Thursday, January 18, 2018

Breaking News: HMS Construction Budget Doesn't Include Over $530,000 in Needed Technology Funding

Tuesday night we listened to the 1/16/18 Board Meeting Live Podcast.  We hadn't done this in a while, but after glancing at Board Docs, we were troubled to read two documents that seemed to suggest that the $53 million dollar budget for the new Hinsdale Middle School does not include over $530,000 in needed Technology Funding.  This UNDERFUNDING is not just technology funding for HMS, but funding needed to move the current Fiber Optic Cabling and Hub for the entire district from the old HMS to the new HMS.  Without this hook up, the entire district will be negatively impacted.

We urge our readers to do 3 things:

2.  Listen to the Podcast starting at Counter 1:18:11: Click to Open 1/16/18 Meeting Podcast.

3.  Write letters to Dr. White and the Board of Education DEMANDING accountability for this latest fiasco.

The following is a very brief summary of this latest mess.  We are disgusted by this information, but even more disgusted to see that the local paper so many residents rely upon for "news" -- the Hinsdalean -- didn't publish a story exposing this (at least not as of the writing of this post).  We have decided that it is not our job to spell out all the details for the entire D181 community.  Rather, we are only going to provide a framework and links to allow our readers to gather the facts on their own. If our readers choose not to do so, then so be it.

What we learned is that over $530,000 in NEEDED technology was NOT budgeted into the $53 million HMS referendum.  This technology includes $180,000 needed to move the DISTRICT INTERNET HUB (our words to describe the Fiber Optic Cabling that runs from HMS to all 9 schools) from the OLD HMS to the NEW HMS. In addition, $285,000 is not included in the budget for Network Equipment and Installation and approximately another $60,000 is not included for needed technology equipment.  

During the board meeting, the 6 members who attended (once again Marty Turek was a no-show), all expressed concern about this underfunding of the HMS budget and asked many tough questions about how it was possible that the new building budget excluded the technology that is needed to run the entire district.  Some board members rightfully pointed out that taxpayers ASSUMED when they voted for the new HMS that it was an "all in" project and that at a minimum, the new HMS would contain the same services and items that the old HMS has.  Further, other board members pointed out that it is troubling that as the project has rolled out, the Board has been asked to ADD things to the budget, such as a fitness center and larger basement, and have been asked (but didn't approve) "extras" such as adding back the running track and using expensive tile flooring.  

We should all recall that the original Cordogan Clark (the architect's) design budget was $47 million, but when costed out was over $70 million.  The board then directed them to come back with a cheaper design, and things like the running track, auditorium and turf field were eliminated to bring the cost down.  At that time, the community was not aware that in addition to these items, operable windows were also eliminated and the HVAC system was downgraded.  After the project started, some of these items were identified as being needed and were added back. To our knowledge, at no time was the BOE or community told that the budget would not cover NEEDED TECHNOLOGY.  It remains unclear whether this was not budgeted in the first place, or was stripped out during the attempt by Cordogan Clark to lower the cost of the building.

In a nutshell, and in our opinion, there may have been another HUGE BAIT AND SWITCH tactic perpetrated on District 181 taxpayers.  The first questions that need to be answered are WHO IS AT FAULT and WHO NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE?  

Additional questions that need to be answered are:

1.  Did the HMS design budget EVER include the NEEDED technology?
2.  If not, why not?
3.  If yes, when was it stripped out, who authorized it and who in the District knew about it?
4.  Why was the BOE not told about this until NOW?

The most important question, of course, is HOW WILL THESE TECHNOLOGY NEEDS BE PAID FOR?  By now everyone knows that due to capital needs at the other 8 schools not having been budgeted for in the last few years, the district will now face a $1.5 million deficit and CUTS ARE COMING that may impact our children's education.  The latest on this can be found at 1/16/18 Superintendent's Report.

It is clear from the comments made by some board members, that the district CANNOT AFFORD to pay for the HMS TECHNOLOGY NEEDS from the district budget, since this would grow the projected deficit and increase the cut list by another $530,000.  So something will have to be cut from the HMS budget.  Will it be NEW furniture? Will it be HIGH END FINISHES?  We don't know and neither does the Board at this point.

What we do know is that SOMEONE needs to pay for this underfunding and the BOE needs to conduct an immediate investigation to determine who is responsible. 

We hope the BOE will report their findings to the community at the next Board Meeting. 

Until then, SOUND OFF here and by writing the BOE and Dr. White letters expressing your opinion on this issue.


Anonymous said...

I am not a Hinsdale resident to be honest, but instead, a neighboring resident that works in education and recognizes the concern of 181’s decisions. That being said, the most troubling part for me, working in education, is that Hinsdale’s hardworking tax payers do not deserve to have to write the words “the district can not afford it.” How is that fair to the taxpayer’s children? Our future leaders? How about the teachers? Yet, the district continues to hire several unnecessary district administrative positions without recognizing the need to sustain fiscal responsibility and frontline members (educators). In short, my concerned rant here really was meant just to say, you guys deserve better!

Anonymous said...

9:02, agreed. With this in addition to the $1.5 million shortfall, several things are going to be cut. And I'm certain it won't be administrative staff nor expensive consultants that we shouldn't need in the first place if the administration actually knew how to do their jobs. No. The cuts will be made by teachers and support staff, along with classroom supplies. Hello larger class sizes. Hello longer time to process requests. Hello schools being cleaned less frequently and at a lower quality. This reminds me of the story that has been going around lately of that teacher in a different district who made a comment at a board meeting. She asked why their teachers haven't gotten a raise in almost 10 years, yet the superintendent got a ~30% raise from $110,000 to $140,000. She was asked to leave, and was actually handcuffed while she was leaving by the police officer there.

Plus, I've raised concerns to some of the administrators on occasion, and they've often turned it around to me, saying that I'm acting inappropriately and it's not reasonable to do what I asked. They seriously can't be more transparent and have better ways to get community input? They often said I was wrong in my assumptions and whatever. I admit, I have my issues, who doesn't? But that doesn't mean my points aren't valid. Don't tell me that you've discussed the decisions millions of times while making them. Don't tell me "Too many cooks in the kitchen." Don't tell me "Trust us, we know what we're doing." Clean up your house and get proper input from the proper people, make your decisions, and how you reached them, more transparent. If you make a mistake, own up to it right away. Don't cover it up! The cover up is far worse than the mistake.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with both comments. Let me emphasize that I, too, have had administrators turn things around and blame me for acting inappropriately. It seems to be the MO of our administrators. It takes away from the real issues which never seem to be solved. But, hey, we are getting a beautiful new middle school.

Anonymous said...

6:42 (this is 9:02 - sounds like a secret agent, lol) very well spoken! In educational administration, it’s 101 to know to NEVER tell a parent they’re out of line, that’s number one. Two, as a human being with a heart, I always take parent concerns into account and am always looking for ways to make things better. Leadership is about listening, taking what you’ve learned and looking at ways to leverage suggestions to improve teaching and learning. The same goes for students. Our future leaders deserve a voice too. If you shut a parent or student down, you tell them “I don’t care.” That shows you aren’t a public servant, and are probably in the wrong profession.

Turning to teachers, these are your frontline people. From what I’ve read, parents really support 181 teachers! That being said, they deserve a voice in matters. They spend their day with students, not consultants, not 12 Asst. Supt.’s of Learning (I’m exaggerating lol).

It doesn’t matter if students come from rich neighborhoods or poor neighborhoods; broken families or tight-knitted families; as educators and ed. administrators, it is our duty to focus on educating the whole child - through ongoing support, commitment, compassion and exceptional teaching, learning and innovation. It would be nice for the new superintendent and hopefully new administration to focus on those same principles, all while rebuilding trust and partnership within the community

*This was typed on a smartphone; please excuse any grammatical errors*

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with all of the above posts. It is disturbing that public service improvements in this community for police, fire department, roads and infrastructure will continue to be denied financial support because D181 has been taking an enormously unfair piece of the property taxpayer pie for far too long. D181 repeatedly has PROVEN that it cannot get a grip on its ability to budget and spend within its needs. No wonder taxpayers here recently decided to vote against a referendum to update Hinsdale Central High School. What logical person would vote to support a referendum for D86 after realizing that D181's construction project is getting away with rampant taxpayer fraud and unsupervised spending? They promised $50 million, yet somehow, keep adding on costs. Why on Earth would taxpayers sign up to have D86 do the same thing to us?

D181 continues to unfairly siphon off too much of our property taxes for HMS. HMS employees must open their eyes and realize that this is the direct result of their own lack of communication, honesty, and transparency to taxpayers. Taxpayers do not like rewarding public schools who behave badly. Especially if they are forced to send to their kids to private schools to get basic things like evidence based curriculums and honest communication. If staff at both D86 and D181 want public schools here to continue their reputation for excellence, employees (particularly administrators) will need to start making some of the sacrifices along with parents in this town who are footing their salaries. Work is hard. That is why you get paid to do it.

If staff at HMS wanted a pretty new school and all of the conveniences that come along with it, they need to pay for it by voluntarily cutting their own salaries and raises. The Yes on HMS parents who rammed it down our throats can put their money where their mouths are by donating MORE of THEIR OWN MONEY to this unnecessary project. At the very least, they should stop defending the actions of these administrators. Staff and parents need to do what the rest of us do in our businesses and corporations do when things are not working - roll some heads and take some cuts. Make changes. Don't just keep feeding the monster. District staff can start re-building trust by providing truthful, above board services to show that their truly WANT and value their jobs. Parent are tired of overpaying D181 staff when we no longer have kids in the system, and, when they were in the system, these same people ignored and dismissed our concerns.

If the Board of Education and Village of Hinsdale Board keep bailing D181 out by overspending, passing referendums, and maintaining the unfair property tax funding formula, D181 will never learn that there are negative consequences to overspending. We must stop bailing them out. The district can file for bankruptcy if they need to because we are fed up with enabling them. Bring in a Charter School if we have to because the last 10 years of ineffective leadership in D181 has taught us that throwing money at a sinking ship does not help it float. It is time for our community to take drastic action if it wants the future of public K-8 schools in this community to survive.

Anonymous said...

12:44, while I agree that the staff should bite the bullet and take pay cuts, and that some of the additional features of the new HMS (like a running track, auditorium, etc.) should be funded by donations and not property taxes, I have to vehemently disagree that HMS employees are to blame for this, or at least not the main and only source of the problems. I've been rereading the blog posts from the whole Polar Vortex "water intrusion event." Looks like several HMS employees, including the principal, head custodian, and some teachers, noticed the causes of the "event," notified the administration, and were shot down. Several of the staff spoke at the board meetings right after and told the board and administration various health concerns that affected them over the previous years due to mold. So no, I don't see the HMS staff being at fault here; it's the administration is. They were too penny-wise and pound-foolish. The administration could have listened to the employees, spent a few thousand dollars extra doing proper maintenance, but instead, they chose to ignore it and now we, the taxpayers, are paying millions of dollars in clean up work. So please, blame the board and central administration before you blame specifically the HMS staff.

Also, you may not see a new school as necessary, but there are many in the community who do. Besides the mold, the general layout of HMS is not the most conducive to learning. There are classes of 30 students where kids in the front row of seats can touch the front wall. Traffic in the hallways is jam packed at times. Presentations in the commons and library cause sound problems for the surrounding rooms. Are you the kind of person who thinks "That's a problem everywhere. Put up with it or leave"? Personally, I don't mind putting in some of my money to improve the school. Before you ask, yes I have put in my own money to improve HMS. I admit, some stuff, like a raised running track and an auditorium aren't crucial to the learning environment. However, I remember former CHMS principal lobbying for the auditorium as the whole district, and possibly even non-district groups, can benefit from it, not just HMS. Plus, the village is paying for the parking deck, which will have over 200+ parking spaces. Not only will HMS staff be able to use it, but it'll also be open to the rest of the village. If you've ever tried to park in downtown Hinsdale, you'll understand why this can be very useful. The HMS staff might have suggested some of this stuff, but because it could be useful for the education of their students as well as benefitting the other schools & community, not just to be more glamorous.

To be fair, though, you're absolutely correct in the district's overspending. The administration spends far too much. They don't do the proper maintenance of its facilities. They keep having to pay off superintendents when they leave. They bring in expensive "experts," experiment with expensive, untested curriculums. While a charter school could work here, my experience is that it could (and I emphasize COULD) have even worse results for students with IEPs & 504s. Several of my education friends have said (please correct me if I'm wrong) that charters & private schools can pick their students, and aren't bound by the same special ed laws that public schools are. I admit, I could have the wrong information, so please (politely) correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

12:44: maybe you should lobby your state legislators and have them get the ball rolling on a constitutional amendment eliminating public schools. That way, you only pay for schools if you have kids in them and if you voluntarily decide to donate money otherwise.

Anonymous said...

3:04- If state prosecutors and legislators stopped allowing D181 administrators to mismanage this district's taxpayer dollars, no one would take issue with our public schools. And please don't tell me that most parents don't have a problem with the schools, and therefore, are happy with D181. The reality is that many parents/residents are totally unaware of district's problems, professional obligations, and overspending. If our Board cannot resolve these issues themselves, iIt is their obligation to notify state and/or federal agencies of these serious issues. As voted representatives, turning a blind eye to our district's obvious problems is a violation of their duties to the people who voted for them. When the liability of our public schools outweighs its value, and maintaining the schools becomes unmanageable, more cost effective options will prevail. I am a proponent of public schools, but NOT when they are run like D181 has been. I agree that the previous school board did an awful job of fulfilling its duty to our community. They also did did a terrible job of selecting and retaining many of the current administrators. Their lack of action seriously compounded the problems that our current board is facing.

The Village of Hinsdale was in terrible shape a few years ago before Tom Cauley and his new board voluntarily cleaned up the fiscal mess created by years of terrible leadership. However, Cauley and his board were not attacked for taking action to correct the overspending and mismanagement. They were applauded. In contrast, our new Board of Education has been routinely attacked by a small group of ill-informed people who cannot grasp the concept that public entities are obligated to be transparent, truthful, and stay within a budget. It is disappointing to see a handful of people publicly criticize our BOE for FINALLY taking action to stop the mismanagement, especially since the budget of D181 is much larger and more complicated than the Village of Hinsdale's budget.

Anonymous said...

2:59 - I do not blame ALL of the teachers. Some did not know about the years of roof leaks and the ensuing mold. However, as you say, many KNEW of or SUSPECTED mold. How could it be that these staff never bothered to bring this serious health concern up to parents at parent conferences, PTO meetings, or in district e-blasts during the years that it supposedly happened? Why didn't they anonymously tell The Hinsdalean or The Doings? When they saw that the superintendent(s) FAILED to immediately act to correct the problem, it was their professional obligation to TELL PARENTS and any other governmental authority about the risk. Any HEALTH DEPARTMENT in this state could have been informed, but was not. (If they were, and did nothing, then they should be held responsible for failing their professional obligations. ) Those staff who knew made an informed decision that they would rather be exposed to mold and get paid than find another job. But what about our poor kids? They and parents were denied the ability to make that choice. While I do not envy the position these employees were put it, these employees ARE guilty of failing to inform ALL parents about the problem. The cover up by staff is worse than the crime. It is actually another crime.

By law, teachers are obligated to protect the health and well being of their students. For example, teachers are required by law to notify DCFS if they think a parent is abusing a child. I know of instances in which staff at HMS called DCFS to report parents. So how is it that SO MANY staff failed to inform the County Health Department and DCFS that MOLD had been in the building for years? Kids, especially those with Asthma and health problems were unnecessarily put at risk. ALL employees - teaching, nursing, and administrative - who had the slightest NOTION that our kids were continually being exposed to mold clearly violated their professional obligations in public schools. They also were obligated to tell us if the $2 million work done 2 years ago wasn't done correctly. Fear of retaliation from the administration is not an excuse. If you recall:

* Mr. Pena and his staff did NOT immediately inform parents, village leaders, local legislative/governmental bodies, the newspapers, or the local health department about the mold. When did he inform the BOE and PTO boards? Perhaps these D181 employees did not want to lose their jobs, however, this was at the expense of our kids' and their own health. At least employees were getting paid to be there. Parents had no idea and we were paying for the supposed facilities maintenance of HMS and all schools the entire time. The lack of timely, honest information can only be blamed on those who KNEW or SUSPECTED the extent of mold crisis. In this case, it was the adults who were paid to work in the building. If ANY superintendent knew, but then ignored or covered it up, then he or she must be held accountable. Their administrative and teaching licenses should be revoked and they should be sanctioned. Instead of getting paid to leave, these administrators should be forced to pay US back for their negligence.

Anonymous said...


* What do you mean by saying the old HMS was not "conducive to learning"? There is no way you could logically prove that wider hallways, more windows, and new chairs will improve learning. It is just a silly opinion not supported by fact.


*A detailed estimate and price of a remodel was NEVER presented to the public for a remodel. If Oak Brook Mall and its investors decided to remodel a 40+ year old building instead of tearing it down, then obviously HMS COULD have been remodeled. The withholding of a price comparison between a remodel vs. a teardown/rebuild was a serious violation of the district's fiduciary duty to taxpayers. The withholding of this information negatively impacted the outcome of the election. In my opinion, the validity of the entire vote and referendum could be appealed due to the lack of this basic information. The past board and failure of the facilities committee to provide all of this information to us before the election was negligent.

* The facilities committee was overwhelmingly represented by staff members and district employees. Why didn't they demand a professional, written estimate for a remodel before falsely claiming that tearing down and rebuilding HMS was more cost effective? The claim that it was cheaper to tear down and rebuild than remodel was totally false because NONE of them were actually aware of what the cost of a remodel would be. Yes on HMS never bothered to pick up on this obvious fact.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the special board meeting scheduled for today is for? Looks like executive session for personnel. Are they interviewing superintendent candidates?

Anonymous said...

Just got an email from the district: Bridget McGuiggan is out! Board will vote to approve her resignation on January 29th, and her last day is February 2nd.

Anonymous said...

This personnel move is a good move in the right direction. Parents want to hear what our district is doing directly from their superintendent and principals - not from a PR person without formal K-8 training. Whichever superintendent hired this person was pawning off his/her own obligations to someone else. PR skills and expertise are not necessary in a public elementary school that values transparency. Information put out by a separate communications director becomes yet another layer of bureaucracy for parents to peel back when trying to navigate through D181. Parents want the district to simplify, not spin, the facts about our schools.

Cuts like these will start putting the district back on a more fiscally responsibly track.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with 1:48. This is truly a step in the right direction. I could definitely find a use for her salary and benefits.

It may be wishful thinking on my part but this gives me hope that Sepiol and her band of Pupil Services Administrators will be gone at some point in the near future.

The Parents said...

We received two comments yesterday that we have deleted until we receive verification of the information. Can the person who posted a list of people a current administrator previously worked with in a prior job and who now work with her in D181, please send us links to your SOURCES. If we can verify the information, we will repost the link with the words "former colleagues" rather than "friends." Thank you.

Anonymous said...

6:24: I’ve never dealt with Sepiol, so I’ll have to take your word on how bad she is. However, I believe law requires the district too have a director of special ed.

As for pupil services administrators, I’ve met 4, but not in any special ed capacity. One was pretty awful and I believe she’s no longer in the district. The other three have been pretty nice to me. Like I said, I never worked with them on anything special ed-wise, so I don’t know how well they work. From the sounds of it, I’m glad I don’t have any kids in special ed. However, can someone explain what a “Pupil Services Administrator” is really supposed to do?

Anonymous said...

Parents: while I didn’t post the comment, I wish to thank you for wanting to verify information. While I might not always agree with what you say or how you say it, I do respect you for wanting to be at least be accurate. I just wish everyone here was willing to do that. Thanks.