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Readers Sound Off on Possible 113 Referendum

Township High School District 113 Board of Education votes Monday whether to place referendum on April ballot.

A nearly two-year effort of Township High School District 113 to work with the community to develop a master plan to renovate Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools may be swaying public opinion to the District’s side.

With the District 113 Board of Education set to vote at 7:30 p.m. today whether to submit an $89 million referendum to the voters to help fund the improvements, at least one person who opposed a $133 million ballot initiative two years ago has changed his mind.

Earlier: 113 Board Votes on $89 Million Referendum Monday

“I did not support the previous referendum,” reader Eddie Jacobs said. “The steering committee's recommendations to the school board were as a result of many hours of study, discussion, and analysis of the information provided from the professional firms hired by the board.”

The plan is not without its opponents. Sue Richman does not see a shift in public opinion since the last referendum. She would rather put the money into teacher compensation.

“The community doesn't support the School Board's desire to spend the money on its new pools and other extravagant proposals,” Richman writes. “Education outcomes have very little to do with dollars expended.”

Another reader, Tripp Hainsfurther, considers investment in new swimming pools and other aging infrastructure a necessary expenditure. Hainsfurther was one of the people involved in the community process offering input. He recognizes the need for facilities with a long life.

“The pools need to be replaced,” Hainsfurther writes. “They are over 40 years old and in very poor condition. Building C at Highland Park, which has two gyms, will be very expensive to preserve and put back into condition to meet the 25 to 50 year criteria for extending the life of the facilities. This makes it necessary to replace those gyms.”

Reader Phyllis Bagan disputes the District’s $114 million cost estimate. She fears it will actually be more. “This referendum is actually over $114 million,” she writes. “Let's not forget that reserves are taxpayer dollars. The other phases? Where is that information?”

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Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther January 14, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Dan: I'm confused. This referendum addresses only immediate needs, as determined by over 100 volunteer citizens. These people clearly determined that these are needs. In terms of pools, the pools are in danger of failing. So do you spend 19 million to rebuild them in a way that will make them usable for the future, or do you spend 12 million to rebuild them in their present location and not solve other problems associated with the pools? I assume you are looking for academic space, which the new "C" building will provide, as will repurposing "B" building and converting better classrooms in "A" that are now offices. The price of building a new "C" building is constructing a new gym at Highland Park. Deerfield does not have enough PE teaching stations to support the program they offer. Should we offer less of a program? The "wants" you seem to point out are actually "needs" and when ammortized over the expected 50 year life span represent a bargin for taxpayers. Waiting will literally cost taxpayers millions in higher construction and interest costs. I ask you if it is worth it to eliminate some of the items you say are "wants" or to argue about a very preliminary budget?
D'skidoc January 14, 2013 at 04:55 PM
The last bond issue was to build the science wing at DHS and improvements at HPHS. It was a 10 year bond and is just about paid off. d113's B + I payment (bond and interest which I like to call buildings and infrastructure) will be about 20 to 25% lower than the average rate for the past decade should this referendum pass and the district elects 20 or 25 year bond terms. Why all the distrust? These schools have been providing outstanding education, maintained a AAA bond rating (nothing to sneeze at) and have nursed along some very aging assets. I think they've done a pretty good job.
Todd Grayson January 14, 2013 at 04:55 PM
No Child Left Behind is mathematically flawed for districts with the amount of ESL and Special Needs students that HP has in it. The educators are great and working hard. As a parent I am generally very impressed with my child's teachers. This is a physical issue, not a teaching issue. That is a completely different discussion.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther January 14, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Joel: The last bond issue was in the 1990's and went to build the Science Wing at HPHS and the Academic addition at DHS. That money has been spent and the bonds come off the books soon. School levies are capped at the rate of inflation by Illinois law. I cannot tell you how or why the rates are higher than that. So you feel you do not recieve value for the taxes you pay? Aren't our schools among the best performers in the area? Doesn't that performance influence the value of your home? Aren't home values in District 113 on the rise again, while others continue to drop or are stagnent? Isn't it worth the value of a weekly Starbuck's to have top notch facilities?
D'skidoc January 14, 2013 at 04:57 PM
btw...schools budget differently. They borrow (sell bonds) to pay for their capital expenditures just as a business might raise cash (take out loans or sell stock), but they don't always have the option of saving for a rainy day like you or I might.
Gary January 14, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Ha Ha Ha! Good luck outspending us in Lake Forest. We spend ~$23,000 per student per year, and we're looking at selling more bonds to spend even more money. You don't have a chance. We spend more on our facilities and teachers than you do, so that means we're better, and that our students will be smarter, and that means more people want to live in LF than Deerfield, and that drives our property values through the roof, which ... isn't happening. Damn! Wait. Something went wrong with my logic somewhere. This USED to work. Can anyone help me figure out where I made a mistake?
Carl Lambrecht January 14, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Chicago cost $16,000 per student, Highland Park Cost about $30,000 per student. Lake Forest cost about $43,000 per student. These are all failing schools. Highland Park is failing not by a small amount. if failing is below 70 percent. Highland Park is less than 50 percent for the last 5 years. Let’s focus on correcting this issue.
Carl Lambrecht January 14, 2013 at 05:41 PM
In Highland Park library is a DVD called Ron Clark. Ron took one of the worst class in low per forming school in New York City. In one year he turned the class into a high performing class. High performing students will be good even in a bad school. you measure the school by its ability to give incentive to poor performing students.
Carl Lambrecht January 14, 2013 at 06:04 PM
We really spent about $30,000 per student. Pension and some other costs are not reflected in your $23,000. The superintendent involved with last referendum has received over 1 million dollars for the short time she is on pension. No one who is on Social Security has received this much even if retired for 30 years.
DeerfieldResident January 14, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Enough with this wants versus needs nonsense. The schools need new pools. Either we build new pools or we eliminate the swimming programs completely -- not a good option in my book. The pools are used for the swimmers, divers, water polo teams and many PE classes. DHS is lacking indoor PE space. Students actually run in the hallways in bad weather. Ask them about the shin splints they get from running on tile floors. And as the plan outlines, there are a multitude of infrastructure issues that must be addressed. Creating this plan has been very inclusive and everyone in the community had the opportunity to get involved and informed. Just repeating the "wants versus needs" rhetoric over and over again is not productive. It is such a subjective argument that it could be used to block almost anything. My hope is the supporters of the schools and this referendum can drown out these naysayers.
Todd Grayson January 14, 2013 at 06:56 PM
@Gary - Would (and could) never try to outspend LF. The school was nicer than a lot of private colleges I have seen. That would never be the goal. Its just that our buildings are severely warn down to a point where I believe inconveniences are mounting for students and staff, the operating costs (electric, gas, etc.) are higher. ADA compliance is reliant on "duct tape", etc. etc. If the buildings were a resident's home, they would want to move or renovate.
Citizens Against David Greenberg January 15, 2013 at 02:27 AM
There is a 76% chance that Carl Lambrecht makes up his facts and figures along with a 84.5% probability that he would be against any referendum no matter the cost or scope. It is a 110% fact that people like Carl are the reason things are as bad as they are now because he (and everyone else) didn't insist that serious long range planning be a requirement for approving past bond issuance. Unfortunately we are at the place we are now and just because your children are long gone (I am looking at you Carl) doesn't mean you can abandon the responsibility you put off for the last 15-25 years. I am fully on board with bringing our facilities back up to the current century but I wish we were also talking about all the other things that will need to be taken care of 10-15 years from now an start planning for them so we stagger these issues into smaller chunks instead of huge bond issues every 15 years. The bed has been made and we have no choice but to sleep in it this time but there is no reason we have to keep making the same mistakes going forward and being in the same place in 10-15 years...
Walter White January 15, 2013 at 02:54 AM
Well put, CADG. I'm sure you're hard at work putting together your anti-teacher, pro-concealed carry in schools platform. If there's anything I can do to help the campaign, let me know. I'm a big supporter. BTW it looks like the candidate is laying low, maybe trying to fly under the radar this time. But we won't let that happen, will we?
Redhead January 15, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Ugh, I'm sick of all the negative comments and bantering. What we really need are two new state of the art high schools which can be competitive with surrounding communities. Short of that, we desperately need new pools and gym facilities as well as many other renovations, some included in the current plan and some not. Want your property taxes and reputation to be in the dumpster, leave the buildings unsafe and crumbling. Let's get on with it already....My question is why is Lincoln School still standing? Why haven't we torn down this old, old school that is not even handicapped accessible?
Bringin' Down Briarwood January 15, 2013 at 06:30 AM
RE: " ... because your children are long gone (I am looking at you Carl) doesn't mean you can abandon the responsibility you put off for the last 15-25 years." SAY IT LOUD AND SAY IT PROUD, CADG, because you KNOW that's what so much of this is about for Carl and so many others - people who won't use the schools and fixed incomes.
Carl Lambrecht January 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Schools should not be failing like Highland Park High School for the last five years. Read the School report card. Carl Lambrecht 847 432 8255, lambrecht@laurelindustries.com
Carl Lambrecht January 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM
Read below from people who value education. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/01/head-start-impact-evaluation-report-finally-released Quote of the Week “I don't believe taxpayers pay taxes to subsidize a failing government school system. What they want is quality education provided to every child…. If we turn our backs on school choice, it won't be only some of our most deserving children who will be the losers. It will be our entire state.” – Chase Roemer, President, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
RonnieTheLimoDriver January 15, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Compete with surrounding communities in what way? You must mean sports based on the amount being planned to be spent on athletic facilities. If you mean academics, despite what Carl is preaching, both DHS and HPHS are amongst the top in the state.
D'skidoc January 15, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Geez Carl. Holding Louisiana up as an example for public education would be like using Springfield as an example of good government. Politics is local and locally we have the best public secondary education anywhere! If you are against public education, just say so, but quit playing games with a federal law that was intended to motivate truly failing schools, by applying its one size fits all language to one specific situation here that doesn't fit. btw is that Buddy's brother. I like Buddy Roemer, not his politics, but I like him.
D'skidoc January 15, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Ronnie, I think that means compete for homebuyers on a level playing field within our neighborhood of the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago
Carl Lambrecht January 15, 2013 at 04:04 PM
You are correct Louisiana is a poor example of public education. This is about school choice in Louisiana. Highland Park for five years is a truly failing school. Yet it has good parts. The administration needs to correct this issue. One year Ok. Yet five years is too long. Who is Principal? Who is Superintendent? We need school choice in Illinois. Springfield is really Chicago. Look at all of the leaders in Springfield. Look at the Illinois school code. Carl Lambrecht 847 432 8255, lambrecht@laurelindustries.com
Walter White January 15, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Until now I thought Greenberg had made some of the dumbest school posts I'd ever seen. We now have a new clubhouse leader. How could anyone actually think HPHS is a failing school? Unreal.
Carl Lambrecht January 15, 2013 at 04:13 PM
The state of Illinois says Highland Park is a failing school
Walter White January 15, 2013 at 04:24 PM
And many people have tried to explain that to you but you don't seem to want to understand.
Carl Lambrecht January 15, 2013 at 05:10 PM
. I thought I was explaining that to you. For me we have many excellent teachers. Administrators we have too many. If we reduce the administration. We would have some millions to spend on improvements. Come to Friday’s meeting you will see administration in action or inaction.
Walter White January 15, 2013 at 05:13 PM
OK so now your position is that if we get rid of some administrators this will bring HPHS out of a failing state in the eyes of NCLB. How exactly does that work?
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I'd venture a guess that pretty much anyone who's attended HPHS will tell you that it's a great school, and that they got a great education. Even if they didn't believe it at the time, chances are good that if you talk to them a few years after they graduated, that they'll tell you they came to this realization after meeting some people who weren't so lucky in their educational opportunities. But the truth is HPHS is listed as a failing school because it's failed to meet some of the requirements under the NCLB Act for several years. In my opinion, that Act started out well-intentioned, but needs to be reworked because there's no way that 100% of the members of a sub-group can be expected to achieve the targets. If just one has some mental deficiency, gets ill, or flubs up the test - you now fail and the whole school goes on a watch list. Crazy. We can take all the action we like, but until the Act is changed, or we stop accepting Federal Dollars, we're stuck with it. If we have to hire private tutors or more teachers - what's that going to cost? Where's that money going to come from?
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Actually it's a fact that the Public took their eyes off the ball in several areas - long range planning for not just D113, but the other feeder districts. HP's Park District and their pension fiasco. Even the City which has done a pretty good job has had some issues come to light (garage sprinklers come to mind). We've seen what happened when we did that, and I believe it's been a harsh awaking. But the important thing is that the Public is more engaged (there were times when Carl was the only guy that went to the meetings), people are taking the time to investigate and ask questions of their elected officials. And those officials overseeing these entities have changed. They're listening, they're studying things in more depth, they're changing, they're responding, they're partnering with the remarkable amount of brainpower that we have in our communities, and they're acting more transparently than I can recall. D113 has a great start for a Master Plan - is it perfect? Nope. Is it better than the last? Yep. Can we continue to refine it and achieve cost savings, efficiencies, and effectiveness in all we do? Yep. Can we continue to operate even more transparently? Yes.
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Actually, the committee I sat on sifted through the "Wants" v. "Needs" - did we have unanimity on everything? Nope. But we achieved consensus on what the Tier I (Immediate) down to Tier IV (In a perfect world) needs were. This current referendum is essentially all Tier I needs being corrected. In everything we did, we told the architects that we wanted them to consider all the options, and that we weren't married to anything. We also told them that we wanted at least 25-50 years out of whatever we rehabbed and to do the cost analysis of all the options. So they did that with the pools. Some of the issues are known, some unknown because it would cost more to investigate (e.g. cracks/voids underneath the pool bottom of the HPHS pool). But when the condition of the infrastructure was taken into account - a rehab would get us 10, maybe 15 years at the outside of extra life. The filters are at their end of life, the pipes/electrical is pretty much shot (some due to old age, some due to corrosion from improperly stored acid), etc. So you say to yourself: "I can spend $X million and rehab this structure and get 10-15 years out of it. Or I can spend $X+Y million and get 50-75 years out of the structure". I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but I believe Y was $3 million. So it wasn't really a contest - we had to build new pools.
David Greenberg January 16, 2013 at 01:46 AM
The gyms. The one in HPHS being moved is in a building that has some very old infrastructure in the basement. By the time you rehab that building and all it's infrastructure you've spent millions but haven't really done anything to help future utility needs. Given that the building is in the center of the campus - new utilities are going in so that future buildings and parts of the Master Plan can be tied in there. We've got to replace that space because it's needed, so the gyms move to a better location. As for Deerfield - I saw first hand the sheer number of students engaging in all the PE programs. Packed in like sardines. Some practicing in the hallways. Completely unsafe. So you have two choices there: 1) Rightsize the program offerings to what our current capacity is, or 2) Add more capacity. Given the participation in those programs, I can predict that #1 would go over like a lead balloon. So you've got to undertake #2 - after seeing it, I'd actually classify it as a need or despite the best efforts of the District, someone's going to get seriously injured or killed at some point. Going forward, we need to know what our capacities and review them BEFORE making a course offering so we can have a cogent discussion as a community as to the costs involved, or we'll be right back here in a few years.

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