Sunday, December 13, 2015

Comment of the Day: The New Hinsdale Middle School Could Cost $73 Million! More than $20 Million Previously Projected and Represented to the Community.

Well, well, well.  Look at the comment we just received.  It shocked us when we read it, but it's true.  All we can say is that there is NO WAY we, the bloggers, will support a $73 Million Dollar middle school when CHMS was built less than 15 years ago for less than $20 million.  As always:  SPEAK OUT!

Comment of the Day:

AnonymousYvonne Mayer said...
Bloggers: Have you seen the Cost Estimate for the new HMS that was posted on board docs today? The school could cost as much as $73 MILLION! Here is the link:$file/HMS%20Cost%20Estimate%20DRAFT%20Executive%20Summary%2012-13-15.pdf

This is over $20 million more than the public has been told the building would cost. Please post this as a free standing post! The community has a right to know this.
December 13, 2015 at 3:31 PM


Anonymous said...

As a parent of two children in this district, I find this projected cost of HMS totally outrageous. One of my children is in 6th grade and has been struggling with curriculum changes for 3 years. Both reading and math are a mess, despite his dedicated teachers who are trying to do their best. The changes continue to come from higher ups who don't know what they are doing. It's very obvious we have no leadership. How the school board can sit back and allow this to continue is beyond me.
How about fixing the mess INSIDE HMS first before spending a ton of money for a new building? A new school with all the bells and whistles isn't the answer, and I sure won't be voting for my taxes to go up for a mediocre education for my kids.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the above. The proposed budget for a new HMS is outrageous when you consider that our curriculum lacks progressiveness; our math and reading areas are completely devoid of opportunities for advanced learners; and our testing situation and lack of effective, engaging and evaluative assessment is still not accurately assessing the needs or abilities of all spectrum of learners. We don't even offer opportunities for KG-2nd Grade students--and our new math resource has KG students coloring and matching shapes. Our fourth and fifth grade students are asked to re learn everything about math just so they can bar model and diagram.

We have a new math resource that our teachers are still learning as they go-in year 1 of implementation there are still inconsistencies with grading and testing across all schools and grades. Teachers are emphasizing a re learn for students in higher grades who already know how to do the math but are forced to go back to basics just so they can become visual learners and re learn how to add, subtract,multiply, divide, use fractions etc--learn the MIF way. We roll out a curriculum change and new math program "cold turkey" instead of doing a proper roll out and roll up from grade K onwards. Our science resources are outdated-we don't incorporate STEM opportunities. The list goes on. What about the fact that we still don't have ALL DAY Kindergarten? Many of our buildings don't have the capacity to staff all day kindergarten let alone the space- one of our schools has such a small footprint the kids only get 12 minutes to eat lunch so that they can eat in shifts throughout the day. A new HMS may very well be needed and necessary but so is better leadership from the TOP DOWN. Our ridiculous math acceleration criteria; our lack of accurate testing and assessments; the emphasis on PARCC (which has anyone looked at our district and school results?--they are not impressive); the lack of follow through by our BOE (they said we are eliminating Winter MAP and here we are having winter MAP); the list goes on and on and on.

I'll be voting NO. Sadly, I think so will so many others. Until our ceiling is lifted and we stop bringing our floor up to our ceiling (but rather lift our ceiling), I am not paying for anyone to have a new roof.

Anonymous said...

The proposed budget is ridiculous. Most of the administration and staff don't pay our outrageous tax bills so why would they care? They just receive inflated salaries and complain about the amount of work they have to do.

Something else folks need to think about is how often capital projects come in on budget? Not too often. The cost of labor, the cost of materials, bad weather and whatnot are used to justify cost overruns.

Most of us should be able to remember the excuses the administration made for not having the portable classrooms here on time. If the administration can't handle a "project" like that, can you imagine them trying to get a new facility built?

Anonymous said...

The manner in which this district bulldozes over its patents and our children is obscene. The administrators and the BOE ignore valid parent concerns while they non-chalantly rob residents of their tax dollars and our children of their educations. How can they think that we will be satisfied with a shiny new school with the same excrement going on inside of it?

jay_wick said...

I am more than a little shocked at the estimate. Even considering it is a "draft" with more than a few indirect costs and maybe some room for "cost cutting" by deleting "options", the numbers seem detached from the reality that even very affluent residents face, to say nothing of the many home owners that constantly weigh the value of seeking a more affordable place to live.

Perhaps the folks that made these estimates are more familiar with the spending habits common inside Chicago -- UNO Charter School Construction Grants

Madigan earmarks for middle school to be built in his district

Perhaps the good people from Pepper Construction need to be reminded that there are no donors lined up to help launch this, as there were for the Adventist Cancer Center -- Adventist Breaks Ground for $48M Cancer Center

There are no "grants" from political insiders to help pay for this. If voters are not convinced of the value this represents the referendum will not win approval.

Anonymous said...

The good news from this outrageous estimate is that the new HMS is likely DOA. Let's get the rid of the White gang, get the curricula fixed, and then get back to HMS. Pepper Construction is a Chicago based firm steeped in political connections ( read corruption and graft). We have a few years to find a DuPage based firm. Probably a nice recession in 2017-2018 will make a few competitive bidders sharpen their pencils.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that our district can't recruit anyone with real impressive credentials? Do we not pay enough? I'm trying to understand. Looking over the resume of the person who is proposed to take over for Dr. T in the new year I am underwhelmed.

I"m also disgusted with how our BOE thinks that $70 million is a reasonable proposal for a new school building? Are they even possibly seriously considering this? I am astonished that no one sees how ridiculous this is--to build a new school to the tune of this price when there are so many other issues in our district that need real attention and dollars. Disappointed again.

Anonymous said...

The district will do anything to avoid discussing the real problem in our district: the administrators' inability to address the curricular, assessment, and special education needs of their students. Instead of fixing their mistakes, they keep trying to distract everyone with the bells and whistles of a new school and the variety of ways we can pay for it. They do this because they know nothing dreamed by our administrators will ever work, and they will never be able to justify any of it in public.

Sadly, if these educators cannot figure out the solutions to the academic problems in our district, what in the world makes them think they will ever be able to oversee a cost effective and safely built $70 million school?

Anonymous said...

I am listening to the BOE meeting and it is now 10 pm, 3 hours in. It is unbelievable that the BOE hasn't really discussed with each other whether any of them really want to go forward with a new HMS now that they all know that it will cost $73 million. Why none of them are shutting this discussion down now is crazy. It should be clear to everyone involved that no way can the BOE vote tonight to go to referendum. Too much has changed in the last few days regarding what the cost of the project will be. The BOE needs to take time now to really understand this, discuss it and then PERHAPS vote on it some time next year. There is obviously no rush anyway since these plans don't envision the project starting until Summer 2017.

Anonymous said...

They are discussing whether or not to have a Construction Manager. White is saying that internally they don't have capacity to handle this task. Well, he's got that right. The current administration is utterly useless in getting things done on time and done well.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to bet what time this meeting will end? There is still tons left on the agenda! My guess is 2 to 3 am.

Anonymous said...

It might not be that we can't recruit anyone with impressive credentials. The problem might be that White won't pick anyone smarter than he is or that he won't pick someone who won't go along with his lame ideas. That means we lose most of the qualified candidates.

If you were really qualified, would you want to work with Dr. Schneider or Dr. White?

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of misinformation on this site. I would caution anyone reading this blog to attend and participate in discussion at open committee-level meetings, BOE meetings, etc. to stay adequately informed on current district issues. Pour through the detailed documents posted. Visit the schools. It is absolutely important to question and be fiscally responsible, but it is also important to understand the needs, the facts, the history of this entire process, and -in this case- the current learning environment for our students at HMS before rushing to conclusions. Whether they are your children or your neighbor's children, they are a part of this community and they deserve careful consideration for their learning environment, just like every other child in the district. I believe we can do better. We have to do better...

Anonymous said...

Part 1: 5:26: You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you need to back it up. Please elaborate what "misinformation" is on this blog because I have been reading it for over a year and it seems spot on. I also have friends and neighbors who have done exactly what you suggest – – attended or listened to board meetings, written letters to the board and administration and attended committee meetings – – and they have been utterly disgusted and dissatisfied with what they have seen and heard. I also had two children who graduated from Hinsdale middle school and I can tell you it was the teachers, not the building, that ensured their excellent education. My kids were in the building when it was infested with mold and overcrowded, yet they went on to have successful high school careers. It was not the building but the curriculum and teachers that led to their success. Now, more than $3 million has been spent to remediate the mold in the building and there are portable units that have helped to alleviate the overcrowding. If the building was good enough for thousands of students when it was a sick/crowded building, it can certainly be adequate for kids, especially now. You see, while all the attention has been focused on building a new state of the art facility, what the administration continues to ignore is that they have destroyed the curriculum. The current curriculum is a mess and the learning department administrators don't seem to know what they are doing. As a former parent, I rather the BOE fix the internal mess before they spend $70 million on a shiny exterior. Shiny and new won't fix broken and ruined educations, will it? Having ruined the curriculum for our kids, now it seems the central administrators involved in the facilities planning process also don't know what they are doing. They have certainly proven time and again in the last twelve months that they are incapable of meeting any deadline or accomplishing anything relating to the new HMS in a timely or fiscally responsible manner . It is utterly nuts how a $50 million new building proposal escalated to $73 million in the last two weeks. Thankfully some of the board members who attended last night's board meeting recognized that the community will not support this. One community member even drove over to make a public comment at the end of the five hour marathon meeting. As he correctly pointed out, how can anyone expect that they will have all their ducks in a row in the next four days to be able to vote in a responsible fashion during the special board meeting they have now called on Saturday morning? I asked myself the same question as I was listening to the meeting. While a new middle school may be a good thing for the community in the long run, the process needs to be done with fidelity and when there are this many dramatic and unexpected financial changes thrown at the board at the last minute – – even Board Member Giltner pointed out that one of the documents laying out new financials on the new school wasn't presented to the board until last night -- any reasonable person should conclude that this process needs to be slowed down and approached in a more detailed, methodical and fiscally responsible method than what has been done so far.

Anonymous said...

Part 2: 5:26: There is no way I will support a $73 million or $70 million or $65 million or $60 million referendum. The numbers that were floated to the community up to this point were that the building was going to cost around $45-$55 million. With the high school district potentially going to referendum next November to raise funds to renovate two high schools that are in desperate need of updates, and for which there haven't been referendums to raise money in over 20 years, my vote will be to support that school district's plans. The high school district's plans will impact many communities' students and help increase the property value's of many communities' homeowners. Contrast that with the HMS plan that will potentially negatively impact property values of certain Hinsdale residents, such as those whose children attend Monroe school. They will be living in Hinsdale but not have the benefit of attending the overpriced middle school. If I were a person looking to relocate to Hinsdale I would not look in the Monroe neighborhood. I would predict that there will be a negative impact on those property values should this project go forward. And the current plans also have all D181 feeder communities paying to build parking for Hinsdale? Why should anyone in Willowbrook, Burr Ridge or Clarendon Hills have to do that? We don't get to buy parking permits for the Hinsdale spots, do we? This is just another example of how absurd the current plan is! Hopefully calmer and less frenzied heads will prevail at the board table on Saturday and a majority will decide that it is simply unacceptable to rush to referendum next March without further deliberation that actually involves live meetings with parents. Residents should be allowed to speak at a publicly held meeting and say whether they are for or against the new middle school and give their opinions on what it should cost if the district seriously wants tax payers to vote for it. That step hasn't happened in a district that is now known in the area as completely lacking in full transparency.

Anonymous said...

8:40: You should remember that the HMS teachers and principal have spoken out strongly in favor of a new school. They have eloquently addressed, both in writing and in many meetings, the needs they have and how much more difficult it is for them to provide quality education in the current environment. We should listen to them. Additionally, there have been several teachers and many students who have complained of being ill as a result of the building. Yes, thousands of students have successfully matriculated through HMS but that doesn't mean that thousands more need to put up with it.

The competence of the administration and the curriculum mess are valid concerns. Until the BOE majority and administration acknowledge what they have done to students, it is more difficult to support them.

The argument about Monroe area property values is a ridiculous and sounds like sour grapes and trying to stir the pot. Monroe families have had the beautiful, new CHMS to send their students to for years while the rest of us have had to deal with HMS. After the mold controversy, which was televised all over Chicago on several occasions, there is no question that HMS area property values (in addition to student and staff health) have been negatively impacted by the school. It is more than a little selfish to now say that HMS students shouldn't have the same opportunity that CHMS students have had. We supported your children and now you should consider supporting ours. The real reason families may not want to move to the Monroe area is because of the poor scores of the elementary school for years now. But that's another post and one that Monroe parents need to take ownership of if they really care about their property values...

Anonymous said...

If I moving to this district, I would avoid Elm School. When you look at the percentages in meeting or exceeding D181 standards, Elm School was below the district standard in every category except one. (That one was only 1/2 a percent above the district average.)

The 5th grade math scores were over 20% below district standards. 4th grade math scores were almost 14% below district standards. The other scores were not as bad but Elm did not surpass district standards in any of the meeting or exceeding groupings.

White and Schneider should explore giving Elm to the Gower School District. That would raise the district average and White could tell everyone how great his administration is doing.

Anonymous said...

8:46, I am not grasping how a new HMS negatively impacts the Monroe School attendance area only. All D181 residents will pay for this new Taj Mahal, if it is even built. Monroe( and the rest of the elementary schools) has has been renovated to modern standards several years back and still looks beautiful and has a very nice lot/play area. The Monroe kids attend CHMS, which is a good looking, modern, functional middle school. My guess is that after the dust settles and rational thought kicks in, the new HMS will look a lot like CHMS and less like the Art Institute.

We need to start with the 20 million spent on CHMS and factor in true construction cost inflation. Due to the recession of 2008-2010 and beyond, many commodities have flatlined. Don't let them tell you that copper, concrete, drywall and other components have increased more than the rate of inflation, which has been about 1% per year. We should insist on non-union labor. Davis Bacon and the prevailing wage ( Chicago democrat union wages) and their communistic work rules drive project costs through the roof. Not including any SF adjustments, our ball park should be 30 million dollars, a 50% inflation increase over CHMS. FYI, your house has not appreciated 50% over the past 15 years. You are lucky if it is the same price as 2000 or maybe a few bucks higher.

Let's stop the BOE of using an artificial timeline and artificial sense of urgency on this project. Let's fix the curricula and then get the new HMS done right.

Anonymous said...

8:40, you make some good points. The teachers do make the difference, much more than the school. However, can you clear up something for me? You confused me a little (sorry): you say it's the teachers at HMS that make the education so good and not the building, but why do the District 86 high schools need updates? Like 9:15 said, several HMS staff members have explained of how HMS' issues/design limit what they can do. So please forgive me if I'm dense when I ask what facilities issues at the high school are so important that the teachers can't cope with them, regardless of how good they are?

However, truth be told, I'm more than a little shocked at how the cost of a new HMS could go up by almost half in only a week or two. Are the architects that bad at costing out a new building? Did they just not know some crucial information that the administration just shared?

Anonymous said...

I attend BOE meeting regularly. When I cannot attend I listen to every podcast or audio recording as well as to the recordings or live meetings of The Learning Committee, Facilities, etc. I feel that I am an informed voter, parent and community member.

I am in favor of a new middle school being built. I believe that the existing HMS building is not only outdated but has so many structural and cosmetic deficiencies as well as safety issues that to date, we've just slapped a band aid and it is time to really fix the problem. However--I do not agree with the lofty and grandiose plans or proposals nor this recent recommendation to build a school to the tune of upwards of $70 million. That is just ridiculous.

I also agree that our district is a mess in terms of administration and curriculum. We have so many meetings to discuss so many things and yet very little changes and none of it for the good of the students. Case in point: the Winter MAP is still on yet we had numerous discussions, meetings and even one BOE member mentioned that after months of hashing out how we needed to reduce the number of assessments, the WINTER MAP is back on. What a waste. Similarly we roll out a new math curriculum not gradually but all at once, making our higher level students re learn math that they are already currently are beyond. We also lag behind our other competitor schools/feeder schools in STEM, Science and Foreign Language opportunities.

What we are good at is fundraising. This year alone I've been hit up for numerous fundraising opportunities for my local public school. What's going on here? I"m disappointed by what I see every day at a local and administrative level. Listening to the podcast last night for hour after hour while they went around and around the table---how come no one doing their due diligence asked "WHO IS GOING TO GO FOR a 70 MILLION DOLLAR BUILDING?" In a time when our high school is thinking about a fall referendum next year and our district is struggling to compete in a changing world of Common Core guidelines and testing, I am in disbelief that we propose a new middle school to this tune. I'll be voting NO. Sad because I do think we need a new school but not at this expense. Not with this curriculum.

Anonymous said...

12:37: I think a lot of people agree with you that HMS is far from perfect, and its issues do impact the quality of education the teachers can provide. However, at $70 million, the cost/benefit ration is getting worse and worse.As others have said, there are often budget overruns, it takes longer than expected, plus I don't trust the administration enough to make all the proper decisions.

I'm friends with a number of the district's teachers & staff, and I can tell several seem to think the DOL administration is a bit of a joke. I just hope that the district finds a good superintendent of learning that isn't just a "yes man," but gives good, clear direction, and stands up to White/Schneider.

Anonymous said...

12:37 well said; I think the issue is one of priorities and what a group of seven volunteers can truly accomplish. What is the MOST important thing to get fixed NOW? What is next, what is next after that? I know that more than one task can be accomplished, but there are three major fixes that need to occur. ( D181 Staff competency, curricula, HMS are the top 3 in my book). Yes, I they should have all 3 been fixed YESTERDAY, but that did not happen.

We must get the curricula fixed THIS SCHOOL YEAR!! The BOE needs to decide THIS YEAR if we are going to extend White's contract ( please no) or move in another direction. It is crucial that we have a good hire at that position that can stay a decade or more and get our curricula, school facilities, principals and staff back to where a top performing district should be.

I think the BOE needs to take a step back with regard to HMS. Most thinking people absolutely agree it needs to be replaced. We need to START WITH: a rough budget, square footage, range of number of students, must haves such as wifi, central performance space, hallways large enough for students to pass, a functional gym, etc. etc. It seems like the BOE started last spring with looking for free architects who then proceeded to lead the BOE around by the nose. Next thing I know, we have a $73 million dollar estimate. There has literally been ZERO LEADERSHIP at the District or Board level about this most important project. Guess no one wants to be blamed if it gets screwed up. Starting with the basics such as budget and size sends a signal to the architects, contractors and consultants that we actually have expectations of a cost efficient, usable and flexible building.

Fix the curricula, fix the staff, then build the new school.

Anonymous said...

Hinsdale D181 needs to consolidate with Oak Brook Butler 53. Oak Brook's middle school only has 160 students in it. No wonder they are constantly ranked #1 in the state. Compare that to almost 800 at HMS and 700 at CHMS. Their middle school has a teacher to student ratio of 15:1. Compare that to our 24:1. Butler only has 1 elementary school, and both of their schools are always at the top of IL rankings. Obviously, it's not the size or the aesthetic appearance of the school that matters. The way the library is set up and the size of the auditorium don't matter either. The most important thing is the competence of their administrators and their dedication to their teachers and their students.
Once you realize that Oak Brook property taxes are 30-40% lower than ours, you will realize how much waste D181 engages in. I don't know about you, but I do almost all of my shopping at Costco and the Oak Brook Mall. We eat at Oak Brook restaurants. Why shouldn't the sales tax Oak Brook collects off my family be used towards schools for our children? Our district allows so many children from Oak Brook to attend Monroe Elementary. All Butler 53 students go to Hinsdale Central. In our time of need, it is now Butler's turn to return the favor to Hinsdale. Consolidation would result in significant tax savings to those of us who live in Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Williwbrook and Burr Ridge. I would be much more likely to support a referendum for D86 if I knew D181 wouldn't continue to bleed my property taxes dry every year while the value of my home and the value of my children's educations go down.
The state and Rauner are strongly in favor of encouraging districts of less than 3 schools to join neighboring districts. If Butler 53 wants to continue to use our high school, they need to start sharing their resources and allow our children from the northern part of our district to attend Bulter Middle School. They have plenty of room to add both parking and trailers on their spacious property. It is within our BOE's power to request that the ROE begin to look into encouraging this consolidation. Consolidation is the most cost efficient way to start saving our community's property values and immediately solve the overpopulation issues at both HMS and CHMS. We need to streamline the amount of money our community pays to D181 administrators salaries and begin asking the state for support to consolidation Butler 53 and D181.

Anonymous said...

1:45: that's definitely an interesting idea. I've heard that Oak Brook's property taxes are lower than ours partially due to having the mall and all the sales tax it generates.

Although, it does have some issues: how much would it cost to consolidate everything (IT network & computers, curriculum, etc.)? Also, out board & administrators are negatively affecting enough kids as it is now. Do we really want to unleash them on even more people?

Anonymous said...

Illinois needs to drastically consolidate it 7000 individual governments. Consolidation of Butler 53 and 181 is a terrific idea. Some Monroe and Lane children could go to their elementary school. Some of the Hinsdale North Side middle school children could go to Butler Middle School. The demographics and academic expectations are very similar ( truth be told, their kids are probably more focused on academic excellence thanks to the presence of some ethnic groups in Oak Brook that value learning over traveling soccer) We would eventually need a new HMS, but it would not have to be so large or so crowded.

I drive by Butler twice a day. It is a nice looking school built several years before our current HMS. It is a typical 1960s era school that is functional, but will not win any beauty awards. Our Butler friends have updated the school a couple of times. If memory serves, there were a few parents from Butler that wanted it replaced with something "more modern" a few years back. They were shouted down and the idea never made it to referendum phase.

I bring this up to contrast their experience with Hinsdale. We built a faddish building in the 1970s because some consultants said "open concept" schools were all the rage. Now we sit here with an obsolete building and we have outrageous cost estimates to build a new one. Let's slow it down and do it right. Let's start with a budget and build a functional school that will serve students and the community for many decades to come.

Anonymous said...

A new board would be formed and new administrators hired. Don't worry , Oak Brookians know what they are doing. They should be offered incentives to absorb us because, let's face it, their schools are better. If we could consolidate, HMS could become a smaller construction project or simply a remodel. If parents from Monroe and The Lane opted their children in to Butler, there would be more room at CHMS and HMS. Maybe the children in Oak Brook could leave Monroe and go to Brook Forest. All 3 Hinsdale Central feeder middle schools should be a similar size . The way it is now is far too lopsided. If the state was really organized, I would suggest consolidating to a unit school district, which means K-12. That way the curriculum for all grades would definitely align and all teachers would be on same page. However, that would definitely be a larger project. Absorbing 1 elementary school and 1 small middle school is not that complicated. And at least we could adopt whatever Butler 53 are doing. Let's face it - why they are doing is working. What we are doing is not.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the marathon meeting last night and I am very concerned about the current board, administration and the direction of our district. I have no faith that our superintendent (in name only) is the right person for the job. He stated he wants to move forward with a $70+ million referendum. Sure. No skin off of his nose. He doesn't live in the communities that provide his handsome paycheck. And what has he done to prove his value to us taxpayers? Nothing. Zero. In the year and a half since Don White was hired, he has played our school board and done nothing but add to our curriculum problems. It's obvious he trusts Schneider and Benaitis, and we know what level of credibility is. If anyone thinks for one minute White will hire the type of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum who has more knowledge than White does, you are dreaming.
And to top it off, I clearly heard the president of our board of education and two board members proclaim they also want to move ahead with White's recommendation. What are these people smoking? The HMS project went from around $50 million to $73 million within days and they still want to move ahead?
Taxpayers, enough is enough. I'm disgusted I voted for these people, and our administration is laughable. If we could do a recall, I'm sure we could get enough votes to make some changes.

Anonymous said...

This is 8:40 from yesterday morning responding to 10:51: The following links to discussions at the high school regarding the facilities needs at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South should serve as proof of what is needed in terms of renovations and build outs. Despite the fact that between $120 and $200 million in facilities work has been identified, the BOE in collaboration with the facilities committee and administration have worked to prioritize in a financially responsible way the projects that are most important to accomplish. It is my understanding that the D86 BOE has indicated that they do not anticipate going to referendum before November 2016 (even though this is a national election, they do not seem afraid of more voters coming to the polls to cast their votes on such a huge expenditure) and that they would most likely not go to referendum for an amount greater than $75 million.

All D181 residents need to take the time to closely vet both districts' facilities plans. Perhaps you will want to approve both referendums, or perhaps you will conclude, as I have if one has to "choose" then D86 deserves the Yes vote. D86 has taken several years to develop and update a master's facilities plan, held countless meetings with community members and committee members to properly vet the options. D86 has not rushed to get a costly referendum approved before they are ready to meaningfully and responsibly present the plans to the community. D86 has done all this without a sense of urgency even though it is clear from the long list of facilities needs that the high schools are in desperate needs of modernization and improvements.

I cannot say the same for the urgent time table that D181 is taking to rush this $73 million or perhaps $65 million plan to a vote. I cannot fathom how in three days, the administration will be able to present a cheaper version than the $73 million plan without cutting out many of the bells and whistles and Taj Mahal components that originally made up the $45 million plan. People were not necessarily in support of an auditorium or elevated track or turf fields when we thought the project was going to cost $45 million. Why would the administration or BOE believe we will support a $65 million plan that no longer includes these? So we will pay $20 million more for less? If the administration actually recommends this to the board, the administration is made up of even bigger fools and buffoons than I thought before. Let's hope the BOE slows this process down, realizes that going to referendum in March is no longer viable. The administration's actions have caused me and many in the community to lose confidence in the process that has led to a $73 million plan. The BOE needs to stop now and regroup, realizing that maybe taking the time now to get it right will result in a yes vote for a new HMS at a later date.

Links to D86 facilities information: (The first link takes you to over 20 documents that show the thoroughness that has been followed to reach the point of prioritizing the identified renovations/improvements.) (this link includes the following three documents):


Anonymous said...

This is 8:40 from yesterday responding to the comments about Monroe property values. I do not live in the Monroe area, but I have many friends who do. Sure, Monroe has been sending their kids to CHMS, but that is not reason enough for them to blindly accept an overpriced HMS that is NOT going to help their property values. The current HMS plans will now flip the inequities between the two middle schools so far beyond what currently exists today, that no doubt a clamor will start to upgrade CHMS with improvements upwards of $20 million. At some point the pie in the sky, over the top wish list of teachers who want a state of the art school have to be reigned in. The current $73 million apparently incorporated the teachers wishes -- per statements made by Dr. White during Monday's marathon meeting. He even admitted during the meeting that some of their wishes were wants, not needs. Thank you to the board members who called him out on this and who insisted that the project be scaled back AGAIN. As I recall, when the $45 - $55 million project plans were first floated, the criticism from the community and some board members was that there needs to be parity and the bells and whistles needed to be removed in order to be able to convince the taxpayers to vote YES to the referendum. Instead, the bells and whistles remained and more were added in terms of square footage, etc. The administration should have stopped this bait and switch from happening before bringing a proposal to the BOE for a referendum vote. Yesterday I spoke with many community members about this and they are all equally appalled. Marty Turek made a grand show of proclaiming how a new HMS is the talk of the party circuit and we owe it to everyone to go to referendum and let the voters vote. He didn't seem concerned about the inflated price and he also didn't even know that a cost would need to be attached to the referendum language when the BOE finally votes on it. What an idiot. Between board members like him and administrators like White and Surma who have no issue going to referendum for $73, it will be up to the voters to squash them at the polls by resoundingly voting NO. I plan to do so, and hope others join me in rejecting these plans.

Anonymous said...

Curriculum and a new HMS are not mutually exclusive. Both need to be dealt with.

There are definitely inaccuracies in this blog and sensational arguments that are historically inaccurate. As a former PTO president who sat in many district meetings during the disastrous HMS water/mold fiasco and had a child at the school, I can tell you that the reality is that it is not a question of living with a poorly designed and ageing school. HMS' structure WILL fail, it's just a question of when and meanwhile we continue to patch it up at the cost of a million dollars here and a million dollars there.

At the time, they were not sure they would be able to fix the problems to make the school habitable. The assessments made at the time were that it may not be possible for it to be fixed at all. It is still likely to have major problems rendering it uninhabitable in the future. One of the solutions floated for this scenario was returning all 6th graders in the enitre district to their elementary schools and putting all 7th and 8th graders at CHMS with portables. This issue does affect the whole community, not just the kids who attend HMS.

I have heard parents on this blog argue about why the HMS students should get a new school....the HMS students live with the reality every day that half the kids in town attend a considerably nicer and functional school than they do. When the original referendum was passed for CHMS, it was passed on the basis that a new school would be built and then HMS would be improved so that there were not inequities between the schools. That never happened. Many parents who have older children no longer in the system, remember that referendum. During the winter of the HMS disaster, they were questioning how we found ourselves in this position when they had voted and paid for CHMS to be built and HMS to be improved.

For those of you who do not have kids at HMS and don't really know what the problems are with the school, I can give a brief sample list aside from those water and mold issues we already know about.

The school was designed as open plan but now has had walls built to attempt to create more classrooms. These classrooms are oddly shaped and have large areas of wasted space.

Some of the newly created classrooms have no windows. I sat in a meeting where the Renee Shuster pointed out that because these classrooms had no windows, there was poor ventilation and a build up of CO2 causing children to be "sleepy". I kid you not!!

There are not enough classrooms so HMS has quite a few "traveling" teachers meaning those teachers have no assigned classrooms. Therefore there is nowhere for a child to find that teacher when they need help, the teacher spends valuable time setting up his or her classroom, rearranging furniture or laying out materials instead of greeting and connecting with students or answering questions. Situations CHMS students do not have to deal with.

I could go on but you get the idea. A price tag of $73 million is outrageous but do not mistake the need for a new school in addition to fixing the curriculum issues we have. It is the obligation of the administration, the BOE and the community to come together and work on an affordable solution for this failing and disfunctional school. Let's all do our part for the sake of our students as well as our property values!

Anonymous said...

9:39, I don't think anyone disputes what you are saying. The curricula is a disaster AND HMS is a disaster. They both should have been fixed YESTERDAY.

What most of us bloggers seem to be saying is that the process for a new HMS is completely lacking in leadership AND we don't trust the current D 181 staff to tackle both of these issues.

I recall the the CHMS middle school referendum differently. It was primarily designed to relieve over crowding at HMS. There was NO PROMISE to build a new HMS down the road. There were substantial renovations made to HMS. Having said that, the vast majority of us believe we need a new HMS. However this board never led, started off the process looking for free architectural services, never established a budget or priorities. Where we sit right now is a big friggin mess that the tax payers will never support.

Please don't confuse people who want a functional, cost effective flexible building where HMS now stands with being haters or anti children. Hopefully my grand children and great grand children will attend that school. We just want it done right.

Anonymous said...

8:40: thanks for the info about the district 86 high schools. While I think there are many structural concerns at HMS that only a major renovation/new school can provide, I agree that d181 board & administration is rushing through things. If the architects had all the important info, I don't see how the price could suddenly jump by half, much less so close to the time the board is supposed to vote on it. Obviously, the administration isn't giving the architects enough time to gather all the required information, nor is the administration competent enough to know what information the architects need. Such a huge jump in cost, especially when coupled with how soon before the vote we learned about it, is evidence that the district just isn't ready to do this.

As for the "Taj Mahal" aspects, since I don't teach at HMS, nor do I have students there, I don't know how much of these are wants and how much are needs. Does the school "need" a raised track? No. I'm sure the PE teachers can probably make-do. Can a raised track help? Possibly. Again, I'm not a teacher so I don't know how much it'll help in the classes. One things I'd like to know is how many community members would like these "Taj Mahal" features, if it weren't for the price tag.

While I totally agree that something needs to be done with HMS, the district has to fix way too many problems before we jump into paying for a new building.

Anonymous said...

To the former board president:
I regularly read this blog to get a handle on what's really going on in the district I pay high taxes to support. I sure don't get a true picture of reality from district communication. I have two kids in the district, one at HMS. There is no question in my mind that my HMS kid has been affected more by curriculum changes and utter nonsense that comes from the administration way more than the physical limitations of the building. I will take an old building with great cutting edge curriculum any day of the week over a brand new school with bling and a hefty price tag along with an average education provided to my kids. To me the issues of the building and curriculum do go hand in hand because I do not trust the people in charge, which includes all administrators and now the board.
No way will I vote for a new school until these people are gone and the curriculum is fixed.

Yvonne Mayer said...

I support building a new middle school, but agree that the original $45 million plan was costly and had too many bells and whistles. Now the cost has ballooned to $73 million with more stuff added and the BOE correctly refused to vote to go to referendum during the 12/14 board meeting. However, another meeting has been scheduled for Saturday morning at which the administration has been asked to come back with a cheaper version of the plans, most likely around $65 million. The board must vote on or before 12/28 to place a referendum question on the March 15, 2016 election ballot. In my opinion, too much is now in flux to allow for any rational person to vote to go to referendum in less than three months from today. It is not fair for the D181 administration to have put the BOE in this position and it is certainly not fair to the community members who plan to run the Pro-Referendum committee to have them try to market a referendum in such a short time when the cost has skyrocketed and it feels like all taxpayers are riding a runaway train.

Sorry, but even if the price comes down to $65 million, that is just too costly for me to support as a tax payer, nor do I trust that this amount is even accurate. The administration has shown me nothing to establish confidence in their costing out of this project. $45 was expensive enough, but now it will be $20 million more and probably without the extravagances that community members were already concerned about? I don't support an elevated running track. My health club doesn't even have one! Yes, an auditorium would be nice, but it is not needed. Artificial Turf? Come on!

But even if those niceties are stripped out, the tab will still be $20 million more than the community was originally told it would cost. I just can't support that.The BOE should stop this plan now and take more time to properly vet ALL options. I especially agree with the comment on this blog post about the high school district 86 --that district also plans to go to referendum, maybe as early as next November. The high school district is taking its time to identify the projects that deserve priority. They are trying to narrow down the $120-200 million in identified projects in a responsible and fiscally prudent fashion so that taxpayers will support a referendum when it is finally presented during an upcoming election.

It is time the D181 administration does the same. D181 taxpayers are not simply deep pockets who will pay any cost for a new school.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things. When I read some of the comments from community members, I am astonished at the level of uninformed talk. First, as an engineer, I can tell you that there is nothing that could render HMS uninhabitable short of an earthquake, fire, or tornado. It is amazing the hysteria that was caused over the mold issue. Mold grows on organic material. It needs moisture. If no moisture, no mold. Sure, the existing moldy drywall needs to be removed, etc. but it is near comical the disinformation that exists on this subject. Hell, these people should check out the ductwork in their Florida homes. The correct solution should have been to fix the roof and develop a thorough plan.

Anyway, back to this budget. It is comical. It is apparent that Pepper has stuffed this thing with about 4MM in fees, etc., that should be read profit. Things like the additional building charge are obviously things the board asked for after the fact. As I have stated previously in other posts. CHMS is the model this board should be using and every decision they make ought to be able to be defended when compared to this facility. I could justify about $45MM for a building scaled to 900 students. But we all know, CHMS fit and finish was never going to be good enough (without looking at the drawings this thing is certainly limestone-laden). If the people in Clarendon Hills voting district approve this referendum I would be shocked.

Lastly, there is no way, in three days, they can get the genie back in the bottle in any meaningful way. Anything they try and take out over the next 3 days (by the way the overtime to do it goes right back into the project) will end up back in. The profit is already being accounted for in Peppers and the Architects projections for next year. Only way to rebaseline this job is for both companies to be operating as if they risk losing this job. The right thing to do would be to generate accurate drawings and have them bid out. The teachers should have very little say in this facility BTW. Its not their money.

Who in their right mind, with a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer tells the architects to "dream big." What exactly does that mean. This comes from a person or persons who have no skin in the game. Spending others money is always easy. These contractors see this board and the dysfunction of this town and they see "change-order" and "backcharge."

Anonymous said...

I think the teachers should have a substantial say in all things academically related to this new design. Not carte blanche, but we should definitely should be listening to their needs. And, in regards to the auditorium, that is something that the whole community (including other schools) could use. It is pretty surprising that there are no such auditoriums in this area except the one at Hinsdale Central. I agree with the "dream big" statement above. A HUGE misstep with an administration that has proven itself to be completely out of touch with the community. We wouldn't even be posting about this if everyone involved had used a little restraint and common sense. But, when has the administration used restraint and common sense??

Anonymous said...

3:47, are you saying the teachers have NOT been included in the design meeting and process? What the hell? They are voting on this thing in 3 days? When are they going to get the teachers involved? When discussing paint samples for the teachers lounge?

BOE, I know you guys read this blog. Someone has to be a leader and admit that the train in running down the tracks out of control. Someone has to chair a group that decides the budget, the size, the must haves, etc. Getting our act together does not mean we don't want or need a new HMS or that we hate our children on the south side. It means that for a variety of reasons, ( mostly poor leadership by staff and the BOE) that this goose is not fully baked in time for a spring referendum.

We built a home some years ago. We started with the budget based on our savings, salaries, comfort level, etc. We knew how many bedrooms, baths, that we needed. We had a wish list for upgrades such as hardwood floors and a finished basement. Then we met with the builder. We got everything we needed and most of what we wanted. There were things we simply could not afford. The point is that we had a budget and a wish list up front.

The fact that the entire BOE, staff and community is shocked by the $73 million price tag clearly means there has been a huge breakdown between the client ( us ) and the architect and builder.

BOE, do not feed us the line that this must be done by Saturday. They have been talking about replacing that school for the past 15 years. It is probably a better building today than it was at the height of the water/mold crisis 2 years ago.

Take your time and do it right.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the need to be fiscally responsible and take a closer look at the most recent design DRAFT (a process that started 2 years ago with the creation of a district facilities committee), I have to disagree wholeheartedly with the comment that the teachers should have little to no say in the design of a new school.

Who better understands the educational needs of our schools than the people who work in them every day with OUR children? Maybe it's not the view of the majority of the people on this blog, but we used to be known as a community that valued our teachers. We treated them with respect. We worked with them not against them - for the benefit of our children. We genuinely appreciated them. We thanked them when they went above and beyond to help our kids. And we recognized every year that D181 teachers -like most- were spending money out of their own pockets to give our kids opportunities that school budgets couldn't afford.

We absolutely need their input. We need them to explain the costs, benefits, and needs for the spaces requested. We need their help in reviewing the design and scaling things back, without compromising the educational impact on students.

While most teachers can't afford to live in D181, there are some who live in our community and pay 181 taxes. Those that don't, still work directly with our students every day; many are products of D181 schools. They care about our kids. They want what's best for them, just like we do.

The HMS teachers make the current facility work, despite its limitations. And if you ask me, their needs are pretty simple: space to teach, fresh air, natural light, proper ventilation, temperature regulation, a roof that doesn't leak, a healthy environment (reduced CO2 levels, lack of mold), a place to park, etc.

Question the recent cost increase, ask for a rationale of spaces, encourage the BOE to wait or take more time, vote "no" on a referendum if you really are opposed to a new school, but let's change the tone towards the teachers who consistently give time away from their families to put our students first.

Anonymous said...

5:33, I don't think most of the bloggers are anti teacher. I agree that teacher input is needed for HMS and am pretty shocked to find out at the 11th hour that it is missing.

I have lived in this district 25 years, sent two children through our schools. I am HUGELY disappointed with our high priced D181 administrative staff. I am hugely disappointed at the revolving door of superintendents, directors of learning, special education, etc. My kids attended Monroe, which has had a revolving door of principals for about a decade. Not to knock the incumbent, which I have heard good things about. Monroe was once a top elementary school in the state and today it is ranked around 100. D181 is a career capstone district. It is not a training wheels district and it is not a stepping stone to a better job. Supers, principals, folks at the director level should be expected to be in their positions 6 to 10 years.

I am hugely disappointed in the curricula, common core implementation, and lack of meaningful differentiation for various student populations. I am hugely disappointed in the LACK OF LEADERSHIP on the BOE and in our District Staff on the curricula and HMS issues.

The vast majority of the disappointment and frustration you are seeing from this community is directed at the D181 central office staff and the BOE, not the teachers.

Anonymous said...

The tone on the teachers is a sidenote. Should they be consulted? Sure, but the decisions on what this district needs is not that of the teachers, its the parents and the taxpayers. Some seem to forget that this is already a blue ribbon school. Is anyone saying that the teachers input is not valued? No, but the design of the building should be pretty well set by the architects who are supposed to know exactly what state of the art is. This is not a house, it is a public building to educate 900 to 1000 kids. I suspect there are 50 such buildings of similar size going in throughout the United States. There is a best practice and then there is reinventing the wheel. Most of the wants are not needs and they force the architects and engineers to reinvent and ring the register. Again, the basis for design needs to be CHMS. Every design decision made will ultimately need to be made keeping in mind that CHMS will need these same amenities. No, an elevated track is not necessary, it is actually a complete waste of money. The high schools auditorium is perfectly fine as well. Spending others money on wants is easy. The auditorium is the first and easiest to strip out. The gymnasium easily can be dual use like most schools. Lastly, the comment on CO2 is ridiculous. If the room has forced air heat then CO2 levels from respiration are not building in sufficient quantities to make people sleepy. Things get thrown around that are absurd. Right now if you told me that we had to agree to 65 to 70 MM, I would rather spend the several million to fix the roof and put a proper committee together (one that involves professionals who are a bit more dispassionate) and finalize exactly what is needed. For those that don't work in the large scale construction area, beware, this 73MM is only the beginning. If this architect and construction manager are already coming back, how do think they intend to control cost of labor? Materials? Everything will be coming back to this board as an add. Read the standard contract language. There is no cap on this. Projects of this size always go over budget and the Hinsdale taxpayers are on the hook. The number one way to control a project is to know your costs. You can only know your costs with a final design where there are minimal changes. You can't get that in three days. Send everyone back to the drawing board, stop making changes, bid it out, then build it. This design is anything but done.

Anonymous said...

So, looking a bit more into this budget and doing a little research. In the 2015 School Planning and Management Survey for the US it would appear that the top quartile of middle schools in the US have the following stats - these are schools built in 2014 (note these numbers are medians of that quartile) .

$/sq. ft $/student sq.ft/student No. Students building size Building cost
270 57,395 195.4 899 150,000 sq ft $ 39,100,000

Compare that to what these guys have proposed
399.44 81,111.11 198 900 179,100 sq ft $ 63,988,000 ( i left the soft costs out although the numbers above are total cost districts have paid).

As you can see, aside from the size, they pretty much this wrong by about $ 100 per square foot. Remember this is the top quartile of all schools. Not the middle, not the bottom. Anyway you slice this thing, they got it wrong by about $ 20,000,000.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the points the engineer made at 2:32. If the builders are already pulling bait and switch tactics like this, that we should immediately start talking to other construction companies. I cannot imagine why anyone would think it acceptable that a new HMS should be so much more expensive than CHMS. I believe CHMS cost $17 million to build 14 or 15 years ago. Since then, the economy has tanked and real estate and building costs have not gone up. There has been very little inflation. The students at the beautiful, newer CHMS do not score any higher than the students at the dysfunctional HMS, so obviously, the school environment and aesthetic appeal are not that important for students to be successful. For these reasons, it makes no sense that we would pay $60 million MORE for HMS. This new school is supposed to meet basic, not grandiose needs.

The administration and BOE expects to borrow money from residents whose taxes have gone up in this same depressed economy while their property values have not gone up. The quality of the teachers, the curriculum, teaching methods, social environment, and children's scores boost property values - not the aesthetic appeal or location of a school. Perhaps if the economy was different, or if a big donor stepped up to privately fund the building, then I could understand the ideas of dreaming big, but right now, it makes no sense. It is not their money. It is the resident's money, the resident's children's educations, and we do not appreciate it being wasted on architects while we have to pay for tutors to re-teach our kids what D181 hasn't been able to in the last 3 years.

I do not like the idea of 6th graders going back to elementary schools, but I am intrigued by the idea of consolidation. I went to all of the parent planning meetings for the new HMS and I am surprised that the idea has never been broached before. Two of my children graduated from HMS years ago and they did fine. However, I do remember my children telling me how well prepared the kids were from Butler Middle School. I had no idea that Butler's middle school was so small, but it does annoy me that in comparison, each of our middle schools is 5 times bigger. I have a feeling if you asked teachers if they would prefer to have a new building, or, only 15 children in each class, they would immediately chose the smaller class sizes.

5:33, if teachers feel so strongly about building a new school, then I would suggest that their union begin making some salary concessions so they can start financially contributing to this project. They need to seriously consider what the most important things are to them: their salaries, pensions, benefits, class size, or, their work environment. Parents feel that building a new school is an expensive undertaking that needs to take a backseat to the curricular concerns and problems that parents keep bringing up. And you are right 5:33 about 1 thing - teachers can't afford to live here because D181 takes over 93% of our property tax dollars and funnels it directly to, you guessed it, teachers and their administrators.

Anonymous said...

I find it disturbing that the person who posted above has come to the conclusion that just because we won't give our teachers carte blanche to build a dream school, we do not respect them. That is quite a jump. Lets not forget, teachers get paid handsomely to work here, will soon get 2 weeks off, and, will have pensions in a time when almost no one else in America does. And speaking of sensationalistic and untrue, how dare the previous poster imply that HMS' roof still leaks, there is mold, or, that the CO2 levels are off? Or claim that HMS is anything other than healthy in its current state? I think 5:33's post should be taken off because it is spreading false information and attempting to turn the debate about a new HMS into one about parents no longer respecting teachers. That is not what this is about. $70 million dollars is a lot of money and it will come from somewhere. We work hard for our money and pay a lot of taxes on it. The world is facing major debt crises everywhere, and this is exactly how they start - from people borrowing too much and not being able to pay it back. Everyone, not just teachers, spend money from their own pockets to help their own children, in addition to the children of others who are less fortunate. And 5:33, let me know what scientific studies you think the teacher's can come up with that will prove the cost and education benefits of larger windows. The ventilation system works perfectly well at HMS, it is the work of the administration that should be looked at more closely.

Anonymous said...

I was looking over the presentation from the board meeting and a couple of things struck me. Why did they opt to go with a 2 story building? In doing so, they need 150% more detention capacity, 150% more roof, 150% more area in a very tight space as it is, etc. It is decisions like these that waste money. There are three grades. The beauty of CHMS is the fact that each grade has its own floor. Not sure why they would move from that model. From looking at the presentation, it appears they were trying to get inspiration from the previous school? Seems like an expensive decision. Did architects tell them they could save money going three-story? I also found it interesting that they did an analysis of CHMS and decided it was inadequate as well (needs alternative learning areas, etc). That was somewhat humorous. I guess you could justify anything when you reference the children. This project won't get my vote and I will be volunteering to ensure that it does not pass, not because I don't want a new school. This is just wasteful and poorly done. The cost was an afterthought on most decisions it appears. Think big appears to mean wasteful.......

Anonymous said...

One can argue whether or not a new middle school is needed. That answer is debatable.
What is beyond debate is whether you trust the administration spending somewhere between $45 and $75 million dollars. I don't. After listening to the board meeting and reading board docs, I can t trust them with spending my tax dollars on a big project Look at the questions Ms. Gray asked and the answers. They are most telling.

Q. Why is the proposed Interim Assistant Superintendent slated to work only 17 days per month? Is she a retired employee? Will she be
receiving benefits in addition to the $500 a day fee?

A.This person is not a retiree. However, due to previous obligations, she is only able to work the specified days per month. She will not receive benefits above the recomended per day amount. Therecommended pay per day is $625. This person is a TRS employee so TRS will be taken out of theamount per day. The District pays TRS for all other administrators. This will result in a per diem similar to
that of Dr. Tornatore.

Q On 11/24 there is a check for $537.45 for “Total of personal charges which was reimbursed by check.” Please explain this entry.

A. The wrong credit card was accidentally used, and the person reimbursed the District for the expense
You can look up who it is on the check listing.It is not surprising.

Q. What amount of district fees have we collected? What amount of fees remain uncollected

A. The total amount of fees to be collected is $1,053,119.60, which includes a minimal amount of fees for graduation supplies and interscholastic fees. Currently, we have collected $692,862.03 (66%) with an uncollected portion of $360,257.57. We have sent out weekly notifications to families and will be begin sending out notifications every other day in order to collect the fees. In addition, we are working to send out a mailing to notify those families who do not have an email address.
We have begun working with Acorn Fee Management and Infinite Campus to prepare for fee collection during our 2016 2017 online registration period, which we anticipate will take place in late April or early May.

In the first question, clearly there was some understanding that $500 per day was the amount to be paid or Ms. Gray would not have included it in her question. Yet, the administration then goes and pays this person $ 625 per day. And while they claim it is to make it similar because of the TRS amount, TRS contributions do not amount to 25% of salary, so somehow they rounded up. Why not? It is not their money. And if the previous person got $500 per day why should a new person cost the district 25% more for doing the same job? Pepper Construction and Cordogan Clark are salivating over the potential change orders.

The second question is more troubling. Somehow an unnamed administrator (the check reference provides the name) "accidentally" used a district credit card for personal expenses. That is a misuse of district funds. Yet there is no action? In most organizations that is a fireable offense yet the administration describes it in the most passive, blame averting way "The wrong credit card was accidentally used....." BY WHOM and WHY IS IT CONCLUSIVELY DETERMINED TO BE AN ACCIDENT. The description sounds like there were numerous charges. And there is no accountability. Oops. Sorry Just pay back those "accidental" charges and you ll get a raise. In fact, you probably already deserve a raise because you used the district card

The last question demonstrates that there is not adequate financial stewardship. We can t collect much more than half the fees yet we are going to try to build a school? The district will pay for this lax oversight no matter the cost of the new building.

Let s hope Ms. Gray continues her welcome oversight

Anonymous said...

Just finished listening to the entire board meeting on this subject while reviewing the architects/CM slides.

Things that stand out. First and foremost, the naivete' of the board on these matters is disappointing. These people were elected to act in the best interests of the community, and aside from the comments of Jill Vorobiev stating she was very uncomfortable and those of Richard Giltner concerning the size, the cost, etc, it was really disappointing. I got the sense that without these two speaking up at the end, Turek and Clarin would just have approved this and opted to go to referendum. Most disturbing in this is that Turek wasn't even clear that they needed to set the number required on the referendum. Seems like some of these people like the idea of being on the board, but really don't want to take any responsibility. This is how things like this happen. Events manage the people as opposed the people managing events.

Regarding the proposal. It appears only now that the BOT and the community have a working model of the costs associated with building a new school. It is interesting that this proposal was all pulled together in the last 3 weeks when this subject has been being discussed for months.

From the proposal presentation, the first thing (aside from the resultant cost) that jumps out is the apparent conflict on the design basis. Seems that this building has a common design flaw of safety factors being applied to safety factors.

The sizing terminology used by the architect is utilization. Typically, the utilization for sizing appears to be 85%. The district seemingly has double dipped on this either intentionally or not. The reality is that the district population is approximately 800 students and that appear to be the projection into the future. If one decides to design a building for 800 students at 85% of utilization then at 100% that same building is now capable of handling 941. If the guidelines for student square footage is between 175 to 200 (national averages) then the building would be sized at 164,675 (175 x 941). At the actual 85% utilization (800 students) the square footage per student would be 206 (164,675/800). All of this implies that the district could easily parse about 14000 sq ft. Looking at the Building Program Spreadsheet, it is very clear that they have this wrong. It's very convenient to dispose of the auditorium as this gets you to 166,000.

It was also interesting that how CHMS was utilized by the presenters. My impression from the community has always been CHMS is a very well operated and designed school. The presenters, through the use of the Healey and Benders- Education Adequacy Analysis, would have us believe CHMS is pretty much inadequate. Isn't this a Blue Ribbon School. It appears that it is about 50000 sq ft too small. Seriously. The only conclusion I can draw from doing this is that it supports making HMS larger and diminishes CHMS as an object of comparison. My personal experience with CHMS is that it was pretty well done.

Overall, I think only now do they understand the complete implications of building a new school. For 73MM, I would look real hard at potentially gutting HMS floor by floor and reconfiguring that building. A new roof is looking pretty nice. Maybe build a separate cafeteria and auditorium.

With the present model in hand, I think the board should instruct the bidders (Architect and CM) to reduce the size, look at reconfiguring the school on a smaller footprint (more stories) and examine the village involvement on the parking garage.

Anonymous said...

Now do you see why people do not want to pay any more outrageous fees? Parents never wanted to pay Ian Jukes $50,000 for speaking twice and not even writing a report. I never expected the district to pay architects $220,000 for fantasy plans when we haven't even decided to build a new school yet. And what about the $50,000 biased survey that didn't even ask everyone if they would have preferred remodeling over a tear down? Our money is being squandered in front of our eyes. With such waste going on, and the administration getting away with giving indirect, slightly dishonest answers, do you really think parents should be forced to pay any additional fees? This smacks of irresponsibility to taxpayers. As far as I am concerned, my property taxes are more than enough to cover the education my children are receiving. If the board are going to continue to approve the district's out of control spending without any sense of fiduciary duty to the residents here, then we should ignore the administration and the board when they ask for even more money.

With the exception of a few members on the board, no one even questions this waste. And when it is discovered, no one on the board demands any self control when it comes to spending our property taxes. When D181 and some members of the board start addressing and meeting our needs and concerns, maybe then we will begin to respond to the school's never ending requests for more money.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the podcast. Clarin and Turek supported a $73 million building. Garg hedged. Vorobiev, Burns, Giltner and Gray were clearly against the inflated cost and stated the process felt rushed and that they were upset that the numbers were sprung on them right before the meeting.

jay_wick said...

The comparisons between the current CHMS and any replacement for HMS are both somewhat useful yet not entirely without problems. First, though CHMS is much more of a "traditionally laid out" middle school, and far better for the students to navigate and the teachers to utilize, it is also kind of "stripped down" in many ways. While the exterior mostly looks good and is of a very similar style to the other D181 schools in Clarendon Hills (Walker and Prospect) it is not nearly as "highly styled" as many newer school of either traditional or modern appearance. My gut says that the "facilities committee" spent a lot of time seeing drawings of newer schools and gravitated toward such things. Not really a bad thing but it distorted the expectations that was then relayed to the architects.

The problem arises in that now the design proposed for HMS is both more stylish than CHMS and better equipped. The style reflects the more traditional architecture that has gained favor in downtown Hinsdale -- whether you look at the Union Church right across Garfield or the Evangelical Church a little further south or the retail space on 1st St the style chosen does fit in, but it is more costly that an simpler design. The scale of the building, with just two floors above grade and a full lower level, similarly adds to the cost and complexity. I suspect that if the District asked for any variations from the Hinsdale ZBA there would be massive opposition... Yet it is not just the visual appearance that is now "deluxe" -- features that maybe should be nicer at CHMS, like a fully dedicated auditorium / theater instead of space that is kind of "lunchroom with a sort of stage" really create a big disparity. Shared space for band and other music is tight at CHMS. Special ed needs always seem to be an after thought. Things like the rapidly aging science and "applied technology" labs are even more problematic...

Anonymous said...

To Jay Wick,

No matter the reasons, CHMS in it's stripped down form is highly functional. The facilities team should be focusing on function. The Adequacy report looks like a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the argument that CHMS should be the model. First, they decided it was too small, then it didn't have enough amenities. The architects presentation went as far as to implicate that it should be 50000 sq ft bigger for its present enrollment. Once they completed that, they proceeded with their comparisons and justifications for the "new" HMS. I personally have no issue with building a new school but it needs to be done properly. Right now they finally have the necessary tools to make intelligent decisions. Unfortunately, they are going to try and rush this through. It will be a nightmare situation. Things they should do but likely won't.

1) Slow down and reexamine the exact design basis. This sizing is simply wrong. The ideal sizing - at 85% utilization should be 800 students. At 100% this is 940.
2) Look into the layout and footprint. The two story structure has a cost versus the three. Pretty easy to see its impact on detention, roof, footprint, etc.
3) Show some leadership and stop sitting there as if they are just going for a ride. Things like the auditorium and track seem obviously dopey. Hell, the auditorium has been stripped of the entire production stage section - ie. its not a performance auditorium, it is an assembly hall. The cafeteria works fine at CHMS and 78% of the other middle schools.
4)Do some simple research. The questions they ask make them look completely ineffectual. If the admistration purposely kept them in the dark until the last minute then somebodies head should roll. The board cannot function without proper information. I know I would be extremely upset if this were sprung on me knowing the deadline I face.
5)Postpone acting on this until the general election. I know they wanted this in the off election so they had a low turnout but even that is dirty politics. Get it right and get the communities support.

Lastly, no matter what anyone says, this whole thing is a want, not a need. HMS is presently functioning. Is it ideal. No. Does it require rushing to have an emergency meeting, during the Christmas holiday, to try and get approval on a half baked plan? If this fails they probably risk not getting this done for several additional cycles. Also, now that we know CHMS is inadequate, we might as well start planning that redo.....

jay_wick said...

continuing on the theme of why CHMS comparisons are problematic...

The site that CHMS sits on involved some "land swapping" with the Clarendon Hills Park District. That mostly worked out well to get some meeting and office space in the building, and there is shared access of the main CHMS gym, though Clarendon Hills Park District still needs additional space for maintenance and storage that remains a problem on the land locked site.

Those that have lived here a while also know that the initial storm water detention at the CHMS site, downhill from the playground at Prospect School, was literally a stinking mess. It took several years of additional work, and additional costs shared between the District, Clarendon Hills Park District and the Village, to address that with submerged pumps and storm sewers. Together with the odd peninsula of green-space that separates CHMS from the parking area, the site presented its own challenges for compliance with the DuPage County Stormwater ordinance. The HMS site arguably has even more challenges, which as interpreted by Hinsdale Village staff includes the sports field west of the existing school -- the experience of Pepper and the architects is accurately reflected in the fairly high costs associated with addressing the impact of stormwater.

One could argue that whatever positives new facility might have on student performance will be slight. That said, the perception that a new facility would carry, even without a running track or work-out space or theater / auditorium, is that of disparity in district facilities. While some of the BOE members did voice concerns about that at the prior meeting where the architects walked through some of the design options, there is much truth to the assertion that the "train had left the station" and it was largely under the control of teachers. As a former teacher I have no reason to disparage the efforts of the district staff to advocate for as advanced a facility as possible, but the lack of leadership from the BOE and district administration in anticipating a need to address parity issues until the 11th hour is failure that deserves a closer look.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Hinsdale Middle School is in an Institutional Building District so its height is not limited to 30 ft like the building in the business districts. Because of its setback from homes, a case could be made to make this structure 3 or more stories so I think the two-story design was self-inflicted. The could certainly cut some cost do this and probably make for a more appealing, less sprawling structure while still reserving additional space for potential future things like an auditorium.

jay_wick said...

on the financial situation facing the district...

When the BOE gathers Saturday morning I would anticipate that they will agree to a referendum question that is below the estimate presented. That will necessitate making cuts from the proposal, perhaps even foregoing the contingency fund estimates offered by Pepper, putting the already diminished district reserves in further jeopardy. And that won't be a good thing. I suspect some BOE members that wish to "present it to the voters" have already decided they will not be voting for something that will increase the property taxes on their own home, as well as that of their friends /relatives, and will provide no benefit to their children or neighbors. The Illinois laws regulating the advocacy of BOE members toward referenda gives them a convenient excuse to remain out of the public eye...

As if the financial news of the significantly increased estimated cost of a new facility is not troubling enough, the most recent lengthy BOE meeting had more items of concern. The news from Springfield, as the district Business Officer did mention in regards to the levy, is not encouraging. Pressure to freeze property taxes is high. The budget disaster brewing with Illinois "worst in the nation" bond rating and pension underfunding is likely to see districts in affluent areas face a reduced amount of income tax revenue returned to local units of government, the effect of which will force cuts to staff. Even if the referendum to build a replacement for HMS is approved by the voters, and they agree to higher taxes for construction, the district could soon be facing a situation where staff levels cannot be maintained.

The certified staff of the district have an expiring contract that is needs renegotiation. The Business Officer has already made clear, and some BOE members have voiced their concern, that the current budget assumes agreement on salary adjustments that are likely below what staff will accept. The implication from several BOE members is that if voters approve any referendum for construction the staff may see this as proxy for increased expenditures on education. The problem this presents is, however, quite complex -- firstly the structure of Illinois governmental budgets / levy means that the district simply will not have the funds to give staff more than a total increase of 1%. Secondly, the window to ask voters for any increase will be closed well before any discussions with the bargaining unit begin. The district finances are going to be very tight. That does not bode well for even the sort of "cooperative" negotiations that happened last time around...

Together with yet to be discussed costs associated with making long overdue changes in the district's science curriculum, continued lack of satisfaction with math instruction, no progress on extending foreign language offerings, continued parent interest in full day kindergarten and the growing list of building maintenance issues for all the district facilities, one cannot help but be pessimistic about the future of the district with or without any new facilities...

Anonymous said...

I think the teachers are sadly mistaken if they feel the district's taxpayers view this building as a proxy for increased expenditures on education. I believe it had a decent shot of passing if the board and the district administration did a better job leading as opposed to by standing. But with a "55% above" estimate hitting the community, faith in this district, its board, and the teachers is at an all-time low. If it's a proxy, it is a proxy on ineffectual leadership.

Looking at the agenda for Saturdays meeting, it is apparent that they have every intent of putting this to a referendum. As you describe, there appears to be a coming tsunami involving the teachers contract, the reduced income tax revenue and the potential property tax freeze, all coupled with the general dissatisfaction within the state on public pension debt. I fear Hinsdale D181 and Dr. White are heading for troubled waters. You would think to know what is coming down the road, they would be far more cautious, unfortunately, this is what happens in the public sector. They do not seem to care where the money comes and the board which is charged with oversight seems somewhat dimwitted.

On this project, aside from the sizing of the building and the amenities the teachers seemingly added to the project, I think the budget they have put together, identifies all the buckets. If they go to referendum without contingency they are more foolish than I presently take them for. Lets hope several of these BOE members show some resolve and send this back to the drawing board for more refinement. I think they are close, just too big. If this fails it may be a blessing in disguise. Hinsdale Middle School will continue to function.

Anonymous said...

Part 1: I have just finished listening to the marathon meeting and also looked at board docs for the meeting scheduled for Saturday. From reading the earlier comments, it looks like others have listened as well. That is a good start, but everyone posting on this blog needs to show up for Saturday's meeting and speak out. While we all believe that Dr. White and the BOE members read this blog, they will deny it publicly. Certain board members and the administration will claim that no one is really concerned about the $73 million price tag for a new HMS unless they show up and speak during public comment on Saturday. Public comment comes at the beginning of the meeting and there is no need to stay to the bitter end to have your voices heard.

After listening to the meeting and reading Dr. White's recommendation for Saturday now posted on board docs --$file/BOE%20Report_Potential%20Construction%20of%20a%20New%20HMS%2015-12-19.pdf -- it is clear that he intends to push for the board to approve going to referendum in March for the oversized, overpriced building. Such delusion on his part is shocking, as he claims that the survey results have a resounding majority of the community supporting a building that would cost up to $65 million. I took the survey and can say that I didn't read the survey question about going to referendum as suggesting the cost could be that high. I took the survey after I had attended public meetings where the architects competing for the project laid out their plans and proposed costs and NONE of them came remotely close to suggesting the building would cost $65 million. How many people actually took the survey that allows the district to extrapolate from the results?

If Dr. White wants to delude himself into thinking that the community has no issue with that kind of price tag, then so be it, but let's hope that at least four board members disagree with his recommendation and go back to the drawing board, with the goal being to go to referendum at some point in the future with a reasonable proposal, both in size, scope and price.

From the concerns raised by Leslie Gray, Jennifer Burns, Jill Vorobiev and Richard Giltner last Monday night, I hope they are not swayed by Dr. White's emotionally charged report in which he suggests that unless the district goes to referendum in March 2016, "I am concerned about the trust that could be lost should we not go forward in asking the question."

Let me say that TRUST HAS ALREADY BEEN LOST as a result of the administration's conduct over the last four years --- not just in the way they have allowed this construction project to spiral out of control, but more importantly as a result of the damage they have caused to children in all 9 schools through the implementation of the failed, "socially just" learning for all plan.

As others on this blog post have commented, clean up the mess in the 9 buildings first, before asking us to build ONE shiny new building that will potentially increase property values. Who cares what our property values are if our children are not getting the best education possible inside the buildings (not because of the teachers, but because of the "plans" that have been rolled out by the DOL administration)? In case the administration hasn't noticed, there is a reason why the new private school in Hinsdale and others in surrounding communities have had an influx of new students -- parents are pulling their kids out of D181 schools or moving out of the district and it is not because of the condition of HMS, rather because of the curriculum changes.

Anonymous said...

Part 2: The BOE needs to regain control of this runaway train as some have called it. Unfortunately, that will probably require terminating or not renewing Dr. White's contract, as he has proven to be quite the disappointment for this district.

One final note: I learned tonight that a committee to promote the referendum has already been formed. Their website can be accessed at the following link:

While I know I will vote no should a $73 million or $65 million referendum question be on the March ballot, I commend community members who want to throw themselves into promoting this project. But what I want them to be able to explain is how they can state on their website that "the existing building is overcrowded and unsafe."

I agree it may be overcrowded without the portables, but for them to suggest it is still unsafe is very concerning. They link to all the documents the administration has posted on building a new HMS, so I assume their source of information is the administration. If the administration really believes the building is unsafe, then why is HMS still open? The last time it was declared unsafe after the mold infestation was discovered, the doors were shuttered. Three million were spent to clean it up and, I thought, to make it safe for our kids. If it isn't safe, why have they only told the community members who are heading up the referendum committee? So the question becomes -- is there a lack of transparency going on right now by the administration as to the safety of our children or is this statement simply untrue? As a parent, I'd like an immediate answer to this question.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope no one is reading the district website about HMS when considering Hinsdale for relocation. The Administration really has written horrible things.

Anonymous said...

Where is that information? I would like to see it, but cannot find it.

Anonymous said...

This is what I found under Facilities Master Plan and HMS Long Term Decision Making and I am appalled :

"The corner of 55th Street and County Line Road is known as Sedgwick of Hinsdale and is a division of Edward R. James Homes. Dr. White approached the owner to determine if a portion of the property could be considered for District purchase because of the size of the property and the seeming lack of housing there. The cost was not viable for the District to consider further, and significant additional cost would be anticipated to address the in-ground infrastructure, as it was developed for housing, not a large school. The owner did not express an interest in exchanging land for the current HMS site, and again, this location would require adjustment in drop-off and pick-up planning for parents and bus transportation.

In conversations with community members and school administration, we did not hear a desire to move the location, and this was supported by the findings in the interviews and focus groups led by Patron Insight. With this information in mind, the current HMS site was not appraised."

This is outrageous. First of all, how could Dr. White, an educator, have ever approached the owner of Sedgwick and offer to make a trade WITHOUT EVER PRESENTING AN APPRAISAL of the current HMS site?!? Downtown, commercial property near the train is worth more than residential property next to KLM park? We spent $50,000 on a survey, but can not afford a parent or attorney with real estate or land use experience to approach the owner of any other properties available? Who else is on the committee to identify other cost effective options to the community? And where ARE the plans and costs associated for a remodel? They were never presented to us, nor were they described on the survey. Remember, when they called us and asked for our input on the survey, they implied that the cost would be significantly less to build a new school.

Second, I was called for the phone survey. I told the surveyor myself that I did not like the location of the current HMS. She immediately told me, "Lots of people have been telling me that." So why was this not officially noted? The question of whether or not parents liked the current location of HMS compared to any other location AND any potential cost savings from building the school elsewhere WAS NEVER MENTIONED TO PARENTS on the phone or on the online survey. This makes the survey biased and fraudulent.

Besides the fact that my comments on the phone survey were disregarded, how many other parent's opinions were disregarded as well? It is extremely concerning that the district has been allowed to claim as fact that : "In conversations with community members and school administration, we did not hear a desire to move the location, and this was supported by the findings in the interviews and focus groups led by Patron Insight. With this information in mind, the current HMS site was not appraised."

If they never asked community members this specific question on the phone or the online survey without including the options along with the cost benefits, how dare they claim that they informed the community?