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Back To Drawing Board for District 113 Renovations

High schools look to community for answers about facility needs after failed referendum.

In the wake of District 113’s failed school referendum, school officials have formed community action teams to address facility issues that still plague Deerfield and Highland Park High School.

Back in April, voters defeated a. The proposal provided for capital improvements at both DHS and HPHS.

Now, District 113 is trying to move forward and wants input from the community about what its next steps should be. To do that, community action teams have been established.  

“These community volunteers are working together to analyze key aspects of the facility/technology plan. They will then report to a leadership team who will make a recommendation to the District 113 Board of Education about next steps,” a District 113 press released stated.

The areas of study include:

1.  Teaching and Learning/The Classroom Environment

2.  PE/Athletics/1914 Buildings/DHS Athletic Fields

3.  Building Systems/Building Envelope/Life Safety

4.  Finance/Cost Analysis/Budget Development/Cost Estimating

5.  Market Research

The market research team will begin conducting a qualitative and quantitative survey in the community sometime later this month. 

“The qualitative surveys will be focus group interviews with a random sampling of community members. Facilitators of these focus groups will be market research experts. They will ask questions about the facility plan that failed as well as gain insight into the facility and technology plan priorities that community members espouse,” the press released explained and will be conducted later this month and in early September.

“The quantitative study will be an on-line survey. It is anticipated that all community members will be invited to participate in the survey.”

According to District 113's website, no date has been established for a future referendum ballot question. "We will initiate the study group process and will look forward to hearing recommendations that come out of this work," Harvey Cohen, Board of Education President explained.  

Click here to take a look at who is on the community action teams. 

Nancy S. Karp August 11, 2011 at 07:39 PM
I am working on the market research team. I must say that I have been very inpressed with two things: 1. The dedication and professionalism of all the community members that are volunteering their time on this project. 2. The attitude of the board members: They are listening very carefully to the volunteers and community members. They clearly want to craft a new referendum that will reflect the wants and needs of the community. They have been very open to the research group's recommendations on how to find out what the district 113 voters want. I am excited to be a part of this process and look forward to seeing the results of our work over the coming months.
Bringin' Down Briarwood August 15, 2011 at 04:08 PM
First of all, a sincere thank you to all the people putting in their valuable time and expertise into this. Secondly, thanks to all the Monday Morning political quarterbacks who shot down the original proposal. Not only was that original money wasted but now I'd guess we're wasting far more money analyzing this thing TO DEATH. All to appease a group who probably won't want to pay the taxes - no matter what is proposed. So let me get this straight: the "community" is now a strong part of this process and yet they couldn't articulate their desires well enough to influence the group. Instead, the board hired a market research firm to understand the community. What a waste!! I'd especially love to see the voting records of the anti-tax group. They were probably dumb enough to vote in most of the board, but not trust their judgement. Thanks for wasting the time of so many of us. And thanks for wasting the money which you supposedly value so much.
Nancy S. Karp August 15, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Hello Bringin' Down Briarwood - Just to clarify, THE DISTRICT 113 SCHOOL BOARD HAS NOT HIRED A MARKET RESEARCH FIRM. They recruited marketing and market research professionals that live in the district 113 community. These people are volunteering their time to do market research to clarify what the community wants. There will be some minor expenses associated with the survey process, but everything else is volunteers. Their are other volunteers on the various committees outlined in the original post. They are taking a very close look at all of the aspects of the original plans that led to the referendum and doing in-depth analysis to see where logical changes can be made. This is being done in tandem with the market research, so that we can ultimately make a recommendation to the board for a new plan that will be acceptable to the community. This is very complex issue. It isn't just a matter of randomly cutting out one or two projects to save money. It is all interelated. Kind of like "this old house." You start out thinking you are going to do one project (like fix a broken/outdated shower), and then realize that it will be more efficient in the long run to do another project at the same time (redo the plumbing in the whole bathroom) because both projects have shared elements. Of course it is much more complicated than that example, but hopefully that helps you understand the complexity of the issue. Nancy Karp
Bringin' Down Briarwood August 15, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Thanks for setting me straight, Nancy. Okay, I understand the district is not paying for this. However, there's a reason this has become so complex - much like the political B.S. we've recently seen over the debt limit. Everybody is stomping their foot to get what they want instead of letting the professionals THEY ELECTED (who built an elite district) continue to make decisions. And I'm sorry, Nancy, you'll have to excuse me if I'm not a fan of market research determining the direction of education spending. As a marketer, I know what research produces. I'd much rather have educational pros choose the direction. But I'm sure I'm oversimplifying. On the other hand, had the board simply addressed all the issues over a 3-5 year period, they probably wouldn't be in this spot. However, I'm just an Internet big mouth, Nancy. Don't put more wood on the fire, and let my comments sit there. Best of luck, and thank you for everything you're doing.
RonnieTheLimoDriver August 16, 2011 at 01:07 PM
I think you are missing the point. While I agree the last thing we need is a bunch of talking and no action, I dont think this is what the administration is doing. The board tried to do what you are saying, which is to make the decisions on their own and just inform the public. They then put the issue to vote, as required for the bond issue. The bond issue failed by a fairly hefty margin. That means the board needed to go back to the drawing board. The amount of work that needs to be done to the schools is significant, so no way the district can fund it out of its operating budget. That means to get the money required, they need public support. No better way to figure out what the public will support than by asking them. I do appreciate your confidence in the board and the administrators. I think that shows they have done a good job. However, just handing over authority to the government has gotten us in some pretty big trouble at the federal and state level. More involved citizens might slow the process down some, but it does create a tendency to focus on needs rather than wants and in the process avoid expensive wastes of money. D113 is full of VERY smart, talented, and successful people. It would be a waste to not leverage this talent base for FREE to develop a comprehensive plan that everybody can support.
Bringin' Down Briarwood August 16, 2011 at 08:52 PM
As one Internet big mouth to another, I'll agree with your general direction, Ronnie. If decisions are made relatively strictly on educational and extracurricular "needs," then there are no arguments here. My concerns are that by developing some extensive market research, then you bring in an element of personal needs into the equation, rather than strictly the needs of the kids. Yes, there's a financial element to this, but there's also an educational standard this community has established. And the community should not stray from that direction. And I'm truly concerned that there's a bigmouth element in this whole thing who simply doesn't want to invest in the community. Google a few of the EducationFirst leaders and you can see how vocal they have been to several other past spending proposals. EVERYTHING can't be THAT poorly planned. However, I'll simply hope many new ideas have been brought to the table AS PROMISED TIME AND AGAIN. Let's hope everybody is working together, and everybody is showing good faith for the kids - not the almighty dollar. That's all I ask.
Bringin' Down Briarwood August 16, 2011 at 09:03 PM
While I'm being the Internet bigmouth, can somebody out there assure me that some of the heavy hitters from Education First have been a part of the new efforts? Koukos, Bagan, Greenberg, Fried - those are the names I know. They were ALL OVER the Internet before the election - then, POOF!!! - not a word after the election. If they are heavily involved, there's no problems here. If not, Natalie, i think voters need an update about their activities in the Patch.

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