Today parents and community members were emailed the latest "Community Connections," D181's Newsletter. It included the following announcement:
"Administrator News from the Director of Communications: Director of Communications Bridgett McGuiggan has announced that she will be leaving the district, with her last day in D181 being February 2, 2018, pending the Board's approval of her resignation as part of the Personnel Agenda at the January 29, 2018 Board meeting. Please watch for a statement following the Board Meeting regarding Ms. McGuiggan's future plans and information on how the vacancy will be addressed."
We have decided to weigh in on how the Board should fill this vacancy. IT SHOULD NOT!
With a confirmed $1.5 million budget deficit, that could potentially be $500,000 larger due to the new HMS budget not including line items for needed technology and to move the District Wide Technology Hub to the new HMS, the district can ill afford a Director of Communications.
Let us remind our readers that Ms. McGuiggan's current annual BASE salary is $96,370 (excluding insurance and retirement benefits). Source: 4/17/17 Personnel Agenda. The district website has not posted the 2017-2018 comprehensive Salary and Benefits report, so we cannot report what her current total compensation package is. However, the district website has posted the 2016-2017 Salary and Benefits report which shows her BASE salary as $92,663, and insurance and retirement benefits as $21,631 for a total compensation package (excluding the "value" of 20 sick days and 20 vacations days (over and above national holidays off) of $114,294. (Source: https://www.d181.org/uploaded/Departments/Business_and_Operations/Financial_Reports/Salaries_Benefits/Salary_Benefit_Report_2016-17.pdf)
Assuming her insurance and retirement benefits have not gone down this year, her current compensation package is worth AT LEAST $118,001.
That's right, $118,001!
When Ms. McGuiggan was hired on February 27, 2012, her base salary was $82,500. (Source: 2/27/2012 Personnel Agenda. This means that in 5 years, her base salary increased by $13,870, on average, more than 3.4% per year.
It seems to us that now that the HMS referendum has been approved and the district's taxpayers are no longer getting bombarded with fliers and mailings marketing the bait and switch project, there is really no reason to employ such a highly compensated Director of Communications. The Board of Education is about to be tasked with approving over $1.5 million in BUDGET CUTS. The decisions on what to cut will be tough. The Board should now ask what exactly Ms. McGuiggan's current job responsibilities include that cannot be performed by other existing administrators, assistants to administrators and administrative secretaries?
In our opinion, at a minimum, the BOE should make the short term decision to NOT FILL THIS VACANCY and then further explore the real need for a Director of Communications with whoever is hired as the new Superintendent.
Once the new superintendent is hired, he or she must work with the Board to eliminate the $1.5 million plus budget deficit. As parents, former D181 parents and district taxpayers, our expectation is that not one penny should be cut that will have a direct impact on our students UNLESS that cut is absolutely needed to balance the deficit and NO OTHER CUTS are available. We expect that whoever the Board hires as the next superintendent will not only agree with us, but will find a creative way to COMMUNICATE with parents and taxpayers WITHOUT employing a Director of Communications!
Eliminating $118,001 from the deficit by not hiring a new director of communications is a NO BRAINER!
Now the only question is whether the 7 seven board members (or at least 4 of them) will use their very intelligent brains and come to this same conclusion!
STAY TUNED AND SOUND OFF!
I've met Bridget McGuiggan and while she's a nice enough person, I agree with you, Parents. We probably don't need a Director of communications. Also, why does the head of special education need to be an assistant superintendent? Can this position be a director level position? Place it under the guidance of the assistant superintendent of curriculum? That should save the district a couple tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Can anyone share a link to the current administrative structure? The map that shows the various administrative positions, and who reports to whom? I remember seeing it on BoardDocs somewhere, but I don't remember when nor what it's called. Plus, Dr. White has changed it a number of times so I don't know off hand what positions there are. Just thinking that it'll give us a clue on what other positions could be eliminated, or at least consolidated into other positions.
Bridget McGuiggan just sent this email to parents last night in an attempt to determine how the special education department works with our children and families regarding IDEA. What I found most concerning about this email was that it provided no explanation to parents of what IDEA is and what the district's serious legal obligations to our children regarding IDEA and FAPE are. How can one ask a parent what they think about what IDEA when most - even those parents whose own children qualify- do not have a clear understanding of what it is and why IDEA is important. The fact that it is a federal law is not even mentioned.
The district does not do things like this by accident. They want to keep parents uniformed. If parents clearly understood what IDEA was, it would become obvious to them that D181 is, at some schools in particular, violating these laws.
Another concern for me is who is going to collect these parent surveys, analyze the results and present them to the Board of Education? It was sent out to parents from Bridget McGuiggan, who we now know is A) not a credentialed or qualified education or survey analyst, and, B) She is leaving in a few weeks. The survey says the data is for Christina Sepiol. Can she be trusted to collect and honestly provide truthful data about her job performance to the Board? This goes against the way teachers, children, and basically any employee in the working world is evaluated.
This is a serious problem that that the Board of Education and Dr. White need to address. If data has already been submitting to Dr. Sepiol, it has already been compromised. This data should have been collected by someone who is truly knowledgable about IDEA laws and responsibilities. Furthermore, by someone who can be trusted to properly evaluate and report upon the results to parents and the community. Christina Sepiol is collecting state taxpayer dollars. We all have a right to know that her actions and leadership in our schools are being appropriately assessed according to the highest standards. If an impartial process was not already established for this survey, then the survey must be re-sent and the data collected in another way. Parents deserve to know who will be collecting this data and presenting it to the board so that they can properly evaluate whether or not she is meeting her job obligations.
(IDEA Survey Continued)
For those of you who do not know what IDEA means, here is a brief description from www.understood.org:
*The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities.
*Schools must find and evaluate students suspected of having disabilities—at no cost to parents.
*Not every child with learning and attention issues qualifies under IDEA.
If you think your child needs special education services, you have to follow a legal process to make it happen. This process can be confusing. It can involve several laws. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the most important one to understand.
As the nation’s special education law, IDEA provides rights and protections to children with disabilities and to their parents. Learning your rights under IDEA can make it easier for your child to get the help he needs (and is legally entitled to) at school.
The Purpose of IDEA
IDEA was first passed in 1975. (At that time, it was called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.) The primary purposes of IDEA are:
To provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. IDEA requires schools to find and evaluate students suspected of having disabilities, at no cost to parents. Once kids are identified as having a disability, schools must provide them with special education and related services (like speech therapy and counseling) to meet their unique needs. The goal is to help students make progress in school. Read more about what is and isn’t covered under FAPE.
To give parents a voice in their child’s education. Under IDEA, you have a say in the educational decisions the school makes about your child. At every point of the process, the law gives you specific rights and protections. These are called procedural safeguards. For example, one safeguard is that the school must get your consent before providing services to your child.
Here is the email some parents received last night:
Your Input Welcomed in IDEA Needs Assessment
Online Survey Open Now through February 4 (This is not a lot of time for parents to complete this survey)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grant requires that a Needs Assessment survey be conducted annually for the purpose of obtaining feedback on services provided to special education students, as well as topics for future professional development and training. While the focus of the survey is related to special education, all parents' feedback is welcomed.
On behalf of Assistant Superintendent of Learning (Pupil Services) Dr. Christina Sepiol, your input is appreciated in considering the best ways to invest time and resources in support of our students. The survey is linked below; it is open now through February 4, 2018.
Complete the IDEA Needs Assessment Survey
Thank you for your time!
Thank you 9:30. While I was aware IDEA existed, and that it's to help support special ed, but that's basically it. This reminded me of Betsy DeVos' senate confirmation hearings. It seemed like she had no idea what it was either, and she ran for (and eventually got)the Secretary of Education position.
The district also doesn't know about, or at least respect, Weingarten rights, either. I know someone who worked in the district who was called in to the assistant superintendent of HR's office and the super suggested union representation. No warning on why they needed the meeting. When the employee got there, instead of being direct, the super was very sneaky, manipulative and "beat around the bush". For those unaware Weingarten rights are for people faced with a disciplinary meeting being allowed to know what happened and any and all supporting documents/information beforehand so they could get a proper defense & due process.
This is 11:46: just forgot to mention that the employee I spoke of only stepped away from their computer and a kid went on and played around. Fortunately, the damage was easily fixed (for free too, mind you). The employee admitted that they should've been more careful with their computer and took better security precautions. I just didn't want anybody to be too alarmed.
The IDEA Needs Assessment Survey couldn't be any more basic. There are so many ways the survey could have asked more useful information. There are way too many D181 parents paying for additional tutoring for learning disabilities, social work, occupational therapy, speech etc. because D181 personnel decided the child they evaluated was functioning at grade level. Too often the D181 staff was completely off base and the child was functioning 2 - 4 years below grade level. Why parents and outside professionals can see it yet D181 personnel can't always blows my mind.
We pay D181 teachers, staff and administrators a heckuva a lot of money and, too often, they are wrong. If parents weren't afraid too speak out, you would probably have lines of parents around the administration building telling you their stories.
We need a method of reprimanding/terminating teachers and other district employees (especially pupil services administrators) when they repeatedly get it wrong. These are our children's lives and futures they are messing with.
I wish the needs assessment survey had asked if a parent had to find a tutor or outside therapist for their child because D181 refused to acknowledge their child's disability and the impact it had on the child's ability to learn.
What boggles my mind is how these administrators keep lying to parents and insisting that they are providing appropriate services to kids in this district. Any outside evaluator, lawyer, advocate, or tutor will overwhelmingly tell you D181 does not. So will any former administrator or teacher from this district. If the BOE could just honestly open their eyes and see that these PPS folks will not -or cannot- do their jobs, we would finally start improving as a district. We cannot keep paying these people to pretend that they are doing their jobs when they are not. (Remember the last pretend administrator? It took 3 years to rid ourselves of him.) Parents of kids and their neighbors shouldn't continue to be forced to pay these special ed administrators to do their jobs if they are not doing it to a standard accepted by private specialists, therapists, parents and psychologists. If these people want to remain their low standards, they should not be offered the same salary as excellent staff.
It would be smart move to to get rid of this group of PPS Personnel & administrators and just send the job back to an outside group. Many public schools are contracting out their services. This change isn't necessarily about the money because parents in Hinsdale are already, and willing to over-pay them. But if salary, insurance, vacation, and a pension is not enough to motivate this current PPS administration, get rid of them. It is about the QUALITY of services our special ed children are getting. We are paying these public school specialists far more in benefits and pensions than private therapists get, yet the services are non-existent or horribly poor. This is not fair to the classroom teachers who end up picking up the slack for kids who are not getting the support they need from PPS or Differentiation Specialists. Nor is it far to teachers when these PPS people lie to teachers about children's needs.
When children finally start making small gains, (or simply don't fall further behind) another slap in the face is when D181 staff tries to take credit for it. They never give credit to the parents who work with their kids themselves and take them to weekly private specialists and doctors. This is obscene. Especially when PPS then takes away IEPs and supports for kids simply because the parent themselves refused to watch their kid slip through the cracks. A huge majority of PPS staff at HMS do nothing, get paid a whole lot. Have you seen their reports and compared them to an outside, private report? NO one in the private sector could get by submitting reports like that to clients, yet at D181, they do.
Check out the latest FOIA'd salary scales and you will see PPS Administrators and case managers at elementary schools all make over $90,000 to work 8 months a year. Yet parents themselves still have to pay $90-250/hour (about $3-5,000 for professional evaluations done according to professional standards. If these PPS people do not want to do their jobs correctly, they should not get paid. I know of parents who were willing to pay to bring their own qualified specialists to the schools to work with their children, yet the district would not let them. Why? This would actually help train their own staff and lighten their own load, yet for some reason, they refuse. What are they hiding? If it lightens the load for teachers and lets them focus on other kids in the class, this makes no sense. Before this current administration came in, the special ed department did do things like this. They usually paid for it themselves, too. Now, however, our services are getting worse, yet the costs keep going up. The vague, biased survey recently sent out tells us all that PPS has no intention of changing their M.O.
If the community is paying for services, and PPS refuses to provide them to an adequate standard (or are not properly experienced, supervised or trained to do so), it is outrageous that parents are not offered the option of paying for their own private tutors to go in to these public schools and work with kids themselves. A child would learn much faster in the actual school environment rather than dragging them to tutors who cannot see the school environment and how it affects the child. If D181 principals do not force teachers to do their jobs and refuse to allow parents and their hired tutors do to for them, it is even worse to force these kids our of public schools and make parents pay $25-30,000 each year to send them to a school 30 miles away who would gladly do it. It is so unfair to force kids out of our public schools because a handful of rotten PPS apples refuse to work with and cooperate with parents. If my child did not cooperate in a school group project, I fully expect them to get penalized with a bad grade. But when PPS administrators and their staff fail, they still get paid salary and a pension. They don't even get a time out or a detention!
The school board should survey parents about the state of Special Ed D181. It has been a long time since special ed families felt supported. If the BOE don't reach out for parent direct input, then maybe the blog could gather the data.
• Does your child have an IEP? Or a 504?
• Are you satisfied with how D181 meets your child's needs?
• Do you feel valued as a member of the IEP team?
• Do you feel your child's IEP addresses their specific needs?
• Have your child's services helped them close the gap?
• Do you used tutors outside school to meet your child's needs?
• Did you hire a private evaluator?
• Did D181 accept the private evaluator's diagnosis?
• Do you have more than one private diagnosis that D181 denied?
• Have you brought an advocate to the table?
• Are you represented by an attorney?
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