More District 97 staffers sign on for pay freeze

Administrators, board talk referendum at public forum


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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

More employees in Oak Park's public elementary schools have signed on for pay freezes next year in an effort to build goodwill in the months leading up to the April 5, tax hike referendum.

Two additional groups of employees—support staff in the district and the union of teachers' assistants—announced Feb. 17 that they would be joining Oak Park teachers and administrators in a voluntary one-year pay freeze.

At a referendum forum hosted that evening at Beye School, 230 N. Cuyler, school board President Peter Traczyk announced that the service professionals union had agreed to freeze wages. The teachers' assistants followed suit later that evening.

"We thank our support professionals and teacher assistants for making a significant personal sacrifice on behalf of the children of Oak Park," Traczyk said in a statement.

Fifty-six members of the Oak Park Educational Support Professionals staff— including secretaries, technology specialists, media assistants/clerks, receptionists and administrative assistants—agreed to forgo a total of $78,000 in pay increases for the 2011-2012 school year. District 97 will save $121,000 by maintaining existing pay levels for 105 assistant teachers. A voluntary pay freeze by administrators will save an additional $72,000, making the total savings $1.3 million (including the teachers' union pay freeze.)

The amount of the $48 million dollar referendum will not change to reflect these savings, said Traczyk at last Thursday's public forum, because exact ballot language had to be submitted in January.

Traczyk and new superintendent Al Roberts answered questions from an audience of more than 50 parents and community members, including David Pope, village president. Officials hope to drum up support for the ballot item, both to avoid serious staffing and program reductions and to fund what they call "very modest investments" in technology, curriculum and upgrades to the grounds of school buildings. Traczyk noted that the district has deferred investment for decades.

"They run things with rubber bands and duct tape. We're so far behind, we're trying to catch up," he said.

The last District 97 operating fund referendum took place in 1989. Since that time, voters have approved a referendum to fund construction of the district's two middle school buildings.

If voters shoot down the referendum, the district says that by fall it will make $5 million in cuts, including all middle school sports and after school activities, the CAST and BRAVO drama programs, arts and band programs, the multicultural department, and all foreign language in grades 1-5.

"We've been accused of making a scare list," said Traczyk, "but we need to cut staff."

If the referendum passes, Roberts proposes spending $7.5 million over eight years on technology updates.

"I've seen technology turn the light on for youngsters," he said.

Traczyk insisted the district wasn't going overboard buying gadgets. "This is not laptops for every child. This is smart-boards for classrooms."

Chris Jasculca, the district's public affairs chief, addressed what he said was a rumor—that the district had purchased 500 iPads. "There are 22 iPads. That's all. [They're] used by administrators for teacher evaluations."

Irving School parent Jassen Strokosch, a co-chair of the citizens' committee in support of the referendum, said that Irving uses parent-donated "six-, seven-, eight-year old Palm Pilots. We're stretched to the limit."

Other audience suggestions included the cost-saving option of closing an elementary school. Not feasible, replied Traczyk, since all eight schools are filled to capacity with more than 5,500 students enrolled.

Consolidating with the high school to save on redundancy is also not feasible, he said in response to a question, adding that, first, the River Forest (elementary) school board would have to agree to it.

He said elementary and middle school teacher salaries would likely climb upward to match high school teacher salary levels if the districts were unified, thus eliminating potential savings.

Even if the referendum does pass, cost savings will have to be "squeezed out" every year, said Traczyk. These will include "restructuring" and seeking outside funding for the Multicultural Department, and cutting back substantially on summer school offerings.

The initial referendum proposal called for an increase of $61 per $1,000 in current taxes being paid, Traczyk explained, but with the state's passage of an income tax increase—and the expectation that the state will now pay overdue millions owed the schools—the increase was cut back to $38 per $1,000.

Traczyk acknowledged the tough economy and the heavy tax burden in Oak Park as a reason a person might oppose the referendum.

"I've heard it. 'I just lost my job. I can't afford any new taxes.' I empathize and I sympathize," he said.

Reader Comments

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OakPark_taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 8:48 AM

One clear thing revealed at the referendum discussion last night is that at no time, ever, do the people running the schools consider running the place with the money given to them. At every turn, they have been planning for a referendum. To them it is a normal thing they just go and get. They were only bummed out that they had to do it in a down economic time. No matter how much money they are given by the taxpayers, they will spend every penny and then say they are broke and need more. Vote NO

A Little Objectivity from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 8:20 PM

@Carolina: Thanks for the info...I'm still pissed, but at least not at you. I will have to explore the law in this area then more appropriately direct my anger at state legislators. It still doesn't justify the tax hike, but takes what could have been another reasonable solution off the table until further notice. @Tom Scharre: LOL. I fear that you may be right.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 5:25 PM

By the time April 5 rolls around, I fear this thread will have devolved into an escalating volley of "Yo Mama" jokes.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 5:18 PM

Here's the salient quote from the March 11 Crain's Chicago Business article: "Illinois law requires the state to make up the salary difference between districts when a merger takes place, said Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft." I think the governor, via his spokesperson, might reasonably be taken as authoritative in this matter.

A Little Objectivity, Please from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:43 PM

@Carolina - RE: Consolidation: I have heard you and others say this before. So, has an objective third party feasibility study been commissioned to explore consolidation and its possible savings and educational benefits? (Crain's in nice, but not authoritative). And are the unions so in control of District 97 that reasonable discussions on this topic can't be held? If so, then a tax hike won't really help, as it just feeds the beast...what's the real problem?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 10:39 AM

wrt consolidation: It is an idea that has merit educationally. Just don't look for it to save $$. Crain's Chi. Business, in an article dated 3/11, pointed out that according to IL law, in a consolidation, teachers in the lower paid dist. are automatically entitled to the pay/benefits scale of the higher paying dist. It's not even on the table in collective bargaining. That means that D97 starting salaries instead of being the current $42K, would automatically match D200's $53K starting salaries.

Politico From Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:22 AM

@chet21 from Oak Park. I thought we lived in an open minded diverse community. Is that how you treat others' views in real life. If you don't like it you remove it? Come on bud this is not North Korea. Live with it and move on. @Wed Journal remove Chet21's post and label him anti speech.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 11:53 PM

@Wed Journal. Please remove the "Politico" post, too. What does personal financial info have to do with the D97 referendum? I'm in a "modest home" and will be paying much less than either Ms. Song or Mr. Traczyk - both of whose efforts for D97 I respect (along with Jassens). Please take out my post, too. Thank You!!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 11:51 PM

@TruthDigg. I guess that my family is part of the same "book" as Jassen. I had at least one child at Irving while Ms Wallace was working there and so, by the same association, you can't "trust" me (or my kids), either. WJ, please remove this toxic email. Mine, too - after the former has been removed. Thank you.

Truth Digg in Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 10:49 PM

Can you judge a book by the cover? Looks like J.Strokosch can in 2009! A former Irving School administrative assistant charged Thursday night with theft was well-liked by parents and co-workers, Jassen Strokosch, co-president of the Irving School PTO, said Friday. Debbie Wallace, 45, of the 1600 block of 18th Avenue, Maywood, was arrested. Who are you going to trust? How much more spin must we take? Ask the wise old owl!!

Politico From Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 10:35 PM

Why does the Yes side led by Carolina Song and the Board Prez, Peter Traczyk, love to quote the $38/$1000 figure? Because it is the cost of a cup of latte for 1/2 month! Look at the taxes they pay. Ms. Song is in the TOP TEN (along with her husband Alex Harris) of the tax payers in OP ($32,000/yr)! Peter's share is no chump change either ($22k). Those of use with modest homes are going to bear the brunt of the tax increase if this referendum passes. Now we know why they love that little #.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 5:14 PM

What J. Strokosch doesn't explain is that General State Aid is determined by a funding allocation formula based on the amount of local wealth. Since TIFs take property tax funding from D97, this allows D97 to claim less wealth, and thereby receive more General State Aid. Since GSA appropriations are limited, more General State Aid for D97 means less aid for lower-income school districts. Isn't D97 clever! A loophole that robs from the poor to pay the wealthy!


Posted: March 14th, 2011 5:09 PM

i am concerned cause 2011 is a reassessment year, the home owner exemption continues to decline and other taxing bodies continues to increase their rates, thus oak park taxes will continue to rise. D97 is late in its request.

mom of 3  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 5:07 PM

@Tom- this is an issue that needs to be addressed. you pay less once you hit 2,200 sq feet. many homes are not listed correctly by the cook county acessore- etc.others have long term exemptions etc. you pay no taxes on basements.

Small Fry from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 5:00 PM

Why does District 97 always have to grow expenses faster than tax revenues? It makes life so hard. These referendums can't go on forever. Someday the property taxes will be such a high percentage of market value that property values will fall, regardless of whether the schools and good or bad. Then what? It feels inevitable.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 4:47 PM

@chet21 - Those would be good questions for the 2003 Board. As for TIF funds being "ignored", they are treated differently in a lot of respects, EAV, PTELL etc so it isn't just the GSA that views TIF funds differently. Contact the ISBE if you are really interested and they can help you understand the GSA formula and TIFs and the impact in Oak Park.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 4:18 PM

@Jassen. Thanks for link. I searched for something related to TIF "sharing" and couldn't find it. Why, for instance, would IL ignore money received from this source in determining aid? Doesn't make sense. But, again, A LOT in IL "doesn't make sense"! Also, though, why would D97 earlier sue VOP on TIF and/or request carve-outs if it reduced aid from state by a greater amt? That "doesn't make sense" & makes me question your .52 formula. Thanks, though.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:56 PM

@chet21- well thats a lot of questions. Please don't take my word for it. I would encourage you to do the math yourself or contact someone you trust. Here is a good start point

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:48 PM

@Jassen, I was being silly about making all of OP a TIF! I also clearly recall that your belief about the "general state aid" formerly was said to be incorrect. Anyway, "logically," this can't be true. Why did D97 earlier sue VOP? Why did they want carve-outs? Only 500 characters? Didn't Dan promise 505 once we exceeded 500 posts?!?

Oak Park No Vote  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:36 PM

@Jassen Please verify. You have been paid by D97 in the past and have a working relationship with them. Come clean now! Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois Facebook Verified Posted: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 04:08 PM @Will - You would have to contact the district about that. I am not a district employee.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:20 PM

@chet21 - "can we then propose that VOP do a TIF everywhere?" That would be a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Keep in mind also that the TIF effects different taxing bodies differently. For example, the GSA impact is totally different for D200 than D97.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:18 PM

@chet21 - for the sake of 500 char limit lets look at 2009. D97 gets about $1.2 from TIF. If you dissolved the TIF prior to 2009, they would have gotten around $2M more in property taxes. But because of the way General State Aid works, we would lose $.52 of GSA for every $ released from the TIF. That leaves us about $200K behind for the 2009 tax year. The math is similar back to the 2003 IGA.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 2:31 PM

@Jassen. I thought that this "savings" was earlier thought to be true - but then debunked by others. I am quite skeptical as to this (can we then propose that VOP do a TIF everywhere?). Could you please provide a link? Thanks.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 2:29 PM

@Violet. TA's might be underpaid (except they also receive full benefits), but here's the salary schedule for the teachers. I wouldn't classify it as "underpaid" in today's economy, but good people can disagree:

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 2:28 PM

@chet21 - "Your vote is no surprise, but would OP even be voting on this ref if you hadn't extended the TIF?" If you do the math on the current TIF extension, D97 actually gets more in revenue with the TIF in place than without it. It isn't a massive difference, somewhere in the $225K a year range, but they do come out ahead.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Not Voting  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 2:26 PM

@Aura, D97 could request that the village redistribute the TIF $$ instead of spending it on bricks on Marion st. What is more important now, education or beautification? The board has not pursued these type of options and is looking for a tax increase to hide the fiscal mismanagement and the lack of a plan. They are taking the easy road of taxing instead of exercising their stewardship of our hard earned tax dollars. Voting NO sends them a message to change their bad behavior.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 2:23 PM

@ Ray, the original working cash bonds proposal had a limited life & was spun as $68/$1000 per mo. in taxes. So it would cost you a finite amount. The $39/$1000 is INDEFINITE ! The board could have put a limited life on it. They chose NOT to & they chose not to disclose this. That is a lack of transparency. Most people think the limiting rate hike has a limited life. Thus the bait & switch. There is NO reason for the board to have kept the original proposal. It is not for benevolence.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 1:41 PM

@Interested: Sorry, I didn't fully answer your question. "Silly stuff" as in decorative stuff like ONE street with heated coils while under the viaduct on the same street it's pothole city! Like tearing down Certified (which was a nice and inexpensive place to buy produce and other items) et. al, yet now there sits an empty lot. Like other cosmetic crap while Rome burns...

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 1:37 PM

@Interested Parent: I admit total ignorance. How much is the average tax bill in OP? 10K? 14K? It seems to me that it is excessive but for God's sake, if they are gonna charge so much to live in OP, shouldn't they spend enough on edumacation so that teachers and TAs don't get underpaid?! I have gone to the employment site to see the openings for TAs and they only had positions for substitute TAs, $10 an hour, and NO benefits. Sounds pretty cheapskate-esque to me! Some blue-collar towns pay more!

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 1:20 PM

@Violet - What silly stuff are you referring to in your post?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 1:20 PM

@RayJohnson. Your vote is no surprise, but would OP even be voting on this ref if you hadn't extended the TIF? Wouldn't D97 then have more than enough money that a ref wouldn't be required? BTW, what is your guess about OP taxes AFTER the TIF expires? My concern is that the loss of the TIF money to VOP will cause you to raise prop taxes - which won't require a ref. It's another reason to vote NO today - because of the higher taxes coming & D97 spending increases at a high 5% for next 5 years.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 10:25 AM

Could someone please 'splain to me what exactly the ridiculous amount of taxers OPers pay goes to? Like describe the pie chart to me. I cannot fathom why they have to nickle and dime teachers and TAs and yet still do all kinds of silly stuff in other areas. If I owned a house in OP I would put it on the market YESTERDAY!!!!

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 8:58 AM

I am writing this as my own personal view: It is really unfair to characterize the D97 referendum request as a "Bait and Switch". Facts on the ground changed and appropriately, the D97 board reduced its levy request because of those facts. Until the Governor actually signed a bill into law providing more stable funding for IL schools, no one could count on those funds. Misleading characterizations on something so fundamental is a real concern. I'm voting 'Yes' - and I have no children.

Citizens Alliance of Oak Park - Voting NO  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 8:34 AM

We just posted a primer on the property tax calc, check it out at The Board clearly wanted a particular point of view communicated that would help with the passage of the referendum, especially after the bait and switch (limited time period of the cash bond vs a permanent increase of the limiting rate.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:48 AM

BTW, revenue growth from FY2011-2013 is nearly $2M - without any increase from referendum. D97 has a financial problem because it has failed to rein in spending - not due to lack of revenue. Yes, they made "cuts" in the past, but unfortunately that was only limiting their high spending increases. In the next 5 years they have $17M in spending increases. Yes, the budget is "big enough." Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:33 AM

@DJ. The budget IS "big enough" and D97 plans on making it much bigger. Evidence? D97 has budgeted, from FY2011- FY2013 expense increases of 6.5M. That is almost 10%. For me, in a time of unquestioned financial insecurity for many OP residents and businesses, D97 must learn how to control its spending. A "no" vote is the only way to make that happen. BTW, why is $5M in cuts proposed when deficit is only, worst case, $3M AND they have a projected year-end balance of $17.3M?

epic lulz  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 3:32 AM

My heart bleeds for the dolt living in a $2M home who cries over paying an extra $80/month in property taxes. Perhaps we all could take up a collection to keep him in grande moche lattes?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 12:02 AM

DJ: Sounds like you need your paradigm shifted as well. Read Arne Duncan's comments to the American Enterprise Institute. All education needs to figure out how to do "more with less." But apparently in OP, we'd rather just do "the same with more" or "less with the same." Again, LaGrange and Elmhurst are doing it right now...but we don't even have a long-term plan with a measurable goal to support our tax hike into perpetuity!

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:57 PM

@DJ: As for "making my case", it's simply this -- the Referendum is, at best, premature. I do not believe that the Board has done all due diligence to make sure that it is, in fact, the only solution. The cuts being suggested were selected for PR value because they will mobilize people. Do a zero-based budget, renegotiate the TIF, do an independent feasibility study on district consolidation potential savings, renegotiate long-term contracts, and THEN ask for a tax hike if all else fails.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:54 PM

OK Alan. Then you need to explain why you think the budget is big enough. Otherwise, why have a facebook page on the topic and why be the only one who is posting here more frequently than I am these days. I don't think you want to solve the problem on the backs of teachers because you haven't told us HOW you think the problem can be solved. I think we need to solve it on the the backs of all of us. If the taxpayers are off the hook, then it has to be on the backs of the teachers and/or the kids.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:47 PM

@Alan. I have not made any arguments about property values. Some proponents of the referendum appeal to the property value argument becaue they feel they need to appeal to narrow self-interest, rather than to the value maximizing our kids' educational opportunities. Test scores say nothing about the quality of a school. Improvement in scores over time might.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:45 PM

@DJ: For the record, I'm a guy who put up a facebook page that thinks D97 already has a big enough budget, not an "opposition leader." Don't give me that much credit. Just sick of rising taxes and no accountability wrecking a village I love. And I've not asked that whatever projected budget shortfall be solved on the backs of teachers, just that it not be solved on the backs of taxpayers. Hence, the need for true reform, not a referendum band-aid.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:38 PM

@Alan. There are lots of people, even in Oak Park, who do not have the resources to indenpendently involve their children in the arts. We will obviously differ here, but I think we should make something as enriching as the arts available to everyone. I am probably less well off than you are, but I am willing to reach into my pockets to make that happen. I would like to think a majority of us are wiling to do so.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:38 PM

@DJ: So, per the quote below, if you make the "schools help property values" argument, you must also care about test scores. And, a district like Elmhurst looks a lot like Oak Park on key statistics. Arguably, there is no district more similar. And I believe that the Board currently feels that they DO need more money...but I'm thinking that their paradigm needs to be shifted. Which won't happen until the Ref fails and they truly look for new solutions (the first step is being truly open).

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:32 PM

@DJ: A 1998 review of school quality measures capitalized in housing prices by Fed economist Theodore Crone concluded that:"Prospective homebuyers are applying an appropriate yardstick when they focus on average test scores to help decide what the school premium should be. The peer group effect justifies higher house prices in areas where schools have higher test scores. It is however not easy to disentangle the school premium from the value of many other neighborhood characteristics."


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:30 PM

Please Alan. I am not "attacking" you any more than you are attacking me. I am trying to get you to actually make your case, and your reluctance to do so surprises me given that you are holding yourself out as an opposition leader. I have no reason to question the board's presentation of what would need to be cut. Sure, the arts, etc., might be saved if we cut teacher salaries across the board by 10%. But I do not agree with those who think the deficit should be solved on the backs of teachers.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:18 PM

You say that because other districts achieve higher ISAT scores with less funding, that shows we don't need more funding. That's a non-sequitur. If, for example, other districts achieve higher test scores because their students on average are of a higher socio-economic status, that might be an argument that we need MORE funding to achieve comparable test scores. Of course, that assumes that ISAT scores are the only educational value we should care about. Obviously, I disagree with that.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:15 PM

@Alan. There is no conceivable purpose for participating in these discussions other than to try to persuade, if not the other posters, then those who are reading the posts, to your point of view. But I get it. You want to contend the board is wrong about needing more revenue to maintain the same service level, without explaining why. So be it. Next (cont'd)

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:11 PM

@DJ: Also, may I remind you that D97 Board and admin chose where to make the cuts to meet the budget if the ref fails, not anyone else. So, rather than at me, you should be telling them to cut elsewhere. Despite comments to the contrary, there seem to be other areas that could be cut, or at least grown more slowly. So, please don't attack me for the "pass the ref or we kill the arts" ultimatum that D97 created.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 11:01 PM

@DJ: I studied music in my public school and through college and was raised by an artist. I deeply value the arts. However, as has long been the case in many states and districts around the country, the arts are no longer assumed. It's a sad fact. However, I so value the arts that I am willing to pay independently for my own children's lessons if needed rather than ask other taxpayers to do so. I simply don't expect it.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:55 PM

@DJ: As I've already stated, my intention with these posts is not to persuade, which would be difficult within these constraints. However, other districts provide superior test scores at a lower per student cost than D97 currently delivers (i.e., without the tax hike). That fact, by itself, is enough to convince many that additional funding into perpetuity is not needed. And the ref only asks the funding question, not for other solutions. I do commit to assist, however, if the ref fails.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:49 PM

@Alan. You've now isolated the core of the dispute. Some of us believe that music, art, theatre, languages and multicultural studies are "value-added," and some do not. But here is how our democracy works: If a majority of us do not value those programs sufficiently to fund them, then those who do will likely reach deeper into their own pockets. If a majority of us value those programs sufficiently to fund them, then we all will share the cost of doing so.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 10:37 PM

@Alan. You are not being asked to be a consultant to D97. You presumably are trying to persuade other taxpayers that D97 can continue to provide the same educational services without raising taxes. If you think you need to be paid in order to explain why you believe that is true, so be it. But don't expect anyone other than the predisposed to be persuaded by your conclusory assertion.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:30 PM

@DJ: RE: "Getting By"... Or D97 parents could pay more of what their kids use in music, theatre, sports, languages and multi-cultural dept. Oh, but I guess that they "just don't want to" either. At some point, the role of the taxpayer is to provide good, even excellent schools for the community (fulfilled in D97 at current funding) not to pay for everything that everyone wants. If you (and others) want that stuff by all means have YOUR expense.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:25 PM

@DJ: One more thing...any consultant worth his/her salt would advise looking at an organization's key expenditure items and making sure that those are in line with "best in class." Anyone who has been a part of an organizational restructuring or re-prioritizing knows how painful these can be...but they are necessary so that organizations move forward productively and with sustainable models of funding.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 9:18 PM

@DJ: Well, some "educational services" are value added (i.e., matter) and some do not. As a first step, perhaps the Board and Admin can do detailed analyses of the districts in Elmhurst, LaGrange, and Western Springs (all of which deliver better ISAT scores than D97 at less cost per student). Any more info than that and I'll insist on being paid as a D97 consultant. (And, yes, I recognize you'll dislike my reference to ISATs...but those are my "priorities" since they are objective measures)


Posted: March 13th, 2011 8:58 PM

@OP. Well, what do you mean by "get by"? If "getting by" means chopping music, theatre, sports, languages and the multi-cultural department, then you're right, "they [D97] just don't want to." And many OP residents don't want that either (we'll see how many on April 5). By the same token, most OP property owners could find a way to absorb the tax increase - some just don't want to.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 8:48 PM

@Alan. D97 has said that it cannot continue to provide the same level of educational services without a tax increase. Taxpayers who say "yes you can" have a responsibility to explain how. Taxpayers who defer to D97's judgment in that regard must then choose between higher taxes and losing educational services. Whether millionaires can budget an additional $1,000 a year to maintain educational services is merely a matter of what their priorities are.

OP_taxpayer from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 2:59 PM

The way you calculate it makes sense, if all the houses sold recently so you can compare them that way, but the way property taxes are calculated is done in a complicated way the politicians came up with to deal with houses that have not been sold in years, so they can guesstimate value. They guess high usually. This referendum jacks up the cost forever by another X percent. Maybe JD would volunteer to pay more of your taxes since he is so in favor of paying more.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 2:46 PM

Tom, great question! Sorry, I don't know the answer but I can give some direction to finding one. There are two Oak Park governments. Oak Park Village is one. It is responsible for police, fire, and normal municipality functions. The second is Oak Park Township which is responsible for senior citizen and youth programs. The Oak Park Tax Assessor is part of the Oak Park Township government. The Township Assessor is the person able to answer your question.

Tom Smith  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 2:23 PM

Why do more expensive homes pay lower taxes in Oak Park? For example, 8** S. Taylor sold for $372k and pays $7,644 in taxes (2.1% rate), but 6** N. East sold for $1,040,000 and pays $12,683 in taxes (1.2% rate). 7** N. Fair Oaks sold for $1,280,000 and pays $19,592 in taxes (1.5% rate) and 1*** S. Clarence sold for $370k and pays $8,718 in taxes (2.4% rate). The property tax rate should be the same for all in Oak Park and no tax increase should be passed until parity in tax rates is achieved.

OP_taxpayer from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 2:06 PM

Yes, my taxes are actually over $24,000 a year. That implies my house is worth $2 million, but actually if I sold it it would go for about $1.1 million now. When I bought it (1996) my taxes were $7000 a year and they climbed all the way up to $24,000. So I am sorry if I am selfish in not wanting to spend $10 grand extra over the next decade. Do the math people. It will be $600 per year EXTRA for most OP homeowners. The school can find ways to get by - they just don't want to.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:45 PM

@DJ: Interesting. So you're expecting taxpayers to provide detailed solutions for D97's problems and budget shortfalls, but you'll make no allowance that it could cause equal issues for individual taxpayers? Even millionaires have budgets, and they have to live within them too.


Posted: March 13th, 2011 1:17 PM

@OP. I'm sure readers are getting sick of me, but I can't resist. If your taxes will increase by $1,000, that would mean your current annual taxes are about $26,000. Which in turn means your property has a market value of around $2 million to $2.5 million. Sure, we can "survive" without summer school and foreign languages. But summer school, e.g., is extremely important for some kids. Why should we WANT to live without it? Why not find a way to cough-up the extra $38 per $1000 in property taxes?

OP_taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2011 12:50 PM

Adding $1000 a year to my property tax bill just doesn't work for me. The school will find a way to survive with the funds it currently has. We can live without summer school and foreign language classes and ipads for administrators.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 10th, 2011 1:01 PM

Re: the discipline report. It looks as though there was a decrease overall, but increases in some types of problems. Also, it appears as though many of the students who had problems last year graduated. So is the difference due to a different cohort? the result of the PBIS program that has been "so successful", or cameras? As usual, the powerpoint has a happy ending but no clear indication of how we got there or what it really means. Not convinced, still voting against unnecessary spending

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:17 PM

@NO on Referendum - I LIKE IT!!! In the meantime, since the Ref supporters are working hard to inform OP voters (the non-parent casual ones) that there IS a reason to vote Apr 5th - I'm happy for what they are doing - IF we can't get our own (written by you) out there!!!

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 4th, 2011 12:02 PM

@Chet: I think we should print yard signs that say: "Higher Taxes, Still No Accountability -- YES on the Referendum" or "Because Librarians Need More than $100K salary -- YES on the Referendum" or "Continue to Throw Money at the Problem -- YES on the Referendum" or "Because Real Reform is Too Hard -- YES on the Referendum" or "The Easy Way to Feel Like a Good Parent -- YES on the Referendum"..."Johnny Can't Learn without Hi-Def Smartboards -- YES on the Referendum"...

J.Q. Public from OP  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 9:42 PM

I researched the tax rates for a number of suburbs (found on school report cards). In OP for schools we currently pay a rate of 6.05. RF pays 5.83. Evanston: 5.15. Winnetka: 4.27. Glen Ellyn: 4.56. LaGrange: 4.6. Riverside: 5.14. Berwyn N: 5.25. Berwyn s: 4.62. Elmhurst: 3.53. Barrington: 3.39. I could not find a town where taxpayers pay a higher rate for schools. Several of our schools are not meeting AYP as it is. Why are we even considering paying more?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:41 PM

"NO" yard signs? Just my opinion, but a waste of effort and resources (although does provide enthusiasm!). I'm just grateful that the YES people are plastering OP with the signs. Why? This is going to be a low voter election (and why D97 chose this for the ref and bypassed 2010) and most people are unaware that a group wants taxes raised - NOW they know!!! FREE ADVERTISING!!!

Sorry Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:29 PM

Are there any signs to push Voting No on this referendum to put outside?

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:16 PM

@Voting No - If there are any other reports or presentations you are interested in and cannot find online, please feel free to contact me at

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 12:07 PM

Noel, I can NOT thank you enough for your willingness and efforts. I was happily surprised this morning when I received an email blast from a Mann/Julian/OPRF parent/friend - asking me to consider voting NO on the ref. I'm guessing that this was sent because of your initiative. You now have my personal info and so, to repeat, thanks and let me know what I can do! Let's defeat this ref and THEN start the process of reform!!!

Voting NO  

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 7:11 AM

Chris - thanks for taking care of this. While you're doing that, please add all the other presentations that "due to last minute revisions" didn't make it into packets - to say nothing of the many items that are just never put into packets.

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:11 PM

@Voting No - The report was presented at the board meeting on January 25, 2011. If I remember correctly, there were a couple minor last minute revisions made to the PowerPoint before it was presented so the final version is not featured in the online packet for this meeting. However, I have asked the district's Web master to post it in the Parent/Community section on It should be online and accessible by 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 10:06 PM

Interested parent - I'd love to take a look at the report. Which board meeting was it?

Chris Jasculca from Oak Park - District 97  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 8:15 PM

Sorry for the delay in providing this link. You can access the OPTA Memorandum of Understanding by visiting

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 6:15 PM

@Will - no worries :-) would have helped if I could.


Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:58 PM

@ Chris J - please give us an update on the OPTA Memo of Understanding. Thank you. And thanks Jassen, I didn't mean to impose just thought you might know the status.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 5:30 PM

Actually, a recent report to the Board on discipline issues in D97 covered the use of the security cameras. Based on data from the trouble spots in the middle schools, thefts and other misbehaviors in those areas covered by the cameras have dropped precipitously. Also, vandalism in the parking lot has been caught on tape and the perps identified. Stairway and hallway incidents are also down with the cameras. Students know they are on and are behaving better.

Another OP Parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 4:54 PM

Chris J. Please provide the link to where we can access the OPTA memo of understanding from last night's board meeting.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 4:17 PM

I don't think those against the tax increase want our kids to get less education. What we want is D97 to do a better job of managing the money they have now. A little while ago there was a plan to spend a bunch of money on surveillance cameras for the middle schools hallways. No metrics defining the problem that made these cameras "necessary" and no goal of what improvement they would provide. This is an example of why we have "no money". If we fund every pet idea we will always need more $

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 4:08 PM

@Will - You would have to contact the district about that. I am not a district employee.


Posted: March 2nd, 2011 2:57 PM

@Mr. Strokosch: Did the OPTA Memo of Understanding get distributed and approved at last night's meeting? I didn't see a copy of the memo in the on line packet. Thank you.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 2:36 PM

@OakParker. Do you mean this quote: "but if District 97 views those areas as unnecessary unless they get a tax hike, then they should be cut."? This IS the decision of the District 97 - NOT the writer. They prefaced that sentence with: "I would like to see District 97 keep those things" - and they were referring to "Spanish, art, and music." Agree? Am I still missing something? Now don't go and write "I'm a 'no' voter and I WANT art/music/cast/bravo cut - :-)!

op parent and taxpayer  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 2:12 PM

@oak parker, if you read my entire post, you would have seen that I would prefer that those things stay in place and other budget cuts be made. That said, if District 97 has determined that those are the appropriate cuts to make, then so be it. They are not necessary, according to District 97.

Oak Parker  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:50 PM

Chet, you say that only pro-referendum people are talking about cutting music and art? Take a look a few posts down, from op parent and taxpayer: "Yeah. They can do without Spanish, art, and music." Among others.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:47 PM

Clarification on Spanish "cuts" - I've proposed since Day 1 that the elementary schools (NOT MIDDLE SCHOOLS!) could eliminate this program and that it'd have no deleterious effect upon our kids. I used RF elementary as example of a district which functions just fine with out ELEMENTARY SPANISH. At least $600K can be saved this way AND more time can be spent on the core curriculum - a win/win. BTW, ONLY ref supporters have discussed cuts to music/art - not opponents. Why? To frighten people?

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:42 PM

Thanks op resident. I clearly misunderstood, then. My apologies.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:37 PM

To op parent, yes someone did ask why an OP resident would send a child to a private school. See below. It was Mary Ellen Eads, Sunday, February 27th, 2011 08:33 AM: "it might be useful to survey them and find out why they made this choice".

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 1:01 PM

Please use the following link to get on our newsletter. Your email WILL NOT be revealed to anyone on the list.

op parent and taxpayer  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:56 PM

How about they use the $300 plus dollars they will save in property taxes if the referendum doesn't pass, and use that money toward classes in the areas that interest their kids? I know lots of families who don't have maids and nannies and make tremendous sacrifices so their kids can take part in extracurricular activities not offered by the schools for free. By your logic, should we also be offering gymnastics and swimming to our grade school kids?

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:52 PM

Ah, so those things will only be available for people who have the $$ to pay extra for them, and a maid to cart the kids around to those activities. Got it. I bet that will make the district very attractive to newbies.

op parent and taxpayer  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:49 PM

@op parent: Yeah. They can do without Spanish, art, and music. I would like to see District 97 keep those things and cut the budget in other places, but if District 97 views those areas as unnecessary unless they get a tax hike, then they should be cut. If parents want their kids to have spanish, art, and music, they can still get it. It just won't be provided for free at school. I think classes are available through the park district and local businesses in art, music, and spanish.

Noel Kuriakos from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:47 PM

I am one of the coordinators for the vote no coalition. We have a group called Citizens Alliance of Oak Park (CAOP). email to get on our mailing list. We will have a website up and running tonight. You can contact me Noel Kuriakos 708.275.2260 or to find out how you can support our effort. I am a parent of two daughters in D97 and I have many reasons to oppose this referendum. I am also a PTO President of the 7th grade @ Julian Middle School.

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:41 PM

@private school parent: you said "I send my kids to private school because I want them focused in class on the basics - Math, Reading, Writing. Plus, they get Spanish, Art and Music.": Isn't it interesting that Spanish, Art, and Music are some of the things posters here have said public school kids can do without.

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:38 PM

I certainly understand, as my children attended private school as well for a time, as I mentioned earlier. I do recognize the special position private school parents are in, to support their community schools while deciding they might not be the best choice for their children. It's a tough one. I still support the referendum for many reasons, many of them cited here.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 12:15 PM

@op parent: I don't follow this string closely, so I don't know what questions were asked previously. However, I'd ask that you remember that private schools parents are also taxpayers, and so devoted to education that we effectively pay twice for it. Now, that's our decision, but it does save D97 millions of dollars per year for services they needn't provide to over 1,000 children who are otherwise served. You're welcome ;)

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:55 AM

@OP Resident: I send my kids to private school because I want them focused in class on the basics - Math, Reading, Writing. Plus, they get Spanish, Art and Music. It's all done with a great teacher/student ratio, in an environment of mutual respect where expectations are clear and the parent/school community is second to none. The doubts I had about D97 have only been intensified since this referendum debate started. Now, if I could only get my tax dollars back through vouchers....

op parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:51 AM

Please cite where anyone asked why an OP resident would send a child to public school. This question was never asked. A comment was made that many of the posts on the first iteration of the No Page, before it was taken down, were made by people whose kids were in private schools.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 11:40 AM

Someone asked why OP residents send their kids to private schools. After having one kid go through D97, here's why I'm looking at private school for my other child: 1. Everyday Math, 2. poor (or lack of) instruction in writing (written expression), 3. OPFR says that "as many as 35% of our kids fall short on one or more indicators of postsecondary readiness in reading" (OPRF's Feb 2011 Board Packet).

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 9:55 AM

@Interested Parent - Thanks for catching that :-)

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 9:13 AM

Jassen has done a great job responding to all types of questions, but I believe he got the date wrong for the forum at the Buzz Cafe. It should be March 10 rather than April 10. Wouldn't be much use to meet after the referendum!

Supporting Change  

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 9:04 AM

Haley - I like the 5 extra characters, but the plug for the pro-referendum folks was unnecessary. Many of those of who have questioned the need for more taxes have been as direct and non-defensive, if not more so. "Chg I can believe in" has a great point - our great community could be the perfect laboratory for how to do school reform well wihtin the budget.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:26 PM

@OP-Chg I can believe in - I would encourage you to attend the D97 candidates forum being held at the Buzz cafe on April 10 @ 7PM. One of the incoming board members, Jim O'Connor, has spent much of his career advocating for education reform including the issue of vouchers and charter schools. He has some great ideas on those topics and is worth a listen.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 10:13 PM

Dear OP parent, This is an amazing number of posts. Even better from the publisher's perspective, this conversation is getting better as it goes. More thoughtful. More focused on specific issues and facts. Thanks to all for participating. Specifically, thanks to Jassen Strokosch and Chris Jasculca from the school district. I think their responses have been non-defensive and direct. Now if we get to 500 comments, next week we'll have a character count bonus and everyone gets 505 characters!

OP-Chg I can believe in from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:26 PM

Love the idea of OP being a laboratory for school reform! How can we enhance the education experience within our current budget? Would competition help? Vouchers? Charter schools? Contract negotiations? Combining with D90? D200? Introducing pay for performance? We owe it to our children and their parents the taxpayers to figure it out.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:13 PM

Hm, also wondering: If we get to 500 posts, do we get a prize or something? Ice Cream at Oberweis or a free Wednesday Journal subscription? :-)

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:12 PM

I am sooooooo tired of OP parents saying, Oh RF schools are so awesome! You know what? So are OP's. Let's stop it with the second-suburb syndrome and realize we have a lot going for us, and we should support it.

OverTaxed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:09 PM

@op parent: If I really thought RF were better, I would have already moved there. My OP neighbors are the key reason I stay. As far as D97, the bickering is more like a stubbornness to admit that they've been anything but perfectly fiscally responsible (I could provide a list of grievances) and that there might be a solution other than a tax hike. Incompetence? Let me summarize: Constance Collins and her legacy.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:55 PM

I also don't see how RF neighborhoods are better. Maybe it's an acquired taste.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:55 PM

I honestly am not seeing petty bickering or incompetence from d97.

OverTaxed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:53 PM

@op parent: I've lived here for 17 years. I love it. But, the oppressive taxes, consistently incompetent taxing bodies, and petty bickering are getting to me. I must be getting old...or finally wising up!

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:47 PM

No thanks. I actually like Oak Park.

OverTaxed from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:20 PM

@op parent: or maybe pack up our stuff and move to RF where they apparently know how to run an elementary school district. The tax rate can't be higher....and the neighborhoods ARE better. Hmmm...

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 3:29 PM

It's nice to see the high regard our neighbors to the west have of us. More reason to stop trying to be RF and support the very respectable district we have.

RF Taxpayer from River Forest  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 3:21 PM

I hope Tom is right about the fact that a majority of RF voters would have to approved such an ill conceived idea as combining District 97 with 200. RF taxpayers already pay a disproportionate share of the cost of District 200. There is no way we would let OP pick our pockets to bail them out of the mess they have made for themselves at Distict 97.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 3:00 PM

Voting NO Under current law, a majority of voters in each district must agree to consolidation so don't look west to solve Oak Park's problems. I am pretty sure that a majority of RF residents would not agree to take on the debt burden of District 97.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 2:51 PM

by that logic, what's stopping cicero and berwyn from combining districts with us? We could unify the entire western suburbs. But seriously, I wouldn't hold my breath on the d90/97/200 consolidation plan.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:51 AM

You still don't get it. All the voters get to vote. RF is small compared to OP. What is needed is a majority of voters in OP and RF combined. NOT a majority of RF voters. RF could keep its seperate K-8, still send its kids to OPRFHS and D97 could join with D200 in a unit district. I understand Springfield is looking at financial incentives to promote consolidation. It could happen.

op parent  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 9:34 AM

Voting no, good luck getting the RF voters to agree to consolidate with OP schools. Never gonna happen.

KD from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:41 AM

Mann School is hosting a referendum informational forum on Wednesday, March 9th at 7pm. We would like to invite the YES and NO referendum groups to attend. We also invite all Oak Parkers to come and find out the issues in a neutral forum. There will be a brief presentation from the Board of Education (Peter T) and then a question and answer session.

AL from Oak Park  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 8:20 AM

Is there a way for the voters to see the budget? I'm adamant on voting NO because I don't want my tax money going to pay for more iPads and paying salaries of teachers who make 4x as much money as I do with a pension that gives them the ability to retire 20 yrs earlier than I am able. I want to see where EVERY SINGLE dollar will go. Otherwise, I will vote no.

Voting NO  

Posted: March 1st, 2011 7:55 AM

Consolidation - let's try this one more time. A consolidation effort would involve a vote. All voters in the areas served by OPRFHS would be eligbible to vote. This includes the voters in River Forest. However, it does NOT mean that River Forest, as a community, would have to agree. A consolidation could move forward if the majority of voters in the combined area supported it.


Posted: March 1st, 2011 7:04 AM

I will be voting no in April and am encouraging everyone I know to do so. I too am tired of being told I must not "care about the kids, our property values, the arts..." The point is that the "extras" like band, art, BRAVO, CAST are not where the biggest chunk of money is going and will NOT solve the problem. The issue of salaries & pensions needs to be addressed and taking on the union will not be easy or fun! I suggest going to It's most enlightening.


Posted: February 28th, 2011 9:51 PM

Glad to see that accountability is on the table. We need it! And should demand it! From government officials, Wall Street bankers, teachers and ourselves. Parents must be an active participant in the learning process. If you cannot help with homework; at least make sure that your child is provide with a quiet area to study $ complete assignments. Turn off the TV, telephone & computer. Encourage reading. Let your child know that you will do all you can to help them succeed. It starts in your home

Voting NO  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 6:35 PM

Really: I wasn't talking about the kids. I was talking about the educational preparation the kids receive.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 6:05 PM

@Voting No - "Peter T's comment above isn't accurate - D97 could consolidate with D200 without involving D90" He was inaccurately quoted here. What he said on the night of the forum was River Forest would have to agree, not D90. That statement is true. Good catch.


Posted: February 28th, 2011 5:19 PM

I respectfully disagree with Voting NO, having had children in both OP elementary and RF elementary and at OPRF. I am a little tired of hearing how well the RF kids do at OPRF. Yeah, some of them do quite well at OPRF but so do many, many OP students there. Plus not all RF students are top notch at OPRF. And many of them sure know how to throw some parties (but I think that's another discussion).

Voting NO  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 4:21 PM

Certainly the ISAT scores for low income OP kids are very low. However, the RF curriculum is very different in terms of content and expectations for what skills will be taught/mastered. I strongly encourage OP parents to sit on as many middle and HS committees as possible. It's a great way to find out what the RF kids are getting. This gives you the ability to either supplement yourself or hire tutors so that your kids can enter OPRFHS as prepared as their peers from across Harlem Ave.


Posted: February 28th, 2011 3:38 PM

That would be an interesting study. A K-12 unit Oak Park District (97 and 200) with a small feeder district not part of the unit (90). Is there any other such combo in the state? Your comment about D97 better preparing students for the high school must mean that D90 students are better prepared. What would truly be fascinating would be to randomly mix up all OP and RF kids into the 13 K-8 schools and then see if D90 still does better. My guess is poverty/family factors would even things out.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 2:56 PM

Peter T's comment above isn't accurate - D97 could consolidate with D200 without involving D90. Also important - the state is getting behind consolidation in a big way. This could save money and might even result in all the OP schools working effectively with the HS to improve the OP kids' preparation for HS. (I know they work together some now, but they also do a lot of finger-pointing).

Another parent  

Posted: February 28th, 2011 2:29 PM

Jamie - space too small to discuss accountability. I am aware of the many years of talk at D97 about accountability. I am also aware that talk has never become action. It's not appropriate to give personal info here, but I know of a number of situations where a teacher was not doing what they should have and, despite many efforts to get the admin to act, nothing happened. Before a referendum we should have a community-wide discussion on accountability/expectations.


Posted: February 28th, 2011 12:38 PM

@Another Parent - What types of accountability would you like to see from teachers, admin, and schools? Are you referring to more data about children's learning? More data about money spent on programs? Please clarify since the term accountability gets thrown around a lot without specifics. Also, refer to various Board meeting packets over the past several years to view the information that is currently being shared.

Another parent  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:28 PM

Somebody asked about what kind of reform people are talking about. Well across the nation the number one reform topic in education is accountability. There are no easy answers but the rest of the nation has figured out that there is a desperate need for reasonable means by which we can have some kind of accountability for teachers. Take a look at Data is from 2010. There are a lot of teachers making a lot of $$. We need accountability.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 8:49 PM

We are all interested in maitaining good schools. That doesn't mean we must spend more money. It means we must spend our money wisely. Last year the HR folks were telling the board about the great teachers they were hiring - young but experienced teachers who had been riffed at other districts - many of whom had worked for the last year as teacher aids in D97. How much mentoring do these great teachers need? I'd rather see the money go to the teaching position that is needed for BRAVO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:26 AM

@Interested Parent - I think that you should heed Jassen's last post and attend the forum at the Buzz. It appears as if you'll learn something about "reform." Question: who on this post has said "less music and art" as being part of "reform"? Answer: only ref supporters. Why? I'm guessing that they are trying to scare people. At least "skeletal" no longer appears on this post or "it's for the children!" - that's progress! Vote NO and start the true reform. process!

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:24 AM

@Jassen: Thanks, I plan to attend and I look forward to hearing from Mr. O'Connor.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:20 AM

@Interested Parent: Great question. Arne Duncan has recently spoken on this at the American Enterprise Institute (google it). In short, It starts with concepts like setting measurable educational goals (in the case of OP, improving schools would be nice) and incorporating pay for performance or results-based incentives. Even our Secretary of Education realizes that the current system of teacher/administrator compensation doesn't lead to positive education outcomes for kids.

Interested Parent  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:07 AM

Folks keeping talking about school reform in D97. Other than paying employees less or asking them to cover more of their benefits, what other reforms are you talking about? Do you want more basics and less exploration? Less music and art? Less tech? Everyone keeps mentioning reform but what do you mean by it? What should D97 change?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:03 AM

@NO on REFERENDUM - You should definitely attend the D97 candidates forum at Buzz Cafe on March 10th @7PM. One of the incoming board members, Jim O'Connor, has spent a great deal of his career looking at School reform and does a lot of work trying to makes changes in Illinois education. He has also run charter schools before. Anyway, he has a lot of informed opinions on this topic and is worth a listen to.


Posted: February 27th, 2011 11:02 AM

Never having been a private school parent, I thought that many private (actually parochial) schools were subsidized by their founding groups (dioceses or churches for parochial schools). Tuition doesn't cover all expenses of the school. Also, all parochial school teachers (K-8) I have ever known were paid a LOT less than public school teachers, again reducing the costs. Many did not even require formal teacher certification, but that is not the case much anymore. Different groups and beliefs.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:51 AM

Interesting....sounds like there may be some answers in private/charter schools. Maybe we should ask Arne Duncan if Oak Park can be a special "test pilot community" for school vouchers. We could do research here a be a little laboratory for the nation. A little competition might reform District 97!! And it would give the union some serious fits (extra bonus)!

Another Parent  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:45 AM

One main reason for the cost differential is that private schools have no other option than to live within their budget which sometimes means cutting "wants" and keeping needs. Private schools don't have the luxury of asking public school parents to pay for their salary increases.

no wait  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:44 AM

@Private school parent, where do you get your figures? $24k is $9k more than my property tax total, and that includes more than schools.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:29 AM

Main reason for cost differential? Special Ed, employee compensation AND union work rules. For instance, poorly performing teachers in D97 with tenure are essentially untouchable. Why? Because of the union defending them. So D97 just shrugs their shoulders and moves them to another school and provides "mentoring" - which rarely succeeds (Read Jack Crowe's WJ column). This ref (and scare tactics) is primarily about more money for higher pay - which is why they have 250 applicants per opening.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:10 AM

@Jassen: See my last post. I understand that public schools work under various regulations and, therefore, have slightly different missions. But with D97 spending roughly 3 times as much per student, it's hard to believe that there aren't many efficiencies to be found. I'm happy to have that discussion with open-minded and action-oriented groups related to D97.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 10:04 AM

@no wait: My two kids get a private school education for about $8-9K annually in tuition while it would cost D97 $24K in state and local resources per year. At the end of the day, all of our kids need to be prepared to succeed in HS...and they may all meet at OPRFHS. On a cost basis, our private school is delivering that more efficiently. In terms of quality, it's on par with any D97 school.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:50 AM

@Jassen: Thanks for the clarifications. As noted, it's our choice to send our children to private school and we pay for that privilege. Regardless, D97 gets to benefit from our tax dollars without pull on their resources. We have not begrudged this in the past, but that may get harder in the future. I continue to ask for fiscal restraint (and we don't have iPads, smartboards either!)

no wait  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:44 AM

I disagree that private schools are necessarily "more efficient." I have experience with both, and iI have found the administrators and teachers at the public school to be more accommodating (not saying much here). Also, public schools can't pick and choose their students, and can't toss them out when they don't meet standards. Apples and oranges. But to live in a community that supports public education and not to fund it properly is wrong.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:36 AM

@Private School Parent - continued...The ISBE has certification requirements, ratios for administrators etc etc. The point is, making a straight comparison between the costs of an education in a private school and a public school doesn't make any sense. They operate in entirely different regulatory environments and provide very different services. Again, there are lessons we can learn and I would love to hear some cost savings measures ideas from the private school parents.


Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:35 AM

@Private School Parent - Please explain the $10.8 million cost to D97. And why wouldn't they get more funding? Funding is based on enrollment, so wouldn't 900 more students add more funding?

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:32 AM

@Mary Ellen Eads: I like your idea of talking with those who are in the community, but have deliberately opted out of D97. There's much to be learned. Also, the costs of sending our kids to private school isn't "double", it's more like paying one and a third times because private schools are apparently so much more efficient than D97 (see my prior post). Paying the taxes plus private tuition hurts, but I'm invested in children and education.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:31 AM

@Private School Parent - "our school provides at least parity education for our children for about on-third the amount that D97 would" That is true and all public schools could learn a thing or two from private schools. But keep in mind public schools have to educate everyones kids and that includes providing services that private schools do not. They are also regulated in ways that private schools (and to a lesser extent charter schools) aren't.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:27 AM

@Private School Parent - "it would cost the public school $10.8M, without adding any new funding" - Just to clarify, thats true from a property tax revenue standpoint but not from a state funding standpoint. Part of the equation for determining state aid is tied to number of students in attendance. It is one of the reasons adding all-day K actually resulted in a revenue gain for D97.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:21 AM

For further reference, if the two largest private schools in OP closed tomorrow and the 900 children in those schools all attended District 97 schools, it would cost the public schools $10.8 million, without adding any new funding. And, as I posted previously, our school provides at least parity education for our children for about one-third the amount that D97 would receive in resources to educate them. So don't let D97 say it can't be done for less. It can. Demand Accountability.

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:14 AM

I can't speak to the total number of private school families in OP, but there are several high quality religious and Montessori programs at the elementary level. So, it IS a sizable group. I can only speak for my family, but we have serious doubts about our local elementary school (based on lackluster test scores and reported issues), and we have SEVERE concerns about the quality of the OP Middle Schools. In addition, our private school provides a level of community not found elsewhere in OP.

One Parent  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 9:11 AM

When deciding between Holmes Elementary and a parochial school in 2002 I was met with a principal who was very hesitant to even meet prior to the official open house dates. As she sat in her office adorned with MLK pics she went on to say that they emphasized serving special needs children and minorities, neither of which is my child. Seeng Holmes' poor test results closed the deal. I am a huge supporter of public education and it's need for reform starting now.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 8:33 AM

However, if there is a sizeable contingent of private school parents living here, it might be useful to survey them and find out why they made this choice. The reasons may or not be related to the quality of local schools. But it would be interesting to hear the opinions of parents who clearly are heavily invested in a obtaining good education for their children.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 8:29 AM

40% pre-retirement bump to 24% still indicates a gaming of the system. Going from an 83k salary in 2005 to 132k in 2010 is not in taxpayer or children best interest. The example is not taken out of context there are many others. Doesn't that bother you that CAST is on the block to support that spending? I funded that. I didn't know they did that. They stopped in 2010. @No wait, I never got the impression it was private school parents except the post from PRIVATE SCHOOL. Just the opposite.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 8:26 AM

I doubt there are a lot of parents sending their kids to private school in Oak Park. It is very expensive to pay double for education and Oak Park is far from a wealthy community. However, I admit, I have no idea of the numbers. District 97 is a so-so, not a bad school district. It's fair for residents to wonder if a raise in our already astronomical property taxes will improve school quality or send a message that business as usual is ok with us residents. Because for many of us, it's not.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 8:24 AM

@no wait: When 78% of D97's budget goes to salary/benefits/pensions and administrators claims they can't change because of collective bargaining agreements, union issues are anything but a red herring. As for private school parents, I agree that they make up part of that oppose the referendum. Ask yourself why they have opted out of D97. And how they as taxpayers receive any value. And why D97 can't lower their cost structure

no wait  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 7:57 AM

From the No side, it's true I am reading some questions about results/unions, which I think are red herrings (read former asst ed secy under Bush, Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."). Reading the vast majority of the No posts here and on the FB page, it seems like more than a few of the naysayers are private school parents who aren't happy with spending more money on schools they aren't sending their kids to.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 27th, 2011 6:31 AM

@h8sidiotsyesido: it's pretty clear on this string that everyone supports education and children. The key disagreements seem to be around union issues, focus and goals of D97, fiscal responsibility, etc. So, in context, "their agenda" is more taxes for unclear or no results, no accountability, continued union pay raises, etc. But thank you for demonstrating again how those in favor of the referendum continue to attack those against it.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:19 PM

"they just want our money to fund their agenda." Yeah, their evil agenda of educating children -- oh, the humanity! Will no one stop these horrible, horrible monsters?

Mike Risher  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 6:54 PM

@Get Organized! - Please do not abuse our live commenting system. We have re-enabled your ability to comment live as a gesture of good faith, but would sincerely appreciate it if you did not spam our site. Thanks.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 6:07 PM

Low voter turnout? That's what D97 is counting on - and why the ref is on this ballot - rather than the much higher turnout of Nov- hey are afraid of the "wrong voters!" Notice to community? We're fortunate that the YES people are plastering OP with yard signs - NOW people are saying "WFT?" Want simple no-pain cuts? As I've written before: $1.3M(Freeze) & .6M(K-5 Spanish) & .2M(Multi-Cul Dep) = $2.3M! Add that D97 has more than $20M in savings. Don't act scared! Vote NO and let's get this right!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 6:04 PM

@Community Organizer - Got it. I Can't do much about people feeling that way. Thats to bad. As for "I'm sure it's a key reason why you have no "anti-referendum" voices are at your forums," we actually get a lot the same questions from those in attendance that you and other are asking here. I wish we got more people to attend if for no other reason than we could have a discussion in more than 500 characters. Hope to see you at one.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 6:02 PM

Comm Organizer, I agree - no one should feel they cannot voice their opinion here. And no, I don't have a lot of money either but I do feel that if our schools go down in quality, so will everything about our community. This may be a band-aid and all of us (pro and con) need to make sure that we do keep an eye on the district. Perhaps we should all be as vocal to them as we are here!

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:57 PM

@Jassen: See my last post. I understand your campaign's official stance. But I have been told by several anti-referendum folks that they will not speak up because the believe that D97 teachers and administrators will hold a grudge and take it out on their children. I'm sure it's a key reason why you have no "anti-referendum" voices at your forums. You can't possibly be surprised...

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:52 PM

@OP Resident: Just in this string I have seen anti-referendum folks called anti-child, anti-education, anti-arts, anti-union and when I have voiced my opinion in other public forums I have been called cheap, selfish, and a Nazi. I understand why you're willing to put a band-aid on the problem and I don't hold it against you (or anyone)...just don't hold my opinions against me. Maybe all of you in favor are just in better financial shape. Perhaps I should move to Berwyn? Is that the message?

Get Organized! from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:51 PM

If you're interested in meeting No people who share ideas: Join the Group and follow, post it, and send it to your Friends in Oak Park! Most people STILL don't even know there is a Referendum. A Low Turn-out could win this for the YES. VOTE NO TO END WASTEFUL SPENDING!!!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:49 PM

@Community Organizer - "And retribution is clearly not out of the question" I am not sure what this is referring to specifically, maybe I missed something in an earlier comment, but if you are being treated less than politely by anyone officially associated with the referendum campaign, please let me know so we can deal with it. It isn't something we tolerate. You can always contact me directly through the website.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:15 PM

Comm Organizer, I think that's unfair. Those of us in favor of the referendum admit there are problems but we don't feel that a no vote is the answer and the best way to keep our good schools. I believe community input -- and that does include more people being interested in running for school board -- is vital and will greatly enhance our schools. But at this point, I don't want reductions in programs. It's that simple for me. Remember we also pay taxes and yes, mine are sky high too.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 4:40 PM

@No Way: You're right...I wish I could solve that fully...but with no kids in the D97 system, I'm at least slightly insulated. I agree that the pro-referendum folks have demonstrated a subtle but present aggressiveness. They smile, but behind it all they just want our money to fund their agenda. And retribution is clearly not out of the question. Nice community we have here, isn't it?

No Way  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 4:29 PM

@CommunityOrganizer from Oak Park-thanks but joining doesn't alleviate the wanting to remain anonymous issue.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:59 PM

@No Way, fiscallyfrustratedinOP, and the many others who oppose this referendum for a variety of reasons: sign on to facebook and search for "Referendum NO for Oak Park, IL"...and join the growing, organizing voice of those who oppose the referendum. Pass it on to all like minded individuals and ask them to do the same.

No Way  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:50 PM

@fiscallyfrustratedinOP-I agree with you but it is difficult especially if you have kids in D97. If you are out and vocal about voting no you will be perceived (as a previous poster stated) as anti arts, education and children. Who wants that label? I fear you are right though-it will pass because the advocates for it are very mobilized and passionate about it. For us, we just cannot afford another tax hike.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:20 PM

@Curious: I don't have kids in the D97 system, so I wouldn't be an obvious candidate (not even to myself!)...I now understand what's at stake and how poorly run D97 has been run. So, given deadlines, yes, on to 2013. And I wish the (unopposed) candidates great luck.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:12 PM

@No on REFERENDUM - Where have you been the last 4 months? There were 4 openings on the Board to immediately make decisions following the April 5 Board election AND referendum. Now that the deadline has passed to run, you make the offer? Well, we'll look for you to run in 2013.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:07 PM

@Voting No - I believe I overstated my case regarding the mentoring program. The State highly recommends but does not require the mentoring program. However, if the district has the program, then there are several requirements that are in place. Also, new teachers may use the induction program as a step from Inital to Standard license. My mistake in the first post.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 3:00 PM

Those opposed to the referendum need to get organized and vocal. As a long time resident I can assure you that the odds of passage are very high because pro-referendum individuals are very motivated, have media support (WJ, look at the title to this article), pretty yard signs, and they VOTE. A very small group can and will pass the referendum. "Referendum No For Oak Park" or its like need support if there is any hope to slow this train.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 2:55 PM

@OP Resident: If the referendum passes, there will be no incentive to change and reform the schools. I'd like great schools in OP, but not continually on the backs of over-stressed taxpayers. And, by the way, as soon as there's an opening, I will be running for D97 school board. I'm serious.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 2:47 PM

to make the system better but to vote NO on this referendum will not make our schools better. So to me the question is, do I want good/great schools in Oak Park? And I do. I believe you do too but instead of working to fix some of the problems with funding as well as being active all the time for the schools, you choose to vote no. I strongly believe a failed referendum will have drastic negative impact on our schools and our community.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 2:45 PM

NO, I think you are also simplifying it. The way things currently stand we are set to lose a lot of great teachers and programs if this referendum fails. The way schools are funded is broken, the state of Illinois has not helped any school district, and yet, we feel that District 97 Board and administration are irresponsible. Considering they have tried to prepare the last several years by cutting spending, I think they have acted responsibly. There are ways for people to get involved

Private School Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 2:39 PM

Private school parents in Oak Park pay for education twice. That is our choice. And it's therefore difficult to support any tax hike, but I would if I could see D97 showing reasonable fiscal restraint. Today, to educate my two children, D97 would receive over $24,000 in state and local school resources per year. Our school provides AT LEAST parity education for our children for one-third of that amount. So, don't tell me it can't be done for less. It can. As taxpayers we should demand it.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 2:31 PM

@SuzanneLOVESOakPark: Your oversimplification of the issue isn't helpful. I fundamentally support preserving the arts, but I fundamentally believe that could be done in D97 if more funds were directed towards education and not towards Union demands for salary and benefits. I'm sorry that you feel you're powerless to affect change and will therefore accept the current state. I have just one blunt tool to use - VOTING NO on this REFERENDUM.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 12:55 PM

Mr. Strokosch: Just two days ago, "no wait" was calling me a clown. And now, suddenly, you seem poised to wrest the title away from me. Man, a guy can't rest on his laurels for a minute around here. I'll go Red Nose to Red Nose and arm wrestle you for the honor. (By the way, while I'm a NO vote, I greatly respect your contributions.)

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 12:11 PM

I'm not talking about Oak Park in particular (re: standardized valuation of compensation packages). I'm talking about civil service vs. private sector in general. Two employees, private and public, with similar cash compensations could be in vastly different economic circumstances depending on the value and stability of their employment benefits. The public employee would likely be way ahead under current conditions. Leaving aside luxuries like pre-retirement "bumps."

Voting NO  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:58 AM

Just the facts - please provide the legislative/regulatory reference for required mentoring.

SuzanneLOVESOakPark from Oak Park!  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:50 AM

People, you can argue all you want about the numbers. But it isn't a huge tax hike, nothing like the income tax hike we just all got. It is about whether YOU PERSONALLY believe in preserving the arts or not. Stop arguing about how things are run...that is out of all of our control. Either you support education, students, and teachers, or you don't. You can not affect change in educational funding and management by voting either YES or NO. This does not impact change in education. VOTE YES!

Voting NO  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:46 AM

My experience is that there are many good/great teachers in D97. However, as far as I can tell, there is also no mechanism to address problems when they do exist. I am not willing to pay more taxes until we have a system that can address problems when they occur. The OPTA has gotten too strong. The contract is too rich for the times and there is no real ability to address problem teachers even when they don't have tenure yet.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:43 AM

Truthfully, the retirees in 2010 did receive those larger pre-retirement bumps in salary as per previous practice. However, that was the last group of retirees under that old plan. Now, to take advantage of annual 6% bumps over 4 years (total of 24% bump in all compared to the former 40% bump), teachers must declare retirement ahead 4 years and their % increase uses the baseline of the 5th year from retirement. It's still a bump, but much lower and requires longer term declaration of intent.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:40 AM

Voting NO, I understand your reluctance if you feel that way. I would like to hear a few details but of course I also understand you probably don't want to share those in this very public forum. But I do think there seems to be a lot of anger and resentment and I just wonder how many people are that involved before this referendum became a reality. I know Jassen was and that is why I don't think he should be attacked.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:37 AM

40,000 raises pre-retirement. The 20% pay bumps for each of the last 2 years occurred in 2010 too. There is more than 10 40,000 raises between 2008 and 2010. Another 35 employees enjoyed raises or adjustments of 20k-39k in the same two years. I do pay my share but I can't support this continuation of spending.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:35 AM

@Voting NO - D97 is required to have a mentoring and induction program. One position has been in place for 3 years and is largely funded under Title II, with a small part coming from District funds. The second position was put in place to provide the STATE REQUIRED help to the large number of new hires this year. This mentoring help goes beyond Year 1 and goes through the probationary period (total of 4 years). Could this run another way? Sure, but with less effectiveness and less consistency.

come on, people  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:35 AM

@voting no, I would be interested in hearing your experiences. I am not shy about my opinions and have expressed opinions that run counter to the status quo at board meetings. I have been treated with politeness and respect. And there has never been retaliation against my children. If anything, I think the teachers, even the ones I am not crazy about, are the ones taking the high road here.

Suzanne Rexford from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:34 AM

As to Voting NO... The teachers hired and the teachers now getting the pink slip are different positions and for different reasons. As for mentors, I we need more facts. VOTE YES.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:32 AM

OP Resident - I agree about the importance of going to and commenting at board meetings. However, have you seen the way the board treats people who say things they don't like? And yes, retaliation against kids in D97 does happen. My impression of the board is that the only "parental involvement" they want is the money out of our pockets. So we must speak out at the ballot box - and vote NO!

come on, people  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:30 AM

As for "mentors," I don't know about that, but at the middle school, they have teams, and each team has a leader. I haven't noticed the team leader being paid more for doing that.

come on, people  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:28 AM

@disclosure, if that's the case, then I think we all need to disclose (a) our names, (b) our professions, and (c) what else do you want? As for PR professionals, you can't swing a cat in OP without hitting a communications professional. Maybe the better question is, who *isn't* in communications? And go from there. I agree with the poster who said most of these posts are probably written by three or five of the same people. It's become a crazy echo chamber.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:25 AM

Suggested cuts - Last year the board was all fussed up about the new teachers they were hiring and the need for them to be properly mentored. My recollection is they were talking about 1-2 staff positions just for teacher mentoring. What happened to these positions? Have they been cut? If we're in it "for the kids" and we really are hiring great teachers, I'm thinking we may be able to do without paid mentors for teachers.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:18 AM

Voting No, you may have a point but I would hate to see all these programs cut so we can prove our point that District 97 needs to get tougher. Perhaps all these outraged citizens and "no" voters should run for school board or at the very least attend a school board meeting to address their concerns. We all knew this was coming so we had plenty of time to express our concerns to the board and superintendent.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:14 AM

For all we know of the 322 posts (minus Jassen's 42), at least 100 of them could be by the same person since Jassen is one of the few people here that actually posts his name. I know he's from the community, I know he's very involved in one of the schools, and I don't doubt that he is working on this for his personal goals, not his professional ones. It might be time for WJ to close the comments on this one. Totally lost focus of what we should be discussing.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:12 AM

Back to the issues - Since teacher salaries make up a large part of the budget, the community must look at the OPTA contract when the board cries "no money". Voting NO will not hurt our schools. Voting NO will help our schools because it will force our board to listen to the citizens about priorities and expectations. There is more than one way to save money. The idea that the only possible option is to cut BRAVO etc is wrong.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 11:11 AM

J. Strokosch should have disclosed he was a public affairs pro specializing in grassroots outreach. His firm's website, Platform Public Affairs, says it helps clients integrate internet tactics to achieve their public policy goals. This is a WJ-hosted public forum, which Strokosch has dominated with 42 posts. It is an issue of credibility when a "concerned parent" fronting for D97 just happens to be a seasoned public affairs pro. In my pool playing days, this was called "being hustled".


Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:52 AM

While I may disagree with Chet21's views at times, I can totally see why he doesn't use his real name. When people start writing attack comments about pro or negative referendum folks simply because they are truthful and use their real names, we are going down a horrible path. By the way, the person doing this identified him/herself as "from Chicago." If so, worry about your own problems and stay out of our discussions.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:36 AM

If Jassen is a clown - then so am I. Jassen is an Irving parent. That's good enough for me!!!

come on, people  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:17 AM

What does Jassen's profession have to do with this? He's also a parent and a former PTO president (which is easy enough to find, and add to your pedigree, "who is this clown," if you were being fair/uncynical.) I don't see how this doesn't make him a "concerned parent."

Concerned Parent  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:14 AM

Jassen, thank you for politely responding to the ridiculous accusations brought forth. You didn't deserve that attack any more than the dedicated teachers in District 97 deserve the rantings and cruel remarks posted on here.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:12 AM

@Who is this Clown? - It saddens me when this is the kind of attack that people turn to, simply because we disagree. You trying to accuse me of wrongdoing because (1) I am using my real name and identifying who I am (2) using what resources I have to help the school. If I owned a roofing company, I would donate a new roof to a school. If I owned a care dealership, I would donate fleet trucks. I am sorry that makes me a "clown" in your eyes.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 10:05 AM

@Who is this Clown? - "obviously using this as a pro-bono, public relations stunt for his PR business" 1) Your the only one that has mentioned my business at all, but thanks for the plug. 2) "This guy doesn't care about our schools" - I won't even dignify this with a response. 3) "he is bankrolling the whole yes campaign" I would if I could afford it but luckily hundreds of residents have stepped up and contributed.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 9:56 AM

WOW-thank you, Who is this clown, for the link-Jasson are you on the payroll? I thought you were a concerned parent. I have to say that this discussion is quickly turning my maybe into a no.

Who is this Clown? from Chicago  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 9:11 AM

Just a little background on our Facebook Verfied Friend. Who is he? He's a Public Affairs 'professional' who is obviously using this as a pro-bono, public relations stunt for his PR business, Platform Public Affairs. (Google it.) This guy doesn't care about the schools, it's about making a name for himself and his firm. I wouldn't be surprised if he is bankrolling the whole YES campaign and taking it as a marketing expense... Am I cynical? I think you should be too...


Posted: February 26th, 2011 8:40 AM

The comparison of the average D97 wage-earner's compensation vs. that of the average OP taxpayer appears to really be an apples to oranges comparison. D97 employees, at least in the teaching and admin areas, are a fairly small, homogeneous group. OP taxpayers include the retired, the low income, the middle income, and the very high income. An average for that group could easily be skewed compared to the more similar D97 group. While interesting to look at, the averages wouldn't be very helpful.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 8:37 AM

I agree that taxpayers who are paying for all of these civil servants should understand comparative total compensation, including a standardized valuation of the defined benefit pension, Social Security, and health insurance. It shouldn't be that difficult to work up a chart. In addition, there should be some added value for job security-far greater in the public sector than in private. Public sector workers are doing very, very well, with minimal job risk and no accountability for results.

Looking for Info from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 8:18 AM

Thank you for the link. I understand the point about total compensation. I come from Union (Youngstown, OH) and was schooled in this at an early wage. It still holds that total compensation of $100K in Wisconsin is still very generous, by private sector standards. Would be curious to learn the ave total compensation for D97 and how that compares to the ave OP taxpayer.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 8:09 AM

NO on REF: I disagree that a Yes vote on the ref is just putting money in D97 employees' pockets. I believe there's room for improvement but saying No to the ref is not the answer. Our schools will be severely hurt if this ref doesn't pass. Tech, arts, music, & for language are important pieces of our schools and should not be optional to taxpayers. Without those factors in place, our schools will not be award-winning & our property values (on which we pay those high taxes) will decrease further

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 8:02 AM

Since we're sharing links -- try this one when you are done with the previous one:

Looking for info from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 7:38 AM

Please click on the link below to an article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal about pay/benefits packages for Milwaukee public school teachers vs. the private sector. Does anyone have this info for D97? In case the link does not work, google "Oh to be a teacher in Wisconsin" for the story.

steph from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 7:20 AM

Totally agree with OP Resident..the D97 teachers that I have interacted with are very caring individuals and talented/competent educators. They should not be constantly targeted by those who want to enjoy the benefits of living in OP without having to pay accordingly.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 7:11 AM

@OP Resident: ...and, in addition, the referendum is set up to take money from a community that's already over-taxed and put it in someone else's pocket. Based on past history, D97 employees -- teachers, administrators and others -- will likely get 78% or more of this increase over time. So the tagline "it's for the children and better schools" is no longer believable....and I'm left asking whether I'd rather keep my hard-earned money or give it to a D97 employee. Well, my choice is clear.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 7:04 AM

@OP Resident: My post was meant as a joke...of course, there's no way this could ever be implemented. But, D97 doesn't seem to believe there's any solution other than raising taxes, which isn't true and shows their lack of imagination. As for villifying teachers, I don't think that's anyone's intent...but when 78% of the district's budget goes to salary and benefits, we must start to ask whether we are getting what we pay for now and in the future. I know I'm not...

OP Resident  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 6:53 AM

NO on Ref: I can see asking the superintendent to live here, maybe a couple of the higher ups, but I don't know any district that requires teachers to live there to teach there, do you? I think it's an absurd idea. I am embarrassed at the conversation about teachers on here -- when did they become the bad guys? My experience with District 97 teachers has overall been very good. I am dismayed that we, as parents and taxpayers, have turned teachers into the "enemy."

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2011 5:51 AM

If D97 instituted an Oak Park residency requirement for all teachers/administrators, I would feel more like we're "sharing the pain"....also, its the only way to ensure that our interests are all aligned in terms of taxes. Plus, all of our property values would rise when the flood of D97 employees come to buy houses here! It's a WIN-WIN! mean the 65% of them who don't live here would never agree to pay our high taxes? Hmmm....makes you think, doesn't it?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 11:49 PM

@Enuf is Enuf - That is an interesting interpretation of the 2003 IGA process. We will just have to disagree. Also, I would love to see your math on how the district has received less "tax revenue" since 2006 with the TIF in place. Also, I am still curious about what your statement, "BoE seeks $48M bail out" is referring to?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 5:30 PM

no wait, I agree that one from our "side" should attend a ref mtg - but, honestly, I have NO IDEA who any of the "NO" posters are!?! I think that we're more effective online - larger audience. Further, "not-a-chance" will I subject my children to epithets/scorn (silent or not) from some of the "YES" crowd/our neighbors. Win/Lose/Draw - I do wish to emphasize my support and gratitude for the D97 teachers/principals who have educated my children. Most were superb. But the system is broken. Peace!

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 4:54 PM

chet21, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Also, reiterating: if you feel that strongly, I think your side should be represented at the referendum meetings. I hope someone steps up.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 4:37 PM

@J Strokosch - D97 signed the 2003 IGA as the basis for TIF extension, thereby approving it. If D97 put in 1/2 the energy to rally public support against the TIF extension as they have in trying to pass this referendum, the TIF would have never been extended. IGA terms returned property tax to D97 on a FEW properties (carve-outs), rather than ALL downtown properties if the TIF was allowed to expire in 2006. Since 2006, TIF Annual Reports prove D97 received less tax revenue with TIF extension.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 4:05 PM

Actually, it's "no wait" who has been refusing to follow the debate below. Posters have shown how FTE has skyrocketed at D97. It has also been explained WHY there was no ref since 1989 - because D97 loaded up before tax caps. Do you think OP taxpayers are stupid? They know that D97 spending (and their prop taxes) have increased well beyond CPI. Commonsense spending cuts have been proposed - and you ignore them. It is this type of "business as usual" that the NO crowd is attempting to dispel.

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 2:51 PM

Voting No--have you followed the news about the district over the past 20 years? No referendum in the past 20 years, steady and I believe responsible cuts in the past 7. I don't have the ability to detail them in 500 characters, I have to assume you can do some of the homework yourself or follow some of the links cited in this thread. If you don't want to, then I don't even know why you are discussing it.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 12:59 PM

iPads?!iPads?!?! In my day teacher evaluations were done with Mr. Potato head. Teacher had good communication skills plug in happy teeth, good listener plug in jumbo ears. You can still get the bare bones version for $9 on Amazon.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 9:24 AM

"no wait" - what is so fiscally responsible about asking for more money - especially when part of what they want is a substantial increase in expenses in the next few years? Fiscally responsible would be renegotiating the OPTA contract. Fiscally responsible would be setting metrics for expected outcomes of supplemental programs. Fiscally responsible would be making sure all teachers are actually teaching the curriculum - which might reduce the need for supplemental programs.

no more iPads  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 9:13 AM

A couple of points - the Vanderbilt study cited found that incentive pay ALONE did not make a difference - I wonder if part of the reason is because the teachers in that study volunteered to be in it. We need to be looking at curriculum as well. For example, do teachers focus on writing in all years or only in those years when writing is tested on the ISAT? There is no reason to pay more taxes until we are sure we are really getting what our kids need.

Just Wondering from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 8:37 AM

@NO on referendum: That's an interesting overview of many studies, some going back over 20 years and with mixed results. A more recent study is here: The diversity of the Nashville school system, which this study was conducted, might be more comparable to D97.

no more iPads  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 8:23 AM

"no wait" - good point. Sorry that I forgot to mention that I was assuming that raises in pay would be based on raises in achievment. Teachers who start with a kid who is below grade level and move him/her closer to grade level should be recognized for that achievement.

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:49 AM

iPads--wouldn't that ensure that the teachers at, say, Mann, would consistently get higher pay than the other schools? As someone who is trying to help my kids and others prepare for the ISATs, I don't like them as a way to assess children's learning (extended response? are you freaking kidding me?), much less a teacher's. With NCLB and now this horrible Race to the Top, we're kind of stuck with it, but I don't want to give these tests any more power than they already do.

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:46 AM

As a parent, the "good deal" is that the district finally got its priorities in order, is being fiscally responsible at the same time as it is hiring good teachers, and trying to keep them.

no more iPADS  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:46 AM

There are many ways to structure pay for performance. How about linking the pay raise for all teachers in a school to school-wide performance? Wouldn't that build teamwork? And it should eliminate issues over who gets that "best" or "worst" kids. It's time for the people who are supposed to be in charge - the Board and the Superintendent - to start leading, instead of backing all the union reasons for why we can only do what we've always done (only now we'll do it with new, expensive tech)

Voting NO  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:39 AM

The state "control" over the salary bump for retirees is that it has imposed a limit of 6%. No amount is required. As to linking the annual increase to CPI - keep in mind that though linked to CPI, the contract assures a raise of at least 2.5% each year, even if the CPI is less. And then there is the "breathing" raise - otherwise know as the step increase. The current contract is a very good deal for the union. Where is the good deal for the tax payers?

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:19 AM

Also not in favor of compensating teachers on standardized test; it really depends on what hand you're dealt, class-wise. And bad for teamwork. It is vital to separate the referendum discussion from personal disappointments with the district. The district has made great improvements in terms of fiscal responsibility etc and I think it would be a shame to punish them, and us, for that, when they are making progress and have for years.

no wait  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 7:13 AM

I am wondering if that pre-retirement "bump up" for veteran teachers is much like No's bonus, though once every 20 keep the teacher focused, albeit long-term. (Note: I am NOT a fan of the bump-up, just trying to think about it as a union/district/workaround incentive. It is hard for those of us who aren't unionized to think in terms of negotiations like this.)

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 5:00 AM

@Just Wondering: See link for your requested reference (and a decent overview of the lightly-researched topic)-- and Springer.pdf ...and my pay is a base plus performance bonus. There are many factors I can't control in getting my bonus, but it makes sure I'm focused where I need to be to ensure company success. And isn't THAT analogous to what we're trying to ensure in D97...our kids' success?

Will No One Rid Me Of This Person?  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 2:08 AM

Enuf wrote: "In 2003, village pressures them for TIF extension, BoE says YES." STOP IT! Please, just stop your continuing mischaracterizations that D97 was somehow responsible for the TIF extension. You've been crawling all over this forum spreading this lie. Stop it. Now.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 8:45 PM

Was that study for the elementary classroom setting?


Posted: February 24th, 2011 7:51 PM

@Will. Pay for performance does not promote teamwork. That's a vital component in a successful learning environment. Many years ago, the Village Board expressed interest in establishing a pay for performance plan for Oak Park employees. I spoke against the idea during public comment. The next morning, I received a call from a resident who had written the definitive text on the very subject. He explained it too often results in disgruntled employees and reduced productivity. Not what D97 needs!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:58 PM

@Enuf is Enuf - continued...As for "BoE seeks $48M bail out", how is their entire property tax based revenue stream a "bail out." Are you suggesting that without the TIF they wouldn't need property taxes? Or did you mean to refer to the $6M that the referendum represents this year?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:54 PM

@Enuf is Enuf - So in 2003 when the village "pressures" D97 on TIF extension? Please explain what leverage D97 had? Secondly, this description conveniently ignores that D97 actually generated more revenue with the TIF in place after 2003 agreement than had it dissolved. As for 2010, while you disagree, the BOE does not see it as a "reduced" payment but believes that the Village is paying them the correct amount per the agreement.

Just wondering from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:22 PM

Cite a reference, please? Where has results-based teacher compensation been implemented with success? And, again, your occupation? Your annual earnings? (Do your earn more or less than the average OP teacher?)

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:20 PM

@yes to the ref: we need to trust D97 BoE because they live in OP? Past and present BoE seek the path of least resistance. In 2003, village pressures them for TIF extension, BoE says YES. In 2008, OP Teachers Assoc. pressures them for an overly- generous contract, BoE says YES. In 2010, village pressures them to accept reduced and late TIF distribution payments, BoE says YES. In 2011, BoE seeks $48M bail out due to previous YES votes, but the public says NO - go ask the village and OPTA instead!


Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:10 PM

@jwondering - My pay is 100% performance based but I do not believe teacher pay should be the same. However, performance MUST be part of the salary equation, right now it is not. As Chet stated earlier, "breathing" salary increases aka step increases, should go away so we can weed out the pretenders.

Just wondering from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 5:48 PM

@NO on Referendum: What study of merit-based teacher pay do you base you opinion on? And, by the way, what's your occupation? Your salary? Is it all results-based? Straight commission?

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 5:10 PM

@Jassen: How about linking teachers' salary increases to something like RESULTS? What? can't do that because the OPTA won't let you? Then how can you say that D97 is acting in our best interests, in the interests of our chidren, and pushing for a quality education? It feels like more money is needed to placate teachers and administrators, not to improve anything tangible. Oh, and let's not forget the smartboards. VOTE NO...DEMAND D97 ACCOUNTABILITY AND IMPROVEMENT.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 5:03 PM

@yes to the ref: the D97 BOE isn't trying to screw us, they just want us to act in THEIR best interests, which may not be the same as OUR best interests. They're not evil, but can't see that the tax burden in OP is already high enough and many people would rather not pay more in tax until D97 shows it can be consistently fiscally responsible and held accountable.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 1:35 PM

The 20% pre-retirement salary bump for D97 teachers was exercised solely at the discretion of D97. First, it increased those teacher's salaries by 20% for their last two years of service, at the expense of D97. Secondly, it greatly increased retirement pension levels for these same teacher's at the expense of State of Illinois. Oak Park residents are taxpayers for both D97 and State of Illinois. Now, both D97 and State of Illinois claim budgets deficits and want more funds via taxation.

yes to the ref  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 1:23 PM

we need to trust D97 BOE. they live in OP, their kids go to school in OP why would they screw us? i agree w/ Jamie on 2/23, OP needs to catch up educationally and keep our children well rounded. my child's class has a smartboard, it is a great learning tool the kids use too. when other kids see what the SB can do they want one for their classroom. can you imagine a child who wants to learn? who is engaged in the classroom? the ref. is about a necessary improvement, the schools need this money.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 1:13 PM

@chet21 "Their annual salary increase should more correctly read: CPI plus "breathing" - Again, thank you for clarifying for me how salaries work in D97.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 1:07 PM

@TellingItLikeItIs "Dont questions the ethics or financial basis, just keep your snout down until the feed trough runs dry." - I am not sure how you construe my comment of holding not only unions but all of us accountable for pension abuse to equalling me condoning "feeding at the trough." In fact it "seems" I was saying the opposite. But if it helps, let me state super clearly that, yes, in my opinion, false salary inflation before retirement is not right.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:53 PM

Jassen, your post on the "tie pay raises to CPI" might have led the reader to overlook the largest part of the annual increase - which is the one they receive for, well, "breathing" (aka, "step increase"). Their annual salary increase should more correctly read: CPI plus "breathing" - and the gain has been much higher than the avg wage gains for society. This belies that D97 has been "tight and frugal" with taxpayers money. Only a "NO" vote can make that happen.


Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:48 PM

False salary inflation does't "lead to abuse" - false salary inflation IS in itself an abuse, albeit it a longstanding, institutionalized one. Jassen seems to be saying: Don't question the ethics or financial basis, just keep your snout down until the feed trough runs dry.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:35 PM

@chet21 - You will note that I said the raised are tied to CPI, not that they are CPI. I am aware of the difference but thank you for pointing it out for those that might have missed the distinction. Also, thank you for clarifying that you consider the teachers contract a "con/scam."

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:31 PM

Jassen, regarding the pension debacle, WHY do you think that the unions said nothing regarding underfunding? Are they a shy and quiet group? Hardly. They were lobbying for more/large state funding to schools - which went to teacher raises - which led to higher pensions. Why weren't they screaming "WHAT ABOUT THE PENSIONS?" Simple, because "the pensions" are protected by the state constitution - and that the state would have to pay up no matter what. That's why the unions were quiet about this.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:23 PM

"Just the Facts" - thanks, makes sense. 20% bumps? ALL Ed employees in IL jumped on this union-made gold mine. When it was "adjusted" several years ago - it led to the massive D97 retirements (so that they'd get the bump). Cough, it was "for the children!" Jassen, it's cpi AND step-increase. Something that doesn't exist in the real world. It's why avg raises for D97, when CPI was 1% - is much greater. It's a con/scam. Check this out:ttp:// Raises are NOT CPI!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:22 PM

As for salary bumps before retirement, there is no doubt that this practice has led to abuses of the pension system. That said, there is plenty of blame to go around. All of us are driving on roads and enjoying other services that we didn't pay for because the state has paid for them by raiding the same pension system. It doesn't make it right, it's just worth noting that we have all benefited, union or not, at the hands of raiding that pension fund.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:02 PM

One element of the current teachers contract that the current Board negotiated was to tie pay raises to CPI. This is a pretty innovative move and helps to protect the district by linking their major expense, salaries, to the same index that sets their revenue cap.


Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:54 AM

I have no doubt the 20% false salary inflation was a state-wide practice perpetrated by the union. However, the local teachers negotiate their terms with the local district, not the state. That has been the district's justification for their collusion in this false practice all along: every one else abuses the system, it's common practice, so why shouldn't we?

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:51 AM

From the responses that come back for every question, it has become very apparent that this really a case of people not trusting the District, no matter what the answer. It doesn't matter what is said, some people don't believe it. That's too bad. I don't think the Board is hiding anything. People may disagree about the interpretation of the facts, but this is not a cover-up and money grab. Just my opinion.

KPoster from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:43 AM

20% pay bumps? What did you expect them to say? Golly we were just following the rules. Look at the 300-400k retired administrators. Their reason was they didn't make the rules. Legislatively they were not forced to follow 20% pre-retirement pay bumps.

no wait  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:38 AM

Tom: This *is* my real name. :-)

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:30 AM

(cont.) These old eMacs may last one more year in terms of running the current software needed due to processor age/speed/etc. The 1500 new computers would be a student-sized laptop or other device that would be portable and movable between classes. The middle schools have 120 each now and would get another 180 each. The elementary schools would get between 100-150 each to supplement the labs that are crowded now. IMPORTANT: Year 2 spending is NOT yet Board approved. This is only the plan.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:25 AM

As presented to the Board on several occasions, Year 2 of the Tech Plan calls for increasing the number of computer devices for students by 1500 (not 1500 carts). These would replace the roughly 600 eMacs that are still in use in classrooms for students (about one per classroom). The eMacs are desktop units that can't be moved to accommodate needs. Also, the District used to have over 1200 eMacs, but they have not been replaced as they "died." Those still alive are at least 6 years old now.


Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:21 AM

The pre-retirement bump was discussed at the referendum forum last week at Beye. This bump in salary, which used to be 20% each of the last two years and is now 6% each of the last 4 years, was explained as a state-level practice and not under the control of the District. It sounds like changing this would require intervention at the state legislative levels.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:16 AM

@no wait. Every class needs a clown. (It takes a little of the pomposity out of the air.) But if some - indeed, perhaps many - find what I contribute to be nonsense, well, at least I have the integrity to sign my real name. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must take my tiny clown car in for service.


Posted: February 24th, 2011 11:05 AM

Years ago, I was shocked at the district's open practice of grossly inflating salaries prior to retirement for the express purpose of bloating pensions for decades to come. In light of such longstanding and blatant abuse of the taxpayer's goodwill and trust, this small, short term political gesture by the district staff rings a bit hollow.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 10:55 AM

Hey Tech Whiz's - last SU "parent from oak park" posted this link: - and wanted opinions as to the utility of these major expenditures for "tech" - and that a large portion of the ref was being used for this. I am NOT a "tech whiz" and so would appreciate the thoughts of others regarding the leasing of "1500 laptop carts," etc. This is a lot of money & I wonder how/why it should be utilized? Thanks.

Board Watcher  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 10:07 AM

Sorry. The second line in the previous post should have read "Also, accountability for teacher IS planned."

Board Watcher  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 10:05 AM

@No More iPads - First of all, iPads have not been purchased for teachers by the District. Some iPod Touches are being piloted in classroom settings, but no iPads. Also, accountability for teachers planned. This has been presented twice at Board meetings. The new tech proficiency guidelines go into place next fall, with evaluative expectations for all teachers. This has been a clear Board expectation over the past 18 months and it is ready to begin. No more "I don't want to teach with tech."

no wait  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 6:35 AM

Tom, you seem to fancy yourself a bit of a provocateur/class clown here, but it doesn't seem you are adding much to the conversation.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 8:14 PM

Jamie, I know, like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, we are standing at different ends of the beast and will never agree on exactly what it is that's in front of us. But I've got to ask, "What's wrong with "learnin'?" Or do you prefer "cognitive pathways enhancement?" (By the way, I don't drop my "g's", but I wanted to quote your condescension accurately.)

No more iPads  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 8:04 PM

Sorry "500 words" - we can buy iPads but no, we cannot make teachers use them in a manner that will increase educational outcomes. Teachers have "academic freedom" and can do whatever they want in the classroom. Their contract provides pay increases but no real accountability. As to doing anything to help "different learners" - some teachers already do a great job but others refuse, saying "that's not how I teach". Will more $$ for more technology change that. I don't think so.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:12 PM

If I am not mistaken, District 90 has Smart boards in each classroom and OPRF has many Smart boards in classrooms too (obviously not one in each classroom). Since some on here often talk about RF schools, let's check their technology against Dist 97 and see how that fares. I think we know. We are behind in technology. I may not agree with the whole technology plan but we are definitely behind.

500 words is not a lot....  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 6:57 PM

No more iPADS says not opposed to tech then constructs strawman argument against tech in classrooms. We can 1) buy tech items that educate kids, esp. those not "classic learners" needing different presentation options, to meet educational goals. Possibly can help close Achievement Gap. 2) Make D97 teachers incorp. tech in classrooms. 3) Realize that tech is fundamental for 21st Cent. educ. Or do nothing, let USA continue getting butt kicked in science/math and talk abt Achievement Gap. Up2u, OP.

No more iPADS  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 5:52 PM

I am not opposed to technology. However, I am opposed to the idea that technology in and of itself will make a difference. Technology is a tool. Consider the teacher who showed a DVD of the Disney movie Pocahontas to teach American History. Will having the kids view this movie on laptops improve educational outcomes? I don't think so. We need to start with educational goals, not technology goals. AND we need to learn to live within our budget.

Look on the from Internet  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 5:11 PM

Some research has shown that Smartboard technology improves student test scores. Could help close the Achievement Gap? Sounds like a lot of OPers would rather talk about closing it rather than doing something....typical.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 4:38 PM

Regarding technology - Yes, OPRF doesn't have Smartboards, but the teachers all have LCD projectors. D97 teachers don't have either in most rooms. The elementaries only have a lab of 25-30 computers for the whole building to share. Forget about daily interaction! The Tech Plan is a bare-boned plan to bring D97 back on par with other local districts. It is not a Cadillac plan by any means. And iPads? They are a pilot to assess effectiveness, starting with the principals. Better than paper? Maybe.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 4:31 PM

It is becoming very apparent from the majority of comments on the thread that some OP residents would prefer schools that mirror those of 50 years ago. No technology, no arts, no libraries... just more "learnin'." However, the world has moved on and our students must be competitive in many ways, including tech use. Yes, there is an achievement gap, but it is steadily closing. D97 is still a respected district by everyone but those who live here, it seems. How depressing.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 3:37 PM

@techQuestion: In all fairness, you must balance the cost of the smartboards against the substantial savings in chalk.

No more iPADS   

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 3:32 PM

Oh Goody. The administrators now have iPADs on which to record that all teachers are "excellent". How is this an improvement from when they wrote on paper that all teachers are "excellent"? Before she left Collins said that Danialson has been a failure. We have many good/great teachers. Unfortunately the not-so-good teachers still have no reason to improve. Why should they? They get the same salary/benefits as the good teachers - and the same "excellent" ratings from administrators.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 3:23 PM

[Traczyk insisted the district wasn't going overboard buying gadgets. "This is not laptops for every child. This is smart-boards for classrooms."] Even the HS doesn't have smartboards in every classroom. Please explain how computerized blackboards will improve Kindergarten and most of the early grades. Don't forget we have to pay for the expensive teacher training to use them too.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 2:34 PM

Also, in addition to the "in-depth rubric that corresponds with the Danielson Model", the iPads allow the administrators to access the latest app: Angry Taxpayers.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:42 PM

The iPad devices (22 were purchased), through the use of an in-depth rubric that corresponds with the Danielson Model, enables our administrators to provide teachers with comprehensive, immediate feedback following an observation. Most important, it reduces the amount of paperwork they need to complete, which allows them to spend more time in the classrooms. You can learn more about the district's use of the Danielson Model by visiting on Evaluations.pdf.

no wait  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:31 PM

Could Oak Park be next? Also, this is what an underfunded school district looks like:,0,7360521.story


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:18 PM

The PTOs of several elementary schools, Whittier, Hatch, Holmes, Mann, Longfellow, and Beye operate organized after-school enrichment programs. They have become small schools in a sense and well over 500 kids are enrolled in them. Most of them hire D97 teachers to instruct some of the programs. If the referendum failed, the PTOs might lessen the effect of the layoffs and use these enrichment programs to hire teachers to teach art, music, and languages after, before, and during lunch recess.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:05 PM

Funding for BRAVO comes from several sources, including donations, sponsorship, fundraising, ticket sales, and fees for programs such as its Junior BRAVO Performance Workshops. You can learn more about the BRAVO program by visiting

Ben Weinberg from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 12:03 PM

Re BRAVO/CAST and the arts: These programs are open to ALL and do not require automatic fees. My kids attend(ed) Brooks and have been very involved in the great theater program. There are three plays this year: a sixth grade show -- just recently, Pirates of Penzance with a cast/crew of around 75. The 7/8 grade show in the fall was Midsummers NIght Dream with an even larger cast/crew. The all-school Wiz will be in the Spring of 2011. Diverse, large casts/crew open to all!

Voting NO  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 11:53 AM

I also am glad we live in a community that values the arts. However, I think voting NO is the best thing we can do for the schools. We can have good schools without paying more money. In fact, the idea that we just need to keep spending and spending is part of why our schools are not doing as well as they should. They have enough money. Of course they would like more - who wouldn't. But spending does not equal achievement. We need more achievement before I am willing to spend any more money.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 9:48 AM

Reading the article more closely I have to pose this question to Chris. Why do administrators need Ipads to evaluate teachers? How are they used exactly? I also saw my daughters teaching using one during our oncference. I suppose it could have been her own Ipad but makes me wonder if the rumor is indeed true that teachers have them as well. Which would be fine if students had access to them.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 9:31 AM

@no wait. I've been around in OP for a while and I recall when OPRF and D97 lost ref - and the "sky is falling!" - which they claimed - did NOT occur. They simply re-did/thought and won. Which is PRECISELY what I'm requesting now. RF has no K-5 Spanish or M-C Dept - are THEY "skeletal"? Do we need $1.1M annually for "media specialists"? Rahm, now the mayor, said "teachers aren't underpaid" - why not a 2-yr freeze? NONE of this affected CAST/BRAVO, etc and D97 will NOT be "skeletal" in offerings.

Carlson from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 9:08 AM

Yes, per abc123's point, what percent of district kids participate in BRAVO/CAST? How much of the their budgets are paid directly by parents vs district vs fundraising? I know the summer program is quite expensive. Re: foreign language, my child learned next to nothing in the elementary school Spanish class. It was very weak.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 9:01 AM

@Another No Vote-Chris Jascula (sp) explained why the request was changed below.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 8:25 AM

1st I don't have faith-the initial ask for was $75m & then when the outrage was felt the "ask for" number magically dropped to $35m- maybe if that didn't occur but dropping $40 m in the blink of an eye makes me wonder. I don't believe that they need to be doing all it is presently being done-some cuts need to be made & once again teachers getting 100% healthcare coverage would be a good place to start if this really is "for the children" Good discussion no wait-we must agree to disagree.


Posted: February 23rd, 2011 8:16 AM

I wrote the previous post and I am a maybe.  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 8:12 AM

Just curious-Does everyone have access to Bravo-more specifically is it free or do parents have topay fees to have their child participate currently? Also, how effective are the foreign language programs? Are the kids learning to speak fluently?

no wait  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:45 AM

@another no vote: I guess we are working with two definitions. Could we perhaps say, "no frills"? Personally I disagree with that, because I don't consider Spanish, Library, Art, Music, CAST, BRAVO, athletics, to be frills. Yet many schools don't have them. I would not seek those schools out if I were choosing a place to live, regardless of how self-congratulatory OP people feel about the town's innate specialness.

no wait  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:40 AM

@another no vote: I have been here through a few referenda, I haven't just fallen off the turnip truck. I wouldn't move to a district that didn't have arts, regardless of the housing stock. I have looked at the data out there, and the state requirements, and I don't see how the district can do all it is doing without the referendum. Do you? Also, I believe the board is acting in good faith--they have made the downward adjustment based on state tax change.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 7:28 AM

@no wait - first and once again that won't happen if the referendum fails - YOU are falling prey to the scare tactics that happen every time a school referendum comes to vote - and I describe a "skeletal"school as one in a hut or tent with few text books and no library- Oak Park is, has and always will be very fortunate. People will continue to seek out well performing school systems that are fiscally responsible and hey the taxes might not scare them off when they are looking to purchase a home

no wait  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 10:19 PM

how would you describe a school with no art, music, language, library? Would it be a school system you would seek out?

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 10:02 PM

@no wait - sorry just can't agree with your statement that Oak Park schools would become "skeletal" if the referendum doesn't pass - to me skeletal is a school from a 3rd world country Not one that has say 5 instead of 8 media specialists or having teachers that have to contribute to their healthcare plan? Skeletal is just not a word I would choose.

no wait  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 9:10 PM

@another no vote. Right, I forgot that the typical chicago parent is choosing between Oak Park and Africa.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:36 PM

Regarding the media specialist: my child's experience was that the media specialists in middle school mostly threatented to throw the kids out of the library and/or told teachers not to give library passes to certain kids. At HS my child was surprised to the point of shock at how friendly and helpful their media specialists have been. The issue isn't just how much are we paying, but what are we getting. Who is making sure that all staff are working every day in a manner that supports all kids?

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:28 PM

@no wait - Cont.:Single healthcare cost: $7,700, Family$13,000 (No one has yet to answer how many teachers are covered thru the school district) no proven correlation between teachers who receive masters degrees and increased student educational more that others have stated - I do not want the status quo I demand better for the children and as a taxpayer.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:23 PM

@no wait I think skeletal would be an African classroom not Oak Park post failed referendum-you are vastly overstating & have fallen prey to the scare tactics. Some fiscal integrity is all I'm looking for-I do not want to see those programs cut either. Things that are frustrating: In 1990 D97 had 302 FT teachers-today there are 465 for the current school year-a 55% staff increase - during the same time frame the student population has on increased by 15%. Healthcare-100% to coverage for staff,


Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:57 PM

Speaking of CEs, How much does U 97, the CE school the district runs, cost? I assume the district personal who enroll in the courses get a stipend, the district personal who teach the courses get compensation, and the those who graduate from the CE get salary increases. Is that a correct assumption? Who monitors the effectiveness, quality, and merit of these courses? Do other school districts have their own CE school?

no wait  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:29 PM

Yes, really. No CAST, BRAVO, athletics, foreign language, art, instrumental music, gifted, library, etc., plus class size of 30 = skeletal. I wouldn't move here if the elementary school system had no arts. I believe the school board when they say they will cut these areas. Unlike some people, I have listened and looked at the data, and I don't think they have any other choice if the referendum doesn't pass.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:17 PM

@ no wait - sketetal school system - really?

Carlson from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 6:10 PM

Hey, I'm all for rewarding good teachers. But research doesn't show that masters degrees improve teacher quality. So why is D97 paying for these degrees (and bumping up their salaries as well)?

no wait  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 5:55 PM

@ Another No Vote: Are you suggesting that having a skeletal school system will draw families to OP?

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 5:45 PM

@Just The Facts...or is it just the facts that support your opinion? I believe that Reagan left office in 1988; the data I linked to begins in 1990 and ends in 2007. So, how can it be a rehash of something released over 20 years ago? If nothing else, it shows an inverted trend of achievement-to-spending that's persisted for decades. Now, you may have many reasons why this is so & why it's no cause for concern...Finland vs. USA, apples vs. oranges, crispy vs. extra-crispy, etc. But, it is a FACT.


Posted: February 22nd, 2011 5:32 PM

@no wait makes an excellent point. If CE wasn't reimbursed some would not take CE, their skills would be out of date and yet the union will be there to protect them. In the private sector becoming better at your job is incentive enough to take and pay for your own CE. Education needs reform, start now with a no to the status quo.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 4:38 PM

@ no wait - those families are taking one look and Oak Park's tax bills and they stop considering.

no wait  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 4:19 PM

@carlson, no, wait, we should eliminate all continuing education incentives for teachers, right? So they can be out of date with new developments in education. That will be a fabulous incentive for families considering Oak Park.

carlson from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 4:08 PM

And chet21, don't forget to add in tuition reimbursement, so Media Specialists (as well as teachers) can get those useful Masters degrees.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 3:13 PM

Mr. Jascula, I thank you for your information. I'll then presume that the average compensation for the Media Specialists is at least $80,000 (pension of 10% and health care, etc.). That's a nice bit of information to have as we move forward. Again, thank you.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 2:15 PM

In addition, per this Wednesday Journal article, they are working with their colleagues from districts 90, 200 and the public libraries in Oak Park and River Forest to develop a system for sharing resources and implement a program aimed at improving student research. You can view the D97 Library Web site by visiting

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 2:10 PM

The average salary for the district's media specialists is $68,864. The figure featured in the presentation from June 22, 2010 included money for part-time aides. Some of their responsibilities - assist students and staff with print and online research, provide instruction on the use of online resources, assist with ongoing professional development for staff, teach children about the importance of practicing Internet safety and oversee literary programs such as the Reading Olympics.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 1:24 PM

Jassen, I don't know their names, and even if I did, would this info include the cost of benefits? I'll just assume that the $1.1M figure is correct. Mr. Clark, regarding "pseuds" (an illegal drug?), I HATE using one, AND wouldn't if I didn't have children. Heck, I know people who agreed to put our "YES!" yard signs and plan on voting NO. Why? Because they have kids in D97!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 1:08 PM

@Paul Clark - thanks for posting a comment. If your interested in learning more about the referendum, I would recommend going to one of the forums that are happening around the community. You can find a list on the homepage of and, if you are interested in a non-school setting forum, there is one at Buzz Cafe on March 10th at 7PM. Cheers.

Paul Clark  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 12:29 PM

All that being said, i'm unsure if I'm a yes or no at this point.

Paul Clark  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 12:29 PM

Thanks to the passionate voices on this thread (though I wish so many weren't hiding behind pseuds). As basically a lifelong member of River Forest or Oak Park, I know the high value residents place on public education -- even those families who send their kids to private schools. I know that passions are high especially in this uncertain economy and when public spending is under such scrutiny. I appreciate that the Wednesday Journal provides a forum online and on paper to carry on this debate.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 12:25 PM

@chet21 - if you just want their compensation, you can look up that information for every district employee on the ISBE website. You don't need Chris for that.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 12:14 PM

Jassen, thanks. Since I know that Mr. Jascula reads this thread, I am formally requesting the info regarding the total compensation of the 10 "Media Specialists" for the 9-mos that they work. I don't know what duties they perform for their 6-7 hrs of daily work, but I don't believe it more impt to OP "and OUR children" than CAST/BRAVO/GIFTED/ATHLETICS - which have a similar annual cost. Another reason to Vote NO until we get this all sorted out.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 11:55 AM

So, Jassen, why don't we see you running for school board when you apparently have all the answers?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 11:49 AM

@chet21 - If you are interested in the total cost of operating the libraries, I would recommend contacting Chris Jasculca at D97 and he can track down those figures.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 11:34 AM

@chet21 - That $1.1M figure was a very preliminary look at the total cost of having 10 libraries at the schools and what would be saved by eliminating all expenditures related to the libraries. And it was preliminary, a best guess at the time. The current number is derived from reducing the staff in half and so they are really not comparable.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 11:26 AM

Jassen, thanks. The update "media specialist" numbers make more sense. Why? Because of union rules, the layoffs would be based on seniority (not ability) and so the "savings" would be less-$72K vs $110K. HOWEVER, is it then also true that the remaining M.S. are compensated at MUCH MORE than $110K and this is an argument that greater savings will be gained by 100% elimination? BTW, what are they doing for our kids that my out-of-box thoughts shouldn't be heeded today? $1.1M for 10 positions?!?

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 9:53 AM

It's a article that rehashes the same arguments that have been brought forth since "The Nation at Risk" during Reagan. At best, it provides a superficial look at education issues and at worst it ignores that U.S. mandate to educate everyone and test everyone. National curricula and national tests in other countries drive their systems. Poor kids or immigrant kids often go to "other" schools outside the testing range. Nothing new or worth repeating from this article.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 9:44 AM

Good article - had trouble finding at first so here is the link thru Reason fb site

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:51 AM

As long as we're throwing around stats, scores & charts like confetti, I'll offer this suggestion: the brains race. Peace, everybody.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:39 AM

Couple things... The academic criteria for Bright Red Apple is: The average number of third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students in the highest percentile on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test for reading, writing and math must be at least 13.50. Also, ISAT scores by school and grade are presented every year in a public session. Student performance is presented 2-3 times per year. Everything is being shared! Finally, are we talking about Everyday Math or Saxon math? Different kids and needs.

test info  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:31 AM

@voting no: I guess that would work, if you gave them the same isat test they took the year before. But that doesn't happen. Truth is, I think Everyday Math doesn't work for many kids, so I am glad that there is an alternative. Also, since the middle schools don't use Everyday Math, I think it's good to have a more straightforward approach to math.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 8:26 AM

Test info: But if you take 20 kids who are struggling, enroll them in an "extra" program and look at their ISAT scores a year later you are looking at the same cohort - its the same 20 kids. The question is, have these kids made progress, or is the only measurable outcome the amount of taxpayer $$ that got spent on teacher stipends for the after school or lunchtime activity - because we can't expect to see a difference from what these kids are doing during the regular school day.

test info  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:49 AM

@voting no, you are right.Also, a different cohort being tested every time, so it is difficult to assess progress via ISATs. Anecdata, though, I do know kids who have gone through that new math curriculum, and they have done very well. And more importantly, their transition to middle school math was smoother.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:10 AM

Test info: What they meant when they said the test gets harder each year is that the 4th grade test is harder than the 3rd grade test. So, although they spent money on this "wonderful" progam that had "great" results - they weren't able to measure any improvements in terms of the kids' achievement. Even though they claimed that the kids learned, they didn't want to talk about ISAT scores or any other objective measurement.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 7:00 AM

@chet21 - I responded to that but in case you missed it, here is what I posted. "why are we paying $110K per media specialist" - we aren't. Per the link you provided, you are quoting information and numbers from an old preliminary presentation from June. The latest one is here:

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 6:54 AM

Jassen, D97, in their list of cuts, reports that 10 Media Specialists cost them $1.1M. Their "cuts" halve the 10 to 5 and show exp reduction of $550,000. 550,000/5 = $110,000. Why do you say that this number is false? I'm just using what D97 is reporting. Here is the link (pg 7): Reductions.pdf.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 6:42 AM

@chet21 - Actually, there wasn't a question, I was simply responding to your claim to reduce the deficit to $1M for next year with not cuts. To answer yours, FY12 starts on July 1st. Second, while you claim to want to have a serious discussion yet you continue to quote $100K per media specialist when you have been shown this number is false.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 6:31 AM

1.) Jassen, FY'11 refers to what years? 2.) If FY '11 basically has same ending balance as previous year, why are we concerned about ISBE? 3.) dc, OP DOES "value educators," but $$ is limited and choices must be made. My "choice" is BRAVO/CAST/GIFTED/ATHLETICS versus "media specialists" at $100,000 - for 9 mos. "Bankers" vs "media specialists" is apples vs oranges - esp when so many in OP are jobless/struggling. 4.) Tom, etc., thanks for the humor. We need it!!! 5.) Next question?

d97 parent  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 6:28 AM

@Life is Hard. About making cuts, you said, "Kids will hardly notice and parents might have to step up & help." Have you been in our schools lately? Parents do much, much more than they did when I was a kid, in the school, helping with homework, and in terms of PTO contributions etc.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 5:38 AM

@Referendum Doomed in Oak Park. Answer: perhaps... fortunately, in our "Preferred Future" Plan, we have budgeted for a Certified Crisis Counselor. (Applies only to "dead-tree" version of The Hungry Caterpillar; Kindle & Nook versions will be outsourced to Crisis Specialists.)

test info  

Posted: February 22nd, 2011 3:49 AM

@ voting No: you said, "When I asked how many kids improved their ISAT scores the response was "you have to understand, each year the test gets harder so its really tough to show that kind of progress"" This is true, from my experience. My kids are three years apart--both got the same math score in 3rd grade ISATs, and the percentage score was 10 percentages apart. Different cohort, different test. Apples/oranges. It's complex.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 11:40 PM

Jassen, your dire prediction of financial warning assumes the D97 board/adminstration cannot learn to live within its budget. Why can't we expect this to happen? They need to renegotiate the OPTA contract - in terms of both money and accountability.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 11:11 PM

@chet21 - per your plan, you are applying the fiscal years to the wrong school years.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 11:05 PM

@chet21 - Per the fund balance - to be clear, you are OK with the fund balance and cash on hand. Fine, but D97 will be put in financial warning with the ISBE in another year or so with those projected ratios.

dc from Chicago  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:33 PM

Wow, the ignorance of many of these posters amazes me. And I thought Oak Park was a community that actually valued educators. FYI, librarians are required to have masters degrees as well as be certified teachers, and are more educated that most of the people posting on here. What the heck is wrong with our society? You people have no problems with bankers making millions and contributing nothing to society, and in many ways harming it, but have a problem with a librarian making 100,000?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:30 PM

@chet21 - you might want to check your fiscal year.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:19 PM

Oops, just reread my post. I made a mistake. $6M from ref would be received in 2011, not 2012. Doesn't change that it is VERY common today for taxing bodies to be having VERY low funding balances before receiving 2nd installment of prop taxes. We, though, need to focus on the main issue - and get this whole thing right - NOT rushing to judgment!!! Why? This time I WILL invoke the "do it for the children" - while taking in to account stressed residents and businesses.

Voting NO from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:13 PM

I looked at the presentation. Same old same old. Lots of lofty talk about raising expectations etc. NO mention of specific goals. A couple of years ago I heard a presentation on a supplemental math program the district was spending $$ on for kids who were struggling. Every thing was wonderful wonderful wonderful. When I asked how many kids improved their ISAT scores the response was "you have to understand, each year the test gets harder so its really tough to show that kind of progress"

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:12 PM

Ms. Song, it is common, esp today, for taxing bodies to have relatively low fund balances prior to receiving next prop tax cash. There are numerous ways to address this. Further, the extra $6M from a successful ref wouldn't even reach them until Winter of 2012 - when they'd be flush from 2nd installment. Your concern should translate in to MORE D97 cuts (ASAP) to prevent this. Are you changing "for the children" to "for the cash cycle"? This is too impt to not get right. Patience. Vote NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:04 PM

Alright, I'll go to bed after this last post. Jassen, the 2011/2012 deficit is $1.1M. This does not include M-C-D 100% cut - and keeps the K-5 Elem Spanish (which I don't support). More? Look at that Tech budget for this year and quake! That can easily also be reduced. More? Let's change the "media specialist" staffing. Might a ref eventually be needed (& I want a 2-yr freeze)? Perhaps, but it should NOT be the default position. I am serious about my door knock if ref fails.

Rod Paige from Department of Education  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:01 PM

"...if money were the only measure of success, we would have tackled our K-12 problems a long time ago with the $500 billion we spend annually at the federal, state and local levels."

Life is Hard from oak park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:00 PM

I learned algebra in high school from a football coach who had a high school level degree- best teacher ever! Yet I can afford to live in OP so I MUST have done well in school/career.(and I have- no inheritance etc). Stop exaggerating the "better we pay teachers, the better teacher's we can get" card. Teacher Pay issue is a State/Fed level, so for now make the cuts that we have to and we'll build it back up when we can afford to. Kids will hardly notice and parents might have to step up & help.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:58 PM

@chet21-Per state law, school districts are supposed to keep fund balances above a certain percentage of their budget. Good thing too, because without those fund balances, school districts would find themselves unable to make payroll in the middle of a fiscal year given the tardiness of state GSA and property tax monies lately. So what you label a $20M surplus is actually a startlingly low fund balance when measured against a $65M annual budget.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:57 PM

Jassen, first, go to this page: Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf. Next? See that the FY 2011 (2011/2012) deficit is ($2.493M)? Next? Subtract $1.3M from the freeze and $.1 from M-C change. Net? ($1.1M). Next? Read "Projected Year-End Fund Balance." It is a POSITIVE $21.3M. Now do you see why I'm comfortable with a failed ref and then all of us work together? D97 has the money & we can make the system better! Adios

I Can Count Too... from Money Pit USA  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:50 PM

Referendum: Yes = Tax increase = Falling Property values and Increased Foreclosures = Businesses leave = Falling EAV = More Renters = More Students = Increased Expenditures = Falling EAV = .... Referendum

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:42 PM

@chet21 - in all seriousness, how do you arrive at a deficit of $1M for next year without any cuts?

Referendum Doomed from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:37 PM

Question: If an uncertified librarian without a masters degree hands a student a copy of the Hungry Caterpillar, has the student suffered trauma from a lack of education quality?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:34 PM

Ms. Song, simply put, your math and conclusions are mistaken. WHY would D97 have to make $5M in cuts if/when ref fails - when 2011/2012 deficit WITHOUT ANY CUTS (M-C Dept, K-5 Spanish, librarians, Tech) is only $1M?!? Further, end-year surplus is $20M! Stop accepting the now discredited D97 "math" and read what I (and many others) have written. D97 is SCREAMING the "$5M cut" because they wish to scare parents, etc. I have an MBA - Fin/Accy - I have many, many flaws - "math" ain't one of them.

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:27 PM

One more thing: a valid systemic solution has to be something that can be implemented at the local level. For example, one can't unilaterally ignore state & fed law unless & until that law is changed. If you think a particular state or fed. law is bad, work to change it at the state or fed. level. I may well agree with you and want to work with you on that. But in the meantime, will cutting $5M this yr & next yr, etc, etc lead to a quality or even adequate education for our community's kids?


Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:26 PM

@Carollina Help will only Come with Honesty and Accountability. For too long, governmental bodies had a free ride while people were not looking - busy people was concluded by gov bodies - lets spend. Well, there is no the time to pay - and cuts, rollbacks and reductions. Until, the Schools can show how they can do with less. Money alone will not fix the issues - and maybe by having less money - they will become more creative on fixing the schools.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:23 PM

@chet21 - "why are we paying $110K per media specialist" - we aren't. Per the link you provided, you are quoting information and numbers from an old preliminary presentation from June. The latest one is here:

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:18 PM

The comments and $$ cutting suggestions from those who oppose don't grapple w/root cause of the dilemma: tax caps create systemic structural deficits. D97's annual budget is approx $65M. No matter what happens, D97 will cut at least $1M, as it has done every yr for the past 10 yrs. If the referendum fails, D97 will have to cut approx $5M more this year and $5M more next yr & so on & so on. What will that do to education? If you oppose: what's your systemic fix that protects quality education?

OPRF Achievement Gap  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:18 PM

@JC what you Described - is the Perfect Solution. What YOU stated is what will drive Successful and productive Students!! Parents must demand excellence, and they must be sure children get enough sleep and are NOT distracted by gadgets. They must be the Partner for success with the Teachers.

"Experience" at what cost from oak park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:06 PM

Since when do our Elementary, Middle and High School students need a media specialist/ librarian with a master's degree? I would even question why a teacher needs one. Is a college degree experience not enough anymore? Getting a masters degree usually implies you're trying to move somewhere else in your career- not stay in the same job to do the same work with more pay. I think D97 needs to reconsider how effective those extra degrees are and if it's worth Oak Park's tax money.

KPost from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:02 PM

I had to look up Bright Red Apple the first time I saw it on these boards last week. Essentially it's based expenditures in the district - cost per pupil $$, Teachers with advanced degrees $$, Teacher student ratio $$, Teacher salary $$ and academic performance. It doesn't state what the bar is for academic performance. So yeah, we are among the 83 districs singled out for paying lots o money and we have academic performance. That's a consolation prize. What about the Bright A award?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:00 PM

Ms. Song, I know that "librarians" must receive "certified" pay - but what value are these "certified" librarians providing our children that makes them worth $110,000? Why don't we just place a "Security TA" there for 3 hours a day and then close it for 3? Have classroom teachers monitor library usage with kids. Keep 1 or 2 "certified" librarians at D97 & they rotate between schools for "specialized" instruction. IF ref fails - you want $110,000 librarians & cut CAST/BRAVO, etc? Change ed law?

Carollina Song from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:48 PM

@chet21-As has been already pointed out, IL law states that school librarians must be certified teachers. Any D97 teacher anywhere near the salary you quote has a masters degree and decades of experience. State and federal laws won't permit the firing of a certified teacher/librarian simply because it doesn't seem that school librarians should make more than $X per year. That would be AGE DISCRIMINATION. Surely you would wish to be protected from age discrimination in your workplace?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:21 PM

Part 2. Jassen, WHY are we paying $110,000 per "media specialist?" That doesn't bother you? The school day is only 7 hours. 1 of those hours is for lunch. OP taxpayers are paying $110,000 for 6-7 hrs per day - for 36 wks of "media specialist?" They are paid the same as Math & Science teachers? What "special skills" do they have that our children need, OPPL-type librarians do NOT have - and that we pay $110,000 per year for? Another example of how OP taxpayers are being conned by ed system?


Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:16 PM

@OPRF A.Gap- Not fair that you ask me to respond but set conditions on the scope of my answer. You asked for honesty, so I'll try to deliver. You are right that parents have to be active partner with teackers to stress the importance of learning. That means turning off the tv, video game system and computer. Most importantly, parents need to undestand the importance of making sure that children are well-rested. Kids need sleep.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:14 PM

Part 1. Tom, hopefully, despite all of the impediments and bureaucracy, we can save OP taxpayers up to $1M. For instance, this site: Reductions.pdf shows that 10 "Media Specialists" (not called "librarians!") cost $1.1M. D97 is willing to cut them by 50%. IF D97 can do this-why not go for 100% and call the replacements "androids?" Do "androids" have to be certified?

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 7:52 PM

Oh yeah, Arne Duncan, the guy who thinks government funding = prize money in some dark, bizarre, game show. Quote him at your peril, my friend. Or rather, public schools' peril.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 7:38 PM

. . . "Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters' degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers %u2014 with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science." Arne Duncan Nov. 2010

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 7:23 PM

See, chet21, it's not that simple. Any mope can work at OPPL, but to be on the cutting edge of elementary & middle school library science, you need 2 chevrons on your left sleeve & 1 on your right. Then, there's the certifications, the secret oath, the secret handshake...well, you get the idea. This is how "sales clerks" became Associates, the "complaint dept." became Customer Assistance Centers & a semi-quiet corner of the classroom became a Learning Pod. Surrender, my friend, they've got you.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 7:05 PM

@chet21 - Just FYI, on the librarian outsourcing plan, the requirements for an OPPL librarian and school librarian are very different. For starters, Illinois K-12 school librarians must be certified teachers. In addition, depending on what level they are working at, one of a number of LIS endorsements or certifications.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 6:44 PM

@Just say NO - "schools aren't making AYP and what has been done?" Lots. There have been a number of board meetings in just the last year with intense discussion and presentations around what schools are doing to make AYP. There are many, very targeted programs in each building aimed at helping kids that need it. If you want to learn more, ask Chris Jasculca and I am sure he will point you to those board packets.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 6:14 PM

@Just say NO - "Students are NOT competitive when entering high school. Also, were IPads purchased for 500 teachers? Seems to me that the district should budget better-based on a comment below the district has a surplus." Not prepared for HS? Please articulate? 500 iPads? No. There are 22 in the entire district. Surplus? If by surplus you mean there is more than zero $ in operating fund, you are correct. Please check the states guidelines on fund balances cited below for perspective.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 6:03 PM

OP Resident - sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. The Board of Education is scheduled to receive a report on MAP results and DIBELS scores during its meeting on March 22. That report will be public record. As for the RtI diagrams, the video of the student achievement report narrated by the principals features an explanation of the various charts, tables and diagrams.

Just the Facts  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 4:16 PM

It's a shame that OP schools rank so low in academics. What? They were just named one of the top 73 districts in the state (out of over 860 districts) by Bright Red Apple? How could that be? Maybe because the achievement gap has closed by over 20 points in the last 5 years due to a concerted effort in reading and math. And White kids are averaging ISAT scores over 90% passing. And those pesky AYP stats? As the bar goes up 7.5 points per year, most schools won't keep up anywhere.

OPRF Achievement GAP  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 3:52 PM

@JC - Where does Illinois Rank - where Unions run the state. Please be forthright, and please do not give excuses about anyother reason why Illinois is so low. Collective Bargining on paid days off, pension contribution and how low the contributions to heath care have Nothing to do with How well KIDs perform in the class room. It begins and Ends with Parents. Please be honest.

JK from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 3:40 PM

Ah, Tom. You are a true Oak Parker. You are what makes this town great!

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 3:26 PM

Poor chet21. Thoughtful reason and genuine probing for alternatives do not stand a chance in the face of that bugaboo "it's all for the kids." It is the stake in the heart of Dracula, the weapon educators employ to ward off all enemies. Resistance is futile. If you dinosaurs believe you can teach the 3R's without "media specialists", "outdoor learning environments", "technology enhancements"...well, stand aside and leave it to the pros. We don't need your ideas. We only need your money.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 3:00 PM

Why am I not running for the D97 Board? Because I don't fit the profile. I'm grateful for those who do run, but I think my position on the board would simply make for a lot of 6-1 votes. I may be dumb, but I'm not naive. I also believe that I'm not alone in this reason for my reluctance. I will, however, step forward and work with the Board if the ref fails - but only if they are interested. I'm not interested in flailing at windmills.

Just say No  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 2:58 PM

AA students have been underperforming for years,schools aren't making AYP and what has been done? The programs that the district says that are at risk don't have anything to do with basic reading, writing and math. Students are NOT competitive when entering high school. Also, were IPads purchased for 500 teachers? Seems to me that the district should budget better-based on a comment below the district has a surplus.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 2:51 PM

Chris J, I don't understand those goofy RIT diagrams. Has D97 released the MAP and DIBELS scores by school, by demographic group, and by district overall? Has D97 released data to show if the computerized reading intervention program "Read 180" works? That is, does Read 180 bring kids up to grade level, or is it a waste of money?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 2:49 PM

"Can 'em all," regarding the Maywood issue - I am NOT questioning latent intelligence, but please speak with some ed professionals and ask about the importance of family expectations, assistance and preparation as it relates to academic excellence. In case you didn't know, D97 and OPRF have a racial academic gap and obviously $$$ doesn't explain it. If my comments/opinions have offended you, I apologize.

E. Jackson  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 2:41 PM

Since everyone on here seems to know how to fix District 97, especially the no to the referendum folks, why aren't any of you running for one of the four open spots on the board? The race is uncontested again this year.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 2:26 PM

I noticed there have been several comments made regarding how the district plans to address/improve student achievement. On October 12, 2010, Superintendent Roberts and all 10 building principals gave a presentation on this topic. You can view a pdf of the presentation by visiting and a video version narrated by the principals by visiting

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:49 PM

Thank you chet21 for being the voice of reason - I would whole - heartedly be a yes voter if I did not think this system needed to be fixed for the real sake of the children who deserve to have a great ed and people fighting for that - not the scare tactics as usual - banks, auto corps, real estate have all failed - let's reevaluate and make this work well for the children and a better educational system.


Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:48 PM

You want results? Support teachers and their right to collective bargaining! South Carolina prohibits teachers from forming a union and ranks 50th in the nation for test scores and high school graduation rates. Iowa, a strong union state, ranks #1. Followed by Wisconsin.

Voting NO  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:48 PM

Someone said Maywood schools are underfunded. Oak Park schools are not underfunded. But they sure don't need to be over-funded either. Our schools need to look not just at expenses but also at learning. Keep the programs that work, change the ones that cost money but aren't making any difference in how kids learn.

Can 'em All  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:30 PM

Why do you think I'm kidding? My comments are nonsense but your's are rationale? You suggested outsourcing media services. I did the same for other areas. Schools have done these things before. Of course, they are from extreme poverty areas like rural West Virginia and OP is not a poverty area. By the way, your comment about Maywood families is VERY close to racism, or at least, elitism.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:21 PM

Let's be clear - IF this ref passes, D97 will do NOTHING to rein in these costs. Why would they - until they, OMG, figure out that "business as usual" is leading them right back to insolvency?!? OP voters MUST vote NO to bring about change to this broken system. Many people on this site are saying the same thing. In the meantime, AYP hasn't been improving. Maywood? It's not the $$ but the kids/families. Most OP families value/emphasize education. That makes the difference. Vote NO.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:13 PM

"Can 'em all," do you realize what you sound like? People on this site are attempting to exchange rational ideas and you write nonsense? Are you implying that OPPL employees can NOT manage the D97 libraries just as efficiently? Why does "change" and "efficiencies" scare you so much? VOP privatized tree & trash removal - did that bring Armageddon? No, just the same service - for a lot less. Do you prefer that near-BK people and businesses pay more? Heartless.

Can 'em All  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 1:03 PM

Now the wheels are turning... Maybe the Park District can handle PE. Parents can car-pool instead of busing. Kids can brown-bag lunches or go home. Volunteers can clean the schools after hours. Volunteers can answer office phones. Each child can bring a ream of paper every month. Parents can send old home technology to provide tech coverage. Retired business folks can run the schools and district. We hardly need to pay for anything! Now we're talking some savings!

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 12:52 PM

I'm going to vote NO. I'm concerned that D97 wants to spend part of this money on "enhancement of its foreign language and arts programs" and "outdoor learning environments" -- while there's no mention of improving student achievement (particularly in reading, math, and WRITING!) In this economy, with foreclosures and unemployment, D97 needs to rethink its priorities and be smarter with the money it already has.

Interested Parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 12:31 PM

Regarding the crossing guards... The Village always employed the guards. When they cut their own budget, the crossing guard issue was given to the District (some would say "dumped" on the District). After numerous meetings with the Village, the District was able to add this expense to their own budget but at a reduced rate compared to what the Village provided. This was not a budgetary item for D97 previously but one that needed to be covered for safety reasons.

B.Lanning from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 12:16 PM

The District outsourced the crossing guards. The outsourced guards cost less than the village-employed guards. In my experience, the service has become more efficient. We no longer have village police officers working as substitute crossing guards, or are we paying guards to monitor non-existent students attending afternoon kindergarten. The District didn't come up with the outsourcing idea until the Village cut off the money for the crossing guard service.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:40 AM

Want to reduce costs by $.5M - $1M? Eliminate the "media specialists." What to do with the libraries? "Privatize" them! With what? Have OPPL take them over! They don't hire "certified" staff and they work for 12 mos - for less! More? They do a GREAT job!!! More? Have 1/2 days in the libraries. Classroom teachers can still bring their kids 24/7. VOP has cut 20% of staff - D97? Nada. Voting "yes" means that the D97 status quo ( lots more) gravy train keeps on rolling-STOP THIS MADNESS! Questions?

OPRF Achievement Gap  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:33 AM

As President Obama said we he won in 2008 .....Elections have consequences!! What is going on in Wisconsin is no different - and it will soon be sweeping the country. Oak Park is likely a bit behind. Live with it, as Gov Walker ran his campaign just what he is doing....and the voters elected him. Time to turn the tables. Government employees are living in la la land. No one can afford to have teachers retire and take with them pensions of 100 k per yr, and almost 0 to Heath care. Vote NO

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:16 AM

School districts all over the nation are taking their teacher unions back to the negotiating table to renegotiate unsustainable agreements. The current agreement is unsustainable - even with a 1 year freeze. Part of the problem is lack of accountability. Two years ago we had 2 schools that didn't make AYP. Last year we had 4 schools - including both middle schools - not make AYP. The status quo is not giving our kids the education they need.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:13 AM

And another reason to safely vote NO! What a find on the expenses related to the tech matter - thanks!!! BTW, "Tech" is NOT part of the Tier 1 D97 reductions planned if the ref loses. Point? There doesn't need to be ANY scare tactics and cuts to CAST/BRAVO/GIFTED/ATHLETICS, etc. Just follow my formula: $1.3M (freeze) .7M (Tech/Laptops) .6M (K-5 Spanish) .2M (MC Dept) = $2.8M. This is LESS than the proposed $2.5M deficit for next year AND we still have a $20M surplus! Next? $1M more!

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 10:07 AM

I am glad to hear that various D97 unions have agreed to give up monies voluntarily. Unfortunately, a system in which the unions decide what they will give up and how much is not desirable. The District 97 negotiators do not represent the teachers only. They represent the children and the community as a whole. In recent decades, negotiators at all levels of government have moved to the unions' side of the table, at great cost to ratepayers and to the quality of the service, as in education

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:53 AM

(cont'd), but more of an acknowledgment that good schools that promote learning and community (and that's what the "specials" do) are something that is valued in our suburb. Have you been to Maywood? In many ways, their housing stock is superior to OP's. But they have terrible, unfunded schools. I don't want to go the way of Maywood. I think we could.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:50 AM

As for putting a band-aid on a broken system...I get that. I think there is a lot to be said for getting some meaningful reforms in place and getting a contract in place that makes sense. I have to say that Peter Traczyk and the others on the board have been doing some amazing work to get things back on track. I would hate to tie their hands just when they are making things better. I don't think that voting Yes= a pat on the back for a job well done.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:45 AM

No on referendum, I understand why you wouldn't want to debate the issue. The referendum meetings give lots of information, and questions are anonymous. That's where I learned that salary structures (like the pre-retirement increase, which I detest) is part of the agreement set at the state level. I don't know how I would feel about the referendum if I didn't have kids in the system (mine are almost out), and I appreciate your willingness to discuss your position.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:34 AM

@d97 parent: I hear your point and it's a good one. However, since I don't have kids in D97, I'm far more interested in long-term reform than continually putting a band-aid on a broken system. If people like me without kids in the system don't vote it down, people like you will rightly feel compelled to perpetuate it to all of our detriment as we are weighed down with oppressive taxes. That's the issue in my mind...but I wouldn't put myself in front of rabid parents to debate it.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 9:16 AM

@no on referendum: I agree that the salary structure can be crazy--the best teachers my kids have are often the lowest-paid. But these are young teachers who will be laid off. That's not the status quo, and hurts any efforts the district has made to improve the system.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:46 AM

@d97 parent: by "status quo" I meant the current unsustainable model where our increasing taxes go to fund teachers' and administrators' bloated salaries with no accountability for quality or results. Collective bargainiung apparently ensures that less and less money goes to actual educational improments and more and more (both as a percent and as a total) go to salaries and benefits. I'd actually WELCOME a progressive referendum that could deliver better education in D97. This one will not.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 8:29 AM

@ No on Referendum. You said, "a vote for the referendum sends a message that one supports the status quo." Unfortunately, current funding levels don't fund the status quo. If you know of funds the board can access to support Specials programs like music, art, spanish, I am sure the board would love to hear your ideas.

"Anti-Referendum Person" from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 6:36 AM

@D97 Parent: I didn't start the "REFERENDUM NO" Facebook page, but I joined. You must realize that there are dozens of reasons to vote "No", so no single spokesperson is likely to emerge. But, broadly, reasons include: (1)my tax bill is already high and I question if I can afford to live in OP any longer, (2) long-term lack of D97/OPTA accountability continues,(3)hold off for nat'l education reform,(4)maybe Quinn's consolidation idea could work,(5) arent there answers other than raising taxes?

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2011 6:21 AM

@Parent from OP: Well said! I feel that a vote for the referendum sends a message that one supports the status quo. Only by voting "no" can Oak Park start the difficult debate that the rest of the nation is having...a vibrant community like OP should be blazing a trail on these issues and maybe getting to new solutions. Voting "yes" is a step backwards, not forwards...

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 11:14 PM

Yes, the millions of additioal dollars are mentioned (at the end of the presentation.) But the beginning is all about cutting programs. Maybe if they didn't add so much new spending they wouldn't need so much new money. While we are talking raising taxes, the rest of the nation is discussing the need to change the way we evaluate teachers as part of the process of improving educational outcomes. The days of "fixing" education by throwing more money at it are gone.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:38 PM

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:33 PM

@parent from oak park, you really should go to the referendum meetings, or look at the district's website. They are pretty clear about what the referendum will pay for, and technology is part of it.

parent from oak park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:20 PM

Jamie - they will spend millions on technology ONLY if the referendum goes through - but they are claiming the purpose of the referendum is all about keeping Bravo etc. They are not being transparent about the fact that they want the referendum so they can finance their technology spending spree. If they want millions in tax dollars for technology they should say so, not threaten parents with taking away after school activities.


Posted: February 20th, 2011 9:38 PM

@Parent - I took a look at the link you provided for the Board packet about tech. If you READ the report, you can see that the plans for the 1500 student laptops are not approved, only planned IF money can support them. Also, the spending starting in 2015 is part of the vision IF the referendum is successful. This will bring the district up to the level that many top-notch district around the area already have - it will not take D97 "way out there." I guess D97 should be behind RF again?

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 9:28 PM

So, who is behind the "No to the Referendum" Facebook page? Is anyone willing to be the face of the opposition?

Lifelong Student from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 7:38 PM

Think tank predicted world outcome options this century: 1) corporate domination 2) Institutionalization or 3) road warriorishness.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 4:59 PM

Hey, hey, let's not be too quick to dismiss those snazzy laptops. Without them, there's a serious risk of another achievement gap in critical knowledge areas like Farmville, Mafia Wars and online shopping.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 4:50 PM

Well, it's easier to talk about obtaining glitzy new technology than to talk about more difficult, qualitative issues. All you have to do to spend the money is go out and buy the equipment. Evaluating teachers effectively, getting rid of bad teachers, improving test scores--these are hard. Like our state and national politicians, local school district officials would rather leave those decisions to somebody else, later, preferably, much later.

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 4:30 PM

Please pardon my typo - D97's plans are to be spending millions on technology in 2015, not 2115.

Parent from Oak Park   

Posted: February 20th, 2011 4:18 PM

Take a look at the technology budget that was in last week's board packet. Find it at It shows large increases in spending on technoloty - including leasing 1500 student laptops next year. Lap tops are cool but I don't see them as a good reason to raise taxes. Starting 2115 D97 plans on spending millions of dollars each year on technology. Why all the new spending if the district is tight on money?


Posted: February 20th, 2011 3:03 PM

Do people really think that the salaries and benefits for public sector workers are the cause for the state budget crisis? Teacher pay may be frozen but costs are rising. Should we simply allow banks, insurance companies & energy suppliers to post huge profits while others are told they must sacrifice. Stand up for working families and help preserve the middle class. Demand that corporations pay their fair share. Restore honor and trust in the private sector.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 2:59 PM

Another reason for my not making a 200% effort? Contrary to what some might think, I do have a life. Honestly. Also, I live on the poor side of town - and so the $$ issue is minimized. Why be involved at all? Because I KNOW how high prop taxes are strangling a lot of people and businesses AND I care about the future of OP. The $$ situation of D97 is not as dire as they portray - only if "business as usual" continues. To scare people "for the children" is wrong. OP can will do better!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 2:54 PM

d97 parent - true, the commenters are fairly small, but I know that the readers are in the hundreds. Further there is NOTHING that I can do to stop the ref train. It has left the tracks and you and other members of the ref cmte are dedicated to passing it. I could come to meetings and hand out gold and this would not change your vote or effort. IF it passes, then no one cares what I/others said in February/March. IF it fails ( it should), THEN the "NO" comments might be heeded. I'll be there.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 2:01 PM

@chet21, questions? Sure: I am sure your position is compelling, even though I don't share your opinion that the issues brought up on this site are particularly nuanced or interesting. My question is, if your position is as reasoned and reasonable as you claim, why not present them for a larger audience (you'll notice there aren't many people on of the same names), presenting your concerns anonymously or as a panelist (disguised? )

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:45 PM

NOT A CHANCE will I relinquish my pseudonym until AFTER/IF the ref fails. Why? The concern is NOT about me, BUT MY CHILDREN - and that they become targets of pinheads in the community. "Dog and Pony Show" at the forums? In my long life I've NEVER seen anything but-which does NOT mean that Jassen wears a leash! Next? I'm truly thrilled with the debate on this site. I believe that it has brought light to the matter - with minimal heat. Last? Vote NO and then we together move forward. Questions?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:42 PM

@d97 parent - the "marketing campaign" is indeed being run by residents of Oak Park, not D97. This goes for the forums as well. To claim it is D97 completely disregards the hard work and time put in by individual PTOs (who are residents and tax payers as well) to organize and staff these events. Regardless of where we stand on the issue, all residents benefit from these events. Huge thanks to the Beye PTO for organizing hosting the last one.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:36 PM

@op parent from op: Re " I was at the Beye meeting, there were 4 people speaking all for the Referendum." That's what I am trying to say: The anti-referendum people were asked to provide a representative and did not. I hope they do in the future. The second question asked was, "What are the three main points of the anti-referendum position?" It would have been a golden opportunity for an anti-referendum person to address these. Opportunity missed.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:32 PM

@interested parent, the TIF issue and many others are among the issues discussed at the referendum meetings. The discussions there are far more complex and interesting than the pale rehashes I am seeing here.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:29 PM

Referring to this: "the organized marketing campaign being put on by D97" I was under the impression this campaign was being put on by D97 parents who are supporting the referendum? (Jassen, do you know?) And even if not, if you believe in your position, I think it makes a lot more sense to put truth to power (it seems that's how the writer sees it).

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:20 PM

@Enuf is Enuf - note, I am not arguing that the TIF didn't impact D97 over the longrun, I just don't think the numbers are as straightforward as you present them.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 1:17 PM

@Enuf is Enuf - and thats why we need to have a real discussion on the TIF in more than 500 characters. 1) the 63M figure doesn't take into account that the TIF operated outside of tax caps. That taken into account, I would argue your $48M figure should be more like $20-$25. 2) the S&P 500 comment is totally misleading for many reasons, not the least of which is D97 can't invest in anything near that level of risk. More realistic would be long term bonds at maybe 3%-5% and even lower lately.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 12:48 PM

@interested parent: the cumulative property tax collection for all 3 TIFs (1983 to 2009) is $189M (2009 TIF Report). About 1/3 was property tax diverted from D97, or $63M. Per the 1985 Settlement Agreement, about $15M was returned to D97, leaving a net property tax loss of $48M, the same amount as the referendum. The opportunity cost for this $48M loss is over $50M (based on S&P 500 rate of return during same time period). As such, the cumulative TIF cost for D97 has been about $100M to date.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 12:15 PM

@interested parent - there was some discussion of the TIF at the recent Beye forum and I would assume it will come up at the other upcoming forums. There is a D97 board forum (not the referendum specifically) on March 10 at 7 p.m. at Buzz Cafe (905 S. Lombard) that is probably the best format for having an in-depth TIF discussion, given the TIF has to do with far more than just the referendum.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 12:08 PM

@OP Parent from Oak Park - Thanks for referring to me, someone you don't know and have never met, as a dog on a leash. For those that know any of us working on the committee, this comment is pretty funny. Many of us are some of the loudest critics of D97 when we feel they aren't living up the standard we expect. Please don't confuse support of the referendum with blind loyalty to D97.

OP Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 11:29 AM

Posters on here trying to get the No FB people to speak,then insinuate that they are somehow 'ashamed' of their position, isn't helping. As a voter on the fence, only Chet21 and David have made any real suggestions on here for actual reform. The Referendum Yes, although is very honorable in its support, they seem to be following the leadership of District 97 like a dog on a leash. I was at the Beye meeting, there were 4 people speaking all for the Referendum.

"Anti-referendum person" from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 11:27 AM

@David: Thank you. Your posts have perfectly captured my sentiments. Especially the last one. (But I will keep quietly encouraging my friends and neighbors to vote "No")

"Anti-referendum person" from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 11:18 AM

@D97 Parent: Unlike the organized marketing campaign being put on by D97 (which is complete with talking points, communications directors, and "dog and pony shows" on friendly turf at public school locations), those who are voting against the referendum may be doing so for many reasons (like they've looked at their high income tax bills and wondered if they can afford to live in this village any longer). D97's own survey says 59% weren't in favor. So you guys just keep preaching to the choir..


Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:59 AM

Regarding the Smartboards, too... Most of the classrooms in D97 no longer have TV or VCRs available. Videotapes are gone and there are few DVD players. The Dell laptops provided for teachers are the primary AV tool now and there are only enough LCD projectors for 3-4 teachers to share one. The goal is to get some type of presentation system for all teaching spaces so that students can view what is being discussed in the classroom. We had filmstrips, they have video! Time marches on.

Interested Parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:53 AM

It would be especially interesting to hear a couple veiwpoints on the TIF issue. Chet21 talks about it a lot and so do other members of this forum. Perhaps a civil discussion between various experts on TIFs would help to sort out the accusations being thrown around. Does the TIF help or not? Is D97 stuck now despite what happened in the past? Why can or can't some funding or consolidation options take place legally? The discussion should be held before the vote!

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:44 AM

That said, I think the anti-referendum people need to have a person on the panel. Are you ashamed of your position? If not, stand up there and make your points. It very well could make a difference. Also, just to reiterate, beyond the panel participants, there is no "standing up and speaking." All questions are anonymous. But I think that it would be interesting and informative to have an anti-referendum giving their insight in answering some of the questions.


Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:42 AM

@Patricia - Your question about the Smartboards is valid. From the meetings I've attended, the term "Smartboards" is being used like "Kleenex." The District is already testing an interactive projector in the Board Room rather than buying the full Smartboard. Less cost and you can still write on the board with markers. The point is that most people know the term "Smartboard" and so it covers the range of LCD projection systems that might be considered.

d97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 10:40 AM

I think you'd be surprised at the level of open-mindedness at the referendum meetings. To me, if you want an open dialogue and maybe to learn something about the process, I really recommend going to the meeting, even if it means submitting your comments for discussion. (You write them on a card, so it's anonymous.) I was impressed by the level of thought put into questions, and many of them didn't seem to come from people who had been convinced one way or the other.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 9:12 AM

I do believe the opposition should stand up and speak. I am actively opposed to the comcast project and it's not fun having people look at me as anti-poor when in fact my objection is to the use of a model proven to fail due to outside funding requirements, but I'm doing it for the Village and for my neighbors and family. If the nos feel strongly about this, they need to show up at the debate-in person.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:56 AM

Lastly, there is not a chance I'll stand up in one of these meetings and speak. We will be accused of being anti-Teacher and, therefore anti-children. This is not the case. A lot of us are fair people, who believe that Oak Park Teachers need to live within their means, just like we do, by living amongst us, paying tax here, and sharing the pain that inevitably is on it's way. Thanks.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:55 AM

vote against the system. Voting Yes continues the cycle. Do you all think that D200 and the OPPL are rolling in dollars? Their tax take has gone down too, since the property values have been falling, they too will eating away at the reserves in deficit spending. That begging bowl is going to coming around year-on-year, and we need to send a message to them all that they need serious long-term reforms more than 1 year pay freezes and cutting a few secretaries in the MC Dept to get us behind you.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:55 AM

ways to balance the State budget.The State of IL is as much to blame for our problems as any of our local politicians.But he check and balance here in IL is our School Districts, Libraries and other tax-consuming bodies have to come to us every few years to with a begging bowl to keep the spending party going.We have the power to say,No,go back to your teachers, and renegotiate.We don't have the benefit of a strong Governor defending the rights of taxpayers.But we do have our Vote No, which is a..

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:54 AM

@Peter.You are 100% correct,Walker is declaring war on the WI Teachers Unions and their previous collective bargaining agreements,based upon the concessions (ie.Benefits and pay-scale increases.)they got out of the funding bodies in previous funding cycles.WI,NJ and several other states voted for Republican governors,who told their electorate that they would tackle wasteful spending,and they is what they are doing.We on the other hand, IL voted for Quinn and tax rises.Two very different

D97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:14 AM

I was impressed by the incisive questions asked of the administrators/board directors in the most recent meeting at Beye, and recommend that anyone, pro, con, or on the fence, attend one of the upcoming meetings if you can. I was surprised, however, that there wasn't a rep of the "No to the referendum" position present on the panel, despite being invited. Why not? If the Nos are serious instead of just throwing spitballs from the back row, I hope a No rep attends one of the upcoming mtgs.

D97 parent  

Posted: February 20th, 2011 8:08 AM

I've seen the smart boards in action, my kids like them, but I don't understand why they are so "important to the kids' technological future." On the referendum, I'm realizing that if we want extras like CAST, BRAVO, music, art, athletics, we need to pay for them. It goes against everything I believe in to see these as "extras," but speaking to friends, I've come to the realization these things aren't offered in other districts. It builds community to do these things with school peers.

Worm Tounge  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:56 PM

And before anyone starts to FOIA Village Hall, my comment was of course a joke.

Patricia o'Shea  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:04 PM

I pretty much always vote yes for school referendums, but even I can't figure out what value smart boards add. Until they get more sophisticated, you can do nearly the same thing with an LCD projector.

To Worm Tounge from OP  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:30 PM

Please contact me concerning your comment.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:11 PM

@Worm Tounge: Funny.

Worm Tounge  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:52 PM

The lawn signs are being printed by the same developer building the downtown Oak Park Hotel, free of charge, which violates ILCS 105/1) (from Ch. 122, par. 1401) . The workers distributing them are former Village board trustees from the VMA. I know this because I saw them delivered by Gary Balling and his environmental hating worker on their way to being stored in the old Comcast building. Heck, Ray Johnson and David Pope let them in the back door.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:35 PM

And how are these signs being funded?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 6:59 PM

@An OP Resident - Send an email to with your address and we will drop off a yard sign. Or you can signup online as a volunteer and check the box for receiving a yard sign. thanks.

An OP Resident  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 5:36 PM

Lawn signs showing support of the referendum are being displayed thoughout the Village. Does anyone where or how one would obtain one of the signs. I'm voting "Yes".

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 5:17 PM

Mr. Jascula, I don't know if your "merger" comment with OPRF related to me, but I want you to know that I am NOT suggesting a merger - only that OPRF acknowledge that they're not a lone wolf AND that their enormous surplus (and tax rate) is hurting D97 ( OP & RF). They start by NOT taking the RF TIF bonanza and then they lower their tax rate to assist D97 WHEN we have a true understanding of need. No merger, just an arms-length recognition that they don't exist in isolation.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 5:03 PM

@Chris Jascula: Well, with all due respect, saying "it would be hard to merge" or "we've thought about those other options" doesn't cut it. I think we should all vote "No" on the Referendum and explore each and every other option completely (including taking it to the voters). Lets see how creative D97 can actually be. At the very least taxpayers would be assured that a tax hike is the ONLY answer.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:50 PM

As for merging with District 200, Jassen Strokosch mentioned several issues associated with that earlier in this thread, including the fact that voters from Oak Park and River Forest would have to agree to support merging the districts; and merging the districts would require collectively bargaining salary and benefits with all employee groups, which could potentially lead to increased costs.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:45 PM

The limiting rate increase option also means a reduction in the annual amount the district is asking for from taxpayers. An increase in the limiting rate will cost taxpayers approximately $38 per $1,000 on their property tax bill (versus $61 per $1,000 under the working cash option). So, for example, a household that has a $10,000 tax bill will pay an additional $380 per year, which equals approximately $31.66 per month.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:38 PM

The decision to switch from a working cash bond referendum to a limiting rate increase was based largely upon the recent passage of the income tax increase, which offers greater assurance that the money the district is owed by the state will be paid in a timely manner. When this funding was incorporated into the district's five-year projections, the revised numbers indicated that the limiting rate option offers the district a more sustainable solution for managing its structural deficit.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:35 PM

I've mentioned this before, but I do think that our overall OP solution starts with OPRFHS. They have a HUGE surplus and it's about to grow with the RF TIF. How about lowering their tax take by that amt in 2011? Next? Once the ref fails and we relook at actual D97 #'s - and it turns out to be "x" - OPRFHS lowers their take by that amt, too. THIS is how the "various taxing bodies" can "work together." They can keep their own supt's, etc - but NOT ignore each other needs. RF benefits, too.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:12 PM

Several decades ago, another of our seemingly endless taxing entities funded an effort by Nancy Reagan to "Just say no!" I suggest we might recoup some of those dollars, even at this late date, by listening to her.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 4:07 PM

@Chris Jascula: Thanks for the information. Of course, if there were to be a unified school district, it wouldn't be a transfer or loan, so therefore legal. As a taxpayer, I expect the various taxing bodies to work together and figure it out (and other perhaps better solutions as well) so that we are given a good value for our tax dollar. Of course, if the referendum passes, there's no incentive for D97 to do anything but what they've always done...which I believe is lacking.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 2:40 PM

My biggest frustration with this whole process was the initial $75 million request and then once feedback started rolling in how it suddenly went to $35 million. How did that $40 million suddenly become not necessary "for the children" - because it was never necessary from the get go - that is what angers me - such a lack of fiscal regard for all Oak Park taxpayers!

Pete from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 2:28 PM

David from Oak Park: the reason things have gone crazy in WI is not about benefits, it's about Walker's attempt to destroy collective bargaining rights.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 1:12 PM

In terms of the recommendation that District 97 seek a transfer or loan from District 200, state law closely restricts what school districts can do with their funds, and transfers are illegal. In addition, an outright loan between districts is not legal.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 1:01 PM

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the district will be making nearly $1.3 million in reductions, including the elimination of administrative positions and a restructuring of the Multicultural Education Department. The restructuring of the Multicultural Education Department represents a savings of approximately $100,000. You can access the full list of reductions by visiting

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 12:55 PM

The MOUs with the other employee groups that just voted to accept a wage freeze will come before the board at future meetings. You can view all future board meeting agendas and the materials in the board meeting packets by visiting

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 12:52 PM

Just want to clarify a few things. The acceptance of the wage freeze represents a change in the collective bargaining agreement the district has with each employee group. As a result, a memorandum of understanding must be drafted by the parties and added to the agreements. These MOUs will be voted on by the board in open session during upcoming board meetings meaning they, like the CBAs, are public documents. The MOU with the OPTA is scheduled to come before the board for a vote on March 1.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 12:35 PM

Those opposed to the Referendum, please join "REFERENDUM NO for OAK PARK, IL" on Facebook. Only by organizing and encouraging like-minded individuals to vote against this Referendum can we force a conversation about real, long-term answers and a sustainable model for Oak Park schools. Otherwise, D97 and other taxing bodies will continue to employ this "stick it to the taxpayer" strategy...

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 12:27 PM

I guess what frustrates me most is that the Referendum seems to be ONLY solution that has been pursued. I don't see many cost cutting efforts (like what would it cost to pay a portion of healthcare costs), a completed TIF negotiation, in-earnest talks about unifying with D200 (or about a share of their tax "warchest"). Sadly, we as voters have only the blunt tool of a "NO" on the referendum to force these other solutions to be explored. VOTE "NO" TO FORCE REAL SOLUTIONS

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:27 AM

Jassen, we're neighbors - take down that sign - :-)! If/when the ref fails, I'll knock on your door and we'll have a discussion about what to do next. I repeat, with some exceptions, I am a supporter of D97 and what they've done for/with my children - but many OP homeowners/renters/businesses are struggling (and failing) and the simplistic "for the children" is no longer acceptable. $20M in savings and balanced budget for 2011 - no need for D97 to cry poverty and threaten $6M in cuts.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:09 AM

@chet21 - thanks for the discussion. I realize we won't see eye-to-eye and your a "no" vote. Maybe we will see you at one of the forums and we can discuss it face-to-face. Thanks for sharing your ideas.


Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:06 AM

Can we put Chet's proposal on the ballot as a non-binding referendum question?Chet also has a great point that no one has anwsered - was anything given, or implied to be given in the future, in return for the pay freeze? If it's a wink, or a "we'll take care of you later" statement, the taxpayers are entitled to know. Intentially misleading the taxpayers and voters is fraudulant; hiding behind "it's not public" is BS when you are having private meetings about how to spend public funds.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:03 AM

@chet21 - continued. They provide a number of formulas for calculating financial health of school districts. Fund balances are one of the ratios they look at (along with cash on hand, revenue/expense, logterm-shorterm debt etc.). Hope that helps.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 11:02 AM

Jassen, I can sense that you and your effort is appreciated by both supporters and opponents of the ref. I also understand the "reason" why no details are yet forthcoming, but it seems as if OP is being sold the sizzle - and not the steak. My objective with ref? Due to massive struggles by many AND inefficiencies of present ed system, I wish to see THIS ref defeated. Next? Work out a better plan. Will some new $$ be required? Perhaps. Could TIF (2018) be solution? Perhaps. $6M in cuts now? No.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:58 AM

@chet21 - about projected year end fund balances. with the 500 character limit not much I can say. Good place to start would be to read ISBE financial profiles and their guidelines for school districts which much of can found here: I think you will find that we don't have a "massive surplus" projected over the next few years.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:53 AM

@chet21 - As for the agreement details, I am not sure how else to explain it. The information that the district is talking about publicly is the information the the collective bargaining units have made public. For example, OPTA's public statement mentions the pay freeze (so D97 talks about it because it's public) but no other details (so D97 can't talk about it until the contract amendment is completed). You will have to contact the OPTA for details if you want them now.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:27 AM

Oops, just reread my post. I can see where my math is off a bit - that's what happens when you type quickly! The first year savings is about $2.3M - NOT $2.2M or $2.4M. BTW, when I went to the D97 website - the headline is "Two More District 97 Employee Groups Accept Wage Freeze for 2011-2012 School Year" We keep getting this, but with NO details. And this ain't the OPTA website!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:23 AM

Freeze will net about $1.4M. K-5 Spanish - $700K. M-C Dept another $200K. So, about $2.2M. BTW, that figure is now the base for Yr. 2 - and then add ANOTHER freeze. That brings us to $3.7M in Yr. 2. Surplus? Go to my link and, near the bottom, this line: Projected year-end fund balance. It's at $21M. See where we don't have to rush with this ref? It can fail with no cause for fear and threats of draconian cuts. As Roberts/Tracyzk said - there will also be more cuts. Again, it's not so dire.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:07 AM

@chet21 - "Any questions?" Yep, 1) $2.4M from freezes comes from where? Projections are about half that. 2) "massive surplus" based on what exactly?

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 10:00 AM

D97 & $6M in cuts if they lose? Start with this: Five-Year Financial Projections of D97 Finances.pdf Their own figures show that they still have a massive surplus. Next? Subtract $2.4M due to freeze elimination of K-5 Spanish and M-C Dept. Result? Little or no deficit for year. Next? Add in 2nd year of freeze. Next? Vote NO for ref and obtain new figures from D97. NO NEED for threats against CAST/BRAVO, etc. Any questions?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:44 AM

@I Wish I Lived in Wisconsin - Out of curiosity, when you say "behind doors collective bargaining agreements for 5 years in 2011" which agreements are you referring to?

Kathy from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:44 AM

Thanks to the d97 staff for agreeing to the pay freeze. From my experience with teachers, administrators, and other professional staff in the district, it is clear that you care about our children. I understand not wanting to be asked for any more money; I support my entire family with one modest income. However, *good* education, including librarians and up to date tech, is simply too important for our children. Support our schools and vote yes for the referendum.

Almost Retired Oak Park Teacher from Mokena, IL  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:43 AM

OPTA:We conned the Oak Park taxpayers for another year!I've had year-on-year 3% increases for the last 5 years,so I'm perfectly fine giving up this years for a YES.I live in Mokena,IL and my property tax is 2/3 of OP,so I drive to work here everyday,along with over half my colleagues.I hope that you guys get behind the YES,because I really don't want to pay for my own Health Insurance.I don't know much about classroom technology,but my colleagues won't make a big deal about that in assessing me.

Another No Vote  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:34 AM

How about employee contribution to their healthcare? I understand that the cost is $7,700 for coverage for a single employee and that is covered 100%, $13,000 for family coverage. I want to know how many teachers DON'T have this health coverage. I know I don't get 100% coverage and NEVER have had that luxury.

Anne from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:28 AM

I just want to express my gratitude to the groups who have agreed to a wage freeze. These are tough times, and they are indicating their willingness to do what they can to help cut expenses. I appreciate everyone doing what they can. Thank you!

I Wish I Lived in Wisconsin from People's Socialist Unionized Republic of Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:27 AM

Patting the Teachers/Admin Staff on the back for their pay freeze is like asking a King to give up one of his 7 Palaces, or Imelda Marcos to give up one pair of shoes.Here is the real deal.If we vote YES, we are saying YES to the system,which we all know is deeply unfair (behind doors collective bargaining agreements for 5 years in 2011?)and is completely unsustainable in our current economic mess.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:12 AM

If anybody is under any illusions and wants to know about the Socialist agenda/mentality of Teachers Unions, look no further then what is happening in Wisconsin. Their Governor is telling them in simple terms, there isn't any money to pay for their expensive benefits, and we have to live within our means.They immediately started painting signs, and preparing to strike.They don't care about the kids,they care about their RETIREMENT BUMPS (Google it!)We have had a GUN to our head for too long.


Posted: February 19th, 2011 9:01 AM

@Jassen Strokosch - Given that Mann and Hatch are effectively run by the executive secretaries consolodating principals is a very cost effective start. Let's not stop there. VOTE NO!


Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:55 AM

@Jamie.If D97 made BOLD commitments 2 cut admin staff 2 the min Teacher/Admin staff ratio legislated by IL,I would have been 100% behind u,but it didn't happen.D97 want 2 keep the older staff (TENURED and SECURE)who can't/won't use email/technology in the Classroom/Admin Building.It's pure cronyism/Socialism.Cut the fat,bring in new people with new skills & we can have the efficient School System we need.LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS is a PHILOSOPHY that Public Sector workers don't understand,like u.

oak park rez  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:55 AM

Pay raises for Oak Park teachers calculated to 10% per year 2007, 2008 2009. The national average raise was only 3%. A pay freeze is the least that could happen. Also, the elementary art teacher making 100K per year is outrageous! Visit and you can see for yourself. A big fat NO to the referendum and D97 has some explaining to do...

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:39 AM

@Bill Kroeschell - continued...tough to discuss consolidation in 500 characters but there is a pretty in depth answer to the consolidating question on the districts website in their FAQ. You can find it here: Thanks again for the comments.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:36 AM

@Bill Kroeschell - Thanks for the comment Bill. Consolidating principals is an interesting idea. As for consolidating school districts, there are some challenges and the savings are not as big as they might appear at first look. 1)the voters of River Forest would have to agree to it which doesn't seem likely. 2) many of the administrative positions that exist are state mandated or have to exist at a ration to students so they would not simply go away.

An Idea  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:19 AM

@Jamie - If the "contracts" were unfavorable to members I know what would happen - a strike. So I have an idea. If the union members are sincere in making the budget work and helping children - STRIKE until wages go back to 2008 scale. (I won't hold my breath.)

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 8:11 AM

The problem is not just unemployment. Oak Park is a middle class, not a wealthy, community whose residents are facing not only a permanent property tax increase but also an increase in personal income taxes, an increase which the Democrats will almost certainly move to make permanent after four years. In addition, utility, food, and clothing prices are on track increase substantially this year. We are being asked to pay hundreds of dollars more each year for, essentially, the status quo.


Posted: February 19th, 2011 7:40 AM

Everything sounds so easy when the statement is simply "start living within your means." That is where the tough choices come in. Since contracts are in place, many items can't be touched for a few years. What then should D97 do beyond the usual "cut administrator, Spanish, and Multicultural?" It would be appreciated if folks opposed to the referendum could lay out some real suggestions other than "return to the 2008 salary schedule." Don't just vent...contribute to the solutions!

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 6:32 AM

@Jassen: With an average annual salary in D97 of over $70,000, I'm having trouble shedding tears for anyone. Certainly, there are some for whom the freeze is a big sacrifice. But, my salary has been frozen for two years and the tax increase will have a real impact on me and my family. So, in a time when we're all learning how to do more with less, I think the referendum flies in the face of that spirit and pits the struggling OP taxpayer against D97 who just wants to keep doing what they do.

Bill Kroeschell from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 6:24 AM

No on the referendum. The school district needs to find ways to continue to be more efficient. Consolidating jobs ie principals, perhaps school districts. School districts have too long been locked into outdated union restrictions and admin staff supporting too few kids. We can no longer support / afford that.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 6:21 AM

@Suzanne Rexford: For perspective, many in the private sector have frozen pay for the past couple of years, and in the 16 years I've been in OP my property tax bill has more than doubled while my house has lost value. So, I respect the small sacrifice of the pay freeze, but we need D97 to start living in the "real world" and finding solutions that don't rely on higher taxes. Let's be the leading edge of education reform, not continue a failed strategy that hasn't worked for OPers.

Suzanne Rexford from Oak Park  

Posted: February 19th, 2011 5:24 AM

Pay freeze is not a joke. I and all the other teachers on the district I teach for took a pay freeze. That was last year. This year, we won't have to! And we saved 33 jobs. 10,0000k tax bill yields $31.00 a month. If your tax bill is less, so is your share. If your tax bill is higher, then you have a bit more share. All districts hold referendums from time . It has been 22 years since the last District referendum. Art and arts, and afterschool activities are worth us all pitching in a little

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 10:04 PM

@NO on REFERENDUM - "Otherwise, it's just a meaningless 'feel good' thing." I can understand your cynicism toward D97 and feeling that one year wasn't enough. But for the OPESPA who voluntarily took the freeze, I doubt any of them see it as 'meaningless' or 'feel good.' Taking a freeze, even for a year, has a real impact on many of them.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:49 PM

@chet21- "I want to believe that there is no 'understanding'" To be clear, my response has nothing to do with an 'understanding' existing or not. You asked why D97 hasn't said anything beyond freezes, I am just answering that.

Hey-hey, I'm a Monkee from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:45 PM

Hey-hey, C Organizer, that's your slogan - DOWN IN FLAMES! great!

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:44 PM

@chet21-The reason is that those portions of the negotiations where first announced and made public by the associations themselves, not D97. For example, with the OPTA, the union announced the freeze at a Board meeting and in a statement to the media ( available on the D97 website) without any other details.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:37 PM

Alright, I'm NOT that "cynical" - I WANT to believe that (and pretty much do) that there is no "understanding" between the board and OPTA about this freeze. Again, though, look at the articles headline - D97 and OPTA are SCREAMING about THE FREEZE....but, ahem, no actual details are available. Can't have it both ways. Prove us cynics wrong - show that this is truly "for the children" and sign a new 3-5 yr contract - with a at least a 2-yr freeze.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:18 PM

@ Jassen - I appreciate your honesty about what can be disclosed. You needn't say anything really...what's going to happen -- a massive eventual pay raise and protection of benefits/entitlements for Dist 97 staff -- is quite clear. This referendum isn't for the children, it's for the Union. We all know that without any need for anyone to confirm the backroom deal that has clearly been cut as evidenced by the "salary freeze". How sad for the kids of OP.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:16 PM

Jassen, again, IF they can daily BRAG about the freeze - which I'm guessing is also part of the "negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement" and "confidential." Then WHY can't they tell us about the other stuff? Call me a cynic, but I'm guessing that there's more to this story. BTW, hoping that I'm mistaken, but I wasn't born yesterday - or the day before - :-). I also still contend that it should be for at least two years - it appears that others agree (or longer). Thanks.

Community Organizer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:13 PM

Join "REFERENDUM NO FOR OAK PARK, IL" on Facebook. Only by coming together and voting can we make sure this goes down in flames.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:06 PM

@chet21 - as you well know, negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement are confidential. You know that they can't answer your question. Repeating it over and over again, pretending someone is hiding something doesn't make it so. You can either 1) wait until the agreement is finalized or 2) direct your question at the OPTA who is free to tell you.

michael gill from oak park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 9:04 PM

A one year pay freeze is almost laughable! Offer a five year freeze and then we have something to talk about. I work in the private sector for a very large firm and no pay raises were given out for three years in a row. VOTE "NO" on the referendum. MIKE GILL

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 7:27 PM

I think my favorite part of the article is when we learn that "there are 22 iPads...(they're) used by administrators". Hilarious! Of course these tools would never make it in to the hands of teachers or children who might learn something from them. Stop saying "It's all about the kids..." it clearly isn't, you District 97 phonies! Cut costs, and live within your means! NO NEW TAXES.

NO on REFERENDUM from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 7:23 PM

@Jassen: I guess I'd be more excited about a salary freeze if it were for as long as the referendum will be, rather than just a single year. Otherwise, it's just a meaningless "feel good" thing to make people want to vote for a referendum that will mostly go to pay for the increases and benefits that have clearly already been promised in year 2,3,4,5,...It's disgusting. Just balance the budget and live within your means, District 97!!

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 4:48 PM

I've asked before and received no answer. The Trib Local from Feb 3 reported, from Supt Roberts, regarding the D97 salary freeze, that "what the teachers asked for in return.....retirement track issues" and more for agreeing to the freeze. Well, D97 has SHOUTED about the freeze, but why SILENCE regarding other terms? Vote No and then they can run a surplus in 2011/2012 with the freeze (2 years) and elimination of ONLY elementary Spanish program and multi-cultural dept. Not enough? We'll review.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 18th, 2011 4:33 PM

Thanks you to the all of the staff and administration across the district that has agreed to voluntary pay freezes. Your commitment to the district is greatly appreciated.

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