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Proviso Probe

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Proviso Township High Schools Education Quality Assessment

This email from Scott Schroeder has been circulating among the superintendent's advisory committee.

Schroeder is the head of Technivista, the company hired by Superintendent Stan Fields to do the new websites and the Education Quality Assessment.
From: Scott Schroeder [mailto:REDACTED]
Sent: Sunday, August 12, 2007 8:39 PM
To: Libka, Robert
Cc: Willis, Sharon ; Avant-Bey, Tracy; Moyer, Ed ; Johnson, Mona; Umans, Margo
Subject: Technivista and PTHS Dist. 209

Dear Mr. Libka,

In November 2006 I had the responsibility of presenting the District 209 Board of Education with the results of the Education Quality Assessment (EQA) conducted by Technivista. District 209 Board of Education hired us to do the EQA and Superintendent Stan Fields instructed us to “present the findings exactly as you see them. No sugarcoating. No politically correct spin. To develop effective plans we have to know exactly what we’re facing. Everyone in this community has to understand where we’re at and what the challenges are.” This no-nonsense approach was familiar to me. When I first met Stan, he was superintendent at Mundelein High School, my kids’ high school. MHS hired Technivista during a time when Stan was moving quickly to transform Mundelein High School into a best practices showcase. It was done with forceful urgency and by taking a radical U-turn from the status quo. He transformed the district’s declining financial condition, redesigned an academic strategy that had previously produced mediocre results, and revitalized the under-performing athletic and activity programs. When asked if he was changing too much too quickly, his responses were always along the lines of “If your kid went here, how much time would you want me to waste in improving things?” and “The families in this area pay a lot in taxes.

Why wouldn’t they expect the best education for their kids?” From what I've seen, Stan Fields brought those same questions to his Proviso job. During the months before the EQA presentation, our team conducted interviews with dozens of people in the “Proviso Family” – teachers, principals, administrators, staff, community leaders, parents, students, union leaders, and a school board member. While most had first-hand experiences with what was plaguing the high schools, they also shared an undercurrent of hope and energy. As reported, they talked about a multitude of deeply rooted ills flourishing in an environment mightily polluted by politics, gossip, negativity, and mistrust, yet also brought forward creative ideas on how Proviso could rise. A unique picture emerged between the underachieving world of Proviso’s high schools, the beaten-down, but not broken spirit found in all the people I listened to, and everyone’s thoughts and dreams for a much improved future. The EQA produced a clear, objective picture of the state of District 209.

Once the Proviso EQA was completed, the District 209 Board of Education then hired Technivista to develop websites for each of the three high schools, the district, and private intranets for each location. Apparently there’s a great deal of misinformation out there about the cost of the websites. To set the record straight, the total cost to District 209 was $192,000 for all eight sites, an average of $24,000 per site, and the majority of the costs were paid for with grants so the
cost to the District was minimized. Technivista was not contracted and doesn’t get paid to maintain the sites. We have, however, donated over $70,000 of in-kind contributions for our time to maintain the sites since their launches. We’ve done this because we wanted the sites to sustain their high quality. Unfortunately District 209 internal staff hasn’t yet had the time needed to create and manage content on their own. So, we’ve stepped in to help carry the load during the transition.

The District 209 Board of Education also hired Technivista to help develop quality processes based on the Baldrige National Quality Award criteria. In the past, Technivista has had the privilege of working with several school districts that won Illinois ’ Lincoln Award for Performance Excellence and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Baldrige National Quality Award including District 15 in Palatine . The processes at District 209 were to be used to support District 209’s strategic plan
(which Technivista help develop as part of the District’s application for this year’s Illinois ’ Lincoln Award). This approach would be used to accomplish the “Scoreboard” goals based on the results of the EQA and the “Four Cornerstone” model (Students, Parents, Community, and Proviso Team). The 3-year strategic plan we developed called for the district to demonstrate significant improvements in key areas, enough to win the Lincoln Silver Award (“Progress towards Excellence”) in 2007, the Lincoln Gold Award (“Achievement of Excellence”) in 2008, and the
Baldrige National Quality Award in Education in 2009.

For Technivista, it was an exciting opportunity to help another district in the quest for excellence. This time, with Proviso, the challenge was to turn-around a district in dire need of improvement. It was a project with potentially historic impact – to have the chance to take the 90th out of 90 Chicagoland districts with high schools and transform it into one of best in the state. Needless to say, it was an energizing endeavor.

So under Stan’s leadership we began this once-in-lifetime project, using proven best practice tools from some of the highest-performing schools in Illinois , in the United States , and in the world. To make a long story shorter, the project unfortunately has recently slowed due to the roadblocks of politics, a lack of commitment, talent shortage, and misdirected focus. The brakes were fully applied to the quality initiatives when Stan was taken out of the picture on July 30, shortly
before most Proviso administrators were due to turn in their sets of quality processes that would support the 118 key measurements used to monitor results in academics, athletics, activities, finances, communication, human resources, and technology. These sets of processes would shortly become the Administration Handbook. On the due date, not one set was received.

The day after Stan’s removal, I requested direction on our open projects as school was scheduled to open in a matter of days. As of today, we have received no direction or indication if the strategic initiatives are still in play or if the District is even interested in continuing the projects. While we’ve continued to update the websites, design the quality processes, and prepare for the Lincoln Award Review Team’s visit, it’s become apparent that District 209 would prefer to go in a
different direction. From our perspective, it’s best that at least for the time being, we begin the transition process, shake hands and go our separate ways. If you agree that this is the best thing to do, I recommend that we begin the transition as soon as possible with a targeted separation date of Friday, August 31, 2007. Please let me know how you’d like to proceed with transitioning the projects.

Technivista is proud of the work we’ve accomplished with District 209 on the Education Quality Assessment, the websites, the strategic plan, the Proviso Rising campaign, and the quality improvement processes that are firmly aligned with the Baldrige Criteria for Education. All of these projects provide District 209 with an exceptionally solid foundation on which to build great schools and generate outstanding results. I hope District 209 takes advantage of these assets in future improvement efforts.

Personally speaking, nothing could have been achieved without the invaluable assistance of Tracy Avant-Bey and her staff, Ed Moyer, Mona Johnson, Margo Umans, Sharon Willis, and especially Stan Fields, and all of the wonderful people who participated in the EQA. Their support, advice, and encouragement were invaluable and fueled our efforts.

Sincerely,

Scott Schroeder
Technivista

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3 Comments:

  • "When I first met Stan, he was superintendent at Mundelein High School, my kids’ high school. MHS hired Technivista during a time when Stan was moving quickly to transform Mundelein High School into a best practices showcase. It was done with forceful urgency and by taking a radical U-turn from the status quo. He transformed the district’s declining financial condition, redesigned an academic strategy that had previously produced mediocre results, and revitalized the under-performing athletic and activity programs".

    And, after all was said and done, Stan made a hasty retreat out of Mundelein, his ostensible exemplary successes there notwithstanding, choosing to take a pay cut and going to work for an inferior district.

    But, what's this? Stan was not allowed to continue his ostensibly exemplary job even in the inferior district. There seems to be a continuing problem here. Despite the bullshit hype spewed out onto the page by his buddy at Technivista (to whom Stan managed to fling a "few" of the inferior district's bucks), there does seem to be a problem with Stan, doesn't there?

    By Anonymous Money in Hand-Talkin' That Talk, at 11:28 PM, August 16, 2007  

  • Don't post under "anonymous". Please use a pseudonym.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:20 AM, August 17, 2007  

  • I have a great idea. Let's have even more space wasted by comments on the high schools. Here is a Mad-Libs style generic, fill-in-the-blank post which anyone can use to clutter up the Probe.

    I (over-the-top emotional verb) (name of board member or administrator) because (he or she) is a (exaggerated descriptive noun). When is (some group of citizens) going to wake up and (overused chiche). What really makes me (over-the-top emotional verb) is the way (he/she/they)(some type of action) the (some thing(s)). Did you know (some made-up big secret gossip)? Just asking...

    By Anonymous Mad-Libber, at 1:12 PM, August 20, 2007  

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