Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Comments of the Day: $65 Million Price Tag for a New HMS is Common Core Math at its Worst! We Urge Our Readers to Opt Out!

Wednesday night, we received two comments that merit publication as Comments of the Day.  Both are copied below and directly question the accuracy of the cost comparison information that has been publicly released by the Facilities Committee, D181 Administration, HMS Project Architect and Pro-referendum group.  All of these sources have made a big deal about comparing (or publishing the district's comparisons of) the $65 million proposal for a new HMS to Hubble Middle School or to what CHMS would cost to build today.  Read the two comments below and then ask yourselves why you should trust any of the cost representations that D181 staff/committees/architect/pro-referendum groups are spinning as justification for the ridiculously high cost proposed to build a new HMS.

As always, SOUND OFF!

Comments of the Day:
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 The old facility is clearly outdated and a nightmare.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...
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...

The Hinsdalean again today is using Hubble as a $58 mil comp without noting that $8 was a land purchase

Anonymous said...

2 excellent letters to the editor in today's Hinsdalean. One made the point that if the 500 seat auditorium is filled there wouldn't be enough parking in town to accommodate the attendees. Downtown is not the right place for a community auditorium.

Anonymous said...

In today's Hinsdalean they compared cost of schools. When discussing CHMS they removed the cost of the land purchase. When discussing Hubble they did not remove the cost of the land purchase or even mention it. Shoddy reporting!

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone talking about lotteries when the most obvious option is to revert back to the way the district boundaries were when CHMS was built? The Lane Elementary went to CHMS. Since HMS is overcrowded, and no lower priced (Under $40 million) options are being presented, this group needs to come up with a plan if the referendum fails. No one can make an informed decision without knowing what the consequences will be if a new HMS is not built.

Keeping in line with the strong-arm tactics that this facilities committee has engaged in all year, I am not expecting any logical or prudent recommendations to suddenly appear. It will take many parents speaking up at the town hall meeting and writing letters to the village. Letters to the BOE and administration are ignored. It appears that they and the administration are stuck on a new $65 million dollar school or nothing, so I have a feeling that they will continue to push the fear mongering in an attempt to intimidate us into succumbing to their poorly conceived plan. What else is new in this district? This sounds exactly like how they pushed The Learning for All Plan, eliminated gifted, and forced half baked math pilots on us. This group of leaders doesn't exactly understand the concept of presenting real evidence and requiring board members and the community to make decisions based on it. This must stop. Kudos to those fact finders who are posting facts on this blog.

What about asking current and upcoming HMS parents if they would like to voluntarily send their children to CHMS. Offer this option to Lane School parents first. Many there will forgo CHMS and stick with HMS, which means that CHMS won't suddenly be swamped. If not enough Lane students voluntarily transfer, then consider opening up enrollment to other schools, or, require that Lane students go to CHMS.

This solution isn't perfect, but unless anyone else can come up with a plan until a better plan for less than $40 million appears, we are wasting valuable administrator and board member time spinning their wheels at meeting after meeting. They have actual work to do concerning education. Stop delaying it by allowing them to waste so much time on this overpriced $65 million behemoth.

Anonymous said...

So if the HMS building is safe and the issue is overcrowding, then send some kids to CHMS (not sure exactly how, but it can be figured out). If the issue is "it's an ugly building, not the best design, etc.", then people need to grow up and get over it. If they could only see where I went to elementary and middle school (and I ended up with a graduate degree from one of the top universities in the country), they would shut up.

What is most important is the curriculum and talented, experienced teachers, not a pretty new building that puts us our district at financial risk.

Anonymous said...

According to the facility committee CHMS is at 100 capacity and it backs up to park land so there is no room for portables. Why would you move kids out of the portables at HMS and go to an over 100 percent capacity situation at CHMS with no portables?

Anonymous said...

8:34, in addition to auditorium attendees not having a place to park, it will kill the downtown restaurants we have worked so hard to attract. Many plays, concerts, etc. run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Exactly when folks want to eat out or grab a drink. Another sign this project has not been completely thought out.

HMS Parent said...

The concerns about the auditorium are valid and I'm surprised they weren't raised for discussion by the Administration or Facilities Committee. I would imagine this may be a way to back door the community into supporting a deck parking lot in Hinsdale, but that is not a structure that Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge or Willowbrook residents should have to fund. This is just another example of how more discussion on the HMS project is needed before taxpayers are asked to open up their wallets to the tune of $65 or MORE if a parking deck is suddenly the "solution" to the auditorium parking issue. Time for the BOE to stop this craziness. How many issues need to be flagged before they realize this whole referendum question was rushed?

Anonymous said...

If the referendum passes, I hope the district & the village of Hinsdale can come to a profit sharing agreement to build a parking structure. Maybe the village can pay the cost of a multi-story parking structure (above or below grade). One floor could be HMS staff & visitor parking only between 7:00 am - 4:00 pm or something. Outside those hours would be open for retail parking. Have the village use the structure for free until the building cost is paid, and then pay the district a lease afterwards. This way, there'd be enough parking for the HMS staff & visitors, the village gets more parking and more people in the shops and restaurants, plus an eventual, additional revenue stream for the district. I've seen a couple of parking structures in La Grange, Downers and other communities around here with reasonably aesthetic parking structures. I'd be open to this, if properly thought out and implemented.

Anonymous said...

We wouldn't be talking about parking issues if the new HMS was built at 55th and county line road.

Anonymous said...

1:22, yes, yes. We know that. If the referendum fails, and the district decides to start from scratch, I'd be all in favor of looking at 55th & County Line. But the referendum hasn't failed yet. We should look at ALL possibilities, not just if it fails.

Anonymous said...

Why is there still is no estimate of appraisal on the value of HMS property? HMS in Downtown Hinsdale is a detriment to the vitality and tax revenue of Hinsdale. If open space is that important, let the park district give us one of their parks to build a middle school and give the park district HMS land to turn into a park. I can't believe Pro Yes HMS supporters are making claims like "other locations were too expensive" when they don't even have any numbers to prove what the cost of any location is. Or how much space is neede. If Hinsdale were able to generate more business taxes by using that property for something else, then residents wouldn't be always forced to fund 181 through their own property taxes. Contrary to the opinions of some, I didn't look at the appearance of HMS before I decided to move here. As others have repeatedly said, we are more concerned with the quality of education than the location, additional features, or looks of a middle school. This is not a country club - it's a school.

HMS needs to do what the rest of us do when we want more house that we can afford in a prime location - move to a cheaper area. When we left the city, it was to buy a more family friendly house and avoid paying for private schools. For this, we traded the convenience of living close to work. We all have to compromise, so our public schools can, too. Student's educations do not improve by virtue of being located on prime downtown realty. Or being attractive. My home's value does not go up because the middle school is close to a Starbucks. Kids have to go to school regardless of where it is. Schools don't generate income or taxes for the comunity. The school can be anywhere. Parents drop off their kids all the time. Who seriously wants their 11 - 13 year old kids to walk among shoppers and commuters in a downtown location unsupervised anyway? Walking in a residential area is one thing, but walking near the tracks, parking lots and businesses is something riskier. If buses are needed, riders can pay for bus service. As of now, the HMS school buses are practically empty, and we are all oaying for them anyway.
If the district could make $5 million by selling their property, and buy 2 smaller or 1 larger location anywhere else, that is fine with me. The current HMS location is far too problematic and congested now. Imagine how terrible it will be during construction. Why not buy a flat property that won't be subject to so many zoning restrictions and businesses? Or in an area where 3 stories can easily be built?
The community is NOT tied to that location. Survey results that admin clings to were faulty because they never offered us any other locations. What is the minimum square footage required for 1 large or 2 smaller middle schools? What about acreage near the High School? The narrow minded approach the facilities committee engaged in to provide us with 1 overpriced option has been a huge disappointment.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Part 1: Here are more detailed answers that Dr. White emailed me earlier this afternoon addressing the questions I emailed him and the BOE yesterday regarding the notion that a Lottery might be held if the referendum fails and the annual cost of the portable classrooms that are onsite at HMS. I think it is pretty clear from the Lawyer's answers that the involuntary lottery option is not viable. I think its time for the Vote Yes for HMS committee to stop suggesting that this is an option that might occur if the referendum fails.

Answers from Dr. White:

Mrs. Mayer,

I provided some details to each of your questions below.


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.

Response: As stated in a previous email, the concept of holding a middle school attendance lottery has not been discussed at a Board or Board committee meeting. Further, this is not something that the administrative team has discussed or considered. I spoke with Dan Boyle and he shared that this is much more complicated than one might think. He shared that the School Code requires the Board to set one or more boundaries in the district (e.g., middle school boundaries and/or elementary school boundaries). Further, the School Code grants the authority for the Board to assign students to the schools in the district. He shared that one could argue that the Board should establish the boundaries first and then assign students based on those boundaries. Regardless, he shared that both of these Board responsibilities should be considered with specific issues in mind - specifically discrimination.

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.

Response: According to Dan Boyle, the School Code does not provide guidance on the topic of redistricting within the District. He also shared that there is no regulatory or ISBE approval needed should the Board do this. This is typically a process where the Board charges the administration with establishing a plan and then there are community events where it is explained why this would need to occur and community input is solicited. The only legal cases he has seen regarding this process have to do with potential discriminatory and segregatory impact. As you shared, this is a complicated process that would need a great deal of consideration to make sure that it is warranted and supported by the Board and community. As one might imagine, there could be legal challenges that could delay or even stop any process such as this.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Part 2: Answers from Dr. White to my questions about the "lottery" and HMS portable classrooms:

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.

Response: Neither the Board nor the administrative team have had discussions about the idea of a lottery to determine middle school enrollment/attendance. I agree with your statements about the details should the Board discuss this and express a desire for me to pursue the logistics of this concept. I agree that transportation would be complicated at the very least but there are many other logistics and questions I would have prior to stepping into a study of this concept. As of now, this is not an idea that has been discussed and I have not done any research other than what I have shared in this email.

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.

Response: I am not sure where the $500,000/year cost is from. We lease the two module units (4 classrooms in each module) from ModSpace. The cost for the older module that have been in place for several years is $2,100 per month or a total annual lease of $25,200. The cost for the newer module for a monthly cost of $2,185 per month or a total annual lease of $26,220. The total annual cost for both modules (8 classrooms) is $51,420.

Anonymous said...

is there a live podcastt of tonight s meeting? Nothing on the live stram

Anonymous said...

The director of communication sent out her referendum weekly blast last night. This week it is called "a case for an auditorium. " At the PTO meeting for my school some people from the administration came to speak. They said they could only present facts on the referendum but they couldn't legally advocate a position. So I'm confused. Does anyone else think this latest communication is advocating for an auditorium and not just a presentation of facts?

Anonymous said...

6:44, I agree, they should have added a "case against an auditorium" that included the cost, security issues of possibly renting it out, and the parking implications for the businesses in town. However, with the communications from the district, the board & committee meeting podcasts, and this blog, I've heard many of the arguments for both sides ad nauseam. Unfortunately, no one in the district listens to opposing arguments.

8:08, I've heard that the podcast would be up this morning. I don't know why they didn't also live stream it. It would have been great for people who wanted to submit questions, but were unable to attend.

Anonymous said...

The administrators know people have busy schedules. It was easier for them if they could limit the questions to the people who could physically attend.

The Town Hall was scheduled at that same time as Elm School's Fine Arts night.

The administrators tied up the parents from Elm School. This made it less likely Elm's bullying problems would come up during the Town Hall.

Bravo, White. Very creative use of time.

CHMS Parent said...

8:50: CHMS also had a huge event last night that overlapped with the Town Hall Meeting -- According to their website, last night they hosted Feeding Children Worldwide in 2 shifts: shift #1-6-7 PM, shift #2-7:30-8:30 PM in the cafeteria. How convenient to create a scheduling conflict that would obviously keep potential critics or NO voters from Clarendon Hills away from the town hall.

Yvonne Mayer said...

I just posted the following comment on my Facebook page and the Vote Yes for HMS Facebook page. I will submit more details of the Town Hall Meeting later, but was particularly outraged about:

"I attended the Town Hall Meeting last night. Very disappointing turnout. Probably only 12 non-D181 staff in attendance and several of those parents were members of the Facilities Committee. For me, the key piece of information I learned last night was that the proposed $5 million auditorium is too small to hold the band concerts. Mr. Pena said that they are currently held in the gym and 1000 people attend. I asked a question about whether this meant that the concerts would have to continue to be held in the new gym and he said yes. After the meeting a teacher told me that in the 500 person auditorium would be too small to have students sit in attendance waiting for their turn to perform (as you know usually 3 bands perform and the gym is set up for all three bands, so that students waiting to perform can listen to the other bands). However, she said the new band room could be used for the students who are not performing to wait until their band was called to the stage. For me, that is not a solution. First, if Mr. Pena is correct, 1000 people attend, so there would not be room for all of them, unless parents leave after their child's band perform, opening up seats for other parents. In my opinion, that would be chaotic and frankly rude to have so much parent movement between bands performing. Second, the whole point of having band students listen to the other bands is to keep motivating them to remain in band. Sixth grade students, for example, can hear how the 7th/8th grade Symphonic and Concert bands perform much more difficult and dynamic songs and may remain motivated to continue. Will we now eliminate this educational opportunity for the students, by having them wait in a holding pen? Even Hinsdale Central realizes the importance of including the students in the audience and they have students sit in the audience waiting their turn to perform during the parent concert. So while there may be other uses for the proposed 500 person auditorium, band concerts will not be one of them (if you believe the principal) or will be but students will be excluded from the audience (if you believe the teacher). Either way, for me this WANT is too costly to build if either of these things are true."

Anonymous said...

There is a webinar next week that would allow you to do just that, ask questions online. one of the communications this week said Feb 29 at noon. I personally feel that they have provided plenty of opportunities for people to attend if you really want to. I also think that they have taken other viewpoints into account by adding a 3rd floor and removing all instructional spaces from the basement to potentially reduce cost. I attended the community forums last year held by patron insight and there were about 10 of us that showed up to the session I attended. People need to get involved at the front end process when input is being requested especially when it impacts our taxes. It seems like no one is listening now and looking at other sites but I have looked at the referendum page and there seems to have been other considerations. I personally don't think Robbins park as suggested by someone else in a prior comment would be acceptable to many with the community house and Madison school already taking up space. That area would be very congested and that park is utilized heavily by the community house, hinsdale park district for their sports activities and camps, Hinsdale Little League and AYSO. They have a shortage of parking for the community house already.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is unreasonable to continue to use the gym for band concerts. There seem to be many other uses for the auditorium that outweigh one performance. Graduation would probably still occur in the gym as well. I think it's not reasonable to expect one space to address all school needs even in a new school unless the community is agreeable to building a 1500 seat auditorium to address the 1-2 events. I think that is a waste of money and the 500 seat is a good compromise for other musical events and presentations etc.

Anonymous said...

I was talking to a friend yesterday who lives in Lockport. I guess they're thinking about moving partially due to budget cuts and possible raises in property taxes (like $1,000). While she wasn't considering Hinsdale, she did bring up an interesting point. I guess her school district got rid of many of the encore and extracurriculars. So no art, no band, no sports, etc. Since the district is K-8, these students may not have access to these extracurriculars until high school. While academics are important, I just wonder how this affects their high school life and chances of getting into college. I don't have college age or near college-age students, but I know when I applied to college (which wasn't all too long ago), they looked at more than academics. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to send their kids to private lessons or something.

I'm not saying we should build a professional football stadium with the school or something like that. I think we really do need to focus on academics & fixing the curriculum first and foremost, but not at the expense of some of our extracurriculars.

Yvonne Mayer said...

More HMS referendum Misinformation Corrected: The "timeline" that appears in the D181 Newsletter Updates on the Referendum includes a reference to completion of the parking lot/deck as one of the last things that will happen. At the Town Hall Meeting last night I asked for clarification on whether a "deck" is part of the referendum. It is NOT. The $65,000,000 referendum will NOT pay for a deck, which the 12 people who attended the meeting were told will cost an additional $4 million. Who will pay for it? D181 taxpayers? Hinsdale Residents (only)? The Village of Hinsdale? And is the $4 million estimate even accurate, since it was floated by the same architecture firm that originally said the new HMS would cost $46 million, and then when it was costed out by Pepper Construction, the price sky-rocketed to $73 million before the BOE lowered their budget to $65 million. I'll say it till I'm blue in the face -- Voters need to be given FACTS, not FICTION, so we can all make an informed and responsible decision on March 15 whether or not to support the $65 million referendum.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, school is more important than softball fields and summer camp. The huge softball files across the street from Mills St. ( next to Adventist Academy) are central and perfect. Kids could still use the fields and open area of the school were built there. Plus, this would leave open space and fields available at the current HMS location. Weekend use there is much better than daily school use because the environment is congested with commuters and cars.

Also, the soccer fields adjacent to 47th and the 294 are perfectly located. People don't go to the meetings anymore because we are tired of wasting our time listening to excuses and spin.

Anonymous said...

Jon, If you think you are going to get any kind of a decent building today for $40 million then you need to go back in a time machine to about 2005. Also, please remember, there is a greater pupil population at HMS and, therefore, will warrant a larger building. I give up attempting to use rational explanations to convince people that a new HMS is absolutely necessary. I don't know what has happened to what use to be an intelligent, education-centered community. Thank goodness when we ran all the other referendums for all the additions, renovations and new schools in the past the community demonstrated its commitment to its students' education and supported those changes. All of you whose children have benefited from those previous passed referendums need to think what kind of buildings your students would be going to school in now if those referendums HADN'T PASSED!

Feb. 25, 8:55 - So, you want people to opt into having their students go to CHMS? One BIG PROBLEM! CHMS is maxed out!!! It was built for 650 students and it is at a pupil population of that with NO ROOM FOR EXPANSION!

I can't read anymore of this stuff when people don't even take the time to know the facts about the situation.

Anonymous said...

8:50 and 9:18: Rather than conspiring to get as few people to attend and say "Well, I guess people aren't that concerned about this," I think that they're just too stupid for something that grandiose. I think they just can't read a calendar and see when the least amount of conflicts are, or even think about looking at a calendar. Maybe they just put a calendar on a dart board and decide the dates that way.

Anonymous said...

You people don't listen or read the information available and then make statements that are NOT TRUE! If you'd read or listen, you'd know that a parking structure, supported by the Village of Hinsdale, has been proposed. It would be two levels, one underground and one at ground level. This structure would provide 250 parking spaces. I can't believe there are blog posters that are more worried about the restaurant parking in Hinsdale than a proper educational facility for our students!!! I give up!

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to realize that the property at 55th and County Line IS NOT AVAILABLE!!!!!!! Can't you read or listen!!!
Sure hope your students pay better attention than you do!!!!

Anonymous said...

That parking structure has not been approved by the village. Also it's not included in the $65 mil. Alienating people and telling people off is not going to get you yes votes.

Anonymous said...

11:28, as was demonstrated yesterday, the "Best Practices" Hubble Middle School size adjusted for HMS comes out to $38 million if we built that school where HMS now stands, not $65 million. And that includes the auditorium. And many of us have argued that the school proposed is 20% to 33% too large.

You are incorrect, we did not blindly support all the referenda in the past. The Yes for HMS website also does not list the failed referenda. It took at least two tries for CHMS to get built. There was a group that wanted to build one giant middle school housing 1400 children in downtown Hinsdale. Later on, there was a group that wanted to tear down Madison because it was old and needed work. We did not just go along with every recommendation the past 25 years. Several very bad ideas were rejected along the way. Please understand that "experts" recommended the atrocity that is HMS back in the 1970s. Open classrooms, no windows, and no doors were all supposed to be the wave of the future. Meanwhile good old Monroe and Madison built before WW2 just keep on educating our children. So forgive us if we are sometimes skeptical, because this community has been burned in the past.

Separately, but along the same vein, it took multiple tries to get the Hinsdale Swimming pool built. It took 3 tries to the local sales taxes increased. We will accept higher taxes when we trust those making the decisions and we trust that all options have been thoroughly explored.

When this bad idea is rejected we will do what we have always done. Go back to the drawing board and explore options. I don't think I have read one post that thinks we should leave HMS the way it is. We want the situation fixed- correctly. We are not anti-education morons. We are discerning adults that care about our children and this community.

CHMS Parent said...

I think I know who is writing the "can't you read and listen" comments, since they sound like those written by a facilities committee member. Maybe I'm wrong, but either way, it is not good form to attack your fellow community members this way. Just because some of us are planning to vote no doesn't make us bad or evil or anti-education. There have been plenty of good reasons articulated on this blog and elsewhere about why a reasonable taxpayer might choose to vote no this time around. Others would say that there are plenty of good reasons to vote yes. No one is a bad person because of how they choose to vote. This type of divisive vitriol is really abhorrent and uncalled for in a community of educated adults. Not all smart people have to agree on every education issue.

Anonymous said...

To CHMS Parent: you clearly must not frequent this blog regularly; it's all about attacking the opposition. These days it's heated because of the HMS referendum. But you should have seen the wildly mean-spirited stuff that was posted last Spring with the BOE candidates. This is actually civil in comparison.

CHMS Parent said...

12:29: You are correct that I have recently been made aware of this blog and haven't read all of it yet. But what you call civil discourse on the referendum issue, I view as provoking further divides in our community. What I've read so far isn't about "all about attacking the opposition." It's about presenting more facts and opinions than the District is providing. I love that this blog exists because it gives everyone an opportunity to present additional information, if they have it, and to call out the administration's lack of transparency when appropriate.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Anyone who is interested in hearing a public comment I made during last night's Town Hall Meeting on the upcoming HMS referendum, a podcast of the meeting is now available at the D181 website:
My comment starts at 52:38.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. Majority of the comments of this blog are vitriolic in nature, attacking opposing views. 11:30 am just referred to the administration as "stupid". Is this how we deal with our peers at the work place? I just hope we have moved out by the time people decide what they want. Should we wait until the pension mess is fixed or until the curriculum is fixed which may take another 1-2 years and add more portables until this mess is fixed. all temporary solutions cost money and the cost of building seems to keep rising. This can was kicked down the road by several boards and superintendents. I was on the same page with you guys about the curriculum but people feel anonymity allows them to ridicule and bully the same people we say have bullied us and our kids. People have referred to dictators when referring to the district or board recently. I remember once a few posts about casting actors for various administrative personnel and some kind of dialogue which was completely unrelated to any issues at hand. If this is not off the wall what is? We keep complaining there is no information and when there is, this is the avenue we are choosing to have a discussion since it's more convenient and doesn't require us to enter our names. I'm not sure who is going to be working on the next referendum if this one fails since none of you sound like you would do it but you are expecting these same people to continue the work on this for more ridicule. - Voting yes now and voting No if more money is spent to fix the tin can with the sign that says HMS at Third and Garfield.

Anonymous said...

I just glanced through the meeting agenda for BOE Learning Committee Meeting scheduled for March 2. I realize the agenda and attachments are likely in a preliminary stage. One attachment included under the Learning for All Plan point and under the Math Curriculum point is the winter newsletter from Northwestern's CTD. Admittedly, I have not closely parsed through the article or done any further looking, and perhaps I do not understand the information conveyed (focus is somewhat on disadvantaged kids and urban schools), but I felt like I wanted to vomit after reading it (sick to my stomach because D181 had some of the infrastructure recommended in place before completely dismantling it with L4A and its earlier iteration. The newsletter highlights a book written by Chester E. Finn and Brandon Wright: Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students.

Here is an excerpt from the newletter:

"In their final chapter, Finn and Wright detail the “Moves America Should Make” – 10 policy recommendations they believe would improve education for
high-ability students and increase the percentage of disadvantaged students among them.
“The two [recommendations] I’m most bullish about,” says Finn, “are universal screening and some form of separate education.”
Universal Screening
Universal screening identifies kids who will benefit from acceleration, supplementation, or other kinds of academic opportunities beyond the regular
expectations of their grade level.

“There is persuasive domestic research about universal screening producing a more equitable balance of high-ability students,” Finn says. He suggests
targeting the top 5-10% of highest scorers on third grade reading and math tests in each school for special support and services.
Identifying students by school ensures the diversity that targeting the top performers in each state would not.
Separate Education
Once high-ability students are identified, systems need to be in place to support them. This is where separate education comes into play. Gifted schools,
accelerated programs within a school, and pullout programs are all effective strategies for moving these students forward.
Finn also recommends differentiation, though he is careful to note the difference between his recommendation and the differentiation typically practiced
by schools. “There’s a distinction between differentiation in a single, heterogeneous classroom with a single teacher and letting kids move forward at
their own speed,” he says.
“It’s absurd to charge each of our almost four million teachers with responsibility for educating a wide spectrum of achievement and ability in the same
room at the same time,” Finn says. “Unless they have a surprisingly narrow spectrum of achievement and ability in their classroom, it forces teachers to
teach to the middle. If they have any extra energy, they teach to the kids below the middle because that’s where all the policy pressure has been.”
Instead, Finn says, “The ideal is to let kids progress through the K-12 system as fast as each kid can successfully do so.”

I'm sure we will find out next week the admin's purpose in including the newsletter as an agenda item. In the meantime, I can't help but feel that the admin has really screwed the pooch even more than I had previously thought for my sixth grader. Pardon my language.

Anonymous said...

To Ms Mayer, thank you for trying to get everybody refocused on what is truly important. I do fear that we have a faction on the Pro side who are looking past what you stated and I think it was nice to hear it succinctly stated. Obviously on the counter side, we have some so anti-spending, that even if it were necessary it would be rejected. In essence, that group doesn't believe a thing the BOE (or any governmental body for that matter) says. Your logical dissection on the potential budget crisis in the state / district coupled with the call to reexamine the potential for renovation made it necessary for the board president to respond. Personally, listening to this point, counter point made me wonder what happened in this district - this how it is supposed to work. After listening to the podcast, the thing that resonated with me was the renovation. First, I have never seen a thing from the facilities committee on the costs of this renovation, the drawings, the decisions, etc. I think where the BOE and the facilities committee has gone out of bounds was performing this function at the facilities committee level and not having it openly vetted in the community. The president of the BOE pretty much stated that the facilities committee did not like this option so it was ruled out. In essence, 10 people?, decided the direction of this entire project at that point. Why? Additionally, the BOE, the facilities committee and several members on this blog have stated this imaginary 60% cost number as the litmus test for a new building vs renovation. Why? Where did Healy Bender come up with this. They supplied it, I would like for them to defend it. What is the factual, economic background of this statement? Right now, if they say we could renovate this school, address the headaches, and give the students, and the community what it requires whilst saving 40% of 65MM (29MM) almost half, why wouldn't you do it. I don't know what the exact number a renovation would cost but a new roof at three million, a new Gym as they have identified and gutting this thing floor by floor for say 200 per sq ft is going to get you down on price pretty quick. I think the facilities committee ruled this out because it was inconvenient. I think if you want the support of the majority of the community, this option needs to be clearly vetted for all to see. Will it expand the timeline? Sure. Will it involve more portables for a couple years? Sure. But, in the end, what I think you will end up with is a larger space for education and they can have everything they are presently asking for. My advice to the BOE is to openly vet this. If it allays the fears and the question of the community, why not.

Anonymous said...

Just to set 2/27, 5:20 pm straight, the Facilities Committee reviewed a report prepared by the previous D181 architect of record, Healey Bender, that analyzed the entire functionality of HMS. This report was to provide information to determine whether any aspect of the current HMS building would be viable in a possible renovation. The report indicated that the only part of the current HMS that is salvageable is the concrete slab it sits on. In addition, all three architects that submitted both renovation and new designs for HMS stated that the cost of renovation of HMS would exceeded 60% of the cost of a new building and, therefore, renovation should not be continued to be pursued. As for 2/27, 5:20 pm's accusation that the Facilities Committee "ruled out renovation because it was inconvenient," this is absolutely incorrect. Despite 2/27, 5:20 pm's stated opinion, renovation of HMS has been clearly vetted for all to see...who want to be knowledgeable and see. There is absolutely no reason to expand any timeline. There is no reason for the D181 community to have questions or fears relating to a possible renovation of HMS. Based on the findings of the Healey Bender report and the determinations of three architectural firms, to contemplate renovation of HMS would not only be irresponsible, but a total waste of time.

Anonymous said...


Ask yourself, what exactly is an architects motive? I would ask one of the losing architects to submit an alt plan on the possible renovation. See what they come back with. The hyperbole of "the only thing that would be useful is the slab it stands on is ridiculous. Obviously, every floor is salvageable as is all the steel that holds them up. The shell of the building as well. You could eliminate excavation, foundations, masonry, etc. Get a real value and stop saying, oh, it wouldn't be worth it. What is the exact price and plan to renovate. If the district saved 20 MM then it was the right decision. Every architect that bid on this project wants to build a new building - it's what they do, it's sexy. Reference the very expensive skylight.

10:16, please point me to the plans to retrofit the school with a new gym, build out 3rd floor and reconfigure the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors. Please show me the estimate from the construction manager for these changes. I have been looking but I don't see them so I suspect the facilities committee knows where to direct me to find them. The problem with this entire endeavor is transparency and trust. A BOE that was being totally responsible with each and every taxpayer dollar should have this comparison at its fingers tips. The sad thing is, I suspect they don't because this was ruled out with a few words and this entire endeavor preceded down the path towards the needs of a new building. I may be wrong 10:16, send me the hyperlink to that estimate. BTW, I get a kick out the people who are so worried that this buildings price may go up a million if we continue to vet this but they are appalled if we could find a way to save 20MM.

Anonymous said...


I decided to try and find that Healy Bender assessment. Didn't find but I did find Wight & Co's facility assessment from 2015. See

I really found the assessment of HMS enlightening. If you look at the assessment of this structure, by one of the premiere school architects in the country, you can further see how this entire project has been a rush to judgement and justification for a new school. Starting on page 61 you will see two spreadsheets that discuss and rate the life of each and every component of this school. For me, it is pretty damning that most of the items of value have over 50% of the life left. Things like steel, masony, walls, etc. In essence the structure of this building has a huge amount of life left. The power supply to this school far exceeds what is necessary so it is ripe for expansion (used to have lots of electrical resistance heat, that was all taken out when the "new" HVAC system was just installed. What I also found interesting is that to bring things for this space up to stuff would take about 3.7 MM. Now that doesn't address the new roof. It does include the value of replacing in kind but there is another document where Arcon has designed a new shingled roof for about 2.5MM. I have never seen the renderings of this but it must exist. So, in the last day, I have found out that the existing building can be brought up to snuff for 3.7 MM. The roof can be replaced for 2.5 with a new shingled version as opposed to that metal thing. And the temporary units actually cost 1/10th of the value that people keep bandying about. Face it, this was never about trying to salvage this building and economically making repairs in a time of economic trouble, it has been about trying to justify a new building for a group of people who feel they are entitled to one. This should never pass and we could do more for these kids by spending far less money. Fix the things that need fixing. Building addition. Build out third floor and be done with this silliness. 25MM tops.

Anonymous said...

Healy Bender Adequacy does show a prelim estimate of the renovation

Unfortunately, it appears to be a WAG that includes the Admin being moved over as well. The price tag was around 75%. Still saves almost 15 MM but addresses the admin building lease cost as well so that is a positive. Includes an elevated running track BTW and a weight room. When did grade school kids start using weight rooms?

Personally, I would be inclined toward a renovation and saving the capital. I suspect if this option were bid out, we would have a much better idea of what the real cost of renovation was. Right now, we have Healy Bender saying 75% with no real evidence but even that saves quite a bit of money whilst addressing another need - admin building.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 11:39. 10:16 is being completely naive. Imagine causually stopping by a fancy new car dealership. Of course the dealership will say ANYTHING it will take to make you think that your old car is a piece of junk that is endangering the lives of your loved ones. Instead of just recommending you fix your car, or buy new tires, and go in every year for regular maintenance, they will try to convince you that you simply cannot live without the latest, most expensive car on their lot! They will pull every dirty trick to try and convince you - from how impressed your neighbors will be to how this new car will earn you a promotion and make you and your childten happy for the rest of your lives. Wake up, 10:16! Even if most of the people in this village are educated, we can all see that not everyone possesses common sense and critical thinking skills.

Anonymous said...

All you posters after 10:16, sign up now to take the lead on renovating HMS. Please call the D181 Administration office tomorrow and give them your name and contact information so that you can immediately be contacted if the referendum fails. Then, you all can wake up during the process...using your common sense and critical thinking skills!!! Sure will be interesting to see the outcome you all come up with. I'll be sure to call the Administration office late tomorrow to see how many of you called in and signed up.

And, for the poster who asked "when did grade school kids start using weight rooms"..well, first of all, middle school students aren't grade school kids. Secondly, there is a fitness center proposed in the new HMS plan, not a weight room. In case you aren't aware, HMS is SLIGHTLY SHORT on outside physical education space and, therefore, a way to find PARITY (many community members favorite term) is to offer the HMS students an alternate PE option. Maybe some people aren't aware that since HMS is NOT adjacent to a park like CHMS is, HMS students do not have the opportunities that CHMS students have to participate in extensive running, softball, baseball, tennis and sand volleyball. We want to be fair...right? We are all about parity..right? Gee, where was the parity the last 12 years for the HMS students?????

Anonymous said...

Really, we are going to put in a raised track because the CHMS school happens to be near the park district? The kids go outside for 50 minutes a day. The play football, softball, volleyball, etc. Because CHMS happens to be near a tennis court we are supposed to spend an extra amount of money to try and make this equitable? What about the gymnasium-size at CHMS? If you want parity start with parity in the classrooms, the auditorium, the band space, etc. Once this school is built it will by the CHMS crowd demanding parity. To be honest I am tired of hearing it is for the children. You could justify just about anything with that tagline. There have been 40 yrs of kids graduate from HMS who are no worse for the wear. Lets make the necessary renovations and move on.

Anonymous said...

Cooking class is an elective in middle school so perhaps a Christopher Peacock kitchen is in order too....for the Hinsdale middle school. A running track and weight room sound awesome but I'd like to point out two things: 1. Several of the PTOs have used raised funds to install "learning" gardens several with temperature gauge, rainwater testing etc....I happened to sit on one of the PTOs when approved....ALOT of money and time. It was envisioned that kids would learn outside, engage and be inspired by weather and nature. Well....with all of the testing and squeezing everything into a day (not to mention Chicago's unpredictable weather), I can promise you, that does not occur. 2. the running track at the Community House is not used by children either. They are busy with school, homework and MANY activities. They also travel when school is not in session. I live near and walk by CHMS often as the weather allows....the kids do not spend much time outside in the "park" for the same reasons. Their school day is crammed with testing, classes, lunch etc....Just as people who don't cook often should not install an expensive kitchen, let's not waste money. It's embarrassing and delivers little value for the children.

Anonymous said...

Look, quite a bit of this new school has nothing to do with the kids or being fiscally responsible. It has a lot more to do with the opportunity to tear down a school that frustrates many in the town of Hinsdale. Look no further than how this thing escalated from the days when HMS did split schedules at CHMS. At that time, CHMS was the best thing since sliced bread. Then they had all their consultants tell them, nope, that school is just not good enough, it needs to be bigger, more space per student, etc. Forgetting all the while that both of these schools are National Blue Ribbon schools. Sure HMS needs work and an expansion, but make no mistake, this new school initiative has a lot more to do with wanting a brand new shiny building than anything to do with the kids, it is about the parents. If you could give them everything they say they are looking for and save 20 MM they would still not support it. Gonna be an interesting referendum. Hopefully, it doesn't pass and they get a bit more sensible with spending other people's money. I am beginning to believe the last people who should be involved in this process are the parents of the kids in attendance or those that will be attending. They get way too emotional when it comes to the kids. This process needs to be far more clinical and about maximizing value while minimizing taxpayer spending. Gonna get real interesting when it comes time for the teachers to negotiate a new contract. Spending has to be judicious.

Anonymous said...

We have a current BOE member whose wife is a teacher at HMS. He worked on the last D181 teachers contract. He is a vocal supporter of the new and very expensive HMS.

Why isn't this a problem for taxpayers or the Better Government Assn? It's a problem for me.

All About Equity said...

I have a problem with this too, but at least they are actual D181 residents and taxpayers, so I guess they can vote yes on increasing their own property taxes. My bigger concern is with the teachers who do not live in D181 and are pushing for the shiny new $90 million (because that is the true cost to the taxpayers) school. Of course they'd like the Ferrari of schools. They don't have to pay for it. Isn't this a Teacher Contract negotiations year? If so, they I hope the BOE waits until after March 15 to negotiate the teachers salary increases. Seems to me if our property taxes go up for a new HMS, their salary increases should be a big fat ZERO for the next 20 years. Instead, they can take pleasure in teaching in the state of the art 21st century classrooms. Taxpayers shouldn't be the only ones feeling the pinch in our pocketbooks that will come from funding a $90 million school.If parents and teachers who are pushing for construction of the $90 million school believe in equity, then there should be equity between taxpayer bills and teacher salary increases. That would be the fair and equitable course to follow -- in my opinion....

Past Referenda Supporter Who Will Vote NO This Time said...

Part 1:

Today I decided to figure out what I've paid to D181 in property taxes over the last 15 years for past approved capital referenda (which I voted YES on), what I've gotten (personally for my kids) out of the past approved referenda and what the new referendum will really mean for my family. I started by looking at the "Debt Service and Homeowner Impact Analysis" that D181 recently published and can be found at:

I am rounding down very slightly, but for purposes of this exercise, I am stating that I live in a $1 million home in Burr Ridge. Most of my children have all graduated from Elm and HMS and Hinsdale Central High School. I will have one more graduating from HMS BEFORE the new school is built (if the referendum passes). I have lived in Elm's boundary area since 2000 and voted YES on the referenda that resulted in the new Prospect, new Walker, large addition to Madison and renovations to the other schools (other than HMS). By the time I moved here, CHMS was already built and the bonds to fund that were built into my property tax bill. For all of the other projects I voted yes on, my tax bill went up after I moved here. In the 16 years I have lived here, the ONLY physical improvement my children personally received as a result of the past referenda passing was a new multi-purpose room at Elm (and I believe air conditioning at Elm), and for a couple of them, the space they gained at Elm with the multi-purpose room addition was eliminated when the administration took over an entire wing of Elm School, leading to over crowding until this fall when the administration finally moved out.

So what did I pay over time? According to the chart on the D181 website, before the March 2016 HMS referendum, I CURRENTLY pay $1147 for the debt service on the previously approved referenda. Between now and 2025, according to the bar graph, that debt service will gradually increase, however, for purposes of this exercise, I will hold the $1147 flat. This means that over 10 years, I will pay $11,470 in property taxes JUST for the capital projects built as a result of the previously approved referenda. And all my kids will have ever benefited from those past YES votes will have been ONE SINGLE MULTIPURPOSE room and perhaps air conditioning at Elm School.

And what about the first 15 years of this debt service? The chart does't show me what I have personally paid, but assuming that the bar graph on the current debt service has gradually increased over time, (although I believe some of the debt service was refinanced and so it was already lowered a couple of times), but even assuming that it has gradually grown, I would bet that over the last 15 years, I have at least paid what I will pay over the next 10 years -- so at least another $11,470. This means that by the time the existing debt service is paid off in 2025 for the past approved capital referenda, I will have personally paid $22,940 in property taxes to fund new schools and improvements to the other D181 schools, and the ONLY physical benefits MY children will have seen was using one single Multipurpose room at Elm School and air conditioning.

Yet now, D181 is asking me to jump on the band wagon again and pay for a brand new middle school that will add $90 million in debt service to the backs of D181's taxpayers? And MY children won't benefit at all? That $90 million additional debt service will add an additional $537 dollars per year to my existing tax bill starting in 2019 -- an additional $3,222 between 2019 and 2024. And then once the OLD debt service is paid down, I will continue to pay $903/year to finish paying off the new HMS for another 12 years, for a total of $10,836. So between 2019 and 2036, I will personally pay $14,058 in property taxes to pay for ONE middle school, that NONE of my kids will ever attend.

Past Referenda Supporter Who Will Vote NO This Time said...

Part 2:

Adding it all up, between 2001and 2036, I will have paid $36,998 in property taxes to pay for work done to either build new D181 schools or renovate and put multi-purposes on the elementary schools. And MY children will only have gotten the benefit of one single multi-purpose room and air conditioning?

Well, I have to say, this exercise has reinforced for me the following:
1. I am pro-education and pro-school improvement.
2. I have been a D181 supporter and UNTIL NOW, voted YES on past referendum.
3. I have willingly paid to provide more benefits to all of the other D181 schools and students in the district than the schools my children attended.

Despite this past generosity and support,

4. I AM NOT A DEEP, BOTTOMLESS POCKET! I now have children in college and my children do not qualify for financial aid (we are lucky, I am not complaining, I am grateful for our economic circumstances).
5. There is a LIMIT to how much I am willing to personally fund for construction of schools that will not benefit my children. I can no longer mindlessly support adding $90 million of debt service to my or other D181's taxpayers' backs.
6. This does not make me evil or bad or hateful or stupid or ignorant or naive or a naysayer.
7. Over and above the numbers I have crunched above, I pay over $20,000 a year in property taxes, most of which go to D181 to pay for its operational expenses and pension funds. I will continue to willingly pay those amounts because I know that for the most part, D181 is a school district that has added value to our community and has driven property values up. And I have chosen to live here.
8. However, I do not believe my property value will go up if a new HMS school is built. I agree with others who have posted on this blog, that property values are driven more by the caliber of the teachers and educational programs offered. Therefore, I will not support a $90 million bond issuance to pay for one new school until I am completely convinced that all OTHER options -- such as a renovation of the existing school, or building a less expensive school that isn't inflated with millions of dollars in WANTS -- has been fully vetted.

Now I am sure I will be attacked by the Vote Yes folks for daring to make this comment and people will pick it apart and tell me my numbers are off. This wasn't a scientific exercise and I didn't go back into 15 year old archives to calculate exactly what I have paid in property taxes for the construction projects the past referenda led to. But I think I have sufficiently satisfied myself that while my numbers may not be 100% accurate, I have been MORE THAN GENEROUS with my willingness to pay for D181 schools and improvements. But there comes a time when even I, a past avid supporter, will say its time to SLOW DOWN this runaway train and properly vet ALL options.

I'm ready and bracing myself for the attack of the Vote Yes people. Take your best shot.

One last thing to point out. It is really disingenuous for D181 to suggest in their flyer that once the old referenda are paid off, property taxes for this referenda will go down. In fact, look closely at the chart. TOTAL property taxes to fund the TOTAL capital projects WILL go down starting in 2026 because all of the other projects (besides HMS) will finally have been paid off. HOWEVER, the property taxes each of us pay for the new HMS will GO UP that year. On a $1 million home, the property taxes on HMS project will go up an additional $366 -- from $537 to $903. That is an increase of 68%. You will notice that this "kicker" isn't explained anywhere on the D181 flyer!