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Spotlight on District 109

The District’s newly released survey of special education parents sheds some light on the current state of the program.

As I noted in my previous post, Monday’s meeting will include a special education update.  The district has put together an improvement plan that is available in the community packet and I assume will be presented Monday night.  Also in the community packet is a survey of 136 special education parents conducted by Hanover Research (attached).  This study was conducted in August and represents a snapshot of the special ed program at that time.  The good news is now we have a baseline that can be compared to future surveys in order to measure the performance improvement of the program.  The bad news is the actual results of the survey.

In Section III of the survey, the satisfaction of 9 aspects of the program is measured.  I will focus on the two that I think are most important: 1) The quality of special education and related services provided to your child (let’s call it service quality for short), and 2) The progress your child is making academically (academic progress).  The study measures how many parents are completely satisfied and how many are somewhat satisfied.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel “completely satisfied” is the benchmark a world class school district should strive for.  Based on that, the satisfaction scores are 36% for service quality and 30% for academic progress.  That is clearly a letter grade of F in both cases.  The next page breaks it down by school, with Shepard clearly the lowest performer.  Walden is the highest performer with 54% (still an F) for both service quality and academic performance.

If you lower the bar to just “somewhat satisfied” the grades improve, but are still not very good.  For the district overall, service quality is 68% (D) and academic performance is 72% (C).  The trend that is interesting here is that the middle schools are clearly poorer than the elementary schools.  The middle schools still achieve failing grades even at the level of “somewhat satisfied”.  Again, that jibes with the anecdotal evidence and comments that were heard in many board and committee meetings.

So what does all this mean?  First of all, it means that there IS a problem with special education and it is now documented.  The board and administration no longer have to take the word of the “vocal few”.  They hired a legitimate company to produce a statistically significant survey with credible results.  Secondly, it means that we have much room for improvement.  The improvement plan must be specific and targeted with timelines and process ownership.  The problem here is that we will have a change in district leadership between now and next August, when you would expect a follow up survey to be conducted.  You will probably also have a change in board leadership.  Regardless, we must not let that stop us from improving the processes and measuring the results.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Harry Steindler October 13, 2012 at 03:53 AM
That's why the district should hire a new superintendent whose main concern is bringing District 109 back to its prior status as THE district to live in if your child has special needs. Unfortunately the board and current superintendent did not prioritize special education and in some ways seem to have decimated special education. Sad, but you're correct John – thanks to the actions of parents last winter / spring and the steadfastness of our teachers during their negotiation the tide has started to turn. As Hawk Harrelson would say, "don't stop now boys, don't stop now"! Keep pushing and prodding and being heard. Our students with special needs, their families and our community deserve the best possible services and care.
RB October 13, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Combine school districts. This small town does not need two districts (one union and one non union). We are one community and should approach education from a community approach. Cut some Admin overhead at same time. Only one superintendent needed, just like many larger communities.
John Russillo October 13, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Yeah, i think we got it RB.
Mara Meyer October 13, 2012 at 04:17 AM
John, what was the rate of return for the surveys? This is really abysmal in regard for the students' educational program and the community. What hope do WE have that things really will change until there is new administrative leadership and Board of Education guidance.
RB October 13, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Fine, I'll move on. Makes too much sense. I'll move on to other issues.... The Park District! They should be rolled into the Village. A small town with a Park District taking a huge bite out of taxes (next highest to schools) and many employees that do duplicate work of Village employees. Spending money like its theirs and not ours. One recently retired employee gets $113,000 per year in pension. Now back to schools sorry for temporary hijack. PSA.
D'skidoc October 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I think a useful piece of information might be the satisfaction scores from families of students who have already progressed out of 109. I have several friends whose kids had IEPs and who are now successfully navigating college and beyond (though with support). How does their experience with d109 square with what the district is doing now and can the past be a roadmap for the future or does the wheel have to be reinvented for the 21st century?
John Russillo October 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
That's a great point. Again, anecdotal evidence suggests that DHS has to fix the problems created by 109. There are several regular posters here that have kids in DHS and beyond and maybe they can elaborate. The good news is that DHS does a fantastic job with kids with special needs and they do very well in college and beyond. Communication between 109 and 113 on this topic would be a good thing, yes?
katie Bittner October 13, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Agreed Harry! We also need a Superintendent that will re-esatablish the trust in this community between all stakeholders, internal and external. As a community we failed. While no one was watching (including the Board members), programs and policies were implemented in the schools that were not in the best interests of our children. This applies to all children, not just special education students. When Special education programs are cut and services are not implemented with fidelity this impacts ALL students. The students who fall in the average range (not Special Education and not TAP) do not receive the instruction that they need if General education teachers have to support students with disabilities because the schools have failed to provide enough support through special education programs and staff. I encourage people to read the CEC report that was presented to the Board in December 2010 which clearly outlines the issues and problems in District 109. This report was done by the Consortium for Educational Change, an independent group hired by District 109. Not surprising, the issues outlined are the SAME issues brought up by the teachers last year during contract negotiations and by the "small vocal group" that the Superintendent and Board President often refer to. Is there a plan to address these issues? There is a Strategic Plan that was developed but monitoring groups have not met for months.
katie Bittner October 13, 2012 at 05:13 PM
(Continued from Katie's comment under Harry Steindler) Once again District 109 has spent thousands of dollars on a Strategic plan (which is actually a very good plan) but there is no action, no timeline and most importantly no assessment of what is working and not working. One of the priorities given to Board members and administration in December 2010 by the CEC report was to develop a collaborative culture. Have any steps been taken toward that goal,obviously not? It is time for a change in District 109. We need to hire a Superintendent that will examine all issues in 109 with integrity and who will not be afraid to face these issues head on, with new Board members, community members, parents and teachers standing together. Now that sounds like a First Class School System.
Mara Meyer October 13, 2012 at 07:36 PM
As a parent who has gone through both 109 and the high school I can tell you unless you have the educational experience and knowledge, going through 109 requires a collaboration that many in the current administration are unable to tackle. The lack of sophistication at the school level of some personnel to deal with the issues is apparent. The entire model that 109 has employed for some time has not encouraged the building staff and has tied their hands on many of these cases. When the elementary district tells a parent(s) their child does not qualify for instructional assistance or special educational eligibilty and then the high school suddenly is faced with such fragmentation of skills that children do not academically succeed - then something is wrong. I suggest hand over the responsibiities to the high school staff, provide professional development for 109 staff, change admin staff at central office and building level, or FIX it! I sure hope a new Superintendent and new/current members of the Board of Education get the idea of the importance that EVERY CHILD needs support. Not one method works for all and differentiation/understanding by design implementation can really assist all affected parties.
barry October 14, 2012 at 09:26 PM
....on another spin, someone forgot to inform Rahm regarding CPS superintendent's firing/resignation that according to the Deer field District 109 school board and its retained $20,000 head hunter "it is not hiring season" for superintendents". Regardless......he pulled the pin and unloaded dead wood. And if he was informed of 109's assertion, and reason for not honoring the overwhelming support of our citizen taxpayer's petition for an interim to be hired due to that line.....he doesn't buy into Bull____, and neither does his staff. We don't either.
barry October 14, 2012 at 09:32 PM
.....and Mara Meyer is 100% Correct. Both in content and for having the courage to voice it here.
D'skidoc October 14, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Yeah Barry, but DF aint Chi-ca-ga, and we aint got a Mare here wit da clout.
Judy Benson January 23, 2013 at 12:55 PM
I am a mom of a child on an IEP considering moving to DF. Has there been any improvement in D109 since the parent survey was published? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
John Russillo January 23, 2013 at 01:13 PM
I would contact the special ed parent advocacy group. I believe their email is parents109@gmail.com

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