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School board member Katie Bailey says Evanston/Skokie District 65 could build planned middle school additions even if it doesn’t win voter approval for the plans in next month’s referendum.

In response to a question at a forum sponsored by the pro-referendum group Citizens for a Better Evanston Thursday night at the Ecology Center, Bailey said that over a period of years the district could issue $25 million of non-referendum debt for the middle school expansion projects.

“Technically, yes,” Bailey said, but she contended that would mean putting off maintenance and upgrade projects at other district schools.

“So it would be a matter of how the board wants to govern the district,” she added.

“If the referendum doesn’t go through, what could we do?” Bailey asked rhetorically. “I can’t imagine the board wouldn’t think about future maintenance” of its existing 18 buildings.

Hardy Murphy.

Because of state limits on building new schools without voter approval, it’s unlikely the district would be able to build the proposed new school without winning a referendum vote.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said that over a decade ago there was a time when the district’s buidings were in disrepair.

“There’s been a pretty aggressive effort since then to make sure buildings are well maintained,” Murphy said, adding that he hopes to continue to stress capital improvement and life safety projects at the existing schools.

Bailey said that in an earlier forum this week at a retirement community, she’d had trouble answering a question about why the expansion projects at existing schools were bundled into a single referendum with the plan to build a new K-5 school on Foster Field in the 5th Ward.

About 50 people turned out for the Thursday night session, where tables arrayed with snacks also held poster boards showing renderings of the proposed new school and school additions.

She conceded that the issue of lack of classroom space is much more pressing at the middle school than at the elementary school level.

“Why can’t we have two referendums?” Bailey asked. “Well, that would be pitting the referendums against each other.”

She said the board had decided that it was time to address both the issue of the lack of an elementary school in the central core and inadequate middle school science labs, and that it was best to address both issues together.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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24 Comments

  1. Difference between NEEDS & WANTS

    D65 NEEDS to update buildings and expand some classrooms like they've competently done at Willard, Dewey, and Lincoln. D65 and some people in the community WANTS to build a new school in the "Central Core."

    I NEED to buy food for my family, pay my mortgage, reinvest in my business and pay my taxes. I WANT to buy a new car and go on vacation.

    Major difference between NEEDS & WANTS.

    It's understandable and not surprising why the 2 issues were bundled together.

    Vote NO for the School Referendum and get the School Board and Administration focused on issues that all our students NEED to learn to become prepared and succeed to their fullest potential at ETHS.

    1. Not the Walls………

      I believe children learn thanks to the teachers who surround them, not the walls.

      If the community is interested in giving a better education, and given the times, we should redirect our energy and thoughts and finances in a different direction. 

      I believe that adding assistant teachers to a classroom would create a smaller classroom, if the student:teacher ratio is 20:1, then it would be 10:1. Double the kids could benefit from direct teacher attention in the same amount of time. (When parents are invited in the classrooms this is exactly what they are doing!) This could be done through a pilot based program, maybe select one school to start for a determined amount of time. In Evanston we have specialized programs that are geared toward a small number of kids. This would benefit everyone if it proved to work and was implemented district-wide. I'm sure D65 could find a number of new teachers willing to fill a temporary position! Ultimately, the true scope of learning would be fulfilled. 

    2. Needs vs. Wants

      I can not believe that this issue has progressed this far.  The property tax base in Evanston is so small, and the property taxes so high that middle class people can hardly afford to live anymore.  How dare you discuss building a new school in this economy.  If the people in this district wanted a grammar school that was close by, why did they move into this neighborhood?  It's like moving next to the airport and then complaining about the noise.

  2. 25 million increase, so why no maintenance on current schools?

    IF the board can raise an additional 25 million without voter approval, how would this affect current building maintanence funds?

    Was the board thinking of uprgrading the other buildings another 25 million on top of the proposed STEM, locker rooms, and welcome centers?

    If the need for space is only "pressing:" in grades 6-8, why are we even proposing creating a K-5th grade building?

  3. Who’s Pushing for a Yes Vote

    I thought that Board members and members of the administration were prevented BY LAW from doing more that providing factual informatiion about the referendum. What are Hardy Murphy and Katie Bailey doing at an explictly PRO-referendum event?

  4. District 65 referendum

    It seems to me that if the District board can afford that generous pay increase for its superintendent, then it must actually not be in a cash crunch.  I've decided to vote 'no' in the referendum.

  5. Third to that

    Third to that.

    Raise my taxes to keep teacher assistants and support staff.

    Don't build new schools when we can't staff what we already have. 

    Vote NO. 

  6. fourth that

    I fourth the idea that we need the improvements to existing schools and more teachers and aides.  It feels like betraying my leftie values which lead me to want to always spend more on education, but I don't trust Dr Murphy to do a good job developing all of this, much less provide the kind of leadership that would be required for a school like the one proposed to succeed.  Just look at the implementation of TWI.  We are talking about a school with nearly 90% of kids in poverty.  That kind of challenge cannot be accomplished in the current contentious atmosphere.

    I'd happily vote for increased taxes to fund more teachers and improvements to existing schools and even redistricting, possibly de-magnetizing so King Lab could become a neighborhood school, and bussing kids from the north to the south (or north to "central core", but I cannot vote for this.  

    Hopefully the school board will recognize this as the NO CONFIDENCE vote that it is for Dr. Murphy and will not again renew his contract.   

     

    1. Lefty Problem

      The problem with Evanston schools is that all lefty's want to throw more money at Evanston's school problems. If we went back to the way education was handled 40 – 50 years ago, teachers can easily handle larger class sizes by having more control over the students. Add student uniforms as required dress and teachers could handle class sizes approaching the mid-forties.

      Remember that spending more money has never improved an education system. California went school spending crazy 20 years ago and ended up having the worst school system in the country. Their schools are not very good now but they have steadily improved as they continue to cut spending.

  7. Agree!

    I would hate to open a new school and then have teachers and staff cut, class sizes increase, and other programs (like drama, art, library, music, TWI, and inclusion) fall apart. I am for social justice, and I am definitely for education, but in this case I think that it would be unwise to open an entirely new building when we are unsure about long-term funding for what is already in place.

  8. Should Bailey Step Down?

    I was shocked to see the School Board President out doing a dog and pony show for the referendum.

    The school board voted to allow the public to decide -it did not vote to support passage of the referendum. For her to use her position as President of the School Board to do anything but supply facts – is an abuse of power.

    She should not present herself and use her position to sell the referendum.  Not only does it give the false impression that the full board supports passage of the referendum – which they don't, but it's against the law!

    We need leadership with integrity.   We need leadership we can trust will uphold the law,   Let the people decide on the facts – not on some marketing pitch.

    1. Bailey and Murphy breaking the law by speaking pro referendum??

      By law,  all school board members and school employees are not allowed to campaign in support or against a referendum.  They are only allowed to share factual information.

       I would call attending a pro-referendum rally lobbying in support. Would you all?

      I think that if they wanted to share facts, a more neutral meeting ground, would have been more appropriate.

      Eileen Budde and Richard Rykhus are the only two who voted down this referendum idea, citing the lack of funding to continue paying current staff much less pay for a new staff (Budde) and re-segregation of low income students (Rykhus) as the reasons.

      If you notice, they are not out lobbying against the referendum. They are sharing facts, as they are allowed to do by law.  

      I am not pleased with the actions of this school board nor the superintendant. Regardless of how you feel about the referendum, we should all hold our educational leaders to the highest ethical standards.

       

       

       

      1. There is cause for a lawsuit against D65

        My guess is if the referendum passes someone would surely file a lawsuit against D65.

        D65 Board member Jerome Summers last month at a ward meeting said a vote for the referendum would "keep Evanston on the cutting edge of equality and justice, as the city has been for over 150 years now."

        Summers arguably violated state law by campaigning for the new school.

        This is not to mention that Susan Engel who co-founded Citizens for a Better Evanston, a pro-Fifth ward advocacy group, was appointed by D65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy to sit on the New School Committee – more evidence the commitee was stacked with pro-Fifth Ward school advocates.

        CBE is passing around shiny buttons, glitzy brochures, has a fancy website and is well-funded and well-organized. That's because high-ranking Democrats such as Jan Schakowsky, Jeff Schoenberg and others such as union supporters have come out in support of it.

        The irony in all this is that those who want to stop the minority population decline in the Fifth Ward might not realize that a new school would certainly raise the value of the homes in the area and could gentrify the neighborhood. A new school would most certainly raise property taxes in the Fifth Ward as it would all of Evanston.

        Nobody even knows how much money it would cost to operate the new school. D65 Board member Eilleen Budde thinks that another referendum would be needed.

        I'll bet ya my life savings that the Teacher's Union is also behind the new school referendum push and involved with CBE. Democrats in this neck of the woods, heck everywhere, have a knack for passing more government projects that provide more union jobs, and then raise taxes and borrow to pay for it.

        Anyone wonder why 85 percent of all union campaign donations go to Democrat politicians?

        I am tired of paying more property taxes, income taxes, gas taxes, fees, fines, water rates, etc.

        VOTE NO!!!

        And then vote out all D65 board members who tried to ram through this proposed expensive and unneccessary school.

        1. Please, stop the idiotic pandering

          Stop labeling this a democrat sponsored piece of crud.  I'm a Democrat and I totally oppose this referendum. 

  9. The Proposed School: Another Solution in Search of a Problem?

      I am getting ready to vote, and reviewing the candidates and the issues. I am stuck on one. I like schools, especially good ones, public ones and neighborhood ones. But I cannot figure out what exactly the problem is that the school referendum is designed to solve?

      Are Willard, Orrington etc. so bad that some students ought not go there? That does not seem right. Those schools are highly rated, and the parents of the children who may be removed from them seem satisfied with those schools.

      Should minority race children not be in schools with majority race students? That does not seem right either. And if that outcome were suggested by a group with less benign motivation than the proponents of the new school, holy hell would erupt, and properly so.

      What about separating out students by economic class? Would clustering low income students together create a better educational atmosphere for them? There is precious little evidence for that proposition, and much against it.

      Is it the absence of certain laboratory and other facilities at middle schools and potential overcrowding at certain lower grade schools? Well, it can’t be the former, because no referendum is required for the school board to improve existing schools. Overcrowding? Don’t the new census numbers show a loss of population in Evanston, especially in the area designated for the new school?

      Does “social justice” demand that a new school be built? Some people make that argument, but they never define what “social justice” is, other perhaps than alleviating some of the inconvenience of busing. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that busing is annoying and places a disproportionate burden on one segment of the community. That’s a concern, but does it rise to the level of invidious discrimination or a constitutional or statutory issue? We need to be cautious about using labels like “social justice,” lest we weaken the claim when we really need to make it.
      Looking more closely, does the proponents’ view of “social justice” require an educational experiment that forces an overwhelmingly economically challenged group of students into an untested setting in which they would not meet children from other backgrounds? There doesn’t seem to be much social, or much justice, in that. And, where in the “social justice” equation does the loss of teachers, teachers aides, a speech therapist, a psychologist and others fall? What about the students who will lose services and programs?

      Does the school district have so much money that it feels compelled to spend it through more construction and increased yearly maintenance and personnel expenses? The budget projections sure do not suggest that the district is awash in cash. The recently revised projections which only estimate a balanced budget for a year or two (but not beyond) do not even consider the impact of increased costs for new teacher personnel for a new school, increased costs resulting from a new teachers contract soon to be negotiated or increased costs of potential new state legislation requiring the district to pay for the pensions it negotiated previously.

      So, as much as I like good, public neighborhood schools, I am not convinced that the current proposal for a new school is best for all of Evanston, or even the targeted children. In fact, if the proposal for a new school had sufficient merit, the school board would not have had to disingenuously package it with other bells and whistles in an effort to gain support. It doesn’t, so they did. And that packaging itself speaks volumes about the board and the proposal. Hmm, maybe I’m not stuck after all.

    1. Well said

      Clear Eyed, well said.

      The District needs to improve educational performance.  Look at Oakton, Washington and Dawes — schools which are hard-pressed to meet minimum standards.  In the case of Oakton, it has failed to meet federal standards.  Those schools also are not filled to capacity. 

      It's notable that these schools also draw its students from the less-wealthy parts of Evanston.  I hate to say it, but without other types of support beyond building a new school in the 5th Ward, the new school is doomed to fail within the next decade.  The corollary to this is that a new school is not the cure-all for a distressed neighborhood.  It certainly can help, but it is not sufficient.

      I am fully in support of doing everything we can to help our children succeed.  To that, I would be eminently in support of increasing our tax dollars to hire more teachers (so long as they are qualified), teachers aides and broadening the curriculum.  One of the most important things we could do for the 5th Ward kids as well as Evanston as a whole is to spend more funds on after school programs for kids whose parents work and therefore cannot be with them in the afternoons/early evenings.  I envision these programs to fold in fun activities while also providing disadvantaged kids with additional tutoring.  There could also be activities that promote physical wellness.  In short, these programs would augment the kids' education, but more importantly provide a safe place for kids who do not have adults at home between the end of school and the time their parents get home. 

      I am also fully in support of revamping the nutrition program at Evanston schools, including the high school.  While District 65 has made some improvements by providing fruit and salad options for the kids, it can and should do more.  My wife volunteers at our kids' elementary school, and she sees quite a bit of the "breakfast for lunch" option, i.e., pancakes and breakfast meats with lots of syrup for lunch.  One does not need to be a nutritionist or a rocket scientist to know that the kids will be flying on a sugar high for an hour or so, and then come crashing down.  Nice way to have alert kids at 1 or 2 pm!  News stories abound regarding schools that have revamped their cafeteria plans with freshly cooked well-balanced meals.  These projects require some funds upfront, but in terms of maintenance are very comparable in cost to current cafeteria programs.

      These are commonsense solutions, and ones for which I would fully support increasing our property taxes.  But to increase property taxes to build a school to provide "social justice" when our operating budget is more than nebulous, especially given that the state government is about to require the school districts to fund up their pension shortfalls, is quite reckless, and very disingenous.

      Bottom line:  spend our money wisely!  It's almost ironic that the school board that is responsible for education can act so stupidly.

      1. Vote No

        First of all "Clear Eyed", I couldn't agree more. You sum up the situation perfectly. 

        However, "Well Said" by Anonymous, I have to address your statement characterizing Dawes, Oakton & Washington as failing schools. They are not and please don't make statements like that before familiarizing yourself with all the info on the Illinois School Report Card website. Also, having a general understanding of NCLB and AYP would help too. Under this program even New Trier was on the warning list. 

        My child goes to Oakton and even when the federally mandated letter came out that offered us a transfer to a different school that wasn't on the warning list, we didn't consider it for a minute. This is true for the majority of families at Dawes & Washington too. Why the heck would people choose to stay? Shhh, don tell anyone, but our school community is outstanding.  Our teachers and administrators are fantastic. My child meets and exceeds on all his tests and works above grade level in most subjects. The kids who struggle, receive a ton of support. That same population of kids struggles at every other school in the district- Dawes, Oakton and Washington just happen to have the highest percentages of them.  Also, at Oakton we meet and exceed standards in math. It's reading that continues to be an issue, but wouldn't you know it, the kids whose parents read to them score high. The kids who haven't been exposed to books from an early age in the home don't. 

        So, we have an achievement gap issue DISTRICTWIDE. The progress at Dawes, Oakton & Washington has been slow & steady. Scores at Oakton for these struggling groups has been on the rise for the past 5 years, but no magic bullet has been found as of yet.  It seems highly unlikely to me that building a fancy new school is the answer to a set of very complex issues that every school in District 65 currently deals with to varying degrees. 

  10. Top 10 reasons to Vote NO re: School Referendum

    10. Vote NO to segregation

    9. D65 Administration hasn't honestly presented all the facts (Budget changes, cost of new school)

    8.Evanston Teachers think it's a bad idea

    7.Concentrating children of poverty in one school is a bad idea

    6. We don't need all the new classrooms

    5. People in Evanston are financially stretched-retirees & working families

    4. The "New School Committee" reached its conclusion BEFORE it started

    3. Survey says, "Over 90% of parents are happy with their current school"

    2. D65 is currently estimating a deficit and they want to spend more money?

    1. Mayor Lorraine Morton and Hecky Powell think it's a bad idea

    Vote NO on March 20th

  11. School Referendum.

    Better education ..

    The problem with providing a quality education in Evanston for all of it's citizens has very little to do with the additions of a new schools, intergration or segregation. Let me cut through the chase and ad some sense to this thing. Herein, is where I believe the problem lies.

    I am a black male and this may be a hard pill to swollow for those who also share the same ethincity

    Problem number #1: The lack of discipline within the schools. Student can do anything without the fear of any repercussion.  You want to know who the number one culprits are? We are! and then we wonder why our causcians brothers and sisters don't want no parts of us. Black people, my people …manage your children! Tell your sons to pull their pants up, teach your daughter how to cover themselves up and to respect themselves.

    Bottom line, there is something wrong with us that no amount of money or addition of schools can fix. So please wake, if we would only wake up and get control over our own childten then the TEACHERS will be abe to do what they signrd up to do and that is to TEACH and not spend half the day trying to control our HARD HEAD children! Gotta go …shout back at me.

    alvinp

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