42 Comments
Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

I'm hoping that this selection process was the equivalent of a hasty 3 point shot in a basketball game that still goes in. I absolutely hate the decision making by the board - keeping everyone in the dark, presenting the whole thing as a fait accompli, zero interest in public feedback - but Turner's seemed pretty on the ball since she took over. Just hoping she keeps it up now that she's not in her prove it phase. And there simply isn't much to say about the CPS/AUSL issues, they look awful and will simply never be sufficiently addressed by this purportedly public body that clearly views its constituents with disdain, suspicion and derision.

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Thank you again for all you do. As I learned last night its much harder than it looks. You are doing the good work and so many appreciate all you do!

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Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

Thank you so much for speaking at the meeting. In case you weren't aware, Horton's late payments made the news in Atlanta. It was covered by Decaturish.com and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The former sites your blog as a source. https://decaturish.com/2024/03/dekalb-schools-superintendent-pushes-back-on-report-hes-late-paying-former-district/ Make sure the read the comments.

It is irritating that Horton is pushing back and saying he is paid up. He isn't paid up until his late fees are paid and of course the board is in agreement since they aren't making him pay them. It is so mind boggling when they are charging for summer school, that money could cover a lot of summer school fees.

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Mar 19·edited Mar 19Author

I think someone in Evanston may have grounds to sue the Board to invoke collection of those unpaid fees. I don't think the board has the statutory authority to waive them.

There's nothing more I love than reading the comments when they're positive about me!!

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Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

She looks good because the bar is so low thanks to Horton. She doesn’t appear to be running a patronage shop —oh wait, her sister is on the payroll as a concierge for subs making over 100k. Never mind….out with old in with the new. Just another day in a failing school district. And yet, this appears to be exactly what most Evanstonians want or think the kids here deserve. Maybe once multiple schools are on the chopping block people will start to wake up. Maybe.

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Mar 21Liked by Tom Hayden

I don’t think it’s accurate to say “most Evanstonians” want this. My guess is that a minority disapprove of the school board, another minority approve of the school board, and the rest of the voters are largely ambivalent.

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Mar 21Liked by Tom Hayden

I think this comment describes the situation well. Last year my wife and I talked to many neighbors whose kids were long gone from D65 or whose kids aren't elementary school age yet. None had a clue what was going on with the district, and had no intention to vote until we spoke with them. Hopefully we got some good Board candidates next year and people spread the word about what's going on.

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author

Part of why I write this blog is to bring the entire community into the fold. There are stories here that are interesting (I think) even if you don't have a kid in the district about politics, democracy, education, and truth

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How do we generate enough interest in getting a wider array of candidates next cycle? Feel like having 3 non-incumbents with 3 open seats didn't give a lot of leeway for changes. The smear campaign right before the election on a couple of them didn't help, but having 5-6 alternatives to the status quo IMO might have led to a different outcome.

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I'm curious / hopeful one or multiple Bessie Rhodes parents go for it. I think they have a pretty compelling story that really personifies what is wrong with the D65 admin. They were given incorrect / misleading (at best) information throughout the whole 5th Ward School approval process and were left out to dry. The Bessie Rhodes dad who spoke at the meeting on Monday noting that most Bessie Rhodes students don't live in the 5th Ward further shows they are still being lied to given how the Board continues to push that narrative. I think his comments about the feasibility of combining Bessie Rhodes / King Arts was interesting too, and highlights the Board had / still doesn't have some type of long term plan with school closings / opening a new school.

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Not surprised by the choice. I'm not expecting this, but the Board really needs to do more than just say that 40 people applied. How many applicants had experience as a Superintendent?

Was there anyone in the pool with more than the 7 months experience as an interim superintendent that Turner has?

Just searching around the internet on finalists for public superintendent searches you see candidates at cities smaller than Evanston with much more experience than Turner.

For example, look at Monona WI (suburb of Madison). Each one of them has more experience than Turner: https://www.mononagrove.org/district/supt-search-updates

How about Racine? https://rusd.org/sites/default/files/District%20Documents/RUSD%20Superintendent%20Finalists%20March%202024.pdf

Forest Hills Michigan? Two superintendents are finalists: https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2024/03/2-finalists-named-for-forest-hills-public-schools-superintendent-job.html

I could go on. Turner was a Horton hire. She has done nothing as far as I can tell to improve student learning.

She gets credit by some Board critics for reporting the financial misery of the new school in a sobering way. But so what? She hasn't shown any leadership in terms of questioning the new school expenditure in the first place and the way she has handled the Bessie Rhodes situation hasn't been anything extraordinary.

Let's also disabuse ourselves of the idea that the newest board member, Omar Salem, is any different than Sergio, Biz and the rest of the gang. He was apparently totally cool with a closed superintendent search process along with the rest of them. [Please correct me if I'm wrong]

We need a wholesale electoral purging of the board.

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Mar 21Liked by Tom Hayden

Re: Omar, if you look back at that election, he won the most votes of any of the five candidates. Why? I think it's because he was the most "centrist" candidate in a vote with three available seats and two incumbents running. Therefore if you were mostly supportive of the previous board, you likely voted for Sergio, Mya, and Omar, and if you were generally in opposition of the pervious board, you likely voted for Ndona, John, and Omar. I felt like he was a more moderate candidate vs. the more tenured board members. When the "news" of the revised numbers for the new school were released he was vocal about ensuring there wouldn't be random additional surprises tacked on. I think given Omar was the only new board member, it was never likely we were going to see a major shift or for him to be a stick in the mud.

If we see some new people voted in next cycle, maybe that could help to rebalance the board and replace some of the current members who have seemingly louder megaphones. But that would require two things: better candidates and better turnout.

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I completely agree with this assessment. I also like Omar, he seems like a good dude

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Hiring a superintendent is one of the most important functions of the Board. If Omar went along with a closed process without raising an objection he is still part of the problem.

I also thought it was a bit much when he and Joey hijacked the D65 email list after the Oct. 5 terror attack on Israel to spam parents saying how a Jew and Palestinian can be friends.

Great for them, but to think that everyone in town would care about their thoughts on stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with their position on the Board is the height of arrogance. Save that stuff for your Facebook page. Using District resources to comment on the conflict is self-indulgent.

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One correction: Turner predates Dr. Horton in D65

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Mar 19·edited Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

Wait, are you sure? The Roundtable says she came in 2021. Interesting, it looks like she purged her LinkedIN page. Curious.

https://evanstonroundtable.com/2024/03/18/district-65-names-interim-leader-as-next-superintendent/

So what can you tell us about HALOS?

https://www.helpingallleaders.org/

And the Accelerate Institute?

https://accelerateinstitute.org/dr-angel-turner-elevates-her-influence-on-chicagos-north-shore/

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I could be wrong! Double checking. I feel like I saw her on org chart pre Horton, but let me confirm..

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Mar 19·edited Mar 19Author

I stand corrected. Thank you for this. She joined in mid-2021.

This does give me some pause .. but I believe we should judge her on what she does now, not what someone else who hired her did.

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Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

Absolutely, someone new who comes in should have the ability to pave their own way, the problem is she came in under his lead and from what I hear has continued his same philosophy, approach and tactics with regards to running D65 like it is CPS... not understanding the history, the approach to education, and seemingly not working to bridge what is a huge gap between educational theory and practice. Only time will tell... but my bet is time will show same story different narrator.

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Turner was a Horton hire. She was not in D65 prior to 2020.

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author

I stand corrected. Thank you for this. She joined in mid-2021. Dang! I can't believe I got this wrong.

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Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

No worries, that is why you have people like us to support you and help you get it right. We got you. :)

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If Turner was the Asst. Super. under Horton shouldn't she have been aware of the false numbers regarding transportation and the 5th Ward school? Or was that not at all her responsibility?

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20Author

If you read her (carefully written) memo to the board from October she details what she knew and when:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XiKFHz37RO0PsNVq0tm3MhpgKkrSFUaj/view?usp=drive_link

"I was present at the May 2023 meeting where the budget estimate for the project was shared with District administration. I was serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools and neither the construction nor the financing were under my purview. Because finances for the project were not my focus in my prior role, it was not clear to me at that time that the budget was significantly above the original estimate."

I thought this is a massive bombshell (and still do) because it implicates Dr. Horton knowing about the cost-overruns at least as far back as May 2023. And he bounced almost immediately afterwards.

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Mar 21Liked by Tom Hayden

Has anyone that's frustrated and has some reservations around Dr. Turner's appointment bothered dropping by one of the "Listen and Learn" community engagements to ask her further about that?

For me, the concern is as much about the annual bus/transportation savings being over-estimated by ~$2.5m as it is about the price tag of the project. Though the new cost is about 20% above the $40m they got the lease certificates for, we still would be in a position where the new school was largely paid for through these savings if the $3.25m number was actually realistic, therefore it was less of a "let's build a new school at the likely expense of multiple other schools" the way it is likely going to appear to many families beyond Rhodes ones who are already dealing with that.

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Good grief. Profile in courage, Turner: "I knew nothing. I only pay attention to things under my purview!!!"

She has been with the District since August 2021. She was in a senior level of authority as of August 2022. The $40 million estimate for the school was all over the news and the lease certificates were issued in March 2022.

The only way it could "not be clear to me at the time that the budget was significantly above the original estimate" would be either:

1) She was so out of touch with the big initiatives happening at the district that she was blithely ignorant of the figures.

or

2) She has trouble seeing that $65 million is "significantly above" $40 million.

Both explanations are troubling.

I work in an organization larger than District 65 as a middle manager and I know the broad scopes relating to our organizations' major initiatives. It may not be in my immediate "purview," but if we were expanding and building a major new facility I would know ballpark costs, etc...Some info like that is closely held. And those cases, just the office gossip would give me a sense of costs and what is going on.

An analogy would be the Ryan Field rebuild. I have a neighbor who works at Northwestern, but way far removed from athletics and facilities, but he has strong opinions on the Ryan Field project and can cite the costs, etc... It is not under this guy's purview, but it is happening at his place of employment so he is interested in how it may impact the organization as a whole.

In the case of the D65 new school all of these costs were widely reported in the news. The fact that Turner would be so incurious about what is going on is troubling. In our organization, the people who rise up the ranks internally are folks with natural curiosity who learn about stuff that isn't in their "purview."

We're stuck with her, so whatever. It is hard to believe that she is the best qualified candidate we could get. But that blame goes squarely on the board.

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And the craziness continues... she will be an extension of Dr. Horton. Not much will change, the district will continue to be in shambles and the results of poor leadership will be on the backs of the young people... test scores will still be in the toilet, staff will be disgruntled, and finances will be to the point where the state will take over... then, and only then ,will we see some type of positive change. So unfortunate.

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I want to know who else was interviewed for the job, or was Dr. Turner the only person left standing? Honestly, who would want the Superintendent job? You have to work with a school board that acts in their own interests, not the citizens'. You have to build a school that there isn't enough money for. The district is in financial shambles and you're going to have to close multiple schools. I hope they gave Dr. Turner a big broom and a mop with her contract because she's going to have to clean up a huge mess.

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Mar 19·edited Mar 19Author

They said that 40 people applied. I don't think I'd be able to get any of this information, however, it's all behind a FOIA exemption.

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Thanks Tom. I can echo your sense that it’s difficult to speak in public, perhaps especially to D 65 board. Think the last time, i and others spoke for strengthening civic education. And yes, absolutely no response and no changes.

I hope the new superintendent does well; she has enormous challenges. I might add these are self- influcted by Horton and board.

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"self-inflicted?" Rather, inflicted by the Board and some staff, upon the taxpayers and students of the District.

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Thank you for your efforts, Mr Hayden. My guess is that like myself, you no longer have children attending D65, although, of course you continue to pay taxes to them. My kids are reasonably happy at ETHS, and I hope to wait a few years before finding a more pleasant place to live. But providing continuous money to Horton-like supporters forever will not be my destiny. I suspect I am not alone.

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For nostalgia's sake, see what the finalist pool looked like from the search before Horton. Back when we had a transparent school board:

https://evanstonnow.com/d65-superintendent-search-is-down-to-5/

Each one of them had more experience than either Turner or Horton.

Why are our candidate pools getting worse?

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Do the various schools usually send representatives to the board meetings to share the good work their school is doing? I've watched a few meetings and don't recall that in the past.

Regardless, I was touched and saddened by their words -- I felt like the speakers were pleading for the continued life of their communities in front of heartless executioners. But I might have been projecting since I've literally had nightmares about our neighborhood school being the next to close (in the dream I discovered it was because of a shady deal the board had made with a land developer).

Somewhat related question -- is there a way to find out how much the developer who bought Aire Crown in Skokie paid? Seemed like the number I heard for the expected sale of Bessie Rhodes was really low and thought the sale of Aire Crown might make a good comparison.

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So the union negotiations started this week, so I think the teachers were there to send a message to the board that they're out there busting their ass for the kids and get some leverage.

Regarding land sales, I'm just starting to dip my toes into this world via the Evanston City Hall plans and oh boy, it's a real dirty business and it's very hard to follow the money because the real estate folks know how to hide things from the public.

I've heard numbers about Bessie Rhodes that range from $1m to $5m for the sale, so I have absolutely no idea what it will sell for. This is like Donald Trump valuing his real estate portfolio...

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Mar 19Liked by Tom Hayden

One issue with selling Bessie Rhodes will be the zoning. It is situated in Skokie and I’m not familiar with the zoning codes. But likely it has some sort of Institutional zoning. To redevelop it for housing or whatever will require re-zoning and approval by the Skokie village board. That opens a whole new can of worms (neighbor objections, etc…). I wonder where they got the valuation estimates for the property from? Same dudes who estimated the school cost or transportation savings?

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The Skokie board will approve anything. Aire Crown is a school on Main that's closing at the end of this year -- Skokie approved 5 story apartments with 120 or so units (including some town homes) on the site. Neighbors have been fighting it and I think they have knocked it back to 3 stories and 60 or so units. Very curious what will happen at Bessie Rhodes.

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My guess is that it will look like some of the sites in North Evanston like at Sheridan & Isabella where they subdivide and put in fancy new houses.

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Given the real estate market in Evanston, they have to be licking their chops at closing and selling the real estate of at least one of the north side schools. With the exception of Kingsley, the other three seem to be ideally located for residential real estate. I'm curious how much that factors in their decision on which ones to close.

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I'm not trying to spam your page, but this is funny.

Turner's consultancy Facebook page quoting Ivanka/Donald Trump falsely quoting John Adams.

Turner: https://www.facebook.com/HelpingAllLeaders/posts/pfbid0UyeBES6yFYVnC5EwiVXzLrTc7Zy9NdhL6Z82zjMXAeUUzyZQVukrkwuH1qJDxVz6l

Ivanka/Donald: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2017/may/05/ivanka-trump/book-john-quincy-adams-quote/

Lolz!

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I don't mind comments, feel free to spam. This is very interesting, I didn't realize she also has a consultancy on the side. I will inquire about this. I don't think having a consultancy is necessarily a bad thing, but I think (we learned with Horton) that it needs to be put on ice while she's the Superintendent.

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