Don’t Worry, Be Happy….
How D158 spent $168,500 on stuffed animals… to help staff become happy.
I am a proponent of professional training. I have taken Dale Carnegie, Strength Finders, Miller-Heiman, and Karass Negotiations, to name a few. I have utilized some of these into the organizations I am a part of. Good training can be an effective way to bring about culture change in an organization.
Huntley D158 has a culture problem, and everyone knows it. The teachers and staff are continuously stacked with more and more things to do, and the core mission of educating our students is diluted.
We know part of the problem is students’ behavior. We all hear the stories of overdosing on drugs and alcohol in the buildings, the bathrooms many kids are afraid to go into, and the blatant disregard for staff, students and teachers some of these kids bring daily. I have heard that some staff are actually leaving their badges after bad days, and some just need to get away after the administration allegedly won’t support them over the students poor behavior. The teachers and staff need support – they need it from parents, and they need it from the administration.
Enter the Orange Frog.
A company called International Thought Leader Network has a training program which is supposed to help drive a “Happiness Advantage”
I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this training program and its effectiveness. Quite frankly, it may be a great program, and it may help change the culture. So why am I bringing it up?
The training cost $226,750. But if you look closely above – you would see the training cost is actually closer to $58,250. The rest of the cost is is materials. $60k to instruct and to train the trainers for a staff of over 1000 is a pretty good deal. I wouldn’t complain about this. So what is in the materials which we spent almost three times on over what the actual training costed D158?
From the same document (section 21.4):
We handed out 740 stuffed animals, wrist bands, pins, and comic books to staff – all costing around $225 per person. With everything that is going on in the district, this was not smart spending. Think of what we could have done with this $168,000..
Worse, I’ve spoken with multiple teachers who’ve told me that staff does not take these “toys” seriously, throwing them in the trash after they’re received.
Don’t worry — you’d think that our Board of Education must have discussed this for several minutes at the end of a meeting. I’m sure they brought up the expensive material costs as a concern — I mean, we could have negotiated these high-margin, items right?
It’s 12 minutes, and you can listen to the discussion. Lots of accolades on the training, with no discussion of the excess material costs. Don’t worry – the district paid with ESSR funds.
It passed 6 – 0. Sean Cratty wasn’t present.
Keep in mind that this was year two. So what did we spend on this in year one? (From the Annual Statement of Affairs FY2022)
So we know they spent $141,000. How did this get broken down?
I found this in 2021 talking about the Orange Frog, but it only shows a fee of $24,000.
I’m not sure where the additional $120k was approved in the year, as sorting through the BoE agendas is a bit tedious.
So we have spent $360,000 on training to fix the culture over the last two years, with almost half spent on stuffed animals, comic books and other materials. (Again, these materials are for the adults — not the students!)
Simply, this is throwing money at an issue without getting to the root cause.
Maybe it will work. However, my guess is empowering teachers and staff is a better route with an administration who wants to dig in and be honest about the problems in the district, and then working together to solve them.
One additional comment for the HESPA folks who might read this. The Board of Education voted on this stuffed animal spending in the same meeting they agreed to reduce the Elementary Supervisor hours in the district. At this meeting, dozens of HESPA members attended to show support for these aides who had their hours cut. You can watch their impassioned speeches to the board. I was in attendance that night, as were many other concerned parents.
At this meeting, many D158 staff and members of HESPA spoke about the low rate of pay they receive and the extremely difficult work conditions they experience.
However, the board voted in favor of cuts 6-0 (with one board member absent). There was no dissent. No one asked how much it would cost to increase funding. No one asked if the district was doing the right thing for the students and teachers, even with such a visible outpouring of public support for our schools’ staff.
I wonder if we could have kept their hours intact if we didn’t spend all that money on comic books for staff?
Don’t worry, be happy.
Please vote for Andrew Bittman on April 4th for District 158 Board of Education.
(And, if you are all wondering, yes, you can buy your own Orange Frog.)