A $48 million school construction referendum on the March election ballot drew praise and criticism from residents at a 2nd Ward meeting on Evanston’s west side.

Betty Burns Paden, a former 2nd Ward alderman, said now that she’s retired she’s concerned about the cost of the proposal.

“The reason I got out of poverty is education,” Paden said, “But I’m old now and don’t have as much money as I used to have, and I think old people should have the right to live on the little money they have left.”

Lindsay Percival, the executive director of the Child Care Center of Evanston, said she was concerned about possible cost overruns on the project.

She said the District 65 administration building, where the Thursday night ward meeting was held, was orginally supposed to have cost $5 million, “but it ended up costing a lot more than that.”

School Board member Jerome Summers responded that building costs and interest rates are lower now than they’ve been in a very long time, but he said he wasn’t prepared to respond to a question from Percival about whether the board would cap project spending at the $48 million requested in the referendum.

Cindy Leavitt, of 1645 Church St., said that although her children are now grown, she favors the referendum because she believes all children should have a neighborhood school they could walk to.

Jennifer Kyrias of 1117 Darrow Ave., a District 65 teacher, said she was concerned that the district won’t have enough money to staff the schools it has now, let alone a new school.

“It’s a big concern with all our teachers,” Kyrias said, “We need to look at sustainability, at supporting what we have in place already.”

But Madelyn Ducre, of 1929 Foster St., said she plans to vote for the referendum “although it’s going to break me taxwise.”

Summers, who’s pushed for a new school in the 5th Ward on the city’s west side for years, now is barred by state law from advocating as a board member for the referendum now that it’s on the ballot.

But he suggested 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.”

In addition to building a new elementary school in what the board describes as the “central core” of Evanston, the referendum would also fund additions at the district’s middle schools.

Top: About 100 people turned out for the 2nd Ward meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Sounds like Summers broke the law and our backs

    It's now public record that Jerome Summers probably broke state law based on his comments. I wonder if anyone will do anything about it.

    Spending $48 million (you know it will be a lot more) to build a new school on the grounds of "social justice" and "equality" is ludicrous.

    If you want to talk about social justice and equality then why don't children at Lincolnwood, Orrington and Kingsley get foreign language instruction through the TWI program as kids at Washington, Willard, Dewey and Oakton do? And not everyone on those schools get TWI – only a lucky few. How many parents want their children to learn a foreign language – raise your hands.

    And why is the average class size at Lincolnwood, KIngsley and Willard around 24 students where the average class size at Oakton is around 16? The class sizes at charter schools are even lower. 

    Consider that D65 hasn't even reached the enrollment numbers of 10 years ago and a survey indicated that the vast majority of Fifth Ward parents were happy with their current school situation. The population in the Fifth Ward has dropped in the past several years.

    Not only does Jerome Summers, D65 Board President Katie Bailey and D65 Superintendent Hardy "contract extension" Murphy want voters to approve a nearly $50 million referendum but the D65 Board is expected to raise taxes later this year.  The City of Evanston raised taxes 11 percent in the past two years.

    For the past five years my property value has declined but every year my property taxes went up. That's because elected officials keep raising our tax rates.

    Did your taxes go up again?

    There are hard-working middle class folks in Evanston. Who in Evanston is looking out for them? Where is their equality?

    We now have a D65 school board member that possibly broke state law as he breaks our backs in even higher taxes.

    Get your neighbors, friends and VOTE THIS DOWN!!!! And then vote out the D65 school board incumbents. 

  2. Taxpayer cost of referendum

    Hello people. The taxpayer cost of this referendum is actually less than what we paid for the past 10 years to retire (completely paid with the 2011 tax year) the bond issue from at the time of the construction of the Joseph Hill building and capital improvements at a number of schools in the district.  40% less.  I don't know why the administration and or the board is not pointing this out to people. 

    It is a great time to issue bonds — interest rates are at record lows.  Repayment will be spread out over 20 years rather than the 10 year payback on the last bond issue.  Construction costs are also very competitive.  We have already built additions to Willard and Dewey (twice) and now Lincoln.  The crush is coming to the middle schools soon.  The 5th ward residents are the only people in Evanston who don't have the choice of a nerighborhood school — where is the fairness in that?

    Vote yes for the referendum!

    1. Why does this argument sound familiar? Oh, I remember

      Lookie, lookie — cheap credit!  Come on down and get your semitruck full of money on cheap, easy credit.

      So why does this argument sound familiar?  Because it's the same mindset that landed this entire country in a financial mess.

      This is what happened in the housing market when the banks sang their siren song:

      Hey, you want to get a big mortgage, right?  Just ignore that you are living paycheck to paycheck.  And ignore that your credit cards are maxed out.  And don't pay any attention to the fact that the house that you are buying is bigger and flashier than what you need and certainly more than you can possibly afford in the long run.

      So what were borrowers encouraged to do?  Focus on how cheap and easy it is to borrow!!!  Borrowers were told that they couldn't afford NOT to borrow (and borrow a lot) right away.  Unfortunately, too many borrowers believed it and look at the consequences.

      For those of us with financial sense, this argument is a fail, just like every other argument being trotted out by D65 and its assigned minions.  How gullible do they think that we are?  Just because credit is "cheap" and "easy" does not mean that we should borrow $48 million now for a school that we don't need. 

      The attendance figures are cooked, just like the financial data is being cooked.  I thought that the Afro-centric Curriculum program was supposed to bring "social justice".  What are the academic results of that program?  D65 does not talk about those results very often.  Does anyone wonder why not?

      A correction:  the Fifth Ward is not the only neighborhood without a "neighborhood" school.  Again, a fail argument.  Many, many children across the district ride buses for various reasons and many children walk long distances (I know of some who walk more than a mile) to get to their attendance area school.

      And isn't it fabulous to see that a school board member who wants this school is willing to break the law to go out and lobby for votes to get what he wants.  Disgraceful.  Perhaps the appropriate government authorities (A.G.'s Office, State Board of Elections — I will find out) would be interested to know what is going on.  I think that I will make some calls on Monday since it appears that at least one school board member feels that the law does not apply to him so he can do as he wishes to foist this expensive and wasteful plan on everyone.

  3. Time to move forward

    Evanston is a place where great education matters.  We are a town that values children, the future of learning and the power of making a real difference.  I think we can all agree on that.  

    This referendum is not complicated.  It is about giving our students great opportunities.  It's about building a school in a neighborhood that needs a school.   It's about bringing amazing new science, technology and engineering labs to our middle schools.  It's about restoring our aging school buildings.  It is about moving forward.  

    In 2006, our district was home to 6,440 students.  Today, our schools serve 7,200 children.  By 2019, estimates gauge that over 7,500 students will be showing up for the morning bell.  Our schools need space.  It's not complicated.

    In a few years, Haven will host over 850 students and Nichols, 740 children.  Each of these schools will grow to support roughly 200 more students than they were meant to handle.  Without a doubt, the District will have to resolve these over-crowding challenges.  If there is no new revenue from the passage of this referendum, district-wide resources will be re-prioritized and wait-listed.  

    With new revenue, not only will the District be able to relieve space demands, but all schools will continue to benefit from capital improvements and targetted upgrades.   

    The increase associated with the March 20th referendum will cost taxpayers less tax dollars (by 60%) than did the previous referendum, which was fully paid off in 2010. To be exact, the Evanston homeowner who lives in a house valued at $400K will pay $127 per year in property taxes to fund this referendum.  This is a real investment in our future.  

    This referendum supports all of Evanston.  The capital projects from this plan will create over 280 jobs for our local economy, while moving our District into the 21st Century.  It is time to move forward.   

    Vote Yes to the District 65 referendum, publicly referred to as the Better Schools Initiative.

    1. Vote NO for a new 5th Ward school

      It isn't complicated.

      In 2001, D65 enrollment was 300 MORE students than current enrollment figures. 300 MORE STUDENTS!!!!!!!

      This was NEVER discussed by the New School Committee. 

      In 2009, the D65 Board publicly said there was an enrollment decline and predicted a 180 student drop for the following five years!!!!!


      Right now D65 has broken ground and is expanding several schools. My guess is the D65 School Board paired school additions in with a new school on the referendum vote in an effort to confuse voters.

      I love how pro-5th Ward new school proponents say the referendum won't cost much – $127 for a $400,000 home. Since the Recession began in 2007, city, school, county, state, sales and property taxes have ALL gone up. 

      I am sure Evanston homeowners can attest that each year since 2007 their property values have gone down as property taxes each year have gone up. It adds up. My property taxes have nearly doubled since 2005 but my property value has not.

      One more thing — how much you want to bet the unions support the new 5th Ward school. Let's not even get started on how much money it would cost to pay the new unionized teachers and staff for this new school in an area with a population DECLINE.

      And remember, Illinois, in the worst fiscal condition in the nation, is on the way toward bankruptcy. Current demographics show that Illinois leads the nation with more people leaving the state than coming in. Since the recession began, the national birth rate has dropped.

      There's been no talk how the state, feds and court system would square with a new school that surely would have more than 80 percent minority population in a town that has 40 percent minority population. I thought Evanston prided itself on diversity?

      Vote NO for a new Fifth Ward school!

      1. Paying for the referendum

        With bafflegab flying in all directions as to cost, population increase/decrease, social justice, etc. let us not forget that not only will there be increased operating costs but there is another cost looming.  The state currently pays for teacher pensions and there is an attempt to transfer that cost to the local school district.

        Those projected costs are way off.

        You just can't wait to see those new property taxes….

      2. Vote YES for the referendum

        According to a November 2011 Evanston Roundtable analysis of opening of schools reports, district 65 enrollment for K-8 was 6905 students in 1999, then declined each year to a low of 6098 students in 2006, then increased each year reaching 6809 students as of the opening of schools in 2011.  Look at this year's report and you'll see the that the elementary buildings are rapidly filling up.  Nearly 500 students at Dewey, Washington and Willard, and all of the others except Walker in the 400 range.  Continued increases in school age population are predicted over the next several years.  Vote YES for the referendum–we need the space, and costs to build are as low now as we may ever see.  

        1. No good reason to build a new school, vote NO!!!

          According to a 2010 D65 demographic and enrollment trends report, peak enrollment was in the 2000-01 school year with 7,155 students. That compares to the 2011 enrollment of 6,809 – a 345 student difference.

          I'd say D65 is a better source than an Evanston Roundtable analysis. Wouldn't you? The question is WHY did the New School Committee ignore this KEY FACT!!!


          Consider that new housing has been way down since 2008. National birth rates are down and more people are leaving the state than entering it. And Fifth Ward residents in a survey at taxpayers' expense were lukewarm at best for a new school. So who really wants this $48 million new school? 

          These are all FACTS the stacked New School Committee neglected to study or debate. Why?

          On an interesting side note, did you know that D65 teamed up with D202 in 2001 to vote on a measure to authorize a law firm to represent the school districts and fight property tax appeals? I don't know the result of the vote but Greg Klaiber, a D65 board member at the time, said:

          "We're in desperate need of revenue sources," Klaiber said. "When people try to reduce their property taxes, that directly affects us."

          Sound a little familiar?

          Source: http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/2.13923/d65-to-vote-to-join-d202-in-tax-issue-1.1980800

          Not an impressive history, D65 has.

          1. current enrollment projections and other fact checks

            Here are the enrollment projections from a report dated November 11, 2011 (your source was from January 2010)


            These are the total numbers from 2011/12 to 2021/22

            7,203 7,384 7,542 7,681 7,826 7,938 7,940 7,945 7,944 7,937 7,929

            Additionally, for the past four years MORE kids showed up than projected.

            The new school in the Central Core doesn't cost $48 million. $27.6 Million of the $48.2 Million of referendum money is earmarked for additions and projects in the District 65 middle and magnet schools. The referendum includes much needed physical improvements throughout the district including additions at two of our middle schools and STEM science labs.  You can learn more about the allocation of spending for the Better Schools Initiative here:  http://www.c4be.com/C4BE/allocation.html

            I also encourage you to learn more about the Fifth Ward survey here:  http://www.c4be.com/C4BE/survey.html

            I'm glad you are sharing your concerns so that they can be addressed before this important vote.

          2. Enrollment projections are predictions not reality


            What you posted are enrollment PROJECTIONS. That is, predictions, something that has NOT HAPPENED.

            Current D65 enrollment is 6,809 students. D65 enrollment in 2001 was 7,155 students – not a projection but something that really happened. A fact.

            A fact that the New School Committee totally ignored and you won't find it in ANY of their reports.

            Will D65 enrollment jump to 7,200 students next year? Doubt it.

            Did D65 consider the fact that Roycemore just expanded its facilities and is looking to significantly increase their enrollment? No? Why bother looking at the competition, right? 

            I couldn't tell by the fertility rate projections if the staticians considered that the national fertility rate has been declining since 2008.

            Your website c4be is clearly biased and is sugarcoating the new school referendum. There are interested parties behind this organized and well-funded movement to get the expensive and unnecessary school built. Judging by the lukewarm response from Fifth Ward residents to build the new school, my guess is most people who want this new school live outside the Fifth Ward and have ulterior motives.

          3. the future

            Dear Anonymous Al,

            I read your comments and they often refer to past student enrollment.  I respectfully summit to you that times have changed.  Children are no longer sat in rows and taught at.  I invite you to make an appointment to visit your neighborhood school.  What you will find is students engaged in learning, working in groups and moving fluidly around their classroom.  You will see differentiated instruction where not all students are working on the same thing.  Our test scores across the district have been steadily improving in all categories (ie white, black, low income, students with an iep) and it is because of these teaching methods.  I do not think anyone wants to move backwards which is what will surely happen if we increase class sizes to what they were in the past. 

            Projections are the only way to predict future enrolllment.  The past four years MORE students have shown up for the first day of school than projected.  With regard to Roycemore's expansion, I imagine that they, too, are expecting increased enrollment throughout Evanston.  While you may be right that fertility rates are falling across the country (or world?) that sure doesn't seem to be the case in our community.


          4. Other school options

            With the problems in the schools—quality and costs of operation/building/pensions—-more parents may look for alternatives.

            Over the last few years we have read more and more about home schooling and children who were home schooled winning national awards, admited to the very best colleges, etc..  Selective reporting ? perhaps but people are starting to notice.

            There may also be more of a cry for charter schools where parents have more input; also private schools and new options we have not considered or even thought of—letting more advanced students skip grades or take more advanced courses earlier and graduate early—in my high school a number graduated after their junior year and went straight to [top] colleges.  Likewise stories of parents finding costs of college pushed them to have their children graduate early and/or start junior college for credit in their soph. year. 

            Parents will [have to] find better ways—and they will.  The projections for enrollment need serious review and scepticism.

          5. 2 million dollars + to staff a new school, 800 million pensions


            The two issues that neither you nor anyone else has addressed:

            1.  How will the school district finance the staffing of the new school after it is built?  The estimated cost is at least 2 million dollars/per year over current expenditures. This has not been factored into the 27 million piece of the referendum to build the school.

            You have said that staffing needs will increase no matter what. However, not all schools in the district are overcrowded.  Re-districting could alleviate the need to hire extra staff, if children from north side schools are shifted in less crowded south side schools.  IF you have data to prove otherwise, please post.  Otherwise, we can assume that re-districting is an answer that will cost the taxpayers nothing.

            2.  What do you propose the district do when the $800 million in teacher pensions become part of the school district budget?

            Illinois has only has 51% of it's pensions funded right now, and they have a 9.2 billion dollar deficit. I think it's safe to say that the taxpayers in Illinois will have to pay these bills at some point.

            What answer would you give to the poor in Evanston who are already struggling to make ends meet?  How do you suggest that they continue paying increased taxes, both in Evanston and state, when their paychecks are not going up?  Or perhaps would you prefer that the poor in Evanston just move to Skokie?  IT seems like this is exactly what many of those in the 5th ward have already done. YOu can find that data here.

          6. great discussion

            I appreciate your questions. 

            First, I would like to debunk this myth that "re-districting" is the answer.  Our school board spent the better part of a year discussing and analyzing capacity across the district.  There is no simple solution.  Cap and transfer in the fall of 2010, where students from a neighborhood school are sent elsewhere when the school is full, was a failure by all accounts.  A single re-districting would not solve our ongoing problems and the community as a whole will reject yearly re-districting.  The time for pushing a re-districting agenda has passed

            You ask how the district will staff the new school.  The real question is overall operating costs for the new school.   "Will the District have to go to an operating referendum for 1.5 MM (which is the projected budget, ot 2M) when this school opens in 2015 (or 2014)?"  The answer is uncertain.  School finance is complicated business.  I personally believe that finding $1.5 MM on an operating budget of $100 M is manageable – the District has had a balanced budget for the last 10 years. Experience indicates that the District will be able to balance the budget. 

            There are however unknowns (and your teacher pension question is just part of that):  negotiations (how the District goes through negotiations could impact the structural balance ahead), CPI (if there was a CPI of 4% v. 2.5%, the District could cover the increase in operating the new schools), state legislative decisions (a change in categorical payments or pensions would devastate our budget).   

            There will never be a perfect time to build a new school, nor is there a perfect solution to overcrowding.  However Evanston has a history of supporting it's schools and providing an exceptional learning environment for all of it's students.  This is an exciting time for education and I hope that you will learn more about what this referendum can do for our community at http://www.c4be.com.


          7. Cap and transfer is not re-districting

            Sorry Martha,

             I don't think your arguments are strong enough here to change my mind.

            Cap and transfer is not the same thing as re-districting, by any means. From reports I've seen, there are classrooms at some schools of 16 kids.   Unless we are at capacity at all schools, spending 27 million to build and then 2 million to staff a new school seem unwarranted.   Yes, many people will reject re-districting, and this is why we need a strong leader to help ease fears.   Hardy Murphy is not this leader.

            I do not think there are many unknowns in finance.  It is a fact that each school district has 800 million in unfunded teacher liablities. It is a fact that a new school with need staffing with associated costs.  Yes, the district will balance the budget, on the backs of the teachers as they cut support staff.

            We can best support our schools by keeping our money behind our teachers.

            THe board can ask again next year for $ for STEM and other facility improvements.  Then, I will be right with you suppporting the efforts.

            But right now,  I will vote NO to a new school.

          8. If only it were easy

            Surely you are not advocating that we take a few kids from Willard, a few from Lincolnwood, a few from Orrington and move them to our classrooms with under 20 kids?  Every year?  Is that the "redistricting" you are advocating?  Because that sure sounds a lot more distruptive than the failed Cap and Transfer where a few incoming kindergartens might start at a new school.  No strong leader, nor parent, would allow such a disrupive and damaging practice.

            I agree that we should support our teachers.  We can not do this if we are asking them to teach oversized classes in old, unmaintained buildings with outdated technology.

            There are no easy answers here.  I am glad that we are having the opportunity to discuss them.

          9. magnet schools

            Isn't this to some degree what the magnet schools do?  Take students from potentially overcrowded classrooms and move them to a magnet school instead of another neighborhood school?

          10. Re-districting is not a yearly process

            Re-districting is not something that is done yearly-

            Re-districting means that the lines of school attendance are re-drawn, and stay re-drawn until there is a need to re-change them again.  If overcrowding in the current northern schools continues to be a problem, as you have written, then the attendance lines would remain changed indefinitely.

            Re-districting is common practice in school districts across the country for situations just like this. 

            There is no data anywhere to suggest that this is not a possibility, as many of the southern end schools have classrooms that are half full. 


          11. Make sure the numbers are apples to apples

            Hey Al–to clarify, the Roundtable article was reporting data presented by Lora Taira, district 65 chief information officer, in the 2011 opening of schools report.  

            Also, the enrollment numbers presented by the Roundtable were for grades K-8 only, excluding Park and Rice Schools and the Joseph Hil Center.  You are comparing total enrollment numbers for 2000-2001 to K-8 enrollment numbers for 2011-2012.  In 2000-2001, which was just about at the peak, total enrollment was 7155; but K-8 enrollment was 6873.  In 2011-2012, K-8 enrollment was 6809.  Thus, this school year enrollment is close to the peak of 11 years ago.  It's 64 kids less, not 346 kids less.

            In any case, enrollment projections are for continuing increases.  Where will we put these children? Yes, cap and transfer, and redistricting are possible; but these tactics will not entirely address the increased enrollment scenario.  Only additional space will do that.  Trailers and building on additional classrooms to existing schools are possible.  But if we need 18 elementary classrooms, doesn't it make more sense to build a new 18 classroom, 21st century school than to add on to our aging buildings?  Then, if and when the enrollment peak has passed through, an aging asset could be sold, bringing money back into the district.  Furthermore, the school district already owns the property on which the proposed new school will be bulit, which is a big cost savings.  Finally, the projected cost for the new school is $21MM, not $48MM; the $27MM difference is for additions and other improvements to the middle schools.  

            An investment in our public schools will pay itself back in spades.  We need the space, and this is a buying opportunity.  We've seen this scenario coming for a number of years now.  This is not the equivalent of running up credit card debt to take a vacation.  It is more like a first-time home buyer taking advantage of historically low mortgage interest rates to make an investment in a home; except that this is an investment, at historically low costs, of the community as a whole in an asset that is needed and that will enrich the community and its children for generations to come.   

            Vote YES for the referendum.

  4. Let’s Spend Like There’s No Tomorrow!

    I think we should build with wild abandon and create a community whose debt burden is so onerous that nobody will be able to afford to live here other than the uber-wealthy.  That is a value system I can get support whole heartedly.

    As an Evanston resident I love traveling and telling friends about our tax rates in Illinois and in Evanston and Cook county specifically.  It's cool to brag about how high our taxes are and how it's a given that every year we will pay more for metered parking, trash collection, water, housing and everything else.  And to top it all off our bond ratings still go down.  As you can only imagine that's usually the punch line!

    In any case – and being a person of strong moral values – I think we should build a school on every other block in Evanston, so our children only need walk a block or two to get to school.  As spending  for things we cannot afford is a value we no longer even think about, but one we should pass along to our children; because let's get serious who else is going to pay for all of our "good" intentions?

    1. Good point!

      We should build everything we could possibly want and provide every possible service WE want.

      Let our children and grandchildren pay for it ! 

  5. No more schools

    I am the parent of a child who will be entering kindergarden next year. The amount I pay in taxes and the fact that my local school is not safe, or academically achieving is so disturbing to me that I cannot vote to build another school. Why not get rid of all the magnet schools and focus on improving all the schools. Enough pandering to one group over another. My local school is not even an option to send my child to. Yes, the class size is smaller, but the problems the school faces are equivalent to schools in Englewood. Enough with the TWI, global studies magnet, African American education- what about a solid, well rounded education for all kids- not just the ones randomly selected by a lottery that does not seem so random.

    I will not support another school when the schools we have are failing (not Willard and a few others) but more than 1/2 the schools in this district are terrible. If my child does not get "selected" to attend a magnet- outside of his neighborhood -then we will have to figure out how to send him to another school- or rent our house and move to another area- maybe move to the willard area.  That is how dire the situation is- we will not send him to the school he is assigned to. 

    I would love to have our" local" school (which is actually 3/4 of a mile further than 2 better performing schools) but the district prefers to divide the community by continuing the magnet, twi, african american programs and now they want to claim they are building a school to "right the inequality".  The only inequality I see if for the average, hard working family to continue to get marginalized. The average, hard working family who does not have access to a safe neighborhood school. Improve all the schools- forget about the imagined inequality happening in one neighborhood- my neighborhood needs safe and performing school. Fix that problem before you build a brand new school to act like you really care about inequality.

    1. welcome to Evanston

      It sounds like you are new to the schools and I am sorry that you have received such biased information. 

      The truth is that our schools – all of them – are high performing.  Students with the same demographics in the district score nearly the same whether they attend Oakton or Willard.  This means that children who receive free or reduced lunch, white, black and hispanic children score almost identically when compared to each other no matter which school they attend.  While one school may be a better fit for your family for a variety of reasons, your child will receive the same education regardless of where they go.  You can explore test scores and their breakdowns by category here:  http://iirc.niu.edu/.  Additional information about test scores and the referendum in general can be found here:  http://www.district65.net/referendum/faq



      1. Debunking “High Performing”

        Ms. King, you say that all Evanston schools are "high performing." But take a look at the State Report Card data that you point to and look at the numbers for the District for low-income students. (Remembering that the new school may have upwards of 80% low income students.)

        3rd grade reading:

        49.3 – meeting standards

        16.1 – exceeding standards

        6th grade reading

        62.2  – meeting standards

        20.7 – exceeding

        8th grade reading

        76.3  – meeting

        3.3 – exceeding

        Yes, there is growth over time and yes, we're comparable with the state. But when we realize just how low Illinois standards are, and only 3.3% are exceeding them (and presumably 20% aren't meeting them at all), this is not "high performing."

        Also, you said that comparable subgroups at different schools were performing at the same level. However, have a look at these numbers comparing WIlliard and Oakton for 5th grade.



        50.0  – meeting

        25.0 – exceeding


        66.7  – meeting

        33.3 – exceeding



        57.6  – meeting

        13.6 – exceeding


        79.7  – meeting

        11.9 – exceeding

        Will the parents of students from the 5th ward who now send their kids to Willard want to change to a different school?


        1. MBix-where did you get the data?

          Can you reference or provide the link to the data that shows results for Willard and Oakton students broken out for Meets and separately for Exceeds? I have heard the statement that all students in D65 by race and income level perform at similar levels no matter where they attend school. However, the data i've seen lumps meets and exceeds together. This is the first time i've seen it broken out individually and the results for this one comparison (Oakton vs Willard) and one grade, 5th, are striking. Twice as many students at Willard are exceeding for reading and three times are exceeding for math in 5th grade compared with Oakton.

          I'm not a statistics major, but as a former consultant, now artist, this raises many, many questions. For Willard, how do grades other than 5th, compare relative to Oakton? What about other schools at which 5th ward students attend like Kingsley, Lincolnwood, Orrington, Dewey et al? This is important information for our community to understand, especially since the proposed 5th ward school will be almost 90% low income. What environment will best serve the students' interests? What environment will best prepare the students to be "College and Career Ready?"

          As MBix correctly points out, the standards for the State of Illinois are very low. Students just meeting state standards in 8th grade will likely score between 19-21 on the ACT. Range is 1-36 with average score a 21.1 in 2009. It's sad how our state officials are misleading students and parents into believing that their students are doing "just fine" by meeting state standards.

        2. thanks for jumping into the conversation


          I agree that the test scores for our kids receiving free and reduced lunch need to be increased.  It's the direction we are headed and will continue with the new school in the Central Core.  I encourage you to visit http://www.c4be.com to read articles about the new views on high poverty schools.  There is some exciting research that supports what I believe – that kids can excel in "poor" schools.  As you point out, many are not excelling now regardless of what school they are attending.  That said, District 65 has a lot to be proud of.  You can read more about acheivement and see statistics here http://www.district65.net/community/achievement.

          I'm not really sure where your final numbers come from.  According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card http://iirc.niu.edu/Default.aspx the numbers I found on ISATS for 5th graders meeting or exceeding standards was as follows:

          Oakton low income 5th grade for years 04 – 11

          % meeting and exceed standards


          54. 38. 46, 58, 58, 51, 65, 71


          82, 65, 86, 70, 77, 78, 85, 92

          Willard low income 5th grade for years 04 – 11

          % meeting and exceeding standards


          40 – 40, 73, 71, 55, 100, 75


          50 – 67, 73, 79, 73, 94, 100

          There are some variances but when looked at statistically across classes and grades, there is no significant difference between subgroups.  What this means is the children who receive free and reduced lunch in the district perform nearly the same regardless of where they go to school. 

          To address your final question, this is what makes this a win-win situation.   No one will be forced to switch schools.  Anyone whose child is attending Willard (or Lincolnwood, Kingsley or Orrington) can choose to stay there.  How great is that?


          1. How will students be allocated?

            Ms. King, you say that "No one will be forced to switch schools.  Anyone whose child is attending Willard (or Lincolnwood, Kingsley or Orrington) can choose to stay there.  How great is that?"

            How then will the new school help to manage overcrowding if no one is forced to go there? The assumption is that parents will be so eager to send their kids there that it will magically manage the overcrowding problem. But what if it doesn't? Surely some amount of coersion will be used to "persuade" parents to move their students.

            Which students will be eligible to attend the shining new school with the wonderful supportive environment? Just those who now live in the 5th ward (oh, excuse me, are we now calling it "the central core")?

            I don't see a map on the CB4E website showing the boundaries of the new school. Isn't this just another way of doing re-districting?

            Can you please direct me to where D65 redrew maps of the district to manage the expanding enrollments and why they rejected this as an option?

  6. Why was this on the 2nd Ward meeting agenda?

    Why was the school referendum even on the agenda for a community ward meeting?

    School Districts are governed by District 65–not the City Councl.

    With all of the city-oriented problems in the ward (crime, poor transportation infrastructure, economic development), why in the world was issue even discussed?

  7. Bring in the trailers!

    When I was in elementary school in Chicago in the 60's, they brought in trailers at my school for several years to handle the ever changing school populations.  It worked.  They took them out 10 years later.

  8. Vote NO

    Summers and a few insiders have been rallying the troops big time to support the vote. Please go to the polls in in March and vote no.

  9. Real social justice would mean busing north kids south

    I do not think you would find anyone in this town who would argue against keeping our schools and family-focused community activities strong. Many already give their time and money to support their schools and kid friendly community programs.

    However, when economic times are hard, we have to question what is the best use of tax dollars to achieve this same mission. The state of Illinois is facing bankrupcy, and with it the teacher pension system.

    Governor Quinn has proposed pushing teacher pensions back to the local property tax level.  This has yet to happen, but is in the works.  Evanston property taxes are up 11 percent in two years.  In the fall, there was a projected 3 million deficit for next year in D65 and a commission was created to look at where to cut services (as of this moment, the money has been found to keep operating expenses as is.)

    Is it the time to build a new school and hire an entire new staff when the district struggles to staff the positions they currently have?

    In 2010, District 65 surveyed all families, administrators, and staff, and asked them to rate their priorities for the school district.  Building a school in the 5th ward was ranked dead last by 51% of families, and 58% of administrators.

    Today, it appears that building a 5th ward school has become priority #1 for social justice reasons, and the school board proposes adding $48 million in debt in order to build this school.  Have our ideas about social justice changed that much in 2 years?

    In September, the school board surveyed via phone all the residents in the 5th ward.  91 percent said that they were content with their current schools. When asked if they would attend a new school in the 5th ward, many replied that they were unsure. Who then is leading the push for the 5th ward school because it does not appear to be the people of the 5th ward?

    In his letter to all D65 families, Hardy Murphy stated that other options might be possible to relieve overcrowding at north side schools, instead of building a 5th ward school.  What are these options?   Do these options include re-districting and busing children in the northern wards south?    If this would solve the overcrowding problems in the northern part of town, then why is this not being discussed?

    Where is the social justice in raising taxes on the middle and low income people in this town if the problem could be solved by reverse busing?

  10. Questions

    Less than half of this bond issue is to cover the cost of a new 5th ward school — the largest amount is for upgrades and additions to the middle schools.  Districtwide K-5 enrollment is up 17% over the last 5 years and it will push the middle schools to the limit soon.  Yes enrollment was higher in the past, but we have chosen smaller classrooms to achieve educational goals, and the results are in: there has been good improvements in acheivement on many levels. Do we care about seeing this continue?

    So you're concerned that Evanston will become less desirable and home values will drop because of high taxes (even though, if the referendum succeeds, the annual debt service cost to taxpayers on the bonds will be 40% lower than the amount we've been paying for the past 10 years on the previous referendum-approved bond issue)?  OK, tell me how shortchanging our schools and increasing class sizes is going to make more people want to move here "for the schools"?

    As for the 5th ward, which do you think would make for a stronger and more desirable community:  A. having a new state-of-the-art elementary school, as well as the option to choose to attend a north Evanston school, available to all of its children, or B. keeping it an educational desert with no public school services whatsoever located in the community?

    1. WIll 5th ward people send their kids?

      In theory, your idea of a 5th ward school sounds good- But the problem is how many 5th ward residents will choose to send their children if the school is built?  According to the survey results form the fall, most want to keep their kids in their current schools.  In addition, what will be the extra cost of staffing this school in the long run?

      In my opinion, this referendum should be voted down for these reasons. 

      Regardless of what we used to pay for bonds, the economic reality is that our country is moving towards a depression. This might be hard to believe since the news tells us everything is grand.  But when you go to the grocery store and fill up your car, you know prices are rising.  The way CPI is computed keeps changing.

      The news tells us that unemployment is very low, but if you go into poor communities you will see that the number of people on the streets, unemployed, and begging is rising.   Unemployment numbers don't count those who stopped looking for work.   Taxes are higher, home prices are lower.  OUr state is bankrupt.     This is just not the time to add on a new school for "social justice" or any other feel good reasons.  Real social justice, in my opinion, is using money wisely for the best impact of all.  

      The school board should ask us  next year for just the money for the upgrades to the buildings.

      1. Common Theme

        Social Justice – liberalism at it's finest to get this passed.  Please.

        State bankrupt.

        City of Evanston bankrupt.

        Get it?


  11. Vote for the referendum

    Vote for the referendum.  The city's ancient school buildings need expanding and upgrading, especially the elderly Haven and Nichols buildings where an enrollment bubble is headed in the very near future.  The city is also overdue for a new school buidling.  Really, some of the ancient K-5 buildings should not have more capital invested in them.  Build a 21st century building, then after the enrollment peak passes through, sell one or more of the dinosaurs if there is excess capacity.  This is the time to build–low construction costs, low financing rates.  It's too bad the district didn't have this project shovel-ready when there were federal stimulus funds to be had.  But it still may never be as inexpensive to build as now.

    If the referendum fails, the enrollment bubble will still have to be dealt with.  This may require shifting King Lab back to a middle school and redistricting city-wide.  This wouldn't be all bad.  Some redistricting is necessary in any case.  But it would be a shame to miss what may be the best building opportunity we may ever have.  

  12. Evanston for the rich!

    A vote for the school referendum is a vote to make Evanston a community for the rich. Why? Only the wealthy can afford to pay the higher taxes that will be required to fund this referendum along with other tax and fee increases that will be coming in the near future. Did anyone else read the front page article in Sunday's NY Times? Middle income and lower income taxpayers are under significant pressure to make ends meet under today's tax and fee structure. The last time i checked, there were a number of homes in foreclosure in Evanston, people are unemployed and underemployed, and yet we are going to assume more debt and ask everyone to pay higher taxes?

    Over the next 5-10 years Evanston will increasingly become a community of the haves and have nots. Middle income residents will not be able to afford to live in the community and retirees living on fixed incomes will leave. Is this Social Justice? Is it Equity? Is this what we want for our community?

    Vito hit the bullseye. Listen to Governor Quinn's budget address on February 22nd. He has already said in other recent meetings and press conferences that he is going to attempt to push pension payments for teachers from the State level to the Local level. What does that mean for future District 65 and District 202 budgets and taxes that Evanston residents will pay? How much more is it going to cost to operate a new 5th Ward School? Currently, D65 is having a difficult time funding its current infrastructure and personnel. Go to the District 65 meeting tonight and find out how our budget became magically balanced in the last couple of weeks.

    Some have said that this referendum will cost less than the prior referendum which expired in 2010. If that referendum expired, then why didn't my taxes to District 65 go DOWN? Reason, there are significant structural cost increases that are driving District 65 higher, and higher. (e.g. Health care) So why are we creating more expenses? Why are we driving the middle class out?

    1. Why didn’t taxes go down

      You will see the reduction on your tax bill for the second installment of the 2011 taxes, which will come out in about November of this year.

      1. Taxes have gone up and up and up

        You might see a reduction in the second installment only because you paid 55 percent of the annual tax bill in the first installment. Property taxes have still gone up, not to mention income, sales, city, school and gas (yes, Evanston raised the gas tax last year by 2 cents).

        The taxes have gone up in this dismal economy and you should know that.

        1. No, I’m not referring to the

          No, I'm not referring to the 55% first installment effect.  It has been written about in the Evanston Review (their archives are not available for free beyond the past 30 days) and discussed at school board meetings.  The cost of the previous referendum-approved bond issue falls off in 2011 because it has now been retired.

          Also, aggressive debt reduction has resulted in a near stellar bond rating, which will allow the new bond issue to take place at an exellent rate:


  13. Additions do not require referendum

    One thing to keep in mind is that the additions to overcrowded schools do NOT require voter approval.   No referendum is needed for that.   I would imagine, even if the referendum was voted down, the additions would be built.

    Building a NEW school requires a referrendum.   The lumping in of additions is a tactic for making the referrendum more appealing to more voters


    1. absolutely

      Yes, if the referendum doesn't pass the district will most likely need to build additions to Nichols and Haven.  These additions would not include new STEM science labs.  This would not address the overcrowding at our elementary schools.

      Most importantly the money for these additions would come from funds allocated for Life Safety and Facility Improvements.  Maintanence of our buildings would suffer as these funds are diverted to manage overcrowding. 

      Is this what we want?  I encourage you to learn the facts about the referendum and vote YES on March 20th.

      1. Life Safety and Infrastructure

        Isn't that what Life Safety and Facilities Improvement Bonds are for?   I pulled the following from a D65 presentation

        "Lifesafety?identified and infrastructure improvement work has been done at every District 65 school during the past five years

        • Classroom and other additions have been completed at Dewey, Oakton, and Willard

        • Classroom additions and renovation work are scheduled for Lincoln."

        If I recall correctly, they even used that bond money to buy the Promethean Boards some years back.  

        So drawing on those moneys to accomodate the overcrowding issues seems to be in line with how the money has been used in the past and indeed, what it was intended for.

        1. good question

          The answer can be found here:

          http://www.district65.net/referendum/faq you can find the below text under the question How do other schools in the district benefit from the referendum? 

          "District 65's schools range in age from more than 100 years to just under 50 years old. (Click here to see date of construction for District 65 schools.)  And, District 65 has made a significant investment over the past decade to improve its facilities, and perform scheduled repairs and maintenance.  The District developed a five-year capital and life-safety schedule with projects identified for every District 65 school. And, while referendum dollars are not earmarked for all of these listed projects, a successful referendum improves the district’s ability to address more of the capital and life safety projects districtwide.  To view a summary of identified life safety and capital projects for each of the district's elementary schools, click here.  Click to view a list of identified life safety and capital projects for each of the district's middle and magnet schools."

          If you visit the site, you find links to the non-referendum projects by school for the next 5 years.  It includes things like music and lunch room additions, air conditioning, elevators to promote inclusion as well as maintanence and safety issues like roof repairs, painting, furniture replacements, etc. 

          If the district is forced to use this money to solve major capacity issues, it will not have the funds for general repair and upgrades. 

          As you can see, it is imperative that we pass this referendum to maintain the standards of our buildings and increase capacity for the future in addition to adding modern science labs to our middle schools.

          Vote YES on March 20th.

  14. A few thoughts

    A few thoughts/questions to throw out there:

    Taxes: yes, they always go up around here. But they will not be going up further because of this referendum – as said already, the old levy for the district bldg is done after this tax bill, and the proposed referendum is less, meaning a net decrease in our taxes.  Now, that being said, taxes may still go up, but it's not because of this.

    Social Justice: is it social justice to continue to integrate places like Willard by offering no other option to the 5th ward community?  Isnt that still catering to the "have's"?  I would bet the 5th ward families like going to places like Willard because it's a great school.  So, what if by building this school we make another great school?  Would they choose to go to the new school?  They may, they may not, but as i understand it they have a choice.

    Low Income Child Achievement: Yes, a big concern, but recent studies in D65 have shown that the free and reduced kids at Willard vs Oakton are succeeding at the same rate, and Oakton and Washington have higher percentages of low income. The neighborhood around the proposed school has an even higher percentage, but if the surveys are true and the families of the 5th ward dont want to go to the school initially, then maybe the low-income percentage would go down to the level of Oakton or Washington.  Still not ideal, but lower. Or maybe it comes down to instruction, curriculum, best practices?

    Neighborhood School: From the TWI program we learn that the best way for a child to learn and thrive is to respect their heritage and teach them in thier primary language.  Maybe having a neighborhood school, whether diverse or not, would give these kids a greater sense of self and actually decrease the anomosity that races have against each other when they get to Haven.  Maybe by giving these families and kids a choice they will grow up feeling better and more confident about themselves.  This is Evanston, after all.  It's not as if these kids never interact with whites and hispanics.  Why dont we give them the choice and get away from placing what we think is best on them.

    Teachers: We love our teachers.  Question: if we have to scrape and scramble with our finances in our district (i'm not sure I buy our sudden ability to balance our budget) than how are we going to afford to pay our teachers more?  By getting the referendum dollars do we leave a little more breathing room in the finances to give our teachers the raises they deserve? I think so, but i'm not sure.  We are money strapped either way, but I'm hopeful that taking advantage of low interest rates, creating wonderful places to work, keeping class size down, relieving stress in our existing schools by allowing for school choice, may allow us to grant teachers a bit of a raise and create nicer working environments for them.

    Middle Schools: We desperately need the space and improvements in our middle schools – more than just trailers, real improvements.  Evanston middle schools need to improve, and STEM labs and updated space is more than welcome.

    City of Evanston itself: Lets look at this from a City perspective.  What could be better for cleaning up and breathing new life into a long neglected neighborhood than finding a low-interest way for someone to build a community-based development…not more new condos, etc, but something for the children and families of Evanston.  Do you want to see your housing values go up?  Look at the city as a whole – help this neighborhood turn around.  That will help the entire city.

    District 65 has been doing stop gap measures for too long.  It's scary to commit to something this large.  It's even scarier to give this kind of power and money to a Superintendent that is as divisive as Hardy Murphy…does he have the ability to hire the kind of principal to lead this school and give them the power they need?  It's hard to tell, his track record isnt great in that regard.  But regardless of our administration's strengths or weaknesses, for the long run i think this may be what we need to do.  People come and go, but infrastructure improvements can stay (hopefully) a lot longer.

    I''d love to hear more feedback.

    1. Great comments

      This really makes sense to me.  Especially the part about giving residents in the fifth ward choice.  I was glad to hear that they won't be forced to change schools.  I also agree that this will have a positive effect on property values.  I know many people who like the smaller class sizes in Evanston when compared to other north shore communities.

      Thank you for making such thoughtful comments.

  15. Vote NO

    Vote No on the new school referendum.

    So far I have heard nothing that indicates we need a new school in Evanston.

    No one has been able to prove that there is any overcrowding or that there will be overcrowding in the future. The population in Illinois, Chicago, and Evanston has been going down. This is the key indicator for the number of children in the future.

    People have claimed that taxes will go down because the previous school loans will be paid off and the new one will cost less because of lower interest rates. This might be true initially but when they need to hire new teachers and administration for the school, taxes will increase.

    Social justice in itself is not a good reason to spend 50 million dollars for a new school. From what I have read a large majority of the 5th ward does not want the school. So, is our school board trying to drive this down the citizens' throats or are they trying to build a monument to themselves?

    People that say, we will never be able to build a school at this cost again, are the same people that will go to a 40% off sale and buy a bunch of things that they don't need, and think that they got a great deal.

    New shiny schools don't make students smarter but good teacher can.

    1. Reasons to vote NO

      Nowhere in all of the hand wringing is any indication of where the real ongoing money is going to come from to pay for this "social justice". There is no response to the distinct possibility that the pension problem will be dumped onto the school districts.

      Where is the money going to come from?

      Is the solution to just extend Murphy's contract?

      1. reasons to vote yes

        This referendum is not just about "social justice".  We have real capacity issues in the district, in addition to the need for modern science labs, and the Better Schools Initiative is a comprehensive solution to those issues.

        Where is the money going to come from?  Will the District have to go to an operating referendum for 1.5 MM (which is the projected budget, ot 2M) when this school opens in 2015 (or 2014)?  The answer is uncertain.  School finance is complicated business.  I personally believe that finding $1.5 MM on an operating budget of $100 M is manageable – the District has had a balanced budget for the last 10 years. Experience indicates that the District will be able to balance the budget.

        There are however unknowns (and your teacher pension question is just part of that):  negotiations (how the District goes through negotiations could impact the structural balance ahead), CPI (if there was a CPI of 4% v. 2.5%, the District could cover the increase in operating the new schools), state legislative decisions (a change in categorical payments or pensions would devastate our budget). 

        The board purposely did not go to an operating referendum at this time because of the aforementioned unknowns (negotiations, the CPI, the outcome of the capital referendum) and because they believe there is a chance they can successfully manage without changing the operating rate.

        There will never be a perfect time to build a new school, nor is there a perfect solution to overcrowding.  However Evanston has a history of supporting it's schools and providing an exceptional learning environment for all of it's students.  This is an exciting time for education and I hope that you will learn more about what this referendum can do for our community at http://www.c4be.com.

        1. You have not answered the question



          You have not answered where is the source of all the money?


          1. Intentionally dense

            Vito, I believe you are being intentionally dense.  As is the case with any government-funded service, the source of the money to build upon and improve our public schools is going to be our taxes.  This is why a capital referendum is on the ballot.  Ms. King has already answered the question about the uncertainty of whether an operating referendum will be necessary to handle the increase in operating budget that a new school could pose, but she has also stated her opinion (based on her research and analysis of available data) that such a referendum will be unlikely.  For you to continue asking this question is disingenuous on your part.

            It is clear you are uneasy with the idea of increased taxes, or perhaps taxes as a general matter.  I agree it is an important factor to consider.  But, personally, I cannot think of a better use of my tax dollars than to improve public education.  The idea that this referendum is being pursued by only a select few or to boost the ego of the superintendent or school board is nonsensical.  District 65 is a high-performing district with quality schools, which is why I moved to Evanston, and there is no reason to think that the District will not spend our tax dollars wisely in the creation and operation of a new school and in overseeing improvements to our existing (extremely old) schools.

          2. Dense?

            Dear Under the Shroud of Anonymity,

            Of course I am concerned about taxes. In fact, the magnitude of the inevitable tax increase. We are approaching over $15K+ per pupil, which is considerably above the average per pupil cost,and the results do not warrant that magnitude. I have had three children go through D65, Dewey and Nichols, and was not impressed with Nichols. I have grandchildren in Wilmette and they teach at a lower cost per pupil.

            To say that the future costs are uncertain, especially with a probable shifting of cost for pensions to local districts is disengenuous, to say the least.

            Despite several requests, the issue of impact on desegregation has been ignored.

            As for the age of the school buildings as a factor — what about the impact of teachers?

            As someone who managed a Value Analysis department and did competitive cost analysis, the attempts at  justification of this referendum approach a SNL parody.

            As far as the District spending tax dollars wisely…please!

          3. Disappointed in District 65

            Our family also moved to Evanston because we thought "District 65 is a high-performing district with quality schools" and we've been disappointed. Leadership starting at the top with Dr. Murphy, is weak and a culture of mediocrity has permeated the district. Look at the leadership team he has assembled over the last 10 years in the district office, think about the turnover in principals at the schools. Consider the narrrowed curriculum focused on Reading and Math. Fortunately we have a number of committed and exceptional teachers in Evanston. And as Vito points out, we're spending a lot of money to educate our children in Evanston. Money is not the issue, it's leadership. District 65 is like house league baseball. All of our kids should be prepared so they can play on the travel team. The brutal realities of the real world will provide a rude awakening to many of our ill prepared kids. Sadly for them, we can't make up for lost time.

          4. Baseball

            I wish you wouldn't mix baseball up with education. Baseball teaches kids that failure is not the end of the world, and that you'll get another shot at bat even if you can't get a hit this time. Baseball is about patience, humility, perseverance, and diligence. Certainly I haven't seen a youth baseball travel team that teaches those things, especially not in Evanston. 

            I would agree with your assessment of District 65 to a degree, but our house league baseball system is in even worse shape, and our travel baseball programs are often full of parents who don't improve on the lessons they learn from the good teachers at their schools. 

            I know you were probably talking about baseball in general, and not about our specific institutions in Evanston, but maybe we should look at the adult leadership in all of our services and programs in Evanston that are there for our kids. I would say that this isn't an isolated problem to just District 65, and it's going to take a concerted effort by all of the parents in the community across the whole spectrum of activities to solve this problem. 

    2. Information


      I encourage you to better inform yourself about the referendum.  There IS overcrowding.  The new school is only a portion of the referendum funds.  Many parents in the Central Core are very interested in a new, state of the art school in their neighborhood.

      Visit http://www.c4be.com.  Attend a Community Forum to learn more.  The first will be held Thursday evening at the Ecology Center at 7:00pm.  The others will be February 28, March 7 and 15.  Check the calendar at http://www.c4be.com for more details.

      1. What you are saying doesn’t sound right.

        There is no overcrowding in the schools right now based on what Dist. 65 has said. They say that there will be overcrowding in several year, despite the trends.

        There was a survey taken of the 5th ward parents that show very little interest in a new school.

        It appears that you are the one that needs to be better informed.

    3. What it will take to get ANY ‘yes’ votes from many

      Until the schools start laying out for those without children and those parents who had children in the schools more than five(?) years ago, what they are doing, the vote will fail.

      What these people see are occassional references to birght students in the press; children in homes of parents they know—and don't know if well educated from schools or parents.  And crimes committed by Evanston students and grads.  On the streets we see a lot of children who do not seem well behaved or acting like they are 'bright' and well educated—yes many are 'just being children' but these things are all we have to go on.

      We expect the local press to be boosters and parents to write about how exceptional their kids are—but many of  the comments sound political and biased, i.e. "everyone is 'above average"—shades of Lake Wobegone.  Also the Review is now more regional and we see less and less about Evanston and local students.

      I don't know if the good students got that way from good teachers, self-drive despite the schools/teachers, or parents making sure they student and providing them help/encouragement/access to enrichments–inside or outside the home—etc..  Until the schools do a better job of communication, $$$ will  be a hard sell with the public.

      The Superintent, perhaps Board, Evanston taxes and the crime rate, do not help !

  16. Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor

    The latest research shows the acheivement gap between rich and poor students is growing. But studies show that giving low income students the opportunity to go to school in areas without high level of povery is beneficial.

    "School districts that reduce concentrations of poverty in schools through public school choice have been able to significantly reduce the achievement and attainment gaps. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, where a longstanding socioeconomic integration plan has allowed students to choose to attend mixed-income magnet schools, the graduation rate for African American, Latino, and low-income students is close to 90 percent, far exceeding the state average for these groups." (http://botc.tcf.org/2012/02/what-can-be-done-about-the-growing-education-gap-between-rich-and-poor.html)

    Why would we want to create a school for low-income and minority students in a community with the kind of racial and socioeconomic diversity that we have? If such a school already existed, wouldn't we be hearing complaints that it was inequitable?

    1. excellent question

      You ask:

      Why would we want to create a school for low-income and minority students in a community with the kind of racial and socioeconomic diversity that we have?

      That is an excellent question that many thoughtful residents have been asking in various forms. 

      The new school will allow students in the central core to experience the benefits of a supportive
      academic environment created by a strong partnership of teachers, parents and community services. It
      will also provide the District and the local community, through a participatory visioning process, an
      opportunity to implement a new model that supports a rigorous curriculum. Local organizations and
      community leaders within the central core and throughout Evanston have already voiced support for the
      school and are stepping forward to work to ensure success.

      There is a tremendous body of research that currently supports the idea that low income schools can be high performing schools.  You will find some examples here:


      Thanks for asking this important question.

      1. “Central Core”? What is that? Downtown?

        One thing that should give voters caution about  this scheme is that supporters invent concepts like the "central core."

        The plan was originally for a "Fifth Ward" school.  I guess they had to shelve that characterization when the enrollment boundaries released by the District omits a significant chunk of the ward.

        If we really want a school in the "central core," put it in Downtown Evanston–which is the central core of the community.  There is plenty of existing space to meet the modest  enrollment gains projected by the district.

        Downtown actually has a more legitimate historical claim than the Fifth Ward for a school.

        Both Benson Avenue school–which was an elementary school–and the High School used to be downtown.  

        If we are really going to  right historical wrongs, serve the Central Core, and give a Ward without a school a new one: reopen the Benson Avenue School in the First Ward.

      2. Strange Bedfellows

        I'm interested in the literature cited on the C4BE website. Particularly, the book "Low-Income Schools That Work," from The Heritage Foundation site. First, I find it curious that a group of Evanstonians concerned about social justice are justifying their decisions with advice from conservative think-tanks.

        But I also find the recommendations from this book interesting, particularly in light of the management of District 65 under Hardy Murphy.

        "High-performing principals enjoy unusual freedom to make important decisions for their schools. They hire and fire teachers. They set their own budgets. In some cases they choose the curriculum.

        If we want to attract exceptional leaders to high-poverty schools, we have to free principals from micromanagement, and give them the freedom No Excuses principals have enjoyed. Principals can excel if they are given the opportunity to do their jobs as they see fit – while being held strictly accountable for academic achievement." [Italics mine.]

        Are any principals (or any other staff in D65) free from micromanagement?

        1. Heritage Foundation connections are not surprising

          I wouldn't call this strange at all.

          It is clear to any objective observer that there is no real rationale for a new school building in District 65.

          None of the data add up, the neighborhood doesn't want it, there are scores of other (less expensive) ways to deal with enrollment increases.

          This whole thing is being driven by a small number of people who–for whatever reason–want to push this thing forward.

          In the absense of evidence, searching for weak and tendentious analysis is not surprising.  Since the Supreme Court weakened the legal basis for school integration in 2007, right wing organizations like Heritage have been subtly advocating for resegregation.

          All of the major national civil rights groups (e.g. NAACP) are against the type of resegregation that is a central focus of the District 65 plan. For some reason there is a small number of folks here in Evanston who are pushing it.

      3. Why

        Based on surveys of central core parents, they don't want a new school. Are you trying to shove it down their throats?

      4. What is best for children is not aim of 5th ward school

        "…allow students in the central core to experience the benefits of a supportiveacademic environment created by a strong partnership of teachers, parents and community services. It will also provide the District and the local community, through a participatory visioning process, an opportunity to implement a new model that supports a rigorous curriculum."

        This sounds like something pulled out the PR materials.  Are you saying this DOESN'T happen at other schools in the community?

        There is substantial research that demonstrates over and over again that the worst setting for low-income kids is economically segregated schools.  Concentration of poverty results in worse academic outcomes no matter how much more in resources one pours into a school.  This school would draw mainly from lower income neighborhoods.Some of the board members have already cited such evidence as a reason for not supporting this misguided initiative.   

        The best thing for these children in the 5th ward is to go to economically integrated schools.

        1. Vote No for the children and Evanston

          I could not agree more.  It is not going to turn out well if the new school is made up of over 85% low income students.  This new school is going to be a huge waste of money and hurt the acadamic performance of students.  My children would go to the new school and I would move from Evanston before I would send them to the new school.

          Vote No and please make sure your neighbors vote no.

          1. Wouldn’t you get to choose?

            I thought that those in the new school attendence area could choose if they wanted to stay at their current school or go to the new one?

            Why wouldn't you want to go to a brand new school?

          2. New school for low income kids vrs. ETHS mixed honors ?

            The new school proposes to keep children bound to their geographical area and from the reports of socio-economic class and it seems track them again by these factors.  What goes unsaid is the assumption that they need to 'be with their own' so they can learn at a 'certain level.'

            Yet ETHS institutes Mixed Honors in the belief that having students of presumed honors level already take classes with students not quite at that level will provide the former with a more diverse viewpoint on subjects and the latter a bit more challenge that will 'lift them.'   What I read it seems the unspoken fact/assumption is that the latter group is mostly minority and the 'mixed' program witll help them.

            Seems like two different assumptions—-ETHS wants to move away from tracking and K-Middle wants to build it in. 

            If as the assumption seems to be that 'upper middle' and above students get better teachers but also more support from home [parent involvement, parents helping with school problems, outside resources, etc] would it not benefit the others to mix with them at least at school ?

            Why the constant assumption that minority students can't learn as well and so they have to be segregated into schools/districts where can be 'with their own' and get 'special' education ?  I don't believe this but apparently the Board and some [numbers in dispute] parents and teachers do.

    2. Thank you for commenting on

      Thank you for commenting on the Cambridge article and I take this as an opportunity to dialoge about a national reform movement that is changing the way public schools do business.  

      Let's be clear about what District 65 is proposing to do.  The District is proposing to move forward.  The District is proposing to do something, in line with trending evidence-based practices.  They are proposing to create new STEM labs, upgrade our buildings and build a new school in a community that has been without a school.  

      To your point about the education gap.  Reform means finding ways to close the gap.  If you aren't familiar with projects like The Harlem Children's Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, KIPP schools, the Coalition for Community Schools, the Federation for Community Schools, you'll find plenty of online research.

      Or, the Gates Foundation might be helpful resource for anyone looking to find out how public education and reform models are influencing local leaders and policy makers.  

      Or, maybe Community Partners, the Children's Defense Fund, Citizens Schools or Communities in Schools would be something of interest.  

      The point being, public education is changing.  The models used to create great schools in lower-income neighborhoods are pulling great results.  School Districts are finding better ways to close to the gap.   This is what District 65 is proposing to do.  

      One more article, from Business Insider.

      1. Low income kids benefit from high income involved parents

        After having spent the last 15 years working in low income schools- in Cabrini Green, ENglewood, Altgeld gardens to name a few-  I think what you read about and the reality of low income schools are two different things.

        The 5th ward kids would be best served by keeping them included in an economically diverse schools.

        There is no difference in educational quality of teachers across our schools, but there is a HUGE difference in parental involvement.    When parents are involved, kids do better.    For economic reasons, many low income families can not be the ever-present mom/dad that we see posting bulletin boards, running the PTA, planning bake sales, organizing girl scouts, fundraising, etc. etc.  at WIllard, LIncolnwood, Dewey, etc.

            The low income kids benefit greatly from the involvement of these families, and no new school can replace this time committment on the part of these parents. I am not blaming low income parents for not being involved, as their financial realities require them to work long hours, maybe two jobs, just to feed the kids. Many of these kids come from one parent homes, where it's a struggle enough just to get the kids dressed and fed.   The best thing our community can do is to support these parents, by keeping their kids integrated into a community where some parents have extra time to donate to the school.

         You won't find that in a research book, but any teacher who has "walked in the trenches" knows it's true.

        I'll be voting NO on the referendum. I hope that the Better Citizens group comes back and asks for the $ next year to fund just the improvements in the buildings, and again to keep the teachers in the classrooms.

        1. who knows best?

          You have strongly held views on what is best for the children and families in the Central Core (which is part of the 5th and 2nd ward).  Personally, I think that those parents and family members are best able to make decisions on what school is best for their children.  Every other family in Evanston has a choice whether or not to send their child to a neighborhood school.  Do you really feel so strongly about your opinion that they should be denied that choice?

          In this community there are those who try to solve problems and those who find flaws.  I, for one, will not come back next year to volunteer my time to support your proposal which is a partial solution to a larger problem.  If you think that's the way to go, I invite you to attend board meetings, research your position and spend your time promoting your plan. 

          1. Please stop using “Central Core.”

            Can we please have a moratorium on made-up geographies such as "Central Core"?  It makes no sense.

          2. Still waiting


            I am still waiting to hear where all this money for the new school is coming. In the meantime our governor is chopping away at school funds and trying to shove the pension fiasco to local districts.

          3. From the Money Tree at City Hall

            Two options:

            1. Have the Council pick the money off the money tree they must have growing at city hall given the way they think they can spend.

            2. Push the problem into the future when the tax burden will fall on the very children all these plans are supposedly being done for.  Of course the bill for that will put them further and further behind unless they get their education soon and move to a city/state where the tax/welfare/free-spending are not killing their economy.

          4. Mr. Brugliera,

            Mr. Brugliera,

            I have answered your question to the best of my ability with the information that is available.  I am not a fortune teller and presumably neither are you.  I believe that the benefits of the referendum outweigh any potential negatives, financial and otherwise.  Clearly we disagree.  I would love to hear your solution on how to handle the yearly increase of students showing up for school, and how it would be paid for. 

            Thank you for having the courage to use your name here on Evanstonnow and I am sure we will have discussions in the future.  As far as this discussion, I think it has stopped being respectful and productive.


          5. New school advocates insult our intelligence

            That's right, Martha,

            It is crystal clear that your numerous posts indicate you and the Citizens for a Better Evanston can not justify the true costs of this new state-of-the-art school no matter how you try and spin it.

            Did you hear the governor's bad news budget speech today? The state is broke, and until a last week, D65 was in the red. However, someone at D65 waved the magical budget wand and voila, there's $3.5 million more in the budget.  How convenient (and highly suspicious).

            Now top Democrat leaders are "floating the idea of shifting responsibility for billions of dollars of pension contributions from the state to local school districts."  There's no way Evanston taxpayers can carry the load of paying pension contributions from union heavy D65 and D202. And you want a new school? 

            This entire new school push is not coming from a large group of Fifth Ward parents. It is a top down school administrative and I think union-led effort to get this unneeded and expensive school referendum passed.

            Case in point:  A co-founder of Citizens for a Better Evanston is Susan Hope Engel, who made a short promotional documentary for the new school. Hardy Murphy appointed Engel to sit on the D65 New School Committee, which after seven months decided the new school was the best option. 

            Here are some FACTS the New School Committee NEVER considered if you read their report

            1) Current D65 enrollment hasn't even reached the peak enrollment 11 years.

            2) New housing in Evanston has significantly dropped since 2008 in this Recession

            3) National birth rates have been declining since 2008 in this Recession

            4) More people are moving out of Illinois than moving in.

            5) Fifth Ward residents in a survey at taxpayers' expense were lukewarm at best for a new school and the vast majority were satisfied with their current school situation.

            6) Roycemore just built a new and larger Evanston campus and are marketing to add 100 or more students

            Not to mention that D65 School Board member Jerome Summers is "barred by state law from advocating as a board member for the referendum now that it's on the ballot." Yet Summers "suggested 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.'" Sounds like advocating for a new school to me.

            How many members are in C4BE and how much money does this group now have? How many of those C4BE members reside in the Fifth Ward? I don't think Martha King or Engel live there.

            The Evanston power brokers are ignoring all the important facts and are trying to ram this new school down our throats. It's an insult to our intelligence.

            If ever there was a reason for Evanstonians to vote out all D65 incumbents and fire Murphy this is it.

          6. Fortune teller?

            Ms. King,

            I am sorry to say that you have not answered my question, which is where is the money for this new school?

            There are really two money questions: the cost of the building and its operating budget.

            I assume that money will come from increased taxes.  Somehow the impact of increased taxes seems to be considered a trivial matter, since it is never mentioned.

            Also, one does not have to be a fortune teller to deduce the consequences of a state legislative process that dumps the pension problem on local districts. As of now almost two thirds of our tax bill goes to the schools. There is only one trajectory for property taxes if the legislature does pass that burden to the local district.

            Nor has anything been mentioned about the impact on four decades of desegregation effort.

            The excuse of insufficient information would make one strive to obtain more and better information. Asking me where it will come from appears to make me the guilty one. I have one answer: higher taxes.

            BTW it is not "fortune telling", it is something called math and weighing alternatives.

          7. Please join us

            tomorrow at the Ecology Center at 7:00.  I feel confident that most of your questions will be answered and if not, you can ask them.

            Hope to see you there.

            Oh, and I'm quite good at math and after weighing the alternatives I've come to a different decision than you.  Perhaps we should just agree to disagree because you certainly aren't changing me to a "no" vote and I don't seem to be swaying your vote. 

          8. Still waiting


            I am still waiting to hear where all this money for the new school is coming. In the meantime our governor is chopping away at school funds and trying to shove the pension fiasco to local districts.

          9. 5th ward parents voiced their opinion, you are not listenining

            The 5th ward parents were surveyed in the fall.  They overwhelming said they are happy. Many said that they don't want to change schools. Perhaps it's you who needs to do a better job listening to the data instead of teling everyone else where to look on your website.

            If we build a school, and nobody "chooses" to go, we have wasted 27 million dollars. 

            I'm putting my efforts into working in the schools.

          10. you are right
            There was a survey. Have you read it? Your interpretation is inaccurate. I’ll let you find the link if you are interested in reading it.
            Personally I have met many central core residents who are thrilled about the new school. And if they aren’t, they get to stay at their current school. Win-win.

          11. 5h ward survey results

            This is a quote from the district's fifth ward survey. Results found here: http://www.district65.net/referendum/Documents/Parent_Survey.pdf

            "the vast majority of parents residing in the fifth ward are content with the schools their children attend, and believe their children are receiving a quality education. They are especially complementary of District 65 teachers. Parents are open to the idea of a new school, but feel they need more detailed information regarding what is being proposed and competing options before they are in a position to judge their support. SHould the district choose to build a new school in the 5th ward, the majority of parents feel they should have a choice as to whether to send their child to the new school-regardless of the type of school (charter, magnet, neighborhood, etc.) THE GREATEST CONCERN FROM PARENTS REGARDING A NEW SCHOOL IN THE FIFTH WARD IS MOST DO NOT WANT TO WITHDRAW THEIR CHILDREN FROM THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL, AS THEY ARE HAPPY WITH THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION THEIR CHILDREN ARE RECEIVING IN THEIR CURRENT SCHOOL, AND DO NOT WANT TO DISRUPT THEIR CHILD'S EDUCATION OR THE FRIENDSHIPS THEY HAVE FORMED. That being said, parents are not against a 5th ward school, and recognize their could be benefits, especially in the area of transportation, where there is discontent among many parents with the length of bus routes."

            SOunds to me like the fifth ward is pretty happy where they are at. $27 million dollars plus staffing fees every year to shorten bus routes? Would you choose to pull your child out of Willard to go to a predominately low income school? I doubt it.

            Strengthen what we have for kids in all wards. Keep teachers in the classrooms. Stand behind children with special needs. KEep aide supports. Ask for money to build on science rooms, welcome centers, and locker rooms next year.

            Vote NO to a new school.

            For those of you who agree with me, sHow up on election day, as I'm sure Martha and her friends will, and if you are like me, you don't have the money to build up  websites, send out fliers, and spend countless hours  trying to convince your friends that people in the 5th ward need saving from deep pockets 

            Re-elect Ellen Budde and RIchard Rykhus to additional terms-  The only school board members smart enough to vote NO to putting this massive budget increase to the largely uniformed voters. .   See article.

        2. Moving Forward

          Thank you for posting.  I'm sure your work in Cabrini Greene, Altgeld Gardens and Englewood has been challenging.  We share similar careers.  From someone who has also served children and families in schools and in their communities, those trenches can be tough.  To that end, I don't compare my decade of work in Chicago's south side and West side as representative of the families of Evanston's central core.  These are not fair comparisons.

          True. Communities in deep poverty often have strapped schools, high drop-out rates, disengaged parents and under-resourced districts.  Evanston's central core is not Englewood.  The students from the central core are not failing.  District 65 is not Chicago Public Schools.  Further to that point, educators in communities on Chicago's south side are re-inventing how they do business.  They are adopting models of change, turning schools into Community Schools.  Public schools are partnering with private non-profit entities, targetting students who need extra help and bringing parents on board.  It is possible and it is happening.  

          Now, back to Evanston.  Parents of the central core care about their child's education.  Having lived in the fifth ward for seven years, I know this to be true.  

          Furthermore, when schools host events for central core families and host them at the Fleetwood Jourdain Center, the room is packed.  Those same families that have a hard time heading out of their neighborhood and joining the PTA (with people they've never met) have no problem getting to the local community center to meet the principal, have a conference, catch up with teachers.  The fact that central core families are not reflected in a strong PTA presence does not predict their future involvement, nor does it define their level of commitment.  

          As you mentioned, powerful PTA's make for a strong school.  I offer that a school in the central core will have a powerful, energized and dedicated PTA.  In fact, I'm looking forward to running its first fundraiser.

          1. Sounds like you already are

            "In fact, I'm looking forward to running its first fundraiser."

            isn't that what you're already doing in trying to persuade people to vote for the referendum? Why not raise the money for the school rather than raising the taxes of the already over-taxed citizens of Evanston?

      2. Magic airplane

        Ms. Langan,

        I am struck by this paragraph from the Business Insider article you cited:

        "When communities decide unequivocally that they will tackle the achievement gap, progress follows.  As a country committed to its ideals we must fuel the pockets of momentum we’re seeing. As we do this, we need to remember to keep our expectations high and encourage an ever-growing number of talented, passionate and committed people to join community efforts in the fight to end educational inequity. The only remaining question is whether we’ll have the courage and will fight at every level to maintain our focus long enough for every child to have access to a truly excellent education."

        I think that Evanston as a community has the commitment and will to tackle the achievement gap. We only differ on how to go about accomplishing it.

        One faction of the community believes that creating a school with primarily minority and low-income students is the way to achieve it. Apparently, this school will have a different curriculum and even a longer school day than other schools in the district, according to Hardy Murphy.

        What about the struggling students in the other schools in the district? Why don't they get longer school days, community schools, supports from local social service agencies? If the research has the answers, why won't those strategies work in the schools we already have? Can they only work if we segregate low-income students into a single building? What happens when they get to middle school?

        The talk about this school reminds me of the Evanston150 visioning process. When asked what he'd like to see in Evanston, a child suggested, "A magic airplane."

        CB4E and Hardy Murphy want us to build the magic panacea school that will solve all the problems in District 65.

        1. It’s NOT the building

          A lot of time and energy has been focused discussing the merits of a new building in the Central Core. But is a new building with cutting edge technology the answer to the challenges that confront our students? It would seem to me that the Principal at the school and the teachers in the classroom are the most important ingredients necessary to help our youth. If D65 is currently struggling to balance its budget,how will increasing costs and creating future budget problems going to help educate all of our children in Evanston? Creating instability and uncertainty into our budgets and the financial future of current teachers doesn't seem fair, sensible nor equitable at this time.

      3. Not accurate summation of ed. reform groups

        The irony of the above post is that many of the above education reform groups cited in this post are trying to solve the problem of isolated poor community schools.

        These groups would look at Evanston's effort to segregate its low income kids in one school as counter to all education research and compounding issues of social injustice in Evanston. 

        This whole referendum is built upon social justice issues, but the problem is we will need another referendum twenty years from now to fix the problems created by this referendum.

        Segregating poor kids is just dumb and harmful in the long run. 

  17. PEG and Money

    Is this new school going to teach the curriculm recommended by PEG (Pacific Education Group)?

    If so, VOTE NO. 

    This is a divissive, agenda driven organization using the monicker "consultant" as a trojan horse to influence our youth.  I cannot believe we spent over $100K with this group in "consultation fees."

    Which brings me to my next point – VOTE NO, becuase it is clear that anyone, be it school districtss, City Council, etc. has a proven track record of fiscal irresponsibility.  Any wonder why our City's fiscal situatino is dire?

    Why trust them on this new school initiative?  Why trust them with MY MONEY, YOUR MONEY as taxpayers of Evanston? 

    Vote NO.

    This propsal for a new school, and my tax dollars, is just one more reason for me to personally look forward to the day when I can move away from this disfunctional hovel named Evanston who seems to be so mired in it's own controversy, political divisiveness, and misery based on just stupid economic decisions and bad leadership. 

  18. Spending more money for schools is not the way to improve them

    What do you consider an over sized class? I know that public schools of the past had classes of 35 – 40 children. Private schools often had as many as 50 plus kids per class. They were able to handle this because they had rules that the students had to follow, or else. They required that parents be involved. They required that parents attend one-on-one sessions with teachers regardless of how the student was performing.

    One thing that we have heard dozens of times over the past twenty years, throwing money at schools has not improved the education of students. This has been proven many times. Good rules that cost nothing do a better job than money or small class sizes

    Our high school has fallen out of the top 5 in the state to being far below the top 50. Part of the problem appears to be that the student reading and math state rankings have fallen dramatically since coming out of 8th grade. How can this be happening? Who is at fault; high school or k-8 teachers?

    Do our schools check to see if students attending our tax supported schools are really Evanston residents? If they find people cheating the system do they kick them out or require them to pay15k tuition per student? If not, they are cheating the Evanston taxpayers.

    The school board should be looking to reduce costs and be prepared to live within taxpayers’ means. They can also be looking to be harder with unions in negotiations in the future. If you remember, some of the Evanston school teachers went down to Springfield and yelled "Raise our Taxes, Raise our Taxes”. The state did raise our taxes, more than they promised and they still don’t have enough. They’ll find another way to pick our pockets because we are not very smart. We prove it every couple of years by sending the Quinn’s, Madigan’s, and Schakowsky’s back into office.

    The school board needs to start running the schools better. Writing a big check is not running them better. Setting up schools that can teach more kids with fewer bodies can be done by setting up rules that must be followed, by teachers and students. Is the board hoping to create better teachers by building a new school? It won’t happen. The board should be studying how schools that get better results spending 9k per student, rather than 15k,  accomplish their feat, then copy them.

    Vote NO on the new school referendum and vote the present board out unless they learn from their mistakes.

  19. Some additional points

    I'm not sure where to insert this because clearly there has been some good debate that I missed. I saw a post on CABE (see link below) and thought there were some good, brief points outlined and I wanted to share it with the community.

    I find that the paper seems biased toward the pro side of the vote which happens to be well organized, and many of the good points being debated within this Now forum haven't been shared. It is a shame that someone has to find this site in order get this sort of content.

    Whether people are pro or con, I hope they vote. I personally don't believe the numbers add up and feel that the "no" argument is stronger.  But, decide for yourself and vote.


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