Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Comment of the Day: Count Me Out!

This morning we received the following comment regarding the upcoming referendum and why the author will be voting no.  We wholeheartedly agree with this perspective but would love to hear any counter arguments from our readers - or more reasons why D181's actions shouldn't fall prey to the "Ponzi scheme" mentality that has taken over in Illinois.

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...
To 343, the idea that we have different pots of money to draw from and one is not dependent on the other is illogical in this environment. Yes, in any organization, including a school district, the capital expenditures and the operational expenditures are treated differently. It makes sense to borrow for one, and not the other. The two are tracked differently. And, in most circumstances, you can plan for each differently. But, it is all one pot of money to divide up. I agree that in normal times, it might make sense to not consider future operational issues in determining whether to float bonds for a new school. What you are missing, however, is that these are extraordinary times in our state and our area. Everyone agrees that our state is out of money--it cannot pay our bills. Nobody can agree on should be done about it. At some time, however, a solution will be forced upon Illinois residents because we will be out of money, as with any other Ponzi scheme. You can already see it starting, as courts order payments to be made without legislative approval. In other states, courts have ordered payments to be made to poorer school districts because the courts have found it unconstitutional to let some kids receive a great education and others learn nothing. CPS is clamoring for more money, its teachers are going on strike. And here we sit, in the judgment of the whole world, sitting in luxury, on our piles of money. Do you really think that when the books of Illinois are balanced, they won't be balanced on our backs, either by radically higher tax rates, or by cutting monies payable to school districts such as ours. Do you think we can just sit out the coming reckoning. Oh, and by the way, despite the judgment of the whole world, not everybody here is sitting on piles of money. So, my fear is that when the reckoning comes, and our operational funds are cut, and we need to go to the community for more money, we see our 65 million dollar luxury HMS going up and we don't get the money. I would much rather wait until we figure out what is going to happen in Illinois and what will happen to us. On top of all of that, the process has been a joke. The entire process was to avoid paying 65 million dollars for a new school, and now we are anyway. I get why people want a new school, what I don't get is why here, in Illinois, after all the years of making decisions based on what people want, rather than what they can afford, we are going to do it anyway. Count me out.


Anonymous said...

Having had a son go through the mess that is D181 (he is now in high school), they need to fix many things before fixing the building situation.

Seeing the yard signs around town, I think there is a need for a slogan to push back against this nonsense. However, the obvious positioning "No to HMS" doesn't really reflect I believe a principled opposition to this referendum. I think an effective slogan must:
- Offer a positive message...not against all spending...not against HMS.
- Show decision is not a simple binary yes/no, but that one can vote "maybe"... with a plan that shows more thought behind it (I suspect my son did more homework in 1 week than the board did with this proposal!)
- Show the community support behind a well-managed D181 and HMS (not what is going on now).
- As short as possible given the message that needs to go out.

I humbly offer as a starting point "Let's do HMS right"/"Vote NO this time"...(and welcome any improvements to it)

Anonymous said...

Great posts today. I agree that it is impossible to separate the curriculum from the structure. Think of dividing the body from the mind. It is impossible. Without a functioning cerebellum in the brain, the automatic functions of your body cannot work. If your brain does not perceive threats to the body's existence, the body will not live very long. For example, if you put yourself in an environment without oxygen, your body will die. Another example is why brain damaged people who cannot feel pain or perceive dangerous situations frequently die in tragic accidents. For those of you who love analogies, Brains:Bodies what Money:Schools. Without money, the school and its entire being - both curricular and its physical structure, cannot function.

The brain of District 181 is not working. No matter how hard they try to spin the truth and lie their way around it, the majority of parents and residents see this. There is one umbrella covering this district and its 9 schools, but let's face it - it is not strong enough to protect our children and our teachers from the financial storm Illinois is facing.


jay_wick said...

I heartily agree that it makes no sense to put out a "No to HMS" sign. I have attended many BOE meetings over the years where I have been critical of the sloppy efforts to try to polish that turd.

It eventually needs to be replaced,but the replacement needs to happen in a way that does not imperil the rest of the district.

The fact is that previous efforts to do away with the all too "Seventies Show" sliding walls and upgrade the HVAC systems were also allegedly overseen by teams of highly skilled architects, for that matter so was the 1976 design itself, so skepticism is well warranted.

Further, efforts to transparently communicate the current debt position of the district in comparison to neighboring districts have been sorely lacking. It has long been said by those in the know, like the editors of Consumer's Reports, that folks that go shopping for a new car based only on the monthly payments are likely to get fleeced. I fear that a similar group of wolves have been successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of the majority of the BOE -- despite historically low interest rates and the District's solid bond rating, driving the district deep into debt is always unhealthy; with so much uncertainty brewing in the finances of the State the line that will put the district in the unpleasant position of having a shiny new building but insufficient funds to fully staff it has not been drawn. That very situation has played out in nearby Lincoln-Way North: Lincoln-Way North High School to close The parallels are erie -- In a district that once thrived on new growth, the school board voted 5-2 to close the school. The move, officials said, was necessary to save $5.2 million annually, reverse the district's deficit spending...[board members supporting the closing of an older school] urged her fellow board members to make a logical, financial decision, not one based on emotional ties, personal agendas or what ifs.

Before the board discussed the proposal, some took final shots at the board, accusing them of "negligence at the highest level" ...Before voting on which of the four high schools to close, the board voted 6 to 1 to keep its boundaries based on its feeder schools. Member Chris Kosel said they would revisit the boundary issue annually and if there are any changes in state funding or other issues, and realign them if necessary in the future.

I take no pleasure in being proven correct in my opposition to costly upgrades to the HVAC at HMS nor in the predictable disaster of eliminating services for high performing services in a misguided and ultimately fatally flawed effort "to trying to raise the floor to the ceiling", I only hope that enough people see this proposal as far too rushed to green-light an expenditure that could ultimate be the undoing of the district...

Anonymous said...

Just curious how many anti-referendum folks have students who would actually attend HMS or have attended HMS? How many of the people who think this project is rushed have actually taken the time to tour the school and assess the needs (beyond the Commons or the Gym, the actual learning environment)? Full disclosure would be appreciated. Have the BOE members who are opposed to the referendum actually walked the halls of the school when it's in session? HMS might just be one school, but it's our largest and most neglected. I suspect that those who feel comfortable waiting are probably not the ones directly affected by the outcome or truly aware of the needs.

D181 Parent said...

I have 2 children who currently attend HMS and I know exactly what the situation is. I am voting NO. And I resent people calling me an ANTI-referendum parent. I would vote yes for the right project. But this one is flawed and nothing will convince me to vote yes on this particular question.

A Parent Who is Fed Up said...

3:33 -- You "suspect those who feel comfortable waiting are probably not the ones directly affected by the outcome or truly aware of the needs?" How dare you suggest this? What is your basis? I for one have not only had kids attend HMS in the last four years, but have two more coming down the pike who will. I have had a child ---cked over by the Learning for All Plan taught within the sanitized mold free walls and kids who graduated D181 and went on to thrive at HCHS all while learning in an unknown to me mold infested environment. Guess what? Putting up a shiny new school will not help my soon to be HMS'er thrive unless the curriculum is fixed. A new auditorium won't help my child. An elevated running track won't help my child. Collaboration spaces (another new fangled way to talk about open classroom approach) won't help my child. Sorry, but you sure don't know my child. So don't you dare talk to me --or more importantly MY child --about not being directly affected by what goes on in that building.

Anonymous said...

3:33 - one of my children has been at HMS for 2 years and the other, one year. Would I like a new HMS? Yes. Am I willing to pay $65million plus for it in the same location? No. How unfair of 3:33 to attempt to divide the community by accusing non-HMS parents of being so petty. Your theory does not pan out and is very offensive.

Anonymous said...

I have a Yes on HMS sign on my lawn, but I am having second thoughts. If this is how the YES on HMS supporters view everyone who doesn't agree with their views, I will take the sign off my front lawn. I will not support a new school if it comes with the risk of alienating my friends who live in other parts of the district.

Since my kids are still very young, I was not aware of other more pressing issues in the district. Lately, I have become more aware. Building a shiny new school for my children is not as important to me as respecting the opinions of others and making an informed decision that, although may not please everyone, is in the best interest of our children and community.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Regarding the upcoming $65 million ($93 million with interest) D181 HMS Referendum, here is a letter I just sent to the Superintendent and Board of Education:

Dear Dr. White and BOE:

I am glad that you will be holding a Town Hall meeting on the HMS referendum on Thursday night. Since not all parents can attend due to evening commitments with their children, I would request that a Podcast be recorded and posted Friday morning. I would like to express that I am somewhat disappointed that only one board member will be on the panel, and hope that the rest of you will be in the audience. I think as public officials it is important for you to attend this event and listen to the question and comments of your constituents.

In addition, I have questions which I or someone else may ask, and in an effort to provide you an opportunity to prepare answers, I am sending them to you in this email. I hope that you ask the district's attorney for legal answers prior to the Town Hall meeting, so that substantive answers, rather than deflection or spin, can be given during the meeting. My questions are as follows:

On the various blog and Facebook pages that have been fielding comments about the referendum, there has been a perception that "fear mongering" is taking place when parents have commented that they have heard suggestions that if the referendum fails, a lottery or redistricting may be required that might cause some current CHMS students to attend HMS and some HMS students to attend CHMS.

Question 1: Please be prepared to address whether the BOE could legally hold such a lottery. It is one thing to suggest it, but quite another to actually attempt it. Please ask Dan Boyle, your attorney, if the BOE has the legal authority to take such action and if so what would the process entail.

Question 2: Please ask Dan Boyle to provide an answer to your panel that they can provide if asked about what is the legal process to redistrict a middle school, how long would it take and would he anticipate any legal challenges that could slow down a redistricting attempt.

Question 3: With regard to the idea of a lottery. I am aware that at least some of the board members have heard talk of a "lottery" being held if the referendum fails, but I am not aware of the full board having discussed this as a possibility. I hope you will be prepared to state this on the record during the Town Hall Meeting. I am sure that you must all realize what a ridiculous idea this would be to pursue, since the logistical nightmares that would ensue, such as Zig Zagging Bus Routes to pick up students scattered between the CHMS and HMS boundaries to be delivered to the opposite school, would not only be chaotic, but would increase expenditures for more bus routes and more gridlock at both schools for parents who drive their students and don't want them taking the buses. Plus, a lottery could potentially split up families, not to mention students all living on the same block. If a lottery is really an option that any of you would actually consider should the referendum fail, you should be prepared to say so during the town hall meeting. If it is not, you should state that clearly and end the fear mongering.

Question 4: Some of the online sites on which parents are commenting have stated as fact that the Portables at HMS cost $500,000/year. Please be prepared to state exactly how much it costs per year to lease them.

I hope to receive a response from any one of you to my requests.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer
D181 Resident/Taxpayer/Former D181 Parent/Former D181 BOE Member

Anonymous said...

I am a real estate entrepreneur and I have glossed over the $500,000 per year for portables ( how big are they like 1000 Square Feet?) until just now. No bathrooms! Some of the nicest mansions in Hinsdale rent for $10,000 per month, or $120,000 per year. These are 5000 to 6000 SF and sit on a half acre lot or more.

If D181 is really paying $500,000 per year for portables, please confirm. I sure some of us enterprising folks can figure out a way to deliver portables to HMS for half that amount. I will even throw in the permit for free!

If this amount is true, it proves that our district admin has no concept of competitive bidding or what the real world is like.

Anonymous said...

3:33 - my son graduated last year, lost school days due to the problems. But those lost days were less of a loss than the damage the curriculum and learning for all mindset created. So I am very aware of the physical plant issues HMS has. My sense is that the people questioning the referendum are probably better informed than the lemmings following HMS=YES.

Let's do HMS right
Vote NO this time

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much rent would be at the brand new, empty brick commercial building across the street from Dips and Dogs. It is adjacent to HMS. I bet it would be cheaper to rent space there than rent portables. Practically the entire building is vacant, and, it has parking and a drop off lane.

Jon Clopton said...

I am for a new HMS middle school. The old facility is clearly outdated and a nightmare. However, this extravagance of this administration is compelling me to vote no. The bottom line everything over 35M is crazy. I'll vote yes to anything up to $40, maybe even $45M but this crazy spending needs to be curtailed.

181 had a crazy piece on explaining how they arrived at $65M comparing to CHMS, but the facts were at best misleading and really fraudulent. They must have been taught Common Core Math.

Their position was CHMS was cost $17.2M, but the real construction cost was 12.8M (as approved), with the overage being 4-5M for legal costs between the district and the park district (pretty stupid) but clearly not going to happen here. They used an expensive inflation factor AND compared 1998 (when bond was approved) versus 2017 (when HMS would be completed) which still makes is $26M using 12.8M actual cost. With space for 50% more student capacity (at high levels) it would only be $39M (clearly not close 65), and frankly should be less than 50% increase (as an example: a 5th BR to a 4 house doesn't add 25% more space total, but probably 10% or less). Using CPI as inflation the cost would be less than $30M using the same criteria and adding 50%.

In this article, 181 points to a construction cost of around $400 per square foot (which is what the cost is). How crazy is that? Well taking a look at comparable recently completed middle schools the average is around $200/sq. ft. and here are a few sources for that information:

1. Illinois web site shows $195 sq.ft as standard (which again is $33M at full size, which isn’t needed).
2. Attached (SPM construction) is all middle schools in 2012, with Middle school for 650 students costing 22M (again multiply by 50%) and you're at $33M.
3. Another Virginia web site shows average square ft cost as $200/sq ft. AND a average cost of $30ish Million for 2 middle schools completed in 2015 (under $30M for the school approximately the same size). Virginia is pretty expensive, by the way.
4. Chicago's most recent was $34M for 900 students.
Dr. Jorge Prieto Math & Science Academy 2009 $36,852,201 105,576 900 $40,947 14 months

More recent conversation has turned to Highland Parks $85M Middle School. First, that includes land acquisition cost. Second, it seats 2000 students (at 90% capacity) so at least should be 2x our cost, and thus Hinsdale should cost $42.5, after backing out land, more towards $40M. In addition, this Middle school is HIGHLY contested because of crazy spending too. I’m sorry, just because someone overspends doesn’t mean we should.

Thus the range for comparable recent bills is $29M (using Virginia and CPI) to $40M (using Highland park’s high cost, and yet to be approved). We can clearly get a top quality new school for $35M.

Why is our design so much more? Is it this administration who has stars in their eyes, and a board who seems willing to go along with this unnecessary extravagance? A track, really? An auditioriom because apparently 181 and 86 can’t talk to each (talk about too much government).

It could be the process? 181 only had three proposals, whereas typically 10-13 firms submit proposals. I was told by one friend, whose firms builds schools in expensive districts that the requirements to submit an initial proposal (before being selected as a finalist) would have cost over $100k, and contained unnecessary provisions. They also weren’t allowed time to discuss with the administration or community to get an idea of what was wanted/required (thus they were shooting at the dark and it was going to cost a lot of money) so they made the good business decision to not submit a proposal. Eliminating options makes projects more expensive.

Anonymous said...

I nominate Jon Clopton to be on the facilities committee! How is it that this person, whom I do not know, was able to provide more solid information to us in a few words than an entire year of overpriced surveys and meetings? Heck, he should run for the board. We need more logical, sensible people on the board. I hope he shows up at the Town Hall meeting or at least, sends his comments to the village, board, and The Hinsdalean.

Anonymous said...

Go Jon! Brings up an interesting point. Hubble middle school keeps coming up. Did that' price include a land aquisition?

Anonymous said...

What about the 2.7 acres available on York Rd? Is that enough land for a middle school? I think McCurry is listing it. Maybe kids from Monroe and The Lane could go to a middle school in that area. This would lighten load on CHMS and HMS.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I just did a little research on Hubble Middle school. As you know, this is the main comp that the facilities committee, the architect and the Hinsdalean have been using to justify the $65 million price tag.

The architect stated at the BOE meeting, and again in last week's Hinsdalean, that Hubble cost $58 million to build in 2008 and that equals $75 in 2017 dollars, when the bulk of HMS construction takes place.

Like Jon said, the math used to justify this whole project is common core math. Here is why:

1. Hubble cost $50 million to build not $58 million. A simple google search shows that $8 mil was a land purchase. We are not purchasing land. Therefore, $50 million is our comp number.

2. Hubble middle school is 190,00 square feet. The new HMS is 160,000 square feet - a 30,000 square foot difference. 30,000 square feet at $400/ft (the cost in the current plan per square foot) is $12 million. Therefore, if we are comparing apples to apples, our Hubble comp is actually 38 Million (which ironically aligns to Jon's figures outlined above).

3. $38 million in 2008 does not equal $75 million or even $65 million today. Not even close. Jon is right - it's common core math. I'm opting out of both.

Anonymous said...

So I did a little hunting on board docs to see what I could find out about the real lease cost of the portables. It is absolutely not true that the 8 portable classrooms cost $500,000/year and if the Vote Yes for HMS page keeps this misinformation on their Facebook page -- even if submitted as a comment by a community member -- then shame on them! This referendum should stand or fall on FACTS not fiction!!!

Here's the link to the memo prepared by Ken Surma on what the mobile units would cost:$file/BOE%20Report_Mobile%20Classrooms_5_18_15.pdf
You will note that there were some construction costs that will bring the TOTAL cost of the mobile units for a THREE YEAR period to $376,545 HOWEVER, the LEASING cost PER YEAR for the actual mobile units is $26,400. Not monthly! This is the total LEASE cost PER YEAR!

Anonymous said...

i have two children at the middle school and they tell me that some of the mobiles are not used for teaching, but for office space. The admin is pulling out all of the stops regarding this to get a yes vote, but D181 residents will not let them pull wool over our eyes. Vote Yes to Fix the Mess! Vote No for HMS

Yvonne Mayer said...

Here's an answer I received this morning from the Superintendent: "Mrs. Mayer,

These are good questions and I will attempt to get answers to these so that they can be addressed at the event this evening. I can share that we will be creating a podcast of the event and it will be posted tomorrow morning just like we do for committee meetings. In fact, we have posted this as a Facilities Committee meeting. I can also share that I have not had conversations with any Board members regarding a middle school attendance lottery or redistricting within D181. I agree with your statement that it is one thing to propose an idea but the details of making it work are another issue. There would need to be a lot of work done prior to knowing if this is a viable option. I will certainly explore it if the Board feels it is something that is worth pursuing. However, at this time, neither the Board nor the administrative team has had discussions about this idea.

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

12:17: This is incorrect. All 8 portable classrooms are exactly that: classrooms. None of them are being used exclusively as an office. The four new portables each have a language arts teacher, while the older portables have 2 math teachers, a social studies teacher and one teacher who has both social studies and Spanish. All 8 teachers have 6 periods of classes in their rooms everyday. For the other 2 periods, they make lesson plans, make copies, grade student work, collaborate with the other 6th grade teachers, and so forth. I'm not sure what your children's definition of "office" is, but all 8 rooms in the portables are used for teaching.

Mrs. Mayer, thank you for response. I'm a little surprised that Dr. White and the board hasn't discussed the possibility of a lottery, even if it's a "We don't believe that's best for the district at this time" kind of thing.

I'm glad to see that many who post here have the critical thinking skills to know that the referendum, and HMS issues in general, aren't just a black & white issue. I've been in HMS many times, I know that it has many issues. It needs work. However, I also feel that the process has been rushed, and had little input from all shareholders. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert in all things so I don't know why CHMS cost $17 million, and other middle schools cost far less than HMS' $65 million. I know that HMS houses the specialized program and district data while CHMS does not, but neither should cost that much more. I also don't know what bussing would be like if the school moved to another location. What I do know for sure is either way, people get screwed. If we build a new school, we'd have to pay the $65 million+ on the bonds, without real guarantees it'll be a good, workable building. If we don't build a new building, the issues at HMS remain.

I suggest as many of us go to the open house tonight, and the school tours on Sunday, March 13th from 1:00 so we all have as much information as we can get. And then, go out to vote! I won't tell anyone how to vote (except by their conscience), all I know is I'll be voting NO.

Anonymous said...

This is simply not accurate. There are no offices in the mobile units. I just toured it last week. All classrooms.