A D304 Retrospective

The youngest of my two sons just completed his sojourn through the Geneva School system and, though I’m grateful for all those District folks’ time and effort, the predominant feeling is relief. I’m glad it’s over. And after this exercise, I don’t plan on looking back.

Geneva School District

But before we continue, please let me clearly state that D304 harbors some of the finest people I’ve ever met. Now that it won’t cause any problems, I’m gonna name ‘em in no particular order:

Pat Fordonski – Her too-rare capacity to tell the truth cost her a principal position.

Adam Law – He was such a good principal he never shoulda stopped being one.

Bill Fader – Bill may well be the best teacher I’ve ever met.

Jo Hogan – Now, that’s what I call a caseworker.

Shelly Rolf – One of the smartest and most perceptive people I’ve ever met.

Therese White – One of the best counselors I’ve ever met.

Judy Hart – I bow to the master!

Kristen McAvoy – The perfect elementary school teacher.

Rob Wicinski – A great teacher and a phenomenal football coach, he takes no crap.

Kari Friedman – Now that’s what I call a caseworker part two.

Not only that, but my lovely wife teaches in the East Aurora School District, so don’t try to tell me this is a case of playing out some sort of vendetta. It’s not! It’s simply a matter of telling the truth as I see it. I will also stipulate that most of the people who bitch about teachers and school administrators wouldn’t last two weeks at the job.

So why am I relieved? Here goes:

1. An IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a legally binding contract

But it seemed like my wife and I were the only ones who understood that. It was a constant battle to get the schools to stick to the plan. Their typical rationale was, “Well, we thought you’d want us to do it this way. Don’t you want your son to be a functioning adult?”

And my unwavering response was always, “Though I certainly appreciate the help, it’s my job to see that my son becomes a functioning adult – not yours! And rather than guess about how I’d respond to an IEP change, a simple phone call would remove all doubt!”

Some teachers completely ignored the IEP, because they thought it was better for him.

2. A rampant CYA modality

Look! I live in south Fisher Farms, so I utterly understand what it’s like to have to regularly deal with parents who not only won’t parent, but get incensed at the mere thought of their little darlings’ inherited imperfections.

But when the D304 motto is, “Placate, placate, and then let’s placate some more,” it only emboldens the worst parents and students, bringing everyone down to that least common denominator level.

My younger son was assaulted in a GHS hallway such that the attacker was arrested by the Geneva Police without any intervention on our part. Then the perp got a one-day suspension. Yep! That’ll teach him.

It took me a long time to come to terms with this fact, but when it comes down to crunch time, the majority of D304 staff are far more concerned about their own hides than the students’ well-being.

And I’ve always had a voice. I can’t imagine what it musta been like for you regular folks!

3. An entitlement mentality

Throughout my opinion columnist career, I’ve written a number of pieces supporting teachers, one of which made it into every D304 and Kaneville teacher mailbox. At the risk of sounding like a silly President, nobody has defended educators more than me. But when I wrote that our teachers were out of line regarding a potential strike during the Great Recession, suddenly, I was the devil incarnate.

I clearly remember GHS Principal Tom Rogers following my wife and me from room to room during parent-teacher conferences, and he wasn’t worried about me.

Though it’s certainly not as bad as the entitlement mentality that plagues the average Genevan, there is more than a bit of a “D304 is a cut above so there’s no point in questioning us,” attitude.

And let me let you in on a little secret. Geneva teachers may say they want more parental involvement, but they really don’t. Again, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with this gaggle of petty parents, either, but the larger truth is, teachers take pride in having to “raise” these kids. They also like the power that comes along with that abrogation of parental responsibility.

I’ll say it again! Teaching is not an easy job, but I firmly believe that many D304 teachers make it much more difficult than it has to be.

4. Amish propensities

Yes! Technology is moving at a pace that makes it very difficult to keep up, but D304 seems firmly rooted in the 80s. I’m not talking bleeding edge systems, but when you consider that STEM is the educational wave of the future, you’d think our classrooms would better reflect its importance.

For example, we bought our eldest son a graphing calculator that was released in 2012 and none of his math or science teachers knew how to use it, so he was on his own. Meanwhile, those teachers were recommending calculators that came out in the 90s.

5. Curriculum

Though this was the least of my worries, I’ve never been a big fan of the D304 curriculum. It’s antiquated, it’s not challenging enough, it’s too light on technology, it  doesn’t prepare students for the real world (not everyone goes to college) and it’s basically the bland white version of everything.

I’ve covered the U-46 School District for the Courier-News and the Ward & Jones Radio Show for years and they do so much more with less percentage-wise money. I wish D304 had more courage and foresight in this regard.


So while I certainly recognize and appreciate the effort required to propel a student from kindergarten through high school graduation, and there are people I’ll never forget, it’s a relief that this 15-year journey is over.

Now it’s time to move on.

9 thoughts on “A D304 Retrospective

  1. Now that your kids are done with school, it’s time for YOU to go back…and run for the school board,

  2. I obviously don’t know about the hallway incident with your son or when it occurred, but schools are not able to provide disciplinary consequences like they used to due to Illinois SB100. As a high school teacher myself, its frustrating that dean’s are in such a bind with school discipline.


    • Dear Just,

      You are dead on and we talked about that new statute on Ward & Jones. Given that I expected a three-day suspension and other sanctions. When that didn’t happen, I forced the high schools hand on a number of things and took care of the rest in court.


  3. Interesting read. As a newly retired special education teacher,I cringe at the idea of staff ignoring and or minimizing the contents of an IEP. In my next venture, I hope to advocate for families of special needs children. I’ve seen too many families come in unaware, uneducated and (mis) uninformed. I look forward to sitting on the other side of the table!

    • Mary,

      I truly like GHS principal Tom Rogers as a person, but after yet another teacher ignored the IEP such that I got my son’s summer school grade raised from a C to a B+, Tom said, “He probably didn’t bother to read the IEP.” My head wanted to explode.

      • Ugh!! Can’t tell you how many times I sat in parent teacher conferences over the years only to hear a teacher say, “I wasn’t aware that Johnny had an IEP.” Those few words were all it took to strain the teacher -parent relationship for the the remainder of the school year. And, as the school’s Team Facilitator, it didn’t do much for my reputation either!

      • Mary,

        Regarding the summer school IEP issue again, Tom Rogers and I had a very pleasant 15 minute face-to-face conversation in which he tried to convince me I should let Ben’s grade stand because it would make him a better person.

        But when I asked him, “So it’s our job to hold Ben accountable, right?” And when he answered “yes,” I responded, “So what would Ben think if I didn’t hold GHS accountable?”

        That’s when he stopped arguing and raised the grade.

      • And there you have it! We are our childrens’ first and best advocates. The IEP process is daunting all around, but that doesn’t give a pass to the professionals who are charged with honoring it. To clarify, I did not teach in 304 and have nothing but high marks for all of our daughter’ s teachers. She’s had a fabulous experience to date. She’ll be starting at the high school this fall and we look forward to her continued success. I’m sorry your experience was soured by the IEP.

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