Thursday, November 9, 2017

Public Attacks on Board Members Who Voted to Approve White's Mutual Termination Agreement are Not Based on Facts.

According to the Mutual Termination Don White signed on October 30, 2017, he had 7 days to revoke his agreement, otherwise on the 8th day, the agreement became effective.  (See Section 12b of the  Mutual Termination Agreement.)

The seven days have expired and since the BOE has not announced any revocation of the agreement, we believe that it is now final and White's last day as superintendent will be on June 30, 2018.  During the wait and see period, we decided to stay silent, but others in the community did not. Starting with public comments made at the 10/30 board meeting and continuing in the Hinsdalean's editorial and in Facebook posts and comments, there has been a rash of harsh crticism leveled at the four board members who voted to approve the Mutual Termination agreement

Now it is time to put some of those criticisms to bed.  We begin with a comment submitted today by one of our readers that we think is a fair response to the criticisms and veiled threats made against the board members by certain community members.

Anonymous said...(Emphasis added by us.)
I just listened to the public comments from the beginning of last weeks meeting and am stunned. One person stated that the boards' actions regarding Dr. White would come at "costs to their personal reputations." Easy there, Godfather. Jump to 4:03:35 to hear the public comments yourself. In my personal opinion that comment seemed to be a thinly veiled threat to board members who supported White's departure. Threats like this are dangerous because they weaken the basic tenets of democracy and local governance in this country. While what this person said may have just been a slip of the tongue, nonetheless, it should be addressed by the board and the superintendent. School board members who work tirelessly reviewing years of evidence in order to reach difficult decisions should be commended, not threatened. While I have not always agreed with school board members I feel the words and the tone expressed by some of speakers last week lacked thoughtful objectivity and sensitivity. If the decision truly was mutual between the board and Dr. White, then both sides need to come together and publicly set the record straight for those who are still confused why the decision was mutual. As a D181 and D86 parent myself, I want to make it clear that the people who spoke in support of Dr. White last week in no way represent the views of my acquaintances, my neighbors, or me. I feel this mutual separation was long overdue.

Anyone who listens to or attends the curriculum meetings knows that Dr. White had nothing to do with "re-vamping" the curriculum. After he allowed Dr. Kurt Schneider and friends to make years of horrible curricular decisions based on social agendas rather than on scientific evidence, Mrs. Gallt and the parent volunteers on the curriculum committee came in and FIXED the mess. Anyone who listened to the meetings heard how hard she worked to peacefully correct the years of errors and poor decisions approved by previous board and administrators. The fact that she left speaks volumes about her boss. For people to perpetuate the myth that Dr. White is leaving due to a simple clerical error from a county clerk is absolutely ridiculous! Seriously? If anyone really believes this ALONE was the sole reason for the mutual separation, you are being naive.

The only people with full access to the whole story are the current board members and the district's attorneys. Anything anyone else thinks is conjecture. Remember, the decision was made based on information that will NEVER be made available to the public due to mutual agreement of both parties. There is no transparency in confidential settlement agreements made by school districts and their lawyers. Only Dr. White and a handful of others will ever know the truth. The accountability committee based their decisions on confidential documents, contracts, and discussions that took time away from their own families and professions. While some board members may not have grasped, or even read the important details, I have faith that the majority of the group made an excellent, thoughtful decision in the best interest of our children and taxpayers. I thank this group of board members for courageously standing up for the interests of our children and this community.
November 8, 2017 at 2:40 PM
The Reason for the BOE's Silence on All the Reasons Behind the Mutual Termination Agreement

We agree with the information provided by the commentor, and in particular their statement that "there is no transparency in confidential settlement agreements."  Although this blog is all about transparency, we recognize that in personnel matters, especially as sensitive as mutual agreements to end a relationship with a superintendent, the employee -- in this case White -- has a right to expect that board members respect the sanctity of the executive session and his right to privacy in personnel matters.   While the community can run wild with speculation about all the reasons why HE and the BOE agreed to part ways, WE WILL NEVER KNOW the full rationale or reasons behind their mutual decision.  White has a privacy right that the BOE should nott violate.  It is therefore disturbing that at least one "male" board member has selectively chosen to violate executive session confidentiality when he felt it would help White, essentially disrespecting his fellow board members who ALL are required to remain silent.

In addition, a close read of Section 8 of the Mutual Agreement reveals a MUTUAL NON-DISPARAGEMENT provision.  It states:

"The Parties agree they will not make any statement to any third party that either party could reasonably foresee would cause harm to the personal or professional reputation of the other Party."

Both Parties (White and the BOE) agreed that "to the fullest extent permitted by law [they] will not make or cause to be made any statements that are calculated or likely to have the effect of disparaging, damaging or otherwise reflecting negatively on the reputation of [the other Party]."
(Source:  Section 8 of the Mutual Termination Agreement.)

Section 8 goes on to state that White and the BOE's comments on the Mutual Termination Agreement  are RESTRICTED to the Press Release Board President Burns read during the October 30 meeting (Exhibit B to the Mutual Agreement) and a Letter of Recommenation the BOE is providing White (Exhibit A to the Mutual Agreement).

So what does this all mean?  This means that the BOE CANNOT respond to the public lashing it has  has been subjected to by the Hinsdalean, in public comments made by angry D181 residents and former Board Members and posts and comments that the VOTE YES FOR HMS group has been publishing on Facebook.  They are unable to defend or explain their reason AND White's reasons for agreeing to end his relationship with D181 effective June 30, 2018.

Bloggers' Response to the Criticism of the Board Majority

But just as certain community members have seen fit to publicly attack the Board's decision and make veiled threats to their personal reputation, we will now publicly state that not only do we support the Board's majority vote to approve the Mutual Termination Agreement, we are confident that there were good reasons why the board sought to end its relationship with White and contrary to what some community members have alleged, there was no vendetta against White or an unfair decision based upon a simple clerical mistake he made.

To begin,  whether people like it or not, Don White AGREED to leave D181 and his job as superintendent.  Anyone with common sense should conclude from the fact that BOTH the BOE and White agreed not to disparage each other -- or say anything that might reflect negatively on each other's reputation --  that there are things Dr. White does not want made public.

If the ONLY reason White agreed to leave D181 is because of a clerical mistake the BOE is upset about, it is doubtful that he would have agreed to go silent, since his mistake and refusal to inform the BOE was already in the public domain.   What is not known because the board has been silenced by the anti-disparagement clause in the Mutual Termination Agreement are any other reasons it may have had to supported ending the relationship with Dr. White.

But perhaps, we can begin to figure out what those reasons are.

A. Validity of White's Contract Extension Questionable.

Less than one year ago, it became apparent that problems existed under White's leadership that had nothing to do with a clerical mistake.  Back on December 12, 2016, Dr. White's original 3 year contract was renewed EARLY, extended by an ADDITIONAL 3 years and then BACKDATED to June 30, 2016, one full year before it was set to expire.

This is essence gave him a new 4 year contract, something that was UNPRECEDENTED in recent D181 history.  We have dug back into the D181 archives of publicly available documents and found NO OTHER such backdated contract renewal and extension given to past superintendents.  All other superintendents who have been around long enough to have their contracts extended, simply had them renewed for ADDITIONAL time effective the day AFTER their first contracts were set to expire.

One must therefor ask, WHY DID THE MAJORITY of the LAST BOE take this unprecendented step, especially since it WAS NOT SUPPORTED by all the BOE members?

The minutes of the 12/12/16 BOE meeting reveal that one board member, Leslie Gray, opposed the contract extension.  She stated that the proposed extension did not comply with the Illinois School Code requiring that White meet all of his performance goals as listed in his first contract.  She also stated concerns with the length of the extension, backdating of the second contract, inclusion of post-retirment benefits and removal of a provision that would have allowed the BOE to terminate his contract without cause.  (Source:  12/12/16 BOE Meeting Minutes)

The minutes further reflect that then BOE President Garg made a point of stating that the board has consulted with legal counsel who had opined that although the BOE could determine that White had not met specific goals, it could find that he had made adequate progress and thus meet the Illinois School Code requirements allowing for a contract extension.

Ultimately five board members -- Garg, Giltner, Clarin, Vorobiev and Turek -- voted to extend White's contract.  Burns voted Present and Gray voted NAY.  Just as the vote to approve the Mutual Termination Agreement was not unanimous, neither was the vote to approve White's contract extension.  We find it fascinating that commuinity members who have been quick to criticize the BOE's non-unanimous vote to approve the Mutual Termination agreement had absolutely no concerns when the vote was not unamimous to approve White's second contract.  Why wasn't anyone concerned then at the lack of unanimity? More importantly, should they have been?

We believe the answer is yes, they should have been very concerned.

What does the Illinois School Code actually state regarding whether White's contract should have been extended in the first place?  It states that (emphasis added):

(105 ILCS 5/10-23.8a) (from Ch. 122, par. 10-23.8a) 
    Sec. 10-23.8a. Principal, assistant principal, and other administrator contracts. After the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1997 and the expiration of contracts in effect on the effective date of this amendatory Act, school districts may only employ principals, assistant principals, and other school administrators under either a contract for a period not to exceed one year or a performance-based contract for a period not to exceed 5 years, unless the provisions of Section 10-23.8b of this Code or subsection (e) of Section 24A-15 of this Code otherwise apply. 
    Performance-based contracts shall be linked to student performance and academic improvement attributable to the responsibilities and duties of the principal, assistant principal, or administrator. No performance-based contract shall be extended or rolled-over prior to its scheduled expiration unless all the performance and improvement goals contained in the contract have been met. Each performance-based contract shall include the goals and indicators of student performance and academic improvement determined and used by the local school board to measure the performance and effectiveness of the principal, assistant principal, or other administrator and such other information as the local school board may determine. 
    By accepting the terms of a multi-year contract, the principal, assistant principal, or administrator waives all rights granted him or her under Sections 24-11 through 24-16 of this Act only for the term of the multi-year contract. Upon acceptance of a multi-year contract, the principal, assistant principal, or administrator shall not lose any previously acquired tenure credit with the district. 
(Source: P.A. 97-217, eff. 7-28-11.)

(Source:  Illinois School Code Section on Multi-year Administrative Contracts)

The section of the Illinois School Code that the BOE was required to apply in order to extend White's contract AND extend it prior to iit's June 30, 2016 expiration date REQUIRED that "ALL PERFORMANCE AND IMPROVEMENT GOALS CONTAINED IN THE CONTRACT HAVE BEEN MET.

This school code DOES NOT allow an early extension if a board of education finds, as Garg stated publicly, that White had made "adequate progress."  If the same attorneys that kept information from the BOE regarding White's "clerical mistake" are the same ones that opined that adequate progress was all that was required, then perhaps they were WRONG, gave the board BAD legal counsel and this is yet another reason why the BOE is now in the process of replacing them.

In addition to reviewing what the school code actually requires, we have also gone back and looked at White's first multi-year contract. It can be accessed at the following link: White's First Contract.  Section 3 of the contract spelled out in detail the performance goals that he was required to accomplish in order for to have his contract renewed.  After reading the list, we are shocked that 5 board members  concluded that White had made adequate progress at all  since what is clear as a bell is that White failed to meet some very significant goals, let alone ALL of them as required by the Illinois School Code.

While we will not go into detail on all of the goals, everyone in the community knows that as of 12/12/16:

No Master Facility Plan was approved as required.
Student Achievement had not improve as required.
Not only was the Learning for All Plan not "aligned" to the District's philosophy, it had been eradicated.
Five year budgets were not implemented as required.

All of these "performance goals" were White's responsibility to achieve BEFORE his contract could be extended.  Yet the BOE majority ignored the School Code requirements, choosing to rely instead on advice of counsel to allow them to extend and backdate his contract without his having met the goals.

HOW IS THAT APPROPRIATE or in the best interest of the district?

B. Timing of Contract Extension Questionable.

Of equal interest is the timing of the contract extension.   It was approved the same month that the HMS referendum publication error came to light.   When the publication error was first discussed by the BOE, all the focus was on the Dupage County Election Commission as being responsible for the error.  White made no acknolwedgment that he had made a "mistake" in not following counsel's checklist, a mistake which could have prevented the Election Commission from publishing the HMS referendum  notice too early.  Rather than disclose his mistake to the BOE,  White remained silent all the while that the BOE was deciding whether to approve an early, backdated 4 year extension to his contract.

We don't know about you, but we are deeply disturbed by the TIMING of White's contract extension. We are deeply disturbed that no one in the community cried foul when a board member asserted that the contract extension was not in compliance with the Illinois School Code.  We are deeply concerned that past board members who voted to extend the contract under such questionable circumstances have now been publicly critical of the current board's decision.

It's time for the Community to Wise Up!

We urge community members who have dumbed down the Board's decision to part ways with White as a vendetta by certain board members and an inappropriate reaction to a clerical mistake, to WISE UP and start following more in the district than just the construction of a new HMS.

If you do, you may be shocked to learn that ON WHITE'S WATCH the district is now facing a multi-million dollar deficit due to POOR PLANNING and LACK OF BUDGETING funds to pay for capital improvements that are NEEDED at the 8 other schools.  The HMS fiasco started with  a leaky roof, and yet 2 roof at other schools -- the Lane and Elm -- now both need new roofs that will cost over $1 million and there is no money in the district's budget to pay for them.

But don't believe us.  Go back and listen to the podcasts of the recent Facilities and Finance Committee meetings, as well as the financial presentations at the last two regular board meetings.  The BOE will now face the daunting task of figuring out how to balance the budget and pay for needed capital improvements.  Unfotunately, this will likely require CUTS in the budget.

So what will be on the chopping block?

Teachers? (Which could lead to increased class sizes.)
Teacher's Salaries?  (Will they agree to salary reductions or salary freezes in their upcoming contract negotiations?)
Classroom supplies?
Overpaid administrative staff?

White may be leaving next June, but the financial problems will not be leaving with him.  The next superintendent will face a big fat financial mess that he/she will have to work with the BOE on without negatively impacting our students.

So was a clerical mistake really all that was behind the Mutual Termination Agreement?  We think not.  What do you think?



Anonymous said...

This morning I sat down to read my Tribune and your latest post. I shook my head at the irony of what is NOT happening in Illinois both at the State and local levels. Trib columnist John Kass wrote about how Illinois legislators have been rapidly implementing sexual harassment training in the face of allegations. Ironically, however, at the same time, their legislative "boss" -- Madigan -- did nothing to fill the position of the Inspector General (who investigates complaints)-- left vacant for almost 3 years while two dozen ethics complaints were left to languish. Legislative Ethics board members didn't even know the complaints had been filed, but apparently Madigan did. On Madigan's watch as "the boss," the vacancy wasn't filled and complaints just sat there. Kass ends his column by saying "So with all the talk about the culture of Springfield changing, is it really changing? No. Because the boss is the boss is the boss." (Source: 11/9/17 Chicago Tribune, Section 1, p. 2. Kass column titled "Madigan and 'Changing' the Culture in Springfield.")

The irony of Kass's colunn hit home since for years, D181 parents like myself have been complaining about the mess in the SPED department and seen complaints against lower level building SPED administrators and Asst. Sups of SPED essentially be ignored. We have often wondered if the BOE even knows about our complaints. In my opinion, the district's "boss" -- the superintendent -- has failed to fill SPED vacancies with administrators who truly want to change the D181 cutlure and ensure that our children's special needs are actually addressed. Despite letting SPED families down, the BOE extended his contract and found he had made "adequate progress." Adequate? At whose expense? Just like at the state level, nothing will really change because the "boss is the boss is the boss."

So change the boss. I thank the new BOE majority for agreeing to change the boss. Now I hope the BOE will pick a new boss that will actually change the culture in D181 and help it become the shining beacon for ALL children that it once was.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to see some consistency in the administration, just so that the teachers can then focus their attention on actually teaching their students rather than splitting their focus between teaching and learning while new systems. But we need GOOD people at the top to help support the teachers. We don’t need another “Oops, I made a mistake that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars” administrator. We also need people the teachers and community can respect. I just shudder remembering when Richard Skoda was on D86’s board. Here’s one (of many) reasons why I despise Skoda:

As for the budget, and what to cut, I really hope the next superintendant cuts salaries and consolidated responsibilities for central administration. Unlikely, but White did reorganize the administration a number of times. Who knows? The next superintendant might do some good reorganization, but I’ve been in the district to know not to get my hopes up. Chances are we’ll lose staff, and not just teachers. This includes social workers, librarians, techs, nurses, custodian/maintenance, etc. I know some people who give teachers a hard time for not living in the district, can we really blame them? While there are a few teachers who make over $100,000, that’s only because they have something like 30+ years in the district and multiple masters degrees, or a doctorate. Most others are a fair bit below 6 figures. I know that several of the support staff often work second jobs to support themselves and their families. I just wish the board and administrators would check themselves before they cut other things.