Thoughtful community members who make their living in fields like higher education / research shared the fact that they routinely construct world class facilities with cost per sq ft far below the amount sought in the failed referendum. Whatever challenges there might be with the existing site and a lengthy construction schedule that arises from a desire to have students use the existing facility while its replacement is constructed around it must be factored into how accepting the broader electorate will be toward such choices; simply put the desire to retain the tradition / convenience / grandeur of the downtown Hinsdale site cannot also come with a perception that those families attending the district's other middle school will soon clamor for "matching upgrades". Taxpayers in our communities are exceedingly sensitive to the needs of all taxing bodies and the overall miserable fiscal mismanagement of Illinois, any effort to convince voters to back a voluntary increase in the amount of taxes extracted from them has to come with extraordinary levels of evidence that expenditures will be managed prudently.That has not happened thus far!
It was frustrating to hear some community members who are either cluelessly unaware or simply refuse to acknowledge that even with the current state of the middle school in Hinsdale, their attendance area is still more desirable than any part of either the overall district or any neighboring areas -- one need only look to Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Downers Grove, or the portions of Burr Ridge outside of the district and see that home buyers in those areas are not running from those "schools of inferior design". For perhaps the sharpest contrast of how little some buyers care about school layout one need only look at the portions of Oak Brook served by Downers Grove schools, in particular there are multi-million homes being built and sold in the area that attends Belle Aire, a school that to this day lacks any sort of interior walls. The restrictions that such a layout imposes on learning are no doubt far more challenging than anything at a facility that has been extensively retrofitting multiple times, as has HMS, yet buyers still spend their money to live in Oak Brook. The "do this or your property values will suffer" argument is thus easily dismissed.
What is true is that the district does need to come together. The current HMS forces unacceptable burdens on those who use it, the continuing financial resources that it drains from the district in elevated maintenance and portable rentals is a disgraceful waste that should not be tolerated. Some folks seem to believe that stacking up numbers higher and deeper than their opponents will lead to compromise, that however is nothing but a recipe for continued inaction. True compromise must acknowledge the legitimate concerns that sent the last proposal to the rubbish heap. The results of both the scientifically conducted phone survey and the less formal online survey clearly show a desire for NEW PROPOSAL. Start over.
I was encouraged that parents from the HMS attendance area felt good about positive comments from parents in the CHMS attendance area, anyone who has been inside HMS readily acknowledges how inefficient it is. Hopefully some one with the desire to see a new school constructed can carefully benchmark how much time is wasted by students and teachers traversing the treacherous layout. Ideally that would be compared to the more compact CHMS. That sort of true cooperation is desperately needed to move the district forward.
Follow-on 1 of 2
The thing about the 4096 character limit is that it forces me to either leave stuff out or make follow-on posts. I know I am long winded, but in the world of far too brief "Facebook" or "twitter" posts some issues need a longer format.
i'd be remiss if I did not call attention to another very different school situation that is adjacent to our community. The fact is there are plenty of people with "sound minds" that send their kids to the schools in Westmont though both the Jr. High and especially Westmont High have very outdated "70s style" interiors that literally rely on wheeled "tack boards" to try to define classrooms. Of course this is "sub optimal" and despite multiple efforts to pass referenda to address these concerns, the staff and students still "muddle through".
Am I to believe that everyone that the majority of voters inside the Westmont school boundaries are some kind of Luddites, unaware of current classroom uses? Are they heartless ogres that wishes suffering upon children of their village? Perhaps they are misers who hordes whatever they have rather than supporting reasonable requests for taxes? Of course not. I know many families in Blackhawk Height or Oakwood that struggle with these issues and they do NOT attempt to 'demonize' their neighbors, they keep working with architects for better plans and trying to organize support for changes.
Is that different than what exists in our district? Well, when I bought my first home in the district some twenty years ago I also looked at homes in Elmhurst and Villa Park, frankly both towns offered a bit more house for the money and quieter settings. My real estate agent, a family friend, wisely suggested that the potential for appreciation was stronger here and I completely acknowledge that similar situation exists when looking at what "holds back" towns like Berwyn, Westmont or Westchester. Believe me, as a former teacher I know plenty of families that were to happy the option of a nice private school like Nazareth Academy instead of Morton West, Proviso West, or Westmont.
Such an argument cannot be made for the situation inside our district; any family so concerned with the physical limitations of HMS can use the open enrollment policy to choose CHMS. A handful of folks do. That said, the broader issue is that HMS is a drain on the resources of the district, unduly hampers its staff & learners and the school unquestionably should be replaced.
Part 1: I attended last night's Round Table. I was disappointed at how poorly attended it was, although not really surprised since school is winding down and over 1500 people completed the online survey in addition to the 500 who participated in the phone survey. There were only 2 tables last night. I sat at a table with 2 board members (Clarin and Burns), Ken Surma (Asst. Sup. of Finance), Rocky May (Dean at HMS) and Lois Mejdrich (Finance Committee Member). In addition, there were 6 other parents besides me. The second table at which Jay Wick sat, also had Board Member Garg, Dr. White and maybe 10 others (most whom I did not recognize). In a district with so many voters, it is too bad that more didn't come out for this opportunity to explain their vote on the referendum and engage in a next steps discussion. I hope more people attend the second Round table tomorrow.
At my table, the following key points were raised by community members: The cost was too high, the increase in price to $73 and then the scaling back to $65 million on the eve of the board's decision was suspect, there should not be a November 2016 referendum and a future date should come after all time needed is taken to develop a plan that will be supported by the community, and that might not be April 2017. There needs to be a more hands on, foot soldiers approach to promoting any future referendum by a community group supporting it. Door to door canvassing was successful in the past and should be done next time. There was a lot of discussion about the price tag and how the original Cordogan design was for $46 or $47 million dollars. Clarin stated that he never believed the firm could complete the project for that amount. I pointed out that if he or others on the facilities committee didn't believe that amount was doable, they should have costed it out well before the eve of the board's vote on going to referendum. He seemed to agree with me that this was a misstep. $50 million was mentioned by some parents as being an amount the community might support, but others raised caution especially if D86 goes to referendum at the same time or before D181. Some at the table suggested "starting over." As for the design, while it seemed clear that an auditorium, running track and turf field should be removed from any future project or listed on a ballot as "alternatives," what was also clear was that the first thing that is needed is for the BOE to set a budget that they believe the community will support and then develop a plan from that starting point. As for the auditorium, one community member said it is a mistake to build an auditorium that won't even hold the entire student body. I suggested revisiting the idea of a renovation, especially since the original reason for not pursuing this was because it was projected to cost 60% of the proposed new school designs submitted during the design competition. However, it a new school is all D181 taxpayers can afford or are willing to pay to the tune of $30-45 million, perhaps it should be fully vetted. My table also discussed the need of the BOE to approve a Facility Master Plan as a possible first step so that all of the district' building needs are known to the entire community.
Part 2: I also suggested that all 7 members join the facilities committee and be fully committed to doing the hard work needed to undertake a successful HMS Project. The last two things are steps that the high school district has taken. I believe it would be wise for D181 to identify all of the steps D86 has or is taking on its path to go to referendum and make sure it does them as well before putting another question on the ballot. Some people at my table already have received pre-referendum literature from D86 and were quite impressed with it.
Dr. White stated that on June 13 the BOE will be asked to decide if they should go to referendum in November 2016 or April 2017. As far as I am concerned, the BOE shouldn't go again in November and shouldn't even commit to April 2017 until it approves a Facilities Master Plan, sets a budget for a new or renovated HMS and then goes out to RPF to pick a new architect.
Follow-on 2 of 2
Beyond the survey results it is important to examine the whole process that resulted in the failed referendum. Only if folks take the time to understand why the result was failure can the root causes be addressed and corrected. A successful referendum starts well before the decision involved in the building proposal, it MUST include a thorough understanding of the motivations of voters.
The true "first steps" did include some time with the kinds of firms that both inform the BOE of how other towns have successfully built support for new construction and efforts to ascertain what would drive decisions for voters in our district. After that good first step, the timeline was artifically compressed and too small a budget was allocated. Unfortunately the process that was choosen resulted in very few architectural firms presenting any solutions to the district's RFP and the subsequent escalation of costs by the selected firm was badly out of step with the realities facing even affluent homeowners. When smart voters are not fully comfortable with all aspects of a request for more funding they understandably reject such proposals. A NEW PROCESS IS NEEDED. IT NEEDS TO START WITH A CLEAN SHEET OF PAPER AND DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET MORE FIRMS INVOLVED!
Acknowledgement of the concerns of the very significant group of voters who will never directly benefit from the new building, and might rightly surmise a successful referendum will make other parts of the district even more desirable than they already are, effectively hurting the resale of their own homes must be far more thorough than anything the district has undertaken.
That will require a firm that is much more "creative" in how they solve the tough problems present:
1) Folks really like the existing site.
2) Building their presents unique challenges.
3) Anything that leaves CHMS looking too forlorn won't get support from even folks sympathetic to the current situation.
4) Smarter designs that require less labor and perhaps more innovative materials will be needed to deal with Illinois notoriously pricey labor issues.
5) Innovative ways to pack more functionality onto a very restrictive site are not going to come from firms accustomed to green-grass sites in boomtowns.
Beyond the hurdles faced in design, there needs to be much recognition of just how parlous the fiscal condition of Illinois is. If lawmakers in Springfield withdraw funding from districts with a solid base of property taxes the resulting spiral in costs will be felt most acutely in our communities. A bigger solution is needed. I remain hopeful that SOME ONE will step up and take-on the challenges of consolidation, because such an effort is perhaps the ONLY WAY that skeptical voters will be convinced that taxes can go down. By eliminating duplicative and very well compensated roles in a similar high performing district like Butler 53 the amounts of resources that would be directed toward learning would increase and the overhead would decrease. EVEN IF the HMS site was selected the small number of kids attending Butler Jr High could be accommodated with a facility of the size proposed.
Of course if folks still are enamored of the design that was rejected and want to delude themselves into believed there is some as yet unpushed "magic button" that will convince folks to vote against obvious self interest they are welcome to devote time to "more community outreach"; that is not a real solution. To anyone with a clearer vision, such efforts are likely to be far more successful in helping folks to see how other option that will truly "give them more for less". Efforts to tap into the support offered for consolidation, including even more funds from our local legislators, should be pursued by the connected types that have access to such channels. Local lawmakers need "wins" to remain relevant in a climate that is increasingly prone to gridlock.
Thank you for all this information! It sounds like the round table discussions were productive. I plan to go tomorrow morning and hope many others will as well to give their input and have questions answered to hopefully allow the Administration and Board to come up with their next steps - whatever that may be - to address the current and projected future issues with HMS.
I'm sad to hear that the roundtable wasn't well attended. Hopefully, more people will come to the one on Thursday.
Jay Wick, the comment you made (#4) about smarter designs, less labor, etc. reminded me of this one interior construction company I heard about a while ago called DIRTT (https://www.dirtt.net, or https://www.dirtt.net/education for their education specific page). While I haven't worked with them myself, according to their website, DIRTT uses materials that are high quality, easier to install & maintain, and have lower costs. My only concerns are
1) it seems to use proprietary materials, so materials may be expensive and hard to get. It may have lower maintenance requirements, though
2) Many of their designs seem too avant garde / modern for us. Not sure if they can have more traditional looks
If we do start from scratch, the district may want to look into it.
Did anyone go to the round table today?
Besides members of the Board and Admin, there were about 9 or 10 residents
That is pitiful. With such low turnouts at both round tables, it would be irresponsible for the Administration, Facilities Committee or Board members to reach any conclusions based upon the discussions. The number of participants is not statistically significant......
Did Mrs. Gray or Mr. Giltner attend the second community engagement session? They weren't listed for the first one.
What's the point of attending when the administration seems to do whatever it wants?
8:40 is correct. A perfect example is how at the last board meeting Gray suggested that what is needed is for all 7 board members to participate on the Facilities Committee and to add more meetings dedicated to HMS and facilities outside the scope of the regular, ridiculously packed, once/month board meetings. Her request was completely ignored. No one supported her request, not a single board member or any of the administrators. There wasn't even any acknowledgement of her request or even one minute of discussion. I don't know if she attended any of the round tables this week, but if she didn't, I can't blame her one bit. All of her rational, intelligent and thoughtful ideas have been shunned by fellow board members (Garg, Clarin, Turek, Vorobiev) and ignoring her request is a totally disrespectful. I commend Ms. Gray for continuing to push for what is right, even if she is in the minority. The BOE needs more board members like her.
That's a good excuse.
Burns and Gray asked for these surveys and community engagements. It is pretty bad if Gray didn't attend either session. She seems to constantly focus on being a fiduciary but seems to forget that means representing all 9 schools and not just 3. Many of us who helped elect her are from the HMS attendance area. She has created divisiveness with her single mindedness on cost versus what's best for all of our children. She also doesn't seem to want HMS to become a CHMS problem.
We don't know if she was not there and if she wasn't whether there was a reason. What about Turek and Vorobiev? Did they attend? They weren't at Prospect's round table and they both left Monday's board meeting early. Why aren't you questioning them. And your suggestions that Gray doesn't want to make HMS a CHMS problem is ignorant.
Why would you single out Ms. Gray, when she and Mr. Giltner are only doing the job they were elected to do? One of the primary responsibilities of a board member is to act responsibly when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. They alone seem to understand that the changes coming from Springfield are going to impact our district, and we need to be cognizant of that fact when deciding how much we can spend on a new building. It is absolutely wrong-minded to say that she is more concerned about only three schools than the district at large. Ms. Gray has never once hidden her agenda, and she has always acted on behalf of all students. It is time for the referendum supporters to accept the fact that the primary reason the referendum failed is not because people from the CHMS area are selfish and care more about property values than students. The referendum failed because it was too expensive, and rushed through. There is not a single person I have spoken to who voted "No" who does not believe that we need a new HMS. People would like to see a less expensive, less extravagant plan. The community needs to come together to create a plan that all stakeholders can be proud of - not just a quick solution to problem regardless of the cost.
I agree wh 3:17. In comparison to Gray, Vorobiev particularly, has been a silent bump on a sinking log.. What DO members like Voboriev and Turek stand for? Have they come up with a single logical idea to solve the HMS problem? If they cannot, it is their obligation to explore any other options presented to them. Shame on Mrs. Garg and the suoerindentend for not acknowledging Mrs. Gray's comments or requests. Shame on the secretary and other BOE members for not acknowledging them either.
Why is it that jay wick has repeatedly brought up the most logical, fair and beneficial idea, consolidation with Butler 53, but no one in the board has done a single thing about it? This is the most damning information of all about the current and former board president. It clearly shows that she is incapable of exploring any outside the box options for fear that she might anger the current suoerintendent.
Why else would no one on the board explore the consolidation option by providing any informations hat they have investigated the process the state requires to begin addressing this option? This the only way to lower the wildly high d181 tax burden to a level closer to that of those who live in neighboring Butler's neighboring Oak Brook district . This is one of the few options that benefits both CHMS, Oak Brook, and HMS residents. Focus on these ideas FIRST, not only on what particular features residents want in a new school. Offer the option of another site. Proved us with a real estate appraisal of the value of the current HMS site. Address what local merchants and commercial building owners think about the current HMS location. Every business owner I have spoken to thinks the current location of HMS is terrible because it takes away valuable parking space. I agree with them.
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