Letter to the editor submitted

I have been wanting to solidify my “position” (as it were) with regards to the ongoing saga of the High School siting and a property tax referendum. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the physical location of the high school, and even the amenities that come attached to it, are of a minor importance compared to a need for the school district to have a solid bank account of Trust with the community. To me, it is paramount that the community and the school district work together to reach a commonly agreed upon, mutually beneficial goal.

 

Having said that, here is the letter I have submitted (online) to the NG editor:

“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.” From the Maroon Tiger (January-February 1947), “The Purpose of Education”.

Regardless of where Unit 4 ultimately decides to build a new high school, regardless of when the referendum is put on the ballot, as a community we must first remember the purpose of education and take our civic responsibilities seriously. Personally, I need three things in order to vote for a future high school referendum.

First, I need to see the work of uniting the administration, teachers, students, parents and community; like a prized cultivar, we must be selective about propagating characteristics that enhance our society. How do we collaboratively imbue creative and moral thinking?

Second, I need the school district to involve and educate the public in regards to a 10-year strategic plan and a 40-year vision, via a minimum of three charrettes.

Third, I need a well-understood financial plan. Will yet another tax referendum be put on the ballot in five years, especially if external sources continue to decline?

 

The quote is from a letter that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote to the Morehouse College campus newspaper in 1947 – the entire letter is very instructional.

 

Having time to chew on the recent events of the past couple days and hearing from parents and a board member, I have several observations that have steered my thinking

  1. While a number of people are voicing support for a possible high school at the Spalding Park area (including myself), it seems extremely unlikely that the board will ultimately go with that location due to a number of problematic obstacles:
    1. railroad tracks
    2. money involved to purchase land, eminent domain, tear down Judah, make safe walk ways, etc – all for land that the Board has said several times is too small
    3. will the park-district do a land-swap with the Atkins-Ponder lands we just purchased? Probably not.
  2. It is possible these talks will open up the possibility of negotiating land at Dodds Park. But I am not holding my breath
  3. No matter what, it is going to be very challenging for the district and the board to come out of this looking good; if they go with Spading Park, the tax referendum will likley be more expensive, while the Atkins-Ponder site garners more negative attention from those who are most vocal.
  4. The district has already conducted phone surveys, opinion polls, a so-called “Town Hall” and various forms of “Community dialogues”. I don’t think more of the same is going to be very effective.
  5. Board member Jamar Brown has said that when he talks to folks on the north end, they are less concerned about the location of the high school and more concerned about discipline issues. Yet discipline issues are not the focus of any phone survey, opinion polls or “Community Dialogue”. Why not? What is really most important?

 

Also, here is a more recent NG article:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-04-26/many-are-endorsing-central-park-idea.html

 

I have no doubt that due to poor planning over the long-run and growing enrollemnt, we have a clear and present need for more capacity. Yes, we can do portables as Board President Laurie Bonnett suggested for a “Plan B”. Obvioulsy, this is not ideal. But neither is making an unwise choice that will effect us for the next 50 years or so.

 

What do I suggest? We need to do the hard work of building relationships, building trust, getting out there and learning what our parents, students and residents need. We need to work together to get those ends met. We need to make sure we educate with the goal of thinking critically, intensely and with morals. This is a burden we all share, not just the teachers.

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6 Responses to “Letter to the editor submitted”

  1. Vav Says:

    Charles – I’m hopeful that we’ll see this in Sunday’s paper.

    I’m run a local business where the employees are highly educated. Many of my employees live in outlying bedroom communities or have their kids in private schools because of the discipline and academic performance of U4 not the age of the buildings. Some have moved from U4 to places where the buildings are older. Physical infrastructure is not the critical issue. I’m with the “north side” feedback that Jamar is getting, its not about buildings.

    Raise the standards for behavior and the standards for academic achievement and show the community that we’re offering a top quality education in a safe respectful environment and I will happily support more investment in the physical infrastructure. I’m a fan of rewarding accomplishment rather than investing in a plan.

  2. Doug Snackwell Says:

    Thank you for doing that, Charles. I have many of the same questions you do. One thing I’m curious about that has received scant attention: Where does Unit 4 get their population projections from, and how confident are they that the projections will hold true? If I recall correctly, I remember someone on the board saying something about getting them from local hospitals. My take: OK, but just because you’re born here doesn’t mean you’ll go to school here. Do those numbers account for the impending (and some would say already happening) mass exodus from the state of Illinois? Or the steep drop in the birthrate during and after the Great Recession? In other words, will we need these massive facilities 15 years from now? Sure, we might need them right now, and five years from now, but what about 15 years from now? Twenty? Thirty? I’m… skeptical.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    The projections are an interesting topic. Dejong-Richter delivered a so-called “living document” that was meant to be updated every year, but of course, they did not leave us any tools or methodology to do so. Thus the document is more or less stillborn. In the past, Arlene Blank has worked with the district to use a 1980’s era program called, simply, the Enrollment Projection System (written by Professors Wohlers and Gardner), which answered many of your questions but used a minimal number of variables. Still, it consistently came to within 1% of more fine-grained projections. I have asked the status for this program last week, but have not heard anything back.

    I also traded emails with Matt Foster who has inherited the duties of collection birth trend data and other variables; he was possibly working with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) – I think his plan was to just login to their website and copy the numbers by hand. I am not sure what other variables he is in the process of collecting. Regardless, I have not heard any updates on projections with new numbers.

    You mentioned people leaving and coming. I believe that was somewhat factored into the Dejong-Richter numbers, and the Gardner-Wohler’s program has some fudge factors they came up after a few years of research. However I cannot tell you more. 🙂

  4. Doug Snackwell Says:

    Thanks for the detailed response, Charles. To add to the fuzziness, there’s also this: http://www.gallup.com/poll/168770/half-illinois-connecticut-move-elsewhere.aspx

  5. pattsi Says:

    Just a reminder that previous projections have not worked out very well for the district–in other words they were off the mark. I am back to by decades old suggestion–the district ought to have an urban planner on the staff whose salary could easily be covered via all of the economic and fiscal errors made in the past and present.


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