As the school year winds down, we will be writing our final posts before signing off -- permanently. When the 2015-2016 school year ends, we -- the bloggers -- will have officially graduated all of our children from D181 and have decided that now is the right time to end our blog. Our hope is that current and future parents will continue to closely monitor what is happening in D181 and, if necessary, start their own blog that will continue to shine a light of transparency on the good and the bad in the district. We will elaborate further on June 9, when we will be publishing our final post, but today and later this week, we are going to publish 2 important posts.
This first one addresses the HMS Referendum Next Steps Survey Results. Later this week, the second post will address Curriculum Issues that were discussed at last week's Learning Committee Meeting and will be discussed at tonight's BOE meeting.
At tonight's BOE meeting, the HMS "Next Steps" Survey results are on the agenda for discussion. As you all may recall, following the failure of the HMS Referendum, the BOE tasked the administration with conducting a survey, the purpose of which was to determine why the referendum failed and whether or not the BOE should approve going to referendum in the future on the HMS building.
We are not going to summarize the Survey Results that are going to be presented tonight to the BOE, since the administration and consulting firm it hired to conduct the Phone and Online Survey have done so. The following links will take you to the reports and results and we encourage all of our readers to take the time to read ALL of the documents posted:
1. Link to the Board Docs Agenda item on the Next Steps Survey
2. Power Point Presentation for 5/23/16 BOE meeting
3. Director of Communications 5/23/16 Summary Memo on the Results
4. Patron Insights' Phone Survey Results -- Final Report
5. Online Survey Results with Redacted Comments
What we plan to do instead of summarizing the reports is to provide you with our take-aways (and of course, they are opinions which you may or may not agree with) and the next steps we hope the BOE will take, starting tonight.
First, our take-aways:
1. It is clear that the main reason that the referendum failed was the exorbitant price tag. It is also clear that in order for an HMS referendum to have any chance of succeeding, the price tag must be below $45 million.
2. Too many bells and whistles were included in the first referendum, but in our opinion, even if you strip out the auditorium and running track, that will not lower the price tag by $20 million, so other changes are needed to the "winning Cordogan design."
3. There is insufficient interest in rushing back to referendum in November 2016. A majority of survey takers want the BOE to either take as much time as is needed to develop a design that the community will support or at a minimum wait until April 2017 at the earliest. It will be interesting to see if the administration attempts to spin the responses to suggest that enough time exists between now and November to develop a design that the community can support and approve less than 6 months from now. More importantly, it will be interesting to see if the BOE falls for this spin or immediately quashes any notion of going to referendum before April 2017.
4. Based upon the survey results that show that a new design is in order, Cordogan must be terminated as the Architect on an new HMS project. Unfortunately, for Cordogan, they have already had multiple swings at bat to design a new HMS that would cost $45 million. As past blog posts have reported, their original design came close to a projected cost of $45 million, but a last minute bait and switch escalated the price tag by 66% to $73 million. While they generated several project modifications that lowered the $73 to $65 million, $60 and $55 million, it was clear from the presentations to the BOE that the architecture firm was not supportive of their "cheaper" versions. How then could anyone trust them now to develop a cheaper design that the community will support?
5. We hope that all of you will take the 30 to 45 minutes it will take to read the COMMENTS submitted by the community members on the Online Survey: Online Survey Results with Redacted Comments. While the comments are consistent with the Survey results, we do want to take a moment to express our sadness and disappointment in community members who suggested that the only reason Clarendon Hills residents voted NO was because they didn't think they would benefit from the referendum. There were many negative, personal comments against Clarendon Hills residents and we found them to be ignorant, hateful and destructive. Thankfully, as the data shows, more than 50% of those who took the online survey actually live in the HMS feeder areas within D181 and the majority of the comments were from people who voted No AND gave very detailed and substantive reasons that have nothing to do with which side of town you live on to explain why the referendum failed.
Now, we would like to list our hopes for the next steps the BOE should take, starting tonight:
1. Have a meaningful, substantive and constructive discussion tonight on the survey results.
2. Decide that it will NOT go to referendum in November 2016.
3. Terminate it's relationship with Cordogan Clark, the architecture firm.
4. Agree that it will not take any further steps on an HMS referendum until it has finalized and approved its Facilities Master Plan -- just like D86 did as a first step.
5. Set a timeline for finalizing and approving a Facilities Master Plan.
6. Prioritize capital projects that are in the Facilities Master Plan and IF HMS remains the priority, THEN and only THEN....
7. Set a timeline for deciding what the MAXIMUM dollar amount that should be spent on EITHER a new HMS OR a renovation of the existing HMS and conduct a formal RFP process to select a reputable architecture firm that must bid on the project as has been done with past successful D181 referenda.
8. Once the winning firm is selected, then work with that firm to design a new or renovated HMS that will be within the budgeted amount.
9. Go to referendum, but only after ensuring that a Committee of Community Members has been formed that will do the heavy labor needed to promote in a constructive, non-devisive manner the referendum question.
In our opinion, the earliest this can happen is April 2017, but since the administration has proven itself incapable of meeting ANY deadlines -- whether budgetary, facilities or curriculum -- we doubt that an April 2017 referendum can be achieved. Instead, we hope the BOE takes as much time as is necessary to set a budget, select an architect and design a reasonable and fiscally responsible new or renovated Hinsdale Middle School.
We can't wait to listen to tonight's BOE meeting and see if ANYTHING AT ALL is decided on this important topic.
Stay tuned and SOUND OFF!