D-64 Neglects SPED Students, Pushes SROs


After spending the first 21 days of this month doing the real-world work that keeps the editor of this blog employed, it’s finally time to write about the May 21, 2018 report by Lisa Harrod of LMT Consulting about the special education (“SPED”) program run by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

That report, available on the District’s website, concludes that – among other things – the District’s SPED “[p]rogramming options and the continuum of services have declined over the past two years.”

SPED students tend to be the District’s most vulnerable and needy, so a two-year decline should be disturbing and unacceptable not only to the parents of SPED students but, also, to D-64 taxpayers who are footing the bills for what should be improving rather than declining educational services, especially for SPED kids.

In addition to that finding of decline, the Harrod Report contains other findings and conclusions that should be troubling to anybody concerned with the quality of education our children are receiving, including:

“Lack of trust in district administration was a consistent theme discussed by staff and parent groups involved in the [SPED] review process.”

“There is an adversarial environment reported with many staff members hesitant to provide feedback and ideas for students in special education meetings.”

“IEPs [Individualized Education Plans/Programs] are not consistently written in a clear and comprehensive format.”

“Lack of Trust.” “[A]dversarial environment.” IEPs not “clear and comprehensive.” Those are far from glowing endorsements of the current D-64 Administration and its SPED program.

Predictably, however, Board president Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli dismissed the finding of that decline as “nothing but semantics.” And his queen, Supt. Laurie “I’m The Boss!” Heinz, said that the use of such a term “doesn’t sit well with [her].”

Criticism never does “sit well” with bureaucrats, or with the elected officials who are supposed to be holding them accountable but who, too often, spend most of their time and effort propping up the bureaucrats and concealing their failures. In Borrelli’s case, that includes shameless cheerleading.

At D-64, any evidence of failure and incompetence is treated as little more than a source of temporary embarrassment to be ignored, or spun and smoothed over by D-64’s chief propagandist, Bernadette Tramm, until it’s forgotten.

Which is why SPED parents are concerned not only about how their kids were not educated for the past two years and how they will be educated going forward but, also, whether their SPED kids might disproportionately suffer from the ill-conceived School Resource Officer (“SRO”) program that Heinz and the Board continue to diddle themselves silly over – to the point of holding a “special” meeting last Thursday night solely to discuss that SRO program.

Of the 14 parents addressing the Board on that program, most of them identified themselves as parents of SPED students. And all but two – Tracy Fregassi and Greg Bublitz, both D-63 teachers who live in D-64 and have kids in our schools – either opposed the SROs or had significant reservations about the role(s) of SROs in the proposed 4 hours/day, 2 days/week “pilot” program.

Having listened to the Board’s discussions of the SROs over the past months, we are dismayed that the police, the Board and the administration still sound schizophrenic as to whether the SRO program is supposed to be nothing more than an “Officer Friendly” public relations exercise, or whether it is to bring discipline and order to the District’s middle schools where it is rumored to be sorely lacking.

Kind of like that old commercial: “Certs is a candy mint; Certs is a breath mint” before concluding that Certs is really “two, two, two mints in one.”

Rather than portray SROs as merely two-dimensional Certs, however, Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski, Heinz and the Board are touting SROs as all things to all people – the better to garner support for that deeply-flawed program.

In peddling the SRO program Heinz and a Board majority of Borrelli, “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos, Mark Eggemann and Larry Ryles have shown no difficulty in blithely ignoring the well-researched, well-reasoned report (Cost: $15,000) by the District’s SRO consultants, the Ekl, Williams & Provenzale law firm, that was critical not only of SRO programs generally but also the District’s half-baked pilot program in particular.

Of course, none of the supporters of the SRO pilot program have produced any comparable report in support of it. Instead they rely on warm-and-fuzzy, data-lite anecdotes – like Kaminski’s unsubstantiated claim that “there’s been positive feedback” from the SROs in the Maine Twp. high schools; and Ms. Fregassi’s equally unsubstantiated claim that the SRO’s in D-63 schools “have had nothing but a positive impact on students in District 63.”

Fortunately, Board members Rick Biagi, Fred Sanchez and Eastman Tiu have recently displayed the insight and courage to reject the go-along-to-get-along mentality of the Board majority while raising serious questions about the program.

Whether they can sway even one member of the majority from their lemming status remains to be seen. But just slowing down a boondoggle like the SRO is a refreshing change from D-64’s S.O.P.

As would be speeding up the improvement of the SPED program to make up for the last two years.

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16 comments so far

After having several meetings with Dr. Heinz and the ineffective principal of our grammar school regarding matters not related to SPED or SRO I have come to the conclusion that this whole SRO debacle is being presented to distract everyone from REAL issues this school district has which are many. You’ve covered them very well so there is no need to regurgitate them. To recap your wonderful post, the board wasted $15k on a study they didn’t like the results of so tried to proceed anyway. Once a few people spoke up against this stupid SRO proposal the geniuses on the school board decided that perhaps a committee should be formed to discuss the matter further. This is beyond pathetic, I might actually respect Sotos, Borelli, Eggemann, and Ryles if they had the spine to ram this down our thoughts if they truly believe in this absurd SRO program but by forming a “committee” this proves they don’t. Thank heavens for Biagi, Sanchez, and Tiu for realizing what a con job this SRO nonsense is.
I’m telling you none of them believe this B.S. but it’s a cheap distraction from real problems like SPED and countless others.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re your contention that “none of them believe this B.S.” we have to disagree: “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and “Tilted Kilt Tommy” Sotos believe it because they blindly believe virtually everything Heinz tells them; and Ryles believes virtually everything that Kaminski tells him, going back to his days on Kaminski’s task force. Eggemann tends to follow Borrelli and Sotos.

Aren’t the SROs just a way for Kaminiski to hire another cop or two while getting D64 to pay for 8 hours a week to start?

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s our opinion.

The Tribune/Herald-Advocate story about this says that the City has not yet approved Kaminski’s SRO p.r. stunt. Even if Heinz and a board majority approves this distraction I hope that the council will not approve it.

Welcome back!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks…it’s good to be back.

What was Heinz doing for the past two years that Boyd was wrecking the SPED program? Isn’t Heinz where the buck is supposed to stop at D64? From what I see she is Teflon and can do no wrong in the eyes of the board majority. That seems like a cult to me.

You nailed it. When they can’t get their educational job done right they come up with circuses like vestibules and SROs (with the help of Kaminski) to distract the simple-minded villagers.

I assume the board will give Heinz another raise and additional year contract extension for her indispensability.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve heard rumors about closed-session and off-the-record statements by certain Board members that Heinz IS indispensable. Yet if that were the case, you would think they would require her to give the District a reciprocal 3 year commitment for the one she is getting from the District

Unfortunately, this Board’s majority have cartilaginous instead of calcified spines when it comes to dealing with her. And we suspect that, like the schoolboys they appear to be around her, “Who’s The Boss?” and “Tilted Kilt Tommy” fight to see who carries her books home from school.

These school board members who your are complaining about are volunteers giving their time for the good of the community. Just because you disagree with them doesn’t make their service less valuable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because you volunteer to do something for free doesn’t mean what you do is right or valuable – especially when you are derelict in your duties because you’re nothing more than a rubber stamp.

What are the other board members position on the SPED report?

How much will the solutions cost the district and tax payers?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The positions of the “usual suspects” – see if you can figure out who all of those are, but two of them are sometimes referred to here as “Who’s The Boss?” and “Tilted Kilt Tommy” – on the SPED report are exactly what you would expect because that’s always been their position: Heinz is wonderful so we support whatever she believes, says and does.

As for the cost of the “solutions,” that remains to be seen. We have yet to see a detailed analysis of what the SPED program already costs on an annual basis, including how much it costs for each SPED kid who is out-sourced to non-district schools because of his/her various challenges and conditions. But it shouldn’t be as much about what the program costs as it should be about whether that money is producing good results. Obviously, for the past two years it did not – although it took a lot of SPED parents beefing and a professional report before the Board and Administration acknowledged (kind of: see Borrelli and Heinz comments) it.

After borrowing money through non-referendum bond issues so that they can continue to give raises (and step/lane increases) to teachers, and raises to administrators, I’m betting that Heinz and the Board will try to blame the cost of the SPED program for the need to go to referendum, whenever that will be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That would be a decent bet because, from this editor’s personal experience, the SPED program has been blamed – on and off, when it was convenient – for its high costs for at least 15-20 years, even though much of the blame should have been directed at the incompetence and mismanagement of the program by the District.

Hit the nail on the head in this post. Correction on one point — There was only one person speaking in favor of the program, Tracy Fragassi. Greg Bublitz’s comments were nuanced, but largely critical of what D64 has done with this program. Fragassi’s comments, as most SRO-proponents on social media, are entirely ancedotal. “We love our SRO!” so what are all you crazy people going on about? Sigh. Unsurprisingly, she also is a huge cheerleader for vestibules. Whey spend millions of dollars on improving our children’s education when we would hand it over to contractors to build us some security theater?

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Nuanced” is being generous about comments that, when intelligible, seemed to waiver between what D-64 has done wrong with SROs and SPED to date versus what it should do in the future to make them acceptable. But we encourage folks to watch/listen to them (from 2:03:10 to 2:09:54 of the meeting video) and judge for themselves.

We do agree, however, with your characterization of Ms. Fregassi’s comments.

Two parents from Emerson with current/former students spoke at tonight’s (June 25) meeting during Public Comment about how wonderful Officer Hernandez is and how important the SRO program is and should be implemented.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, that should end the debate, right? The $15,000 Ekl Report can be disregarded, as can the opinions of those 12 parents that showed up at the meeting we wrote about in this post.

Did they at least say what makes Officer H so wonderful, or was it just a bunch of opinions and conclusions?

Under Kaminski (and probably under Caudill and Swoboda before him) the Park Ridge police have been unable to deal with Park Ridge youth in anything but an authoritarian way (Example: Leavitt punching the wiseacre kid after the kid was cuffed in the back of the squad car, or the cops unwilling or unable to dispel the mob at Hinkley during Taste several years ago).

The SRO program must be intended by Kaminski to be one big “Officer Friendly” program that he can stick D64 with the cost. And because the board and admin. are all about distractions from the quality of education they are providing, they are jumping for it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to an article in last week’s Park Ridge Journal:

“Ald. John Moran (1st) said he had seen conflicting speculations on social media on why the SRO officers would be there at all. Kaminski said it was to build positive relationships, although should more stressful situations arise, the officer would be available.”

That sure sounds like “Officer Friendly” but with a discipline component thrown in for those occasions when…a kid is caught vaping? A kid punches another one? An autistic kid acts inappropriately? Does “Officer Friendly” then suddenly become Middle-School Cop, or just the disciplinarian that the teachers and school administrators can’t or don’t want to be?

Why isn’t Kaminski concerned about taking his SRO public relations initiative to the parochial schools in town, at least the two biggest ones: St. Paul of the Cross and Mary Seat of Wisdom?

Are those kids already more respectful of the police (and more disciplined) than the Lincoln kids so that they do not need “Officer Friendly” (and the teachers do not need a disciplinarian)? Or does he realize that there’s no way the parochial schools or the parents want to pay extra for something as frivolous as an SRO, while the D-64 Board and Administration feel no such restraint in blowing taxpayer money?

EDITOR’S NOTE: If there was a Vegas line, our trifecta bet would be that (1) D-64 is using the SRO issue as a distraction from its under-achieving educational services, especially for the SPED kids; (2) D-64 is happy to blow taxpayer money on such a distraction; and (3) Kaminski recognizes a pushover when he sees one.

What’s your choice of win, place and show?

Officer Hernandez seems lovely. He also serves every single school in Niles. One officer for all elementary schools, all middle schools, even visits the preschools. I’m not sure that what he does on a day-to-day basis (looks like big focus on Officer Friendly duties) necessarily gels with what D64 is proposing. Rather than focusing on warm and fuzzy anecdotes, it would be nice to respect a body of research and examine exactly what D64 wants to do with this. Still no needs assessment. No clear goals. Let see what emerges from their committee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: D-64 appears caught in one of two lies (if not both): First, if it’s facilitating the “Officer Friendly” public relations ploy, that’s a benefit almost entirely to the Police Dept. for which D-64 should not be paying. Second, alternatively, D-64 can’t argue that the SRO is for security and discipline when (a) he/she will only be on the Lincoln (or Emerson) premises 4 hours/day, 2 days/week; and (b) the District has already insisted that it has no discipline problems.

As a faculty member in D64 and a resident as well, I can tell you that Heinz knew exactly what was happening with the SPED program under Boyd, and she let it happen. Don’t think for a minute that this was all unheard of by Heinz before Dec. 1. Boyd was just the hatchet man in all this. Now we have a completely new SPED administrative team at the ESC, since Franke and Fies got out while the going was good. Good luck to the new admins. They are going to need it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe Heinz never heard of Harry Truman and “The buck stops here”?

last week Washington School was named a Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education. Only 24 schools in Illinois were awarded this distinction. However, the majority of teachers who were evaluated last year only received ratings of Proficient. The evaluation system used by D64 is either biased, bogus, or both.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or some of these awards are “biased, bogus, or both” – just like some ratings/rankings may also be suspect.

The problems is that the two major national teachers unions, and their state and local branches like the PREA, don’t want any way to assess individual performance, provide individualized compensation, or rate/rank schools in an apples-to-apples manner. Here in Illinois, the NEA is so strong and tied to Madigan and his minions that it has stonewalled any attempts by the Illinois State Board of Education to use the reams of data it collects to perform such an apples-to-apples comparison.

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