The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board wrestled with the consequences of the failed March 20 referendum that would have financed a new school and additions to the district’s middle schools and came to an unofficial consensus that a new referendum in November might be necessary if the district is to solve its space problems.

“We have to think about putting this back on the ballot in November,” said member Andrew Pigozzi. “I really don’t see a choice.”

He added:  “And I think you’re looking at a floor of $20 million. You can’t adequately solve the problem for $5 million a piece,” referring to major additions at Haven and Nichols middle schools.

Member Richard Rykhus was not sure that was a good idea without exploring other options first, like scaling back the scope of the projects.

“What we had proposed was an ideal state, “ he said. “Now we have to think about what is an essential state.”

In the failed March referendum, some $28 million was allocated for middle school renovations, including $20 million for Haven and Nichols and $8 million for Chute and the district’s two magnet schools at King Lab and Bessie Rhodes.

Rykhus contended that the board needed to see how it could scale down the projects to a point that it might be financed out of the district’s debt service extension base that would enable the district to sell bonds up to a certain limit without going for a referendum.

Board President Katie Bailey questioned whether that would be the right thing to do in light of the fact that the voters had, in effect, vetoed those expenditures that were part of the March referendum.

“Can we vote to do the middle schools when that was part of the referendum that was voted down?” she asked. “We don’t know why people voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and I’m struggling with that.”

Member Tracy Quattrocki contended that “what was voted down was paying more taxes.”

Member Jerome Summers, who had championed the new-school referendum, had a different view.

“Is it about money?” he asked. “In the last two years , we’ve spent more than $20 million at Willard and Dewey and three months ago added $10 million at Lincoln and not one person came in and talked about hard economic times, or their property taxes going up, or increased operating expenses.”

In public comments about the referendum, he said, objections dealt with perceptions about “low-income kids learning if they sit next to each other, or diversity at the schools. But money was not the issue.”

Bailey said the discussion will continue at future board meetings.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Duh

    It's the board members' own fault for confounding the two issues.

    Mr. Summers — I would think it quite reasonable that people are concerned with money at present. Open your eyes, please.

  2. Actually new taxes are a problem

    The referendum campaign was not done very well:  the case for why people should agree to more taxes was not clearly articulated.  And many of us do worry about paying more – everything is always just another $150 or $200 a year but that has added up to my tax bill, for example, going from $5000 20 years ago to nearly $14000 today, which is unsustainable for my family. 

    If the referendum is placed on the ballot again, the leadership is going to have to ariculate much better the needs and the impact.  And a real campaign has to be run — with coffees, neighborhood discussions, area chairs, etc.  The previous referendum campaign relied much too much on social media.

  3. A new school is voted down so D65 wants a revote? Let’s revolt!

    Ain't Katie Bailey a peach?

    Bailey thinks voters vetoed the school renovations project. Wrong, and she knows it.

    It was not necessary to clump the school renovation projects into the new school referendum because a bond is NOT needed to get monies for renovations. The reason why pro-new school folks included the renovation projects into the new school referendum was to try and sway more voters – if voters didn't want a new school but wanted school renovations they might vote yes.

    Most voters saw through the charade that Bailey, Summers, Pigozzi and others tried to pull on highly-taxed Evanstonians.

    And now what? D65 School Board members want ANOTHER REFERENDUM? What will it be this time? A referendum for a new school minus the school renovations? 

    I hate to say this but our school board members are not only disengenous but they are diplicitious in their motives.

    A developer that has done several D65 projects donated money to the well-funded and well-organized Citizens for a Better Evanston, a group formed by a member of the new school committee to get the referendum passed. Schakowsky, Gabel and other powerful Democrat special-interest groups came out to support the new school referendum.

    Does anyone know who else donated to the Citizens for a Better Evanston? 

    Word to the D65 Board – let's focus on saving money through a school district consolidation.

    I think most D65 Board members have had their chance and they not only failed but lost the trust of Evanstonians. I hope next year we have a healthy new crop of sensible, level-headed and trustworthy new candidates like we have in Eileen Budde.

  4. The voters said “NO” – Move on

    The referendum is over – it failed.  Board members need to focus on addressing the issues at hand, and that means getting to the hard work.

    Let the Superintendent know how much of the $24 million debt service extension he can spend, so that he can present workable options.  Is it half? two thirds? is it this summer? is it next summer?  When can the District expect increased revenue from the current TIFs?

    Bite the bullet and make a decision about whether or not to redistrict.  If the answer is no, then move on to whatever alternatives remain.  If the answer is yes, make the commitment, so the Administration can work on maps and options.  Should the district commit to a single lab school and convert Bessie Rhodes to an attendance area K-5 school?  It's not full as a lab school, and student performance is not great there either.  If it were to become an attendance area school again, boundaries could be redrawn for Walker, Willard, Lincolnwood, Dewey, perhaps Washington, and students moved from those schools to Walker or Bessie Rhodes would relieve space issues at Haven and Nichols as well as at the elementary schools.  And there's room at King Lab for students who still want a K-8 lab experience.

    Rethink spending thousands and thousands of dollars on consultants who have no vested interest in Evanston…either the schools or the community.  They merely take the board and Superintendent off the decision making hook.  The numbers from inhouse staff were essentially the same as the numbers from the consultant, and in house staff are accountable to the board.  Consultants may be paid by the board, but it's the administration to whom they report.  Spend that money on our children, on educational enhancements, on maintaining the schools where they learn.

    Bottom line – the referendum failed.  The voters said "NO".   Mr. Summers thinks they only cared about money for this referendum because they didn't rise up against the projects at Willard and Lincoln.  Thing is, Mr. Summers, no one asked for the voters' approval for those projects.  You put the referendum out there; you asked for this one.  We said "NO" and now it's time to do your job.


  5. Yes Mr. Summers it is about

    Yes Mr. Summers it is about the money!  Please rethink your attitude towards spending the tax payer's money.  So clueless… I can't wait for another election!

  6. De-magnetize and re-district

    De-magnetize and re-district. There's no reason we should spend $$ on a new school or additions until those options have been enacted. Use existing funds to update all buildings. If and when we need another school sometime in the future, then by all means put it in the 5th ward.

    1. Agree!

      And personally, I'd rather my kids be bused (they already are, and I'm not complaining about a lack of a "neighborhood") and be a little cramped spacewise in school versus cutting programs and reducing teaching staff.

      I'd take an excellent teacher over a shiny building any day.  Aren't they laying off art and music teachers?  Did the need just magically disappear? Re-district and de-magnetize and keep the teachers teaching. 

  7. Mr. Summers and his racist comments

    It is about the money Mr. Summers.  Not only the outright money to build a new school, but the money to staff it.

    Gas prices weren't pushing over $4 a few years ago.  My property taxes were 11% lower.  My state income tax was 60% lower.  Perhaps the tax payers are coming out now because enough is enough.

    This is not about the color of skin. It is about green. 

    I am truly insulted that Jerome Summers continues making inflammatory comments about this being a race issue, accusing people in the 6th and 7th ward to "look in the mirror" . WHat kind of educational leader drives stakes into the community and accuses people of such things?  Would we tolerate such vicious inflammatory statements from our children?   

      Furthermore,  did he not read that Hecky Powell and Lorraine Morton were also against this referendum? 

    In my opinion, this referendum was also a vote of no confidence against the board and Hardy Murphy. THey say they have miraculously located 4 million dollars but in reality they are cutting special ed. supports, art teachers, teacher materials, and professional development.  Honesty about the operating budget crisis would be refreshing.     

    Until there is a change to forthcoming, honest leadership that tries to pull all parts of our community together rather than dividing citizens by race, I will continue voting no for any more increases.

    1. Intentional cuts

      The 4 million was a joke and IMO the cutting of art programs and teachers is directed at the community for voting down the referendum. 

      Instead of cuts at the adminstrative level, instead of taking time to rethink their finances, they announce these immediate cut proposals.  Their hope is that there will be community outrage over this type of art programs and teacher cutbacks.  

      Then they can craft something else to put on a referendum to generate the cash they want and that will then get passed.   In essence, they are directly attacking the students now to achieve their agenda.

      I can hear it now, this referendum will restore this and that and if you vote against this referendum then you don't love children, blah blah blah.

  8. 5th ward stand up for what is right

    Mr. Summer IS RIGHT!

    When Willard and Dewey work was being done not one person complained. 20 million dollars!

    Lincoln School 10 million dollars!

    Everything that is done in this community comes down to Race and Class. I sit in board meeting, stand in bleachers during  football games, watch soccer games these same people pride themselves how wonderful it is to be in a diverse communitiy. When in fact it is the direct opposite. I raised two boys in this town and i had to fight tooth and nail for everything from teachers and sometime parents to get the respect that they deserved. When it comes to white children being moved or displaced it is a huge issue," not my son, not my daugther…" We have become a community of "NO" when comes to black children. The reason why most of these white children are able to go to these schools are because they are going on the backs of our black children.

    Hecky Powell and Lorraine Morton don't even live in the 5th ward… So why listen to them! There children are long gone… and when they went to school they recieved the best!

    …and also Board members Rykhus and Quattrocki could barely even look in the camera at the last board meeting when making comments, why because of the shame they have brought to the community and division the made between the races.

    It's time to stand up 5th ward and educate yourselves on issues that effect our community. Do it for the children who stand outside on the bus stop. The referendum failed because we gave others our voice… We need to stand and say also "NOT MY SON, NOT MY DAUGHTER!!!!!

    Long time Evanston Resident

    1. Election was the time for 5th Ward to “stand up”

      The 5th Ward had one of it's worst performances in election turnout last month.  If the residents didn't "stand up" then, what makes you think they will  in the future?

      It was pretty clear that most of the residents in the 5th Ward are fine with the current situation.  There was a clear, unobscured chance for folks to "stand up" last month during the election.  For whatever reason, 5th warders largely endorse the status quo as evidenced by their disinterest in the issue.



    2. No more blank checks

      No more blank checks for any race, white or black, 1st Ward to 9th Ward.  The only color this is about is green and saving it, and the town's AAA credit rating. 

    3. No one is going to school on the back of someone else

       These white children are able to go to these schools are because they are going on the backs of our black children?  What is this supposed to mean?

          There are no laws that prohibit people from living wherever they choose.   If you don't like that your kids have to ride a bus, why didn't you think of this before choosing where you live?   There are places to live at all price points in all wards within Evanston.

      As you said, Morton and Powell received the best for their kids.  What is your excuse?

      The fifth ward had an equal voice in this referendum, and they didn't care enough to show up.  Apathy is an answer in itself.



    4. So sorry you feel this way

      They say that timing is everything and unfortunately, the referendum for the 5th ward school money combined with the other $20Million+ for improvements to the middle schools came at the wrong time and with too many answered questions with regard to continuing costs for a new school. 

      There are many of us who are long time residents of Evanston who have seen our property taxes skyrocket, and question the wisdom of spending more at this time.    There are those of us who remember dire predictions of overenrollment 15 or so years ago which did not come to pass, and who are skeptical of a predicted shortage of classroom space at the elementary school level.  

      Paul Brinson's Opening of Schools report prepared for the 12/6/10  D65 Board meeting gave the following information for the  2010-11 year for District 65  "The average class size for general education classes at the K-5 levels are as follows: kindergarten – 20.3 students; first grade – 19.8 students; second grade – 20.9 students; third grade – 18.7 students; fourth grade – 20.4 students; and fifth grade – 21.0 students."

      These are small classes!  Before Kingsley reopened, there were many classes with 25-30 children.  Adding classrooms to relieve those numbers made sense.   Spending the money for a new elementary school not is not warranted. 

      Redistricting is no fun, but families and kids survive.  Ours and many others did when Kingsley re-opened.  With grandfathering to ease the burden on families who are already involved at a school, future students can help balance out the classroom sizes as the redistricting is applied.

      In answer to the comments about noone complaining when the Willard and Dewey improvements were being made, we were not given the chance to vote on a referendum; in this case we were.

      It upsets me that the referendum has ended up being divisive and turned into an "us against them" situation, when it was really all about taking on more debt when our taxes are already sky high.  $1000/month is already too high for our property taxes and we don't live in a fancy house by a long shot.  We can't afford to pay any more.

      Another long-time Evanston resident

  9. Demand the details

    We need to contact school board members and demand that the details of this library, music, drama, and arts "program restructuring" be made known BEFORE students go on summer vacation. If we are increasing teacher workload to seven full classes each day, how are we going to get by with fewer teachers (especially when they have to travel between schools)?

  10. A revised “re-vote” is OK

    Is this about money?  Well, only in that people are happy to pay for things they want, but not for things they don't. 

    A majority of Evanston voters (including myself) clearly did not want to pay for a new 5th Ward school.  Why?  Because, for one reason or another, they didn't want it, or didn't think its benefits justified the (monetary or non-monetary) costs. But that issue was clearly the more contentious and defining issue of the February referendum; in fact, many folks on this board lamented the fact that the school board used the (likely) more popular middle school expansions/renovations to try to prop up the new school debate. 

    So I think it is not only a fair question but an overdue one:  are more people willing to pay a smaller amount strictly to fund existing middle school renovations/expansions?  I am guessing so; I personally would, and I'm actually glad the board is considering asking this question by itself instead of using it as a prop for their new school ambitions. 

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