Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Final Word

It is time to say goodbye.

For the last three years, we have diligently followed district happenings and tried to create a forum for D181 issues to be discussed in a transparent fashion.  We have published 365 posts,  5545 comments and over 685,000 readers have accessed the blog.  We are grateful to all our followers for not only reading, but participating actively on the blog.

But it is now time for change. After attending or listening to the last few board and committee meetings/Podcasts, we have concluded that there is nothing more we can do to shine a light of transparency on the district dysfunction, curriculum nightmare, facilities bait and switch tactics, irresponsible administration and valiant attempts by a few board members to hold people accountable for the problems that exist in D181 and are causing detriment to students and taxpayers.  We can continue to cry foul until we are blue in the face, but it seems that nothing has really changed in D181 and the district has come full circle to where it was five years ago when the administration began dismantling a research based curriculum program and implementing a "socially just" (haha!) "Advanced Learning/Learning for All" programs.  And in the area of facilities, chaos and disorganization has been the rule of the day since the HMS mold infestation was discovered in January 2014.

In our opinion, D181 continues to be run by a top heavy, self-serving administration. Rather than look out for the best interests of all students and all taxpayers, the administrators look out for themselves with their end goal being internal or external promotion to the next, best administrative position, personal acclaim, outrageous and undeserved salaries  ultimately culminating in inflated pensions upon retirement.

As we contemplated what to say in our final post, we decided we would simply sign off with some thank you's and reminders of what we have witnessed during our blog "journey." Our journey is ending,  because all of our children have now graduated from D181. While we will continue as taxpayers and community members, we will no longer allow the dark clouds that hang over D181 to overshadow our daily lives.  We will be moving forward in the hope that our children's future high school and college days will be filled with sunshine.  Our excitement for our children's brighter future, however, is tempered with the knowledge that every year there will be thousands of students who will continue to be subjected to the whims of the D181 leadership.

We believe that it is the responsibility of  all current and future D181parents to not only closely monitor their children's educations, but to take all necessary steps to ensure that when their D181 journeys end, their children have not been irreparably harmed.  The onus now falls on current and future parents to assume the reigns of transparency in D181.  As taxpayers, we will speak with our votes.  Fiscally irresponsible decisions and tax referenda proposed by the Administration and BOE will be greeted with a celebratory NO vote by us at our local polling place or a vote to unseat board members who are not looking out for the taxpayers' best interests.

As we exit, we will first express our thanks to the following individuals:

1.  Our children.  Without them, the joy they bring to our lives and our obligation to ensure that they are provided the best public education available, there would be no need for this blog.

2.  All the blog writers and contributors.  Yes, we are thanking ourselves and everyone who has written posts or comments. Collectively, we have invested thousands of hours in gathering information (either through attendance at meetings, listening to podcasts, reading all documentation available on board docs, the D181 website, the FOIA log), investigating issues, fact checking, and listening and speaking to parents, teachers and administrators who have raised concerns.  Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our nation, and so we include in this list all contributors, even those who expressed negative comments about us.

3.  The D181 Teachers.  Over the more than 21 year span that we, the bloggers, have lived in D181, our children have benefited from many outstanding teachers. We have witnessed brand new teachers join the D181 teacher ranks, young teachers mature, older teachers grow wiser and retiring teachers end their careers after spending 30+ years dedicating themselves to the districts' children.  Almost without exception, these teachers have worked tirelessly to address our children's needs.  They have done their best in the face of curriculum initiatives that were not based in best practices and were unsupported by research.  Some teachers have bucked the system and refused to implement the inappropriate curriculum changes that the administration tried to force upon them.  Many have stood bravely together to call out inequities, unfairness, and alleged wrong-doings by administrators.  With even fewer exceptions, these teachers' focus has been on our children, rather than on self-promotion.

4.  Brave board members who have refused to stand down.  Over the last five years, the following board members (present and past) have turned on the spotlight of transparency when an issue was being buried, or was not receiving the full attention needed.  As a result they were often subjected to scorn and ridicule by fellow board members, D181 administrators and community members, rather than receiving gratitude for doing the right thing.  While we have not agreed with everything these individuals have said or done, today, we are thanking them without reservation.  They deserve all of our thanks because they have refused to be silenced when they have felt there were issues and wrongdoings that needed to be exposed and fully discussed.  So, thank you to Mridu Garg, Leslie Gray, Richard Giltner, Jennifer Burns, Brendan Heneghan, Yvonne Mayer and Ann Mueller.

In our opinion, it is important to remind our readers of some of the wrongs that we witnessed over the last five years.  It is critical that parents -- past, present and future -- not forget what has happened to D181.


1.  Student Performance continues to decline steadily.  D181 is no longer a district known for it's academic excellence.  Instead, it has become a laughing stock amongst other districts and fodder for bad jokes at cocktail parties.  We are not making this up.  Ask administrators and teachers in other districts.  Ask superintendents in other districts.  Ask people who work at the Regional Office of Education.  Ask parents who are active on the Hinsdale/Clarendon Hills social circuit. Many will not be afraid to tell you that they cannot believe the craziness that they have watched take over D181.

2.  Less than 6 years ago, D181 students were educated within a research based curriculum -- one that included gifted and advanced learning tiers AND inclusive classrooms for SPED students when ever possible.  Rather than fix the flawed identification process for placement into appropriate academic tiers --  with a goal of allowing entry for all students into the highest tier they could succeed in -- no attempt was made to fix the identification model.  Instead, over the last five years, the district spent over $60,000 in consultants whose reports and recommendations were not followed.  Instead, relying

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Comment of the Day: Is an Exiting Administrator "Gaming the System?"

As we approach publication of our final blog post tomorrow, we are publishing one last Comment of the Day that we just received from a D181 Staff Member.  The comment addresses Dr. Schneider's absence from D181. We couldn't agree more with the questions and concerns this brave D181 employee raises.

As always, SOUND OFF (but please do so by 12 Noon on 6/8/16).


D181 Staff Member said...
9:55: I am just now catching up on reading the blog. I am a D181 staff member, and like many other teachers in the District, am sad that the blog is going to end. So I am compelled to send you this information in response to your comment on Dr. Schneider. Here is the text from an email the D181 staff members received from Dr. White on May 23, 2016. It provides some information answers and raises more questions. I am a staff member who will not remain silent. After reading Dr. White's email, I was left feeling very empty and disappointed in an administrator who may be gaming the system. I will comment further after the text of the email:

"Dear Colleagues,

I know that many of you have inquired about Dr. Kurt Schneider's status. As you may know, he has been absent for several weeks. I am pleased to share that Dr. Schneider contacted us today and he is doing well and will return to D181 for a few days starting June 2nd. His last few days in D181 will be spent on transition work with Dr. Christina Sepiol. He is also planning to visit schools and meet with key stakeholders during this time.

On a related note, Dr. Sepiol began her work today in D181. I am confident you will enjoy working with her. She will become a great asset to D181.

Thank you.


What you should all know is that Dr. Schneider hasn't just been absent for several weeks. Several suggests 3 weeks and everyone on staff knows he never returned to D181 after Spring Break -- that was NINE weeks ago. Staff was led to believe that Dr. Schneider was out sick, so no one was going to suggest otherwise. I am glad for him personally if he has recovered from whatever ailed him that he can return to work, but I am not naive enough to be fooled by the verbiage in Dr. White's letter. Dr. White says Dr. Schneider is going to return for a FEW days starting June 2. What does FEW mean? Two, three, four or five days? It certainly doesn't mean more than that under any definition. My understanding is that Dr. Schneider resigned some time ago with an effective date of June 30, not June 5, 6 or 7. So is he being allowed to leave earlier than that now that Dr. Sepiol is here and on staff full time? If so, is he being paid through June 30? I certainly hope not and further hope he hasn't been allowed to game the system by using accrued vacation days. Past administrators who have left have worked right up to their final day. As a teacher, I know when administrators leave, if they have unused vacation days, they are cut a check. They are not allowed to spend their last few weeks on vacation. For me, that would be so wrong and I hope it is not something that Dr. White or any BOE member is endorsing. It sends a wrong message to all other D181 employees. Like I said in the beginning of this comment, I am left feeling very empty and disappointed in what I am seeing play out. This district is not a game, even if some administrators are treating it like one.

  • Saturday, June 4, 2016

    Response to a Comment Asking Us to Pass on the Reigns of this Blog

    Yesterday, the following paragraph was included in a comment one of our readers submitted:

    "On a different note, is there anyone willing to take the reigns for this blog? I realize maintaining this blog must be time consuming, but I really wish someone would take on the role. I would, but I'm busy enough as it is. Parents, if you're unwilling to reveal your identity, maybe you could set up a dead drop like they use in cop shows to pass on any relevant information?" (June 3, 2016 at 8:00 AM)

    We did not want to ignore this question and therefore are publishing our response as a free standing post.

    8:00 a.m.:  Thank you for asking if we are willing to pass on the reigns of this blog.  Our answer is that for the last three years, we, the bloggers, have poured our hearts and souls into bringing transparency to D181.  We chose to do so anonymously, because several of us (and our children) suffered retaliation when prior to creating the blog, we chose to pursue our D181 concerns as everyday parents who were fed up with what we were witnessing. Over the last three years, we did add multiple additional bloggers to our staff, all who agreed to keep their and our identities confidential. But, as we have said, as of next week, all of our children will be graduates of D181 and we feel it is time to end our blog.

    Our hope is that someone WILL assume the reigns of transparency, but they will have to create their own blog to do so. We encourage anyone who wants to assume the reigns of transparency in D181 to do so by creating a new blog site in the next few days and sending us your link. We will be happy to post it and prominently highlight it in the last post we will be publishing next week. While we will be ending the publication of all new posts and comments on the blog, we are not going to delete the blog page in the foreseeable future and its content will remain on the Internet. Those who read it will see the new blog link to go to --if one is created and submitted to us.

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    Comments of the Day: Time to End the Code of Silence

    We are publishing the following four comments we received today as our Comments of the Day.  They all discuss the issue of whether or not there is a Code of Silence in D181 and what our obligations as parents and community members are to deal with it.

    As always, SOUND OFF!


    Anonymous said...
    Please don't throw in the towel. We need you. Admittedly, D181 is probably worse off under Dr. White than even Dr. Schuster.

    White has allowed the curriculum mess to proliferate, promoted incompetent people, hired people who don't seem to have a clue or the inclination to do work necessary to fix the messes in our schools. The special education students we know are worse off than ever while they are pushed thru their various grades. Many of us know parents of special education students and have heard them tell stories of special education staff denying the existence of blatant issues that a lay person could easily see. We have watched as bullying by staff members has proliferated in some of our schools. It is covered up and denied while staff are moved to different grades and different schools. D181 still isn't challenging our advanced learners.

    The code of silence lives among D181 teachers, staff and administrators.

    Without this blog, most of the BOE and many district parents would be in the dark. 
    Anonymous said...
    There is a code of silence - but only we are to blame for that. How many parents have contacted the authorities to complain about this behavior? Not enough. 8:00 am needs to write an email to the board, file a FOIA, and contact the Attorney General. It is not enough to sit around and read for entertainment. If we allow the administration to continue to give our children's educational money to a revolving door of undeserving, impotent administrators, then why is anyone surprised when they get away with it? Not enough people have complained. Have you insisted for a response when you are ignored? Have you called the media to expose the problems? Have you publicly called out the offending administrators or board members when you are robbed blind? Treating these folks with kindness does NOT work. The golden rule does not apply to people without morals or a value system. It is better to be feared than loved. D181 knows this Machiavellian tenet. Do you? This administration is not using the same rulebook we are. What will you do about it?

    Like Dr. White's quote says at the end of his emails, if you "dream" instead of "act", then nothing will ever change. He and his followers are all counting on the fact that parents are busy with their jobs and lives and won't have the time,money, or energy to take action against them. They want you to be afraid. Will you let them intimidate and embarrass you when THEY are the ones who should be embarrassed? People reading this blog - stop dreaming that this blog is the "action". This blog is the well that provides us will all the information you need to take action. Use it. Take your buckets to this well and drink the water. Let the water give you the strength to ACT. Instead, of drinking for sustenance, most of us stare at their buckets of water with parched mouths. Stop complaining how thirsty you are and ACT. GO to the next board meeting. Send more emails. Call a lawyer. Run for the School Board.

    There are a lot of attorneys, CFO's and CEO's who live in this town who ironically, allow their K-8 school system to rob them blind. If we allow our board members to condone the silence and the wrongdoing, then we get what we deserve. Everyone hanging back on the sidelines, staring at the water, don't be surprised when your children do not get the same treatment that board members children's get. Or, the same treatment that parents with attorneys get. When no one dares to speak up against the corruption or silence, the whole group suffers. The parents who invest the time and the money to fight the corruption get what they want. The rest of us will not. It will not be easy, but anything worth fighting for is hard.

    I am thankful for this blog, but if you read the story above our posts, you must understand that NOTHING has changed. What is the point of a well if no one drinks from it? I do not blame the bloggers for hanging it up. They have done important, valuable public service for ALL our our children. They and certain board members like Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray have put their reputations on the line while other parents think showing up at a school fund raisers meets their public service requirements. Act. Don't dream. 
    Anonymous said...
    I agree 10:50. My children are long grown, but I served on the Caucus and went to a number of school board meetings in my day. I follow this blog and our local papers, but that is it. We get the schools we deserve. Many drink the Koolaid that Hinsdale schools are outstanding. This is driven by the still strong results of Hinsdale Central. When the current group of 4th through 8th graders start making their way through high school, it will be interesting to see how the scores hold up.

    I for one would like to see honest, fair reporting by the Hinsdalean and The Doings. The local press should be much more than cheerleaders for our town. Many people that are not aware of this blog will peruse the local paper once a week. The test results MUST be published and COMPARED to the results of 5, 10, and 15 years ago. Math and Reading scores must be published by school. I talk to former Monroe parents, and they are literally clueless about how far a once top school in the state has fallen. Parents of young children need to be INFORMED, they need to GET MAD, and they need to ACT!. My child is done, my child was an AP scholar at Hinsdale Central. My child got a great college degree and a REAL JOB!!!! My child worked her tail off starting in 2nd and 3rd grade. My child knew math facts in second grade and was required to learn 50 vocabulary words PER WEEK in 5th grade, plus all the countries and all the states. Learning is NOT a GROUP PROJECT. No one is going to take the ACT or SAT for your child. No one is going to take AP tests for your child. 

    Parents of young children, you have to wake up. Our district has fallen very far in a short period of time. Cleaning house in the administration is the first step. We need disruptors on the school board, not the "go along to get along" types that fall for every educational fad that comes down the pike. 

    This situation can be fixed. It starts when the parents of school aged children are informed and take the initiative to get their schools fixed. As a taxpayer, I will tell you we don't need more money or fancy new buildings. We need a solid curriculum that challenges all students. We need differentiated learning for our top students. We need much improved special education for a population of students. Please get informed and get involved.
    Ann Mueller said...
    Sadly, I have just reread the 5/27 blog post on the D181 curriculum mess. To think that the last five years' MAP scores have declined is just awful. Having been involved in the operations of D181 for the last 29 years and had two children successfully educated in D181, it is so upsetting to realize how D181 has slipped from being a high performing district that successfully serviced all students.

    I want to make a couple of observations. In a high performing district such as D181, it is crucial that there be knowledgable, experienced educational leadership that puts what is best for the students first. The superintendent MUST BE knowledgable and experienced in ALL ASPECTS of elementary education, not just management and technology, but finance and CURRICULUM, too. D181 has NOT experienced a superintendent of this caliber for 10 years. I won't go into all the details/specifics, but it is TRUE! The administrative personnel blunders that D181 has experienced the last 10 years demonstrate what happens in a district when the WRONG people, who may have degrees, but no knowledge and genuine experience, are in charge. D181 was actually blessed when so many of the "bad leaders" jumped ship and then the BOE demanded that Schneider and Benaitis be "coached out." The interim personnel that D181 has experienced, going all the way back to Dr. Sabatino and up to the present, didn't work out well in our high performing district either. At best, interims help a district "tread water" and, hopefully, the district will not regress until a qualified permanent replacement is found. We know what has happened the last ten years. 6/2, 9:30am's comments are 100% correct. Also, 6/3, 10:50am has it right, too. The D181 community must end its "code of silence!" The entire D181 community, both parents and empty nesters, is to blame for allowing this unsatisfactory performance to continue in D181. Action needs to be taken! Go to BOE meetings and speak, contact the BOE members, serve on the Hinsdale Village Caucus that recommends BOE candidates, run for the BOE, demand that a new superintendent be found. There are current BOE members who know the current administration is inadequate, but just don't want to go through another superintendent search!!! They don't want tobe bothered to put in the time and effort....shame on them!! Not doing their job is negatively impacting our children's education. The only thing I take exception to in 6/3 10:50am's statement is the impression given that BOE members Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray are the only BOE members who have put their reputations on the line and acted correctly. Their are other current BOE members who have worked enormously hard for our students, devoted their time and put their reputations on the line, too. A couple others not so much.

    Anyway, with new permanent SpEd and Curriculum Asst. Superintendents in place, hopefully, circumstance is D181 will greatly improve. However, dedicated, knowledgeable BOE members are needed and a knowledgable, experienced superintendent is mandatory. An engaged community that will take action is a must, too.