Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ho! Ho! Ho! First Christmas Present of the Season -- BOE Approves Placing a Whopping $65 Million Referendum Question on the March 2016 Ballot. This "Gift" to the D181 Taxpayers is the Result of a Masterful Bait and Switch Game!

Within one hour of this morning's Special Board meeting adjourning, D181's Communication Director sent out an email from "Don." It read in relevant part,

"This morning, we held a Special Board of Education meeting regarding the potential new construction of Hinsdale Middle School. Below is a brief highlight of the action taken today.

After Public Comment, representatives from Cordogan Clark and Associates (architects) and Pepper Construction (construction manager and cost estimator) outlined design options that were developed to reduce the estimate presented at the Board meeting held Monday, December 14. Board members then shared questions and comments regarding a number of related issues, including cost, design considerations, square footage, community views, etc. Following discussion, Board members voted to approve a resolution to place a $65 million referendum question on the ballot for community vote in the March 15, 2016 election (Vote 5-2; Nay: Gray, Giltner). Therefore, please note that we will be moving forward with a referendum for new construction of HMS."

The email ends stating that a more detailed board meeting summary will be issued next week. Well, we are so appalled at what transpired this morning that we aren't going to make our readers wait for the "official district communication" before publishing our commentary on the vote.  

Here goes:

The BOE has spoken. This morning, 5 board members -- Garg, Vorobiev, Burns, Clarin and Turek -- voted yes to place a $65 million referendum question on the March 2016 election ballot to raise funds for a new middle school. This vote comes, in our opinion, after a masterful Bait and Switch game that was played out right under the noses of 7 (or at least 6*) highly intelligent board members and the entire D181 taxpaying community by the administration and possibly the one lone board member who has a construction background. Only 2 board members realized this and tried to put a stop to it.  Before we elaborate, we want to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT of THANKS to Leslie Gray and Richard Giltner who were the only board members to let rationality, fiscal responsibility and thoughtfulness guide their NO votes. While they lost the vote this morning, they have earned the respect of all D181's taxpayers who know that their NO votes were the right votes.

Now on to the explanation of the Bait and Switch game.  

Healy Bender used to be the D181's "go to" architecture firm. In 2013, they prepared an Education Adequacy Analysis of the district's facilities and (per the discussion this morning) estimated that a new HMS would cost $65 million. However, less than 7 months ago, on June 1, 2015, the BOE decided to host a design competition and a Request for Proposal was released. As the D181 website states:

"On June 1, 2015 we sent a Request for Proposals (RFP) to a number of architectural firms with two goals: (1) to see design concepts for Hinsdale Middle School (HMS) showing renovation and new construction options, and (2) to receive cost estimates for those options. "  (Source:

Apparently, even though Healy had been the architect that over the last seventeen years designed earlier D181schools and renovations, they were not selected as the default firm to use for this project.  In fact, they did not even submit a design concept. We would surmise that this is in great part due to the sticker shock their 2013 $65 million estimate caused.  

So a design competition moved forward, fully supported by a Facilities Committee that worked for the last couple of years identifying and addressing district facilities needs at HMS and the 8 other schools.  Three firms submitted and subsequently presented design proposals to the community at public meetings held at the Hinsdale Public Library in September 2015.

Legat Architects' proposal projected a full cost in the amount of $ 56,541,533. (Source:

Wight and Company's proposal projected a full cost in the amount of $54,900,000.  (Source:

Cordogan Clark & Associates' proposal projected a full cost in the amount of $46,876,115. (Source:

After a back and forth debate over which of the three firms to select, controversy over the method the Facilities Committee used to rank the firms and delay by the BOE (which was warranted) in voting on which firm to select -- the BOE sent the rankings back to the facilities for further evaluation -- on October 19, 2015, the BOE picked Cordogan Clark & Associates.  

At that point in time, there was no discussion or concerns raised suggesting that the Cordogan proposal (or for that matter, any of the three) was significantly below the $65 million Healy estimate from 2013. After all, why would there be? The Cordogan proposal came in $18 million below the $65 million estimate!  No one -- not Ken Surma (Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations administrator), Gary Clarin (Chair of the Facilities committee and with all his "expertise" in construction), any other Facilities committee member, Dr. White or any other BOE member questioned this amount or suggested that ANY of the proposals had missed the mark and were way too low. On the contrary, some board members raised concerns that there were aspects of the proposal that perhaps should be eliminated-- such as the auditorium -- in order to bring the costs down and create greater parity between a new HMS and the existing CHMS. A decision was made to move ahead to negotiate the architect contract and fees and bring the contract to the BOE for a vote at the November 9 board meeting. Clarin, Giltner and Ken Surma were tasked with negotiating the fees with Cordogan Clark & Associates.

At the November 9, 2016 meeting, the contract and architect fees were still being negotiated, so the BOE was unable to vote to approve the contract.  Of significance, however, was that there was absolutely no indication that the original costs of a new HMS floated by Cordogan were about to sky rocket. Instead, a Special Meeting was called for November 19 to further discuss the upcoming tax levy and the contract with Cordogan. On November 19, however, there was further delay.  Only 4 board members were available to attend the meeting and those who were present were not given enough time to review the proposed contract. So once again, the vote on the fee contract was tabled, this time for nearly one additional month until the December 14 meeting at which the BOE was also scheduled to decide whether to go to referendum next March. Yet again, on November 19, there was no indication that Cordogan's projected costs were about to escalate dramatically from the original $47 million proposal.

Then came December 14 -- ah yes, a date that will live in infamy.....the date when the $73 million bomb was dropped on both the BOE and the taxpaying community, along with an agenda item calling for the BOE to decide that night whether to go to referendum. We won't rehash the shock and awe expressed by community members and FOUR board members -- Gray, Giltner, Vorobiev and Burns -- at the 55% increase in total project costs, as well as the disgust over the "Data Dump" dropped on them at the eleventh hour by the administration.  As one reader commented earlier today, until that date, the administration -- A.K.A. Dr. White -- had publicly represented that he expected the cost of the project to be LOWER than any one of the design concepts submitted by the 3 firms and at no time suggested that the costs would or should be HIGHER or closer to the $65 million Healy Bender estimate.

Here is part of what the commenter submitted:

"Portion of Anonymous Comment:  For confirmation of the hypocrisy shown by Dr. White during this morning’s meeting, please read the following article published in the Hinsdale Doings on September 12, 2015:

Here's the relevant quote:  

"District 181 initially estimated the cost of building a new school at $65 million; however, estimates from the architects were $47 million to $57 million from Legat Architects and about $50 million from both Cordogan Clark & Associates, and Wight & Company. "I think the ultimate cost will be even lower," White said. "None of the proposals from the three architects are going to be built exactly as proposed. Things will be tweaked, and I'm sure there will be things in their proposals that we won't do, which will reduce costs."
Yet today Dr. White made a point of asserting that $65 million has always been the target $ amount."

December 19, 2015 at 8:44 PM

At last Monday's (12/14) board meeting, there was still no talk of the Healy Bender $65 million estimate. In fact, we have reviewed all the board meeting summaries since the design competition was held and we have not found a single reference to the Healy Bender $65 million estimate being part of the BOE discussions held as it contemplated eliminating some of the features Cordogan had included its original designs. Instead, last Monday Dr. White acknowledged that the plans had grown and were now more costly as a result of meetings Cordogan held with HMS teachers, after which the building square footage increased, and new bells and whistles were added.  As he stated, some of the increases were wants, not needs, that the teachers had identified.  

As a result of the sudden skyrocketing costs, a majority of the BOE refused to vote to go to referendum until it had more time to process and discuss all of the new information. However, because of the statutory deadline it was facing to approve referendum language prior to December 28, in order to get it on the March 2016 election ballot, and the desire of all board members to participate in a meeting, the only available date was four days later -- December 19.  In the short time frame between the meetings, the BOE tasked Dr. White with meeting with the architects and HMS staff to try and bring the costs down. There was reference to the "survey" the community took, including a maximum referendum cost of $65 million, but this was NOT given as a justification for the skyrocketing costs, nor was there any discussion that in fact the costs were as predicted by the Healy Bender 2013 estimate.  

At some point in time between the 12/14 and 12/19 meeting, the administration gave the BOE new documentation on Options A and B.  These options brought the $73 million price tag down slightly --   Option A would have cost $66,451,803.  Option B would have cost $63,709,009. The community got to see those options for the first time on Thursday. However, suddenly late Friday, an additional Data Dump was posted on Board Docs that included documentation regarding the Healy Bender $65 million estimate.  That's right, last night.  Which of course means that the BOE probably didn't get it before then either.  This could explain Board Member Giltner's comment today that this second Data Dump prevented Board Members from having enough time to process all the new information before the Special Meeting.

During the BOE meeting today --  for the first time -- the focus suddenly shifted to justifying new Options A and B costs by stating that they are in line with Healy Bender's $65 million estimate.  Suddenly Dr. White was no longer surprised or concerned about the inflated costs, which Board Member Gray appropriately pointed out were still 1/3 greater than the number she and other board members had been relying upon as the total project costs. Suddenly, Board Member Vorobiev was no longer concerned (as she had been on 12/14) with the huge cost increase. Nor was Board Member Burns concerned enough with the hugely inflated costs to vote with Gray and Giltner to slow down the process so it could be properly vetted before going to a public referendum vote. The magic $65 million number was suddenly acceptable and palatable to 5 board members.

Yes, the Bait and Switch was complete. A triumph for whoever the mastermind was who came up with this successful strategy. Sure, people wanted a NEW, not a RENOVATED HMS. But people were aghast in 2013 at the suggestion that a NEW HMS would cost $65 million. So the administration led the board to hold a design competition. The concepts -- all of them -- were well below the $65 million, but still very expensive and filled with Taj Mahal qualities that would create unfair disparities between the new HMS and existing CHMS.  All the while the BOE was pushing for additional designs that would show how to reduce the overall costs and possibly eliminate certain extravagances -- such as a running track and auditorium -- it appears that behind the scenes the opposite was taking place. The scope of the project was growing, not shrinking, and the costs were shooting through the roof.

In order for a majority of the BOE to take the BAIT, it is our opinion that the costs were pushed well above the $65 million mark to $73 million.  And then came the SWITCH.  Fast financial fingers and rapid fire changes in the four days between the 12/14 and 12/19 meeting brought the numbers of two NEW options down to either $66,451,803 or $63,709,009.  

And now for the magic of numbers. 

If you add $66,451,803 and $63,709,009 and then divide the sum by 2, guess what number you get? 

Voila! You get $65,080,406!

As if by magic, you get $65 million -- the magical original Healy Bender number!! And guess what happened this morning?  Once it was clear that a majority of the BOE had fallen for the Healy Bender argument, someone -- oh yes it was Turek -- suggested that the BOE simply accept $65 million as the amount it  should approve to go to referendum for.

Yes, the Bait and Switch was complete.  

We will leave it to our readers to decide if you think this kind of ploy is acceptable in D181. Notwithstanding all the delays, costs changes and shenanigans that preceded today's vote, we are hard pressed to believe that any of you will find what took place under all our noses as something that should be blindly accepted by the community.

As an old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."

How many of you will allow the administration and board majority to continue fooling the community?

* We leave it to our readers to decide who on the board is not highly intelligent.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the curriculum mess and lack of leadership but disagree with the information or lack thereof on this blog with regards to HMS and the short sightedness. I'm not sure how you can say all taxpayer's agree with a NO vote by Gray and Giltner. Did you conduct a poll or are the 50-100 some anonymous comments indicative of the whole D181 community? Here is what you said on your blog less than two years ago when the pipe burst at HMS: "We are grateful that the teachers who are tasked with the day to day responsibility of teaching and watching over our children had the courage to disclose the facts to the community and did not participate in what some might characterize as a cover up. Their public comments on Monday night finally exposed the reality of the nightmarish and dangerous environmental conditions at Hinsdale Middle School. Now it is up to the Parents to take action and demand accountability and transparency, and full and honest disclosure of all the facts, by Dr. Schuster and the Board. In our opinion, they have put the entire district at risk of litigation that could be brought at any time by any number of staff or parents of students who have suffered medical harm as a result of the environmental problems that have been ignored for three years. It is time to put an end to this irresponsibility!"

Here are the links to your blog postings:

As a tax payer I'm not sure if it's better to continue to postpone a decision on a building that seems to have had many issues. Our kids deserve better and I can't imagine working in that building. I also have concerns about the construction and the safety at the site but hope the administration and board will address those. I for one think this was the right time to move forward and was disappointed that nothing happened last year. I also think there needs to be accountability at all levels across all areas of the district.

The Parents said...

Part 1: 9:52: Thank you for your comment. We, the bloggers, would support the building of a new HMS under the right circumstances. We agree that back January 2014, "mold gate" was discovered at HMS and we, along with the entire community, were outraged at the conditions in the building that had apparently been brewing for 20 years. However, let's not forget that over $2,000,000 were spent in 2014 to essentially strip away the majority of the drywall, remediate the mold and put the walls back up. In addition, roof and soffit repairs were done to ensure that no further water intrusion events would occur. It is true, these repairs did not solve the over crowding issue, but the BOE approved additional mobile classrooms which were installed last summer.

So while we were concerned that litigation could result if the building wasn't cleaned up and the health conditions addressed, the BOE approved millions of dollars to be spent to ensure that once the building was reopened, it would be safe. Dr. White was specifically asked at Saturday's special meeting if the building is safe or not. He unequivocally assured the community that it is.

We would hope so, since if it still is a health hazard, the administration and BOE must disclose this, and surely would in their quest to pass a referendum. However, no one on the BOE or the administration has said the building is unsafe, and at this point in time, there is no evidence to support representations made by some community members that it is unsafe. If you have evidence, please bring it forward, since everyone should be made aware of safety issues at the school.

So what we are left with is a school that without portable classrooms is overcrowded, was configured with an open concept design that over the years was chopped up into inconsistently shaped and sized classrooms and a roof that must be replaced. The building is old and ugly. No one disputes that. But here's the rub. While it would be nice to have a brand new school, the price must be rational and fiscally responsible. Why? Because not every taxpayer has, had or will have children who attend D181's schools. Not everyone can afford to see their tax bills continue to rise. Parents with children in the district are understandably upset that so much time and energy is being spent on plans to build one new school, while in their opinion a curriculum mess exists in all 9 and the administration is not addressing those problems with either appropriate plans or with appropriate administrators competent to fix the mess.

So, if the district is going to build a new school and ask taxpayers to fund it by increasing our tax bills for the next 10-20 years, then we expect that the taxpaying community is not taken to the cleaners. There is no imminent disaster (that anyone has evidence of) with the building if it is not torn down and replaced in the next two years. But there is imminent disaster if the thousands of D181 students do not have their curriculum needs addressed in an appropriate manner.

The Parents said...

Part 2:
In our opinion, the gyrating numbers presented over the last two weeks -- which had the cost of a new school swinging wildly from $45 million to $73 million to $65 million-- should trouble all taxpayers, including you. Board member Giltner, who heads the finance committee AND was one of the two board members tasked with negotiating the architecture firm's contract didn't even vote yes because he said he no longer had confidence in the numbers. Similarly, Board member Gray expressed concerns about disparities that would exist between the 2 middle schools if a $65 million school with many additional features that are not present at CHMS were included in the new HMS. Further, she stated that the amount she and the community have relied on since the design competition ended was closer to $50 million and she could not support such an escalation of the scope, scale and price of a new building over the last two weeks. Both Giltner and Gray suggested that if done right, they would support building a new HMS but that at this point, it wasn't being done right.

We agree with them that this process moving the community toward a referendum has been flawed and cannot be trusted. The BOE has been asked to make rapid fire decisions as "data dumps" (to use Giltner's phrase) have been thrown at them on the eve of each critical board meeting. We have elected 7 public officials who have a fiduciary duty to safe guard our tax dollars and ensure that fiscally responsible decisions are made. Over the last 10 days, we have spoken with many people in the community about the $73 million and $65 million price tag. While many have indicated their support for a new middle school, they have all (and we are not kidding) expressed disgust with the 55% increase thrown at the board at the last minute.

We have called it a masterful Bait and Switch. Many have used harsher words. Whatever you want to call it, in our opinion, the decision to go to referendum for $65 million is too expensive for D181's taxpayers. Let us not forget that most D181 parents graduate and become D86 parents. The high school district has identified between $120 and $200 million in needed repairs, renovations and additions for both high schools. That district hasn't gone to referendum in 30 years. They have agreed that they will likely go to referendum next November but probably only ask for $75 million after prioritizing the needed projects, recognizing that the community would likely not approve a $120 or a $200 million referendum, in part because tax payers are not simply deep pockets.

As taxpayers with students in both districts, frankly, we cannot afford to have both districts attempt to go to referenda for more that what is needed to address the basics. In D181's case, that means not building a Taj Mahal. In D86's case, it means not building a state of the art Natatorium, rather installing a basic, functional pool and focusing on other academic needs, such as added classrooms and improved facilities for art, music and science classes. The high school district has recognized that they must be reasonable and fiscally responsible. They are not rushing to go to referendum ahead of D181 to ensure that theirs passes and D181's loses. We expect D181 to be "good neighbors" to the high school district and not be so greedy that they try to squeeze $20 million more out of D181 taxpayers for a school that should cost $45-50 million, thus hurting D86's chances of passing a referendum for less than 1/2 of expenditures they have identified are needed at the two high schools.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bloggers -- Here's a double Ho Ho Ho! I just looked at the Pro-referndum committee's website and it looks like they TOO now agree that HMS is SAFE!!! They have deleted the phrase UNSAFE and now only describe the building as overcrowded. (Source: Not really true with the portables, but guess that representation is easier to accept......

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful if the pro-referendum committee could provide alternative plans for a much lower cost new build as well as a remodel. It should not surpass $30 million. We are not replacing an architecturally significant landmark, nor should we attempt to do this. If the students who attend the school now are expected to thrive in trailers - which they are - then why should we pay more for them to learn in extravagant, overpaid rooms? Up until last year, our HMS students were learning in moldy buildings. Parents were kept in the dark about the health and functionality of HMS by the district, yet suddenly, as of last year, the administration and some board members suddenly began to act as though the school needs to be condemned. The building is safe and healthy.

The needs of future students are not more important than the needs of students and the teachers who were there for the last 10 years. Residents and retirees have no desire to suddenly fund extravagant, over priced buildings when our own childrens' health and learning environments were ignored for years. This is a clear sign that residents should be seriously concerned with the lack of transparency as well as the truthfulness of the nformation provided to the public.

HMS needs fewer children, not more space. Administrators and teachers need professional development about how to best utilize their space, curriculm, and time at school. The most vital needs of a new building are that it be safe, economical and durable. We don't need an auditorium or a walking track. If others with the financial means are willing to donate their own money to make the school an architecturally luxurious building, then those donors should be free to come forward and spend their own money to do this.

Perhaps this pro-new HMS committee could ask for a grant from the D181 Foundation to help fund the architect's fees to come up with some new lower cost options? Specific architectural plans, along with the costs - including everything from the door handles to the outdoor landscaping need to be easily accessible and available to residents. If this is provided to the community, perhaps more donors would be willing to step forward and donate the costs of some of these expenses. I certainly wouldn't mind if donor's names were listed on little plaques next to auditoriums, windows or basketball hoops. If stadiums can sell their naming rights to corporations, why can't our middle school?


Anonymous said...

The people who help the Foundation consist of some business-savvy people who can encourage the district and community to provide more fiscally responsible options to residents. One such idea is looking for more private donors to build a new HMS. People and corporations name hospitals and stadiums after themselves. These same entities also be encouraged to donate money for naming/advertising rights to schools, gyms, and music rooms. These tax deductible donations could also help pay for support staff or professional development. HMS should be taking advantage of its centrally located, high visibility location by allowing corporations to have naming rights. This is not ideal, but if the district cannot find any other way to cut back on its expensive wish list, other ways to fund their project need to be explored. Leaders need to think more creatively to meet HMS' needs instead of trying to trick residents into an exaggerated need for a grand new building.

The pro- new HMS folks should be reminded that not everyone in our town willingly supports handing over more of their money to D181. Many feel that that D181 has been given more than enough money over the years to prevent and solve the dilemmas that are now "suddenly" negatively affecting current students. We have lived here for 15 years, only to suddenly hear last year that HMS had mold in it for 15 - 20 years. The results of new, skewed surveys cannot change the fact that trust in the administration and some board members has dropped to an all time low. Last minute data dumps, rushed plans, carefully directed community discussions, and bait and switched contract proposals are not helping the situation.
With the numbers finally being provided to us, I can only support a D86 referendum. My children will never benefit from a new HMS. The consolidation of D181 and D86 should be seriously considered as a way to shave redundant administrative and facilities costs. If bus, food, construction, maintenance , and administrative support services could consolidate between the 2 districts, there could be significant savings. HR, Special Education, and technology departments could instantly start working together. This would ensure more collaboration between teachers and departments, which would immediately benefit students and staff. K-8 students would be better prepared to meet the technological and curricular demands of the high school. Consequently, the high school would benefit by receiving better prepared students. Their teachers would benefit by not having to spend as much time helping children and parents transition to the expectations and demands of high school. In turn, this would raise student happiness and scores (SELAS, when correctly implemented, does this), which would lead to higher property values.
As a previous poster stated last week, without the clearly stated, properly vetted, documented costs of what is actually needed, not just WANTED, at HMS, the likelihood of a new or remodeled building will again fall to the wayside. There needs to be a clear, prudent vision that is reflective of what the residents, not the employees, of the district want. There also needs to be a strict budget that when violated, has negative consequences for those to violate the budget. If the pro-referendum group would like more support, they should promote ideas that meet the needs of residents and students, not just the overpriced dreams of certain administrators, teachers, and board members. I have seen glimmers of common sense in the last week at board meetings. I hope that this trend continues and that board members continue to step up to what is in the best interest of the entire community.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if an Anti-Referedum committee has been formed yet, and is there a website for that committee? I support a new school but not for $65 million. I want to join the committee because I think taxpayers need to know that there were and should be less costly options before they go to vote. So, if anyone has info now or in the coming weeks, please post it.

Anonymous said...

I have finally listened to the meeting and read the newspaper articles that came out since last Saturday's meeting. I am very concerned about the hefty $65 million price tag. Sure, some board members suggested that the price might be less and not all $65 million in bonds will ultimately be sold, but that is small consolation. The referendum question will ask voters to approve $65 million and if passed, you can bet every last cent will be spent. Just look at some of the fluff that is currently budgeted within the $65 million. $1.8 million for new furniture. Board member Gray asked why this was so much and wasn't the existing furniture going to be used. The answer was that after conducting an inventory of the existing furniture, only 30% is useable. Really? So our students who currently attend and will attend for the next couple of years while a new building is potentially built are not sitting in decent enough furniture? Or is it because the existing furniture doesn't include Lima Bean shaped trendy furniture? I personally don't think children need to sit in futuristic looking furniture to be able to learn. My D181 graduates did just fine in the plastic or wood chairs and small individual desks with the attached side tables. Come on people -- we are being scammed!

And then there is the cost to move the mobile units that were just installed this year and a few years ago. When the architecture firm first released its initial design concept and proposed $47 million why didn't it know that they would need to be moved and include that in their cost estimate? In fact, isn't the cost to move them more than the cost to install them? And why did the administration -- knowing it wanted to go to referendum and build on the same footprint put these mobiles there less than six months ago? Looks like another example of how the administration's head is buried deep in the sand. Nothing new there.

But what bothers me the most is that the BOE members who voted yes, failed to discuss or get a number from the Business Administrators as to what the actual cost of a $65 million referendum will cost the taxpayers. If those 5 yes votes were cast by our duly elected officials -- and yes they were -- they certainly didn't seem to be looking out for our taxpayers' interests since they seemed perfectly content to vote without asking for the raw numbers on the tax impact. Thanks for nothing board majority...

C4CH Supporter said...

12:41: I don't know if an anti-referendum group has been formed yet, but chances are that people involved in the Citizens for Clarendon Hills group might be called to action. They have kept their residents informed about district shenanigans via a newsletter, and the latest edition (October, 2015) can be found at:

This edition also discusses questionable spending that some D181 BOE members pointed out earlier this year. Hopefully C4CH will publish a newsletter in January and give us their perspective on the $65 million referendum.

Anonymous said...

So if your kids sat on bad furniture and in small classrooms, in a bad environment, lets continue with the same old stuff for current and future students? Empty nesters can also say that their children have graduated from the high schools and why should they pay for renovations and updates to D86. I just think this is a dead end conversation. I don't think it's fair that we are paying for new schools that were built in this district before we moved here and don't benefit our family and that people won't even consider building a new hinsdale middle school just because it doesn't benefit them. I am concerned about my taxes as well but I want to wait and see what happens with the cost before I actually make a decision.

Anonymous said...

You cannot make a decision when the facts are not available and multiple viable options are not offered. Remember the repairs we paid for last year? We were given quotes and the costs skyrocketed out of control a million over budget. This is the same leadership. If 100% increase in costs were nonchalantly accepted by this group just last year, it is naive to think that we will not routinely be hit with more 100% increases in cost. Let's do the math. 100% of even $50 million is insane. At this point, it would be cheaper for the district to offer vouchers and bus rides for HMS children to attend nearby Catholic and private schools just to lower the population of HMS. It could solve the overcrowding problem once and for all. I'd gladly take a voucher to save the district from building an overpriced, poorly thought out new school.

Anonymous said...

My faith in the facilities committee trying to control costs on this project is nil. The impression I got from the work of the facilities committee was one where cost was never a concern. The 73 MM submission almost seemed as if a probe of the BOT and the community to see how much money they could get. Really disappointed in the BOT members who were on this committee. I mean, how can you come with a 73MM budget and say you have no problem with it only to adjust it 4 days later by 10MM and state you have no issue with that either. It sends a message that oversight is lax. The cocktail circuit comment seemed to be very telling about their concerns.

Look, I am okay with a new school. I think the $ 400 dollar per sq ft needs to be thoroughly vetted because it seems about 75 $/ft^2 . Unfortunately to get that number down, it comes down to contract management, aggressive bidding, strong terms and conditions, etc. Nothing I saw from that facilities committee says that will happen. Case in point, the BOT paying the architect 80% of his pre-referendum contract. That was amazing.

The other way to get project cost down is to get rid of things like the auditorium. It was telling to hear the CHMS principal say they would not likely use this, so it is clearly an amenity for HMS and Hinsdale itself. Lastly, the size and number of teaching stations. Somehow, by getting rid of 1 teaching station and 20 sq ft per room they cut about 5MM out. Do they really need 37 of them and 5 music rooms? Anyway, with this group, I get the sense that they will spend every dime of this 65MM, plus they will use emergency funds of some sort. Simply put, they have given no indication that cost is a concern other than getting the referendum through. Let me know where to volunteer or donate. The correct number on this project is $ 50MM but because of the inability to move it from this site it is $ 55MM. When it is there I would go along.

Anonymous said...

Part 1: While I want to support building a new HMS, the $65 million cost is simply too high for me to accept, especially when I know that the high school district also needs to raise funds to finally address $120 to $200 million in needed repairs, renovations and additions. The high school BOE has determined that it can only expect the community to support $75 million and it must prioritize the most important needs and eliminate the wants from the current list. I expect D181 to do the same when it comes to building a new HMS. I have listened to Saturday's meeting and kept a list of the things that I would consider to be "excesses." Thanks to Board member Gray who pointed these out. Someone had to do it and she should be commended for trying to generate discussion with her fellow board members over the cost of the following items which are "wants" and not "needs" (in my opinion):

1. Auditorium - The projected cost for the original design of the auditorium will add $ 5 million to the budget, even though it will only be used 5% of the time. This want is nice to have, but not if it will sit empty 95% of the time and if its size is decreased, the CHMS principal admitted that his school would not utilize it at all.

2. Elevated Running track. What ever happened to running around the gym floor? Why exactly do we need an elevated track? It may be true that CHMS has more green space that it shares with the CH park district (and tennis courts to boot), but that still doesn't justify a state of the art track that most health clubs don't even have.

3. $1.8 mil for new furniture because only 30% of what is used now has been categorized as functional for the new building. Sorry, but I'm not buying that. When people buy new homes, they don't all go out and buy 70% new furniture. My family sure didn't when we relocated her ten years ago and built a new home. Nope, we used our old furniture and were grateful we could afford the new house. This "want" is a perfect example of the spendthrift mentality that the current administration has.

4. Fitness area in the gym. Looks like the design diagrams show fitness equipment. Sorry, but I don't believe that students need to have fitness equipment at a middle school. How many pieces of equipment will actually be purchased? Anyone who has had kids go to middle school knows that multiple classes are going on in the gym at the same time with upwards of 50 to 75 students (perhaps more). No way will they have enough equipment to allow classes to fairly use it. This isn't the high school where smaller gym classes sign up for specific types of gym classes. There is a personal fitness class at HCHS -- the HMS middle schoolers can wait until high school to have equipment during school hours. In the meantime, they can do group sports and more traditional exercises that were good enough for all of us when we were growing up. 21st century schools do not need everything to be done with machines, including gym classes.


Anonymous said...

Part 2:

5. Administrative area will be 8000 square feet vs 3000 at CHMS. I found the discussion on this item quite telling. The HMS principal argued that now more than ever, privacy of students has become so critical that you need to have a separate wing or area for social work, psychologist and service offices at the middle school - set apart from the other administrators -- principal, dean of students, secretaries. Not buying this either. The reality is that a student's privacy is paramount, but it is privacy from other students' observing them, not the administrators who are required by law to maintain a student's confidentiality. Having a closed office does not require a separate dedicated wing to protect a student's rights to privacy.

6. Half million $ for a sky light. For me this "pretty feature" needs to be cut immediately. Natural sunlight is nice, but that's what classroom windows are for. You don't need a half million $ skylight in the atrium to enhance the learning that will be going on in the individual classrooms. Ridiculous.

7. Dedicated cafeteria vs multi purpose room. Apparently the plans call for a separate cafeteria that will not be used as multipurpose space. That is ridiculous. In a middle school, lunch is served during lunch, but what of the rest of the day. It seems illogical that this space wouldn't have multi-purpose functions. Again, not buying the explanations that the principal was doling out. Again, this is a want, not a need.

8. Square footage would be 200 per student at HMS vs 130 at CHMS. Nearly doubling the square footage at a new HMS when compared to what exists at CHMS seems excessive. This should be revisited.

9. Max capacity at HMS will be around 1250. Why? There are just under 800 students at HMS now and the projections don't show that number growing. A building for 1250 will never be needed, even if you transfer Monroe students back to HMS. Personally, I don't advocate doing that, since CHMS is not currently overcrowded, and will actually (I believe) have excess capacity if it turns into a middle school for just 2 feeders schools -- Walker and Prospect. Cutting the capacity should result in cutting square footage which will lower the overall cost.


Anonymous said...

Part 3:

10. 5 music rooms with state of art acoustics at HMS vs 2 simple classrooms at CHMS. Too extravagant and not a true need in my opinion. Again, use the cafeteria if you want more space.

There were other points that were made, but I'll stop at 10. For me, lowering the cost of the new school is a no brainer. It will just take more work and time to get the plans right and at a price that the community will all support. Going to referendum for $65 million is a done deal. The language for the ballot has been written and approved by the BOE. All the people who have commented that the process leading up to this approval are right. No one can trust that $65 million is the right number. No one can trust that the administrators will be able to handle a project of this magnitude. They've been unable to meet any deadline on simpler tasks such as installation of the mobile classrooms and missed vitally every board meeting deadline that they laid out on the timeline of what needed to happen and when to get to referendum. Board members were either told that agenda items relating to HMS would need to be pushed to the next board meetings, or provided data dumps at the last minute before meetings, preventing them from having sufficient time to process the vast amounts of information.

People who are criticizing community members for expressing concern and lack of trust in the administration and process should step back and ask themselves if they really believe this is being done right. Would any of you build your new homes this way or trust people overseeing the building of your home if they kept flip flopping on the costs and couldn't meet deadlines? Of course not. You'd either walk away from the deal, slow it down or fire the workers who weren't living up to your expectations. This is a community that expects appropriate oversight, timely information and decisions and fiscally responsible decisions. I don't believe that exists in D181 right now and until it does, I can't support building a $65 million school.

Anonymous said...

10:11: maybe we should lobby our legislators to just eliminate public schools? By eliminating them, we'll save a boatload on property taxes (since public schools are the #1 taker of our property taxes). With what we save on property taxes, we can spend on tuition to private schools. Plus, once our kids are out of school, we no longer would have to pay for anyone else's kids.

Anonymous said...

10:49 Meant to say, 75 $ less per sq ft (should be 325 $ /ft2. 12:55 AM lays out quite a few areas to get this price down. The BOT would do itself a great service to look at each and every one of these. Realistically, though, there is no way they will be able to bring this building, at 160,000 sq ft, on that site, in for under 50MM. It's not realistic from a construction standpoint. Even CHMS would be in the 35 - 40 MM range and it did not have the unique constraint to be "in town" which creates sizeable costs. The strategy to control needs to be pointing out a reasonable alternative. I think parity with CHMS, as opposed to excess, needs to be the argument. The facilities committee did not do this nor did the board. This school they have proposed is by no means a "taj mahal" as some have stated, but it has quite a few unnecessary wants. Some of these wants have created costs that have additional consequences with premium costs (additional temporary excavation and support, etc). This is a middle school. It should be functional. It should be CHMS like in almost every regard. Anything more is wasting taxpayers dollars.

Anonymous said...

7:54, if our district can't get it together, I fear that it will jeopardize public schools in Hinsdale. Sad, but the alternative is an economic shutdown or even higher property taxes. There is no way anyone here would support the inevitable increase in taxes that will ensue once the costs of a new HMS exceed the agreed upon cost. When this happens, there won't be enough money to cover teacher salaries and pensions. What will happen when there isn't enough in the pot to meet teacher contract demands and they decide to go on strike? Will they ask for another referendum? Less new teachers will be hired in the future to meet budget restraints and HMS will be a new beautiful school with 40 kids per class. Or teachers aides might be asked to teach our children. The music and art rooms will be empty because we won't be able to afford music teachers anymore. It's bad enough parents have to pay to rent instruments and buy teaching resources for their children. The only reason we have such a great music program is because the ugly HMS has allowed there to be money for excellent teachers who know what they are doing. Doesn't the district realize that if we waste all of our money on music rooms, there won't be enough left over to pay the teachers who teach these classes?

It isn't fair for our K- 8 district to jeopardize the salaries and pensions of other city workers because 181 can't control their spending. Nor is it fair to repeatedly expect the community to bail the district out from it's poorly conceived plans. I don't think the police, firemen or the people that work in basements in the Village offices have skylights, but they aren't complaining. Many of us work in unattractive offices in order to keep our costs down, and we don't even rely on taxpayer money for our paychecks.

The leadership in our district reminds me of the College of Du Page. Check the Chicago Tribune if you are not up to speed on that fiasco. Secrets, financial waste, and unethical behavior all funded by taxpayers. Since the Feds are in town investigating COD, perhaps they could drop by D181 to see how our district spends taxpayer dollars in comparison to other schools in the state. They will be certain to see the same things found at COD: a lack of transparency, questionable oversight, and extravagant spending habits.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what BOT is referencing in one of the posts and think references to the proposed design being a Taj Mahal are excessive. After listening to podcasts for board meetings I am concerned about the focus of disparity for Monroe parents versus the whole district. I think it's easy to be critical instead of constructive since many of us are not volunteering on these committees. Many parents around us seem to send their children to private schools and hence don't care about the quality of the public schools. Parents who come here have choices since they can afford them either by choice or because the public school isn't meeting their needs. The current HMS building is a disgrace in my opinion. I am disappointed that the focus is not about improving a school that has never seemed to work, that the teachers have seemed to make work to keep it at par with CHMS in test results. The focus is about what is best for CHMS students who have already had the benefit of being educated in a mold free building, in a good building for a number of years. I do want the board to be fiscally responsible but they have neglected their job over the past few years and allowed the administration to grow and reward themselves and do whatever they want with the educational programs. A school is a tangible that benefits our community and I would support this over some of the other expenditures and unproven educational methods that have been approved. As a taxpayer I question the amount of money that is continuously spent on technology and that the administration and many parents seem to want. I am open to adding a running track and needed music spaces since they support physical health and provide for children to explore hidden talents or experience things they would never pursue after middle school such as chorus, choir, orchestra and band. These opportunities make school fun and interesting outside of the core classes. They encourage team building skills and collaboration, something that seems to come up a lot when technology is mentioned. Yes these amenities may not be available to CHMS students but they have tennis and softball from what I heard. Is an auditorium necessary, probably not but I don't agree with eliminating it just because CHMS doesn't have it. It didn't sound like Mr. Sontag had a clear idea of usage but he seemed to think HMS was a short ride away, easily accessible. He also seemed to mention some challenges with the stage set up and the bleachers in the gymnasium do not have clear site of the stage. In the end you have to make do with what you end up getting based on what you can afford or budget.

Anonymous said...

1:43: Just a few comments on your criticisms. To suggest one has to be on a committee to have the background to criticize is unfair. Very few parents are selected for the committees, while many parents apply to serve. Interestingly, if one looks at the history of who is serving, until very recently, you'd see the same parent names over and over again. This suggests that the selection process is biased. More recently there have been some new names on some of the committees, but many new names that have applied have simply been rejected. For the rest of us who are not on the committees, we can listen to the information via podcast (finally) and keep current reviewing what is posted on board docs. Just because we are not sitting at the committee table, doesn't mean we can't form negative (or positive) opinions.

Monroe concerns are valid, but no one has suggested that the Monroe parity issue swings the balance on this debate. Rather, it is a general CHMS vs. HMS parity issue that will affect hundreds of students. Your comparison to HMS students having the beneifit of the state of the art music facilities that are proposed (5 classrooms versus 2 at CHMS) being the same as CHMS students getting to participate in a tennis or softball units during gym because of the park district facilities they use is really misplaced. There is a huge difference between having year round music facilities that are used by students every day and getting to play tennis or softwall a couple of weeks per year (when those activities are taught in gym class).

The cost of the auditorium is what is driving the criticism. It adds $5 million to the budget if done right. If the size is reduced and seating capacity reduced, Sonntag said CHMS might not use it. So clearly, it only benefits both schools if the larger, more expensive auditorium is built, and the real question then is should taxpayers fund such a luxury when cafetoriums have worked before and create multi-purpose spaces that can be used year round.

And as for the mold argument. The mold is gone. It cost D181 taxpayers between $2 and $3 million to remediate. If one is to believe what Dr. White said as recently as the last board meeting, the building is safe. So let's drop that argument right now unless you have proof to the contrary.

I think we can all agree that (as another comment stated) the building is old and ugly and overcrowded. It is time to address those issues either by building a new school or renovating and putting a permanent addition onto HMS. When a new building was projected to cost $45 to $50 million, it didn't make economic sense to consider a renovation/addition. But what about now that the budget has skyrocketed to $65 million (down from $73 million)? Does it still make economic sense? This is the kind of question that all D181 taxpayers have a right to expect their elected officials to at least discuss. That didn't happen before they voted. I listened to the entire meeting and the idea of revisiting a renovation/addition wasn't even mentioned before they voted. I agree with everything that Board members Gray and Giltner said during the meeting. They have both lost confidence in the process and budgeted numbers. I am proud of them for saying what no one else either identified as problems or were unwilling to raise for discussion. We need more board members like them.

Anonymous said...

I think many of us support building a new HMS. What we do not support is the current HMS being proposed. It is excessive and it creates vast inequities. CHMS was built in 2000 for $15 mil. No amount of inflation can justify a $65 mil HMS. Had the design been more modest and fiscally responsible I would have supported the new school.

Anonymous said...

I have been following this topic over the past few months and have listened to meeting podcasts. From listening to the discussion related to picking an architect, it seemed that board members who voted for Cordogan including Ms. Gray did so because they felt Cordogan's design was the closest and it was stated that the teachers survey favored this design overwhelmingly (90+% I think). Cost of a building was not discussed as a reason for picking this design or architect. They said it was a design competition. Mr. Giltner voted against Cordogan because he felt they were not as financially stable as Wight and had not worked with districts similar to ours. Cost of the building was not raised as an issue since Wight was not the cheapest and they seemed to have a lot of work going on in the north shore districts. Some of the districts mentioned included Sunset ridge and New Trier. Here is an article about sunset ridge - controversy over demolish vs renovation and the increase in cost + modern design versus what the community desires:

I personally think Schuster's administration, starting with the prior superintendent dropped the ball along with the board that was seated at the time. They ignored the red flags being raised which led to the pipe break. If more money is spent maintaining this building while we wait to collectively figure out what to do, this school will remain as is. This will continue the lack of parity for students attending this school. It would be a waste to change the roof and then tear down the school a few years from now. I have had children attend this school and remain concerned about the stairs in the commons and the lack of space in many classrooms and the confusing layout. My friends have told me their 6th graders don't have access to a bathroom in the portables. With the short passing period they can't come to their lockers usually which are in the main building. I'm sure the children make this arrangement work somehow. The classrooms are nice sized though, better than in the building it seems. It's easy for many of us who do not have children in this building to not realize the daily challenges. I agree that the cost is an issue but I don't think we can afford to delay the decision. This has probably led to the significant increase in cost as well. I am not against the other comments but wanted to share what I have followed and heard. Sometimes the tone seems to be about picking sides. I don't want a significant increase in my taxes either but living in the community think this issue needs to be addressed sooner than later.

Here are some links for New Trier :"New Trier High School is under construction! Thanks to the support of District residents, we are excited to build a new addition on the west side of the school that will include more than 25 new core academic classrooms, 3 new science labs, a new library, new cafeteria, and new spaces for our Engineering, Music, Theatre, and Art programs. Voters approved funding for this project through a Nov. 4, 2014 referendum."

The following link says the following "In November 2014, voters approved the District's request to sell $89 million in bonds to support the $100.3 million project (with the remainder coming from District reserves)"

Anonymous said...

It is time to invest in both HMS and HCHS. No one likes the increase in taxes but both of these large expenditures are necessary. Now. All of our property values depend on it and anyone who doesn't see that the reason our home values are as high as they are is not living in reality. It is because of the quality of the schools - both inside and out. Yes, I have concerns about the D181 administration and the curriculum issues but am hopeful that appropriate oversight by the committees, community and BOE will contain them as much as possible. Not the best scenario for sure but waiting to build is worse in my opinion. Curriculum issues are made worse for students when teachers and students are in a horrible environment. While I respect their thoughtfulness, if Giltner and Gray had students at HMS I believe they would feel the urgency as well. With regard to CHMS and perceived inequities, HMS has a larger student population and we can learn from cutting some corners at CHMS. Clarendon Hills has received 2 new elementary schools and a middle school in the past 10 years. Hinsdale residents supported and paid for these new schools to be built because they recognized the importance of them for D181 students. There was no talk of "parity and inequity" and increased property values for Monroe homeowners as Hinsdale elementary schools received only minor updates. We need to trim the fat from the budget, use appropriate oversight and move forward.

Anonymous said...

New trier is a sprawling high school campus that serves multiple communities. HMS is a middle school that serves a portion of one community. Middle school designs are usually much more modest than high school designs. That is my problem with the new HMS - it is being built like a high school not a middle school.

Anonymous said...

Many people have brought up how the referendum is set for $65 million while CHMS cost only $17 million. Something I'm surprised hasn't been asked yet: What has CHMS been like since it's been built? Do the teachers feel it's a good teaching environment? Do the students and their parents feel that it's a good learning environment? Has CHMS needed any renovations? If I remember correctly, CHMS got a new gym floor a while back, and I think I've heard people say that some areas like the gym are too small, and it didn't originally have a staff lounge. Can anyone verify this?

7:53: you're correct that the portables (both new and old) don't have a bathroom nor lockers. I agree with many of the comments saying that the teachers are more important than the actual building, but the building layout does have its importance. Class periods are only about 42 minutes long. If a student needs something from their locker, that takes up a large percentage of class time to go their locker and back. Plus, I think we all know how hard it is to concentrate when you have to go to the bathroom, but don't have the time to go.

I was reminded of a comment in the blog post called "Comment of the Day: The New Hinsdale Middle School Could Cost $73 Million! More than $20 Million Previously Projected and Represented to the Community." The poster at 2:32 said, "as an engineer, I can tell you that there is nothing that could render HMS uninhabitable short of an earthquake, fire, or tornado." I don't know if this person had any children at HMS at the time, but I can tell you that while he might've been fine there, a lot of of people weren't. I've heard HMS teachers & parents say that before the mold was removed, teachers, students, and visitors to the building would get migraines, allergies, asthma and other health concerns there, yet become totally fine when they leave. Sure, it may be a little more hospitable to live through mold than a tornado, fire or earthquake, but what about the long term effects? The students spend a majority of their waking hours everyday for three years there. Teachers & staff even longer. What kind of health problems have people gotten? Have any students developed asthma? Have anyone developed cancer due to the conditions there? HMS might not kill anyone right away, but what about the long-term? Besides, with house prices within HMS boundaries being several hundred thousand, if not millions, of dollars, I would think that people would want something a little better than "short of an earthquake, fire, or tornado" inhabitable.

I would like to add, however, that the price, and how quickly it changed and how quickly the board made its decision scares me. While I want a clean, safe, efficient school, I don't want a Taj Mahal school, nor do I want to trade HMS' current problems for new ones.I'd really like the board, administration, staff, parents, tax payers and anyone else who may be involved with HMS to take the appropriate time to see what's needed and make a solid course of action.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to be on par with the New Trier district, both elementary feeders and the glorious high school that will be state of the art. What do we have for our high taxes in 181? HMS that is outdated and ugly, along with Central that is in need of renovations. That being said, even with these needs I cannot support the referendum in March and will encourage my friends and neighbors not to support it either. The New Trier feeders do not have the issues we have with incompentent school administrators and school board members. They passed their referendum because it was thoughtful and transparent, and the numbers did not wildly swing from one figure to the next. What do we have in 181? Numbers that are all over the board, school board members who voted to go forward instead of taking a step back to really analyze their methods, and another fake group of administrators who couldn 't get the portable units in place on time for the school year at HMS. Do we really believe these same people can navigate through huge construction project? No way. I won't even go into the disaster that is the curriclum for our kids.
Until a new board is voted in, until a new administration is hired, until the curriculum is fixed, my vote will be NO.

Anonymous said...

Please stop with the New Trier envy. The original New Trier high school was built about the same time as Hinsdale Central and our two high schools are on the verge of well thought out, vetted renovations. New Trier is a large (nearly 4200 students,which is 50% more students than Hinsdale Central and almost as big as both D86 schools combined) regional high school that serves several of the wealthiest communities in the nation.

The better comparison is Butler Middle School. Butler was built in the 1960s( before HMS) and I believe it was designed by Peter Brady who later went on to fame as the dad of the Brady Bunch. It is a nice, decent school that has good administrators, good teachers and smart motivated students. A few parents complained that it was not fancy enough several years back, but they were shot down well before it went to referendum. Butler is not perfect, but they clearly do not have the administrative turnover and drama that plagues 181. They don't seem to lurch from fad to fad the way D 181 has for some 40 plus years. They also serve well educated and demanding parents, so stop using that excuse in our district. There are a lot of empty nesters in Oak Brook, but the school has had a couple of nice additions and renovations during the past years and it is a solid functional building.

Those of us that oppose the referendum would eventually like to see a new school built. It is just that we want an open, thoughtful and well vetted process devoid of last minute decisions and rushes to judgement.

We believe we need a competent administration ( such as Butler and New Trier have) to oversee a complex project. We believe the curricula comes first and the buildings come second ( just like Butler and New Trier).

Our children went to Monroe and CHMS. CHMS is a fine school. If the fit and finish of CHMS are not to your liking, please feel free to pop your child in private school. As an empty nester, I am more than willing to support a new school. But most of us old timers are pragmatic and thoughtful and we want things done right.

A new building will do nothing for property values. Strong curricula and high scoring students are what support property values.

Anonymous said...


As has been stated a number times, the mold issue has been addressed. If they would have done some proper maintenance, keep the roof repaired, and clean up properly after pipes break, they would not have had mold. Operative word, HAD. The Superintendent is on record as stating building is safe so please stop using the mold issue, it is in the past. Any building would have had this issue if the roof leaked, even one 2 yrs old.

Now, as to the looks of the building, the reconfigured classrooms, odd heating/cooling, etc. These are real issues, but all can be dealt with far more effectively. I have no issue voting for a new building, but first I would like for the design basis to be set properly with all constraints that extraordinarily affect the budget be known. Only now do I think we have this.

Unless they intend on moving the Monroe kids into this school, I see no reason to design it for more than 800 students at 85% utilization and 150 -175 ft^2 per student. This building should be about 150,000 ft^2. The $ 400 per ft^2 build price seems to be on the very high side, that number should be scrutinized extremely closely. The site creates its own higher than normal cost. Were the teachers given any constraints when they or the facilities committee opted for this two story building? The nature of the structure has created several added costs that are completely unnecessary.

It appears that nobody on the facilities committee or the BOE has built or designed a structure. The way this entire process was done was more like a political campaign. In trying to build a case for a new school, they all forgot to do their jobs in trying to design a modern, efficient facility that satisfies the needs (not every want) of the community. The auditorium is a case in point. Why does D181 need an auditorium? It is the most underutilized and least cost-efficient space in the entire proposal. Do some of BOE think of that one day during the Christmas play, etc. that it would be just so much better? Let HMS raise the money for an auditorium if they need one that bad.

This school should readily be able to be designed and built for 48 to 50MM. The fact that they were discussing 73MM one day and just 4 days later, after somebody put a little pressure on them, they come back at 65MM. It is comical just thinking about how that went down. They don't have a proper budget, nor do they have a team in place who can control cost. They seemingly operate under the premise that it will cost what it will cost. The contractors are salivating over this group.

If it doesn't pass, it is their own fault. And to those that just want a school because they are tired of waiting.... I don't even know what to say. You would sign off on incompetence to get what you think you want it appears. I can only hope that common sense wins out on this one. This is so messed up, it really isn't even a discussion about a new school, rather, it is about approving a budget prior to having a proper design.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with 5:10. There is no longer any mold. The fact that there was mold for so long, yet it was never addressed until a pipe burst and water began flowing through the school last year is a major, major concern.
The failure of the building leaders to 1) make a reasonable budget, and
2) actually attempt to stick to it is abhorrent. Ther current and past actions actions are very telling of what their behavior will be in the future.

It isn't their money to spend, it's the taxpayers. The comment that the architects and builders are salivating over this is spot on. They must be laughing their heads off at us. Just because we can spend the money does not mean that we need to spend it, especially on architects, builders, and materials.

I would rather 2 smaller middle schools be built, and that the populations be closer to 300. CHMS' student population should drop, too. The extra space at CHMS or HMS could be used to house the administrators instead of wasting it on rent for them. Plus, they could keep a better eye on our children if they were nearer to them instead of holed off in an office building somewhere.

Another option is that HMS be remodeled on a smaller scale and a new school be built in Bur Ridge. Our taxes in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills are already high enough. 800 is too big for any middle school. For example, it is ridiculous that HMS has 1 nurse when our children had 1 nurse in our small elementary school. If Butler has less than 200 kids, our middle schools should not have 700 - 800 children.

jay_wick said...

The fact is there IS going to be a referendum question on the ballot this coming March. Tuesday March 15 2016 will be here quicker than you can imagine!

The question will NOT ask if D181 should attempt to merge with Butler D53 NOR will it ask if the district would be better off building two smaller middle schools to replace HMS. The question will be lengthy and lawyerly but it will only ask if the district should sell bonds in the amount of $65,000,000.00 to fund the construction of a school on the site of HMS.

There are already some groups that are urging voters to approve the referendum, and some that will shortly begin their maniacal barrage of mailings filled with distortions designed to energize voters to defeat anything that will result in increased taxes. Neither "side" seems to want to deal with the realities that wiser citizens should weigh when making their decision: Was the process transparent enough to the whole community? Was the pace too rushed? Is it likely that a more honest effort, with perhaps a bit more upfront funding to compensate unbiased experts, would have resulted in more economical proposals? Is the current proposal truly in the best interest of all the stake-holders that the district serves?

Know too that there is broader context to consider -- Illinois is quite literally on the brink of diaster in regard to its out of control budgetary crisis ILLINOIS HAS LOWEST CREDIT RATING OF ALL 50 STATES . Taxes are going to be increased on every single tax payer in the state. The politicians that enjoy lifetime income security and their supporters will soon be coming to squeeze more dollars out of rest of us. The financial ruin that grabs headlines about Chicago Public Schools will soon spread to every school district and muncipality in the Land of Madigan -- As financial pressure mounts, thousands of CPS layoffs possible The fact is even the architects and construction estimators that prepared the latest proposal for the district admitted that mandatory "prevailing wage" requirements coupled with unchecked escalation of labor rates for unionized workers go a long way to explaining why the cost of the project grew so quickly. This same "gotcha" has resulted in enormous cost increases for recent projects at D86 as well.

One would think that even the most affluent residents of the district have legitimate reservations about anything that threatens to not just spike their property taxes, but also erode the equity that their homes hold. There undoubtedly are many thoughtful and generous long term residents of the district that have honest concerns about the competence and biases of some of the BOE members; the likelihood of such members working to further their own agenda rather than truly looking out for the good of the whole district is extremely troubling. Given the trends in school performance for HMS relative to other district facilities it is very hard to say that there has been negative impact traceable to any of the deficiencies of HMS, yet some folks seem recklessly headed into situation that may radically reshape the finely honed balance that has been a hallmark of making every attendance area in D181 desirable...

The district is still engaged in addressing the concerns that came from its investment in formulating a more comprehensive strategic plan. The debacle of the PARCC scores is still fresh in the minds of parents. Supporters of expanded foreign language have long been waiting to see improvements. Vital information about lagging math performance has only recently been disclosed. Long delayed science curriculum review is slowly working its way through the district. Who benefits from having a cornerstone laid on the new HMS sooner rather than later?

Anonymous said...

5:10, if I may play devil's advocate for a bit. Many people on this blog say they do not trust the administration when it comes to the curriculum and building a new school. If these people are correct that the administration is untrustworthy, you can we trust the administration when they say there's no more mold and the school's totally safe. I'm not saying there is mold, but it seems hypocritical to say that the administration is untrustworthy yet totally believe them when say there's mold. Just saying.

Also, how do we know that the auditorium will be unused except for the music concerts and plays put on by HMS? Haven't the teachers said that they often bring in presenters? The principal at HMS has said that there's over 100 people on staff there. I would like to think that they'd come up with a few more things for which to use the auditorium. Plus, they might be able to rent it out to the community. However, I do agree that even then, it'll be greatly underutilized.

Anonymous said...

Plain and simple - the process was flawed, 5 BOE members acted in a sloppy, careless and fiscally irresponsible manner and the price is outrageous and should be deemed unnacceptable by every single D181 taxpayer. My vote is NO and will only become YES if the referendum fails and a more thoughtful and responsibly priced option is presented to the community.

Anonymous said...

Read this:

In my opinion, this sounds remarkably similar to the shenanigans in D181. Hope we don't build a behemoth now only to have a future idiotic BOE vote to close it to save money. FOIA request dodges, wasteful spending on ridiculously inflated administrator raises, other questionable expenditures? The list goes on and is way too similar. Wouldn't it behoove the D181 BOE to take a lesson from the Lincoln Way debacle? Or will they blindly go down the same irresponsible path? One thing is for sure, 2 members -- Giltner and Gray -- won't. Will there be 2 more members willing to join them and do the right thing?

Anonymous said...

It really does not matter what the BOE does. Until they fix the curriculum, they will not get support for a new building.

Once they demonstrate that they can deliver academic results, they will get the backing they need.

Here comes a big flaming "No" vote.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the previous comment. Let's remember this board of education approved of Don White's promotion of Kurt Schneider to oversee the entire district curriculum and testing. He was not qualified and yet was allowed to be promoted. We all know how that turned out. This board also approved of bringing in the techno guru Jukes for $50,000 and didn't bat an eye about spending taxpayer dollars on this consultant. What happened? The plug was pulled after Jukes got a hefty payment.
This board also mandated that the winter MAP test will end. What happened? White and his staff are going ahead with it anyway. Where is the accountability?
This lack of oversight and weakness is not what I voted for.
This is what our board and administration believe is acceptable. Come March, I will show what I consider to be acceptable by voting NO.

Anonymous said...

We should get in touch with the Frankfort group. Perhaps they could tell us how they gathered so much community support and got their legislator involved.

It sounds like there is more malfeasance in district 181 than in Frankfort. Does anyone remember the June 4, 2014 post on this Blog entitled “Approved Administrator Contracts and Salaries for the 2014-2015 School Year Raise Questions of BOE's Lack of Fairness, Fiscal Responsibility and Careless Disregard for the Interest of the Community”?

It is crazy but we are letting this band of renegades continue their mismanagement, lack of transparency and disregard for the desires of the community. We let Schuster leave without collecting the $20,000 she owed the taxpayers. We let Clarin negotiate the new teacher contract when his wife is a highly paid teacher in this district. Does that sound legal? Responsible? When Clarin decided to run for the school board, he promised to bow out of any decisions that would impact him financially. I guess he just has a short memory or maybe it is that his wife’s salary and benefits don’t impact him. I won’t go into everything. You can read it yourselves.

This Taj Mahal of a middle school has done one thing for Don White, Kurt Schneider and the BOE. It has taken the focus off how POORLY our children did on the PARCC compared to other districts. Check out the Western Springs schools. By far, their children did a lot better than our children.

Could the abysmal PARCC test scores have something to do with the district’s continued curriculum issues?

Jill Quinones said...


I am not a great believer that the PARCC provides any particularly meaningful information of use given how it was created, administered, and scored, but assuming it has some validity for purposes of comparing Districts, I'm not sure that pointing to WS 101 is a good comparison. The overall Meets/Exceeds at D181 was 71% and WS101 74% - not sure if that is particularly statistically significant. In Math D181 Meets/Exceeds is 68% and WS101 71% - again pretty close. In ELA D181 was 74% and WS 76%, also very close.

Interestingly, in 5th grade math (this year's 6th graders) D181 is 67% meeting or exceeding and WS is 65% (and we know D181 has issues at that grade level in math, which is one of many reasons why I doubt PARCC is much help to educators).

Even more interesting is that D181 had 65.6% of its 8th graders passing Algebra and WS101 only 37.1%. Of course, Butler had 100% - smaller middle school, but still and amazing accomplishment.

I put the PARCC results (I got mine from the IL Report cards online) up there with the new HMS issues - both are red herrings that will take needed attention off of what is going on with the DOL and how curriculum and learning should be delivered.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jill for the information - what I find particularly interesting is the 8 grade data. I have a few close friends with children in this grade. This group falls under our " old" system where children where advanced bases on several tests, or they did extra work over the summer ect. - not like the new, extremely strict set of rules. This data proves the old system was not a disaster!!

Anonymous said...

To me, it looks like the 8th graders are doing fairly well at math. I can't wait to see those scores improve even more when Dr. White's "Raise the floor to raise the ceiling" kids arrive!

Anonymous said...

I've just been reviewing the documents posted under the Learning Comm Agenda for this week's meeting. Help me to understand--is the trajectory path and proposal for the math "track" that no kids will be given advanced or enriched opportunities until 4th grade? Am I reading it incorrectly? I hope so because if it is true, it makes absolutely no sense that we would encourage students to stagnate at grade level math opportunities when they are above that material. Why continue to give the MAP test? Why even give the PARCC if we do nothing with the data that it provides? (in the case of the PARCC the data is so outdated does it really matter?)

What happened to following the learner? What happened to "no child shall be held behind" and "no teacher should feel that they are limiting the growth or opportunities available for students"? Are we really suggesting that children in grades 1, 2 and 3 can do grade level math and only grade level math? What about the red shirting epidemic in this town? What about the fact that kids are more prepared entering school? What about the fact that there are children meeting this ridiculous criteria of 2 SD in 2nd grade or 3rd grade? What about kids who enter first grade knowing their math facts or reading at a 3rd grade level? What happens to them?

Nothing ever improves here unfortunately. New Year but not a new leaf. I'm disappointed that advanced groups are not allowed to pull material down from higher grades or thrust forward into higher level material if they prove ready. Why is it so difficult for D 181 admin and teachers and students to identify and assess students in a fair manner, provide enriched and advanced opportunities consistently across grade levels within our small district, and develop reasonable criteria that meets the needs of our learners? I may not have a graduate degree in education or psychology or a related field of study but I have higher education and I am well versed in our educational curriculum track and trajectory thus far. Disappointment doesn't even begin to cover how I and other parents feel. We live in such an affluent suburb and community where resources are aplenty, children and parents are eager for education, and support is given both at home and school and yet, our administration continues to flap in the wind with changing criteria, lack of consistency and no real developed plan that meets the needs of our advanced learners.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: Please post this comment as a separate post. Thank you.

Parents, we are and have been asleep at the wheel for years regarding the state of our school district. Tutoring is not a solution and will not solve the problems with the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. Take a look at just one of the documents that will be reviewed during the learning committee meeting on Wed:$file/Trajectory%20for%20Math%20-%20DRAFT%201.4.16.pdf

We are paying high taxes for grade level math instruction until 4th grade? Who knows how the needs of our high ability kids will be addressed? And as the previous comment states, this is latest flimsy fad from our "administration."

Several parents in my book club are reading "Failing our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students" by Finn and Wright. It has been a real eye opener. Here are a couple of excerpts that should sound the alarm bells for every one of us in this district:

"Effective differentiation is tough to pull off in a truly heterogeneous class that contains girls and boys with diverse needs and varied learning speeds. It's akin to presenting a physician with two dozen patients who manifest different symptoms, differing degrees of illness, and, upon examination, many different ailments. It's unlikely that any one doctor can do a great job with all of them, especially when strapped for time and resources. He's apt to engage in a form of triage, focusing mainly on those he can readily help and giving less attention to the mildly ill. The sickest may be sent to the hospital and others referred to appropriate specialists."
And this:
"Differentiation specialist Holly Hertberg-Davis wrote in 2009: "It does not seem that we are yet at a place where differentiation within the regular classroom is a particularly effective method of challenging our most able learners." More recently, gifted education specialist James R. Delisle wrote in Education Week that "although fine in theory, differentiation in practice is harder to implement in a heterogeneous classroom than it is to juggle with one arm tied behind your back. . . . Differentiation," he declares, "is a cheap way for school districts to pay lip service to those who demand that each child be educated to his or her fullest potential."
This is what our district is offering to our kids. This started with Schuster and Schneider is now continuing full speed under Don White. My kids have been sitting in classrooms for the past three years daydreaming while teachers are trying their hardest to do the impossible. Meanwhile, we are supposed to get our checkbooks ready to cover a possible higher tax bill for a new HMS? Unless we speak up about these issues, we will continue to get what we deserve.

Anonymous said...

You didn't read it correctly _ it states no advanced math until fifth grade and then there are no standards as to who gets it and or how much compacting will be achieved.

Anonymous said...

Here is the exact wording:

"Due to a variance of subject acceleration throughout the District in prior years, steps are being developed to ensure advanced achieving students, based on data, can still have opportunity to attain geometry by 8th grade. Such steps include, but are not limited to compacting, acceleration of pacing, and differentiation. Implementation of this strategy would occur at the 5th grade level."

At the 4th grade level there is an additional item called "4th CC High" but there is no explanation of what that is. If it is in fact an advanced learning class, it does not match the description in the above paragraph which seems pretty clear.

It appears that at the 5th grade level, children will be divided into tiers that match our current middle school tiers, 5th CC, 5th CC Advanced and 5th CC Accelerated.

How they plan to achieve children completing Geometry in 8th grade by starting in 5th grade, I'm not sure. We used to begin grouping children and accelerating them in 3rd grade. Even then, it was a fast paced and challenging class to be in.

Anonymous said...

I still do not understand how the district expects parents to wait until 3rd grade or what is proposed-4th grade-for their children to be given opportunities for above grade level course work? In this age of technology, assessment, differentiation, Common Core, etc I do not understand how a supposed high performing district can limit the enriched and advanced opportunities for students in elementary school. What about learners who are ready for more in 3rd grade? 2nd grade? 1st grade? What about students who are demonstrating higher math skills in lower grades? Do you simply wait for them to burn out, lose interest, and pick up poor study habits and then in 5th grade compact and accelerate them after years of non stimulation and no opportunity? What about children who were previously given opportunities and are excelling in their above grade level content?

For a high performing district like D 181, I'm so frustrated and angry at the level of run around and inconsistency that happens within our curriculum. At board meetings they talk about year 2 and year 3 as years where the math learning will go faster and the students will move more quickly through the material and yet you admit that the students who piloted this curriculum and resource last year are moving at the same snail's pace as the rest of the district. That doesn't give me hope. Does it give you hope for improved skill in the year 2 and year 3 implementation? What of the poor Kindergarten and 1st grade materials? They are unchallenging and frankly, ridiculous. What's happened here? And what happened to the District Criteria--is 2 Standard Deviations here to stay? This unattainable ridiculous benchmark. Absolutely ridiculous. No word or mention of this at all. In the minutes from the last meeting, it is discussed that hey will still discuss winter MAP and the conversation with the Interventionists. Yet, it isn't on the agenda. So WINTER MAP is here to stay? and to what end? What will you possibly do with the data results? NO one can skip content and yet you are expected to perform and even if you perform on the MAP, they won't accelerate. So what is it? Which is it? I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

The previous comment is right on. Maybe we should ask the superintendent or the board of education, specifically the board president, questions about math acceleration and the curriculum since both of these individuals are now into having "conversations." I read an article in the Doings about the district and saw a quote with this new lingo and about fell off my chair. How about "conversations" on the outdated curriculum, limited opportunities for advancement, and the ridiculous 2 SD requirement for math, etc etc? When and where are these "conversations" going to take place? How about other subjects like foreign language and full day kindergarten? How about more "conversations" on these subjects?
Now there is no time to talk about such things because most of it is being consumed with the ridiculous HMS referendum. Great leadership in such a "high performing" district!

Anonymous said...

11:30, "conversations about advanced math, etc... occurred last Spring when our BOE gave very clear, repeated directives to the administration about what they expected. The administration has either chosen to completely ignore the BOE directive or they are stalling because they disagree with it (as was clearly stated by Kurt Schneider to the BOE at one of the meetings) or they are not competent enough to execute it. What is so ironic is that 4 years ago we had a good plan for math in place, one that met the needs of the majority of students. We could have simply improved upon that by increasing the rigor of our grade level materials and come up with better identification guidelines. Instead, we have completely destroyed math delivery in this district. Good luck parents with younger advanced kids. I'm happy I'm almost done here. Just wait until your children hit Hinsdale Central and the reality of really challenging math, science and history hit your smart kids.