Another Rubber Stamp and Another Dubious Consultant

June 21, 2022 | News

Among the top District 205 initiatives this year was to develop a Long-Term Strategic Plan that prioritizes Social-Emotional Learning.  The D205 website, under the heading “SEL Mission”, proclaims it is “strongly committed to developing safe and healthy environments where everyone thrives academically, socially, and emotionally.”

District leadership assembled a steering committee they claimed would “ensure representation from the entire district community.” Parents and stakeholders were invited to focus groups scheduled in the middle of the workday, which excluded many people who are not able to take time away from work.

The “inclusive” and “representative” steering committee assembled was comprised of 27 (~70%) women, 11 (~30%) men. Not surprisingly, Mawi Asgedom, our community SEL expert, was chosen to be on the committee.

It sure seems as though the district is looking for community members to affirm their SEL initiative, rather than seeking critical feedback and new ideas on how to improve academic outcomes?

As part of the process, District 205, with the approval of the Board of Education, hired a firm called Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA), as a “consultant” to provide guidance for the Long-Term Strategic Plan. Elmhurst taxpayers of course, footed the $40,000 bill.  I’m not sure why the many $200K+ per year D205 administrators, most with doctorate degrees, are incapable of pulling together a strategic plan without the need for an expensive third-party consultant?

I conducted my own due diligence, and it appears “education consulting” is big business, and another way for clever folks to extract public funds from unwitting parents and taxpayers without being held accountable to produce results. Has anyone bothered ask our elected Board of Education what, exactly, the deliverable is for the $40,000?

I took a few minutes to conduct my own due diligence on HYA, since the BOE seems incapable, or simply not interested in doing the critical front-end work on behalf of their constituents. It didn’t take long to uncover widely reported problems with HYA and its president.

HYA’s current president, Glenn “Max” MaGee (a lifelong education industrial complex swamp creature) was fired from his superintendent role in Palo Alto, CA for among other things, “budget flubs and mishandling of a sexual assault case.”

In another report, HYA picked Sergio Paez for superintendent of the Minneapolis School District, even though Paez had been cast out of his previous job due to chronic academic underperformance. In April 2015, Massachusetts took control of the Holyoke schools Paez oversaw, citing widespread academic failings. As part of the state receivership, Paez was terminated and replaced.

The Minneapolis district rescinded its employment offer to Paez when a Disability Law Center investigation uncovered abuses that took place at a Holyoke school during Paez’s term. According to The Boston Globe, the report claimed that staff working in a program for emotionally disabled youth had locked students in unlit closets, slammed them against walls, slapped them and committed other acts of excessive force and psychological abuse.

Other criticized picks include Floyd Williams Jr., who served for just over one academic year as superintendent of Des Plaines Elementary District 62 in Illinois. Williams resigned after being accused of sexually harassing five female employees. He collected the remainder of his pay for the year, about $127,000, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates was cast in an unflattering light for failing to discover that Williams had resigned under pressure from his previous assistant superintendent position in Wisconsin when, among other instances of misconduct, nude photos were found on his district-issued computer.

According to the Daily Herald, other candidates recruited and recommended by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates have been accused of claims like lavish spending, bid fixing, resigning abruptly and making false statements about degrees held.

After hiring a Chicago-based search firm in August for $50,000 to help find a new school district superintendent, the Indian River County School Board has decided the firm is a flop and not up to the task.

Rather than allow the firm to lead the final stages of the superintendent selection process, the board has decided to do its own vetting of the 36 applicants.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates “presentations to the board have been sloppy and disorganized,” Board Chairman Laura Zorc said. “We haven’t seen the professionalism that we had hoped for.”
Mr. Bill Adams, who has been leading our search, has been very condescending at times.  When a board member says something he doesn’t agree with, he rolls his eyes and tries to dismiss their point.”

The Board voted 4-1 to hire HYA in August because the firm’s experience in leading national job searches.  Board member Jacquelyn Rosario voted against hiring the firm because she was concerned about documented cases in which it badly botched other district’s superintendent searches.

Newspapers around the country have published stories noting that HYA recommended candidates to other school districts who had been accused of sexual harassment, bid fixing, lavish spending and lying about other qualifications.

There are numerous and credible reports of HYA doing shoddy work with bad outcomes for school districts and taxpayers.  This should have raised some red flag warnings in the vetting process, but as with the Jarvis Sanford hiring, district leadership was hoping it would go unnoticed.

I guess it begs the question, is anybody paying attention to how taxpayer funds are spent?  It appears not.  This is yet another example of lack of accountability, and oversight, while education profiteers enrich themselves at the expense of unwitting taxpayers and our children.

In their “Strategic Planning” brochure, which I assume is a template for their D205 work, the first question HYA asks is, “What is the mission of the district, for what purpose does the school district exist.” Do parents need a $40,000 consultant to ask that question?

At the end of the day, parents should be extremely concerned.  District 205 leadership is proposing that this steering committee, using guidance from a dubious consulting firm, is putting in place the educational framework in Elmhurst Public Schools for years to come.

At present, the academic learning deficit is perilously low and falling fast.  Children and families in our community can ill afford another bungled attempt to fix our schools, because the long-term costs to the people that matter most, our children, will be extremely high. Elmhurst residents need to open their eyes and pay close attention to all the highly paid, unaccountable consultants, administrators and those peddling culturally responsive curriculum, and ask the hard question: What is being done to move the needle forward on academic proficiency, which to answer HYA’s question, is why the school district exists.


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