, but as rude as the comments were, what was worse was Dr. White's silence. Does Dr. White want to work with his board of education or not? He had a perfect opportunity last night to defend the Spring directive that the board approved to reinstate tiered programming. It was pretty obvious that the parent who spoke last night claiming that there was no data to support the goal of accelerating more students in math -- as had been done in the past before Learning for None destroyed the curriculum -- hasn't been following what's gone down since last winter. Data upon data upon data was brought forward to prove that Learning for All had not worked and had hurt more students than it helped. The administration was given a directive by the board but the administration failed to implement it and more recently, all of this was discussed during a public board meeting. Where were these critical parents then? I listened to that meeting and there were OTHER parents whose kids have lost ground and been held back from achieving their true potential who stepped up and reminded the board that ALL children have a right to learn at their level. How dare Dr. White sit silently and not explain to the parent the process that resulted in the board directive? It was bad enough when the outgoing Administrator stated in the spring that he disapproved of the board directive. It was bad enough when the DOL administrator who has worked side by side with him in implementing the Learning For All Plan refused to comply with the Board directive. But it is worse for Dr. White to sit silently last night, essentially condoning the public attack on his board. For me, it showed that he has no real desire to work with the board. Hopefully enough board members realized this last night and will refuse to renew his contract when it comes up for renewal.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the 2 administration supporters have obviously been fed bad information from an "inside source" and haven't bothered to listen to or attend BOE meetings and educate themselves. But, you know what's worse? This same inside source has spread the same lies to teachers and other staff, many of whom also believe the misinformation. And I bet Dr. White didn't defend the BOE to them, either.

I think that those Walker parents are just upset because their scores are so low compared to the rest of the district. They need someone to blame. And, they don't seem interested in taking the time to listen to all of the BOE meetings discussing these issues or parsing through the extensive district data that showed conclusively that our top quintile was falling behind. Even Dr. White had to agree that was true. And he did it on the record. They must have missed that meeting. I wonder if he has shared ever shared the MAP quintile data with teachers or if he has kept them in the dark as well?

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of two, one at HMS. After listening to last night's meeting, I'm more concerned than ever about the direction our district is headed. I heard a couple of parents speak who sounded like pundits for the administration. What I didn't hear was a statement from the board president (in name only) or Dr White (acting superintendent), both of whom sat on their hands. This is what passes as acceptable now.
And we are supposed to trust these people with spending even more of our tax money for a new school? They both need to go along with the members who support them.

Anonymous said...

Listened to the meeting, at least, the first part. What we have with this board and this administration, and this community for that matter, is a failure in leadership. The constituency is clearly not unified in its understanding of the myriad of issues facing the community, really, who has time. The board is very weak, and clearly acts based upon self interest, additionally, we have some community members, both on the board and during public comment, more than willing to stand up and embarrass themselves. Obviously, this blog must be doing something right though. That attack on the former board member was a bit over the top, no?

I found it very humorous that the group that was formed to get out the vote for a new HMS was asking for the same numbers everyone else is. I mean, really, how can some of these people put their good names on the line when even they weren't being supplied enough info to sell this thing?

From the tribune article today, it looks like just about everyone in the town is going to see a pretty big tax hit. Just can't see this thing getting the support it will need when people's tax bills are going to increase so substantially. Pretty much everyone in the district is going to see 500 or some multiple of it. For most of the Monroe district, it will be 1000 to 1500. Don't see it passing there considering it will have a negative impact on resale in that area versus the rest of Hinsdale.

This is going to be interesting to watch. Democracy is never neat and tidy but it is the best we have. This thing should fail if you can trust in the collective wisdom of the town (I mean, we now have a board and an architect asking for 65MM and saying they don't think it will cost that much, I am laughing just thinking about that) . People just need to vote. Once it fails, I think they will get a little more reasonable on wants and needs. Until then, I fear there is going to be plenty of outcry on how unfair this blog is.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious we have a total disconnect between parents, the administration and the board. How is it possible that fellow parents can step up to a microphone at a board meeting and make comments about another community member and the board itself without any parameters? If my memory serves me correctly, haven't other parents who have spoken out previously been shut down in mid sentence? Why weren't parents stopped on Monday? I smell a trap set up by the administration, and the passive board members fell right into it. How about the top dog, Dr White, who didn't have the guts to speak up. Was he part of the fix? Sure looks like it to me.
And we thought Schuster was devious.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that whenever a public comment is made that even indirectly refers to a certain outgoing administrator (a very highly paid one at that) the discussion is immediately shut down. However, there was total silence - and the comments went on far longer than the allotted time limit (almost 15 minutes in total) when two community members viciously and rudely attacked the three female board members on the learning committee as well as a former board member. Perhaps the board president didn't shut it down because she was one of the people being attacked. But what was Dr. White's excuse? There was dead silence from him.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:49,

Upon What do you base your conclusion that the "Monroe district" will see a tax increase of "1000 to 1500" dollars? I have never heard that the Monroe folks will be disproportionately hit on their tax bill.

It's an interesting and perhaps useful statement. Before I accept it as fact, however, can you state your basis?

Anonymous said...

8:50: everyone will pay approximately $500 per $1 million value of their home. Monroe will not pay more or less than anyone. However, Hinsdale has a higher tax base than the other parts of D181. Monroe is the only part of Hinsdale that will not be going to the new over the top grand school. It begs the question of whether people moving into Hinsdale will want to move into the Monroe area. So while Monroe will be paying the same taxes as everyone else it could affect their resale value more. Monroe also has a lot of $2 mil plus houses that will have tax increases well over 1k.

Anonymous said...

11:49, there is no such thing as a "Monroe District". There is a Monroe elementary school boundary area which has nothing to do with DuPage county tax rates or levies. All houses in Hinsdale in DuPage have the identical tax rate ( Assessed value times tax rate levied equals the taxes we pay)

Monroe is a good elementary school( now that we seem to have some stability in the principal position) that feeds into CHMS which we are happy with. Of course, the same broken curriculum and dept. of learning affects all the elementary and middle schools. The construction or lack of construction of a new HMS has no impact whatsoever on property values the Monroe attendance area. I don't personally think it will impact property values any where in Hinsdale. School quality is not based on the buildings, it is based on what the children learn.

Property values are driven by school QUALITY as evidenced by test scores, awards, success of the graduates ( Hinsdale Central is still one of the top high schools in the state) etc. Quality is influenced by teachers, principals, curricula, parent support and of course the administration.

Please note that Butler middle is a decade older than HMS and its test scores are consistently higher. Please note that Hinsdale Central was for the most part built in the 1950s and is still one of the top public high schools in the state. Please note that most of Monroe and Madison elementary were here before World War 2. New buildings are not a panacea. Strong curricula, good teachers, motivated students are what makes a school district.

Anonymous said...

It is an open question whether the new school will negatively affect the resale value of the homes in the Monroe area. However, Monroe residents have little motivation to vote yes based on the facts presented in the previous posts. Many residents will have a tax hit greater than 1k and there is a potential that the new school could negatively affect their property values (compounded by the fact that Monroe has trailed the other elementary schools in rankings and test scores).

Anonymous said...

Well if you look at the PARCC presentation, Monroe is not listed as lagging behind the other schools anymore. There seem to be medium effects for Prospect and Walker in language arts and math for Elm. Other schools are mentioned for small effects or likelihood for meeting expectation on PARCC. Monroe is only mentioned once. What's very interesting in contrast to what was shared during public comment is: From PARCC presentation report on boarddocs -
"Because there is a positive correlation between MAP RIT
scores and PARCC scale scores, an analysis was conducted to observe the relationship
between MAP ability levels and PARCC Performance Levels. Using the same categories
from the MAP Virtual Comparison Group Report (see October 2015 BoardDocs for the
report), the students were grouped by MAP percentile band for an ability level analysis(for example, students who achieved a percentile ranking between the 90th – 99th percentile were categorized as the 90th percentile band). Then, the frequencies of the PARCC Performance Levels were tabulated for each band. The results demonstrate that as MAP percentile band increases, so does the proportion of students meeting expectations. In ELA, more students proportionately met expectations at the MAP 50th percentile band or greater. In mathematics, more students proportionately met expectations at the MAP 70th percentile band or greater." We do have more children that are higher performing unlike what we have been led to believe but not all met the expectations. So levels make sense...

Ann Mueller said...

I submitted a comment yesterday and it is one of a couple of my anonymous comments that you have NOT POSTED on the blog. I have submitted other posts previously, signed my name and those posts interestingly were posted. My posts do not always align with the tenor of this blog, which in my opinion, is occasionally anti-BOE, anti-Facilities Committee, anti-Administration, and many times anti-what is best for the students of D181. I will make another statement now, which pretty much says what I said yesterday, and this time will sign my name because I stand by what I say. It will be interesting to see if you post my comments. This blog has no credibility if it ONLY POSTS comments that align with your way of thinking. You state that "the purpose of this blog is to SUPPORT the education of D181 students and PRESENT FACTS, DATA and OPINIONS related to D181 issues. The comments I made about Monday's BOE meeting were not "name calling or unfounded and sweeping allegations." I did not attack anyone in my Tuesday comments. You claim opposing opinions are ok. Then, demonstrate that.

I pointed out in my Tuesday comments that during Monday night's BOE discussion about the options for a new HMS and the potential bond sale scenarios, both BOE members Leslie Gray and Rich Giltner never made any reference to what would be best for the students of D181 and only focused on the impact of a new HMS on the taxpayers and the district debt. My observation of no discussion of what is best for our students is a factual and important observation. As I mentioned on Tuesday, a BOE member's responsibilities do include acting in the best interests of the students in the district. These statements are not name calling or unfounded and sweeping allegations. Nor, does this observation attack anyone. As I mentioned in my Tuesday post, it is also incomprehensible to imagine dumping any more money in an overcrowded, academically inefficient, rapidly deteriorating building that has required $12 million since 2000 and will require $4 million immediately if the referendum fails. With all the concern for tax payer dollars, does it make sense to spend these kinds of dollars on a functionally and academically inadequate building? The D181 community is a smart community. Let's demonstrate it. We all moved to D181 to educate our children. Why ignore the fact that HMS needs to be replaced. It is only going to cost more later if addressing this issue is postponed once again!!! I'm an empty-nester whose children are adults. I have nothing to gain from a new HMS except to know that many of the middle school students of D181 would be educated in an outstanding 21st century educational facility. Also, I know a new HMS will help maintain my property values.

The Parents said...

Ms. Mueller: We have just published your comment that you submitted this afternoon. We have gone back and looked in our spam box and can assure you that we never received a comment from you yesterday. Once before during the board elections, another community member called us out for not publishing their comment, however, we never received that one either. We do not know why there was a glitch in your submission yesterday but rest assured that we have always, and will always, publish comments that you submit on your name because you are a highly respected community member and have every right to your opinion. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention, however, we seriously did not receive a comment from you yesterday.

HMS Parent said...

Ms. Mueller: I think you are being unfair to Mr. Giltner and Mrs. Gray. My takeaway from their comments is that not only are they looking out for the best interests of the D181 taxpayers, they are also looking out for our children's long term educational future. It is clear from the points they raised that they are worried about how the district is going to pay for the existing programs and teacher salaries if state legislative proposals, such as pension shifting to districts, property tax freezes and SPED funding cuts, are passed in Springfield. By identifying NEEDS, not WANTS, and pointing out that a new school shouldn't have WANTS such as an auditorium or elevated running track or turf fields (all which add up to MILLIONS of dollars), they are trying to save taxpayers money that may need to be raised down the line to fund day to day operations at all 9 schools.

Ms. Mueller, perhaps you can tell me what you think will happen if these legislative proposals are approved in Springfield. And please don't respond by saying they will not ever be approved, because you don't know that. What any BOE across the state needs to be doing right now is planning for that rainy day, and not ignoring it. Please tell us how you think the district will be able to maintain the current programs and teacher levels if those proposals are approved and the district loses millions/year in revenues. Dipping into reserves will only cushion the district for a few years before it loses its credit rating. Cutting programs will HURT ALL STUDENTS. So what is the solution?

Wouldn't it be better to only build a middle school now that addresses NEEDS only?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Mueller,

You keep framing the issue improperly. Even if one accepts as true your conclusion that the current HMS is an "overcrowded, academically inefficient, rapidly deteriorating building," it is not necessarily also true that "Option G" is the way to go.

In fact, it's been pointed out over and over on this blog that "Option G" carries considerable bloat arrived at with wildly fluctuating numbers that defy common sense. Nobody in their right mind would build their own house using the methods employed by D181. It was completely backward.

The burden is on the Facilities Committee, the Administration, and the BOE to convince the community that "Option G" is the best. Pointing out what a wreck the current HMS is doesn't advance your case. It's a sideshow.

If you really care about the District, you and the Committee should come up with a more reasonable and logical plan that stands up to scrutiny. Crying foul every time a community member questions the plan doesn't advance the ball either. It makes the process look suspicious.

Anonymous said...

A few things: first, Mrs. Mueller, while I have much respect for you, I think it's unfair to blindly blame the bloggers for non-posted comments. While it's possible the bloggers might have ignored your comments, it's also possible that there were computer glitches.

I also agree with the people who complain about the process. It seems to have been rushed, and did not allow enough community input and engagement. The fluctuations in price is scary. Plus, the whole wants vs. needs thing.

I'd like to pose a question to the community: how do you define "want" and "need"? I'd like to hear why the teachers "need" certain things like the auditorium and track. I'd also like to hear why people may consider these a "want". Do we "need" foreign language, art, and music? Probably not. The district could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars on salaries by eliminating art, music, and foreign language teachers and materials. I don't hear anyone calling for that. So many posters on this blog say that it's the teachers and curriculum that's important, not the school. I totally agree. I'm not saying we "need" an auditorium, but I want to see what kind of uses the teachers can think of for the auditorium. Who knows? If it's built, it might be a "How did we survive without this?" kind of thing. I don't know. I think it's a bit arrogant to think that it serves no purpose just because you personally can't think of a good use for it. However, it might be a "Ugh... why did we even consider it?" Who knows? I'm keeping my mind realistically open.

The Parents said...

We are posting the following comment with redaction.
Anonymous said at 9:04 pm.:
Ms. Mueller,
I respect that you have chosen to spend your time volunteering for our community. I also admire your willingness to write under your own name. However, you are starting to sound like a XXXX. How can you seriously say "you know what's best for the students of D181." I have children in the district. I have taught for over 20 years in 3 districts and have an advanced degree along with my teaching credentials. Since my family is involved in property development, I grew up hearing my parents and their colleagues talk about architects, real estate, builders, and contractors. In no way does this make me a qualified developer, however, I have never heard of a reputable, successful business owner allowing his employees, or even his tenants, dictate and demand that their dream building be built with no regard to expense or actual, functional needs! Especially if his employees or tenants are not coughing up the funding themselves! It is simply not done this way in the real, non-debt ridden world of private business.
I have watched my neighbors move away because of the changes in our schools over the last 5 years. I have seen others place their children in private schools out of exasperation. How many elementary school children parents have you spoken to about their concerns lately? My children are currently at HMS and in a D181 elementary school so I have seen firsthand, the ridiculous pilots, curriculum upheavals in upper grades (innappropriate and detrimental to students) and have watched my friend's special needs students lose services that, in the past, were offered to children without parents being forced to hire an advocate or attorney. These injustices did not happen with the frequency and degree that they happen now. 181 had twice the special education budget of larger elementary school districts. But now, it seems D181 has half the student budget but twice the administrators. This is obscene! Neighboring districts have evolved and services have improved. Meanwhile, here, all we see are fantasy architectural plans. Our district will not flourish because of new drywall, larger windows and wider hallways. It takes more than concrete to make a district better. Our district is a huge mismash of tools and bags of tricks that get randomly presented as "best practices". Every school has their own philosophy, which makes the transition to middle school even harder than ever for 6th graders. No wonder middle school moms are more stressed out than ever. School has never been this hard and stressful for children before. Mothers are watching their children suffer without support while you, the administration, and the rest of the facilities committee (almost all 181 employees) have put earplugs and blinders on and are placing a $65 million dollar bet that a new HMS will magically solve all the curricular problems created in the last 10 years. If you really want to do what's best for the children of 181, stop wasting time on the facitlities committee and start figuring out who the district is going to hire to lead the special education and and curriculum departments. Sorry to be so blunt, Ann, but we have had enough of your perception of reality. If you really want to know how to best help the children of 181, start listening to their parents. Those of us who are currently parents, teachers, and professionals (not only D181 employees, architects &former parents) are the only ones who are meaningfully invested in this district. Informed, parent taxpayers here have the same, if not a greater right to speak up, or against the poor quality of education our children have been facing here for years. Had the administration, some board members, and facitlities members taken their earplugs out and blinders off last summer, they would never have become the object of scorn at the last board meeting. Ann, you do not know what's better for my own children than I, or any other current parent.

Wake Up

Anonymous said...

It seems like Ms. Mueller has been the muse for lots of commentary this evening.

In reading this blog today Ms. Mueller comes across as a very articulate and thoughtful person. I really didn't know much about her so I “googled” (I guess that is a word now) her name, and true to my initial read, she seems to have donated quite a bit of her time to this community and the cause that is D181 and its foundation. I note this because like many of the previous posters, I truly respect this. I digress though. In looking up her background with regard to D181, Google kicked out some references, and in one of them, a letter supporting the election of Leslie Gray and Jennifer Burns came up.

This letter struck me on two fronts. First, for its support of Ms. Gray’s election to this board, specifically her legal and tax background. An expertise that Ms. Mueller stated openly she valued, but at the moment this expertise appears at odds with her desire for a new school. I found that troubling. Here you have a BOE member with an expertise that was endorsed by Ms. Mueller that is openly concerned with the financial climate and potential health of this district and it seemingly is dismissed when it comes to this school.

The other item though, and really more the purpose of this post has much less to do with Ms. Mueller and more to do with this entire BOE / facility committee and how it operates. In this letter supporting Gray and Burns, the term “Data Driven Decisions” was used. This struck me because this board and admin seem to slip that phrase in every once in a while. Every time I hear one of them say it, it causes a moment of pause in me as if something isn’t right.

For me, this entire 2-yr exercise can be summed up with that phrase. My complete lack of faith in any of the data sums up my feelings with this BOE. In watching this thing play out, the data has always seemed as if it has been forced to fit the decision. The decision has always been to build a new school, build it on that site and every one of those board members appears to have always known this. The question for each and every one of them has always seemed to be how far they are willing to allow the data to be slanted to support the decision.

It all comes back to that phrase. Does the data truly support the decisions. Does the data support the design population of the school? Does the data support the need for a running track,…. an auditorium, ….a nice architectural skylight? In Ms. Mueller’s comments above, she mentions we have spent 12 MM over the past 16 yrs. maintaining this school? I say so what. The data in this case would say, 750K per yr (12MM / 16yrs) is a whole lot less than retiring 65MM in bonds. Is the school deteriorating fast? What exactly does that mean. The shell will last for 100 yrs. The concrete, the copper, the piping, pretty much the same. HMS is not ideal, I get it but give me data that supports it deteriorating any more rapidly today than it was when it opened. Can it be reconfigured and made better? I think the data would say yes.

I think if the BOE wants to convince me to vote for this referendum, they had better get rock solid and consistent data that supports the decision to build another space. And as another blogger has posted in a far more elegant way, give me data on this need for an auditorium while you are at it. Sure seems like a want for the HMS kids that CHMS kids will require as well. Might as well put two in once the data convinces me of its need.

Don’t politicize or opinionate the data. Give it to me raw and let me make a decision on my vote.

Anonymous said...

Well, after studying option G, I think this blog may have inspired some logical changes. It Is now three story. Smaller footprint. Smart. And some of those speakers were not very appreciative. Just goes to show.... Interesting though that they just took the savings and stuffed it into the 65 MM budget they arbitrarily set.

Anonymous said...

Don't rules apply to anyone anymore? Apparently, the Pro-Referendum political committee has begun stuffing mailboxes with Vote Yes for HMS car decals. Bad, bad, bad. I know of at least one parent who is reporting them to the US Postal Service since this is not allowed. No excuses since the people running the committee know better and should have been clear with their foot soldiers that this is prohibited.

Anonymous said...

Thought of the day - the total cost to build CHMS, Walker and Prospect combined was less than 65 million. Significantly less.

The Parents said...

FYI: According to the, Can a flyer/envelope be put it in someone else's mailbox without being mailed? What if a stamp was placed on it?

"No part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail."

Anonymous said...

Thank you bloggers for making excellent points. I am glad he FC (Facilities Committee) decided to finally heed the advice to design a 3 story HMS. But I agree with the previous poster who points out that the cost savings should have been reflected in the price The cost per square footage should have decreased, not stayed the same. Let me guess, the builders said adding a 3rd story really wouldn't result in any savings? If not, then why would the FC approve this change? Having a 3rd story doesn't make it any more functional for students. Unless there is a cost savings there is no point in making it 3 story. Of course, the FCers all say that the cost of the building could POSSIBLY go down, but after having built my own house, and going through a major renovations at my former home, there is no way that the builders will cut back the estimate voluntarily. FC, focus on controlling the costs, not parent comments and opinions.

As mentioned before, this decision clearly was not data driven. $12 million in maintenance over the years should not be disregarded. How can the FC think it acceptable to knock down $12 million worth of improvements to the building? The school did not burn down. We are not getting any insurance money on this project, nor is a rich donor funding it. I am another community member who has lost all sense of trust in this project.

Anonymous said...

I finally listened to the board meeting public comments. I've lived in this community a long time and know a lot of people, so it's very easy to connect the dots. The parent who bashed a private community member is very close friends with the wife of Board Member Turek, who has been publicly criticized on this blog and by the private community member during past public comments made at board meetings. Guess this explains why he condoned the payback comment as "payback." My recollection is that he was almost always the first board member to shut a speaker down if they even uttered the name of a teacher, administrator or board member during their public comments. Yet this time, his silence was striking. What a hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

From this week's Hinsdalean: "Norton said he's concerned that some residents are not aware of the conditions at the school, which are more reflective of a third world country than this community, in his opinion". In case you are wondering, Norton is a member of the facilities committee.

The whole paper was terribly biased this week. I few things to note: a new school doesn't increase property values, but lower taxes certainly does. High taxes and debt turn off homeowners. A solid curriculum is also key. And to all those people who believe this project will cost less than 65k as was promised in this week's Hinsdalean - well, I have a time share in the projects that I want to sell to you.

The paper did have a fantastic letter to the editor that everyone should check out.

Ann Mueller said...

Part I
Ok, I give up! You won't have to endure any more of my "perceptions of reality." I genuinely have tried to provide factual, rational responses to comments on this blog. I truly believe in positive discourse. I think the best thing is to look at issues, gather facts surrounding the issues, debate solutions and attempt to arrive at the best solution. This is how I tried to operate as a D181 BOE member for eight years & as president for 21/2 years. It was during the period of time that I served on the BOE that all the renovations and additions to the current buildings happened & the new buildings were built. I was part of the BOE team that purchased the houses where Prospect School now sits and negotiated the land swap with the CH Park District in order for CHMS to be built. Those BOE times were extremely challenging because D181 had extreme overcrowding at all sites with portables everywhere, with the worst situation...ten portables in the bowl at HMS. I have experienced reviewing issues and facts, having to make expensive and crucial decisions for the D181 students and community and had to live with the outcomes of those decisions. I have to say in reviewing the decisions that were made at that time, I am extremely proud of the work the boards I served on and the people I worked with because the result was additions & renovations to most of the schools in D181 to provide adequate space for students which supported current learning, too. In addition, there were three brand new schools built in CH, one of which (Prospect) is not only a " best practice" functioning school, but also an architecturally award winning facility.

So, I volunteered to be on the Facilities Comm. 21/2 years ago because I knew NO ONE in the D181 Administration knew anything about the processes that led to the facility improvements & new buildings 20 years ago. I asked previous fellow BOE member & previous Hinsdale Village President, Mike Woerner, to help with this effort, too. I won' t bore you with the details of all the meetings & research that the Fac. Comm. has experienced. However, I will tell you that all facility issues were thoroughly examined, research reviewed, buildings assessed and solutions reviewed. A Ten Year Master Facilities Plan for D181 has been developed based on the professional, functional assessment by Wight & Co. and an educational adequacy analysis completed by Healey Bender's Ted Rozeboom. Bottom line is all the current D181 buildings scored very well in both mechanical and academic function, except HMS....which failed miserably in both areas.

So, what is the D181 community to do about HMS? As a former high school & middle school teacher who has raised two children in D181 ( during less than perfect oldest child was in the last 6th grade class that was at the elementary buildings so she entered HMS as a 7th grader when HMS became the most crowded school in the district & when HMS had NO developed middle school program...another time when the D181 curriculum was a TOTAL MESS!) It was at this time, when I saw half-ass decisions being made in D181 based purely on space and having nothing to do with educational excellence, that I ran for the D181 BOE. I believe it is best to become part of the solution rather sit back & complain. Sitting back & complaining wasn't going to help my children or the other community students. The administration at that time was resistant. The superintendent who allowed the overcrowding to occur had been in his position for 23 years! He was then coached into retirement & a new guy was brought on. The new guy was a "manager" not an educator. He had to be "encouraged" to add a true academic expert to the administration and this is when genuine reading programs were developed in D181 & exemplary curriculum existed.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Norton, your comments are hyper exaggerated. What made you make this comparison, the swollen bellies of malnourished children, the dirty drinking water or the violence? Mr. Norton, your slanderous claims are lowering our property values and I take offense from it.

This is the only thing that I could find on the internet to substantiate Mr. Norton's claims:


The most repressive regimes in the world. List of countries with the worst records for political rights and civil liberties.

According to the Freedom House report Freedom in the World 2007, there are eight countries judged to have the worst records:
Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Also included are two territories, Chechnya (Russian Federation) and Tibet, whose inhabitants suffer intense repression. These states and regions received the Freedom House survey’s lowest rating: 7 for political rights and 7 for civil
liberties. The report also includes nine more countries near the bottom of Freedom House's list of the most repressive countries: Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Zimbabwe.
The territory of Western Sahara (most of the territory is controlled by Morocco) is also included in this group.


(Source: Freedom House Freedom in the World 2007)

See the full report on Freedom House
See also below: Third World Countries in Terms of Press Freedom"

So Mr. Norton, the only thing that supports your claim is:



Shame on the Hinsdalean for printing such malarky.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Moore

So, let me get this straight. We have spent 12 MM over the last 16 yrs to maintain HMS. Seems high but reasonable for the size of the structure. I suppose mismanagement by the district caused much of this since small maintenance issues became huge emergencies, but that is beside the point. 750000 a yr of taxpayers money for a building that should have a life of 75 to 100 yrs.

Now, the facilities committee wants to use this as justification to spend about 5MM per yr for the next 20 yrs. to service debt for another building. A building when you get right down to it, isn’t going to add to the students abilities or performance but marginally. Remember, this building won a Blue Ribbon Award just recently so we all know the building is not the driver. What this is about is it will be pretty and it will satisfy the crowd who seem to feel we “deserve” or maybe “ are entitled” to a building that is more in line with the stature of the town. Remember, this is the town with the streets that will take the suspension from your car. As an aside, why are the Clarendon Hills residents picking up the tab for the architectural upgrade so it fits with the character of Hinsdale? Personally, I think a more modest plan to improve HMS is the right thing to do. The plan to gut that entire building because it is expedient and satisfies some itch is poor decision making.

I will reread both Wight and Rozeboom’s reports but I can assure you, as someone who builds things for a living, neither of them would tear that building down if they owned it. If someone else is paying, it is always easy to spend their money, especially when you are getting 10% of what they spend.

5MM per year versus the 750k over the last 16. That is a huge number to take on for the taxpayers, many of who won’t see any positive from it. I realize it takes some serious planning and detailed analysis to make lemonade out of that building but to say it can’t be done is silly and disingenuous. It is called work. I have been through that building many times and agree that some of the stuff the original builder did would never work in a modern facility but that is true of many schools. They get lots of variances. Regardless, that building clearly is rectilinear in design. All the column lines are standard spans. That entire structure can be reconfigured if that is what you wanted to do, all you need is a strategy and a space to buffer the children whilst you do it. Hell, look how easy it was to put up 8 classrooms temporarily. That is how things get done in the for-profit world. This idea of, hey, we spent 12 MM over the last 16 yrs. as justification to spend 5mm over the next 20 makes no sense. First you didn’t cut your costs, you increased them. Second, you just threw away whatever portion of that 12MM that wasn’t depreciated.

During these uncertain economic times, the correct solution to HMS is to build a new gym and cafeteria. Completely reconfigure those existing areas once those are finished. I would challenge any architect or construction manager that says they couldn’t resolve all of your specific needs for less than half what you are looking to do. The reality is, you didn’t ask them for this because it is not what you want or the present parents (mostly in the HMS boundary) want.

Look at the some on the BOE, they are more worried about the cocktail crowd than about making really smart hard decisions. Trashing a 40 yr. old 160000 square structure to only replace it with another is neither smart nor cost effective.

Ann Mueller said...

Part II
I 100% agree with you all that the D181 curriculum,most specifically math, is a mess. My heart breaks for our students & the teachers. Kids are resilient and our teachers can over come this mess. But, in a district like D181 it should not be happening. I also agree that the current administration has far too many people with very high salaries involved. I remember a time when the Asst. Supt. did BOTH HR and CURRICULUM (anyone remember Linda Murphy?) Anyway, that is why I am sitting on the interview committee for the new permanent Asst. Supt. For Learning. An experienced, qualified individual MUST BE HIRED in this position. The curriculum in D181 has to be fixed. It will take cooperation & time and a BOE that demands excellence & ACCOUNTABILITY! The word on the "educational street" about D181 is that our district is a mess and has an unreasonable, crazy parent group & community. This too is very upsetting to me because this educational community has such bright students, qualified and hard working teachers and an incredibly supportive parent group who expects excellence. Things have to be turned around ASAP.

However, the curriculum mess & the issues at HMS are separate issues and both need to be addressed right now. The current solution for HMS has been data driven and is not "slanted." The data was not " politicized or opinionated." I challenge anyone to give me solid proof of the contrary. I feel I am an informed taxpayer who intimately knows all the details of the "fall of D181" over the past 8 years. I guess if there are people in the D181 community who chose to not believe that the process leading up to the current HMS recommendation has been transparent, data driven, using the current best practices in education, then it is up to you to VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME and find a solution that you will find acceptable. Good luck because, as I have already stated, $12 million has gone into HMS since 2000 and $4 million more will need to be thrown away into that building for a new roof, soffits, etc. immediately if this referendum fails. At some point in the very near future, if not now, HMS will need to be replaced and it will only COST MORE then. Please think long and hard about this HMS issue.

Also, I whole heartedly supported both Jennifer Burns & Leslie Gray for the D181 BOE because, from my perspective, both of these ladies had enormous knowledge of the district and valuable skills sets that would benefit the district greatly. However, when I see a BOE member allowing their decision making on one issue to be influenced & clouded by their disappointment on another issue, I do not think it is right. The current curriculum in D181 is a mess, but it is a separate issue from the HMS referendum. Also, the attendance area that a BOE member lives in should not influence their BOE decisions. BOE members represent the ENTIRE DISTRICT. At one time, there were four BOE members who lived in the Elm School attendance area. But, I don't think anyone ever felt these four people ever did anything but represent the entire district. I was one of them.

The Parents said...

12:12: Did you mean Ms. Mueller?

Anonymous said...

Lincoln-Way District 210 should serve as a cautionary tale for us all. Eight years ago the district built two state of the art high schools with all the bells and whistles for a combined cost of $180 million. The schools opened 8 years ago yet this December their BOE voted to close down one of the eight year old schools. Why? Because the district is in severe financial distress and cannot afford to operate the school. Yet they will still be on the line to repay the bond debt. The school is state of the art, but it will be empty at the end of the year. I can guess what the new school has done for the property values of District 210. So, yes Ms. Meuller, we should be concerned about the financial health of the district and the overall debt. A bankrupt empty school does not enhance student learning and it is not in the best interests of students.

Anonymous said...

12:12 ..if you truly are in the building profession, when was the last time you were in HMS.? If to renovate and reconfigure a building costs more than 60% of a new building, isn't it common knowledge in your industry that anyone with a brain would build new? Building a new gym & cafeteria DOES NOTHING TO IMPROVE THE ACADEMIC AREAS IN HMS. I'm done reading this blog.

D181 Parent said...

Mrs. Mueller: You say in your last comment "However, when I see a BOE member allowing their decision making on one issue to be influenced & clouded by their disappointment on another issue, I do not think it is right." How can you say that about Board Member Gray? How can you conclude that her reasons for not supporting a $65 million school have to do with her disappointment on the curriculum issue (which is the issue I am assuming -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that you reference)? I have listened to all the board meeting where the full BOE has discussed the referendum and HMS. She has said more than once that she supports building a new HMS, just not one that costs $65 million and that includes very expensive WANTS and not NEEDS. She has given many reasons and tried to begin a discussion about other D181 liabilities that the district may have to assume in the future and has questioned whether the district can really afford a $65 million school. So far, unless I have missed it (and if so, please direct me to it), the Administration hasn't suggested that the BOE have a discussion on the overall financial future of the district, nor has the board majority seen fit to do so. I have listened to the strategic planning meeting also, and that would have been a great opportunity for them to have this discussion, but alas, they did not. In fact, the current administration hasn't even been able to stay current with its monthly financial reports presented to the BOE at the monthly meetings, and unlike years past the BOE hasn't really had a full monthly financial report presentation followed by Q&A and discussion in a very long time. If the administration can't stay current, how can it expect the BOE to have discussions where the future is discussed. It is all very troubling, but in my opinion, Ms. Gray's desire to be fiscally responsible has driven her position on the $65 million school. Her position hasn't seemed clouded at all, in fact it (along with Mr. Giltner's) has been the clearest of all the BOE members, who have been quick to jump on the shiny new school bandwagon, while at the same time expressing a willingness to kick the bond payment plan far off into the future. We'd all love to build a new house that way, but I don't know anyone who really does that, do you? Does ANYONE realize how precarious Illinois' financial state is? The state is going bankrupt and soon (probably sooner rather than later) the state is going to stick it to all of us and increase our income tax, shift as much as they can to local municipalities and not give a --mn who is hurt in the process. D181 better start planning for that, or our kids are all going to suffer the consequences, and they will be far worse than overcrowding in one school and a leaky roof that can be replaced for less than $3 million.

Anonymous said...

12:24 obviously wants a new school and no amount of reconfiguring will satisfy. The board promised a nice shiny school, now they have to ensure they have the votes to deliver one. Going to be very interesting. I suspect we will be seeing signs showing up pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

Per the Doings: Property taxpayers in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 will pay an additional $537 a year for the first six years, and slightly more after that, on a $1 million home if a March 15 referendum for a bond sale of up to $65 million is supported by voters.

What about the money D86 needs? D86 needs a lot more money than $65 million.

What about the public pension problem?

What about the fact that the way schools are funded will be most likely be changing?

What about the teachers and administrators who think they are entitled to regular raises even though that's not how the real world works? These same people don't want to pick up more of their insurance costs despite the continued increases in medical and dental costs.

Folks, the state is broke. Someone has to pick up these costs and it's going to be the local property owners. That $537 will quickly escalate. Before you know it, the schools are going to be costing the owner of a $1 million home an EXTRA $4000 or $5000 a year.

This is the real reason the administration and BOEd are ramming this referendum down our throats. They're trying to get to the money first, before homeowners do the math.

Please, someone do the math.

Ann Mueller said...

In response to 4:53 pm, I do not think I was unfair to Mr. Giltner and Mrs. Gray. Their positions on the new HMS are not only influenced by their concern for the future financial issues D181 may face, but have to do with the fact that they both live in the Monroe attendance area that attends CHMS. I refuse to continue to" beat around the bush" on their positions on this issue. It has been expressed that residents in the Monroe area feel that their property values will go down if a new HMS is built and their children have to go to CHMS. Mrs. Gray and Mr. Giltner, though they may not state it publicly, have listened to their fellow Monroe neighbors and are representing this "Monroe anti new HMS" feeling, too. I guess I have to ask where was their empathy for the students having to attend HMS for the last decade and their concern for property owners in Hinsdale and Burr Ridge?

It has been stated over and over that ANY of the new HMS facilities, specifically the auditorium, running track and fitness center, would be available for ALL D181 students and residents. As Griffen Sonntag, Principal of CHMS, has expressed, CHMS would use the auditorium at a new HMS for graduations, musicals, vocal performances, band performances, orchestra performances, competitions, parent presentations, teacher in-services and students presentations. All the other elementary buildings in D181 would also have the new HMS auditorium to use for their performances and talent shows. In the 21st century education world, an auditorium is not an extravagance. In a community such as Hinsdale that places great emphasis on the performing arts, an auditorium is necessary. Since there isn't enough performing space in the Hinsdale community for all the musicals, dance recitals and music performances, space has to be rented in surrounding communities. As to the comment made the other evening at the BOE meeting that D181 should use the D86 auditorium, I can tell you when I was on the D181 BOE we tried to have middle school graduation there and D86 would not allow it. Central uses their auditorium constantly during the school year, especially in the spring around graduation. How can a high performing community such as Hinsdale with such high expectations in so many areas not see a need for an auditorium that is situated in the center of the community.

As to the questions about how D181 should plan to address possible future financial burdens, I have no perfect answer. However, these issues have been looming for quite a while and all districts will have to come up with solutions if the state legislature ever conducts business again and does act on these issues. The $300,000 plus special education dollars that the district is missing from the state this year is all due to the stand off between Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly. It is not a permanent short fall. I am not saying that D181 should not be mindful of the pension issue. However, D181 can't be held back from addressing a long standing issue, a horribly dysfunctional, academically inadequate HMS. This building will have to be replaced some time soon so why pour more money into it and put it it can cost more later????

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mueller,

I have long had a tremendous amount of respect for all of the time and energy you have poured into this community and specifically, D181. For that, thank you.

However, at this point, I think you have gone too far in insulting Mr. Giltner and Ms. Gray. Neither one of them has said they are opposed to building a new HMS. They have just said we need to be fiscally responsible and this proposed building is not.

I have children at CHMS and at Monroe. Before we moved our family here, other members of the community footed the bill to renovate Monroe and build CHMS and for that, I am grateful. I have always said (and I know many other Monroe parents have also)that I will support the building of a new HMS because someone in the past did it for my children. However, I cannot support the gold-plated version of a school that the Facilities Committee and the administration keep trying to shove down our throats. An auditorium, fitness center, and running track are just some of the unnecessary wants. Twelve-year-old children should not be using a fitness center. Monroe has always held their talent show at the Hinsdale Central auditorium so I'm not sure why you would state that it isn't available. Really, a running track?

Building a new HMS does not help my property values whatsoever and building a ridiculously high-priced one hurts all of us. Prospective buyers look at the property taxes when making purchasing decisions. However, again, I would be 100 percent behind a reasonable new HMS.

I am having a very hard time understanding the push for something so over the top and that is not within our budgets. What are we teaching our children? That you can just have whatever you want, whenever you want even if you don't have the money for it?

I think you owe Mr. Giltner and Ms. Gray an apology.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mueller needs to apologize to Mr. Giltner and Mrs. Gray.

Even getting the $300,000 plus special education money from the state won't fix the special education department. Mrs. Mueller, you need to talk to the parents who have children with special needs. Many of these children are not getting even close to what they need to survive or learn despite the fact they are capable of learning. Special education students who learn a little different are thrown in general education classrooms. These children may have the help of an untrained teacher asst. As the years pass, they get further and further behind their classmates. They are pushed along until they become Hinsdale Central's problem.

Anonymous said...

In 2006 and 2009, CHMS graduated from the auditorium at Hinsdale Central. I was there. I am sure things have to be scheduled, but this is the first time I have ever heard that Hinsdale Central did not allow others to use that space. Ann, I frequently don't agree with your interpretations, but you usually get your facts correct. Not sure where this is coming from, because I believe you were on the BOE for the 2006 graduation.

Now that we are 5 weeks out, the emoitions are getting out of control. This notion that the Monroe attendance area is anti HMS and two board members would vote to punish HMS is insane. When the pro referendum side abandons the facts and resorts to character attacks, that is a sure sign they are in trouble.

What ever we do needs to be a 75 to 100 year solution. Monroe and Madison were built to last 100 years. Please recall that students from The Lane originally went to CHMS and they changed the boundaries. What if Clarendon Hills annexes part of Westmont? What if they have more teardowns than Hinsdale and CHMS becomes over crowded? What if we ever decide to build a 3rd middle school in Burr Ridge? What if we ever merge with Butler and The Lane children go to Butler Middle? I can easily see multiple scenarios where Monroe students could end up at a new/remodeled HMS. School boundaries have been moved before and they will certainly be moved again.

Ann, please recall that it took multiple tries to get CHMS built. Ask your buddy Michael Woerner how many times his sales tax referendum failed in Hinsdale because the Village Trustees at that time were not credible.

The voters will not accept rushed, half baked ideas. When the board and administration get it right, all the voters will support it.

Ms Mueller, before today your credibilty was pretty sound. Many of us did not always agree with you, but we respected your service and that your heart was in the right place. Your facts are wrong about CHMS graduations at Hinsdale Central. Your facts and conclusions are wrong about Monroe board members not wanting what is best for HMS. Be careful. You have worked a long time here. Don't destroy your own reputation.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mueller -

I'm sure Mr. Sonntag means well when he says an HMS auditorium would be used, but that doesn't mean it is a necessity that should be built. I would use a Porsche if I had one, but that doesn't mean I can afford one and that I should put myself in debt to acquire one.

Ann Mueller said...

The time when HC said D181 couldn't use their auditorium was when there were just under 1,000 students at HMS and I was on the BOE. I do not know about CHMS holding its graduation at Central at other times and I admit it. I make every effort to have my facts straight. And, I was not on the BOE in 2006. I served from 1991 to 2003 and then served on the D181 Foundation for 6 years.

It is very unfortunate, but it is the truth, that some Monroe area residents have indicated an "anti new HMS" approach to the referendum. People may chose to not believe this, but I have been told this and have witnessed people expressing it. Also, way back when Madison, Monroe and even Walker were built it was a time (1920's) when very traditional approaches were used and sturdy, traditional materials. That was absolutely not the case with the current HMS. The architect of record for the district, Healey Bender, determined that the only salvagable part of the current HMS is the concrete slab it sits on. Also, yes, I know The Lane students once attended CHMS and when it became overcrowded they returned to HMS. Who knows, there may be boundary and attendance area changes in all of D181's near future. Especially, if this referendum fails. It may be proposed that ALL D181 middle schoolers at some point in their middle school careers attend the current HMS. It would only be fair.

It is very obvious that you know nothing about how school districts operate when making a statement like" what if Clarendon Hills annexes part of Westmont." The Blackhawk Heights section of Westmont previously petitioned to leave the Westmont School District, which is a UNIT DISTRICT...K-12, and become part of D181and the petition was turned will never happen. The Westmont district totally fought that action because they'd lose tax dollars. D181 didn't want it either. I've previously explained why any merger with Butler will never happen. Believe me, I know about all the past referendums and the ones concerning HMS that failed were to renovate HMS and put an addition on it in order to house 1200 students...thank goodness those referendums failed and CHMS was built!!!

Ok, you tell me then what "getting it right" is and be sure that you and all the other commenters on this blog volunteer their time and talents to put together that "right plan," run the referendum for it and don't be horrified when it cost more to do less for the kids down the road! And, I have worked long and hard for the students of D181by choice because I believe in public education and doing what is best for children. I'm not worried about my reputation because the people that I have worked with for 25 plus years know what I stand for and trust my judgement. Only time will tell if the Monroe attendance area genuinely supports a new HMS. I'll be looking for signs to support the referendum in their yards! Lastly, the proposed Option G HMS is no Porsche or Tesla. Statements like that prove that there is misinformation being spread or people are just misinformed. Maybe the best solution is for people to get involved and informed in D181. Don't use the excuse that you've been rebuffed by the Administration. Be more resilient and keep trying, like we teach our children.

Ann Mueller said...

Just read the comment about the special ed. situation in D181. You are 100% right, the D181 special ed. program has NOT been assessed since the district left LADSE, though BOE members have been asking for exactly that to happen. The lack of this current school year's state funding in special ed won't fix the issues in D181's program. A complete and thorough assessment, probably by an outside consultant(so the results can be trusted,) is what is necessary. I had grave concerns when D181 left LADSE because to replicate the services provided by an operation like LADSE was going to be very expensive and just developing a district SpEd plan to service all the different student needs would be extremely involved. With Dr. Schneider's exit from the district, D181 now has the opportunity to hire an experienced, knowledgable, dedicated special education administrator who should do a complete assessment of the district's program, absolutely listen to parents and make the necessary changes. People I know who currently have SpEd students in the district are very dissatisfied with their students' servicing. SpEd is one more thing that needs to be addressed in D181. After eight years of little or poor leadership in the district, things really need to change and obtaining the right personnel is so very important.

Parent of a Special Needs Child said...

Mrs. Mueller: Thank you for acknowledging that the SPED department is a mess. My child has suffered as a result and it is not right. You are correct that the board members have been asking for the administration to assess the SPED department for some time now, but there has always been an excuse to delay it. The most recent excuse is that it should be rolled into the Strategic planning process. Enough is enough. Really, how hard would it have been for the person in charge of that department to order all of his staff to collect data on the services being offered, the success or lack thereof of these services, the costs compared to LADSE and the efficiencies and increased quality of services (if any) that have been achieved since leaving LADSE? This is data that should have been collected since the very first year that D181 withdrew from LADSE. Was it? Who knows? Was it analyzed? Clearly not. And there really is no excuse for this. There has been no accountability for this failure. No superintendent since the withdrawal raised concerns or red flags about the state of the SPED department and most of the BOE was lax enough to assume this meant there were no problems. It is not enough to hire a new head of SPED in D181. The analysis should still be done and persons responsible for the past failures should still be identified. If any still work here, they should be dealt with. Then and only then will people really start to trust what is happening in the central office. Until then, you can't really expect families of SPED kids to support building a new middle school, especially if their kids won't be attending it. It's absurd to use the equity or "Unfinished business" theme to support the new school when these kids education within existing buildings has been subpar due to SERVICES not INFRASTRUCTURE. How about finishing the UNFINISHED business of making sure our NEEDIEST children are provided appropriate services? Start with that and finish that FIRST before asking me to pay any more tax dollars. It truly offends me that so much attention has been paid to building one school to the detriment of all the special needs children in D181.

Anonymous said...

To Parent of a Special Needs Child 8:37am-

I completely agree with you that we need to finish the UNFINISHED business of providing the services that our SPED kids need. I also believe that we need to focus on the needs of all of our learners. The administration has patently refused to take care of providing needed services and taking care of our curriculum issues.

It truly offends me that so much attention has been paid to building one school to the detriment of all of our children. A new building is not suddenly going to resolve our curriculum issues. Thousands of talented children have graduated from HMS.

And the equity issue is ridiculous. We all made choices as to which part of town to live in and knew which schools our children would attend (barring any redistricting), including a member of our facilities committee who moved from Monroe and would have attended CHMS and is now crying foul that their children have to attend HMS.

Jill Quinones said...

Bloggers: Last night I sent 2 emails to the BOE that address factual errors made during the public comments at the 2/8/16 meeting. I'm submitting them in multiple parts to your blog.

Part 1 Email 1:

From: Jill Quinones
Subject: Feb 8 Meeting Public Comments
Date: February 14, 2016 at 11:01:45 AM CST

Dear Board of Education,

I recently listened to the public comment made at your last meeting (February 8). While I can appreciate the passion from these speakers, several of the comments contained not only impassioned opinions, but also incorrect facts. As an educator with 24 years of experience, a D181 Learning Committee member, and a resident of this District with a 15-year history, I would like to provide you with a little fact checking as I think it is important that we all have factually correct knowledge when talking about decision making and educating students in D181. This letter is 1 of 2. I will send the second one later.

Public Comment: The Board gave a directive to advance 1/3 of our students 2 years in math

Facts: The Board directive was, according to the 1/11/2016 meeting recording, to advance the highest performing group of students in each grade by 1 year. No exact number was set, nor should it be. Some BOE members referenced the number of students that had been accelerated in the past (1/4 – 1/3), but the math trajectory on Board Docs is what was approved as the “directive.” There is no Board directive that 1/3 of our students should be finishing Geometry in 8th grade.

PC: The Board has no data to support this (directive to accelerate)

Facts: The PARCC presentation given at the 2/8 meeting provides ample data. Both MAP and PARCC are CCSS aligned assessments. This data shows that:1435/2669 (53%) of our students are scoring at the 80th %ile or higher on MAP. 382/2669 (14%) are exceeding expectations on PARCC. 1053/2669 (39%) are meeting expectations on PARCC at these top levels.

As an FYI, depending on grade, students scoring at the 80th%ile or higher on MAP are scoring equal to the average (50th %ile) student anywhere from 1 to 4 grades ahead of them. The RIT score allows educators to make this comparison. For example, the 5th grader with a 230 RIT (90th %ile) has the same RIT (and math achievement) as a 9th grader at the 50th%ile, which is also a 230 RIT.

Finally, an earlier report presented to the BOE by Dr. Carol Larson shows that it is these same top students who are NOT making expected growth. This is additional data that supports that these students need more.

PC: What criteria support this (directive to accelerate)?

Fact: None. Despite multiple hires of consultants in the area of gifted education who provided numerous recommendations over the years about this, the District went from developing thought-out criteria in the 2005-2008 years that needed to be reviewed and adjusted, to implementing random criteria 2008-2012, to abandoning all criteria when first it was proposed that ALL students be accelerated on a trajectory to take Algebra in 8th grade and then this was changed to NO students be accelerated and all needs be met in the classroom. Development of appropriate criteria should be a priority for Ms. Deichstetter and whoever follows her as lead of the Learning Department.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 2 Email 1:

PC: Dr. Moon pointed out that our previous curriculum wasn’t rigorous or challenging so the fact that 1/3 of the students “back then” were accelerated doesn’t mean 1/3 of the children today should be.

Fact: Quotas are not appropriate or best practice, but the directive is for the highest achieving students to be accelerated, NOT a set number. Moreover, Dr. Moon pointed out a lot of problems with our curriculum, most of which remain problems today. The fact that that accelerated curriculum and resources might have lacked appropriate rigor and challenge for an advance learner years ago when we had these programs in no way negates the fact that students were being taught with above grade level materials and learning from those materials. Current students need to be looked at based on their current achievement. The data for acceleration is there – see above.

PC: The CCSS and new math materials result in increased rigor equal to a 1 grade level acceleration

FACT: The CCSS and new math materials result in increased rigor, but this is NOT equal to a 1 grade level acceleration. Although popular perception is that the CCSS have pushed math content mastery expectations down a grade level (such that 2nd graders are now doing what 3rd graders used to do), this is just not true. A quick comparison of the Table of Contents of Everyday Math and Math in Focus (as well as the old and new IL Learning Standards) reveals that while some topics have been pushed a grade lower, others remain at the same grade level, and yet others have been pushed up a grade level. Obviously, in its first year of implementation, students may have gaps as to content pushed down that they missed, but not content that stayed on grade level or was pushed up.

The increase in rigor is due to two things. First, the CCSS, and hence the new materials, place an increased emphasis on the “language of math” – both oral and written. Students no longer only learn the algorithm, practice it and apply it. They must be able to talk about what they did and why (“why is 7<8?”) and also problem solve what others did wrong and why. As to written language, math problems can be several sentences to even paragraphs long and have an increased emphasis on math vocabulary. For example, not only must a student know how to solve 1336/122, but they must also be fluid with which part of the problem is the dividend and which is the divisor. Math now requires not only good reading comprehension, but good written expression skills as well as many problems require an analysis written in words.

Second, the approach to learning math under the CCSS is a constructive one. That is, students are given relatively little direct instruction from the teacher, rather the teacher serves as a “guide on the side” supporting students as they try to “construct” their on learning of a concept rather than have it told to them - reminiscent of the “Whole Language” approach to learning how to read which fell out of disfavor years ago. There are experts in the field on both sides of the direct instruction v. constructivism approach to education. Only time will tell if this change in approach is successful for elementary math students.

There is no question that the added language demands and constructive approach to learning math increase the rigor of the curriculum as these are new skills for most students when studying math. As the years go on and our current K-1 students who have started school under CCSS and know no other methodology progress through the grades it is my prediction we will see teachers be able to speed up program pacing. In addition, teachers who are currently in the first year of the program will become more familiar, proficient, and comfortable with it. That will also lead to faster pacing.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 3 Email 1:

There is no question that the added language demands and constructive approach to learning math increase the rigor of the curriculum as these are new skills for most students when studying math. As the years go on and our current K-1 students who have started school under CCSS and know no other methodology progress through the grades it is my prediction we will see teachers be able to speed up program pacing. In addition, teachers who are currently in the first year of the program will become more familiar, proficient, and comfortable with it. That will also lead to faster pacing.

That said, the bigger question that must be discussed now, especially as to those hundreds of students (53%) already showing mastery at the 80th %ile or better on MAP, is whether they should be held to on-grade level CONTENT/TOPICS while they develop math language and construction of their learning or whether they should be accelerated to more challenging CONTENT/TOPICS while developing those skills.

PC: Teachers are reporting that the students are not ready to be accelerated and they are sometimes pulling material from below grade level.

Fact: Part of that discussion referenced above should be how 14% - 382 students - can be scoring 80th%ile or higher on MAP, exceeding PARCC expectations yet be in classes where teachers are reporting they cannot move any faster on on-grade level material.

PC: Acceleration has a negative impact long-term on our students as they enter high school. Hinsdale Central had to create an Integrated Algebra 1/Geometry class for 9th graders because they lacked fundamentals and were accelerated too quickly in middle school.

Prior to 2006, when D181 had middle school students who were ready for Algebra 1 in 7th or 8th grade or Geometry in 8th grade, these students were bussed to Hinsdale Central where they were taught in high school classes, by high school teachers, with high school assessments, and with the same number of minutes as a high school student. Using 170 days per year as an example (allowing 6 days/missed class periods for assemblies, field trips, etc. during the year) a high school Algebra 1 student gets approximately 8800 minutes of class per year.

Beginning in 2006, D181 decided to keep middle school students needing advanced math in their middle school. These students are taught high school classes by middle school teachers (some of whom have no high school math credential nor were they a math major in college), with middle school assessments because the high school would not release its assessments, with only approximately 7140 minutes of class per year (170 x 42). This equates to 16% fewer instructional minutes – approximately five weeks less instruction.

While the District is able to accelerate a greater number of students at less cost and schedule disruption, the Algebra and Geometry foundation given these students is NOT the same as taking the class in high school. No one should be surprised that within a few years of D181 taking this approach (as well as other feeder districts) students were showing up at Hinsdale Central lacking the foundation needed to handle the rigor of a High School Algebra 2/Trig course. The fact that this “review” class was NOT deemed necessary when the students were being sent to Hinsdale Central for Algebra 1/Geometry instruction suggests being accelerated too quickly was not the main reason this class needed to be created.

That said, at the time the high school level math was moved into the middle school, more students were enrolled in those classes. Although the District has always given the Iowa Algebra Aptitude test, a highly regarded nationally normed test for determining readiness for Algebra 1, it is very possible that the criteria for acceleration was not sufficiently selective, which is why there is a pressing need to develop appropriate criteria regarding acceleration.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 4 Email 1:

PC: The BOE should expand its focus beyond just Advanced Learners and do what is best for all students.

Fact: There is no evidence that what is best for all students is not being looked at by the BOE and Administration. As the MAP/PARCC data show, over 50% of our students could be called Advanced Learners in math. Unfortunately, the data presented to the BOE by Dr. Larson earlier regarding growth shows that it is these very same Advanced Learners who are not making appropriate growth while most of the other students are. The fact that the BOE is putting more of a focus on these students while continuing to keep all students in mind is totally appropriate.

PC: Teachers and Administrators should be making educational decisions – not school board members

Fact: While Administrators and Teachers should be carrying out day-to-day education of our students, the role of an elected school board includes setting educational goals for the schools — based on state laws and community values — and seeing that the superintendent and the total staff vigorously pursue those goals. Between (i) setting a goal for math acceleration and (ii) sitting down at the table to negotiate a contract with an architect for a new school, it is certainly the latter that crosses the line into micromanagement yet no one really complained when that took place.

PC: Given the directive for ability grouping, how will the BOE make sure resources will be fairly allocated to smaller schools with only 2 sections per grade level?

Fact: This directive for ability grouping is a return to what was in place pre-2012. Inequity at smaller schools was a problem then and remains one now and that problem needs to be solved. It is not, however any more or less of a problem than having one teacher required to teach a heterogeneous classroom of 20 + students with multiple abilities.

Thank you for your time,

Jill Quinones

Jill Quinones said...

Part 1 Email 2:

Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2016 7:50:32 PM
Subject: Feb. 8 Meeting Public Comments Part 2

Dear Board of Education,
Please first see the letter I sent earlier today. This letter is 2 of 2 concerning fact checking of recent public comments.

PC: Parents speak all too often to criticize Teachers or Administration

Facts: I can’t remember ever hearing a teacher criticized at Public Comment in the 15 years I have been here. One parent tried one time years ago and was told that could not be done at Public Comment. Unfortunately, no one generally wants to take the time out of their busy schedules to praise when things are going well, but it is human nature to complain when they are not. It is nice when someone does, and there have been times when I have heard such public comments.

PC: BWP told PTO D181 is labeled as a “difficult” district and administrators don’t want to put up with “this kind of criticism”

Fact: This was not something told to the general public, so cannot be fact checked, but I question the professionalism of a search firm that would make such a comment to a group of PTO members.

PC: Dr. White did not want to apply. BWP approached him.

Facts: Shortly after his hiring Dr. White was quoted in the Suburban Life newspaper as saying coming to D181 was a professional goal that has been 27 years in the making. "I have always aspired to be in a high achieving school district where there is a genuine interest from the parents and everyone in the community to make this the best district we can for the students," White said.

Whether he applied or BWP approached him was never shared publicly prior to this public comment.

PC: Dr. White’s talents are limited by a micromanaging Board.

Facts: No examples given of where/how this limiting occurred.

PC: Last several years have been a revolving door of administrators leaving because they feel their reputation has been tarnished by a blog or they did not want to be the next target.

Facts: Did this person making public comment have access to exit interviews or conduct her own? The District really should be doing exit interviews when Administrators leave. There is no way to fact check this statement.

PC: Eight qualified Administrators have left since the Blog started. The Administrators are not the problem; it’s the ones attacking them.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 2 Email 2:

Facts: It appears the referenced blog began publishing at the end of May 2013. In the almost three (3) years since then, eight administrators have left. Of these eight, one – Dr. Tornatore, was hired as an interim and was expected to leave and another, Gary Frisch retired. Three (3) left for job promotions – Ms. Igoe to an Assistant Superintendent position, Dr. Russell to a Superintendent position, and Dr. Schneider to be the Superintendent of a special education Cooperative. One (1) left for a lateral position – Mr. Eccarius. Dr. Schuster left to be near her parents and was also in the process of building her retirement home in AZ, and Mr. Walsh left to go back to being a Principal. Several of these Administrators left after completing graduate education on the D181 taxpayer’s dollar. Although there were payback requirements, they were not enforced.

Of these eight, a search on the referenced blog shows five (5) were criticized as to job performance (not personally attacked), two (2) were mentioned in a neutral manner, and one (1), Mr. Walsh was praised.

Interestingly, in the three (3) years prior to the blog starting, six (6) Administrators left: one (1) was not rehired, one (1) had been an interim and four (4) left to become Superintendents (job promotion), several of whom had their degrees paid for by D181 but did not stay for the District to benefit. In the three (3) years before that, seven (7) Administrators also left for various reasons.

This data does not support a conclusion that a blog is causing high administrator turnover. In fact, 6-8 per three (3) year period has been the norm in D181 for the last 9 years.

As to whether the eight (8) Administrators who have left in the last three (3) years were “qualified” for the jobs they held at D181 when they left, the answer as to most of them is, “no.” Dr. Schneider is qualified as head of PPS/Special Education, but he does not have the experience to be in charge of decisions relative to general education curriculum. He is fiercely passionate about an ideology that had no data supporting that it could be successful in a District with demographics like D181 or with Advanced Learners. Mr. Walsh was a highly qualified principal who also had no job experience in the area of central office curriculum and instruction and there was no one leading that department to train him who did either. Ms. Igoe was very qualified in the area of special education, but she quickly was tasked as a leading contributor to the Learning for All Plan including advising on general curriculum issues and infusing Common Core Math into the Everyday Math Program – tasks for which she held no qualifications. Kevin Russell was a fabulous building Principal. He was “double accelerated,” however, into Director and then Assistant Superintendent in charge of Learning with no prior experience working at first under Janet Stutz, who also came to the District with NO experience in curriculum and instruction. He was not “highly qualified” for those positions. Mr. Eccarius was a well-respected, highly qualified building principal who was promoted to be in charge of Human Resources with NO background or experience in that area. The only three (3) of the eight (8) with appropriate experience were Dr. Schuster, Gary Frisch (who retired), and Dr. Tornatore (who, as an Interim, was supposed to leave).

If these Administrators felt overly criticized perhaps it was because they did not have the appropriate credentials for the job they accepted to do. As the Board currently seeks to fill the head of special education and curriculum and instruction positions hopefully you will realize the importance of experience to do a job in what is a very demanding community.

PC: We teach our children that bullying is not ok. What example is the blog setting?

Fact: Our children are probably not reading a D181 blog, but likewise what example is shown at a public comment that attacks a community member by name?

Jill Quinones said...

Part 3 Email 2:

PC: On the ECRA survey only 60% of teachers agreed that they were appropriately involved in decision-making that affected their work and expressed that parents and the community disproportionately impacted District decision-making.

Fact: The same ECRA survey showed only 51% of the teachers agreed that the District Leadership made decisions in the best interest of students. 78% of the teachers replied that the District was a great place to work. Only 53% feel District Leadership has appropriate expertise. Clearly parents/community are not the only concern of teacher. Teachers would like greater autonomy over decision-making. This autonomy comes, however, within the parameters of educational goals set by the Board of Education and implemented by qualified administrators as this is how public education is set up to operate.

PC: Teachers are leaving out of fear.

Fact: No data to show that qualified teachers are leaving the District. In fact, on the ECRA survey 80% reported positive interactions with parents and 78% feel the District is a great place to work.

PC: NSBA 8 characteristics of effective school boards provides that effective Boards act together as a team with the Superintendent, which is not happening

FACT: The IASB states that an effective board also “constantly monitors progress toward district ends and compliance with written board policies using data as the basis for assessment. A school board that pursues its ends through delegation of authority has a moral obligation to itself and the community to determine whether that authority is being used as intended.”

For years now when board members have tried to do this they are told they are micromanaging or their requests are simply ignored. This creates lack of trust that leads to micromanaging. It is an unfortunate cycle that needs to be broken. Administration needs to provide data and transparently answer questions. When provided with appropriate answers, Board Members can make informed decisions and stick to monitoring policies.

PC: A community member with no children in the District has filed 18 FOIA requests since 2013 resulting in unnecessary attorney fees and administration taking time away from students’ interests.

Facts: The FOIA log on the D181 website only logs FOIA requests since July 2014, not three years back, so I am not sure where this information comes from. In the time period shown on the FOIA log the referenced community member filed eight (8) requests.

Anyone can file a FOIA request of any US government body. One does not need to have children in the school district. One does not need to be a taxpayer. One does not need to be a US citizen. This particular community member did have children in the District for one of the last three years and remains a resident and therefore a taxpayer in the District. Since July of 2014, 30 other FOIA Requests have been logged/received by D181, most of which were not filed by people with children in the District let alone District residents.

Had the District simply complied with the community member’s FOIA requests, there would have been no attorney fees. The majority of the community member’s requests were ultimately found to be appropriate by the IL Attorney General and did not have to be disputed by the District which is what resulted in attorney fees.

The majority of work done to comply with a FOIA request is performed by a technology search and by Ms. Duggan, the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent (who also has her own assistant). Their time would not otherwise be spent on matters directly relating to what is going on in the classroom.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 4 Email 2:

PC: Only 38% agree that the Board of Education is representing their needs and expectations

Fact: This question was only asked of parents and community members and was calculated on fewer than 800 survey responses in a community 8-10 times that size. While it is possible that it is an accurate reflection of the community at large, it is also possible that it is not. Moreover, when this survey was completed in the fall the Board of Ed majority was still supporting the Learning for All Plan and had not given the recent directive concerning math ability grouping. Perhaps that is the reason for the response below benchmark?

Again, thank you for your time,
Jill Quinones

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the public comment "we teach our children that bullying is not ok. What example is the blog setting?"

The question is really what example is the administration and the BOE setting?

There are parents complaining their special education children have been bullied by teachers or teacher assistants at Elm School. An Elm family pulled their special education student 2 months ago due to bullying. The district is now providing a teacher at this child's home for 5 hours a week and the parents must home school this child the rest of the time.

Over the last several years, other families complained to the Elm principal, BOE or administration. Many of the complaints concern the same Elm staff.

What has been done to these staff members who bully these children? Why do they still have contact with these children? Has someone compiled a list of all the parents who have complained?

Families whose special education children have been bullied need to hire a lawyer. Until the BOE and administration hear from a lawyer, nothing will change.

Parents of special education children are not just complaining about the failure to educate their children. It goes beyond that at some schools and in some instances.