Marv Ehlers has been a Deerfield resident for more than 50 years.
“When we first moved to town in 1959, DHS was being built,” the 79-year-old remembered. “A lot of people did a lot of work in planning and developing the school systems before my family and I came to Deerfield.”
Ehlers feels that he’s got an obligation to continue to make his hometown a better place to live, which is why he decided to volunteer for one of District 113’s study groups.
In May, school administrators called on residents to help with Deerfield and Highland Park high school’s facility-technology plan. Volunteers were divided into six study groups of a market research, teaching and learning, PE/athletics/pool, finance, building systems, and leadership team. Participants have been meeting for months to determine how and where the high schools need to rehab, repair, replace and expand present facilities to meet the needs of the future.
Ehlers was placed in the leadership group and financial group because of his background. The Deerfield resident retired as vice president of a natural gas pipeline in 1994 where he was responsible for computer based information systems and digital communications. He holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA. Plus, he was on the Deerfield Village Board of Trustees for 11-years and is a past president of the Illinois State Historical Society, a 501c3 organization.
“I have been involved in a variety of Deerfield activities over our 50 plus years here,” he mentioned. “My school related involvement began with a long range planning study for District 110 in the late 1960s. That was followed by two elected terms on the District 110 board including a turn as board president.” Ehlers also served on the 110 transition board as it merged 110 into 109 in the late 1970s.
“I think the activity they’ve been undertaking is needed,” Ehlers commented about District 113’s study group process. “It’s time to do some renovation and replace obsolete and worn out equipment to provide for the needs of the coming generations.”
Ehlers said his teams have been briefed on the high school’s history and the complexity of the issues the facilities face. Group members are also taking a look at construction timing, rules and regulations and the infrastructure necessary to keep District 113’s educational program up to high standards.
“From a technology standpoint, we need to make certain we have the infrastructure for electronic communications and devices that have been
increasing use in the school system,” Ehlers said some 50-year-old buildings weren’t designed to power what’s currently being used.
He also mentioned problems with the school’s swimming facilities.
“I’ve talked to a coach from one of the area schools and she doesn’t bring divers along to Highland Park because it’s too dangerous to do deep diving,” Ehlers stated. “They’re limited in those ways.”
The finance study group, made up of volunteers with banking and investing experience as well as budgeting and cost management in both for profit and not-for–profit organizations, is trying to figure out how to fund these upgrades. It’s been suggested that District 113 should tap into its fund balances for repairs. However, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance Barry Bolek, the funds balances that exist are in place to maintain appropriate cash flow, manage unfunded mandates and/or delayed reimbursements, and address emergencies. These fund balances are also sustained in order to comply with state regulations. Because of the District’s current prescribed fund balance levels, the school system has maintained a AAA Moody rating.
Members of the finance study group team recently came to the consensus that the various fund balances should be carefully monitored and maintained at levels consistent with current board policy in order to sustain the AAA rating.
“I am in wholehearted agreement with current board policy for maintaining prudent levels of fund balances. That board policy is supported by Illinois State Board of Education Financial Profile requirements, Moody’s financial metrics for financial management and PMA’s recommendations,” Ehlers said. “As a result there is likely little or no capability for these funds to be used to support new capital needs. Further, I agree that maintaining a AAA Moody rating for the District is very important.”
As a member of the leadership group, Ehlers will be tasked with analyzing all of the recommendations study groups make, reviewing those requests and prioritizing them before making a presentation to the board of education.