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Former District 113 Adversaries Still Wary

Steindler, Shapiro spar over demographics and vision.

As capital improvement ideas for and take a step forward, the divisiveness in the community over the a year ago has ebbed but not gone away.

Members of the Township High School District 113 leadership team presented their ideas at a May 21 District 113 School Board meeting. At the same time, a representative from Education First presented that group’s specific plan for the two schools.

was the primary group opposing the 2011 referendum and continues to advocate its positions about the schools’ needs. The community group supporting the referendum was . Though its members remain involved in the process the organization is not currently active.

Now that the study group recommendations have been presented by community members, professionals will develop specific plans for the two schools that can be considered by the Board, the administration and ultimately the community, according to District 113 Communications Director Natalie Kaplan. 

The District plans on creating a steering committee, made up of community members, to assist the professionals during the process, according to Kaplan. 

Before the May 21 meeting, the District retained the services of Perkins & Will, an architecture firm, to begin to develop plans for Deerfield and Highland Park.

Harry Steindler of Deerfield, who was one of the leaders of CARE, believes the process has been open and transparent. “This has been a good, thorough and inclusive process,” he said. “I have seen bending from people who were on opposite sides.”

Steindler Fears Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Despite Steindler’s happiness with the process and progress to date, he fears Education First’s reliance on current demographic studies and vocational training will diminish the District’s two high schools.

“It will become a self fulfilling prophecy,” Steindler said of Education First’s ideas. “Education is much more than academics. If we do not provide facilities like our neighbors it will downgrade our community.”

Sam Shapiro, a member of Education First who presented the organization’s plan at the May 21 School Board meeting, dismisses Steindler’s fears. He has faith Highland Park and Deerfield will continue to provide high quality education.

“The Education First plan envisions top shelf facilities for the students,” Shapiro said. “It will provide facilities for the students to perform at the highest levels possible.” He believes the impetus for high quality education comes from teachers, students and engaged parents.

Plan Must Be Long Term

The weight Education First gives to an enrollment study commissioned by the District showing declining student bodies for both Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools by 2020 also worries Steindler. He wants a capital improvement plan to last from 25 to 50 years.

“By time the work is (realistically) done 2020 is only four years away,” Steindler said. “We have to have a viable plan for the next 25 to 50 years. Four years into the future doesn’t mean a whole lot.” He also expects a stagnant real estate market to open soon bringing younger families to Highland Park and Deerfield.

The major difference between Steindler and Shapiro on demographics is whether potential declining enrollment is permanent or temporary. Shapiro thinks the aging population of Baby Boomers will foster a long term enrollment decline.

When it comes to the ideas for the schools, Steindler remains happy with the progress and Shapiro is willing to consider modifications to the Education First proposals. “There’s always room for improvement,” he said.

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Bringin' Down Briarwood June 01, 2012 at 02:57 PM
PLEASE, PLEASE, can we stop putting the E1st plan on the same level as a year of work from more than one hundred people from the community ... oh, including professionals in the business? Until E1st wants to step up to some - any - level of transparency about the creation of their plan, this should be a non-starter and the district should continue to move ahead without any regard for the plan. For instance, a simple one: who are the authors of the plan? What role did the consultation group have in the plan? In the meantime, Steve, maybe you can get E1st to come out from behind the curtain and facilitate a virtual Q&A with E1st? Readers submit questions. As an impartial observer, you pick the 50 most appropriate, and E1st gets three hours to answer - the same time as most open meetings held by the district. It's a win-win. Readers ask the questions that need to asked. E1st gets to babble mindlessly like they usually do. In the meantime, Harry, you're a better man than I for even giving this riding-the-coattails plan the time of day.
Bryce Robertson June 01, 2012 at 03:21 PM
BDB - great idea. Frankly, I would love to see that happen with both sides. Maybe that way, everyone could get their questions answered.
Average Joe June 01, 2012 at 03:27 PM
As The Patch editors continue to follow this story, they obviously look for new angles to report and this is one of them. I doubt either Harry Steindler or Sam Shapiro initiated this story.
David Greenberg June 01, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Demographic predictions become more and more of a black art as we go farther out in time. We don't want to overbuild, but we don't want to underbuild either. I seem to recall that the Chicago Public Schools suffered from a lack of classroom space at some schools back in the 70's and they used mobile classrooms until they were able to get over the hump. In some cases the population declined after a brief uptick, and they pulled out those mobile classrooms. And in other cases the population remained high, and they were able to use the mobile classrooms as a way to have temporary space until they could build permanent structures. A "hybrid" solution if you will, but it could work for us too... Something to think about...
Jarwlm June 01, 2012 at 05:48 PM
What Rock has Harry Steindler been living under believing that the process has been open and transparent. Requests have been made and still remain unanswered. Education First’s demographic studies and vocational training are right on track and will not diminish the District’s two high schools. If you think that the stagnant real estate market when it opens up is going to be bringing younger families to Highland Park and Deerfield, you're wrong - They won't be able to afford them; heck, even us old folks can't. Wake up.
uofiguy June 01, 2012 at 06:48 PM
The ongoing personal character assassinations on both sides solves nothing and only continues to poison a process that must move forward to an agreed upon modernization of functionally obsolete facilities. Our community high schools are arguably the most important and highly trafficked facilities in Highland Park and Deerfield and upgrading them to serve the needs of the community, it's students and educators is an imperative. We may all disagree on aspects of the process that led us to this point but as adults we must rally around a plan to do something to our aging facilities. Procrastination is not an option....it only serves to dig a deeper hole that we must dig out from.
Harry Steindler June 01, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I'm awake and in the interest of being open and transparent have never been afraid to post with my real name - people know what I'm about, what I care about -Jarwim - guess there's nothing transparent about your post. I personally don't care either way about the release of the raw survey data - unless you were involved in designing the survey and have been trained to analyze such data - what is it that you want to do with it?
Dan Jenks June 01, 2012 at 07:14 PM
If you truly doubt it has been an “open and transparent process”, check out the following link http://dist113.org/communityaction/Pages/default.aspx - this link has minutes of the 6 study groups (whose meetings have been open to the public). Has it been 100% transparent? No – as Ed Brill and others have noted, the District has not released the raw data from the Survey. Does this failure make the process non-transparent? Of course not. And at the end of the day, is the raw Survey data that important? Not really. District 113 gets the message that the community wants to minimize the cost, renovate where possible and focus on the most important things. Now it is a question of hiring professionals and doing the cost/benefit analysis on the various options available. As for demographics, who do you think is going to buy your home some day? Double income no kids? Empty-nesters? Once the real estate market bottoms out and the economy picks up, young families will once again start to move to Highland Park and the student population will stabilize. To bet otherwise is to unwisely extrapolate recent trends which won’t last forever. Finally, with regard to Education First’s proposal, I say all the power to them – good for them putting a proposal together and making their viewpoint heard. The appropriate time for comparision of this plan vs. a future District 113 plan will be after all of the remaining analysis has been done.
Harry Steindler June 01, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Please note that District 113 very successfully offers vocational training through a wonderful program in conjunction with the College of Lake County. David - no one is suggesting the expansion of classroom space - other than to create some classrooms that are more conducive to current teaching and learning methods. The additional space needs are due to overcrowded or inadequate PE space needs - as you observed at DHS (students having PE classes in the halls, etc.) and HPHS - the gym in the C Annex building and the less than ideal situation in the indoor track. PE and athletic needs have grown by leaps and bounds over the last 50 years, fueled by Title IX as well as a general understanding of the benefits of both PE and athletics for our students. Our facilities are incredibly outdated and inadequate.
Bringin' Down Briarwood June 01, 2012 at 08:50 PM
As I've said, you better not support one inch of the Me1st plan if you're going to grip about transparency. The next time they stand up and explain anything about their hit-and-run plan will be the first. In the meantime, I love the ongoing stump speech that they are willing to accept modifications to their plan. Please tell us where you plan to hold those meetings. Date?
Bringin' Down Briarwood June 01, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I agree 100%, UofI. If all sides start playing by more ethical rules rather than euphemistically and strategically hiding behind their true goals and plans, then I'll be the first to shut up and magically disappear. Until then, this community needs to stand up more for a good process and call out ALL sides of people who are wasting our time and money.
David Greenberg June 01, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Harry - I didn't mean that we wanted to expand classroom space - My explanation above was just an example of some ways to solve issues creatively. Yes, the space being asked for is for PE. I saw it, I understand that a lot of the students participate in various PE/Athletic activities. Part of the cost analysis is what it's going to cost us to accommodate the various PE activities we want to offer. We'd like to accommodate everyone that wants to be on a particular team or engage in a particular activity - but depending on the cost and other competing needs, that might not be possible. So we need to know what these activities cost and "do the math". Then we can determine a process for signing up for the various activities that's as fair as possible. We've only just begun to look at all the possibilities.... It could very well be that we need more PE space right now - so for the present, we put up a dome-type structure. That gets us through the 'hump', and then if population declines, we may or may no longer need that structure. OR, it may buy us time to build something new or rehab existing to suit our needs. It could also be that the dome structure is used while other portions of the building are undergoing rehab/construction. Again, we're very early in the planning stages and these are all concepts for possible consideration.
Average Joe June 01, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Here’s hoping that the BOE is keeping an eye on pension reform efforts in Springfield as they formulate the new plan. With House Speaker Madigan floating a plan that would hand off more of the funding obligation for teacher pensions to local school districts, if passed, we can expect a big bump in property taxes to fund that obligation. Madigan has a history of getting what he wants and if this solution gets passed, what’s the public’s appetite going to be for a new referendum after a hefty tax hike? Our pay checks (and retirement funds) only go so far.
Susan Kozloff June 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
And Average Joe....this will happen! Former district superintendents walked away with hundreds of thousands per year in pension benefits alone. How many administrators do we have historically? Teachers? We can not afford the retirees much less future obligations.
Sam Shapiro's Mutt June 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
You know, I wish that Mr. Sadin and the Patch would have REPORTED on the many meetings leading up to the presentations before the Board. That would have allowed readers to make educated decsions on the appropriateness of options. Instead, they don't do the work and try to look for conflicts without doing their homework.
Bringin' Down Briarwood June 02, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Steve, I love the Patch, but SSM is right. You gotta help the community a little more and keep us more regularly up to date on the step-by-step activity. Maybe a simple column ... "This Week (or Month) in 113 Committees" with help from someone on the inside. On the other hand, SSM, in Steve's defense, have you ever seen an overall community who pays less attention to topics that affect them so directly? I guess it's typical of how most Americans address government/political issues, but this one hits close to home on so many levels. And how many of your neighbors/friends actually know what's going on? I know my circle has no clue. Then it comes time for the rubber to hit the road and groups feast on this mindlessness. It's the core of how they operate. I'd like to see Steve and the other major local paper hit harder on this, but they also need to sell their product based on demand.
Harry Steindler June 02, 2012 at 04:44 PM
For anyone interested there were excellent options to keep informed. The meetings of each study group, including the leadership group were open to the public; time / place posted on the district website in advance. Members of the committees were known to the public so anyone who knew them could have inquired. Finally the minutes of every meeting of every group were published on the district website soon after the meetings were held. I say the information was readily available to anyone who wanted it and the opportunity to be included in the process was available to everyone. With well over one hundred community members involved I found the process to be very representative. - Bringin' down Briarwood - I don't expect all of our neighbors to know or necessarily care about the process. Again - I don't think there could have been more opportunity for them to do so, but it's understandable that most people are not that interested at this level. The district has done everything possible to keep the community informed (reminder that all board meetings are also open to the public). The job of reaching even deeper to inform each individual in the community (especially those who have not taken it upon themselves to be informed to this point) will be part of the campaign to pass a referendum when that comes about. Most of us in the community / electorate don't become informed until that point - we're too busy with the rest of our lives - and that's certainly understandable.
Harry Steindler June 02, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I will add - that although I understand that many people wont be informed at this point, certainly the more that are informed, the more that are involved, the better. And although we who post all love the PATCH I'm not sure that the generally otherwise uninvolved community member is spending a lot of time looking at the PATCH. I don't think that the PATCH has the personnel to cover everything that's happening in town. A thought - the PATCH encourages community members to blog - if you BDB - or anyone else would like to start a blog on the Dist 113 facilities progress and process I imagine the PATCH might be interested.
Average Joe June 02, 2012 at 05:52 PM
No one is saying the BOE hasn’t published information. The comments have to do with the level of reporting on this ongoing story. The articles on this topic of late seem more like fluff pieces. Just look at this one. A lot of people look to local publications such as this one as a primary source of information about what is going in the community. And not everyone has the time to browse the District’s web site and read the meeting minutes. We are a busy society and newspapers function to deliver information. Do I have the time to go through all the minutes of the legislative session in Springfield? No, that’s why I rely on news outlets. And just because everyone does not post or blog here does not mean readership is limited to those to do. It would be helpful if Patch expanded and deepened its coverage of this issue, but that’s up to the editors.
Sam Shapiro's Mutt June 02, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I understand that the Patch may have limited resources. And I understand that many in the community don't want to be informed a year before they are potentially asked to vote on something. But that's just what the boss and his friends count on. The are betting that people will look at their argument and say it sounds logical. Why should we spend money when these people say it isn't necessary. And what does it say about a group that participates in something, quits at the last moment and then criticizes the results that they didn't dispute before the conclusion? What it says to me is that the boss and his friends don't have any interest in change.
Bringin' Down Briarwood June 03, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Harry, you're preaching to the choir. I don't disagree that this process has been generously representative and wiiiiiiiiiide open for those who want it. I'd even argue that you guys have been too generous, but that's another topic for another time. My point is the unfortunate battle you guys face (and Steve to a lesser extent) - the lack of appetite the community has for this information. As for the point about everybody being busy, I think you're being generous. This is the buzzphrase for a general lack of (fill in the blank) in much of our world. It's the excuse-du-jour everywhere. In the meantime, while most people can't name the two candidates for the House of Representatives or that 113-issue even exists, they can answer any number of questions about the Kardashians or American Idol. But I digress. The Patch and its competitor are very easy methods keep up with even the most superficial level of this topic. And in my short time in this community, I'm surprised how little people care to be aware of the current activities, much less how it affects their world. I'd say it's quite a bit more aloof (for lack of a better term) than other areas I've lived, and it's unfortunate. OK, time to put away that soap box. Back to my other one.
Average Joe June 03, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Sounds a little like a lack of faith in the human spiriit. Call me foolish, but I still in believe in this country and this community to step up and do the right thing when it counts. I worked the Census a couple of years ago and going door-to-door showed me that the community is not as apathetic as some may believe.
Jacob Nelson (Editor) June 03, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Hi, SSM. I appreciate your comments, but if you'd like to continue commenting on Patch you need to change your username. It doesn't need to be your actual name, though that's preferred, but it can't be something that uses another person's name, as yours currently does. Thanks for understanding.
Ernest June 04, 2012 at 01:18 PM
While most people do not have the conviction for purpose to get actively involved in these issues, it would also be nice not to have "created" news where past comments are regurgitated for the sake of a new article. At the end of the day, talking in circles just to be heard is also not going to sway anyone (or at least it shouldn't). And just because someone, or one side, is talking the loudest and most often does NOT make them right!

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