Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Call to Action -- D86 Community Members Concerned with Next Year's Science Curriculum Changes, the time to Speak Out is Now!

We have been asked to publish the following comment submitted on our last post.  Please read and take action!

"D86 Community - especially Hinsdale Central parents and parents of 8th graders:

There are some very significant changes that are being put into place next year that would completely change the Science curriculum at Hinsdale Central. Many popular classes are being eliminated and the Biology - Chemistry - Physics track that has worked successfully for our students for decades is being completely thrown out in favor of a model that more closely resembles what Hinsdale South offers its students. The community was just notified about these changes 2 weeks ago at a Board meeting and in the Board meeting e-mail summary which most people missed. There was very little discussion at the meeting and very few questions from the Board about the proposal. One of the BOE members who has students at Central was not even present to hear the presentation or ask questions. This kind of change without analysis by the Board and input from the community is unprecedented in our district.

The parents and community members who are aware of these changes are concerned about them for the following reasons, among others:

  • None of our peer districts offer a Science program similar to what has been proposed
  • Hinsdale Central's Science Department, while not perfect, delivers some of the highest Science scores in the State and Nationally at both grade level and the Honors level
  • There has been no data presented that supports completely changing the Central Science Department in the way that has been decided
  • There was no discussion about how this new program will be monitored and how we will determine its success or failure in the future
  • Parents have also been told that "G level" classes (IEP and 504 plan students) in Science will be going away at the same time, pushing those students into general Science classes which will now be 'co-taught" by teachers 
  • Popular science classes such as Mr. McCloud's Earth Science class and AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 will be eliminated, among others
  • Traditional Chemistry and Physics classes will be replaced with "Geo-Physics" and "Geo-Chemistry" classes.
  • All entering Freshman who complete Algebra as 8th graders will be placed in an Honors Physics class.
  • Upperclass Physics teachers will be teaching freshman Physics classes while and until new teachers are licensed to teach Physics
  • Parents have heard from some Central teachers that they have concerns about these changes
  • Parents have heard that changes to the Math department have also already been made or that they will be soon.
  • If you are a parent who is concerned about these changes, or would like more information to be shared with the community before these changes are implemented in a permanent way, please e-mail the Board of Education and ask them to put the topic of Science on their Agenda for the next Board meeting which is on November 14. It may already be too late but we won't know unless we try to slow this down and get more information."

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Teacher Speaks Out About Issues that Exist with a Physics First Science Sequence

Last week we received a comment on our post "Is D86 in Trouble" from a teacher who has experience with implementation of a Physics First science sequence at his/her high school. It made us realize that if D86 goes down this path without the Board of Education revisiting this issue, thoroughly vetting what Physics First will mean for all students in D86 abd insist that the D86 Administration present actual data from comparable districts that have successfully implemented the model it plans to roll out, then our high school district will most likely be in serious trouble.  

With permission from the author, we are publishing his/her comment as a free-standing post. After reading it, please SPEAK OUT!

"Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in a district that has implemented physics first. I would like to share with you portions of an email I recently wrote to a former colleague who was instrumental in bringing physics first to our district. It has been edited to remove personal details and other things irrelevant to the conversation. I think the text will speak for itself.

“To say that as of right now, physics first is a catastrophic failure on every level is an understatement. The transition to physics first has transformed the physics curriculum into a testing ground for the worst sorts of ideas that come out of education schools. This has left our physics curriculum as what can be generously described as a middle school physical science class, and is in reality a glorified arts and crafts class for many students every year.

The reasons for the this are many, but include the following:
1. students sorted into an "honors" and a "regular" track based on their incoming reading scores, and not their math scores, because the physics is thought to be “conceptual" and therefore free of any quantitative reasoning.

2. students transferring in and out of the district being negatively impacted by placing them in classes with students 2-3 years younger than they are, which is inappropriate for both the transfer student and the other, younger students in the class.

3. the creation of an curriculum which is simply designed around "fun" arts and crafts style activities, robbing the majority of the students in the district of anything resembling an appropriate high school physics (or even physical science) education

4. the fact that now about 2/3rds of the "physics teachers" in the district have a sub-high school level understanding of the subject they teach, and little to no desire or incentive to improve upon their knowledge base. The curriculum has been geared and is currently being change so that everyone must teach down to their level.

I could go on with specific examples (like a district level "project based learning" unit where students are encouraged to call local body shops and ask the mechanics how Newton's First Law relates to their jobs), but I hope that you can see from the few examples what I have outlined that the physics curriculum is currently in dire shape.

Over the past few years, I have had to spend many hours fighting to keep something resembling academic rigor in existence in the physics classes, sometimes with success and sometimes without. Many of my days are spent making the case that what we are doing is in fact harmful to our students, and many of the administrators either don't care or seem to want to remain willfully ignorant of this fact. In fact, the ideas spawned for the physics first classes are now seeping their way up into chemistry and biology, much to the chagrin of many of your former colleagues. I like to paraphrase the a poem for the other science teachers when they complain by saying "First they came for the physics teachers, and I said nothing, for I did not teach physics..."

My question for you is this: did you honestly believe that physics first was going to be successful, and if so, why? I have searched diligently, and I have never been able to find any strong corroborating evidence in the research literature that physics first has had any positive effect on student learning anywhere. All I find is quasi-philosophical opinion pieces, which are endemic in education "research" but are not in any way helpful in trying to teach something resembling a grade appropriate physics curriculum to my students.”

I urge everyone hear to try as hard as you can to stop this initiative. Simply put: there is no strong evidence that it is better than a traditional curriculum sequence when done right, and a very high probability that it will be done wrong, with disastrous consequences. Good luck.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Is D86 in Trouble?

Moments ago we were surprised to receive notification that a comment was posted on our Final Blog post published in March 2018.  After reading it we decided to go ahead and honor the request to create a free-standing post. We are posting it here to see if there is any interest in having our blog made available for community members and D86 teachers to submit comments or posts that they want us to run on current D86 issues -- anonymously or not.  We are not so sure about the request to create a blog called D86 Parents for Accountability and Transparency, but we guess anything is possible........

"Anonymous said...
Help!!! D86 is in trouble. Please consider running this comment as a free standing post to get some discussion going. Last night the D86 Board of Education agreed to dismantle the science sequence currently taught at Hinsdale Central High School and phase in the Physics First sequence offered at South. This will include eliminating G-level classes. It is eerily reminiscent of the Learning for All plan that D181 experienced. This is going to have major implications on the district going forward. Teachers are afraid to speak out publicly. This may be the only avenue they have to be candid about what they think. I know you haven't posted since March 2018, but we need your help! Maybe you can even start a blog called D86 Parents for Accountability and Transparency? Please??????"

(Note on submitting a comment:  If you are looking at this post from your laptop or desktop and want to see comments that have already been submitted, click on the word Comments at the end of the post.  If you are trying to post a comment from your phone, you may encounter a glitch which we are in the process of resolving. If you attempt to submit a comment from your phone and it gets deleted when you click on "Publish Your Comment," go to the bottom of the page and click on "View Web Version." The web version will open up, then click on the Post you wish to submit a comment on, then at the end of the post a Comment Box will open up that should work without any glitches. You will get a verification box to prove you are not a robot. You can submit with your name or anonymously.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Our Final Post, Hopefully for Good. The Budget Cuts the BOE will Approve on March 12 are Insufficient.

This will be our final post for the foreseeble future and hopefully for good. Moreover, as we did in the past, we will be suspending the publication of future comments submitted by ALL readers. It is time to sit back and watch Dr. White exit D181, hopefully in a graceful manner, and allow Dr. Garcia to assume the reigns in the Central Office without anyone's interference.

We waited until today to publish this final post so that we could opine on the BOE's discussion at Monday's meeting on the upcoming budget cuts. We have listened to meeting -- which once again was way too. Rather than crank out our own summary, below is an excerpt from the District's Board Summary. It is also now available on the district website at the Meeting Summaries tab.

"Board of Education discusses the projected 2018-19 deficit
Following considerable discussion and upon consideration of comments made through surveys of both staff and parents, the School Board tentatively supported approximately $1.7 million in budget reductions recommended by the administration for the 2018-19 school year in order to offset a projected deficit. The Board is expected to vote on the budget reductions at its March 12 meeting. In discussion, Board members expressed concerns about reserves which, at a low cash balance of approximately $5 million, were described as inadequate. Additional concerns were expressed about the significant cuts made to the Department of Learning including the elimination of positions (TOSA position, Director position) made prior to the budget cuts and therefore incremental to the other DOL cuts made. Budget reductions under consideration include:
●Achieving transportation efficiencies by changing the middle school day to 8:40-3:30 and the elementary school day to 8:05-2:40
●Reducing summer professional development hours from 15 to 10
●Changing hiring practices to improve the balance of new teachers vs. veteran teachers without compromising teaching quality without compromising teaching quality
●Eliminating the SELAS consultant
●Starting orchestra in 5th grade rather than 4th grade
●Reducing FTEs dedicated to Middle School Content Area Team Leaders
●Eliminating a receptionist at the District Office
●Changing the Communications Director position to Communications Coordinator
●Eliminating one TOSA position
●Utilizing staff to absorb duties of Special Education Team Leaders without decrease in services
●Not replacing a retiring 0.75 FTE physical education teacher (5 days of PE per week will still be provided)
●Not replacing a retiring chorus teacher (.375 FTE depending on whether increase in band FTE is warranted)
●Deferring for one year parking lot paving/playground resurfacing at Oak School.
●Cost savings of $690,000 by seeking efficiencies and reductions in expenses in materials, services, rental fees, private school transportation procedures, stipends, consultant fees, and other items
●Partnering with HCHTA leadership to:
--Identify savings that can be realized under the current teacher contract 
--Negotiate a fiscally sustainable teacher contract upon completion of the current contract's end date of June 30, 2019"
The board discussion can be accessed at the 2/26/198 Podcast starting at approximately 1:45:00.

The Budget Cuts Are Insufficient 
We will not opine on the budget cuts the BOE has decided to make. Instead, we want to focus on our conclusion that the proposed cuts are insufficient and will leave the district in financial peril if pension reform is passed. Moreover, the delay in needed capital improvements at Oak will increase next year's list of needed capital improvements by$167,000, raising the projected capital costs from $2,079,000 to $2,246,000.  In turn, the projected deficit will also increase in future years. 

We begin by reminding our readers that the BOE must only budget for public school services and programs required by law.  Daily PE and a 1.0 mile bus eligibility zone are not required and, in our opinion, should only be included in the budget if the district can afford to, especially when capital NEEDS are not being properly funded.

A.  Needed Capital Projects Should Not Have Been Deferred

We reviewed the list of neglected, but NEEDED, capital improvements that were identified by the new Chief Financial Officer last year and turned what the BOE had been led to believe was a "balanced" budget into one with a multi-million dollar deficit -- a deficit that will grow each year unless permanent reductions are made. The list is available on Board Docs at:  9 Year Capital Projects Forecast. The facilities committee spent months discussing the prioritization of the identified capital projects, and utilized a rating system to identify which projects needed to be completed within one year.  (Source:  Prioritization rating system. The Oak School work was deemed necessary within one year -- predominantly for safety reasons.  (Source:  Summer 2018 Capital Projects.) 

That safety project will now be delayed by at least one year. We certainly hope that no one is injured as a result of the continued neglect of this needed work. Further, if this project is delayed, will future capital projectes also be deferred by one or more years?  We think the BOE has made a wrong decision by choosing to defer the needed safety work at Oak School and hope they will come to their senses before they vote on March 12. 

B.  Pension Reform Impact Should Have Been Considered 

But even with this deferment and resulting $167,000 reduction in the projected 2018-2019 deficit, the proposed cuts are not enough to balance the budget if pension liability is shifted to D181.  Posted on board docs is a chart that shows the negative impact to the budget if that happens. Source:  Pension Cost Shift Estimate.)  This chart estimates that under Governor Rauner's proposal, districts'  expenses will increase over a four year phase in period as pension liability is shifted 25%/year until districts are responsible for 100% every year thereafter. For D181 this means budget expenses will increase by $908,192 in the 2018-2019,  $1,852,711 in 2019-2020, $2,834,648 in 2020-2021 and $3,855,121 in 2021-2022.  Thereafter, the district will be responsible for funding 100% of pension costs, to the tune of at least $3.85 million/year.  

Within 4 years, the deficit will have grown by at least $3.85 million/year unless other expenses are permanently cut or revenue is increased.   

Passing an Operational Referendum is Unlikely 

What will the District do if faced with an annual deficit of close to $4 million?  There are many cuts left on the proposed list that the BOE considered, but concluded it will not approve this year since they will negatively impact student instruction. (See Proposed Cut List) These same cuts will negatively impact the classroom whether implemented this year or in the future.  If they were deemed unpalatable now, we cannot imagine that future BOE's will simply slash them out of the budget.  And with only $5 million in reserves that could in theory be used to reduce the deficit, the only other option is increasing the revenue stream.

The first step to increasing revenue will be to continue to levy the maximum rate allowed under the tax cap law, as the BOE just did last December for the first time in years. However, this will not raise enough revenues to wipe out the deficit caused by pension liability shifting to the district. The BOE may need to ask the community to approve an Operational Referendum to increase the levy rate beyond that currently allowed under the Tax Cap law.  (Source:  Illinois Dept. of Revenue Overview of Tax Cap Law.)  

In our opinion, we predict that D181 voters will vote NO on an operational referendum unless two things happen first.

1.  The BOE must first eliminate any expenditures NOT required by a public school district.  Daily PE would have to go, saving the district $450,000/year. Bus services would need to be increased from 1 miles to 1.5 miles saving the district $250,000/year.  (We must note that students who live less than 1.5 miles but must cross a designated and recognized hazardous crossing would continue -- by law -- to receive bus transporation.) Parents and teachers have complained that these cuts should not even be considered, but it was not that far in the past that PE was only offered 3 days per week and our kids still thrived in school.  Similarly, to shift the transportation burden to families that do not want their children to walk one mile to school, is a small price to pay if the savings achieved allows the district to not cut programs or teachers impacting a far greater number of students than those who might have to walk to school.  In fact, in our opinion, if PE is reduced while students are required to walk to school, then they will more than make up for any missed excercise.  

2.  Before cutting expenditures that impact our students however, the administrators and teachers will first need to share in the painful cuts by agreeing to at least a one year salary freeze. Since the teachers' contract does not expire until June 30, 2019, the salaries that must first be frozen are the administrators'. Freezing administrators salaries by one year will permanently reduce the budget by $58,000. We do not believe the teachers will consider agreeing to a one year freeze in their next contract if the administrators haven't already done so. Freezing the teachers' salaries for one year will save $992,000 per year.  

Cutting the budget by the total of  these expenditures will save the district an additional $1,750,000/year. But if pension reform actually passes, even this amount will be insufficient to wipe out the deficit. Short of increasing class sizes, lowering the number of teachers, and possibly cutting other programs, the district will need to seek taxpayer approval of an operational referendum. With recent changes to the federal tax laws capping property tax deductions at $10,000/year, we are concerned that the majority of taxpayers will not vote to increase their taxes.

The District is at A Tipping Point

In our opinion, the district is at a tipping point. Ignoring needed expenditures while funding those that are no longer legally required in a public school district, in combination with continuing to raise salaries beyond what the district can afford, will only push the district off the proverbial cliff.  

If the BOE is not prepared at this time to balance the budget by eliminating services and programs the district can no longerafford, we hope that it will make it clear to everhone in the community -- parents, non-parent taxpayers and D181 employees --  that if pension reform passes, continuing on the current course will bankrupt the district. Community members and teachers who believe that the district is flush with savings in the reserve account need to wake up to the reality that there is only $5 million in reserves that can fund the current or future deficits, and as the Chief Financial Officer has already explained, this is not a step the BOE can afford to take.   

We are not looking forward to the next teachers' contract negotiations. Although the district summary indicates that the board wants to partner with the HCHTA to possibly identify cost savings that can be achieved under their current contract and "Negotiate a fiscally sustainable teacher contract upon completion of the current contract's end date of June 30, 2019", we have heard anything from the teachers in public comments made at the last 2 board meetings to suggest that they will consider changing their current contract or agree to lower or freeze their salary increases in their next contract.  For the sake of our children's educations, we hope that both the BOE and HCHTA will begin early negotiation discussions, and that both sides will keep an open mind to the reality that D181 is no longer financially able to give the teachers the raises they have grown accustomed to.

We do not envy the tough decisions the BOE must make on March 12. We believe, however, that it is in the district's best interest that the board approve more cuts than those listed in their meeting summary. Yes, the cuts will be painful, but to simply put a bandaid on a growing wound will not heal the district's financial woes.  

So, we will wait and watch and hope that the BOE finds a responsible road for the distrct to follow -- a road that will lead the district out of the financial mess.  We urge our readers to STAY INFORMED and while you will no longer be able to SOUND OFF on this blog, you can still do so at Board Meetings during public comment or by sending letters to the board and administration.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Dr. Hector Garcia Unanimously Approved to be the New D181 Superintendent

The following is a press release signed by BOE president Jennifer Burns that was emailed to D181 parents and key communicators last night after Dr. Hector Garcia was unanimously approved as the new D181 Superintendent effective July 1, 2018.  A slightly modified version is also available on the D181 website homepage under the news tab.

We, the bloggers, are excited at the possibility that Dr. Garcia will finally be the right superintendent for D181.  We wish him good luck and hope he is successful in all his D181 endeavors.

Press Release:

On behalf of the Board of Education, I am excited to share that Dr. Hector Garcia, an educator with over 25 years of public school teaching and administrative experience, will be the new Superintendent of Community Consolidated School District 181 in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills, effective July 1.

After an extensive search process that included over 30 applicants and involved an interview with key stakeholders, as well as multiple meetings with members of the Board of Education, Dr. Garcia was unanimously approved as Superintendent at our meeting on February 26. 

Dr. Garcia brings honed leadership skills, an in-depth knowledge of finance, facilities, and curriculum and instruction, as well as a collaborative, student-centered mindset to D181, characteristics that the D181 community – parents, staff and residents – identified as needed for success in a superintendent. The Board is looking forward to a long and productive relationship with Dr. Garcia and is eagerly anticipating his July start.

Dr. Garcia shares: "I'm looking forward to starting the journey of working together with outstanding staff members and a supportive community. This is an exciting time to bring all stakeholders together around a common vision for District 181 students. I await the opportunity to develop strong relationships with the students, staff, parents, and community."

Dr. Garcia is widely recognized for his extensive administrative experience and curriculum improvement efforts. He is the current Superintendent of Plano District 88, where he also serves as Chief Financial Officer and manages Facilities and Operations for the district. Formerly, he was the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for Glenbard School District 87, where he led curricular improvements and professional development initiatives. Dr. Garcia has also served as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Plainfield School District 202. 

Beyond his 12 years as a district administrator, he has served as a principal, assistant principal, dean of students, and teacher in schools ranging from Adlai Stevenson District 125 in Lincolnshire to Morton East District 201 in Cicero. He has also taught graduate courses on leadership, organizational behavior, and curriculum for three Chicago area universities.

Dr. Garcia's strong belief in developing schools that are responsive to the needs of students and establishing a strong culture of collaboration has resulted in marked improvement in the districts during his leadership as a school administrator. He has presented extensively at the state and national level on administrative and collaborative topics, as well as implemented professional learning communities (PLCs).

Dr. Garcia has also been elected or appointed to key state and national committees. At the state level, he was appointed to serve as one of 32 educators on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), charged with creating a new way to evaluate teachers and principals that incorporates student growth measures. At the national level, Dr. Garcia was elected as the Chair of National Academic Assembly Council for College Board.

Dr. Garcia received his Doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from Loyola University, Master’s Degree in Education Administration from Northern Illinois University, and a Bachelor's Degree in History from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently working to complete his CSBO (Chief School Business Official) certification.

Please join the Board in welcoming Dr. Garcia to the District at a reception at Prospect School at 5:30pm on March 12. More to come about this exciting event!

Jennifer Burns
Board of Education
Community Consolidated School District 181

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Blame The Administration, NOT The Board of Education, for D181's Financial Mess

In advance of Monday's meeting at which the BOE will vote on the proposed budget cuts, we feel compelled to respond to harsh criticisms made against them in the Parent Survey comments.  The Survey results/comments are now posted on Board Docs and can be accessed at:  Parent Survey Results.

The following 4 comments are included in the 27 pages:

The District should look at administrative expenses first and renegotiate teacher contracts. Plus, thanks to the members of the School Board for wasting tons of money on firing ______had the District on the right path and the morons that ousted him wasted tons of money and stunted the progress of our District. D181 is embarrassing ‐ led by the idiots that voted for _____ouster on the Board. Reduce salaries and cut positions ASAP. 

I am disappointed in the board for allowing us to be in this situation. Please consider eliminating administrator positions. We are very top heavy. I am embarrassed to live in this district given that the board can not effectively allocate ample resources.

Every single parent I have spoken to is outraged that the board could let this happen and on such short notice. Your choices will not be forgotten at the voting booth.

It distresses me immensely that instead of finally talking about adding full day Kindergarten, like so many of the surrounding districts and other comparable districts, we are going to make our children suffer because of a budget shortfall that clearly the board should have seen coming for some time. Secondly, to take away physical education classes from students who so desperately need the difference in their day to help them learn is also hurting our children.

These comments stood out to us because they suggest that the BOE is at fault for the fiscal crisis D181 is in.  We respectfully disagree.

The BOE is tasked with approving budgets recommended by the ADMINISTRATION. In order to make any decision, the BOE must rely on information it is provided by the ADMINSTRATION. While we, the bloggers, have criticized individual board members for not attending meetings, not preparing for meetings, not listening at meetings and grandstanding and pandering to their audience during meetings, we will not sit by and allow the full board to be blamed for a fiscal crisis that they did not cause.

On White's watch the district has gone from "seemingly" having a balanced budget to one with a $1.5 million deficit -- a deficit set to grow each year as NEEDED capital improvements at 8 of the 9 schools are finally included in the budget. In order to achieve and maintain a balanced budget for the next five years, $1.5 million (or more) need to be permanently removed from the budget to make room for the needed capital expenditures.

UNTIL this year, the BOE and the entire community were led to believe that the D181 budget was balanced or even had a surplus.  For the last several years, as the BOE set the following year's tax levy rate and DID NOT levy to the maximum allowed by law (until it finally did last December), the Adminsitration failed to identify and/or inform the BOE that capital needs at 8 schools were not included in the annual budgets. Further, when the BOE was deciding whether to go to HMS refererendum, and some of the board members suggested including additional monies for capital needs at the other schools, the Administration did not inform the BOE of the $10 million in needs we now know exist.  As a result, there was not majority support to include ANY amount, let alone $10 million, in the referendum for needed work at other schools.

The BOE and community were KEPT IN THE DARK about the true state of the disrict's needs or their potential impact on the BUDGET.  

Further, while pension reform may now be imminent due to Governor Rauner's proposed budget ideas, this threat to the district's fiscal health is not a new one, but is one that the Administration has minimized each time the BOE has asked about it in the past. We have been listening to podcasts for years and know each time the BOE asked the Adminstration about possible pension reform implications on all suburban school budgets, the Adminstration suggested that because legislators are always talking about pension reform but have never followed through with actual legislation, it would be premature to build the possiblity of pension reform into the budget.  Sadly, this lack of planning for the pension "rainy day" now puts the district in even greater jeopardy.  Instead of pushing the BOE to levy to the max and grow the reserves in case the pension "rainy" day occurs,  the BOE was advised that the lower levy rates would still generate enough revenues to maintain balanced budgets.  Now it turns out, this was not the case.

Parents are certainly entitled to be outraged by the state of D181's fiscal situation, but let's place blame where blame is due.  In our opinion, the budget was mismanaged by the very highly paid ADMINISTRATORS who failed to identify and/or inform the BOE of millions of dollars in capital needs that should have been included in the budget.  (Again, we thank the current Chief Financial Officer for finally informing the BOE of what had been excluded from the budgets and making the BOE aware of the deficit situation.)  In our opinion, had the ADMINISTRATORS told the BOE of the million of dollars in NEEDED capital improvements at Elm, Lane, Clarendon Hills Middle School, Oak, Prospect, Walker, Madison, and Monroe, the BOE would have realized the need to  balance the budget sooner.

In our opinion, if the BOE had known about the capital needs, it would NOT have approved the Start Time changes last year that added over $300,000/year in transportation costs to the budget.  It would not have approved a 1 to 1 initiative for All Grades.  It would not have approved the creation of positions such as TOSA's or Content Area Specialists, positions that didn't exist until a few years ago.  Moreover, in our opinion, the past Business Office administrator should have identified the $690,000 in inefficiencies that the new Chief Financial Officer identified very shortly after arriving in D181and is now going to permanently eliminate from the budget.  Imagine the millions that could have been saved over the last few years, had these inefficiencies been corrected.

These information failures cannot be blamed on the BOE, a board of 7 UNPAID volunteers who cannot be expected to "know what they don't know."  Some of the BOE members have been accused by irate community members, administrators and teachers of "micro-managing" the district. That accusation now seems ironic, since we, the bloggers, wish they actually had been micro-managing the district so that they might have realized that they were not being provided information to make informed and fiscally responsible budget and levy rate decisions.

We would be remiss in not reminding our readers that two BOE members actually went beyond what is normally expected of a BOE member and served on the HMS referendum accountability committee,  closely scrutinized thousands of documents and the events leading up to the publication snafu, and discovered that the Superintendent had not provided the BOE with needed information. Some "critics" in the community have pilloried these diligent and responsible BOE members for finally demanding accountability.  Little did we know then that that information failure was just the tip of the iceberg.  Now we know that the BOE had also been kept in the dark about the true state of the district's needs at 8 schools and the negative impact addressing those needs would have on the budget.

It is very easy to lash out at the BOE and call then "morons and idiots", as one comment above does.  It is also easy to say that the board's "choices will not be forgotten at the voting booth." But in our opinion, with the exception of one current board member who we have posted about numerous times in the past and frankly, have finally written off, we think the actions taken by the BOE in forcing a change in leadership at the end of this academic year, was the right action to pursue and shows their intelligence. How can anyone on the BOE or in this community trust an administration that in our opinion kept critical financial information from the board? How can anyone on the BOE or in this community trust an administration that did not properly budget for the capital needs of 8 out of 9 schools and in our opinion only focused on the needs at one school? How can anyone on the BOE or in this community trust an administration that does not even recommend freezing its own salaries in order to share in the painful cuts that the BOE must now approve in its efforts to once again balance a budget -- a budget that they were led to believe until last fall was not only balanced, but had a small surplus?

No doubt one or more of the 4 BOE members whose terms will end in Spring 2019 will choose not to run again, if for no other reason than the unwarranted attacks against them and the failure by this community to realize how hard they have actually worked or the challenges they dealt with in the face of repeated information failures by the Administration.  (Of course, we hope that the 2 term board member will NOT seek a third term.) We, the bloggers, challenge those in the community who simply want to attack the BOE to step up and run to replace them. Put your money where your mouth is and good luck doing a better job than the current board majority.  But those of you who want to oust any board member better start attending board meetings and closely following the issues. Everyone, but especially the critics, has a responsibility to stay informed. The authors of the Parent Survey comments above might then reach a different conclusion about who is to blame for the fiscal mess D181 is in.

It is time for everyone to recognize where the blame lies for the deficit crisis, and in our opinion it is not with the BOE.  Come on people, get real!

And as always, SOUND OFF (and sound off soon, before we go silent......)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Breaking News: Six Day Notice Posted. Dr. Hector Garcia to be Approved as New Superintendent on 2/26/18

The Six Day notice was published yesterday, can be accessed at the following link and identifies Dr. Hector Garcia as the candidate who will be approved by the BOE at the February 26, 2018 Regular Board Meeting:  Six Day Notice.  

The notice provides Dr. Garcia's proposed salary and benefits for the next 3 years (which we will comment on below). In addition, Dr. Garcia's Resume can be accessed at the following link: Dr. Garcia's Resume. We found the notice within the Salary/Benefits Tab within the Financial Reports Tab within the Department of Business and Operations tab. Not easily found, but at least it was posted. We assume it must have been posted late Monday night following the Special Board Meeting.

So what is our initial impression of Dr. Garcia's candidacy?  We begin by saying BRAVO to the BOE!  

In order to write this post, we reviewed Dr. Garcia's resume and conducted some online due diligence. As we conducted our research, our optimism and excitement surrounding Dr. Garcia grew. We are impressed with Dr. Garcia's background,  credentials, work experience and reputation in the communities he has worked.  It is our hopeful opinion that with his knowledge base Dr. Garcia may be exactly what D181 needs right now to steer the district back on course.

We, the bloggers, have always taken the position that D181 is not a starter district for administrators. We believe that administrators, especially those in the central office, must come to our district with wide-ranging experience and not have to learn how to do their job after arriving here. We hoped the BOE would identify and hire a superintendent with a background and experience in Curriculum, especially after years of curriculum turmoil in our district. We hoped the person would have high school experience, in order to be able to understand the importance of articulation with the high school D181's chidren will attend. We also hoped that the new superintenent would have experience in finance and human resources, in order to be able to jump right in to tackle the fiscal problems D181 is currently facing and assist the BOE in negotiating a fiscally responsible teachers' contract.  Finally we hoped that the new superintendent would have work experience in high achieving districts similar to D181.

In Dr. Garcia, the BOE may have hit a home run.  

He has over 22 years of educational experience in grades K through Grade 12. He has systematically worked his way to the top job in the central office -- a superintendent -- after working as a teacher. Assistant Dean of Students, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal, Director of Educational Services, Principal, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services (Teaching and Learning), and the last 5 1/2 years as a superintendent. 

Dr. Garcia is currently the superintendent of a diverse (both racially and socio-economically) K-12 district -- Plano District 88 in Illinois -- with approximately 2400 students.  Dr. Garcia was approved as the Plano Superintendent in 2012 and in 2016 his contract was extended for an additional 5 years.  With a much smaller budget that D181's in Plano, it appears Dr. Garcia has worn many hats.  Unlike D181 which has many levels of Assistant Superintendents for various departments, Plano, does not have Assistant Superintendent positions, rather only has a Director for Teaching and Learning and a Director of Assessment. Dr. Garcia appears to be in charge of the finance department and human resource department, and he is currently completing a CSBO endorsement (Chief School Business Official).  (Sources: Plano District 88 2016 State Report CardPlano District 88 websiteDr. Garcia's Resume,  3/17/16 Kendall County Now article.

Prior to his hire as Plano's superintendent, Dr. Garcia worked in high achieving districts and schools such as Glen Ellyn District 87 and Adlai E. Stevenson High School, in particular as a curriculum administrator.  (Source:  Dr. Garcia's Resume.) 

As one news article stated:  "His educational experiences range from working in a predominantly low-income, minority setting to one of the most affluent and high-performing schools, Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire."  (Source:  1/30/12 ValleyLife Press article.)

One gets a sense of who Dr. Garcia is in reading his Superintendent's message on the Plano District 88 website, which states in part:

"My passion for education stems from not only my work in schools for over two decades but also witnessing firsthand how difficult it is to raise kids in a challenging era. As a husband and father of four young children, I too know how challenging it is to raise kids with various strengths and weaknesses in school even with two educators at home! ...
As an educator, I have had the privilege to see and experience the power of school systems that work as a collaborative team and have student learning as their essential mission and goal. During my time in schools, I have been a teacher, high school principal and a district administrator in struggling as well as highly successful school districts. I have had the honor of leading and contributing to the work of outstanding educators as we developed a school system that has been recognized at the local, state, and national level.
I look forward to building upon the great work that has been done throughout the district in the past. I am always available to speak with parents and students and gain insight and perspective on the recent accomplishments, as well as the challenges that we face in the future. Please call me ..., so we can find a common time to meet and sit down for a cup of coffee.
The ultimate goal of our work together is to continue to foster greater levels of collaboration for the benefit of our students. Thank you for your support!"  (Source:  Plano District 88 website.)
Turning next to Dr. Garcia's compensation package, according to the Six Day Notice, he will have a 3 year contract and his starting base salary will be $235,000.  In years 2 and 3 of his contract, he will get a raise, the equivalent  CPI up to a maximum of 3%.  This means at most his base salary in Years 2 and 3 will be $242,050 and $249 311.50.  In addition, each year, he is incentivized to meet his performance goals in order to annual bonuses of up to $15,000.  
While these numbers seem high, we compared them to what Dr. Garcia is currently making in Plano, a much less affluent and smaller district than D181.  Under the terms of his contract in Plano, Dr. Garcia will earn $196,070 in 2017-2018; $205,873 in 2018-2019; $216,166 in 2019-2020; and $226,974 in 2020-2021. (Source:  3/18/2016 WSPY news article,)
Comparing Dr. Garcia's base salary to Dr. White's current contract, Dr. White's base salary for the 2016-2017 school year was $239,527.31 with the same annual guaranteed increase in base salary as Dr. Garcia will receive. (Source:  Dr. White's Current Contract.)  So Dr. Garcia's guaranteed base income is less than Dr. White's was 1 years ago.  
While some may criticize Dr. Garcia's salary as being high, the question we must all ask ourselves is"did we really think D181 could get an experienced, well rounded, yet cheap superintendent to come in and fix the district's mess,"  especially one with experience and working knowledge in all the different departments he will be overseeing and who currently has a five year contract?  
The answer to that question is an obvious NO.  D181 is currently in a mess.  It will be a challenge for any new superintendent to come in and fix the mess.  In order to attract a highly qualified and experienced superintendent and expect him to leave a job where he was given a 5 year extension requires paying top dollar.  We may not like it, but that is the reality of the situation D181 finds itself in.
We are excited at the prospect that maybe this time the BOE has gotten it right.  We are encouraged by the fact that Dr. Garcia is experienced, especially in the area of curriculum, and obviously has been successful in his current district, gaining the trust of a board that has awarded him with a 5 year contract extension.  We have never heard of any superintendent getting that length of an extension.  
We are looking forward to Dr. Garcia being formally approved on February 26. We hope the BOE will invite the community to a reception at which we can all meet him.  Dr. Garcia will face many challenges in getting D181 back on track.The first will be working with the BOE to hire an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum. We think there are also a couple principals retiring this year so Dr. Garcia will have to work with the BOE to hire their replacements. He will also have to help solve the fiscal problems D181 is facing and assist the BOE in negotiating a fiscally responsible teachers' contract . We hope he will be welcomed by all in our community -- staff, parents, community members, students -- and allowed some time to sort through the mess and create a plan to address the curriculum issues, special education issues, capital needs issues and financial issues. 
Of course, time will tell how successful Dr Garcia is as D181's superintendent.  For the sake of all of our children's education, we truly hope he will be and we sincerely wish Dr. Garcia good luck as D181's next superintendent.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Part 2 of Series on how Delusional and Self-Serving Behavior Will Not Help Solve D181's Budget Crisis Caused by Years of Administrative Neglect -- How to Erase the Deficit

Part 2 of this series will now address How To Erase the Deficit.

Before we begin, we want to point out a new development that took place since the 2/12 board meeting that may make the district's financial crisis even worse than what was projected. In an attempt to deal with Illinois' fiscal crisis, Governor Rauner has proposed shifting teacher pension costs to suburban school districts. This might save the state money, but will it would increase expenditures for districts such as D181 by millions of dollars.  (Source:

Over the last several years the D181 BOE has discussed the possibility of this happening, however, each time, the administration kicked the can down the road and failed to take any proactive steps to "save for this rainy day" by levying to the maximum allowed by law and growing our reserves.  Case in point: back in February 2016, when the BOE was discussing the proposed $65 million HMS referendum, a couple of board members voiced concerns that we wrote about in our 2/8/16 Blog Post.  Despite the concerns raised about possible future liabilities, the majority of the board charged ahead to build an expensive new school without including funds for improvements needed at other schools.  We now know that the board was kept in the dark about the true conditions of the other buildings in D181 and the $10+ million that needs to be spent over the next five years. If Rauner's pension reform goes through and it finally does "rain," D181 is not prepared to handle the increased budget deficit.

In light of the state of the district, and the possibility that State legislation will make the deficit worse, what should be done to balance the budget? The following are our opinions. We encourage ALL readers to sound off and make your opinions known to the Board of Education before they cast their deciding votes on what to slash and what to keep.

To begin, we are not going to opine on the specifics of the cuts that the BOE has already indicated it supports. Rather, we are going to focus on the possible cuts the administration is still discussing and has asked the adminsitration for more information on. Per the Board Meeting Summary, the board already agreed to trim the deficit by correcting inefficiencies, and were supportive of eliminating the SELAS consultant and middle school Content Leaders, reducing summertime professional development, eliminating the Central Offic reception position, eliminating one TOSA (Teacher on assignment), reducing the cost of the Community Relations position, changing hiring practices in an effort to improve the balance of new graduates and veteran teachers, managing art teachers' time more efficiently, starting orchestra in 5th grade rather than 4th and finding a new location for the District office.  (Source: Summary of 2/12/18 board meeting.)

Unfortunately, these combined cost reductions will not erase the deficit.

The board asked for more information and will continue discussion on the following possible cuts:
-- Reduction of PE classes to 3 times per week from 5 times per week
-- changing the school times in order to achieve transporation efficiencies
-- increasing transporation eligibility to 1/5 miles (from the current 1.0 miles)
-- an administartive salary freeze
-- a teacher salary freeze.
(Source:   (Source: Summary of 2/12/18 board meeting.)

As discuss below, in our opinion, the board should only pay for things that are legally required and approve these cuts and freezes. This will position the district to permanently erase the budget deficit, allow the disrtrict to pay the $10 million in needed capital iimprovements at 8 schools over the next five years, as well as absorb a possible shift in pension liability from the state to the district.


1.  $690,000 of the deficit will be erased with the "efficiencies" that Mr. Dada has identified, none of which impact our students. (Source:  2/8/18 proposed cut list.) The BOE has already agreed to those cuts.  One can only wonder why these efficiencies were not identified sooner, and how much smaller the deficit would be if they had been implemented three years ago.  Remember, Mr. Surma was hired into a brand new position, created especially for him by Dr. White.  Dr. White identified what Surma's role would be when he told the press:

"White added that Surma will also be looking for ways to save the district money.  His duties could include bidding out contracts to find less expensive alternative business, or finding ways to save on transportation costs, according to White.  He will also analyze technology purchases inside and outside of the classrooms, as well as facility needs.  White said the goal is for Surma to improve the district all areas." (Source:  7/15/14 Suburban Life Article.)

Excuse us while we cry FOUL!!!!  Did any of these promised things actually take place?  We think not and would urge all community members to storm the next board meeting and ASK WHITE WHY NOT!

2. Since correcting the inefficiencies and making the cuts that the full board has agreed to will not wipe out the deficit, in our opinion, the next thing to keep in mind is that D181 is a PUBLIC school district.  Expenditures are paid for primarily with tax dollars and tax dollars are dependent on the tax levy rates set each December for the following year.  Public schools are regulated by state laws that define specific programs that must be provided.  If required, the public schools must pay for those programs.  If they are not required, then public schools need only offer what they can afford.  Continuing to pay for wants that are not required by law should be suspended if to continue them will drive the district into financial ruin.

3.  The third thing to keep in mind is that taxing laws allow taxing bodies to increase taxes annually to a MAXIMUM amount -- the lesser of CPI or 5%.  D181 has had years where the tax increase was virtually flat due to very lower CPI rates.  However, as we pointed out, for several years, the BOE has also not levied to the maximum allowed by law and as a result, revenues that could have lowered a future deficit were never collected (and now cannot be recouped).  It is, in our opinion, unconscionable that the administration didn't do the work needed to properly identify the capital needs (to the tune of over $10 million) and build those expenses into the recommended tax levy rates.   But once the truth was told, it was the obligation of the Board to levy the maximum amount in order to allow the district's programs to be funded and not put in jeopardy.

4.  Last December 18th, after the Chief Financial Officer finally did the work that had been neglected and explained the true state of the district's budget, 6 members voted to finally LEVY to the MAX for the upcoming year.  One did not  -- Marty Turek.  (Source:  See roll call vote summary at bottom of Agenda page describing 2017 Tax Levy resolution on Board Docs for 12/18/17 BOE meeting.)

5.  We were shocked then at Mr. Turek's blatant act of irresponsibility in voting NO -- a vote that reflected a complete disregard of the NEEDS facing D181, but we were even more shocked to listen to the delusional suggestions he made at the 2/12/18 Board Meeting.  Rather than acknowledging that perhaps his vote had been a mistake last December, he continued ignoring the District's NEEDS and financial condition.  He suggested that the Capital NEEDS at 8 of our schools that Mr. Dada said were critical and must be addressed immediately should be DELAYED.  That's right folks -- delayed.

6.  In our opinion, until the deficit is erased, the BOE must levy to the maximum allowed by law EVERY YEAR going forward.  The community may not like it, but if anyone leaves money on the table they are hypocrites to also suggest NOT cutting programs or other budget line items that the district cannot afford any longer and ignore capital needs.  If Mr. Turek is unwilling to raise taxes to fund NEEDS, then he should resign!  And anyone unwilling to levy to the max to help erase the deficit should not consider running for the BOE in the next election cycle.

7.  As if Mr. Turek's refusal to levy to the max last December wasn't bad enough, at the 2/12/18 BOE meeting, he suggested that the deficit be handled by dipping into reserves.  He claimed that he was concurring with Board Member Giltner's suggestion about using reserves. Take the time to listen to the Podcast because you will first hear Mr. Dada's explanation of why the district CANNOT AFFORD to use ANY of the district's reserves to lower the deficit.  Then you will hear Mr. Giltner AGREE with Mr. Dada.  Next you will hear Mr. Turek -- who either wasn't listening or doesn't have the mental capacity to comprehend what the grown ups at the board table were discussing -- claim to "agree" with Mr. Giltner and then suggest that the deficit be handled with reserves.  If you listen to this part of the discussion, you may conclude, as we have, that Mr. Turek is delusional.  (Fortunately Mr. Giltner was quick to correct him and inform "smarty" Marty (our words not his) that he had said the exact opposite of what Turek was representing.

8.  In our opinion Mr. Turek was pandering to the crowd of teachers who attended the 2/12 meeting since during public comment they also suggested that reserves be spent down.  We are baffled by Mr. Turek's conduct, since his suggestion is not in the long term interests of the taxpayers and district.

9. We believe that anyone who suggests that reserves should be used to offset the deficit should be criticized as irresponsible and unwilling to face REALITY! Even Dr. White publicly acknowledged that the deficit cannot be fixed by spending reserves.  He said so during the meeting. In light of his unwillingess to be fully transparent in the past, the situation must be really bad if he felt the need to actually be candid and open about this reality. As reported in the Doing's article: 

"Several teachers, including Maura Fagan, a teacher at Monroe School and president of the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers Association, suggested the district use its reserves to help offset the deficit.

If this was just a one-time occurrence, the district might consider using reserves, Superintendent Don White said. But an architect identified needed improvements that will cost $2 million to $2.5 million in each of the next five years.  And the district should allocate about that much for the next 10 years to properly maintain its facilities."  (Source:  2/13/18 Doings Article.)

Further, as reported in the Hinsdalean's article, "Superintendent Don White said using the district’s reserve funds as a remedy would be a short-sighted approach for a long-range issue.
“These are recurring costs that we know we are facing, so we’re going to have to take action now to balance the budget,” said White, who also pointed out numerous state-level unknowns that could adversely affect funding the district receives from the state." (Source:  See Page 5 of 2/15/18 Hinsdalean.)

10.  We actually agree with Dr. White and in our opinion, the deficit cannot and must not be reduced by spending any of the district's reserves.

11.  Before the BOE approves cutting any programs that impact our students, it must first stop the self-serving behavior of the administration and teachers.  If you take the time to listen to the Podcast of the 2/6 Finance Committee or review the cut list presented to them for discussion, you will realize that the initial cut list prepared by the administration failed to include any suggestion of an Administrator or Teacher salary freeze. (Source:  2/2/18 Draft Cut List.)  During the finance meeting, it was finally disclosed that almost $1,000,000 can be saved by freezing salaries for just one year and those amounts have been added to the draft cut list presented to the full board on 2/12/18.  (Source:   2/8/18 proposed cut list.)  So why wasn't the suggestion of freezing salaries on the list of ways to reduce the deficit?  In our opinion, freezing salaries is a MUST before any cuts are made that will impact the classrooms and our students, especially, if as discussed below, teachers are unwilling to support cutting programs that are no longer required by law.  The BOE must immediately begin discussions with the administrators and union leaders of both the teachers and support staff and get a commitment from them to reduce or freeze their salaries for one year in their next contract, if not sooner.

12.  Salary freezes are a no-brainer in a district that pays its teachers the second highest salaries in the states and that has been giving administrators raises at a ridiculously high rate.  More than 80% of the district's budget is used to pay salaries and benefits for the teachers and administrators.  If you look at Slide 10  of a Power Point presented to the Finance commimttee, you will see that D181 teachers are the second highest paid of all comporable districts in the state.  Their average salary is $30,000/year higher than neighboring Western Springs, and $14,000/year higher than Butler's district in Oak Brook. Teachers are fortunate to be locked into multi-year contracts that set their salaries and annual increases.  But in past crisis, both D181 administrators and teachers have agreed to SACRIFICE and lowered their salary expectations.  During the last national fiscal crisis almost 10 years ago, the administrators' salaries were frozen for one year (January 2010). (Source: Minutes of 1/11/2010 Board Meeting).  The teachers also agreed to a one year base salary freeze in a 3 year contract approved in October 2011.  (Source:  10/24/2011 Joint Statement.)

13.  Such sacrifices were applauded by our community and will be applauded if our highly paid employees agree to them again.  Teachers and Administrators cannot simply expect the community to support spending cuts that will impact our students, or call for spending down reserves that are needed for future unexpected expenses, without being willing to be part of the solution, especially when a one year salary freeze in combination with the $690k in "efficiencies" identified by Mr. Dada would wipe out the deficit.  If teachers are unwilling to agree to a freeze, we would urge them to consider lowering their salary increase expectations going into the next contract. The reality is that expenses have outpaced the revenues collected and since over 80% of the budget expenditures are for salaries and benefits, something has to give, especially if teachers' pension liability may be shifted to our district.

14. However, since it is unlikely that salary freezes or salary reductions will be agreed to before the next teachers' contract is negotiated, the BOE must still identify other means to lower the deficit.  The remaining "big ticket" items are: changing the start times of school in order to allow efficiencies in bus transportation to realize over $300k in savings, changing the bus pickup eligibility from 1 mile to 1.5 and reducing PE from 5 days to 3.

15.  Changing school start times.  In our opinion this is a no brainer if it will save $300,000 per year.  We are frustrated that the community will have to go through a second start time change in 2 years and once again cry FOUL against an administration that was tasked with finding ways to reduce expenditures but instead implemented a change that raised expenses.  To now have to reverse course does not seem fair to students, parents or teachers, but it is one change that will not have a direct impact on the services offered to students in the classroom.  

16.  Changing Bus Eligibilty.  By law, D181 is only required to provide free transportation to students who live 1 1/2 miles or more from their school and to those living less than 1 1/2 miles from school but who must cross a designated hazardous crossing.  It is our understanding that for years D181 has been offering free busing to students who live 1 mile or more from their school regardless of the hazardous crossing.  Thus, the administration has recommended, as a possible cut, complying with the letter of the law and only providing free busing to students who live at least 1 1/2 miles from their school or those who must cross a hazardous crossing.  This would generate $250k in savings.  Again, since the district must live within its means, if something isn't required of a public school district, it should, in our opinion, only be offered if it can be afforded.  Unless the district finds sufficient other cuts to erase the deficit, this transporation eligibility change will have less impact the on students and parents than cuts to classroom programs.  The alternative is to charge these parents fees, but since no one likes to pay more for what they've previously gotten for free, we predict that most families would find alternate means to get their kids to school.

17.  Reducing Daily PE to 3 days per week.  Finally, the administration has proposed reducing daily PE to only 3 days per week, an action that would save $450k per year.  Listening to public comments made at the 2/12 board meeting and following parent comments on social media, we understand that teachers and many parents are not supportive of this change.  Studies have shown that daily PE is good for students.  No one can dispute that.  The problem is that a public school district should only offer what it can afford or raise the money needed to pay for it.  Unfortunately, we now know that the district cannot afford to offer daily PE unless it finds other ways to erase the deficit.  Teachers who are opposed to reducing PE to 3 days per week cannot have their cake and eat it too.  In our opinion, if they really want to keep daily PE in place, they need to offer some concessions, such as reduction in their salaries or a future freeze in their salaries.

18. Some teachers and parents have suggested going to an operational referendum to raise moneys needed to balance the budget.  We doubt that the D181 taxpayers would approve such a referendum at this time, unless all other cost reduction options were implemented and the district still found itself in financial trouble.  With new federal tax laws no longer providing any property tax incentive beyond a $10,000/year deduction, school districts are going to have a much tougher road to travel in convincing people to raise their property taxes to bail out a district that has over extended itself.  In our opinion, operational referendums will fail and should not even be proposed unless pension liability is shifted to the district, resulting in massive deficits that will require more money to be raised to keep our district's legally required programs in place.

19. D181 is in financial trouble. After years of overspending and not identifying millions in needed capital improvements, the BOE must make cuts that will be painful for someone. To do nothing, spend down reserves or ignore possible future legislation that will increase the deficit, serves NO ONE.  There are districts that have dug such a big financial hole for themselves that the state must take over running them.  This is not a road we, or anyone, should want D181 to go down.  Corrective steps must be taken now that are permanent and will lead to a balanced budget that the district can afford to maintain.

20.  Finally, we have not always praised the board, but after reviewing all the budget materials, we have concluded that this fiscal mess is NOT the BOE's fault and that almost all of them recognize the seriousness of the situation.  They are our elected officials and as fiduciaries of our tax dollars, they are tasked with fixing the mess.

We wish the BOE luck in making their final decision on what will stay and what will go.  Our expectation is that once the BOE figures out how to get D181 out of this mess, the board will not allow future administrations to turn a blind eye to the true needs of the district, and will demand that the district live within its means.  It is unfair to provide "wants" when in the end,  "needs" are not paid for.  It is unfair for the public to be asked to simply bail out a district that has lived beyond its means by asking us to approve an operational referendum.  What has happened is WRONG and the Board of Education must find a way to make things RIGHT.