FPC Meeting 7/1/08

Last night the Facilities Planning Committee were handed revised enrollment projections for the district. The growth outlook has changed so much since the referendum passed that it seemed logical to assume that they might consider shrinking the capacity of the high school a bit in order to ensure we don’t overbuild and to save a few bucks.

So much for logic.

The administrative faction along with at least one school board member seem unable to adapt to the changing circumstances. And if you don’t share their rosy picture of the future, you get called a “pessimist.”

One of the reasons I voted “yes” to the school building referendum last February was because they gave me a number. They said that the owner of a $200,000 home in the district could expect to add $272 onto his/her annual property tax bill. Using the handy calculator at the District 428 website, I plugged in the value of my own home. Eventually I made the decision to vote for the referendum, in part because I felt I could afford it.

Last night they made clear that the calculations were only good for one year, 2009, and a sudden realization hit me like a punch to the stomach: we’ll be picking up the slack.

Guess it was a case of my not adapting to the circumstances. Until now. We are used to property taxes rising as our home values rise. We are not used to paying more because of losses. But recently here we have:

  • Drops in home values
  • Job losses
  • What is probably a record number of foreclosures
  • What is undoubtedly a record price for gasoline, which if sustained has implications for migration that we can only guess at right now
  • Plant closings such as Spaulding Composites and Cavel International
  • Let’s pull out the plant closings for a sec. They tie into the recent city council approval of water rate hikes because they were both big users of water. Whether or not you agree that the city should have made up lost revenue this way, the bottom line is that we are now at least partly picking up the slack left by loss of industry. With property taxes we’re actually stuck doing so. We can’t walk away from the debt except by moving out of the district. So with every drop in EAV, every industrial and commercial closure, every homeowner who can no longer pay, the tab gets bigger for those remaining.

    This seems a good reason to downsize and economize the school building plans, just to make sure more homeowners aren’t chased out of town by tax increases we can’t afford. What’s scary is that a particular bloc on FPC appears to me to be in denial about the necessity.

    Well, how about this, then. As soon as my share of the dollar amount exceeds the promise made by the handy calculator, my vote for Phase II changes to “no.”

    39 thoughts on “FPC Meeting 7/1/08”

    1. I usually plug in the 60115 zip code for the foreclosure map and get between 235 to 255 property listings. I clicked the link, saw 571, and about had a heart attack. Then I realized the link was for the entire county, and the 60115 zip code is still hovering at 240 properties.

      Thanks–I am TOTALLY awake after that . . .

    2. I don’t know about this. If they overestimate capacity at the HS, they can just mothball the extra rooms until some point in the future that they will inevitably be needed. If they underestimate capacity, in the future an addition will need to be built onto the HS. The question to think about here is, it is more economical to build an addition if it’s required later or to just include the extra capacity in the original building plan?

    3. I usually do that, too, but I noticed something. You start with 60115 and get a map with 240 properties, but if you start panning upward toward Sycamore the number keeps growing up to 302 then goes bust. The map will not show more than 300 properties at a time. I put in the county today to get a sense of the proportions involved and that’s the link I shared. Sorry for the additional distress.

    4. Anon, to me it’s what we can afford right now, not quite regardless of future costs but almost. Of course, personally I am betting that things will get worse before they get better, and it will be like this for some time, and that we’d be in much better shape to build conservatively under the circumstances. How much can we push the tax bill up for people who are already downsizing (including moving in with each other, which I am observing as a growing phenomenon) before the whole demographic of people in the category of “barely hanging in there” gets taxed out of town? Who’s left holding the bag, then? How much longer would it take to recover from such a mistake?

    5. What did you expect the District to do? Once the referendum is passed, there is little need fir them to listen to the public. After all, the public lacks the proper training and viewpoint to address matters best left to enlightened public educational professionals. The only way to keep the educators in line with fiscal reality is to keep voting down referendums. This is happening enough now that there is considerable pressure on the General Assembly to find a “better” way to fund schools, where the public has no say whatsoever. The educators firmly believe that education is of infinite value, and trumps any other concerns. Since it is believed to be of infinite value, cost is no object, and only mean spirited reactionaries and other heartless scum would even consider any sort of fiscal restraints on the schools. In all the years I have lived here, the only time there was any degree of fiscal prudence in the management of District 428 was when Stan Johnson was president of the board, and Martha Blitzbau worked hard with him to give the taxpayers a break. It is my belief that the current downturn in the local economy is only the beginning of a many years long regression back to mean in many areas. I do not expect to see “business as usual” again in my lifetime.

    6. Dear Steve: You are on the money:

      The educators firmly believe that education is of infinite value, and trumps any other concerns. Since it is believed to be of infinite value, cost is no object, and only mean spirited reactionaries and other heartless scum would even consider any sort of fiscal restraints on the schools.

      What did I expect? I expected that the FPC could make a difference in this area. In fact, I am not totally disheartened, just disappointed so far that the important money message has not yet gotten through. I guess we must get LOUDER. Nothing is in stone yet.

    7. Oops, may need a little clarification. I mean I, as well as anyone who hasn’t been participating, must make more noise. Our taxpayer-sympathetic friends on FPC are already doing their best every single meeting. No matter how this turns out, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

    8. I support fine people like Yinn, Ivan and Mac for their efforts on behalf of the public interest by working on the FPC. I am hoping that things here at the homefront settle down enough so I can join you at the meetings. It is not going to be easy, but participation in the process is a whole lot more effective than just bitching about everything governmental as happens on the Chronicle website.

    9. Don’t count me in [as a member of the esteemed FPC taxpayer watchdog group, that is;] I’m just an observer and another “body” so far. [Yes, I am editing my comment. I have no business trying to multi-task and have to keep coming back to correct initially-rushed comments. Corrections and additions lie within brackets like this one. So now I want to say that, in addition to Ivan’s and Mac’s advocacy and other good works on the committee, Sal Bonanno and Kay Shelton have been participating as well. In fact, this last meeting Kay said pretty much exactly what I would have said, and I chose not to repeat her points. It is becoming apparent that the silence causes puzzlement among people who are used to seeing me open my yap at city council meetings.]

    10. OK I see your point yinn, how about a compromise.

      Inspired by the new hospital building… It is designed in such a way that the patient ward capacity can be increased in the future without impacting the rest of the hospital’s operations during construction. The “core” of the building where the treatment areas are has a capacity higher than the 100 beds in the patient ward (IIRC).

      To make this analogy fit the HS, think of the kitchen, cafeteria, auditorium, and perhaps even the library as the “core” area built to a higher level of capacity than presently needed. The classroom areas like the patient rooms would be designed in such a way so they “branch” more than they presently do in the last layout I saw, allowing for future classrooms to be added without affecting the main areas (which are most expensive to upgrade). I can’t think of a reason why the gym would need to be made larger so that could just be kept as it is. Locker rooms could branch away from the gym so if more need to be built in the future you would just keep adding branches without needing to redesign the gym.

      There probably are a lot of things that could be tweaked using this concept and it probably would justify sketching up a new layout to see if it would save any money in the long run. Right now we are concerned about the up-front costs, but if the district needs to raise more money for additions before the new bonds are retired, the amount we pay will continue to increase. And that’s just for the HS, who knows what else the district is going to propose over the next 20 years or so.

    11. I get what you mean about building core areas to a larger capacity. However, I do not agree with having a core for 3000 and am only somewhat less resistant to a core for 2500. I admit that part of this resistance comes from a long-held vision for DeKalb to have two smallish high schools, but not all of it is that. Administrators are trying to get all they can but that does not make sense either in terms of projected enrollment nor in our current capacity to pay.

      Which reminds me, how did a field house get in the plan?

    12. The student enrollment projections were provided to everyone at the meeting. There was not time to analyze or digest this information except to see a dramatic reduction in those projections.

      Unfortunately, construction schedule of the grade school did not permit scrutiny of enrollment projections and economic factors. It is being built for 600 students. The only way to reduce debt obligation for that school is through impact fees held by Cortland, unless the school board reduces the construction budget.

      The high school construction budget should be reduced, now. Overall project costs have potential for serious overruns (improvements to Dresser Road, for example.)

    13. Sorry I don’t know this, but who is going to be responsible for upgrading Dresser? I can’t imagine it being anything less than two lanes plus a center turn lane and curbs and sidewalks from Annie to First. Is this something the city is supposed to pick up the tab for? And how come they haven’t started construction on it already if they know they estimated date that the HS will open?

      Despite the economic problem, I’m still thinking that both the city’s total population and its school-aged population is going to continue to increase despite the number of people who leave due to costs burdens in the next few years. Maybe not high enough to warrant the 3,000 plan but still I don’t see the population leveling off any time soon due to two reasons.

      First and foremost, the university will begin its western expansion soon (now that they have built up a capital war chest) which will increase the maximum enrollment they can handle and increases the number of employees, who will bring their families along with them usually. Second, and this is just a local observation, it seems to me like all the 20- and 30-something women on my street are either pregnant or have 1- or 2-year-old kids. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if this is the start of a local baby boom. It seems to me like we will be headed towards 50,000 population sooner rather than later.

      This of course can all be negated if we have a little gang war break out and people start leaving the old neighborhoods en masse because we just can’t figure out how to hire additional police officers but we sure as hell can figure out how to start bulldozing the downtown on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce (shouldn’t they also have an interest in having a safe community? Isn’t that good for business?).

    14. I said something like this:

      I wrote down some notes based on what others said. I doubt that 64% for the referendum is still the same. That was before the economy tanked. Don’t count on that much support anymore.

      The previous superintendent said that contractors are hungry for work and that the $110 million estimate was from before the economy tanked. It could be lower than $110 million. I don’t care if there is one pond, or three ponds or what it looks like but it needs to be lower than $110 million. If it is one million, or two million or five million lower than $110 million, that will make Phase II easier. You people want something–you want Phase II passed. If you spend the entire $110 million, Phase II will be DEAD ON ARRIVAL. That is the key–you people want Phase II passed later.

      For energy efficiency, that would be great to do whatever it takes to make buildings cost effective for HVAC and water usage. But just make the buildings cost effective. I heard getting certification could be around $400,000 to hire some people to go through a check list to see if a building is energy efficient. Just build it for cost effectiveness and skip the official certification process. Go buy a $20 plaque and call it energy efficient. Show us it is energy efficient with lower heating and utility bills. That would be fabulous.


      OK, I’ve thought about this and really, the first thing that should go on not overbuilding the high school begins and ends with cutting back on the facilities for athletics. Those sneaky people had a huge “Field House” on the original drawing presented at the ‘Pat Brag show’ presentation at the theater. Well, a bunch of us went bonkers when we saw that, and estimated it alone might be $20 million. For subsequent views of the future high school, they made that section of the high school bleed over the edge and they changed it to “Athletics” or “Physical Education” or some other innocuous sounding word compared to “Field House.”

      The overbuilding is involved with athletics. They had that as part of the “Core” which includes the cafeteria and the auditorium. They said they would keep those the same size in the “core.” I agree on the cafeteria. I know one idiotic school plan in which a school district boxed in the cafeteria and the kids outgrew a high school within two years of construction. I asked about that at a previous meeting and I told them not to do it.

      I think at least two school board positions come up for election in 2009.

    15. Oh, one more thing I said went something like:

      Lots of people thought that estimated $270 for a $200K house was for the whole thing, based on what was in the marketing. I didn’t know that could change. If that goes much higher, then it is not going to be easy to get Phase II passed.

    16. Geez, I should just go check the notes that I used for my soapbox (chair in the back) speech. I remembered something else:

      If that estimated $270 is a lot more, then something needs to be a lot more cost effective in the regular school budget to compensate.

    17. I appreciated the turnout at the FPC meeting the other night. As Mac mentions, we had just received the revised numbers from Hazel. No one had the opportunity to digest the numbers but my gut feeling was correct. I just wish to point out some things that I think need a little clarifying.

      1. I also did not realize that the estimate given to voters concerning the referendum cost at $277 for a $200,000.00 home was just for one year. In the business world, we look at the big picture and here that would be the total length of the bond which is 20 years. I think back to everything and basically they were telling the voters that it would only cost the owner of a $200,000.00 home $277.00. I truly hope this deception was not intentionally planned.

      2. Yes, things are tough in the industry right now but only really in the residential side. You will not find many residential contractors undertaking a project as these schools or even the refurbishing of the present schools. There are contractors who specialize in smaller commercial and industrial that are now stepping up for the bigger government jobs such as schools. This might be able to help bring the price a bit lower when the schools go out to bid.

      3. All need to remember that tax dollars are being used for these schools. This means that prevailing wage MUST be paid. The hours that it will take to build the schools will be close no matter who wins the bid. However, a better contractor who has established a reputation for quality will use more hours, thus more expensive. Material costs are skyrocketing. This doesn’t just have to do with fuel but also the fact that many of our primary building materials are going to India and China. (Commentary: What the hell is the country thinking sending our stuff over seas?). Fuel is a big factor and also a big unknown factor. Every delivery to the site, excavation, workers transportation, products manufactured with oil and then delivered on and on. The only factor that a company can really change is the profit that it makes and that differs with each company and their overhead.

      4. There is one way to help the bidding company’s lower the cost and that is to use the Federal government’s language for “Value Engineering”. This would let them use materials that are comparable and sometimes even better than originally called out by the architect. If we don’t give them this flexibility they will not have much room to come in under the estimated cost.

      5. I personally like the idea of the track area. I surely would hope that the park district might step in and help a little bit here. If they would just buy the land next to the high school and incorporate that into the rec center, this field house would be great for the community. LEEDS issues points when a portion of the building is opened for the community. Grade school, jr. high school events could be held there. Special olympics could have an indoor venue. Local citizens could walk during the cold months and the local track programs wouldn’t always be subject to bad weather conditions during spring. This phase of the “core” really needs to be in cooperation with the park district to feel right.

    18. We will need at least one more meeting to get a good handle of this population and growth study and the revised numbers. What the district needs to understand is that without the new EAV from new construction, the burden of this referendum will solely be on the homeowner’s of this community. They need to understand this first before they can conclude that the school should be downsized and planned for future growth.

      If we tell people today that is what we are doing then there will be no surprise in the future. Like I said earlier. Even if we get to the point where things may get tight again, it will not ever feel like the current high school does. Class schedules can be modified and areas repurposed for educational purposes. The core WILL be OK and the classroom issue can be resolved. Save the money today and lower the burden to the taxpayer. The numbers are showing us a shortage and we should go by these numbers. A downsized school will be fine and I think the community will respect the decision to downsize if necessary.

    19. The wording is that the amount may change based on the assessed value, which is expected. What I did not expect was the amount changing based on something the schools did. There is nothing about that on the Web site that I could find. Take a look:

      “These calculations are based on current property values. As the assessed valuation of a property changes, the amount of taxes paid will change accordingly.

      If you have questions regarding the assessed value of your property, please contact your township assessor’s office.”

      From: http://www.dist428.org/referendum2008.htm and typing in an amount.

    20. I did not believe the website tax calculator. I suggested in several comments on the Chronicle website that it would be a really good idea to have the Extension Clerk at the County run the numbers in order to have an accurate and unbiased estimate of the tax impact of the referendum. This calculation would be done with the same models used for the tax bills. Of course, I was put down for being suspicious and mean spirited and the like. Having worked with tax assessments in the past, I know how difficult it is to figure them out. I was greatly helped by the Henry County Clerk and her associates and it took them a while to run the numbers. I also had to do this while putting together a budget since the EAV numbers for my town had not been finalized yet, but the budget had to be passed. Of course, we now know that the firm who provided the handy website tax calculator was also helping fund the referendum effort. No conflict of interest there!

    21. Dresser Road anon… A traffic study is in the works and should address my following speculation:

      Dresser Road will need widening, likely from First Street through Annie Glidden. At least the portion of First Street needed to provide volume access to Dresser (west) will also need major improvements. The non-existing Wildflower will need to be constructed to at least a point north of the high school. Traffic signals will likely need to be installed at least at the Wildflower/Dresser intersection with traffic signal improvements at First and Annie Glidden.

      Coordination with the County’s needs and efforts for its expansion at Dresser and Annie Glidden must be obtained (and incorporated into any traffic study). The City and the developer (if any) share of the need and cost of the Dresser corridor would, in regards to upfront costs, be less than the County’s which is likely far less than the School District’s.

      Since the school district was rewarded by voter trust to invest borrowed tax dollars for this construction, and since ground has not broken, there is no reason or excuse not to minimize the burden of necessary road improvements.

      The initial budget, or at least that proposed by the architect’s understanding, for the high school building construction not including the road improvements, is $90 million. The Cortland grade school budget is projected at $15.5 million and board approval for bidding is just around the corner.

      The district is authorized to sell $110 million in debt bonds.

      That leaves $4.5 million to repurpose Chesebro, Huntley and the existing high school — plus Dresser Road improvements? Common sense and fiscal responsibility demands a reduction in the new Verbic-Small-Wallace-Robinson-Davis & Lord Memorial High School building construction budget.

      And the reduction in projected student enrollment provides even further indication of a more conservative fiscal plan.

    22. “I think it is time to hide the valuables in a mattress and buy a shotgun”–Washington Post columnist on the current state of the U.S. economy.

      Check out the video on the Washington Post Web site of Assistant Treasury Secretary Phillip Swagel, who is a deer-in-the-headlights on the “housing correction” [sic]:



      In D.C., the typical day to announce one would like to spend more time with the family (i.e. resign before getting fired) is Friday. I wonder if this guy will still have a job by next weekend.

    23. Not exactly suave, is he. The old euphemisms aren’t working (“That’s my usual line”) and there are no new ones to cover how toasted we are. He can’t say what needs to be said and he won’t lie.

      The high school parking lot is done. Looks fabulous. Did they take care of the mold in the music room, too?

    24. I had the opportunity to talk with a gentleman in the financing industry this evening watching a group of 9/10 year olds play baseball. Takes me back to some real innocent years. We were talking about the numbers concerning the future enrollment numbers for the new schools and the district overall. He is in full agreement of cutting back on the classroom portion and adjusting the core just a wee bit where we can with a preplan for an add on in later years. He also told me about hearing about a big West Coast development/finance company who put in $90 million into a project and walked away from it for only $9 million. Walked away from $81 million plus any equity they had in the project to boot.

      He also suggested that we are not in just a downturn in the economy but rather we have hit a point that was inevitable. That point is change. The development industry whether commercial or residential (more towards residential) will change how business is done. No crystal ball can predict the future but throw in a factorial that really wasn’t present in any other big downturn year and you can see what he means. The ever present credit crunch has to be figured into this present downturn. Businesses are reacting differently than ever before and the regaining of confidence isn’t so noticeable anymore.

      Many communities are continuing to attack builders and developers for obscene amounts of money when some are getting a little wiser. They do see “the golden goose” of many communities and that is truly development. Where I believe that we have gone from one extreme to the other, I do feel that there is a certain amount that development must be accountable for with regards to growth but you cannot charge and bleed the development community to death or all else dies around it. Inflated land values, impact fees, permit fees, build me this and build me that is OK when there is a boom but many communities truly did not experience a boom in recent years but instead were actually conducting business as should be. All the above fees inflated property values throughout the community. Many have told me in the past that I was wrong. I stated several times in the 2 years as President of the DeKalb County Building and Development Association that the more new homes were charged was going to inflate the property values throughout the community. We are here folks.

      Property values are dropping anywhere from 10 to 18%. Furthermore, in many of the older parts of this community, the elderly or the young couples that live in these homes cannot afford to maintain them. This in turn is lowering the values of their property along with neighbors value. This community is sliding backwards and our city government sits and watches. Other communities are offering its homeowners incentives to spruce and rehab their homes. Getting the construction industry back to work. Money being spent on materials and labor, revenues from sales taxes. How many hands will that dollar touch in this community? Many!

    25. I do believe that this community as it did support the referendum needs to show support to the school board in regards to allowing a smart and logical downsizing of the new high school. It is the responsible thing to do right now.

      Of course, this would mean that we need to be very smart as to how we purchase the bonds for this construction. I would wait until we absolutely know what is needed for the final phase of the high school, jr. high and current high. DO NOT borrow any more than is needed, thus DO NOT spend any more than is needed.

      What legacy is this community going to leave for the future generations? Hopefully the decision is not to leave them with a boat load of debt.

      The way we live, work, and play (if any time is left) is going thru a major change. Maybe we need to consider a major change into how government is run in this state, county, city, or even within the school districts.

      One such question is. Does there need to be a superintendent for every school district?

      Why are we not combining more school districts to save on upper administration costs?

    26. Ivan:

      Spot on.

      In a prior campaign for state-wide office, Jim Oberweis (don’t take this as an endorsement and he’s not the only one who has) advocated realignment/reform of schools by county. There would be one superintendent and one administration for all schools within a county. This has countless benefits by having a uniform calendar, counties generally have a more homogenous culture/needs, there is consistency in taxes, financing and so forth. It would seem that a larger teachers union would be able to in turn bargain better rates for insurance and other such benefits, allowing their dollars to go further.

      RE: some of the other above comments. Some of us had reservations about the demographics and asked about it. I don’t think their annual numbers have been exactly accurate. Beilfuss and Fletcher kept repeating the mantra “We have confidence in these numbers”. Some of us didn’t and were proven correct. The housing moratorium put in place by Mayor FingerintheeyeofDeKalbcitizens and his Council minions by itself changed the stream of student increase, as did the subsequent enmity and attacks on residential development.

      There are comments that there are surprises that the $272 price tag (amount of property tax increase) for a 200K house was only good for one year. Not a surprise to some of us. Throughout all referendum campaigns, it was pointed out that the referendum impact is lowest on the first year. I’m not smart enough to know whether that is because it is taken on a partial tax year or if all bonds are not issued the first year. But the last time a referendum was passed, years 2-5 saw not a $200 increase in your taxes, but a $500 increase. The response from the school administration (please see the usual suspects) was that they would not apologize for increasing the value of the homes in DeKalb.

      The failure of the increase in EAV was seen by some of us who are not economists or business people, but just families who watch not gas prices, but the price by barrel of oil. The amount of homes going into foreclosure are being blamed on $4/gallon gasoline. No. It takes at least nine months for houses to reach that point. The foreclosure issues are coming from the impact of $2.50/gallon gasoline, which is where it was nine months or so ago. We have not yet seen the impact of $4/gallon gasoline. There is no increase in EAV from new construction and with falling prices for real estate, there is no true increased value of homes. Worth is going down, not up.

      Change will not come without a revolution. Not necessarily a “shots fired” one, but a massive groundswell. Home rule actually offers us a chance to do so, but we don’t have the leaders to do it. Neither political party offers a candidate who can do this (see the ties of the Democratic candidate to the Mayor of Chicago). It has to start with individuals coming together starting with involvement, even if it is using the tools of e-mail and the internet.

      Or maybe I didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night.

    27. I think you’ve gotten enough sleep, Paul. What you are saying makes a lot of sense. In my mind I’ve just about decided that true “cream of the crop” candidates don’t come along very often and finger-pointing and throwing the bums out aren’t nearly enough to save us. We need to change the structure of things and if that is revolution, so be it.

    28. Ed it really does not matter how education is funded in this state. No matter how much money you give to the public schools, it is never enough. The priorities need to change, and I do not see that happening any time soon. A few years ago, the high school teachers in the Rockford school district were threatening to strike. The Register Star commissioned some sort of survey of the parents who would be impacted. The results were that since the kids were of high school age, they could be left home unsupervised. So long as the social calendar and sports schedules were not affected, the parents were not concerned much. There was no mention of academics. So, what the parents apparently considered the high schools to be was day care centers that have dances and field sports teams. When I would visit a friend who worked nights at prominent suburban high schools, I would walk the halls with him, and there would be trophy case after trophy case after trophy case. Generally, down in a far corner near the swimming pool would be a small exhibit featuring something along the lines of the National Honor Society Nerd of the Month. Not hard to see where the priorities were in those places, either. Closer to home, when I overhear discussions of problems at DeKalb High, the most common statement involves something along the line of “The coach should have…”. There does not seem to be much local concern about academic performance. This may not be the case at the Wright School, but it seems to be a real problem at the high school. The stealth field house is emblematic of this. The squeaking wheel gets the grease, and in virtually all high schools, the loudest squeakers are the booster club parents. Until that changes, and I am not holding my breath, there will be no essential changes until the districts slide into the financial abyss.

    29. Whoops! I screwed up a verb tense. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bonnie Warren would be loudly berating me with a TSK! What I should have said is: “were day care centers”.

    30. I am trying to remember back to the Egyptian Theatre and I do remember a main basketball gym with 2 additional gyms to the back side could have been more. I think the Athletic Director, Dan Jones mentioned at a FPC meeting that they were giving up several practice courts and utilizing that space for the indoor track. Designing that area with precast made it possible to have a standard 200 meter track vs. having a 160 meter track. There is still no football stadium for home games but there is a space for a field to have practice. Rumor mill has it that one maybe two families are willing to donate $5 million towards a football stadium. If it is built it will more than likely have a synthetic field.

      I also think that the locals are more interested in academics then is given credit for. There were many programs within the district that were not athletic in nature that did very well this past year. I really enjoyed how well the many different music groups did this year. Many honors were given and yes, it is nice to also see the sports starting to excel. I believe all of these opportunities need to be made available for the children in our community. Nothing better than a well rounded education.

    31. The referendum which included a proposed new football stadium and the other which included a proposal for a new gym both flunked according to everyone I knew because there was nothing for academics.

      Rumor has it that those kids who get written off as having no future get talked into graduating early, and being even less prepared for the working world.

      I wish schools went back to the vocational option. Until there is a cheap way to outsource and ship a car that needs repair to India . . . . There are jobs that kids might get interested in if the right classes could be offered in high school. Too bad the No Child Left Behind program does not have shop class questions on those tests.

    32. Kay, you are absolutely right. Back when I was trudging through Ela-Vernon High School in the 1960s, I wanted to take electric shop. My guidance counselor was aghast. I was in college prep, and only drooling morons took shop classes! I told her that I was gracing the lower quarter of my class in terms of grade point average, and so I was hardly college material. I already had my ham radio license and I wanted to learn more about electronics. Luckily for me, an old friend, Dave McCartney also worked in the guidance department, and he pulled the strings necessary to get me into advanced electric shop. So, along the way to becoming an academic success, I spent about 30 years in electronics, working on ground surveillance radar after a long stint as a combat infantry man, building and servicing Motorola and other 2-way radios, radio astronomy equipment, covert communication links, and eventually radar equipment for tactical missiles. Yes, we need shop classes. There is nothing wrong with working with one’s hands, even if they get dirty. We also need ag classes, and decent home economic classes. Kids should be able to work with a first class builder like Ivan to get the necessary skills for construction work. For what we pay in taxes, there is really no excuse for the schools to not provide a more rounded curriculum.

    33. The Industrial Tech department at Shiloh High School in Hume, IL has a WoodLINKs program partnering with industry. The students get to work with sophisticated Computer Numerical Controlled machinery and industry gets workers trained for an increasingly technical field. If we want industry to continue to succeed here in the future, then our schools should be partnering with industry now. Hume is in central Illinois; not too far away.

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