Sunday, February 14, 2016

Comment of the Day: D181 Should First Address the Unfinished Business of Providing Appropriate Special Education Services Before Taxing Us for the Infrastructure "Wants" in One Building

This morning, we received a comment from the parent of a special needs child.  We are publishing it as the Comment of the Day because we are tired of hearing Pro-Referendum Supporters state that curriculum needs are completely separate from the infrastructure needs at HMS.  Yes, since its inception, this blog has focused mainly on the state of curriculum in D181 because that has been the primary area in the district that has had problems and negative impacts on all students.  We have never said we don't support building a new HMS, but we have been clear (as have most of the readers commenting) that we are not willing to support construction of a building that has millions of dollars in added WANTS and not NEEDS. 

Today's comment of the day is directly on point.  We believe all of the pro-new HMS parents need to ask themselves the following questions:  How can D181 continue to ignore the NEEDS of our Special Needs Students?  When will that "Unfinished Business" be completed?  In our opinion, until the business of providing appropriate services to our Special Needs children is meaningfully and successfully addressed, no WANTS in other areas should be funded.


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. 
February 14, 2016 at 8:37 AM


The Parents said...

Publishing comment from yesterday to this post:

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.
February 14, 2016 at 10:21 AM

The Parents said...

Publishing comment from this morning to this post:

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.
February 15, 2016 at 9:17 AM

Unknown said...

To Feb. 14 @ 10:21/Feb. 15 @ 11am...Your comments are so misinformed and misguided. Guess you haven't been around in D181 for very long and, therefore, don't know that EVERY SINGLE BUILDING IN THE DISTRICT WAS RENOVATED, ADDED ON TO AND/OR BUILT NEW EXCEPT HMS. Every single building, including the one/ones your children attend, was brought up to best practice and the ability to meet capacity, EXCEPT HMS!!! It is the students and teachers at HMS WHO SHOULD BE OFFENDED and not the people whose children are attending more than adequate facilities, both functionally and academically. My children were some of the "thousands of talented children who have graduated from HMS" and I have never stopped thinking about the higher quality of education they could have received if that building had been up to best practice standards. And, my children attended HMS in the '90's!!! Think of how that building has deteriorated since then. Everyone has acknowledged that the curriculum for ALL D181 STUDENTS needs to be addressed asap, but to put off addressing the HMS issues will only cost us all so much more down the road. Continuing to put off facing the HMS issues will not necessarily force the administration to satisfy your complaints about the curriculum. Your curriculum issues should be addressed regardless of what happens with HMS. Only the BOE can insist that the curriculum mess be taken care of. So, I would advise that you put your energies into contacting the BOE members, sit down with them and talk about what is needed in the curricular area. You also might be thinking about identifying community members who should run for the BOE in the next election and represent the D181 community with the priority of curriculum that meets the needs of all our students. Believe me, the D181 curriculum was once upon a time in the right place and then the past eight years occurred and created a disaster!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mueller: thank you for that post. Many people seem to have forgotten that most, if not all, other D181 schools have gotten major renovations. That or they have a serious "I got mine" or "What's in it for me?" problem. I shudder to think what would happen if/when we should merge with Oak Brook or Maercker. I don't know in what shape their buildings are, but if they need a renovation, how many will say "Well, my kids won't go there, so why should my taxes go up?" and "It's the teachers, not the building that matters!" In my experience, while teachers do make the bigger difference, the actual building does impact education. I realize many will back at that, but that's my experience. Others may have different experiences. I try to respect other's experiences, so please respect mine. Not everyone's experiences are the same.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mueller -

I am Feb. 14@10:21/Feb. 15@11am. I would suggest that you stop with the "holier than thou" perspective. I happen to be a very engaged and informed parent who has sat through many a BOE meeting along with you. I have made public comments, I have written letters to the BOE, I have met with our previous and current superintendent as well as the principal(s) of my children's school.

While my children will not attend HMS, I will support a properly specified, practical new HMS, but I will not support what you keep pushing at the community. All of the extras that have been placed in the design of a new HMS are not best practice. We have been taken for a ride by the architects and the construction company. Anybody who has ever been involved in designing and constructing a house or a building knows that you start with the "pie in the sky" wish list and your architects should be bring you creative ideas. Then you whittle it down to what you can afford. You don't just say you want the "whole pie" unless you have the money to pay for it.

The problem that the Facilities committee and the administration have now caused to is to take the eye off of fixing the curriculum issues. You have created a serious distraction that is hurting my children and all of the other children in this community. Hurting them much more than having an eyesore for a building.

Anonymous said...

The only people making the comments about taxpayers from Monroe and Clarendon Hills not supporting a new HMS are the pro referendum folks advancing a straw dog argument! Perhaps they are trying to boost turnout in Oak, Madison and The Lane districts by firing up the base. I would not be surprised to see this fail in ALL 7 elementary school attendance areas. This proposal does not make sense if you live in Monroe, Prospect or the Oak school districts. This proposal was rushed to the ballot box to meet a false deadline. It is too large and too bloated.

No one is saying that HMS does not need replacing or improving. We are saying with absolute certainty that the process has been highly rushed and the numbers are highly suspect. Even the board members that voted yes seemed very disturbed that the numbers kept changing and increasing at the 11th hour.

Many on this blog are not convinced that all options were thorougly explored. I have seen nothing that proves that two smaller schools were considered, that alternative sites were considered, that we even know what the current HMS site is worth, etc. The student enrollment projections point to the fact that the school we are contemplating is 33% too large. ( Projections are for 750 students, we are building a school to hold 1000). I don't believe the BOE has held serious discussions with the Village of Hinsdale about construction of a parking garage. And on and on. I am not even getting into consolidations with other districts which are coming whether we like it or not. The world of Illinois public school financing is drastically changing and the pro referendum efforts seem to be stuck back in 1985 when the world was still beautiful and Illinois still had money.

Many of us believe the process has been exactly backward from how a home or commercial property would be constructed. A BUDGET would be set FIRST. You tell the contractor what the budget is, not the other way around.

Heck, I even love the idea of having a nice big auditorium that everyone can use. Let's get the school properly sized, ditch the fitness center, keep the auditorium and get it done for $45 million.

But first, we have to soundly defeat this referendum to alert the powers that be that the same old same old tax and spend will no longer work.

Anonymous said...

1:48, I agree with you that the plan was flawed. We also need to eliminate the music, art, foreign language, family and consumer science, and applied tech. All of these are "wants," not needs. Also, we need to extend the school days. When I was a student in the district, the elementary school days were 8:30-3:30, more than half an hour longer. HMS was 8:00-3:00, 10 minutes longer. What the hell happened?

Anonymous said...

I spoke with another HMS mom today and couldnt stop laughing at the overpriced and massive new HMS project in the paper today. The way they were talking I was surprised the BOE didn't ask for an indoor pool with a retractable roof that doubles as a helicopter pad. If they had thrown in a bowling alley, movie theater or food court, at least there would have been a potential source of revenue after school and on weekends. But no, apparently money grows off trees in 181. Why worry about distasteful things like paying off debt with revenue?

In my opinion, the only logical ones were Gray and Giltner. The other BOE members did not sound financially saavy or realistic. Marty sounded super dooper naive. White fit the role of a pompous fool who is completely out of touch with the economic realities of this state. Wonder if he'll start taking Soringfield seriously when his pension gets threatened?

This former Lane School mom, her college children and her husband are all voting a big NO THANK YOU and will wait for a more prudent option. By that time that time though, 181 willl probably be part of Chicago Public Schools and city kids will get bused from all over to help fill our super sized new school. It will make the shuddering parents wish we had consolidated with Oak Brook or Maerker.

Anonymous said...

Well anyone who was around in the 1990s should explain why there were findings of Mold and other problems with HMS (as reported by the Chicago Tribune) at the same time the DuPage County courthouse had much publicity for sick building syndrome. While the Baby Boomers were busy building their McMansions and enjoying a renewed economy by 1995, why did they push the can down the road for us to deal with now in 2016 ? I have heard that even bigger taxes for this $65 MIL HMS are proposed to be pushed upon the next generation (by 2024) and that's when many GenX parents (who are smart) will be looking to sell and move on from Hinsdale drama. Certainly the Boomers should be quick to remember March 2009 (Not a happy time for Baby Boomers) and what greater taxes now and in the future combined with a state of ILL financial travesty will mean for all of us ....those big old beautiful homes on the outskirts of Detroit were never meant to be abandoned but the party came to an end. This building was already pushed down the road by the Baby Boomers who overspent in their own financial lives and now they basically want GenX parents to do the same with the next generation of parents. And keep in mind, all of these exorbitant taxes on a curriculum that is a mess. I think moving to Mr Prospect, Downers or Naperville makes much better sense. Hinsdale becomes a bad mutual fund with expense ratios thru the roof and too much drama for parents. People will not buy into it any longer.

Anonymous said...

I agree 9:16. I feel the same way about the digital learning initiative. It means nothing that each kid will have a device if we don't have a solid curriculum. The priorities of the administration are backwards and they seem to think that the taxpayers are a bottomless pit. Without a solid curriculum there is no reason to move or stay here or to pay ski high taxes.

The HMS brochure that the district sent out last night made me scratch my head. There was a lot of talk about a huge parking structure. Has that been approved by the village? I thought it was a parking deck and not a huge structure? Also it states that the running track will be open to the community. Hello, security? So anyone will be allowed to walk into the school and use the track that is housed deep within the school? And if we run out of room in this school that is way too big for our current or future population we can build out the basement. Sounds like a plan.

I read the paper today. Illinois is not in great financial shape. The rainy day is here. We need to get real and start preparing for the inevitable. And we need to make curriculum our number one priority. That is the true unfinished business.

Anonymous said...

9:16, not quite sure what you are smoking or even what your point is. The HMS building was completed in 1976. You seem to be saying it should have been torn down in 1995 when it was less than 20 years old! I did live here in 1995, and I do not recall water/mold issues at that time. What tenuous link this shares to the DuPage County Courthouse is not clearly articulated in your rant. This building was foisted upon the community by "experts" that claimed that open classrooms were the wave of the future. Doors, walls, windows were just so 1950s. Part of the skepticism you can read here on this blog is that the current HMS building is living proof of the ability of experts and "best practices" to quickly change and grow old. Several of our elementary schools are decades older than HMS, have been improved and modified over time, and are beautiful assets to our community.

I am not grasping your unfounded claims about baby boomers. I see many folks in my age bracket ( boomers) selling and moving to lower tax communities. I see many 30 somethings buying 2.5 million dollar homes and parking a couple of $80,000 SUVs out front. I have no idea where their money comes from. I guess it is not really my business. There are several dozen homes today under construction that will close this year or next for north of $2 million. Highly unlikely a 62 year old boomer is buying that house.

Most of us bloggers focus on the curricula and the state of our buildings, but some ugly facts remain about D181 and all school districts in Illinois. We have increased the number of highly paid administrators while the enrollments are a roughly the same. Of course the administrators, teachers, and janitors all receive pay increases each and every year. They receive pension benefits that far exceed the value of Social Security and the 401K plans the rest of us get.

Chicago is not Detroit; the economy is much more diverse. Hinsdale has held values about as well most suburbs. Prices are down from the peak in 2007, but not by all that much.

I also think of moving to Downers or Naperville and maybe we will. But for access to downtown, both airports, and the still outstanding schools, it really can't be beat.

Anonymous said...

11:07: couldn't HMS possibly rent out the auditorium, and the parking spaces when school isn't in session? There's some revenue for you. As for security of the auditorium and gym, couldn't they just put some doors in the hallways so that visitors can only access these parts of the school when school isn't in session? Just a little something to think about.

As for administrators, I think the district really needs to consolidate some administrative positions. If the added manpower gave a measurable, positive difference, that's one thing. However, I don't see that right now. With the constant revolving door of administrators, I don't see district 181 very much. It just seems like many of these administrators just use the district as resume padders and only go through the motions until they can get superintendent positions in a different district. So many seem to not have a passion for their current positions.

Anonymous said...

11:12: I'd love to know where these 30-somethings get the money to buy million-plus dollar homes and $80 grand SUVs. Funny thing too is I know a guy in Clarendon Hills 4-5 houses from the tracks. He tried tried to sell his house (or maybe just bought it, can't remember). I heard that if the house was maybe 2-3 house further away from the tracks, the house could've been sold for $50 grand more. I get it, property taxes are sky high, but if someone would be willing to spend $50 grand to be not even 200 feet away from the tracks, a few bucks more to build an auditorium for the school doesn't seem so bad. I've listened to some of the facilities committee and board meeting podcasts. If the school can provide better musicals and concerts with more seating, bring in more presenters for classes, and possibly rent out the auditorium when school isn't in session, I don't have that much of a problem with it. I realize this may not be a popular opinion on this blog, but I thing there's more to education than just reading, math & science. Plus, think of how much better the productions at Hinsdale Central would be if students at HMS had better places to perform here. Little things at HMS could snowball and create big positive (or negative) changes down the line in high school, college, and career.

Anonymous said...

First, the town will get the revenue from the parking not the district. Second, I'm not sure how much revenue would be had from the auditorium. I am not aware that this is a current cash cow to the high school. Third, even with locked doors there is a security risk to allowing outsiders into the school to use facilities. That is why polling places were moved out of our schools a few years back when security became an increased concern. We can't have uncontrolled access into our schools in this day and age. Fourth, I'm not sure when theatre and PE became more important than academics or the financial health of the district.

Anonymous said...

2:19, for parking, HMS/the district currently owns the parking lot and leases it to the village. So the district does get some money out of it. I don't know how this will change if a new school is built, but the district will probably get some money.

For auditorium revenue, I'm not sure about it. However, Mr. Pena and other district staff have said that the musical is usually standing room only with 350-400 chairs. If we get 500, the school can sell 100-150 more tickets to the musical. Plus, Mr. Pena has also said he checked with the high school to see what it would be like to rent Central's auditorium. Apparently, the Central auditorium is booked pretty solid. If the community can get another auditorium, that could bring in extra revenue.

As for safety, my polling place is the park district room, which is a part of CHMS. So that argument is moot.

Lastly, who said that the gym and auditorium were more important than the academics or financial health? For me, they're not, but they are important. If you think they're not important at all, I'll respect that opinion. However, if you want to focus on only academics and finances, why aren't you calling for the removal of all non-core subjects? Why not call for the elimination, of band, orchestra, choir, foreign language, family and consumer sciences, applied tech, etc.? If we go to just math, language arts, science, social studies and gym (which is required by law), the district could save millions of dollars a year on salaries and pensions, as well as have each subject be over 70 minutes long each day. And if we can get the state legislature to do away with mandatory gym, each period could be at least 90 minutes each day and save another million dollars or so in salaries/pensions. Plus, if district 86 got rid of its non-core classes, we'd save even more in taxes.

Anonymous said...

2:19, I also forgot to mention for security: CHMS also holds a summer camp, where many of the kids (and high school/college student camp counselors) have access to many of the CHMS classrooms and MRC. Also, the district hires summer workers to help with B&G stuff. Many of these workers are college students whose college school year starts after district 181 goes back, so the summer workers could interact with some of our kids. I've yet to hear of any thefts or improper relations in regards to these summer workers.

Before anyone says that I must have drunk the koolaid or must be an administrator, I am not. I will still vote a big, fat NO on the referendum. The process has gone way too fast, especially we learned that the price jumped from $45 million to $73 million. The decision was made far too quickly, with too little community input. I just want to see all sides of the issue, not just my own. That way, I can provide better counterarguments.