The 10 candidates for the District 113 school system introduced themselves and took questions from a small audience at a forum at last Sunday.
Though it was far from the only topic discussed during the hour-long event, the contentious came up repeatedly.
"The plan is not well thought out; it's too expensive," said David Greenberg during his opening remarks.
Greenberg, the owner of business and technology consultancy, said he was against the renovation project that would see huge improvements to both Deerfield and high schools.
Other candidates joined Greenberg in voicing their opposition to the plan, often in the same breath as their names.
Carl Lambrecht, for example, said he was not in favor of the referendum, adding the interest would boost the cost to $201 million. Lambrecht owns Laurel Industries, an optics company located in Highland Park.
Mark Mulert introduced himself by voicing his support for the referendum and then said he wasn't running "to oppose or support any one issue." The structural engineer and software developer was a member of the District 113 leadership team last fall.
Candidates running for re-election to the school board, among them Marjie Sandlow and Michael Smith, said they favored the referendum.
"All of us know that the quality of our high schools is the key… that attracts many people to our community," Smith said.
Consolidating the school districts was another subject that prompted candidates to voice very different opinions. Currently, the elementary and high schools are separated into two districts--112 and 113.
"It's going to basically mean ending the district as you know it at the end of a school year, and starting a brand new one the next," explained Steven Narrod, a candidate who has served on the District 112 board. "So go cautiously."
Sandlow argued that keeping the districts separate allowed administrators to focus "on the education for the students at the ages that they are." She also said consolidation wouldn't be financially worth the effort.
"We already do a lot of cost savings among the district; we'd still need the same buildings," she said. "The cost savings would be extremely minimal."
Nutritionist Corinne Bronson-Adatto said the subject needed to be studied further before any decision could be made.
"We can't just do something like this and make a change without thoroughly evaluating it," she said.
The forum was moderated by Solel's rabbi Evan Moffic, who asked questions submitted by the audience. Those questions touched on topics from diversity to substance abuse, and resulted in more agreement down the line.
"The use of marijuana and other drugs hasn't gone away despite our best efforts," said David Small, an investment fund manager. He said the best way to tackle this problem is to "engage every single student from the first day that they come to high school."
North Shore real estate agent Debra Hymen served on the District 112 board for 12 years. She said she would like to focus on getting the community more involved with what the high schools are doing.
"The community isn't aware of all the wonderful things that are going on in the schools," she said.
Matilda Manfredini, a retired educator, said she was concerned with making sure students in the middle of learning curve didn't get lost as educators focused more of their attention on students at the ends of the spectrum.
"I seem to know through experience that many children in the middle get lost in the cracks," she said.
Of the crowd of about 40, some were hearing the candidates for the first time.
"I have made my selection," said Fred Putz, a retired Deerfield High School art teacher. "I'm against the referendum and that will consolidate my feelings about who I will vote for."
Other attendees were wary of the candidates who seemed overly focused on a specific subject.
"Some of these people came on just to put down the bond issue," said Faye Grossman, a former teacher. "I feel like that shouldn't be part of the election. If you're really interested in the board, you're really interested in the schools both fiscally and educationally."