They Cared!

17760756_10154709971759495_288610460796555894_o

Over a year ago I posted “Does District 103 Mater?”  In it I rhetorically asked if the good people in Lyons Elementary School District 103 cared that the mayor of Lyons had taken over the school district.  Well they did care, because two days ago three of Mayor Getty’s hand-picked school board members were voted out – they now have a minority of seats!

I can’t tell you how the news of this election buoyed my spirits.  After watching the worst kind of self-serving and anti-individual-rights politics for the past few months, it is refreshing to find out that people still care enough about their schools to vote for those who care about children.

Democracy still works in America for those who stand up for what is right.

Snollygoster in District 103? It’s Your Choice

 

 

u-turn
Graphic Courtesy of the HikingArtist.com

Snollygoster (Def.): A politician who puts politics ahead of principle

On April 4th the good people of Lyons, McCook, Stickney, Forest View and Brookfield will be voting to elect school board members for Lyons Elementary School District 103.  I endorse Sharon Anderson, Shannon Johnson and Marge Hubacek.

Why? Because for the past 2 years the board members that snollygoster Chris Getty put in place haven’t made decisions that are good for children.  In fact, they made decisions that are good for Getty, which are ultimately bad for children.

When you hire Getty’s buddy at $1,000+ per day and hire a bunch of unneeded custodians you are taking money away from children.  That’s what snollygosters do – they make decisions that are good for themselves and not for the good of the children.

If the people of Lyons want to continue voting Getty in as mayor, that’s their choice.  But do the people of Stickney, Forest View, McCook and Brookfield want Getty and his henchmen to continue making poor decisions regarding their children?  I hope not.  I would urge them to vote for Anderson, Johnson, and Hubacek.  Their commitment is to the children, not to the politicians.

 

PS – I had an old D103 friend contact me the other day and asked why I haven’t been writing any Education Under Attack articles.  I told her I’ve been retired and away from District 103 for almost five years now.  It’s not my fight anymore – it’s the community’s.  I hope they take their responsibility for their children seriously and vote in school board members who will put children first.

STOP THE WASTE & BE ACCOUNTABLE: Part 6 of 13

lion-office-jungle-law-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt

Graphic Courtesy of Hikingartist.com

I had to call the Lyons School District 103 Admin Building the other day.  A very nice woman picked up and greeted me with “Village of Lyons.  Oops, sorry (giggle).  School District 103.”

It got me wondering how many people have left District 103 since Mayor Getty’s school board began just over a year ago (see HERE, HERE or HERE for more).  The list:

  1. Assistant to the superintendent
  2. Payroll Coordinator
  3. Benefits Coordinator/Receptionist (see above)
  4. Director of Technology
  5. Network Administrator
  6. Infrastructure Support
  7. Director of Curriculum
  8. Title I/ELL Coordinator
  9. Director of Special Education
  10. Director of Buildings and Grounds
  11. Principal of George Washington Middle School
  12. Assistant Principal, George Washington Middle School
  13. Principal of Costello School

Those 13 who left collectively had about 200 years of experience in education.  Most of the replacements for the above staff are friends of Getty, former (and current) Village of Lyons employees, or recommended to Getty by his friends.  They collectively have about 50 years of school experience.

It’s not clear if they understand if they are working for School District 103 or the Village of Lyons.  Or perhaps it is clear.

Essay on How Charter Schools Weaken Democracy and Societly

Dennis Smith, former consultant to the Ohio Department of Education Charter School Office, writes how the formation of charter schools weakens our society – it rings true on several levels.  Read his piece here:

Charters, Vouchers, Individual Choice And Our Strained Social Fabric

 

Effects of School Choice: Holland, Michigan

segregated-city-divided-town-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt

While visiting my mother-in-law she gave me an article titled ‘Urban district, suburban community’ from the March 23, 2016 Holland Sentinel newspaper.  The article focused on the long-term effects of school choice on the Holland Public Schools.

The lead sentence of the article stated rather straightforwardly, “State policies that promote school choice have fueled a changing demographic landscape for many of Michigan’s public schools.”  The article goes on to say that 1,600 students (over 30%) within the Holland Public Schools’ boundaries have used the state’s 20 year Schools of Choice law to attend charter schools or go to neighboring school districts.

What caught my eye was the reporter’s assertion that as a result of school choice, the district “doesn’t represent the town in which it operates” and that Holland has become “a fragmented community that prolongs stereotypes.”  The numbers show the demographic differences between the city and school district:

Holland                  White    Hisp./Latino  Black          Asian

2010 Census             68.9%          22.7%        3.2%            2.9%

Holland Public Schools

2015-16                     37.9%         47.1%         7.4%           2.6%

So even though Holland’s population is about 69% White, only 38% of the students in its schools are White.  Similarly, the town is about 23% Hispanic/Latino but its schools have more than twice that proportion.  What happened?

Superintendent of Holland Public Schools Brian Davis points directly at school choice as the reason why the district’s population doesn’t reflect the community it serves. Davis recalls 1996 (when Michigan’s Schools of Choice law went into effect) as a time when Holland parents began to look at neighboring Zeeland schools as a choice. Zeeland was 94% White (2000 census).   Also, providing school choice was an invitation to start charter schools.  Today, 17% of students attending school in Holland go to charter schools.

Davis said some families chose to attend other schools when they noticed an “increasing free and reduced lunch” student population.  He stated that “middle to upper-middle class families with disposable income” were the ones with enough time and money to drive their kids to neighboring Zeeland or charter schools.  It’s not too hard to read between the lines – because they could afford to white families took advantage of the school choice law and left lower-income Hispanic/Latino and Black families in the Holland schools.

Is it OK that school choice allows parents to create segregated schools?  At what point in time do their children learn to live with people who look different from themselves?  Is this the kind of America we want?

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable – Part 5 of $461, 494

money-heap-how-much-is-enough

Under “Action Items” on the February 25, 2016 Lyons Elementary School District 103 board agenda was listed, ” XIII E. Motion to Approve Contract Extension for Kyle Hastings as Assistant Superintendent.”

Let’s look at this in a little more detail:

  1. This was not a “contract extension” as Hastings will no longer be the superintendent.  The board ended his current contract and created a completely new position of Assistant Superintendent (which the district never had before) and hired Hastings.
  2. No board members had an opportunity to review the many-paged extension contract before the board meeting.
  3. Hastings receives an 11.1% increase in pay, going from $900 per day to $1000 per day.
  4. Hastings’s contract is four years long – unheard of for school administrators.
  5. Hastings will receive an automatic 3.25% increase in each of the next three years of his contract.  That means in year-four of the contract his salary will be almost $121,000.
  6. Assuming Hastings also receives board-paid health insurance at about $10,000 per year, his first year income will be $110,000 for 100 days of work.  This is about $2.30 per MINUTE of work.
  7. Over the course of the four-year contract Hastings will receive $461,494 in compensation for 400 days of work.
  8. He says he is going to take over the work of Jason Gold.  Mr. Gold’s title was “Coordinator of ELA and Math Initiatives, and Teacher/Principal Retention and Development.”  Hastings isn’t certified to be the ELA coordinator or to evaluate teachers and principals.  He has little or no knowledge of K-8 mathematics.
  9. Hastings said he will also help out in “human resources.”    The board has already hired two people to do the job of the one person (Judy Pohanka) who was doing human resources for many years.  What this probably means is that Hastings’ job will be to check with Mr. Getty before each new staff member is hired.
  10. Getting back to the numbers, Hastings making $110,000 for 100 days of work is equivalent to $253,000 per year for a superintendent working 230 days.

So why the huge contract?  Four years?  A total of $461,484?  Does Hastings have dirty pictures of Getty?  Does Getty owe Hastings for some big favor worth about a half-million dollars?  Or is Getty “paying forward” for some big future favor?  Does it have anything to do with Kyle Hasting’s son Michael Hastings, senator of the 19th Illinois Legislative District? Looking for more turf to control, Chris?

 

 

On the horizon: At the March 24, 2016 board meeting they set up a committee to review the district’s insurance contracts.  Hey, doesn’t Chris Getty own an insurance company?

Does District 103 Matter?

man-2weights-illustration-by-frits-ahlefeldt
Graphic Courtesy of hikingartist.com

About 5 years ago Chris Getty, mayor of Lyons, IL, decided he would take over the Lyons Elementary School District 103.  He ran a slate of candidates for the school board and one was elected.  Four years later he got four of his candidates elected, so now he controls the school board.  Does anybody care?

District 103 is a small district (one square mile) with less than 3,000 students sitting in the shadows of Chicago.  So why does it matter?  To me, it’s a test case: do people in the community care who runs their schools?   I don’t think it’s right that a powerful person can just decide to take over a school district – not because he wants better schools, but because he wants more power.*  Do the people care?

I’m curious to see…

  • Can anyone put together a war chest bigger than Mayor Getty’s for the next school board election? Or more importantly, will anyone try?
  • Once the residents of McCook, Stickney, Forest View, and Brookfield know that the mayor of Lyons is controlling their schools will they object?**
  • Will the parents of District 103 stand up for the teachers who are feeling disenfranchised and are looking to teach somewhere else?**
  • Will the taxpayers continue to allow an attorney, being paid $185/hr, to speak for the board president and run the day-to-day affairs of the school district?
  • Is the teachers’ union going to stand up and act on behalf of the students?

Ten months from now nominating petitions for District 103 school board positions will be submitted.  Can anyone stop Mayor Getty?  Does anybody care?

 

* Similarly, I don’t think it’s right that a corporation can be given a special status as a charter school – not because they want better schools, but because they want to make a profit.
** I’d be interested in hearing from you about your concerns.  You can email me (from home with a non-District 103 email address) at education.under.attack@gmail.com.  All responses will be kept anonymous.

 

 

 

Stop the Waste & Be Accountable: Back to School Edition

robot-stand-up-computer-m-i-t-frits-ahlefeldt
Graphic courtesy of http://www.hikingartist.com

It’s been awhile since we’ve checked in on the Lyons Elementary School District 103.  As you recall, Lyons’ Mayor Getty successfully funded a campaign to take over the school board.  Some items for reflection and further investigation:

Open Meetings Act Flaunted? – Is it true that interim superintendent Kyle Hastings meets with the four new board members in his office immediately before each board meeting.  The  new district attorney is in there too (at $175/ hour), so he should know if they are violating the Open Meeting Act, shouldn’t he?  Of course the “old” board members aren’t invited – probably because they know how to read an agenda and make up their own minds on important issues.  It appears that some of the “new” board members don’t even bother to look at the board meeting agenda.

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 1) – Some have noted the action item on the board agenda for a “temporary part-time superintendent secretary.”  I thought Marge was doing just fine.  The logic is to train someone (for a year?) to take Marge’s place when she retires.  Some long-time district employees have inquired about the position but were told that they would have to resign their current full-time position before they could apply for the part-time position – unreasonable at best.  So current employees are effectively shut out of the process.  Presumably, someone unfamiliar with the district has already been selected to replace Marge.  They will be paying two people to do one job – seems like the “new” board members got upset when the “old” board did the same thing last spring.

New District Office Position Needed? – The “new” board members voted in a new position – Staff Accountant.  The district didn’t seem to need one of these for the past 50 years or so.  How does this help keep a lid on spending?

Marge Is Packed Up. Ready to Go? – Marge has packed up all her personal belonging from her office.  Does this have anything to do with the previous items?  Will she be there to train the new person?

Replacement Already Picked? (Part 2) – Nobody is more important to a superintendent than her/his secretary.  So it seems odd that Marge’s replacement has already been selected.  Any superintendent worth their salt would insist on selecting their own secretary.  Could it be that the next superintendent has already been selected and approved the new secretary?  Or will Kyle continue on for a few more years as “interim” superintendent?

Expert at PlayStation and Wii? – The “new” board’s selection to replace Bryan Drozd as Tech Director has a high school degree.  Will he be able to master the sophisticated systems currently operating and successfully supervise 6 staff members?  The district has posted Jakub’s position as well, seeking an individual with a bachelors degree.

Charter Schools 101 – Whose Choice?

Slide1

One of the mantras of charter school operators is “choice.”  They want to give parents a choice between their charter school and those nasty public schools.  Politicians and school reformers will tell you that giving kids a choice will force bad public schools to get better (or be closed).

Another thing charter school operators highlight is their wait list to get in.  They say this is proof that people want out of the pubic schools and want more charter schools.  The flip side of those wait lists is that the kids on those lists didn’t have a choice to go to that charter school – just the ones who got in had a “choice.”  If a family moves into a house next door to a charter school and try to send their kids there, the school can say, “no, we won’t take you – you have to go to the pubic school.”  This is part of the business model of a charter school – calculate the number of kids you can accept in order to be profitable and then close the door.  Of course public school’s have to enroll all the kids who reside there, regardless of how many.

Do children with special needs get the choice to attend charter schools?  Or children who not speak English? Some do, but enrollment statistics for charter schools show they enroll a disproportionately small percentage of special education students and ELL (English Language Learners) students.

How about the kids who have difficulty in school – aren’t motivated, just can’t sit still, act out?  Even if they get into a charter school, if the child isn’t a model student the school can boot them out.  Statistics show charter schools have unusually high suspension/expulsion rates.

So when you hear people talk about “school choice” realize  whose choice it is – the charter schools’ choice.  Charter school operators choose how many students they will accept, what specialized services they will provide, and what type of students they will serve.  Public schools don’t randomly exclude students – and we are better off because they don’t.

Will The Common Core Work In Honduras?

Today, in lieu of our class on charter schools, we’re going on a field trip to Honduras.  I had an opportunity to join a mission group from Hillside Church in Ft. Worth, TX for a week in the town of Danli, which is about 2 hours east of Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras).  If you are interested in learning more about the workHillside is supporting in schools there, go to The Honduras Education Project.

A section of Danli was wiped out by a flood four years ago so the government relocated the residents of that area to Urrutia.  Below is a look at the community:

IMG_5408

The people living here are the lucky ones.  Many in the area live in houses like this:

IMG_5208

With help from the Rotary Club, the school now has two classrooms for mixed grade-level instruction.IMG_5534

The classrooms don’t have electricity but do have a bathroom (without a sewage system).

IMG_5415

Kids have to walk to school on dirt roads.  None of the homes have sewage systems either so you don’t want to walk in the “water” on the road.

IMG_5571

Another area we visited had a multi-classroom school.  Most places in Honduras have barbed-wire on top of high walls.

IMG_5218

Inside the compound of this school there are about 10 classrooms and an auditorium.

IMG_5229

IMG_5296

The “cafeteria” is quite different from those in the U.S.

IMG_5226 (1)

You can get a good tortilla there.

IMG_5331

Schools welcomed us in to give testimony of our faith and to pray with the students.

IMG_5467

Kids enjoyed the skits we put on about Jonah and the whale.

IMG_5270

The Gates Foundation and other supporters of the Common Core, large-scale testing, and tying test results to teacher evaluations think that those systems will help U.S. kids in poverty escape from their environment.  These “reformers” believe the existing conditions in poverty-ridden urban areas are irrelevant to improving education – just give them a better curriculum.  Do you think these “reformers” would also believe that implementing those same systems in Honduras would help these kids out of poverty?

IMG_5539