Letters to the Editor: Residents Voice Opinions on District 113 Referendum
Residents also voice support for school board candidates.
Facilities need to be replaced
As a parent of a current third generation Highland Park High School student, I support the District 113 Referendum. Many areas of the school have outlived their useful life, among them the hotly debated physical education facilities.
Several Highland Park pool users are suffering from newly diagnosed health issues (sometimes severe) resulting from the poor air quality provided by an antiquated ventilation system. Recent work to try to fix the problem has slightly improved it, but in no way corrected it. In addition, just this past week, the pool filter broke down. While under repair, the pool is unusable for P.E. Classes, scheduled sporting events had to be canceled and all aquatic teams are currently sharing space in the Deerfield pool. Some may say, "just fix it", but the filtration and heating system has malfunctioned often in the past few years, always requiring time and money to repair. Constant “band aid” repair is not a long term solution.
Here’s another example of what we could face if we just keep patching our outdated facilities. In February, during a P.E. class at Maine East High School, a piece of glass covering a light fixture below the surface of the pool broke, causing water to rush into the void, flooding the floor below. As a result, Maine East School was temporarily closed for expensive and extensive repairs. Their pool has problem light fixtures. Our pool has similar problems, and more, as identified by CARE for 113 Schools. This is the type of situation that cannot be predicted and therefore, cannot be prevented with regular maintenance. Outdated and unsafe facilities must be replaced to guarantee the safety of our schools, students and staff. Replacing inadequate facilities is a necessity and not merely a desire for "showcase" physical education facilities.
While I am the parent of a current swimmer, he is my youngest child and will graduate before garnering any benefit from the improvements at the high school. But I recognize and accept that the referendum will benefit all future students and our community as a whole. Moreover, too much emphasis has been placed on the pool and field house. The majority of funds go to technological upgrades and improvements to the school as a whole. As a community, we need to show our continuing support for education and vote yes on April 5.
Former teachers support referendum
Forty years ago we had the good fortune to begin our teaching careers in Township High School District 113. At that time we settled in Highland Park, and since 1978 we have owned a home in this community. To this day, we could not be happier with both of these decisions. After a combined 65 years of serving Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools in various teaching and administrative roles, we are now retired but continue to live in this community for the same reasons we were drawn here in 1971.
Our various work in both high schools allowed us to be keenly aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their respective facilities. As recently as 2008, when Jim completed a 2-year term as co-Principal of Highland Park High School, he observed first-hand the challenges of using and maintaining some of the oldest facilities in the district. We followed the planning process surrounding the building project on the upcoming ballot, and we have reviewed the proposed plan. Based on our previous experiences with such projects, we realize it is virtually impossible to achieve consensus on the inclusion as well as the timing of all elements in such a plan. We believe this proposed plan very effectively addresses a significant number of critical needs in the district with the added benefit of being able to address them at a time that requires no additional school tax increase for our communities. Seems like a win-win to us!
Obviously, the most important elements in a school are a prepared and motivated student body as well as a talented staff to meet their needs. However, as we find at home when it’s time to do a project in the kitchen or elsewhere around the house, having the right tool(s) to do the job improves the safety and efficiency of our work and hopefully results in a better outcome. We believe our students and their teachers deserve to have these additional and/or improved resources to maximize their experiences and the outcomes they produce. We look forward to voting “yes” on April 5 and we hope you will do the same for the terrific young people of our communities.
Mary and Jim Swanson
Buildings don't educate, teachers do
I take exception with a letter published earlier (Chicago Tribune Feb 21,2011) that supports a false premise that unless we spend this money our community will lack excellence in education. The writer states our buildings are 50-100 years old. The buildings at Harvard or the University of Chicago are a lot older.
Buildings never educated students. We have some of the best teachers in the country educating our children, supported by strong parents and sound values.
The writer mentions renovations "will provide generations of students with the educational experience they require for success in a globally competitive society".This district has been consistently producing well-educated, successful students over the past 100 years in these 100 year old buildings.
The writer mentions the school board's work preparing for this wasteful proposal. Does this work really support disingenuous claims such as "It won't cost the taxpayer anything"? That is simply not true (see www.educationfirstin113.org) for a complete explanation of the numbers. This referendum will cost the owner of a $600,000 house over $10000 for the next 20 years or $508 dollars annually.
A no vote is the responsible vote. I am for a better, well thought out plan, one that addresses renovation needs not wants and which
I believe will cost far less.
The Board's argument that we should do this now due to low interest rates and building costs is not a prudent or responsible argument to borrow money. This bond issue will ultimately cost over $200 Million dollars of principal and interest over 20 years.
Samuel D. Gess
Schools have serious infrastructure needs
As a parent of five children and a graduate of HPHS, it is discouraging to see the Vote No signs displayed in our community. The slogans on the signs read: “Support our Schools, Vote No.” and “Teachers, Students and Staff Before Buildings” are misleading, incorrect and painfully ironic.
In what possible scenario does voting “no” to a critical building infrastructure referendum that addresses life-safety and critical technology issues in HPHS and DHS “support our schools?“ Plain truth: Voting no does not support our schools. The vote no platform is an anti-tax sentiment that is being strongly expressed by some who are demanding lower tax burdens from every taxing body in our community. If that is their doctrine, they should be forthright and say so. Only voting yes to the referendum truly supports our schools, our teachers, our current and future students and our property values.
HPHS and DHS have serious infrastructure and disability access issues that are most definitely NEEDS. Many of those repairs must happen whether the referendum passes or not. If only patched and repaired, the buildings will retain their aged challenges and one day in the future will still need to be demolished and replaced. This foolishly wastes more money. Additionally if the referendum fails, the money to make repeated repairs on a triage basis will be funds redirected from our children’s education.
My siblings and I attended HPHS from 1967-1981 and my children have attended in consecutive years since 2001. Our family has watched while class sizes steadily increased and the condition of the older buildings continues to deteriorate. We’ve watched the difficulties that children with physical disabilities have maneuvering around the older buildings and have struggled firsthand to assist aging parents gain access to antiquated sections HPHS. We have toured the buildings and seen, smelled and touched the sections of them that suffer from leaks and HVAC issues. We have watched technology and education join forces to explore new ways to learn and wished that our schools had the capacity to experience the fast moving technology changes.
You might note that there is a 20-year gap between the time I left HPHS and the time my children began attending. During those 20 years, my parents and other family members were PROUD to continue to pay property taxes that supported all the schools in our community. That is the idea of paying-it-forward. Even those individuals who do not currently have relatives enrolled in public school benefit when that school is of excellent quality with strong academics, successful athletic programs and extracurriculars that expand the teenagers’ view of the world. Engaged and happy teenagers do not get into as much trouble in their communities and they learn by example how to pay it back. How many Deerfield, Riverwoods, Highwood, Bannockburn and Highland Park students eventually find their way back to our communities to raise their own children? If we let our schools continue to fall into decay and money intended for education is redirected to infrastructure, that wonderful cycle of returning here to reinvest will be broken.
Voting Yes helps insure that our children and all children of future generations in D113 will have a chance to utilize updated classrooms with Internet access and well functioning heating and cooling systems. Our community will be able to realize the savings associated with low borrowing costs, a competitive construction economy and the savings associated with more energy efficient buildings and HVAC systems. It is a pleasure to see the district being fiscally responsible with a well thought out long range capital facility and technology plan…. the first in my memory as a life-long Highland Parker.
As a homeowner, I invest in repairs of my home to protect its value and make it a safe and comfortable place to live. I would like to believe that these repairs are needs, not wants. The same is true for Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools. I don’t live in a country club home and I don’t expect my children to attend a country club school. I would like my children and my neighbors’ children to attend schools that are warm, safe, comfortable, accessible to all and equipped with the tools for success…. be they technology, athletics, academics or administrative. That is what voting “yes” provides to the children in our communities…. the basics of an education suitable for 2011 and looks forward.
I have heard it said that a reason to vote against the D113 referendum is because D112 is also facing tough economic times. That is true. I suspect district 106 and 109 might in the future, too. I could no sooner pick a favorite district to support that I could pick a favorite child that I’ve born. I support all the students of every age in our community and I will be proud to engage in support of the elementary school districts in the future if their time comes. It is not an either or. It is, simply, a yes.
Marjie Sandlow for District 113 School Board
Janna and I have observed first-hand, over the last 15 years, the tremendous skill and effort that Marjie Rosen Sandlow has given to improve our schools and make our community a better place. As a District 113 School Board member for the past 5 years, Marjie has helped the District face economic challenges and has done an excellent job of meeting those challenges. District 113 is one of only a small number of school districts in Illinois to receive a Moody's AAA bond rating. Her leadership as a member of the School Board Finance Committee has resulted in decreasing expenses in many areas while maintaining the high quality of our children's education. Marjie is proactive, innovative and deserves the community's support for re-election to the School Board.
Keith and Janna Berk
Debra Hymen for District 113 School Board
Debra Hymen is a candidate for the District 113 School Board. I hope you will join me in voting for this extremely qualified person. Debra has many years of experience representing others. She served on the 112 School Board during the referendum and construction years. Not only does she understand the need to responsibly budget, but she successfully spearheaded the 112 Board to finish school construction on time and under budget. As a real estate agent, Debbie has represented sellers and buyers in all of the communities served by District 113 and she is abundantly aware of the importance of good schools and reasonable property taxes. As a parent and because her own children benefitted from the excellent educational opportunities afforded at 113, she understands the importance of an exceptional high school education and the importance of providing a solid foundation for college prep and vocationally trained graduates. When I write about Debra Hymen, I would like to reiterate her commitment and dedication. She is a life long learner who is passionate about all our children. She has chosen the path of school board member as the way to best channel her interests, knowledge and desire to serve the community. I am privileged to have Debbie as a friend and cannot stress too strongly how fortunate we will be to have her serve on the District 113 School Board.