Please sound off on this important topic!
One design I felt was very cool; it has a green roof classes can go to, plus terrariums and a large auditorium. However, as we saw with HMS and the "open concept" design, what's "cool" now doesn't mean it'll remain "cool" for the entire life span of the building. Plus, I don't know how practical it would be.
Another design had the main building, plus three "houses" connected to it, one for each grade level. I find this interesting, but not in a good way. I also talked to the architects about student capacity: 825 students. I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. HMS has frequently had over 825 students for the last decade. So I asked how easy it would be to expand, and add portables. They looked at me like I had three heads. They told me that they had projected 800-850 students. How far into the future did these projections go? 5 years? 10? And for a building that should last 40+ years, that's unacceptable. Should the district get a large influx of students, where will we put them? Build a third middle school?
The third design was probably the most boring, yet most practical. Lots of classrooms, plus an auditorium & gymnasium/fitness lab available for public use. However, on the blueprints, there's a student locker room on the opposite side of the building from the gym. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity the locker room would be used for. So I asked one of the architects, and he agreed that the placement didn't make sense, so he gestured for another architects with the firm to take a look. She said that it was so that the public couldn't look into it. Um… you can still attach it to the gym, and have it inaccessible to the general public. To make it worse, there were already locker rooms attached to the gym, apparently for public use. ?!? What the heck were they thinking? Plus, it would take around 1-2 minutes to go to the locker rooms to change into gym clothes, another 1-2 minutes to go back to the gym, plus all that again to change back into regular clothes at the end of class. So in a 42 minute period, students lose about 1/8 of the class just to go to & from the locker room, which doesn't include actual changing time, which probably gets closer to 1/4 of the period lost.
All designs had similar issues though: where are the day-today, behind-the-scenes stuff? Where's the elevator? Is it in an accessible place? Where are the staff bathrooms, staff lounge, copy/work rooms, custodial work areas, IT room? The kind of stuff where if you're there once, it's a minor inconvenience. But for students & staff there all day, everyday, it's a nightmare. All of the architects said the same things: this is very early drafts, and can change. I hope they get input on the needs, and not just from central office administrators. They really need to actively get input from the building staff & students/parents. Plus, don't go with what's "cool": go with what's practical and lasts for the 40+ year life of the school. Plus, make contingencies for if/when we get a lot more students, and parking.
On a separate matter, I heard that the 6th graders were finally able to hold classes in the new portables. Woo-hoo! Unfortunately, with the rain, there were already leaks in each room, along with the ramp. Are you (expletive) kidding me? What bozos are running this circus? Fortunately, I hear it was small drips in the classrooms, but still leaks nonetheless. We really need more competent people here.
Please, please, please no fads or passing trends on the new middle school. My children went to CHMS. It is a good looking building, and seems very functional. The gym, the cafeteria, and the performance areas ( shared with the cafeteria) all seemed to be logically located away from the classrooms.
Hinsdale is landlocked, so any new influx of students will have to come from teardowns. There are still a number of houses especially in the Madison district that will come down. Don't know if it is possible to canvass the areas and guess which houses will eventually be torn down ( Hint: all ranch houses and all split level houses) I am not a snob, I grew up in 3 ranches, a split level, and a raised ranch, but those styles are not popular today.
In any event, I don't think we need to plan for another 200 to 300 kids, but the plan should be flexible for another 50 to 75. Keep in mind, the young families buying these houses are not having as many kids.
I am betting the referendum will be a difficult uphill battle. I see this referendum being about more than HMS. This is about the years of waste, over spending, key position incompetence and turnover and overall execution of the current group. The BOE and administration must present a credible plan of how this new school will be built. Credibility is sorely lacking today. FYI, you guys can't have any more portable goof ups. The logistical and administrative skills to build a new school ( with permits BTW) while safely operating the current middle school will test the best administrators. I am not sure we have the best administrators on board today. I am a parent of two graduates of D181 and a very concerned tax payer.
I also attended the HMS facility presentation last night and left in disbelief. How is it that after spending thousands on drafts and designs for the middle school can the outcome be so disconnected from the needs of students and teachers? To me, this comes directly down to leadership or a lack of it. If our current superintendent and his staff can't get the portables installed and functioning on time, how in the world could they possibly manage a new middle school or addition? And I'm tired of hearing that it was the Village of Hinsdale that dropped the ball and delayed the portable installation because permits were late. That's total bullcrap and we all know it. Our administration is just not competent, period. Now my tax dollars have been wasted on unworkable designs and I'm tired of it. Don White might be able to play his board for fools, but he won't be able to fool us parents when he shows up at the farmer's market fruit stand with his hands out.
My wallet will stay zipped shut.
Parent who posted at 9:39:
I don't believe the district paid for the designs that were on display, so maybe your tax money was spared, this time. However, I totally agree with you on your other points. Until the administration can be trusted (doubtful) we should not give them a blank check to do with whatever they choose.
A side note: it will probably be harder to follow the direction of the boe and district now that there looks to be one business meeting a month along with some smaller committee meetings. How did this happen? Not sure this is good for parents and the community.
I have to agree with the criticisms voiced against the district's administrators. How can we trust them to oversee the building of a new middle school if they can't get four portable units installed in time and without leaks? How hard can it be to make sure the brand spanking new portables were water tight? Let's hope they clean and dry the leaks correctly so no new mold infestation starts to fester....Ridiculous. I agree with 9:39 -- my wallet is going to stay zipped shut!
I went to the Thursday afternoon presentation. Here's my take away. In a perfect world, and perfect economy, the three architectural proposals for a new HMS (non-specific as they are at this point) seem quite nice. But in the real world, there is no way I am going to support these proposal because they are way too expensive and filled with too many bells and whistles. A planetarium? Are you kidding me? A green roof? Really? The first proposal was way too modern looking for me. Won't fit into the Hinsdale landscape any more than the current ugly 70's modern building we have today. I almost laughed when I saw this rendering because it showed how clueless the architects were. Didn't they do their homework and learn that everyone thinks the current modern looking building is ugly? If we go with firm #1, residents may be saying the same about the new building 10 or 20 years from now. The second proposal made lots of assumptions, such as Hinsdale allowing Washington street to be turned into a pretty paved pass through street of some kind that would somehow unify both sides of the middle school campus. Why is it necessary to put in street pavers? Who is going to maintain them? These kinds of niceties are absurd. What really bothered me about the three proposals was that they will create inequities between HMS and CHMS (and no, I don't live in CH). I'm all for giving the HMS students a better school, but not at the expense of flipping the envy factor back over to Clarendon Hills with the inevitable result being that taxpayers will be asked to pay for equitable improvements to that building in the next few years -- i.e. give them their own planetarium...... Come on! If the administration really wants CH folks to vote yes on a referendum, it needs to come up with plans for a traditional basic school that will house all of our students in larger classrooms, provide basic but better science labs, gym space,art and music/band facilities. The administration should ask the architects to create a plan for a school that while larger than CHMS (to hold more students) is similar to that building. Only then can we really know why today's renderings are so much more expensive that CHMS cost. One parent asked what CHMS had cost and the answer was $17 million. The three proposals are more than $47 million. The explanation was that just like college expenses have gone up, so have building expenses. Sorry, that's not a good enough answer for me or many other taxpayers that were in attendance. Strip the building of the bells and whistles, tell us what that would cost and then the community can begin the discussion of what add on's, if any, we should consider. And thank you to the parent who asked what the buildings were going to cost. I was dumbfounded that a parent had to ask for this information and that it wasn't provided as part of the presentations. And then when the first architectural group asked Dr. White if they could answer that question, I just about fell out of my chair. Of course he said yes, but the fact that this was even asked made me and bunch of other parents wonder just what the heck is really going on!
I well remember this past spring's election when I mentioned that my contacts in the general commercial construction sector suggested that it would easily be double the $17M cost to build something similar to CHMS, opened 15 years ago, as a replacement for HMS and those concerns were met with derision.
The fact is, if folks want to see a new middle school in Hinsdale it will take just as much organization as it took to ensure qualified school board members were elected for the high school.
If folks that put so much effort and money into that election last spring can be persuaded of the value of a new building a referendum will pass BUT if the "grass roots" that include a much broader base of people than can be reached through the Rotary and Farmer's Markets do not embrace the idea of spending so much the referendum will fail.
The very preliminary concepts that have been proposed are not really what should be judged. Designs can be refined and there are are allegedly many people contributing to on both the financial and facilities committees that the district has. There is no prohibition from those volunteers heading up efforts to spread the message of the benefit of a new middle school. Further, if those committees truly do have the kind of membership that includes sufficient representation of all the attendance areas and the wide range of residents that need understand the value of new construction then the BOE and administration need not worry about the referendum being defeated.
On the other hand, if there is too narrow a group backing the new schools, without enough critical voices to ensure that costs are closely watched and equity is given heed, the effort will not bear fruits.
I urge the district to continue to relentlessly seek out not just like minded supporters but embrace the likely sources of opposition. Folks that backed the failed slates in high school and village elections will be the obvious nexus of opposition...
Jay Wick -- I agree with most of your points, but do want to say that it will not just be "folks that backed the failed slates in high school and village elections" who may oppose the current plans for a new HMS. I supported the D86 and Clarendon Hills winners. I also attended last week's meeting on the 3 architectural renderings. Right now I will not support plans to build a new school. Why? Three reasons: 1. The price tag is simply too high. I remain unconvinced that a new school should cost $47 to $55 million dollars when CHMS was built for $17 million. 2. The lack of guidance the administration gave the architects before it had them draw up "free" plans for a dream school was not the right process to follow and probably is what led to the high price tag since the architects threw in lots of icing on what should have been a more basic cake. 3. I don't trust the current D181 administration to build a new school. They have to prove themselves in smaller projects, such as the mobile classrooms at HMS, before I am willing to have my property taxes rise even more than they have over the last five years. The fact that the administration waited until last Spring to ask the BOE to approve the mobiles, then blamed the village for permitting delays and then couldn't get them installed (even late) without water leaks, is indicative of the disorganization and lack of accountability that continues to pervade the D181 administration.
I agree 1:27. Jay, I agree with you 99% of the time, but please do not characterize those of us that want accountability for our tax dollars as knuckle dragging morons. D86 is very convoluted, but there is a reason a conservative majority was elected 2.5 years ago. Taxpayers were sick of a well paid superintendent with another part time job, sick of turnover at the principal and key department head level with no explanation, sick of multi million dollar projects being built without voter approval. The current majority was lucky their opponents turned out to be inept at governing and campaigning, but the issue is still there: we care about our schools and we care about our tax dollars. Hopefully next spring, D86 can offer some candidates that are not beholden to the teachers unions, yet are reasonable, intelligent, and capable of getting along with others. We shall see.
Poster 1:27 hit the nail on the head: the architects received terrible direction from the administration. Every project from an advertising campaign to a new middle school requires clear direction from the client as to what the must haves and parameters are. Obviously that did not happen and we have lost more time.
Jay, the goal is not to win a referendum. The goal is to provide the best possible facilities at a cost we can afford. It took several referenda to get CHMS built. It took several referenda to get the Hinsdale swimming pool built. The Oak Brook sports core has been shot down by voters. The Oak Brook voters are rightly taking their time about the future of Butler Middle School. The final results indicate that the extra time was worth it to get the projects done right. I don't want a bunch of people to run around and cram something down our throats.
We need a well thought out plan to accommodate students in 2017 through 2067 and beyond. It may not happen in time for a spring 2016 election. I don't care; I want it done right.
I agree that it is unlikely that only folks who backed the unsuccessful CH and high schools slates will be opposed to a costly new middle school; many folks that have an abundance of civic pride, but also a understandable fear of the likelihood of escalating taxes, are rightly reluctant to approve any new expenditures. Of course, continuing to throw money at the poorly thought out money pit that is the current HMS is not a prudent course of action.
Far be it for me to defend the decision of the administration to delay action on the temporary classrooms until after the elections. I can only speculate that the returning incumbent did not want the outgoing BOE to decide that matter, as that would have highlighted the lack of leadership demonstrated on such matters.
Putting aside the assignment of "blame", it is probably valid to ask if other recent middle schools projects have had similar costs.
It is surprisingly difficult to find comparable projects. I have little doubt that it is far cheaper to build in Dalton GA where the $34M Eastbrook Middle School was constructed -- http://www.mbkahn.com/portfolio.asp?title=Whitfield-County-Schools&p=66&id=70 I doubt the aesthetics of something made of cost savings Structural Insulated Panels would be acceptable to homeowners / business people in Hinsdale that value a more classical appearance. http://www.sips.org/downloads/silvis_4.pdf
That said, if there are folks in the community that can assist in ensuring funds are spent in the most frugal manner, the time for them to step forward is upon us. Beyond that, it would behoove the administration and the BOE to seek out people that are known to be the "loyal opposition". Those that have had experience serving on school boards or other elected bodies could provide valuable guidance. This is not just a case of "keeping your friends close and your enemies closer" but truly using the civic-mindedness that I know to drive their efforts at tax-minimization to assist, as they have before, in shepherding along alternatives that will pass public scrutiny. Many such people remain deeply invested in the communities that the district serves and it would be a shame not to solicit their help.
Here is project that might be similar is terms of student capacity. This is from a city northeast of Sacremento, Roseville CA http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/stories/2009/03/16/focus9.html
Experience shows it is exceedingly difficult to build a public school inexpensively. Nowhere is this more true than Illinois, where a rigid compliance with prevailing wage laws means very high labor costs. Even for relatively minor projects, costs quickly escalate. The very small effort to build a concession hut and improve the softball field at HC had cost overruns --http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/hinsdale/ct-softball-field-hinsdale-tl-1016-20141010-story.html, even with a board member that is quick to tout his engineering and business school bona fides exercising hands-on oversight...
People better wake up to the fact that the high school district is simultaneously considering how to implement their recently updated Master's Facilities plan that could cost over $200 million to update and expand both Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South. D181 taxpayers will be hit up twice for money, once by D181 and once by D86. Check out the following presentation given at the D86 facilities committee meeting on Monday night.
Pretty impressive. I'm angry that D181 hasn't come up with a similar presentation (at least not that I know of) but have gone directly to asking three architectural firms to design a dream school that may cost taxpayers over $50 million to build. But I'm angrier that I've listened to D181's board meetings and haven't heard squat about the high school district's plans. If D181 expects taxpayers to consider supporting a referendum for a new HMS, it better learn the meaning of the phrase "full disclosure." D181 better fully disclose other district's competing projects taxpayers may have to choose from. And D181 better make sure that it only asks taxpayers to fund what is really necessary to provide a first class education for our middle schoolers. I agree with an earlier comment that the proposed plans have way too many bells and whistles. What is good enough for CHMS should be good enough for HMS. How about asking the CHMS architect to take the existing plans for that school and expand them for a larger school -- a new HMS? The community might support that.
As a parent of incoming high school students, however, I will have to balance what is going to serve our students more in the long term -- a top rate high school education in a first class facility or a top rate middle school education? I am leaning more to supporting improving the high schools since they haven't gone to referendum in longer than I can recall, and I've lived in the district for over 20 years. Both high schools are in desperate need of improvements. I'm not sure our community can afford to pay for both districts' capital improvements at the same time, especially after supporting multiple D181 referenda in the last 15 years that are still not paid off. It's probably D86's turn.
I attended the Library presentation two weeks ago at which Dr. White stated that on 9/17 the Facilities committee would be ranking and then selecting which of the 3 architecture firms to recommend for hire to the BOE at the 9/28 meeting. I was interested in observing the process used to select the firm, so I attended the meeting yesterday. Apparently, the committee did not have enough information to select a firm and it has scheduled another meeting for 9/21. I'm not sure what additional information they will be given beyond what was already available to them, but I am concerned that this committee is doing more than just ranking the firms. I am also concerned that the committee decided yesterday to take an HMS Renovation option off the table, although I was glad that they decided that a new school should not include an administration center. I think the BOE --- all seven members -- should be making the decisions on whether or not to eliminate a renovation option and which firm to hire after the seven members have an open, public discussion. I hope the full board does more than simply rubber stamp the recommendation coming out of the facilities committee.
I also hope the BOE has a candid discussion on how bonds that would be issued should a referendum be approved would be paid back. There was discussion about an option that would have a Zero Increase on our tax bills, by kicking the can down the road so to speak. Under that option, interest would accrue on the new bonds, but not be billed to taxpayers until after the past D181 referenda bonds have been paid off. Everyone should be aware that Zero increase doesn't mean zero payment. Everyone's tax bills should go down when the past referenda bonds are finally paid off. We all voted on those past referenda with that expectation. Taxpayers need to understand that the overall cost of a new school will be higher and cost residents more money if the repayment of a new bonds for a new HMS is delayed. I also don't like the idea of trying to market the zero increase to existing taxpayers who may move out of district as soon as their children graduate. Anyone who has children in the schools on the date the referenda is passed and a new school built should be willing to begin paying the cost of a new school. If taxpayers with kids in the schools are not willing to do that, they should vote no.
I would also urge more community members to begin attending these meetings. I was one of only two or three residents (non-committee member) who attended the D181 facilities committee and also one of only four or five residents who attended the D86 facilities meeting earlier this week at which over $200 million in improvements/expansion/upgrades for both high schools were identified. Taxpayers need to stay informed about all the potential tax increases coming down the pike in the next couple of years from all of the educational districts that are included in our tax bills -- D181, D86 and COD -- from capital improvement referenda to operational referenda (should some of the pension reform options be approved by the Illinois legislature). We should not be voting on any individual referendum in a vacuum.
I think that residents by and large will not worry about a couple of hundred dollars increase in taxes per year, for both D181 and D86, because they know that a new HMS (and HCHS)will increase their property values by an amount significantly greater than that. I believe that everyone is just hoping that we do not end up with a repeat of the current situation. The administration should focus on the basic, tried and true, and treat this project as they would their own household budget. Stop with the green roofs and bricks on Washington. Allowing architects to go down that road - even if it was just creative license - was not smart given all the factors that need to be considered such as CHMS and HCHS. I think that the BOE, assuming they all participate, are more than capable of leading this in the right direction.
To poster 9:19:
I can appreciate your optimism, but I believe, along with many other parents I know, that the current board seems to be yet another collective rubber stamp for our incompetent administration. I'm beyond disappointed in what I have seen/heard so far. The only issue the board has focused on and demanded change was in math ability grouping, and we know all know how that's going. It's basically lip service and nothing more than differentiation for the entire class, again. My kids are now spending their first weeks of school bored for two chapters until our kings and queens in the administration review the "data." I won't hold my breath. And as far as "not worrying about a couple of hundred dollars in tax increases per year" you are wrong. I am worried about it. Any additional money I have to fork over will be going to private school tuition, if I can enroll my kids this year. The wait lists are long and growing.
I have zero confidence the board will "lead us in the right direction."
No evidence they area capable and neither are Don White and administrators.
9:19: You must own a house that is worth less than $500,000 to suggest that your tax increase will only be $200 per year. Most of us in D181 will be paying more. On a million dollar house FOR A $50 million school, the projected cost is $410 per year. Many people in Hinsdale's home values are much more than one million, so their tax bills will go up more than $410 per year. And that is just for one district's capital improvements. If D86 or COD go to any kind of capital referenda, then our tax bills will go up beyond D181's increase. D86, for example, has identified four times greater cost in needed capital improvements. If their BOE approves all that work and then goes to referendum will that mean an additional $1600 per year on a $200 million referendum? Hopefully not, but if D86 wants to bring the two high schools up to par with our neighboring communities' high schools, or ask the community to support even half that amount (as they reported New Trier taxpayers successfully did recently for a $100 million capital referendum), then D181/86 taxpayers are going to be paying a lot more than $200/year. I'm not sure our community is going to simply stroll into the poling booths and vote Yes. But it'll sure be a lot of fun watching the politicking that is sure to go on as soon as a referendum by wither district is announced. Let's not forget that there were two groups that lobbied hard in the early 2000's when D181 went to referenda -- both for an against. Should be interesting to see who leads the charge on both side this time.
From Don White: (Part 1)
These are exciting times for the D181 community! In addition to ongoing work to develop a comprehensive strategic plan, a dedicated group of community members have been working to finalize a recommendation regarding the future of Hinsdale Middle School. I am pleased and excited to share that a major step forward in this work was accomplished during the September 21 Facilities Committee meeting. The entire meeting was spent reviewing the criteria that was ultimately used to rank the three firms' proposals.
While we still have a lot to do, it is exciting to know that we now have a recommendation to make to the Board regarding this very important work. Here are a few highlights.
Following the receipt of proposals, the sharing of a variety of digital and print materials, the completion of staff and community surveys, and a series of community, staff, and committee events, the Facilities Committee met on Monday, September 21 to determine their recommendation for the ranking of the three architectural firms.
The Facilities Committee is recommending the ranking of the three architectural firms as following: (1) Wight & Company, (2) Cordogan, Clark, and Associates, and (3) Legat Architects. That recommendation will be presented to the Board during the September 28 Board meeting. If the Board approves the rankings, we will enter into negotiations on architectural fees with the first-ranked firm. The negotiations will be led by Ken Surma, Facilities Committee Chair / Board member Gary Clarin, and Finance Committee Chair / Board VP Rich Giltner. If the negotiations are successful, we anticipate a contract with the firm will be presented to the Board for approval during their meeting on October 19.
It is critical to note that the selection of a firm is first and foremost about the selection of a firm who will be our partner in creating a final design. Once a firm is approved, we will begin planning for opportunities to gather comprehensive feedback on the concept so that it can be refined. We will be talking in detail about learning, teaching, community fit, safety, style, mechanics, parking, green space, systems, size, and many, many more areas to get this design just right.
The majority of HMS staff selected the design of Cordogan Clark as a favorite. Please know that your feedback was received and reviewed by the Facilities Committee, and it has been shared with all three firms (and posted on the website and BoardDocs). If Wight & Company is the firm approved by the Board, you will have an opportunity to talk with their representatives about your suggested changes to the concept they shared. The firm, the Facilities Committee, and the Board want to ensure this building works for teachers, staff, and students for many years to come. Concerns such as the "houses" concept, the gym size, the phase-in plan, and the number of classrooms will be addressed. Their initial design was meant to be adjusted along the next steps to meet our needs. Moreover, it is possible that the final design will not resemble the concept that was originally presented.
From Don White (Part 2):
Along with the presentation of the committee's recommendation of the architectural firm ranking at the September 28 Board meeting, that night's agenda will also include a request for the Board to approve a recommendation to rebuild HMS (not renovate), a recommendation to not include the Administration Center, the presentation of a community engagement and research report, and presentation of the draft Facilities Master Plan. Please watch for a message after that meeting that will re-cap highlights of that facilities discussion.
Many people have been involved in this very important work. Please join me in thanking Kelly Sledz and Ruben Pena for continuing to be great representatives on our Facilities Committee. Along with Griffin Sonntag, several District administrators, community members, and Board members, I am proud of the process we've undertaken to get to where we are today. We look forward to continuing this journey together with you!
Hey Bloggers: Did Don White send the last two comments in or not? They are from "Anonymous" and yet they say, "From Don white." Interesting that he would communicate directly with the Blog, since I know the Administration hates it and has told staff not to read it or place any credence in its content.
Regardless, if the last two comments really came from Don White, then shame on him for (in my opinion) once again trying to manipulate the BOE. Shouldn't this material be presented to the BOE before he announces it to the community? Is he trying to back board members into a corner to support the Facilities committee #1 ranked firm? Will the BOE be expected to simply rubber stamp the decision of the committee? Will the BOE members have an opportunity to listen to a podcast of the committee meetings to have the same information the committee members had? Of course not, since unlike D86 there are no podcasts of the committee meetings. Not very transparent for the community members and certainly not very transparent for the non-committee BOE members. And if there aren't going to be podcasts (or videotapes --again as are available at D86 for all meetings), then perhaps the committee meetings can be scheduled at times that are more convenient for the community members and BOE members to attend. A meeting at 3:30 pm on a Monday afternoon? Really? Right after school? Really, when after school activities, including cross country meets and club meetings at various schools are taking place? How about scheduling these meetings at least during school hours so moms and dads can attend or after dinner hours? If that's too hard then simply audiotape or videotape them please Don White. If Dr. Law at D86 can set up videotapes of all meetings, then why can't you do the same at D181?
And finally, as for the teachers at HMS who preferred Cardigan between the top two firms, are you aware that there were only 5.5 points difference between Cardigan and the White Firm (out of over 1000 points)? Not a significant difference if you ask me. Apparently White got 1144 points, Cardigan got 1138.5 points and Legat got 1049 points.) Perhaps these two firms should give full presentations to the entire BOE at the 9/28 meeting and allow all board members to ask them questions before the seven board members -- who were elected to represent the entire taxpaying community -- are asked to vote (not just rubber-stamp) a recommendation coming out of a committee made up of mostly paid D181 employees.
This is Dr. John Norton, facilities committee member. I suggest the purpose of having subcommittee meetings is to leverage our local community strengths. There have been three D181 educational staff (teacher Kelly Sledz, and principals Ruben Pena and Griffin Sonntag) have been very involved in the committee process, along with administrators Dr. White and Ken Surma. Please note that Ken Surma recused himself from the voting process to avoid any hint of a conflict of interest. In addition, BoE members Mridu Garg and Gary Clarin have been strongly involved since the very beginning, and BoE members Rich Giltner and Jennifer Burns since the recent election.
The rest of the 15 members are unelected community members with strong personalities, capable backgrounds, and deep passion for both education and the community. Numerous times over the past year we have exchanged strong opinions, both in person and via email, regarding the facility efforts.
There is no "rubber-stamping" here. I am very concerned about both the costs and the current structure and remain committed to ensuring a solid solution at reasonable price.
- John Norton, PHD, PE.
Mr. Norton: Thank you for your comments. I, along with others in the community, appreciate the time you have committed to working on the facilities committee. With all due respect, however, I and neighbors (in 3 of the feeder towns) I have discussed this project with remain concerned about the HMS middle school plans and Dr. White. If he sent the comments to anyone in the community before he presented the committee's recommendation to all seven board members, this is not the first time he has tried to manipulate the outcome. He's prematurely announced the hires of top level administrators before allowing the BOE to discuss them or make a decision. This is just another example. The three BOE members who were not at the facilities committee meeting committee (Garg and Clarin) or did not attend the meeting (such as two you name -- Burns and Giltner who I would assume didn't cast a vote either) are now between a rock and a hard place. They will be called trouble makers or dissenters if they ask any questions about the firm that is being recommended or decide after reviewing the materials that are available on line that they disagree with the committee's recommendation. The reality is that they should have the right -- as our elected officials -- to question the architects themselves and have a meaningful discussion with each other about which firm is the right firm to hire (if any). The recommendation from the facilities committee should only be one factor they consider in making the ultimate decision. None of the BOE members who couldn't (and weren't required to) attend the facilities committee meeting (which I agree with 11:15 were scheduled at times that make them difficult to attend if they work or have after school activities to get their children to) should be stifled now from being fully engaged in the decision making process. After all, they are the people we elected, while the facilities committee members were selected by the administration. No doubt the committee members have spent many hours working toward this recommendation, but that time doesn't mean that the BOE members give up any of their authority. You say they are not being asked to rubber stamp the recommendation, but it sure looks that way to me.
However, since you are engaged now in this blog discussion --which I commend you for -- perhaps you can address the point made by 11:15 that there were only 5.5 points out of 1100 separating the top two ranking firms. It seems that a 5.5 point difference in a rating scale of over 1100 points is not statistically significant, and I would suggest that White and Cardigan were actually tied (statistically speaking). If not actually tied, such a small point differential should be considered as such and I would urge the administration and the committee to invite both of those firms to come to the Sept. 28 board meeting and give a full presentation to the 7 elected officials who should have the final say. Would you object to that, and if so, why?
This is Elm Parent. I need to clarify my last comment. I meant to say that Burns and Giltner attended the meeting, although my understanding is that they are not members of the committee. Aren't only Garg and Clarin members of this committee?
Also, someone who attended the meeting told me that the director of communications is on the committee and actually got to vote. Why would the director of communications get a vote? Her role should be to simply attend, observe and report on the workings of the various committees and issue press releases and end of week reports. I am bothered by her having any decision making authority.
I agree with Elm Parent about the 5.5 point differential. Especially since after looking at the online survey materials, it is clear that HMS staff ranked Cordigan as their first choice. I consider all the teachers in that buildings opinion to have more weight than a couple of staff representatives on the facilities committee. The BOE should invite all the HMS teachers to attend the 9/28 meeting and express why they preferred that architecture firm over the other two. And again, since there was only a 5.5 point difference, perhaps the BOE should place more weight on the teachers' survey results. At a minimum, the BOE should look closely at which categories of the matrix used to rank the firms resulted in the 5.5 point difference. Did one category swing the outcome in favor of White over Cordigan, and if so, should that category really have been the determining factor?
I think we need to determine who is actually on the facilities committee. Unfortunately, the list of committee members is not available on the D181 website. We just looked under the committee's tab:
The website does list the names of the Learning Committee members, but not the names of the other committees' members. We think all members names should be listed for each committee. Perhaps the administration, if they are reading this blog, or Mr. Norton, can ask the administration to post the names, also indicate which members receive stipends to attend the meetings and work on the committee and which members voted yesterday.
I too am extremely concerned that D86 seems to have a much more representative cross section of stakeholders creating a much more coherent vision of how the high schools' facility needs should be addressed.
While I appreciate the on-going efforts that Dr. Norton has made to shepherd our district away from the disastrous environmental conditions of HMS, it is extremely worrisome that the administration suggested that no consultant be hired to assist in weighing the proposals and no one with true hands-on leadership in the construction of schools is involved on the facilities committee.
D86 is incredibly fortunate to have Marc Poskin, with decades of relevant construction industry experience, provide insight into the complex process of tracking the many ways that costs can be contained or grow out of control -- D86 Facilities Plan Update|Chicago Tribune. I cannot help but think the inconvenient schedule of the committee meetings is less than conducive to maximum attendance.
I sincerely hope that many of the talented and community-minded residents of the district step up to ensure the best outcome before the naysayers seal the fate of what is undoubtedly a pressing issue. I would very much hope that recent board members like Glenn Yeager, Michael Nelson, Brendan Heneghan, Andrew Schmidt, Marc Monyak, and others would take on leadership roles needed to help build consensus without violating any rules surrounding referenda, so weakly enforced though such regulations may be.
Likewise, the many very committed folks who selflessly supported the grueling effort to restore a thoughtful majority to the high school BOE should be eager to step up for similar task in helping find a solution for HMS.
I completely agree with Elm Parent and Jay Wick. I also find it problematic that the public relations/director of communications should have a vote when parents of children who have been and (will be) paying taxes for a very long time do not receive an equal vote.
Since when do teachers get to vote for the building that they work in? This is ridiculous. Unless those teachers are residents of D181, their vote should count as much as a parent's vote. Yes, I appreciate the opinions of the teachers and value their input, but if they aren't going to put their money where their mouth is, and agree to take a cut in salary or pension to help fund the new school, then they shouldn't also have a final decision.
Finally, I find Don White's message on this blog unsettling. He has already expressed his opinion in our local papers, and now he is jamming his extravagant plans for a new middle school down our throats. Unless he intends to move to D181 so his property taxes can begin funding this project, he needs to stand down. Unless he decides to move here, or, donate a significant portion of his salary to the funding of architects and builders, then he should keep his opinion to himself. He is not an architect or a city planner. He is a superintendent of schools who barely has a handle on the curriculum or special education departments of 181.
Now is the time for residents and taxpayers to decide if this is the direction we want to go in. We are perfectly capable of making this decision on our own without Don White and his PR director forcing our hands.
The main complaint I have heard from my neighbors and friends who took the online survey or were called to take the phone survey is that they choices they were offered were limited to the parameters of what Don White and the pro-new HMS people wanted. When a few thought to ask asked if they could submit another option, or vote against the limited responses offered, they weren't allowed. This goes against common sense and the whole reason why we do surveys. If everyone's opinions were not going to be considered equally, or our options were going to be limited, then why even bother wasting time and money on a skewed survey? Probably because these select few who are pushing for the new middle school do not actually value our opinions. They are just trying to give the appearance that this is a fair democratic process. Let's face it, it is not. The one sided and unfair process that the district is taking in ensuring that they get their way in building a new school of their dreams is a clear indication that that once they are given the money to start building, they will only continue to play dirty.
I attended the Facilities Committee meeting on Monday at 3:30 pm. Unfortunately, I had to leave after two hours, before the committee members actually began debating (if they even did that) which firm to rank 1,2,3. As a community member and taxpayer who took valuable time out of my afternoons both on 9/21 and on 9/17 to go and listen to the committee and observe first hand the ranking process, I was frustrated that I couldn't stay until the end, but more frustrated that there was no podcast of the meeting for me to listen to at a later time so I could hear the end of the meeting. Why doesn't D181 podcast these important committee meetings? I agree with earlier comments that if D86 can videotape all it's BOE and committee meetings, then D181 can (at a minimum) audiotape them. I have asked about this and been told the administration is resistant. I hope that is not true and that they immediately begin audio or videotaping these meetings and making them available to all of the voting taxpayers and community members. Their failure to do so is simply unacceptable.
I had the same problem with the survey. I didn't like any of the options because I do not agree that downtown Hinsdale is the correct spot for a middle school. I also think that that not renovating a building that was only built in the 70's is strange.
The meeting times are very limited and not conducive to including residents who are experienced in successful, commercial real estate endeavors. The people with experience and career experience are busy working at 3:30. They don't have the freedom to leave their jobs for volunteer work. But if someone reached out to people like this, and offered some flexibility in the meeting times, more of these qualified people would join. The district should take an advertisement out in the Doings or use the editorial section of the Hinsdalean to encourage professional, experienced residents like this to come forward and help shape their own community. Why wasn't this done? Again, this is a public school and the community will be paying for this for a long time. We need to make sure we don't make the same mistake that was made when HMS was built in the 1970's
The district owes its residents transparency in the process that the facilities committee went through in order to come to the 3 limited decisions that were offered to us in the survey. What specific properties were considered and why were some considered unsatisfactory? What would the remodeled HMS have looked like? The public deserves to know this information before they are asked to take a survey that asks them which of three, $60 million + options of schools in Downtown Hinsdale they want.
People with investment backgrounds or commercial real estate experience appreciate the idea that property in downtown areas are worth more than out of the way, residential properties. That is why so many people think that the property that HMS sits on should be sold or leased to businesses that will thrive in the downtown area. Why was this idea never analyzed and presented to us? I have never been asked this question in any survey. More parking should be provided to support the businesses that are currently in downtown. The more successful the businesses are in downtown Hinsdale, the more money the city will receive in taxes. This benefits the schools. The money used from the sale or lease of downtown HMS land would help fund the building of a new structure somewhere else. Look north of Ogden, or south of 55th. Offer to buy the residential homes adjacent to CHMS. There are a few homes on Chicago Avenue, right next to CHMS that seem out of place there. If CHM gets more land they will be able to add to their structure. What about building a 3rd middle school somewhere else to lessen the burden on both CHMS and HMS? Make it only for 6th graders. There are several commercial buildings available in Hinsdale that would meet this need. People are not convinced that now is the time for the BOE to be forced into a contract with an architectural firm when no one offered parents an architectural plan for a remodel of the current facility. And for the administration to pretend that they have completed a thorough analysis of all of these options is misleading and unethical. No such report has been provided, nor is there a report like this on the website. Everything that has been presented to us has been very superficial and non specific.
Specific information needs to be researched, analyzed, and presented to the public before the BOE is asked to sign a contract with yet another independent consultant. This information needs to be accessible on video or online. Asking the Board vote on an architect for a brand new middle school in the current location is a premature, hasty, and poorly thought out decision.
Sorry for the delay in my response. Very busy with my own firm!
I can confirm that Bridget McGuiggan is on the committee. She asks very good questions. I don't know if she voted, I will ask for information. I believe the following are the voting members of the committee.
1. Ann Mueller
2. Don White, District Super
3. Griffin Sonntag - CHMS Principal
4. Julie Bryant
5. Ken Surma - D181, co-chair (did not vote)
6. Lois Mejdrich
7. Gary Clarin - BoE, committee chair
8. Mike Woerner - former Mayor, VoH
9. Mridu Garg - BoE
10. Kelly Sledz - HMS Science Teacher
11. Rama Raman - Architect
12. Thomas Szurgot - Architect
13. Richard Giltner - BoE
14. John Norton - Chemical/Civil engineer
15. Ruben Pena - HMS principal
Jean Duggan - non-voting, D181 Secretary, and Michael Vilendrer - non-voting, D181 Operations, also attend all meetings.
I will try to follow up on this discussion as possible, given my schedule. I was surprised by the close vote. Both the top two firms performed very well. I will try and attend the September 28th board meeting.
- John Norton
You really have to wonder what the BOE and Superintendent were thinking when they asked these firms for bids. It is illogical that they didn't realize the community would be very critical of anything that hints at waste. Why have proposals containing 900 seat auditoriums, etc? The entire plan should have started and ended with CHMS design criteria except for the number of students. That building is efficient, cost effective and by all accounts has very little waste, either in material or space. Why start with anything that is going hint at inequity between the schools? As others have pointed out, this only leads to future expenditures to address these inequities.
As a professional engineer, I am still confused as to how the existing school can't be renovated at a cost far below what has been proposed. You could easily add a separate gym and cafeteria to the south of school allowing both those existing spaces to be reconfigured into classrooms, etc. The gymnasium itself occupies 1/3 of the schools square footage. Lots of very modern classrooms could be added in addition to addressing the most pressing matter, water infiltration via a poorly designed roof. Sure, the stairwells, etc, need to be modified but the basic structure of the this facility is young by building standards. I suspect in the private sector, the first thing that would have been done would have been to modify the roof. Then add a new detached gym and cafeteria, then build out the entire third floor. All those soft costs like new landscaping, traffic flow, etc no longer come into play. It is always easy to spend other peoples money wastefully.
I am hoping at that meeting on the 28th the presenters give a much better accounting of the why a renovation is not viable. In addition, why they charged the architects forward without some constraints - CHMS similarity.
Right now, this would never get my vote. Just the lack of sensitivity to the obvious calls into question what they are attempting to do.
On another note, the D86 presentation, while well thought out also smacks of this insensitivity. In the real world there are constraints, the biggest is often funding. For some reason, we seem to have groups in this community that love to spend others money. We have needs, but that doesn't mean we can't have some compromises. If D86 goes to a referendum as well I can't see either passing.
Excellent and thought provoking comments by the 9/23 posters at 11:18 am and 9:51 pm. What this says to me is that the HMS middle school situation has not been completely thought through and analyzed at all. About 10 years ago, there was a group that wanted to tear down HMS and build a palace. The engineers said the building was structurally sound and the decision was made to renovate. Obviously, the roof and the mold issues need to be fixed, but I do like several of the options presented above.
I don't have all the answers or maybe any answers, but I am troubled that the staff and BOE seem to be locked in on a very expensive plan without evaluating some very good potential solutions.
The risk with continually raising taxes as the first solution to all of life's problems is huge: Hinsdale/Clarendon Hills will be towns where 35 year olds move out from Lincoln Park with 2 to 3 kids in tow, send their kids to our great schools and move back downtown at age 60. Winnetka is experiencing the same thing. We don't have much diversity now; and we are evolving into a community where only young wealthy people will be able to live here.
It is simply not realistic to talk about modification to the existing HMS.
Really, for anyone that has been through the building, it very quickly becomes clear that the overall space plan that for a short period was the driving force of this and other school designs envisioned a kind of education that NEVER developed. For those of us that grew-up in the era when bell-bottoms and the PBS kids show ZOOM typified teen-age style, it is not too hard to explain why architects thoughts kids might do 20 minutes of schoolwide cartwheels before engaging in a live performance of Hair as part of the learning day, but, alas more traditional pedagogy prevail.
The stop-gap efforts to drywall the place into a "normal" building of fixed-size classrooms where once there had been a series of moveable dividers has resulted in a truly hacked-up mess of rooms that vary widely in size and utility. There is a depressing lack of light, confusing angled entries, and with off-center white boards / video screens, a real struggle for even the least distractible students to have a plane to focus upon.
Further, one need not be a master builder to understand that the pier-supported concrete core of HMS and the masonry exterior are quite literally the most costly type of building to modify.
Despite less than complete transparency on the part of the prior administrative head of the district, the MAJORITY of water damage at HMS was NOT due to any problems of the roof BUT a specific decision of the the incompetent Energy Performance Contractor that lead the effort to install the A/C system in the HMS' gym. Previously that space had only been heated and the decision to abandon-in-place the system that once warmed storage areas through lost heat and NOT add supplemental insulation or space heat was the proximate cause of the worst water related damage.
Simply put, the combination of the long list of ways that the space is truly not useable for the instructional needs of middle schoolers, the ongoing operation / maintenance challenges AND the difficulty in modifying the structure makes replacement necessary.
Given the unique shortfalls that Chicago, exclusive of the state or suburbs has accrued in the pensions for its teachers, public safety personnel and general city employees it is not surprising that its mayor has finally faced the reality of the need to hike property tax. No doubt, if suburban law makers protect the interests of their constituents, the tax burden will rise much more rapidly in Chicago than the suburbs. Chicago Faces Record Tax Hike as Pensions Compound Deficit |bloomberg.com No one with a long-term view should expect Chicago to be a safe place for the assets of home ownership...
Personally, I have long fought excessive spending, often the lone voice to question the decision process that goes on when elected officials rubber stamp cost overruns. The degree to which I will be able to support the request of the district for funding is based upon how responsible the district can be in heeding calls for equity and cost-containment, as well as how responsive the district will be regarding the need for spending trends to track in a similar direction as trends for student performance. If both move upward that will preserve the desirability of our communities. If those trends diverge we will be spending more for less achievement, a situation that will make our homes unsellable...
As Jay Wick points out, it may be impossible to use the existing facility - a complete failure in design if true btw (pretty unbelievable that a structure as young as this can't be used or modified when just about every other school in the district has been). Anyway, that may be spilled milk. Regarding the initial concepts, it was still foolhardy to avoid giving guidance. The design should be pretty simple and utilitarian. Asking for 900 seat auditoriums or planetariums etc. only foments dissent.
Another area that I would be very interested in better understanding is the sizing of the facility. Much has been made of the 17MM price tag of CHMS in 2000. Since then, using RSMeans data, I would put this facility in the 28MM dollar range today. That facility contains 668 students if the Illinois Report Card Data is to be believed (designed for 650). Hinsdale Middle School contains 819. Why are we asking the architects to design a school for 1200? This is adding a huge amount of cost. What is the basis? The town is landlocked so unless we have some tremendous demographic shift, where are these additional 400 odd children coming from? Overall, I could see designing for 900. Assuming the facility is about 50% larger, a 42MM price tag would seem logical for a similar structure. The population question is key.
Oh, and in researching the actual cost of CHMS, the publically available number is $ 13,169,758. Roughly 148 per sq ft. Where does this additional $4 MM coming from? The using the publically available data and RSMeans, the building cost for CHMS today would be $22MM. 50% larger would imply $33MM. Again, it is important for the public to understand the basis of design and the estimate. Anybody can bring in a project on the budget if it is laden with fat btw.
Mr. Wick: Will you be stepping up to run the citizens committee promoting passage of the referendum?
I was just thinking about the difference in costs for CHMS ($17 million) & a new HMS (about $50 million). Just out of curiosity, how is CHMS holding up? I know they fairly recently (last few years) redid their gym floor. Have they needed any other renovations? I don't want my tax bill to go up, but I'd rather spend $30 million once and get a new school than keep paying $2 million here, $3 million there for 20 years. If we're going to spend that much money on a school, I want to get our money's worth.
I also agree with Jay Wick. IMO, HMS has way too many structural problems to just renovate it. Plus, being the cynic I am, I doubt they'll be able to get rid of all the mold, asbestos, and whatever else is in there with just a renovation.
Given my "fourth out of four" finish in a three seat race, it almost certainly would be better for ANYONE other than me to head up such an effort. Further, I am not yet convinced that the district has shown appropriate attention to either fiscal concerns or performance issues for me to wholeheartedly endorse any of three firms working on proposals...
I can't help but think someone from among the many good people that have been instrumental in the multitudes of improvements for the lovely golf courses that ring our district might be ideally suited for such a task. I drive by Highlands and Hinsdale daily and see lots of folks using those facilities. I don't swing past Butterfield or Ruth Lake quite as often, but when I do those also seems to quite the hub of community minded members.
The "equity" that has been enhanced by new / renovated swimming pools, paddle tennis courts and greens reshaping surely would be similar to the enhanced real estate values that would be realized by a more functional middle school.
District 181 ..... country club, interesting thought. I wonder if some view these entities in a similar vein. I suppose many of those members would love for the public pool, tennis courts and golf courses to be upgraded to their liking on the tax payers nickel.
Check out the letter posted on the board docs link below from AIA Chicago (American Institute of Architects) that was sent to the D181 Board president in August criticizing the process that has been followed to select the architect firm for the HMS project:
I have spoken with several local architects who agree with the concerns raised in this letter. Perhaps this is why the firm that designed CHMS didn't participate in this "competition." It's a shame because as a CHMS resident, if that building is good enough for 1/3 of the D181 middle school students, it should be good enough for the rest (with an expanded foot print to house the larger number of students.)
I will be voting NO on a referendum to build a new middle school with any of the architects up for selection at Monday's board meeting. Too many "bells and whistle" and unnecessary extras in their preliminary plans. This is not the way to select a firm.
Read the letter referenced above. Anyone else find it odd that the district would spend approx $ 50K on surveys to try and support this project but wouldn't engage the architectural community properly by paying someone to thoroughly and independently come up with a solid, refined design? I mean, when looking over the proposals, it appears cost had nothing to do with selection. The losing bids both had estimated costs that were well below the apparent winning vendor when scaling their designs to accommodate 900 students. Wouldn't it follow logically that the cost estimate is high considering the two losing vendors had substantially lower per sq ft estimates?
Also, any renovation bid is going to be a bit of a WAG if the firm isn't paid to really look over the facility? Nobody would ever take on a brownfield project without thoroughly digging through the drawings, etc. That takes a lot of time and money. Seems odd that a selection of a firm would be based on them providing a concept for free. Wight apparently won the lottery for guessing right and having the highest bid so the district can pad the budget. BTW, where is the cost of demolishing and disposing of HMS addressed? That's another one of those soft costs that always comes back to haunt.
Good points, 2:27. Pad the project well enough in advance and no one will bat an eye when we start being charged for $400 doorknobs and $800 clocks. If we paid $50,000 for that kind of a biased survey, it's obvious taxpayers are going to fleeced once the building breaks ground. If they are guessing $50 million, count on spending $70 million. It makes no sense to build such an expensive school on such valuable land. Since no one on the facilities committee (1/3 of whom are district employees) has ever answered this question for the public, it is doubtful that we will ever get an answer. I wonder how many of the district employees on that committee would ever dare to contradict their boss, the superintendent Don White, while they participate in round table discussions led by him?
How much will it cost to demolish HMS? And how much would the land be worth on the open market? Has the former Amlings property on Ogden ever been considered? What about Sedgewick or Adventist Academy? Selling the downtown HMS property would be a far wiser decision that would not only help raise revenue for the new school, children could keep attending HMS until the new school is built.
Nothing about the community engagement or survey process makes any business sense. It seems like yet another rushed, secretive process. Another wasted $50,000 down the drain. How wasteful. I am
not sure why anyone feels that renovating HMS is so impossible. If no report was ever made of the actual or potential problems of doing this, then no one really knows. Do people really think that building planetarium or a rooftop garden makes more sense? Or that choosing the most expensive bidder for an quote based on a dream school was logical? There is no evidence of mold or asbestos problems now, so to suggest that they would be issues in the future for a remodel is nonsense. Building even a brand new building will uncover a whole new can of worms that no one will be able to forsee. Imagine the traffic nightmares. The idea that the most obvious and logical solution, the renovation and updating of HMS, wasn't studied, given a cost, or even depicted in a drawing is irresponsible. Unbelievable that taxpayers have already lost $50,000 on a premature survey based on incomplete data, and we still have no idea of what a remodeled school would look like or where an alternate, new HMS location could be.
Lots of information, misinformation and questions regarding HMS on this blog. Hopefully, each and every one of the posters will come to the BOE meeting tonight to make their statements and ask their questions publicly, so that we can all learn exactly what is going on. Anyone who doesn't engage, doesn't have much to complain about then, do they? Just like the curriculum issues that we have been dealing with for 4 years, get involved or live with the result. BOE members are volunteers who do their best job, I'm sure they would all appreciate it if the experts on this blog would come to the meetings, volunteer for the focus groups and ask questions of the administration. If posters don't care enough to educate themselves and get involved, then they should really stay out of it.
Maybe people don't attend board meetings because the board inevitably rubber stamps the administration? The administration does what it wants with barely a slap on the wrist for its missteps and lack of respect for legitimate processes and the law. This has been going on for years.
At some point, maybe someone should contact the attorney general's office or the organization that broke the recent scandal at the College of DuPage?
I agree with 2:03. If the district was as open and accepting of parent ideas as they pretend, then why would information on a parent blog like this be continually (see 12:58) criticized and ignored? They are all valid questions and their answers should have been incorporated into the $50,000 survey. If we wanted another biased survey, the board could have saved us all that money and let the administration make it up themselves. Now they get to blame expensive consultants instead of taking the blame themselves.
If the paid administrators were actually doing their jobs correctly, they would have provided the answers to everyone's questions on their website, and WELL in advance of a board meeting in which the BOE will be asked to finalize decisions. Parents have spoken up loudly and clearly. But if we are prevented from hearing all of the facts, or only given limited options in surveys, it is clear that Dr. White and BOE are more concerned with having totalitarian, one sided power than with actually listening to what parents have to say. It does not matter if it comes from a blog or spoken at night in public. Why were parents not allowed to give feedback that was not strictly scripted in the telephone or online surveys? If taxpayers spent $50,000 for a professional company to come in and find out what the community wants, then there is no reason for parents to also be expected to sit through a 3 hour meeting after coming home from work. It is the administration's job to include parents and listen to them - noy ours. Besides the fact that we all did fill out surveys, and attended the community feedback meeting a months ago, we are still not being given important informarion. This should be on the website. We shouldn't be expected to track down Don White at farmers markets, meet privately with him, or send him letters. We all do that as well, but unfortunately, the information from those types of communications with him didn't make it to the survey. It is his job to serve us. It is not parent's jobs to beg and grovel for information at board meetings on Monday nights. Or to look up all of the information at noon the day of the board meeting on board docs. If the district is out of touch with their community because they cover up their ears and ignore us, parents are not to blame.
It is disgraceful to criticize valid ideas just because they are not presented in public at a meeting. We have been forced to pay through the nose for "experts" and outside consultants who work for us, not the administrators. We will be the ones forced to pay higher taxes for years, so we are the ones who should have received all of this information in a more timely, less biased manner.
Good idea, 2:03. The BOE should contact the ROE or ISBE to confirm that what the administration is doing is actually best practices when it comes to spending $50 million on a new school. I cant imagine that the BOE would want to be held responsible for unscrupulously spending all of that money on a project as expensive as a new HMS all on its own. I wonder if surveys such as the one we participated in usually cost that much money. Seems steep to me.
I would welcome assistance from the ROE when it comes to overseeing such a complicated building project. The ROE won't come to help clarify people's questions if the board keeps acting as though everyone is happy wih the administration. Had the board of COD requested assistance from the state earlier, I have a feeling that COD wouldn't have lost as many millions of dollars as it did.
I'm listening to the board meeting and the presentation on the surveys that were conducted to gauge people's interest in a new HMS/renovated HMS. I also reviewed the Board Docs material. In my opinion the presentation is skewed. So funny to hear the presenter say that "if the election were held today" the majority would favor a new HMS or a majority think a referendum would probably pass. What a joke. Bottom line, the number of people polled by phone or who filled out the survey are a small fraction of voting taxpayers. D181 failed in its first two referenda requests for a new CHMS. I predict the same for HMS. Guess we won't know until election day.
7:57. I totally agree with you! Not much credence should be put on the results of this survey, yet no doubt the administration will spin it as showing majority community support for a referenda and new HMS. Also, for god's sake, can the administrators stop stroking each other and thanking each other for all their hard work? They get paid millions, literally in annual combined salary and benefits to do their work. It is expected. We are not going to be grateful for you doing your paid job!
Total minimization of any negative feedback given during the surveys. Pathetic.
Finally 8:08 pm and architects presenting to the BOE. Can't wait to hear how much time they are given, if there are any questions asked by the BOE, and most importantly, what kind of discussion the BOE has before it votes.
I am listening to the podcast right now and I am concerned. My neighbor and I both received the phone surveys. However, neither of us were asked if we favored the idea of renovation/expansion. I am certain of this because we both thought that it was strange that we were not given that option because both of us would have supported renovation. Because it was not asked of us, we said that we would not support either.
If everyone was not given an equal opportunity to answer the questions the same way, the survey is skewed. Why wouldn't they ask everyone the same question on the phone? Did the person going over the report specify that 1/2 of the people on the phone survey were given the option of renovation/expansion? The phone survey should be re-done.
The same thing happened to me on the phone survey. I was not given the choice of expansion and renovation. Because of this, I said that I would support building a new school. But I only said this because I realize that the current HMS is not OKAY the way it is now. If I had been asked about renovation instead of building a new school, I would have definitely chosen expansion and renovation instead of going thorough the process of tearing down, and then re-building a whole new school. I feel cheated.
I'm disgusted listening to the presentations by the architects, but not with the architects. Rather, I'm disgusted with the Administration and the process and scoring approach that was taken in this "competition." Sounds like there were points assigned on the score sheets that made no sense. Totally agree that if all 3 firms are within 30 miles of the district, they should all have gotten same points. Totally agree that references shouldn't have been given so many points, especially if someone (the admin perhaps?) supplemented the email references the committee considered for at least one firm with non-email references. And looking online at the actual committee members score sheets, why would anyone on the committee give a ZERO for references to any of theses highly respected firms. That point differential alone would have swung the results in Cordogan's favor.
What a joke process.
I'm listening to the video Legat architects also showed at the library presentation. Sorry, but this shouldn't be considered at all. Five kids? Some of them who never spent any time in the existing middle school? And I don't care if any of the architects live in our community. That is not relevant to the design, in fact if one wants to place any weight on resident architects, then they should know the style that would be acceptable to most voting taxpayers. This one missed the mark, wide and clear.
I'm listening to Marty's questions about why the Legit (sp?) firm architect who lives in Clarendon Hills didn't consider replicating the CHMS design. Good question Marty. Dumb answer given that student interviewed said that the current CHMS is boring, and that someone their futuristic design is a sliced up version of CHMS. Weird answer. I wish Marty had pushed more on this question since as a Clarendon Hills parent I am offended that HMS would be so different than CHMS.
Also, thanks Bloggers for posting all these comments so quickly. Are you listening to the meeting?
8:44. Yes we are listening to the meeting. We are finding it quite interesting and love receiving all these comments since it shows that others are listening too.
I'm disappointed that the BOE members aren't asking more questions.
Hey Jay Wick -- are you at the meeting or listening from home? Any thoughts?
It's pretty clear from online survey results that people and staff didn't like Wight's design of 3 academic houses. Yet somehow the facilities committee ranked this firm #1? And it's the most expensive design? And take the longest? I hope the BOE members who weren't on the committee drill down in their questions about all this.
I'm listening to the meeting with my husband who I insisted should be more engaged because it looks like the district is headed to referendum. After listening to nearly two hours of the meeting, during which he also reviewed a lot of the online material, he said, "I don't care who they pick. I'm voting NO." When I asked him why, he said, "I have no confidence in the administration. They won't get it right and the project will be a mess." I tend to agree with him, so that'll be 2 NO votes.
Why is the BOE not going directly to discussion on the architects at the conclusion of their presentations and instead bouncing around on the agenda? How disjointed. Something this basic and yet they can't get it right.
On our radar. On our radar. On our radar. That seems like one of Dr. White's favorite phrases. Meaningless and empty statement, if you ask me, especially when you look at the screw ups that have already occurred on his watch. Case in point -- the latest religious holiday snafu. Totally unacceptable and shouldn't have fallen off the radar.
Glad to hear Leslie Gray's request to audio tape all the meetings. I hope they agree to do it. Not holding my breath.
Giltner just said other districts don't have two meetings per month that go until midnight (as justification for just having one meeting per month at D181). Guess he's never attended D86 meetings.......
Way to go Jennifer Burns - pushing for full discussions on all topics during board meetings.
It is ridiculous that it is now 10 pm and the board hasn't begun discussing the selection of the architectural firm and is instead now talking about test data. Why the moving shell game? So the community can't follow anything coherently or just gives up?
What the heck is White talking about "4 depths of knowledge" in response to Jennifer Burns' question about MAP results? Answer the question she asked, Dr. White. How is the district dealing with this issue and why? I found his answer very convoluted and meaningless. As an educator, he should be able to explain answers to educated professionals in a way that does not confuse.
White likes to toss out education terms and references that people who are not fluent in Eduspeak are not comfortable with.
This is order to throw people off his scent. Board members may not be conversational in Eduspeak, but we, and they, know when they are being bluffed.
Finally back to discussing HMS. Moving right to motions. Ridiculous if there is no discussion.
10:09 -- I completely agree with you. Stop the Eduspeak Dr. White!
Board approved motion to remove admin center off HMS project.
Marty not confident in scoring sheets. Wants committee to revisit and come back with an actual recommendation with pros and cons. i agree with him! Go Marty!
Richard Giltner said he wasn't on the committee but attended meeting and it is clear there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication about scoring. Wants committee to go back and wants each committee member to rank each firm 1, 2, 3 after further discussion. Glitter said committee members have said they didn't understand. Say what? How is this mess possible? They've met and met and met. If the administration guiding this whole process can't get this right, this project is doomed.
Leslie Gray agreed with Giltner. Wants to know if norms existed as to what ranking amounts even meant. Need norms to avoid subjectivity of the scoring. Doesn't want end results thrown off due to subjectivity. Also expressed concerns about references. Jennifer Burns agreed with concern about getting more reference info -- more due diligence needed not just with someone who provided references, but someone who didn't but worked with the various firms. Burns also suggested the committee come to consensus through a discussion of the members. Didn't that happen already? Wasn't each point discussed by the committee or did they just go right to the scoring sheets? Who was guiding this process?
Jill Vorobiev wants committee to come up with pro and con list for each firm and have the BOE make final decision. I agree. The BOE needs to make the final decision.
Giltner must be reading the blog. He just almost verbatim quoted an earlier comment that pointed out that 5.5 point difference in the score sheets was statistically insignificant!
I'm sitting here chuckling because it looks like the BOE needs to have a special meeting after the facilities committee meeting. So funny after all the naysaying by board members about having more meetings.....They look foolish.
All this discussion about dates to decide on going to referendum is absurd. The BOE needs to decide ASAP if they have any hope at all of launching a successful referendum.
Why doesn't anyone suggest that the current timeline -- less than 6 months until a March referendum -- is simply not enough time, especially since no one has begun discussing the necessary citizens committee that is critical to the successful passage of a referendum.
This train needs to be slowed down and a referendum shouldn't even be on a ballot before next November. it is clear from the messiness up to this point that this whole process has been rushed. It needs to be slowed.
So basically the BOE did not decide on a firm tonight. The facilities committee is meeting again tomorrow and will now be tasked with coming up with better norms for scoring, restoring and/or creating a pro and con list for each firm. It's not really clear. Then there will either be another meeting before October 19 or not. Again not clear. Wow. All this lack of clarity makes it clear as day that this whole process is a mess and it's just the beginning. Good luck passing the referendum. I agree with 9:14's husband. I have zero confidence in this process and plan to vote NO on a referendum, no matter what firm is selected.
Bravo to Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray to stand up for common sense and the community's needs. We need to compare apples to apples. Not apples to creme brûlée. The scoring process was silly and confusing, so right on, Marty. Let's all slow down this speeding train. Don't let anyone score anything until the scoring process is simplified and made clear to everyone. No wonder the meetings go on until 11 p.m.
No one should be ranking architectural firms if the firms were not all given clear, specific criteria on what to build. It was premature and embarrassing to waste the architectural firm's, the BOE's, and the public's time taking surveys that were not thorough. Even more embarrassing that we paid $50,000 to create an incomplete survey.
No one, not even facilities committee members, should be making decisions if the public does not have equal access to drawings, information, and price quotes. This should all be available online. It is vital that this information be provided for a renovation or expansion project, too. People in the community want to see the plans for a renovation and we demand to know what the price will be.
I feel like White is trying to force the board into a hasty, poorly thought out decision. Had the district done better due diligence and provided the community with more information about the renovation, then they would have been ready to present something for a referendum. It is the the administration's own fault that they failed to meet their deadline. Silly for White to ask Bridget and Ken how this failure to make a decision about architects will negatively affect their jobs. If they did their jobs the right way the first time, they wouldn't be redoing it now again. Taxpayers do not want to be forced into making poorly thought out decisions. Nor should the board be made to feel guilty about it.
The facilities committee will not be the only ones voting on the referendum, so please include the public's opinions before deciding to limit our options. And for God's sake, please give everyone the same phone survey before anyone starts analyzing results in public. Start with a bare bones remodel and compare it to a bare bones new school. Add in the cost of demolishing HMS, too. Remember, apples to apples.
Paton Insight should be asked to re-do the phone survey, online survey, and analysis. They did a terrible job. Not worth $50,000.
Mike Woerner made a closing public comment. For those who don't know him, he was a former D181 BOE member and Hinsdale Village trustee. He schooled the BOE on fine line that exists between being rubber stampers of committee work and actually rejecting committee recommendations. Final decisions are up to the BOE and the board shouldn't be afraid to make a final decision. Sound advice. Thanks Mr. Woerner.
He then expressed his confusion about what the facilities committee was going to do at the Tuesday meeting. "How's it going to go down tomorrow" is what he asked and then asked for the committee to be given specific direction. Good luck getting that Mr. Woerner.
Clarification on last comment -- Woerner is also on the facilities committee.
Meeting adjourned at 11:01. I waited hours to hear a substantive discussion on anything about curriculum. How disappointing that that didn't happen. What is wrong with this picture? I'll tell you. The admin and board shouldn't be asking anyone to pay more taxes to build a new school when they won't/can't/refuse to discuss what is going on in the existing building. Fix the LFA mess once and for all before you ask taxpayers to fork over more money and for god's sake, if it's really true as Giltner pointed out that student population is way down but staffing is way up, then can the BOE finally look into firing some of the dead weight administrators?
YES, YES, YES 11:03. And thank you to all the community members who not only listened to the BOE meeting but also contributed to this running commentary during tonight's meeting.
So is tomorrow's facilities committee meeting going to be audiotaped?
It should be audio taped. All a board member has to do is ask. Remember, the BOE is in charge and this is a public school district.
Mike Woerner, thank you for speaking up. And 11:03, my sentiments exactly.
11:03 is correct. Many of us will not support spending an additional dime until the LFA mess is cleaned up. If school administrators can't educate our children properly, how can we expect them to handle the construction of a new $50 million school?
Maybe if we "retired" the current top 3 levels of administrators (directors thru superintendent) and hired competent administrators at reasonable salaries, we could get this district on the right track!
When you overpay staff and administrators, they become more interested in keeping their cushy positions than in doing their jobs properly and with integrity.
We need to bail out of this mess now. More meetings mean more double talk.
White and Schneider have shown their true colors and their lack of transparency. Throwing out hundreds of pages of indiscernible materials is not transparency. Referring us back to meetings from months ago is not transparency. Backslapping is not transparency.
As long as we allow these administrators to continue their useless rhetoric, they will. By the way, useless rhetoric, doublespeak and backslapping are what makes these meetings so long.
And to the BOE: do something! Merely asking questions without holding the administrators' feet to the fire is a waste of time. Start listening to parents that speak at meetings. You may find, however, there are fewer and fewer speaking since these parents never get the respect they deserve. Instead they are looked upon as wasting your time and unnecessarily extending the duration of the board meetings.
Agree with 10:19. The BOA needs to set priorities. It seems like everything is a fire drill with this administration. Obviously, we expect them to be able to handle more than one task, but it seems like we are fighting multiple fires at once.
In my opinion, the curricula and LFA are the top one, two, and three priorities. If your child is in 3rd grade, she gets one chance at third grade. She can't wait two or three years until it gets fixed. My sense is that our current kids have had multiple years of changing priorities and direction, endless rounds of tests and experimentation with a social justice system. This has to get fixed yesterday.
While urgent, HMS is not the top priority. Students have been learning from outstanding teachers, hard work, and parental support at that building for 40 years. Let's take the time to get it right. Several of the elementary schools are north of 60 years old. Whatever we do will need to last a very long time.
I don't think the current group of administrators is strong enough to fix urgent curricula issues AND tackle a major construction project.
BOA, here are your top priorities:
1) Fix curricula/LFA/Ability Grouping/Gifted/Special Needs
2) Fire/Upgrade current administrative staff ( perhaps as part of priority one)
3) Repair or Replace HMS
Does anyone know if the Facilities' Committee rescore results ranking the 3 architecture firms have been published anywhere? I know they met right after the last BOE meeting and were supposed to score the firms a second time since there was confusion about how to score the firm the first time they did it. I'd like to know if Cordogan placed ahead of White, since that firm was only behind 5 points last time. I went onto the D181 website this morning and can't find any new results.
Also, has anyone signed up yet to run a citizen's committee if the BOE votes to go to referendum? I think the BOE and Dr. White are really naive to think that the referendum is going to have any chance of passing without a strong citizen's committee ready to hit the ground running the day after the BOE votes.
If anyone in Blogland has answers to these questions, please share!
Check out the Board Docs on the SD Website...looks like the Second Round of scoring shows what the Staff, Public all agree on that the Cordogan design was the best and they should be the architect for the project.
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