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Readers Sound Off on Possible 113 Referendum

Township High School District 113 Board of Education votes Monday whether to place referendum on April ballot.

A nearly two-year effort of Township High School District 113 to work with the community to develop a master plan to renovate Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools may be swaying public opinion to the District’s side.

With the District 113 Board of Education set to vote at 7:30 p.m. today whether to submit an $89 million referendum to the voters to help fund the improvements, at least one person who opposed a $133 million ballot initiative two years ago has changed his mind.

Earlier: 113 Board Votes on $89 Million Referendum Monday

“I did not support the previous referendum,” reader Eddie Jacobs said. “The steering committee's recommendations to the school board were as a result of many hours of study, discussion, and analysis of the information provided from the professional firms hired by the board.”

The plan is not without its opponents. Sue Richman does not see a shift in public opinion since the last referendum. She would rather put the money into teacher compensation.

“The community doesn't support the School Board's desire to spend the money on its new pools and other extravagant proposals,” Richman writes. “Education outcomes have very little to do with dollars expended.”

Another reader, Tripp Hainsfurther, considers investment in new swimming pools and other aging infrastructure a necessary expenditure. Hainsfurther was one of the people involved in the community process offering input. He recognizes the need for facilities with a long life.

“The pools need to be replaced,” Hainsfurther writes. “They are over 40 years old and in very poor condition. Building C at Highland Park, which has two gyms, will be very expensive to preserve and put back into condition to meet the 25 to 50 year criteria for extending the life of the facilities. This makes it necessary to replace those gyms.”

Reader Phyllis Bagan disputes the District’s $114 million cost estimate. She fears it will actually be more. “This referendum is actually over $114 million,” she writes. “Let's not forget that reserves are taxpayer dollars. The other phases? Where is that information?”

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Walter White January 15, 2013 at 05:13 PM
OK so now your position is that if we get rid of some administrators this will bring HPHS out of a failing state in the eyes of NCLB. How exactly does that work?
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I'd venture a guess that pretty much anyone who's attended HPHS will tell you that it's a great school, and that they got a great education. Even if they didn't believe it at the time, chances are good that if you talk to them a few years after they graduated, that they'll tell you they came to this realization after meeting some people who weren't so lucky in their educational opportunities. But the truth is HPHS is listed as a failing school because it's failed to meet some of the requirements under the NCLB Act for several years. In my opinion, that Act started out well-intentioned, but needs to be reworked because there's no way that 100% of the members of a sub-group can be expected to achieve the targets. If just one has some mental deficiency, gets ill, or flubs up the test - you now fail and the whole school goes on a watch list. Crazy. We can take all the action we like, but until the Act is changed, or we stop accepting Federal Dollars, we're stuck with it. If we have to hire private tutors or more teachers - what's that going to cost? Where's that money going to come from?
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Actually it's a fact that the Public took their eyes off the ball in several areas - long range planning for not just D113, but the other feeder districts. HP's Park District and their pension fiasco. Even the City which has done a pretty good job has had some issues come to light (garage sprinklers come to mind). We've seen what happened when we did that, and I believe it's been a harsh awaking. But the important thing is that the Public is more engaged (there were times when Carl was the only guy that went to the meetings), people are taking the time to investigate and ask questions of their elected officials. And those officials overseeing these entities have changed. They're listening, they're studying things in more depth, they're changing, they're responding, they're partnering with the remarkable amount of brainpower that we have in our communities, and they're acting more transparently than I can recall. D113 has a great start for a Master Plan - is it perfect? Nope. Is it better than the last? Yep. Can we continue to refine it and achieve cost savings, efficiencies, and effectiveness in all we do? Yep. Can we continue to operate even more transparently? Yes.
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Actually, the committee I sat on sifted through the "Wants" v. "Needs" - did we have unanimity on everything? Nope. But we achieved consensus on what the Tier I (Immediate) down to Tier IV (In a perfect world) needs were. This current referendum is essentially all Tier I needs being corrected. In everything we did, we told the architects that we wanted them to consider all the options, and that we weren't married to anything. We also told them that we wanted at least 25-50 years out of whatever we rehabbed and to do the cost analysis of all the options. So they did that with the pools. Some of the issues are known, some unknown because it would cost more to investigate (e.g. cracks/voids underneath the pool bottom of the HPHS pool). But when the condition of the infrastructure was taken into account - a rehab would get us 10, maybe 15 years at the outside of extra life. The filters are at their end of life, the pipes/electrical is pretty much shot (some due to old age, some due to corrosion from improperly stored acid), etc. So you say to yourself: "I can spend $X million and rehab this structure and get 10-15 years out of it. Or I can spend $X+Y million and get 50-75 years out of the structure". I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but I believe Y was $3 million. So it wasn't really a contest - we had to build new pools.
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:46 AM
The gyms. The one in HPHS being moved is in a building that has some very old infrastructure in the basement. By the time you rehab that building and all it's infrastructure you've spent millions but haven't really done anything to help future utility needs. Given that the building is in the center of the campus - new utilities are going in so that future buildings and parts of the Master Plan can be tied in there. We've got to replace that space because it's needed, so the gyms move to a better location. As for Deerfield - I saw first hand the sheer number of students engaging in all the PE programs. Packed in like sardines. Some practicing in the hallways. Completely unsafe. So you have two choices there: 1) Rightsize the program offerings to what our current capacity is, or 2) Add more capacity. Given the participation in those programs, I can predict that #1 would go over like a lead balloon. So you've got to undertake #2 - after seeing it, I'd actually classify it as a need or despite the best efforts of the District, someone's going to get seriously injured or killed at some point. Going forward, we need to know what our capacities and review them BEFORE making a course offering so we can have a cogent discussion as a community as to the costs involved, or we'll be right back here in a few years.

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