Monday, August 28, 2017

D181 is Riddled with Trouble. Can it be Saved?

Today we received the following comment which we have decided to publish as a free-standing post. When we read it we realized that D181 is in deep trouble and it will be up to the Board of Education to take action soon to right the once again sinking ship.  Our plan at the beginning of the summer was to re-open the blog for comments and then possibly shut it down again if there wasn't enough interest to keep it going.  We have determined that we had enough comments over the summer, and now this new one addressing serious concerns impacting all students, to justify keeping the blog open.

Please sound off and let us know if you agree or disagree with the following:

Anonymous said...
"Not sure anyone else has seen the Board Docs agenda for Mondays meeting.

First--Terri Hanrahan has resigned. Whether you liked her, knew her or had no clue who she was-the bottom line is this is YET ANOTHER employed professional of the district department of learning to quit. Anyone think this is odd now? We've lost Kelley Gallt after 1 year; Terri Hanrahan after 1 year; we've lost principals after 1 to 2 years; we've lost Teachers on Special Assignments hired and then resigning right away; departmental secretaries; the list goes on.

What we haven't lost is Don White.

Two-This is a critical year for the District. We have new curriculum in all the subject content areas. Teachers and staff are without leadership that has experience, tenure, professionalism, training, and support to lead the charge and grow the charge implementing it with fidelity and continuity among all of our feeder schools.

Three--the math trajectory is a joke. We are accelerating and advancing kids on all sorts of criteria that changes yearly. We have combined groupings and 2/3 of our grade level classes advanced in math in many schools. We have kids skipping one to two to three years of content with continued acceleration because for years the criteria has changed. We have grandfathered cohort groups of kids who have low scores, no scores, or no data and some who do or have too much data. There are kids with low MAP scores and no MAP Scores but teacher buy in. Doing the bridge advanced a bunch of kids who needed only 70 percent to advance. Kids who needed to qualify for advanced needed 80th. And then still, there are kids who need 99th supposedly for acceleration BUT GUESS WHAT--we take kids lower than that and some who are grandfathered are hovering at 85th. And still some are below that. Then do we look at the numbers of kids who continue long term? Rumor on the street is that kids entering middle school are taking steps back. It is too much pressure. Where is due diligence here?

Four-we have no follow through on the advanced and accelerated programs for kids in math. And now there is possible talk of tiering for science in Year 2 of roll out. Like seriously? We can't even clean up our math and we roll out advancement possibilities in science in the future?

Five-District school websites are all over the place. Some schools do them some schools don't but they all tell you at curriculum night to go to the website. AHEM. Your website has photos of kids from 3 years ago.

Six-We get bulletin after bulletin about HMS. When are we going to have an action group called VOTE YES FOR CURRICULUM CHANGE AND CONTINUITY. I said it first. You heard it here.

Seven-what is wrong with a District that can't keep qualified people on deck? We're a lighthouse district they say. Really-I don't see anyone looking for our beam in the darkness. Instead, I see them all running.

I don't envy the BOE. But I do charge them with dealing with this nonsense.

Skyward was rolled out. But do you know the email feature was turned off? In other districts, they load F and P on skyward, they load grades not just for middle school but elementary too. They have weekly check ins by teachers; comments; the list goes on. In D 181, we don't do that. We do however give a grading day for teachers so they can have one whole day to grade. Unheard of in any district 50 miles in either direction around here.

The bottom line. D 181 is great because the parents are great. They pay, they supplement, they tutor, they donate, they fundraise, they volunteer. There are good teachers. Absolutely. But there are many more who are toting the line. And who blames them? They can't have consistency. They don't have the same criteria year to year. And they don't even know what resource is being used because it changed overnight."
August 27, 2017 at 9:15 AM


Anonymous said...

I've been following the district for over a decade now, and I have to agree with the poster. There is way too much turn around with the central administration. Some people call D181 a "lighthouse district". It might be, but it seems like administrators just see our district as just another thing to put on the resume. So many administrators seem to only take these jobs as a stepping stone until they finish their doctorate and get a superintendent position of their own. While they're in the district, they seem to only go through the motions and not really put their hearts in the job. If you look at the teachers, they all, or at least most, do put their hearts into teaching. However, many I've talked to want to find any way to get out of the district. Not because they hate teaching or the kids, it's the stress the district puts on them. In the 10+ years I've followed the district, the entire district administration has changed about 5 times. Where's the consistency? Where's the support? I've also looked at BoardDocs and read the spring survey results. Over the last few years, many teachers have often said that there's a lack of communication and trust between them & the administration. No wonder many teachers and staff want to get out. Unfortunately, teachers would get significant pay cuts if they go to another districts.

I'd also like to add that the poster was right, we have amazing parents in the district. The level of support they give just boggles my mind.

Anonymous said...

Last night's meeting was a complete joke. The public portion was 4 hours long. I spent part of last night listening to the live podcast and then fell asleep around 11 pm. I listened to the last hour this morning over coffee. Thanks to the one community member who was in attendance and made a public comment at the end of the meeting. She said what needed to be said. Administrators should be allowed to give their presentations to the BOE before the HMS project updates, which last night took over 2 hours. The agenda was moved around to move multiple change orders up to the beginning of the meeting, but because there wasn't enough information provided to the board members to make them understand what they were voting on, lengthy explanations had to be given by the Owner's representative for each one. Isn't he paid handsomely to prepare written reports for the BOE that they can rely on? I felt bad for all the administrators who had to sit for hours and not begin presenting their reports before 9:30 pm.

It is clear that curriculum is no longer considered the priority by Dr. White. It is time that the board demand that respect be shown to the D181 employees and not all the construction people who are getting paid handsomly and should learn to wait their turn.

I also want to state that I was very concerned with another part of the comment made by the person who stayed to the end of the meeting. She asked why parents who have been falsely accused by an administrator of violating the Illiniois Eavedropping law havent yet received an apology from the administration. If true, that is outrageous. Does anyone know what she was referring to?

Anonymous said...

First of all, what about the fact that threads of conversations happen at BOE meetings that are not picked up ever again? Like why parents asking to record IEP meetings or conversations with district personnel on plans or placements for their children is being questioned. With the amount of turn over and drama at our district level, parents need to protect themselves.

Additionally as the poster/commentator of the day mentioned, the District is in shambles. We have 4 and 5 hour BOE meetings. Who does that? When I tell teachers and friends and other professionals in academia they are horrified by this. Our Department of Learning consists of two interim people who are retired employees of former districts and limited in the number of days they work. SERIOUSLY? You can't make this stuff up.

Our feeder schools are old and crumbly. Some schools have class sizes that while not huge by the U.S. standards are larger for Hinsdale and frankly, too large for some of our spaces. At one feeder school, kids share cubbies through 5th grade, eat in lunch shifts, and oh yes, have a playground area that is missing play structures and has ponding issues that cause accidents, injuries and Ambulance visits.

Yet another school has major issues with bullying. Parents have complained. Lawsuits have been threatened. OH wait--we don't have an official bully policy. Hmm.

A parent recently told me at coffee that 2/3 of her 5th grade class is in advanced math and that her son is one of only 10 kids in grade level math. I'm sorry--2/3 of the student body? Apparently everyone is advanced these days. And no wonder, the threshold is 80 percent. 70th if you do the bridge. OUCH.

And the HMS drama. I mean, how many emails and bulletins can you send out about one school? It passed already. Just build the darn thing.

Can we get to the business of one to one technology and how this is going to revolutionize learning? Oh that's right, I don't think so.

I read an article on Skyward recently. It shared that in some "competitive" districts they don't like parents to check grades and status constantly--it pressures kids, causing unnecessary stress. I guess we can see why they don't have that feature daily and regularly for elem students. Some parents-including me-might go crazy.

But I do agree that teacher communications while improving have long ways to go.

The math trajectory--I don't know. I don't have an advanced or accelerated kid so I suppose I don't know much here from experience. I can tell you that I think as someone who works in a math related field, that skipping math in middle school by doing combined math groupings doesn't seem very smart. It also doesn't seem possible. Who said you can skip that type of material and "fast track" thru those concepts? Not sure there.

To me, we need a gifted program. And if we can't have a gifted program than we need to institute that our students need to have some measure of performance in order to continue on.

The truth is--we just need help here in D 181. Major help. I don't think Don White or his "people" however few and far they are are going to get us there. BOE--what are you doing? Besides talking that is. 4 plus hours and counting. Stop talking. Start doing. Boots on the ground people. Time to start investigating the claims on this blog and others. What's happening at our feeder schools? What are we not hearing about?

Anonymous said...

There is no reason why the public portion of a board meeting should take 3 hours unless something very wrong is going on with communication. They are always too long. Why do board members tolerate this? Marty had the right idea by not bothering to show up at this meeting. 5 hour meetings indicate a problem with how the BOE and superintendent effectively manage their time and communicate with each other. The BOE needs to make its standards clear and hold Dr. White to them. Next time they see gobs of last minute nonsense thrown on the agenda at the last minute, cancel the meeting. Save yourselves and us all the time and agony and ask him to come back next week when he has his shizel together. 3 cancelled meetings and its a new superintendent's turn.
Why was the board president trying to pleasantly humor Don throughout his painful report and numerous change requests? If a child ever turned in a report like that in school, his grade teacher would have ripped him to shreds. Don is an adult getting paid. Remember, if you keep your expectations low, Don will never fail you. But is this the kind of leader we want? When he was hired, he promised us transparency and communication. WHERE is it? It is a real problem that the new owners representative was not required to provide written, detailed information to the BOE well in advance of the meeting. However, we should not be so quick to criticize him when Don White is the only one who tells him what to do. White is the puppet master. This needs to change. While the idea of an owners rep was to free up the superintendent so he could refocus on the serious task at hand of updating our curriculum and professional development, we can all see that Dr. White hasn't quite traded in his hardhat. He did not add anything of substance to the serious curriculum issues discussed.
What is up with the parking structure? Residents in town know they can't even build a simple fence in their own backyard without a permit and clear approval from the village. What made White think he didn't need supervision and approval from the village to build a $60 million school in the middle of our business district with other people's money? Since he doesn't live here, and was not voted by the public to represent the interests of anyone in this district, what makes him think that he, architects, and especially builders have the right to waste our time and money with last minute changes and suggestions? The size of the parking lot and the basement should have all been hammered out last year, before the public vote and the groundbreaking. Unbelievable to think we still are debating about what its square footage should be. To add square footage now without the approval of voters is absurd. The lack of preparation is currently costing us thousands of dollars in last minute changes and wasting the time of board members and residents at 5 hour meetings. These last minute changes are costing the administration HOURS of time from deal with curriculum issues that are far more important than the size of a basement. Contrary to what some board members think, you do not save money by spending more of it. If you build a bigger basement, give us a good reason to have one. For example, use it to house the superintendent and his staff in it. This would eliminate the need to rent out space in Clarendon Hills. It also would allow the administrators to see their employees in action.
White is making these board members look like fools with nothing better to do on a Monday night that sit there unpaid and ignored for 6 hours. As far as the slanderous comments by an administrator, look to the new head of the special education department. The number of parents and teachers leaving special ed meetings In tears is unprecedented.

Anonymous said...

9:46- If you think our elementary feeder schools are in shambles, you haven't seen Hinsdale Central lately. That being said, I would take an old Hinsdale Central over a brand new HMS any day. At least the curriculum is good and teachers update their student's grades every day.

Anonymous said...

I have come to tears and broken down at all staff meetings discussing my children's advancement and accelerated opportunities or in this case lack thereof. My kids are stuck in grade level math because we couldn't do the bridge and were not willing to give up our summer short as it is. I have often fought tirelessly and then cried at home about the lack of communication and the overall secrecy and frankly downright miscommunication and lies from school about placement, tests, performance and academic measures. I think D181math has great scores due to private tutoring and enrichment, steam and stem classes etc. And before you post that you think the people who tutor are crazy let's talk about the people who are paying for private baseball or soccer coaching, private tennis or vocal lessons. It is all the same. If you take your kid to the library three times a week and read to them every night you are working w your kid. period. D 181 is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree with 7:42. There's an incredible lack of communication in D181. Plus, with the frequent turnover of the administration, no wonder the curriculum's awful. Honestly, I'm tempted to lobby our state legislators to just get rid of public education all together in Illinois. I don't see why I'm forced to pay for such lousy schools, especially when I don't have kids in the system. My property taxes will go far down (roughly 72% of our property taxes go to the schools I believe). Plus our income taxes go to their lofty pensions. As for the teachers, since our kids have to go somewhere, private schools would need to hire them with all the students going from public to private education. As for the administrators, who cares? They've consistently shown that they can't do the job.

Anonymous said...

There really should be a crossing guard to protect the children from the North side of town. We are following the instructions to drop our children off about a block away from school, but when we do, there is no crossing guard. There is a lot of train, construction, and commuter traffic on Garfield in the morning. As it is, only kids who live to the south of the middle school have the benefit of a crossing guard. The carpool lane going south on Garfield is so backed up in the morning that it makes no sense for parents to sit another 10 minutes in their cars to drop off their kids on 3rd when they could drop off their kids near the valet drop off in front of Cine or the sushi place.

The walking entry point at the top of the stairs near the Chamber of Commerce office should not have been closed. It is much safer to install a crossing guard at the entry point on the north side entrance car pool lane (Dolphin side) than allow our kids to cross a 4 way stop a few hundred feet away from the train station. The corner at Dips and Dogs is very busy. I would rather have my child only having to worry about looking 1 way for cars in a drop off lane at school than 4 ways in downtown Hinsdale. Please consider taking down the barrier and putting a guard.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the lack of communication and unfair taxes from the school district. Someone please check the facts for me, but I am almost positive D181 gets far more than 72% of our taxes. The combination of the high school D86 and the K-8 D181 might be 72%, but D181 consumes far more taxes and than any other public body around. When I got the last D181 glossy brochure a couple weeks ago, I was stunned to see that our district owns 59 acres. Are all of these properties paid off? Can't D181 mortgage those properties to build HMS and do improvements? Why are taxpayers stuck with the bills if D181 is so property rich? Why can't D181 raise money by selling their (um, OUR) properties to the Villages and then being charged rent? This way, at least residents, not administrators who don't live here, have control of our finances.

D86 gets taxes from Oak Brook and all the other D86 feeder schools. D181 does not. We in Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge and the Monroe School Oak Brook alone pay for the waste in D181 because there are not enough low income people here to allow our schools to qualify for government support. If our D181 offered less abusive special ed staff, more communicative teachers, and actually differentiated education, no one would mind paying the taxes. But they don't, so why should we pay for it? It is pathetic when you consider how many people in our communities send their kids to Avery Coonley (gifted kids), St. Isaac's and Notre Dame. You shouldn't have to send your kids to a church school in order to find administrators who lead according to the Golden Rule.

Many families from our public schools tried D181 first but after seeing what a mess it was, opted to chose private schools over moving to another town. I think very few people move to Hinsdale with the intention of sending their kids to private school, but a quick stint in D181 changes most people's minds. After talking to parents in Oak Brook about how responsive their teachers and administrators are and how prepared their children are for high school, it makes you wonder how D181 got so off track.

Anonymous said...

I work in the district, and several of the issues listed are due to administrative actions (or lack thereof). For the online grade book not being updated daily, we've actually been told NOT to give parent and student access for grades until report cards. When I and other staff members have asked the administration why not, I've gotten vague answers like "It's not necessary for you to know," or "We have decided not to do that right now." Honestly, some of us are just as unhappy as you are.

As for communication, I find that it's very much up to the teacher. Some teachers actively communicate like sending weekly e-mails, while others are more passive like update their websites & the parents have to check, or e-mail/call as needed. Some schools or grade level teams try to coordinate, but it's pretty much a hodgepodge of things. That's one problem I have with the district. Very little direction and cohesiveness. While I think we need some flexibility and not get micromanaged, it just feels like we're a bunch of individual teachers & staff who just happen to work in the same buildings rather than a single, cohesive district.

Anonymous said...

Today's Hinsdalean gives a sense of the problems from the last board meeting. They left out the part about an administrator slandering a parent. If administrators are allowed to slander parents I can only imagine the hell they are putting teachers and kids through.

Anonymous said...

I went to curriculum night at my school this week. By the presentation given to 5th grade parents, I have determined that the number of OUTLIERS in my school by very definition goes against what an outlier is. There are 2/3 of our students studying math 2 years ahead and within that group there are 15 kids who will go on to 3 years ahead.

That's 15 kids who are 3 years of math ahead in one building. I didn't realize Hinsdale had so many outliers. We look pretty much homogenous if you ask me.

My daughter thinks she's dumb in grade level math. I told her if 2/3 of your class was truly that brilliant our scores would look a lot better. Clearly, the people making decisions don't have any responsibility for these kids. And parents are blindly going along pushing their kids for accelerated learning.

TRUTH: At some point, it will catch up. Don't have a label of OUTLIERS for a group that is sizable. Outliers are rare. Clearly no one knows what an outlier is.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking at the email that came out from my child's teacher regarding her math class.

I don't understand. So all of the kids who took the bridge program passed. That means they all had perfect attendance and they all got 70 percent or better. But if you were in school not taking bridge, you needed 80th percent in years past to be advanced. And to be accelerated you needed 99th. But now we drop it to 97th, take the bridge, and just get 70th.

I'm confused. Good thing I'm not in bridge.

And if you wanted to go from advanced to accelerated last year, you needed 99th. End of year test. etc. But in spring, if you were 97th you could bridge by giving up three weeks intense in summer. Passing at 70th.


And then when I get to middle school is it 70 percent or greater.

My youngest is in a cohort group taught by a middle school guy. The email states that she needs a C or better to continue. C-really?. Is C getting my daughter on Honor Roll at HMS? I don't think so.

I'm struggling to find the words to tell my daughter that event though her teacher thinks a C is okay. It isn't okay here. Not if she is accelerated.

Is this so when they get to middle school they all take Integrated Geometry and slow down? I just don't understand. I got on to the district website and I can't even make sense of this math trajectory at all. There is no communication to parents at all on what this means for our kids. SPELL IT OUT. I never asked for my kid to be 2 years ahead. Or 3. I didn't ask that she be pushed. Great, you pushed her. But you are pushing her but telling her a C is okay. I don't understand. My wife says it is too much too fast. Puberty hasn't hit. What about drama club? what about gymnastics. Ridiculous if you ask me.

Some of the smartest most talented people in the world were not in advanced math. Something stinks here.

Anonymous said...

Forget math. What about reading, ELA, SCIENCE? I'm a physician. Tiering for science is a great opportunity but not if it becomes as much of a disorganized, inconsistent practice as the math with 5 different science groups and no clear path to understanding why some kids get opportunities and others don't. And holding kids to a MAP score for entrance to these groups isn't an indicator of success in a particular grouping.

This district is a mess. The BOE better spend some time cleaning this up. Instead of focusing only on the facets of HMS. We hired a owner's rep right? We have a general contractor. Let's focus on the education. That's why I moved here anyway.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Dear Bloggers: Below is an email I just sent to the D181 BOE. Please consider publishing it as a free standing post. The D181 community must know about possible future ramifications of the recent state funding vote in Springfield. Thank you.

Dear D181 Board of Education Members and Dr. White:

Last night I attended the D86 Board meeting. Dr. Law publicly reported on legislative school funding actions taken in the last 2 weeks in Springfield and the possible negative ramifiations D86 will face as a result.

I urge all of you to watch the portion of last night's Videopodcast and his Superintendent's report on this issue. It can be accessed at and begins at Counter 1:38:50. This is not Dr. Law's first public report on the school funding issues. He has been transparent, candid and willing to lay out the issues not only to the D86 BOE, but also to the D86 community. He should be commended for his proactive approach to these important school funding issues.

Dr. Law's proactive reporting style should be emulated by Dr. White in D181. The D181 community deserves to have a superintendent who stays ahead of the issues, just as Dr. Law has in D86.

I urge the D181 BOE to request that Dr. White begin publicly addressing state funding issues in more detail than he has in the past.


Yvonne Mayer
D181 Taxpayer

Anonymous said...

A community member just posted this to their Facebook page. Can you run as a free standing post and put people on notice?

D181 HMS Accountability Committee Update.

Today, the D181 Communications Director sent out a brief email to the community providing notice of a regular BOE meeting scheduled for Monday, September 11. Almost as an after thought is a one line reference to a 5 pm meeting on 9/11 of the Accountability Committee.

As you all know, part of the HMS litigation settlement was the creation of an Accountability Committee to review process concerns related to the HMS referendum. The first meeting was held on July 26 and a summary of that meeting can be accessed at:…/B…/Meetings/Board_Summary_17-07-26.pdf

The timeline of future meetings is outlined towards the end of the summary and of relevance is the following statement:
"It was determined that the Committee may meet prior to the regularly scheduled Business meeting on September 11, 2017, if necessary, to discuss their submitted comments and questions. If the meeting is held, the deadline for the administration to provide the draft report would be moved to September 7, 2017 so that related materials can be posted on BoardDocs."

So it appears, that a meeting is "necessary." Board docs on this meeting will post on Saturday morning. I for one, will be reading them to see why a meeting is needed.