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The Future of Our District 112 Schools: A Different Perspective

I recently attended one of District 112's community meetings hosted by the Superintendent’s Citizen Facilities and Finance Advisory Committee (SCFFAC), reviewed their 111-page report and the video available online that was also presented at the meetings. I found the presentations to be well-organized and meticulously prepared. Clearly, some very bright and highly motivated individuals devoted themselves to this process.

However, I have questions, and, perhaps, some of you do too. I don't think there's any argument that our aging schools don't need to be dramatically updated. Some, sadly, discarded. And we know there will be great expense in accomplishing this. However, after the meeting, as I was walking to my car I kept hearing the words “a world class education” as though our school board is telling us not to expect this for our children without a major physical overhaul of our schools. When I arrived home I revised my perspective on the video too. I went from thinking of it as polished and informative to wondering if it was slick and manipulative. Why, I've wondered since the meeting, wouldn't the finest teachers, an administration that is creative, receptive and responsible and parents who'll go to the ends of the earth for their children be enough to provide our children with a “world class education?” Having grown up in northeast Glenview I attended a new Avoca West, a much older Avoca East, a very old Marie Murphy Junior High and then a brand new New Trier West. I considered my education “world class” with no negative feeling regarding the age of the buildings (except for those few hot autumn days).

The fact is that it's easy to feel guilty when you experience resistance to a confident appeal from bright, influential people requesting money to improve your children's lives and telling you the problem is “critical.”. But, where were other District 112 school boards and Superintendents over the past 40 years when the economy was better and improvements would've cost our residents much less? Why weren't incremental but adequate school improvements performed along the way?  And where was Dr. Behlow 4 years ago on this issue rather than where he is today...about to walk out the door? Is anyone discussing this, and aren't we entitled to question the timing of this proposal and its urgency? And, for many of us, a request for funds on top of those for District 113 is extraordinarily burdensome. As we watched our properties values decline most of us also saw our property taxes escalate. I once called the City regarding this to be told that every agency in the County presents a budget that must be met. Time was when a decline in property value led to a similar decline in tax obligation. Not anymore.

Now we do know that the SCFFAC study has gone on for a year. Perhaps the timing of our being approached with this on the heels of our vote to support the District 113 bond fund is completely coincidental. But those of you who have read my previous blogs on my personal experience with District 112 upper administration's lack of transparency and accountability will understand my current apprehensions. Much as it would be nice for the community to embrace Dr. Behlow and his administration's recommendations and provide them a legacy of modernization as they leave the district, I, for one, would prefer to have the incoming superintendent bring his own face to the project and have the Board review all creative options to take some burden from the taxpayer.

At the table where I was assigned, we discussed why school property couldn't be sold to reduce taxpayer obligation, and we questioned the idea of appealing to wealthy donors for charitable contributions. Would any of us reject the “Smith Computer Lab” or the “Jones Auditorium?” However, the story was told at my table that a group of parents wanted to provide air conditioning for one of the grade schools, and their offer was rejected. One parent at our table questioned if this was a legal issue so I contacted the Illinois Department of Education and spoke to their legal department. In fact, schools in Illinois canaccept charitable donations. Yet we heard no mention of this from the SCFFAC. And we heard no information regarding any role the PTO might play in assisting in the process.

Finally, and almost lost in the presentation, was the disclosure that architects and builders haven't yet reviewed the schools to determine which would be saved, if new schools might need to be built and what the specific costs would be for all of this. I assume there's no way to envision costs without this undertaking and that final estimates would either be in line with current projections, below them or make our heads spin.

I'd like to suggest that we encourage the board to slow this process down, review creative means of funding, encourage the new Superintendent to engage in the process, get more precise estimates of costs and, finally, do everything to avoid an additional tax burden on the heels of the other ones we taxpayers have recently assumed. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Walter White March 17, 2014 at 07:42 PM
Stick to the gun threads and wishing death and disease on people. It suits you better.
Jordan S. Zoot March 17, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Walter..notice me comment was short and sweet by its purpose :)

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