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D181 Board Members Displeased with Gifted Consultant’s Price, Product

The district received invoices from Dr. Tonya Moon for thousands of dollars in additional services her team performed outside the contracted duties.

District 181 has received invoices from the consultant for its gifted prograrm for more than $13,500 worth of services “outside the scope of the original contract,” assistant superintendent for business Dr. Troy Whalen said at Monday’s board meeting. School board members, including Yvonne Mayer, were none too pleased. 

“I don’t understand how that happened without the board knowing about it,” Mayer said. “I’m just flabbergasted.”

Replying to board member Brendan Heneghan, who first questioned the additional fees, Whalen said one of the invoices sent by consultant Dr. Tonya Moon was for $8,255. Most of that, $6,500 according to the invoice, was to cover the cost of a three-person team from Moon's firm for a consultation with the district’s principals and for a visit to the Jan. 23 school board meeting, at which Moon and one colleague were present. The remaining $1,755 was to cover additional travel and lodging expenses.

The district received another invoice from Moon for $5,341 in additional consulting services provided by her colleague, Dr. Catherine Brighton, Whalen said.

Moon was hired by the district last fall for a total contracted fee of $42,973 to be paid over two years. If the district pays the additional invoiced expenses, that total would rise to more than $56,000.

“[Moon’s] numbers are huge and deserved to be questioned,” said board member Sarah Lewensohn, who acknowledged Moon's team did what the district asked, but she recommended that district's staff request a rate modification from the University of Virginia consultant.

The board agreed to hold any additional checks to Moon until District 181 administration follows up with the consultant.

Board President Michael Nelson did not speak highly of Moon's evaluation in general.

“For the money we spent … I’m not all that thrilled with the work that was done,” he said.

“You’re not alone,” board member Russell Rhoads replied.

Nelson said the principal consultation was a worthwhile expense because school leaders needed to hear directly from Moon the “inflammatory language and damning statements” in the consultant’s report to best deal with the community reaction. The board president did, however, advise the administration to look back at the original contract with Moon and evaluate whether the additional expenses are indeed outisde of it.

Moon’s report, , said the District 181 gifted program as it exists today is “not defensible” based on its identification process and curriculum. The report recommended that the district develop and adhere to a clearer philosophy statement and either discontinue or make major changes to the pullout ACE program, a point of view that has sparked plenty of public comment from community members who both agree and disagree.  

Also at Monday's meeting, which took place at in Burr Ridge, the board voted 5-2 to direct the administration to come to the April 9 board meeting with a job description for a director of assessment administrative position for next school year. The board took that action instead of voting on the approval of a temporary teacher-on-assignment position recommended by the administration to help develop gifted curriculum during a transition year for the program.

Rhoads and Mayer both said they’d rather get a permanent administrative hire in as soon as possible to help lead the transition. Lewensohn and Glenn Yaeger voted against the measure.

Lewensohn said hiring an administrator now would be premature because the recommendation by Moon on how District 181 should proceed with its gifted program was "less than clear" and the program's direction has not yet been defined.

The item will be further discussed at the April meeting. 

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