Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Irony of the Official News that White has been hired by Mokena School District 159

Last night the director of communications sent out the following email making official what we already knew was happening Wednesday night:

"Dear D181 Families, Staff, and Key Communicators,

The purpose of this communication is to inform you that Dr. White was approved as the Superintendent of Mokena School District 159 at their Board of Education meeting this evening (Wednesday, December 20). His employment in District 159 is effective beginning July 1, 2018

Dr. White has expressed his continued commitment to District 181 through June 30, noting specifically his commitment to ensuring that current projects continue successfully over the next six months and transition smoothly over to the incoming Superintendent. 

Sincerely,
Bridget McGuiggan"

When we read the last paragraph we couldn't help but see the irony in Dr. White's stated "commitment to ensuring that current projects continue successfully over the next six months and transition smoothly over to the incoming Superintendent."

Such a committment flies in the face of the "holiday greetings" Dr. White emailed to the community on Wednesday night.  The following paragraph purported to tout the great achievements Dr. White and his team have accomplished on the strategic plan goals, but the reality is that buried non-transparently in this paragraph was the harsh reality that as a result of poor planning and disregard for the capital needs at all the other schools besides Hinsdale Middle School, the district is now faced with a major (and growing) budget deficit of over $1.36 million that will require "cuts" in the near future.  Dr. White's emails stated in relevant part:

"I am proud to share that much great work is currently underway in District 181, all rooted in our multi-year Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan helps us to prioritize initiatives, make effective decisions, and work together toward a common vision. This focus in turn creates opportunities for more efficient spending and better long-term planning. For example, on Monday evening, the Board approved a list of major capital projects to be bid, which we intend to complete this summer. (View the report on BoardDocs). The projects were first identified through a third party assessment, and then reviewed by our Buildings and Grounds Director and District Architect. Then, the list was vetted by our Board Facilities Committee, which is comprised of residents, staff, and Board members. Because our facility needs were carefully prioritized through a data-driven process, we had an informed discussion about 2017-18 and 2018-19 Budget needs, prepared a necessary tax levy recommendation, and received Board approval for the projects to be bid at a time when the bids are most likely to be competitive. We will be able to complete some major building work that had been deferred and help protect the community’s investment in our schools, while maintaining a safe learning environment. This means that we may need to consider making reductions in other areas of the District budget, but it is critical that we invest in the long-term operation of our facilities."

Note the second and third sentences that we have bolded.  While true that a Strategic Plan is always intended to "create opportunities for more efficient spending and better long-term capital planning," in our opinion, the D181 Strategic Plan did NOT lead to efficiencies in the Capital Projects planning.  In truth, other than focusing on building a new HMS, the real capital needs at 8 of the districts 9 schools were not properly dealt with over the last four years.  Not only has the new Chief Financial Officer explained to the BOE (as justification for going into deficit spending and maximizing the tax levy that was approved by them on Monday night) that the annual $500,000 budgeted for capital needs have been woefully insufficient to pay for the capital projects needed at all of the district's school buildings, it now appears that in order to properly address the capital needs, $2 million PER YEAR must be budgeted for the next 5 years.  This will, of course, only GROW the deficit each year, unless the district continues to approve a maximum annual levy AS WELL AS  make cuts in other areas.

NOWHERE in Dr. White's happy email does he inform the community of the actual deficit, or that it now stands at $1.36 million deficit or that it may continue to grow if capital improvements continue. NOWHERE in his email did he explain the cause of the deficit or the fact that during his tenure the administration failed to properly budget for the capital needs at 8 of the 9 schools.  NOWHERE in his email did he candidly explain the ramifications of this poor administrative planning.  For Dr. White to casually state at the end of the paragraph that the district "may need to consider making reductions in other areas of the District budget"  without mentioning EVEN ONCE that for the first time in several years the BOE had to approve a maximum levy which means that ALL OF OUR TAXES will go UP next year, over and above the HMS referendum impact, AND that despite this maximization, there will still be a $1.36 million deficit, is in our opinion unconscionable and completely non-transparent. 

The positive spin of Dr. White's words ignore his failure and that of his past administrators in charge of buildings and grounds to do the necessary work to identify and then properly budget for the capital needs at Elm, Oak, Monroe, Prospect, Walker, The Lane, Madison and CHMS.

To state simply that the district "may need to consider making reductions in other areas of the District budget" is absurd when anyone who has been listening to the growing concern expressed by board members over the last 2 months as the looming deficit was finally exposed knows that the district WILL NEED TO MAKE CUTS!  If is not a matter of IF, rather it is a matter of of WHAT CUTS WILL BE PROPOSED to balance the budget, and keep it balanced over the next five years, as the capital work needed at all of the schools is completed.

Will there be a suggestion to cut programs?  Will there be a suggestion to increase class sizes to reduce teachers?  Will there be a suggestion to cut planned technology expansion? Will there be a suggestion to reduce or stream-line the top heavy administration or hire administrators at lower salaries?  Dr. White's "holiday greeting email" didn't mention what might be proposed, but according to the Hinsdale Doings article reporting on the 12/18 BOE meeting at which the new tax levy was approved, the Chief Financial Officer stated:

"We have some ideas about ways to save money and will be talking in the next few months about some additional things that can be done. Ultimately, we will focus on things that have the least impact on the classroom."  The article went on to state that: "Dada said he believes District 181 can save about $360,000 with more efficient use of school buses and an additional $211,000 with more efficient recruiting and hiring of new teachers." (Source:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/news/ct-dhd-d181-levy-tl-1221-20171219-story.html

Looking closely at what Mr. Dada stated, alarm bells should be going off. If one of the proposals is to save $360,000 with more efficient use of buses, does this mean that this year's newly implemented school start times will revert back to the old start times? Let's not forget that as a result of changing the start times the bus costs went up. Parents and BOE members clamored for years for a change in start times, which were finally approved last year and implemented this school year. Had the administration properly budgeted for the needed capital improvements at ALL schools, perhaps this is one change and added cost that would NOT have been approved after all.  

Similary, we believe that the statement that $211,000 can be saved with "more efficient recruiting and hiring of new teachers" can only mean one thing. No doubt, the proposal would be to hire cheaper, untested, unproven teachers with little to no experience to replace highly paid retiring teachers. We would urge the administration and BOE to exercise extreme caution in going that route, since cheaper is not always better, and inexperienced and new is definitely not as good as an experienced, tested and proven teacher who comes to the district from elsewhere. We have always stated that D181 is not a "starter district" and we hope that the quality of teachers is not negatively impacted as the district takes the difficult steps needed to eliminate the budget deficit.  

Since at this point no cut list has been presented to the BOE, we want to suggest one way to trim the deficit.  Cut the size of the administrative staff and replace overpaid, possibly unnecessary administrators with cheaper ones. Case in point -- the director of communications who earns over $110,000/year in salary and benefits.  Does D181 really need to employ a director of communications who earns that much?  We hope that the BOE takes the time to do an analysis of what other high achieving districts pay for such administrative positions BEFORE they consider replacing retiring teachers with cheaper inexperienced teachers. It seems to us if an inexperienced staff member is needed, it should be one who will not directly impact the classroom!

Finally, when will the administration actually prepare the proposed cut list and present it to the BOE for discussion? Will it be in the next 6 months on Dr. White's watch?  Or will this be one of the "projects" that he will simply "transition smoothly over to the incoming Superintendent?"

We will be waiting and watching what Dr. White's next move will be, so stay tuned and as always, SOUND OFF!














4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea. White can save the district $100,000 if he doesn't take his parting gift.

Anonymous said...

Fools. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-mokena-new-superintendent-st-1222-20171226-story.html

Anonymous said...

Can anyone please explain to me what a TOSA C&I is?

Anonymous said...

It is an instructional coach. A TOSA helps teachers and students build their content understanding of curriculum and instruction, utilizing various instructional frameworks. A TOSA also typically provides professional development to teachers. TOSA stands for teacher on special assignment.