District 97 considers $4 million for new administration building in Oak Park

Board members express concerns over perceived 'spending spree'

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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

Acknowledging that its current Madison Street administration headquarters is "a crappy building," District 97 school board member Peter Traczyk urged caution by the board as it explores options for a new or refurbished central office building in Oak Park.

At a school board meeting Tuesday night, the board was presented with financial options for capital improvement projects slated through 2018. Among those items was discussion of spending up to $4 million for either a new or fully refurbished administration building. The current facility is a former auto dealer related building that the district updated in the 1970s.

Other board members asked the district's Facilities Advisory Committee to consider various district needs and dreams when envisioning a new administration building. Mentioned specifically were the incorporation of a pre-school/early childhood center and a possible Therapeutic Day School for special education students who are currently bused to other school districts – possibly shared with other districts and charging tuition. "Think big," said Peter Barber, the board president.

If District 97 remains on Madison Street, its plans might need to incorporate retail on the first floor in order to comply with the village's development plans for the commercial street.

"I have a problem with us [being perceived as] going on a spending spree [after the referendum]," said Traczyk. Board member Denise Sachs urged care with authorizing borrowing for a new building. "It's a perception issue. Most people know that borrowing is for capital projects. They would be glad that we're using [borrowed money] for capital projects instead of operating costs, like we were" before the referendum.

With interest rates at historically low rates -- as low as 2 percent – borrowing for capital projects is tempting, said Traczyk. "That's cheap money."

Board members agreed that $4 million was a maximum amount that could be spent on such a project. The Facilities Advisory Committee has not yet presented any concrete plan with regards to the administration building.

More broadly, the board looked at financial issues as they related to selling bonds for capital projects for the 2012-13 school year and beyond. Therese O'Neill, assistant superintendent for finance and operations said bidding, acceptance and contracting needed to get started in October if new projects were to be on the ground next summer.

Financial adviser Elizabeth Hennessey gave a presentation showing a Debt Service Extension Base projection of the district's borrowing plan. The presentation grouped together the district's capital project wishlists, including $1.8 million for next year's capital improvements, and a series of items encompassed in the referendum campaign including added technology in classrooms, greening of outdoor spaces at the middle schools and paying licenses on laptops and AV equipment.

The board took no final action during Tuesday's meeting on the debt service issue.

Reader Comments

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tax payer from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 3:39 PM

Before one penny is spent on the administrative building, all the elementary schools MUST have air conditioning. In fact, the administration building should not be allowed to use their air on school days.

Money from Oak Park  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 12:01 AM

Jim Coughlin, I think you really did spend money very wisely, and made sure every dollar was value for your department. Not everyone does what you did, and that is the problem.


Posted: August 30th, 2011 4:20 PM

The building itself isnt worth $4 Million. Confused

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 1:56 PM

I cannot explain what appears to be an extravagant expenditure on decoratons when there are so many more important things that need attention in Oak Park. My experience while employed by the Oak Park Recreation Department was a directive to staff to control costs without sacrificing quality. I was responsible for more than a million dollars in purchases of equipment, support supplies,etc.,. I also negotiated personal services contracts for programming and events. Competitive bidding was the key.

Money from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 12:47 PM

READ POST BELOW FIRST Jim Coughlin, now when someone else gets a great idea to put letters on something else, it will be accepted that 15 thousand per letter is very reasonable and add in a 8 percent inflation cost per year, and everyone will agree what a deal.

Money from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 12:45 PM

Jim Coughlin, I think when you are saying government, you are referring to Oak Park's local government that is made up of people. It's very local, so let me ask you this, do you know how much our local people spent on letters for the bridge at Oak Park and South Blvd.? That amount is beyond comprehension in any annual increases in products. It comes out to 15 thousand per letter. Some one in the art district could have made it for 100 dollars.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 11:32 AM

You also have to take in to account the annual increases in costs for products and services. It would be ideal to lock a price for a couple of years but that's rarely available these days. I think most of the people responsible for purchases within in the public sector are aware of the need to keep costs under control and utilize a competitive bidding process to make certain that taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck. That's not to say that there isn't government waste.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 9:45 AM

Money from OP is dead on. Anyone who has ever taken a government accounting class knows that there is zero incentive to spend less. If I get budgeted $10 to spend this year, I need to spend all $10 so that next year I can ask for $11. Eventually, I ask for more money than I actually need and I then need to come up with spending items in order to spend every dollar I am budgeted and also ask for an increase because I spent it all.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 11:24 PM

You know I'm not sure, Daniel. My guess would be that a $4 million rehab of the existing building might have been determined to be not a wise investment. A new facility might have proven to be a more cost efficent plan. I'm sure we are going to learn more from the board. There's presently no basis in fact for concerns about the misuse of public funds. We have to hope the plan is fully vetted and proceeds in the public's best interest.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 10:51 PM

Absolutely correct Jim. And the connection between that observation and the fact that the board entertained, but did not act upon, a proposal to improve the admin facility is what?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 10:08 PM

From the CEO on down, employee theft is an issue throughout public and private workplaces. There was a report this weekend detailing how a retail clerk rang up a $14 total on $2,000 worth of clothing. The customer who got the "discount" is her boyfriend. Let's not ignore the billions of dollars seemingly lost by the Pentagon. Same goes for the corrupt practices of Wall St. We have to demand transparency and accountability in town halls and board rooms.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 10:03 PM

I hear you jmg, but if you are going to say that "Incentives include granting favorable contracts with premium raises and benefits to former colleagues and educational peers," you need to demonsrate that current board members in fact have former colleagues and peers that would benefit from the board members' decisions, i.e., that they in fact have conflicts of interest. Can you do that?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:58 PM

OP parent, I have consistently been responding to the accusation that the D97 board is corrupt. Now that that accusation has been debunked, you want to retreat that the board should not even have entertained a proposal for capital improvements to the admin building. But let me ask you, do you know that the board did not include capital improvements in its projected 5-year budget?


Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:50 PM

I spoke honestly. I didn't allege or omit. The volunteer mothers and fathers makeup of the BOE needs further description of volunteer mothers and fathers, former educators and president of the teacher unions. See? That sound different. It would be naive to think that members that close can be impartial. It would also be naive of me to think that you can be impartial. It doesn't take away your opinion or your fervency but paints a broader picture.

Money from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:25 PM

OP Parent, maybe tax payers forked over to much money, and now they need something to do with it.

OP Parent  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:24 PM

No, Dan, the question on the table is why was the D97 board willing to even consider borrowing 4 mil for a new admin building just months after a highly contentious referendum that was passed in large part because of a plea of inability to maintain education as we know it unless taxpayers forked over the money.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:10 PM

The question on the table, OP parent, is whether the D97 board, then or now, can responsibly be accused of being corrupt. Obviously, they cannot. Can they be accused of incompetentence? Maybe. But if someone burgles your house, does that necessarily mean that you did not take sufficient security measures, or that you are incompetent, perhaps even corrupt? That is obviously a ludicrous propisition. As to discussing potential capital projects in the future, I would regard it as cowardice and irresponsibility for the board to refuse to even consider capital improvements over the next seven years simply because there may be a knee-jerk negative reaction among some of the populace.

OP parent  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 8:52 PM

Yes, Daniel, the board of that time should have made sure that the administration had in place the necessary safeguards and accountability structures so that money could not have disappeared or been paid out illegally. But they didn't. And now the excuse you are using for why this board should not be held accountable for being willing to discuss $4 mil in new spending/borrowing is that it was the admin that brought it up???? Who is watching the hen house?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 8:13 PM

Pattern, the WJ articles you cite relate to Jerry Malatesta, a buildings and schools supervisor who was indicted in 2008 for embezzling funds to contractors who did not perform any work, and Deborah Wallace, an administrative assistant at Irving school who was charged with embezzling funds in 2009. If you want to argue that the D97 Bd should have caught these culprits earlier, fine. But Malatesta and Wallace were not Bd members either then or now, and provide zero evidence that the current D97 board is corrupt. Regarding the use of the listserv. to assist in locating a missing person, I don't know the details, but I do know that responsible people disagree with your assertion that the use was illegal or even wrong. Sorry, Pattern, but it does not persuade me that the current D97 board is corrupt.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 8:00 PM

Sorry if I have misconstrued your posts, Pattern. This started with me asking what incentive the Bd would have to deceive us. Jmg responded that "incentives include granting favorable contracts ... and benefits to former colleagues and educational peers." You chimed in "Let's not forget possible kickbacks for awarded contracts (wasn't there an indictment on this issue just a few short years ago...?)" I responded, "you are positing that the D97 board members are corrupt. ... Do have a shred of evidence to support that allegation?" You responded, "I consider past indictments for illegal activity more than a shred of evidence. ... I also consider ongoing conflicts of interest among the Board, Admin and the OPTA to be troubling, and perhaps illegal." You then declined to name any current board members who had been indicted or to identify any conflicts of interest. If you are moving away from your allegation/insinuation the the current board members are corrupt or dishonest or have conflicts of interest, please confirm that. If not, please see my next post.

OP parent  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 5:17 PM

I like the idea of citizens signing a petition to have the bond issue put on the ballot. The board and admin seem to be out of touch with regard to how people feel about creating new debt that will have to be paid off with our tax dollars. Putting it on the ballot could be a really good thing to do.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:51 PM

What is not clear from the article and remains to be clarified by D97 are the following items; a) current ownership/lease status of the bldg., b) copy of current bldg. assessment report w/ estimated costs for improvements, c) copy of bldg. assessment report when the property was sold to the village and then leased back to D97 in 2007; and d) copy of D97 5-year capital improvements plan.

citizen advocate  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:13 PM

back door referendum rules would apply to the sale of these bonds. that means that citizens can sign a petition to have the bond sale put on the ballot for a vote at the next election. Citizens get 30 days, during the public notice period for the bond sale, to collect a few thousand signatures. not many communities succeed in getting enough signatures, but palatine did a few years ago.


Posted: August 29th, 2011 12:01 PM

Daniel, my point is the building was/has been in bad shape and it didn't all of a sudden become an issue. Do you really think no one had thought of using the money to build something new? Or did they get such a windfall they have excess? The point is they never mentioned the possibility of using money for this when they asked for it and it's not a small chunk of change. Transparency is lacking.

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:51 AM

@Daniel: For the record, I never implied that the Board members were indicted, only that oversight and accountability was needed because there was at least one previous indictment (Malatesta, although I couldn't recall the name at the time) and that the Board should live up to its commitments. And I stand by comment that you "have your head in the sand" as you spring to the defense of D97 as a knee-jerk reaction to any comment that even implies they are anything but perfect. They fall short.

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:44 AM

@Daniel: This past summer, district resources (specifically, the email listserv) were improperly used in the course of a well-publicized "man hunt". This comes on the heels of the of the spring Referendum where at least one FOIA request that I can confirm has been filed to ensure that the district did not improperly use its resources to support the Ref. Where's the accountability and basic administrative responsibility?

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:41 AM

@Daniel: Please see link for information on the Deb Wallace embezzlement arrest. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/04-21-2009/Former_Oak_Park_school_employee_arrested Where was the District 97 accountability and oversight?

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 9:38 AM

@Daniel Hurtado: Please see the link for information regarding the Malatesta Building & Grounds indictment: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/04-22-2008/D97_looks_at_how_they_were_bilked_for_$750K where was the Board/admin oversight and accountability again?

rooted to the rock  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 8:58 AM

comments about the $4mil proposal for the admin bldg. can be made on Tues night 7pm at the district 97 offices. that's when the BOE Facilities Com.mtg. will discuss the admin.bldg. and long range capital plans for District 97. to see the agenda go to www.op97.org under BOE committees.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 8:39 PM

Pattern, you have insinuated that the Board members are corrupt and perhaps even criminals. You have been exposed as having no factual basis for those insinuations. Because I will not join you in your unsubstantiated allegations, you accuse me of having my head in the sand. If refusing to accuse my fellows OP residents of malefaction without supporting facts is having my head in the sand, so be it. You are, or course, free to engage in defamation, but it will not serve you or anyone else well.

Still Bored from OP  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 1:47 PM

Accountability is boring, too. So is long-term planning. But that's what is required from the Board. Although they seem to spend a lot of time on the exciting part...the SPENDING.... Objectively watching elected officials to ensure that they live up to their public commitments....that's boring too. But necessary.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 1:39 PM

The truth is often boring.

Pattern of Behavior (Bored with Daniel Now) from OP  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 1:31 PM

Daniel: Clearly, you believe that "there's nothing to see here. I disagree and believe that this is another piece of a pattern of irresponsible behavior from the D97 Board. I (and clearly others) believe that your head is in the sand (or stuck somewhere) and you refuse to remove it. That's your decision. I urge vigilance to make sure that the Board's focus remains on the issues they committed to. You seem to feel that coddling them is a more effective approach. Enjoy the view!

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 11:50 AM

I don't think one can properly brand it as "scare" tactics simply becaue the Bd articulated reasons for the proposed revenue increases and the expected consequences of not realizing the revenue increases. "Scare" tactics implies that the projections were dishonest. I don't have any reason to believe they were dishonest.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 11:40 AM

Accountability for what, OP Parent? Do you in fact know that physical-plant improvements over the next 5-7 years were not included in the finanial projections that were in place @April 2011? I grant u that it may not have been politically astute to mention future expenditures in a Bd meeting, given the media's propensity for distortion and the public's propensity for reacting reflexively rather than analytically, but failing to discuss potential needs would be irresponsible.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 11:26 AM

Scott, my point is that I don't know the chronology, and neither does anyone else on this thread. Yet some of us are willing to infer corruption or dishonesty from on the part of the Bd. The "crappy" comment came from Traczyk, who was urging caution about the matter. Barber was apparently raising some educational-services issues that went beyond the mere "crappy" condition of the bldg. Disagree if you will, but it is unhelpful to accuse the board of having evil motives.

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 7:57 AM

@Daniel_Really? To convince citizens that each should pay more in prprty taxes, they didn't do a needs assessment that included capitol improvements? Or if they did, 4 mill for the Admin Bldg just "came to their attention" four months after a multi-million dollar tax increase? Tendentious? Threat: "Bravo will be cut without more taxes" Scare: Our schools (and prprty values) will decrease in value without more taxes. Yeah, and those guys dismounting your copper gutters are just cleaning them.

OP Parent  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 7:32 AM

Dan - I get your point, we can't expect the Board to be aware of problems associated with a "crappy" building unless the admin brings it to their attention. But keep in mind, the chief admin is hired by the board - and that admin was in place during the referendum. Someone, somewhere, somehow needs to accept accountability on this issue. Even suggesting 4 mil for an admin building this soon after the referendum does indeed fan the "perception" that D97 is all about spending money.


Posted: August 28th, 2011 12:19 AM

The building was crappy before the referendum, the light just didn't turn on a month ago and they said "hey let's look at this." If you really think this wasn't on anyone's agenda until recently you're kidding yourself. And don't be surprised if it's not the last thing you thought you weren't voting for.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 28th, 2011 12:09 AM

False trichotomy Adele. Other possibilities: (1) the Bd didn't consider capital improvements to the Admin building until it came to their attention that they might be needed; (2) the 5-year budget projections in place as of April 2011 included expenses for capital improvements. Moreover, the contention that D97 used "scare" tactics or "threats" is just tendentious spin.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 11:53 PM

Well, OP Parent, I don't see anything here about the lease running out. What do capital improvements have to do with the lease running out? Nothing.

Former D97 parent  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 8:32 PM

The best location for any special ed program - including an in-district therapeutic day school program - would be in a school building where students would not only have access to the art, music, gym, playground etc facilities that are part of our schools, but where they also would have the opportunity to interact with their non-disabled peers. This of course assumes that D97 has the ability to implement a therapeutic day school program - which is a very big question.


Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:58 PM

From the article, it seems the idea is for a therapeutic day school/early childhood center, with administrative offices. Regardless of whether you agree that is a good idea, it's different than just blowing $4 mil on a pretty new building.

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:52 PM

Daniel: Bottom Line_ After scaring the community into believing that our talented kids would have to go without Bravo and music and teachers unless we committed to paying hundreds/thousands more in personal property taxes, D97 should NOT - 4 months later- entertain the idea of spending 4 million on improving administrative offices. Look at what's happening with the public works building. Oak Park has an addiction spending -

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:45 PM

@Daniel_following your logic, they threatened to cut art, music, and teachers unless we ponied up millions, they execute a campaign to sway voters to commit to paying higher taxes, then after the extra millions are mandated from taxpayers, they then conceive of and float ideas of how to spend 4 million on office upgrades. Am I now suppose to have confidence in D97?

Adele from op  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:41 PM

@Daniel_Not being slick, just being logical. Three options: 1) they withheld this plan until after the vote which is strategic, 2) they made future plan powerpoints before the vote but didn't think about 4 million upgrades until they had access to the piggy bank, or 3) they didn't make future plans, made threats to art/music/teachers, now w/ piggy bank they propose 4 million in "Big Thinking". Each of the three scenarios are egregious.

Op Parent  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:06 PM

Hey Dan, it does appear as though if the admin/board wasn't thinking about doing something about the admin building that they were missing the boat. How can you not be thinking about what you are going to do when your lease is about to run out?? It may not be illegal, but I think the District's behavior is very manipulative. First they raise taxes "for the kids" and and now they want to spend $$$ on a new building for the admin.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 5:45 PM

@Pattern. The Bd members are public figures who are responsible to the residents of OP with respect to the schools. If any of them has been indicted, or has a conflict of interest, or has engaged in "questionable" decisions while on the board, that is, or certainly should be, public information. There is no reason for you not to be specific, if you could in fact do so. No one here is obligated to take your accusations at face value, particularly given that we don't even know who you are.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 5:37 PM

False dichotomy Pattern. Assuming the Bd did not specifically consider improvements to the admin facility until now, that does not mean that they had no plan at all regarding the future budget. That conclusion is a non sequitur. Nothing required the Bd to stop thinking after April 5, 2011.

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 4:27 PM

@Daniel: Final thing -- I'll be happy to provide specific examples and names associated with indictments and activity that clearly colors outside the lines. I will not, however, do that in this forum. After an unusual issue this summer that brought the community together, many asked that particular individuals not be called out on these boards and I respect that along with others' privacy.

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 4:19 PM

And, Daniel, as I see it there are really only two scenarios: (1) the BOE had no long term plans after the Referendum, and they just dreamed this up despite the contention and economic stress in the village, which is irresponsible, or (2) they had this plan before the Referendum and chose not to share it with anyone because it's so clearly off the PR message of "it's for the kids." This, of course, is blatantly deceptive. So, are you in favor of the irresponsible Board or the Deceptive one?

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 4:15 PM

@Daniel: No, what I'm suggesting is that before they raised our property taxes FOREVER, it would have been prudent for them to think about the future not just hold the gun to the head of the arts, music and pink-slipped teachers. But, because they were so busy threatening the here and now, they didn't get around to planning or telling us their real plans. And, by the way, willful incompetence is a form of weak morals in my book.

elizabeth sexton from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 3:57 PM

You have got to be kidding me! Where was this talk before the referendum about borrowing money for capital projects. I assume the interest we pay back on the loan is not in the budget and will show up down the road in another request for money. This level of taxation hurts home values.

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 3:47 PM

District 97 needs to learn a simple lesson....live within your means and do with less......just like the majority of households in Oak Park are having to deal with right now!

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 2:47 PM

Slick Adele. But not slick enough. You accused the Bd of concealing its plan to consider improvements to the D97 offices until after the referendum vote. Shown that you have no factual basis for that assertion, you flip to the argument that the Bd is incompetent for not having thought of it sooner. Accuse the Bd of incompetence to your heart's content. I am objecting to unfounded allegations of corruption and dishonesty.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 2:35 PM

What you are hypothesizing, Pattern, is that the Bd was supposed to stop thinking after April 2011, and that anything they might think of or discuss thereafter SHOULD have been thought of prior to April 2011. That proposition is self-refuting. But even if it were not, the "failure" would be one of competence, not of morality.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 2:28 PM

@Pattern. Which curent Bd members have been indicted for illegal activity? Which questionable use of district resources are you referring to, and why do they reflect corruption rather than just poor judgment? What conflicts of interest are you referring to? Generic assertions do not constitute evidence.

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:55 PM

@Daniel_You say there is nothing indicating they were considering this at the time of the referendum (a few months ago!!) then ask if it's my position that they shouldn't consider future improvements. Exactly my point,Thank you! YES, why weren't they considering this a few months back when threatening families with a catastrophic cuts if we don't pony up millions in additional taxes - seems like they were "considering the future" at that point, no? Why now the 4 million for less crap offices??

Okay, So We Get It from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:26 PM

Daniel Hurtado = Citizen Apologist for the D97 Board of Education. (By the way....lots of other people still think that they are out of line...but we understand that you don't. Thanks.)

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:22 PM

@Daniel: ...but wouldn't it have been prudent for the Board to have a future vision BEFORE they decided to raise taxes and their income? The concern, I think, is less that they are planning for the future, but that apparently they couldn't be bothered to do so until AFTER they increased our taxes. Get the money, then decide how to spend it. Sad. And a failure of leadership any way you slice it.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:21 PM

The "think big" comment appears to relate to a possible "pre-school/early childhood center and a possible Therapeutic Day School for special education students who are currently bused to other school districts - possibly shared with other districts and charging tuition." That relates to improved delivery of educational services, not just spending money for the sake of spending money. In fact, it appears to be a proposal of off-setting some of the expense by generating tuition revenue.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:18 PM

That might be a fair question, Adele, if it were in fact the case that the Board, at the time of the referendum discussion, was considering a $4 million improvement project for the district offices. There is nothing here indicating that is true. Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case. Note also that this is one of a number of options presented to the Board for implemenation over the next 7 years. Is it really your position that the Bd should not consider or even discuss future improvements?

Pattern of Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 1:07 PM

@Daniel Hurtado: I consider past indictments for illegal activity more than a shred of evidence. I also consider questionable use of district resources (recently publicized right here in the WJ) another sign of a pattern of behavior that is troubling if not explicitly illegal. I also consider ongoing conflicts of interest among the Board, Admin and the OPTA to be troubling, and perhaps illegal. In other words, I urge vigilance and urge the BOE to be above board...a new concept, I guess.

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 11:40 AM

Or put simply, why didn't D97 reveal they were considering spending 4 Million on new offices before the vote? What reason would they have to delay releasing this trial balloon until AFTER a vote was taken requiring tax payers to pay more? Would voters have approved paying more taxes so that the district could "Think BIG" and spend 4 Million on better office space?

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 11:29 AM

Any proposal to "Think Big" for borrowing and spending 4 MIL, mere months after a campaign was won to extract more money from residents to avoid "catastrophic cuts" to art and music, reveals that those in charge were strategic in what plans they revealed prior to the vote. Corrupt? Perhaps not - but even RAISING the idea is insulting given the claims of poverty and need for families to pay hundreds and in some cases thousands more each year. Now they can THINK BIG!??!?!?!?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 9:37 AM

Thanks for the clarification Questioning. But as you imply, all significant proposals have to go through the Board. We elect the Board to help us sort out all the issues you raise. That said, the administrators are also people, not alien beings. Do you think the administrators are gaming the Board? Is there more reason to think the administrators are corrupt than that the Board members are corrupt? There are going to be good and bad proposals. Bad proposals don't necessarly imply corruption.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 9:27 AM

OK jmg and Pattern, you are positing that the D97 board members are corrupt. That's a serious allegation. Do have a shred of evidence to support that allegation?

Questioning d97 parent from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 8:06 AM

To clarify my comment about 'reverse bait & switch', I did NOT intend to accuse school board members. They were simply PRESENTED with a 4 mil proposal to consider, and will in all probability reject it. I question d97 administrators who plead for money to save classrooms and programs for our children, and then AFTER securing those funds pull other things out of their sleeves. ?? What are we spending our money on? Does it make sense? What is best for our children?

Pattern of (Bad) Behavior from OP  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:47 AM

@jmg: Thanks for noting that. There's a clear pattern of behavior and I'm glad that I'm not the only one seeing it. Let's not forget possible kickbacks for awarded contracts (wasn't there an indictment on this issue just a few short years ago...?)


Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:42 AM

Incentives include granting favorable contracts with premium raises and benefits to former colleagues and educational peers.

OP Parent  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 7:06 AM

Ok Dan, maybe it's not bait and switch. But at the same time, I've never seen an opportunity to spend money that the district (admin and board) didn't want to do. And that has included lots of books and other instructional materials that teachers are allowed to leave in the closet if, after the board has approved them and spent our tax dollar on them, the teacher decides he/she doesn't like them

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 27th, 2011 12:48 AM

We are all certainly entitled to question the judgmnet of D97 board members. But what basis could you possibly have for suspecting board members of a "bait and switch"? The board members are your neighbors, mothers and fathers, and people with daytime jobs who serve on the board without pay. What possible incentive could they have to trick us into wasting educational funds?

Questioning d97 parent from Oak Park  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 10:13 PM

Outside the box, but any truth to a rumor that d97 will spend more than 1/2 million on software to harness 'brain plasticity' in the form of a product called Fast ForWord? If so, this 4 million bid to improve administrative office conditions could be a reverse bait-and-switch move. 1/2 million will seem cheap compared to 4 million, but is it a good educational investment? Fast ForWord www.scilearn.com/products/ Good instruction or snake oil?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 4:37 PM

Of course!


Posted: August 26th, 2011 4:35 PM

I can dream, can't I?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 4:13 PM

Unfortunately, Jo, in the American system (as opposed to, say, the British) each litigant pays their own fees, win or lose. For D97 to recover its fees, it would have to file a separate lawsuit alleging that TUA's suit was frivolous and brought in bad faith. That's a high bar to clear. And, of course, more fees would be incurred in bringing such a suit.


Posted: August 26th, 2011 3:58 PM

from the triblocal article: "Sorock and Taxpayers United filed their original complaint against District 39 May 16. It was dismissed June 23, after which District 39 Board President Karen Donnan issued a statement calling it "meritless" and that the board had asked staff for "a complete accounting of all money spent in defense of this lawsuit, and we will be considering our options for recouping these costs." I wish D97 would do this.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 3:21 PM

The trial court threw out the TUA lawsuit because D97 relied on its lawyers for the ballot wording. Therefore, even if the ballot wording was wrong, under the law, the mistake would not invalidate the election. Moreover,there is no evidence that the mistake affected the outcome, particularly given that the correct impact was agreed upon by all sides and was widely discussed prior to the vote.

Christina Tobin from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 1:24 PM

The suits filed against the Oak Park and Wilmette School Boards challenged the legality of the ballot used in the April 5th election. The referendum question on both ballots failed to include the State Equalization Factor in calculating the estimated property tax increases, thereby understating those increases by at least two-thirds of the actual amount, rendering the ballots and elections illegal.

Christina Tobin from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 1:21 PM

Appeals consolidated in D39, D97 referenda lawsuits http://triblocal.com/wilmette-kenilworth/2011/08/25/appeals-consolidated-in-d39-d97-referenda-lawsuits/

Luke Miller from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 1:21 PM

About a year ago, WJ published an article about how D97 might be able to share the Hedges Admin. Building (218 Madison) with the Park District if the gymnastics program moved out. Now that looks like the gymnastics program may be moving to the former Aldi location, perhaps it would be a good time to re-evaluate that possibility. Or there may other local government bodies that could share a building.

Christina Tobin from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 1:21 PM

The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial Circuit, granted Noel Kuriakos and TUA's motion to consolidate their appeal in the Oak Park District 97 referendum case with the appeal pending in the Wilmette School District 39 case, brought by TUA and Herbert Sorock. Full story here: http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/news-releases/courts-grant-taxpayers-united-of-america's-motions-in-three-april-5th-referenda-irregularity-cases


Posted: August 26th, 2011 11:19 AM

But we're not talking about OPRFHS, which is district 200. And it's a pretty great high school--thrilled my kids get to experience it.

as long as we'e brainstorming  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 11:14 AM

Sell the building, reduce full time staff, telecommute many more then rent from 1010 Lake Street which currently has 32% vacancy. I'll bet this SAVES money instead of costing $4M. Perhaps that could be added to the "discussion."

Roger of the North Shore from Chicago  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 10:15 AM

I am in favor of the new building if it is built on Austin for the same reasons the Park Dist bought the Aldi Store and VOP moved to Madison Street. It would be a much needed presence of stability to a community facing resegregation. As an OP'er in the 70's I know the issue has not gone away, though not openly discussed. $4M is a drop in the bucket to what it will take to restore the schools' past quality. We forget that OPRFHS is no longer in the top ten of the state. It was when I went there.

Jg Morales  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 9:02 AM

I don't think the idea of incorporating a pre-school/early childhood or therapeutic day school are bad ideas. On the other hand, it doesn't seem that the early childhood program is so over crowded that this is necessary at the moment. Oak Park isn't very large, so the bus ride isn't so bad if driving isn't an option for the parents. The revenue from tuition might sound tempting, but it seems that we have a few things in the school system that need to be straightened out before we look to branching out. Once we get a good thing going in our schools, then we can package it and sell it. I voted no, but since it passed I want to see the funds put to great use. A fancy new admin building shouldn't be on the list right now.

OP parent  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 8:24 AM

So, since they don't own the building, and the $1/year lease is due to run out, the reason the "big dreams" about a new admin office were left out of the referendum discussion is because . . . . they thought the building fairy would come through??? 2007 is not that long ago. Where was the planning? And, before anyone says it, I know capital and operating are different buckets, but I agree with those that have pointed out that both buckets are filled from my tax dollar.

Silver Lining?? from OakPark  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 6:31 AM

@Stan: Thanks for being a "yes" voter chiming in and asking for accountability. Now, can we get the same level of energy about D97 focus and accountability that the "Yes!" campaign mustered about raising our taxes? If so, then there is a silver lining to this otherwise dark cloud. Otherwise, its just more of the same in Oak Park.

Stan the Man  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 6:23 AM

I voted Yes and have no regrets. I still think we need to keep the district's feet to the fire and tell them the money needs to go to the kids and direct services. This kind of stuff requires eternal vigilance on the part of the citizens. The administration has to look at some ugly walls? Too bad, so sad.


Posted: August 26th, 2011 12:31 AM

Wow, so do you feel good now that you voted for an increase? Although I would agree it is one of many "crappy" buildings on that street and the Village would benefit from it being gone. Can't they find space in an existing product? Do they really need a whole building? I don't know, I'm not trying to be critical just asking some questions.

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:35 PM

I have needs and dreams too. I need District 97 to stop dreaming about taxing us continually. "Cheap money" or not - it still has to be repaid. I've worked in "crappy" buildings as have many I know and we all survived.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:30 PM

@Melrose ... D97 can't sell what it does not own. According to the WJ (09.21.10), the village bought the D97 administrative building in 2007 using money from the Madison Street TIF, and then leased it back to D97 for $1 a year. The deal, which ends this year, netted the school district roughly $2.5 million. The agreement came about in 2007 after D97 opted against going for its planned operating referendum that year.

Anne B. from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:21 PM

I'm a yes-voter appalled at the political idiocy of a school board that would float the idea of a $4M Admin. Center. Most suburbs say no to their schools year after year, and in Chicago, they're whining about $84 more on%2

JT Walsh from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:20 PM

Really? This is disgusting. While many parents in the district are fighting to get their kids special education services, including the now-required-by-state-law math support intervention, the board is discussing a new building?!? Where are the math resource teachers. There is a lot of talk about "early intervention" but the reality is quite different. Crazy priorities.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:59 PM

Jo, alright, but my wife will have to be there - :-)!

Melrose from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:36 PM

Also left out of the article is the backstory that there have been many scenarios presented. For instance, if D97 can sell its existing building to a developer (More likely in healthier economic climate but could happen still) then it could use that money to help fund the needs for a new building ideally suited to the district's needs. There has not been discussion of needing $4 M in a vacuum but rather how to best fund the building by leveraging existing assets.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:32 PM

Chet, thanks. I apologize for being snippy. GROUP HUG! C:


Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:27 PM

@Jo. I was VERY mistaken in my comment regarding you - it was Mimi who wrote about "always attend the meetings," etc. I apologize. Sorry.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:05 PM

With all due respect to Ms. Lotus, I think it eminently plausible that the article left things out.The "crappy" commment came from Traczyk, who was not arguing FOR the project. To the contrary, he was urging caution. As was Denise Sacks. But the article does state that D97 may have to abandon the first floor of the building to retail, which could pose a very significant problem that needs to be addressed. I am merely saying that we should get the facts before we engage in knee-jerk reactions


Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:05 PM

I am confused by Chet's comment. I made a flip comment, but I never suggested anyone attend a board meeting.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:51 PM

It is interesting Chet21, that last week on these threads certain posters were decrying the ad hominem arguments that appear herein, and they identified you as one of victims of it during the referendum discussions. My recollection was that you dished it out as much as received it, and your last post on this thread confirms it. You have something to say Chet21, so why don't you just express your opinions without the ad hominem?

OP parent  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:48 PM

Dan has a good point. But unless the Journal skipped reporting on some critical talking points, the only rationale seems to be that the building is "crappy". Admittedly, I don't think it meets anybody's definition of architectural splendor, but maybe part of the problem is that the board seems to be more interested in spending money than in identifying and delivering specific and measurable services within the existing budget.

Melrose from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:47 PM

I was on the Facilities Advisory Board for almost 4 years and came off it last year and we have been discussing the needs for the new building all that time. It is a very complex issue as the existing building is not ideally suited to the district needs, though they make due, and its age poses problems with heating and cooling issues. This has been a long-term healthy discussion that was just presented to the board in that very capacity...as a jumping off point!

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:30 PM

"Do you think this is the only poor decision that's been made" is pretty clear Seriously, but I'll take your word that's not what you meant. This is indeed a bad time to be talking about improvements to the admin building. But before joining the finger-pointers, I would want to know more about why such improvements are being contemplated. The admin offices do provide services to parents, students and teachers, so I would want to know whether the improvements relate to the delivery of services.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:15 PM

Right, Chet. Anyone who disagrees with you is by definition in bed with The Man.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 7:50 PM

@Jo. I get it - you're a friend/fan/apologist for the board. But I thought that the WJ article was quite clear that this $4M project is being taken seriously. Why are you then so caustic for those expressing, hmm, "concern?" Your proposal to attend a bd mtg is appropriate - but very, very few residents have either the time or interest in sitting thru an evening less exciting than watching paint dry - I know, I've done it. I thank the WJ for this surprising report of "think big!" from D97.

seriously? from oak park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 7:37 PM

@Daniel Hurtado It seems as though you misunderstood my comment, and yes I do object to the topic even being discussed. I suggest we need to question all decisions that even suggest spending our money on anything not directly related to improving the quality of education of our children. This type of discussion illustrates the fact that Oak Parkers have been duped!

OP parent  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 7:25 PM

While a new admin building would be one of the worst reasons to borrow "cheap money", my question is why is the board even discussing plans to go deeper into debt? We just raised taxes. And now we want to be deeper in debt? How long before we need to raise taxes again because paying the debt for capital expenses doesn't leave enough money to actually run the schools? How about we pay off the middle schools before taking on new capital project debt?


Posted: August 25th, 2011 6:46 PM

"But you should make sure you know what you're objecting to before you object.." But then what would anyone here talk about?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 6:29 PM

@Seriously. No "decision" was made. The $4 million project was one of several options that were discussed to potentially be implemented over the next seven years. If you object to the topic even being discussed, fine. But you should make sure you know what you're objecting to before you object.

seriously? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:53 PM

So perhaps it's time for the taxpayers to realize that the folks making decisions are totally out of touch with reality and really quite egotistical. Teachers did not agree to a wage freeze to make administrators more comfortable when making poor, top down decisions. Do you think this is the only poor decision that's been made. Open your eyes folks.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park   

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:20 PM

Is the building falling down? If anything, it is my observation from when I surved on the finance task force, that alot of the space there is wasted. I am sure they function in a smaller space, especially as we move to a more paper-less age. The fact that the building is ugly does not demand automatic replacement. If a donor wishes to come forward and pay for it, that is another matter.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:16 PM

Suggestion? Eliminate the all-day kdg/day care and use the space for special ed kids. I understand that D97 does not lose money with this program (yet - wait until the BK state of IL sends less money!), but since D97's own study showed NO educational value of the expanded kdg - and we're apparently losing a lot of $$$ busing our sp ed kids - why not keep our resources in the district? C'mon D97 - THINK BIG and "outside the box!" TS and AR - good to see/read you again!

valerie from oak park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:00 PM

the district 97 board ran uncontested in the last election - there needs to be some new voices on the board

In from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 4:24 PM

Violet Aura, no one will ever know who the wizard is behind the curtain.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 4:11 PM

And the hits just keep on comin'...Wow, just wow...Again, I pose this question to current residents: WHO is making these decisions? A bloodless coup sounds like a plan to me.

harold hohlen from oak park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 3:51 PM

Mr. Barber challenges the D97 Board to "Think big". Sir, that is the taxpayers money you are thinking big with. OP has some of the highest property taxes in the state. Try to remeber this detail when thinking big. HFH

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 3:23 PM

I'm far from thrilled with that discussion item either, just ftr. I think that people should register their feelings about that option with the board. It just reads more like a brainstorming session than anything else.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 3:19 PM

I think a lot was discussed, but specifically, as reported in the article was "the board was presented with financial options for capital improvement projects slated through 2018. Among those items was discussion of spending up to $4 million for either a new or fully refurbished administration building." Specifically, the 4mil for a new/rehab admin building is what I am concerned with. expenditures for classrooms and education with fire up some...but if well thought out and explained, not me.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:54 PM

And I sincerely appreciate your clarifying who you are/aren't! It's so hard to know on this site, since they don't require users to register. I really wish they did.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:53 PM

Did they propose a new/refurbished building, or did they discuss (as reported) it? Among the other discussions were a therapeutic dayschool and a prek facility. The former probably as a cost savings/service provider idea, as the district currently pays out a lot to send kids far away for these services.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:50 PM

@Mimi M. Op resident is not me,just to be clear. i have read the article, and i can't image that without prior discussion that the Facilities Advisory Committee just decided on their own to propose a new admin building, but maybe they did. either way the board should have dismissed the idea right away, and been told not to think big, but to simply think about how the recommendation would look. interest rates have been low for a long time, not just on tuesday www. moneycafe.com/library/primerate

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:31 PM

These don't look all that brief to me: http://www.op97.org/board-of-education/2011.cfm

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:28 PM

You could always attend the meetings! Nothing to stop you. But don't let the facts get in the way of a righteous rant.

Op resident  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:25 PM

Actually, if you want to know what the board members have been discussing in open session you go to the "crappy" building and ask to listen to the digital recording of the meeting. The minutes have become nothing more than a (very) brief summary. But I like the idea of being able to get the information on the website - Mimi, maybe you can take the lead on getting the verbatim recordings posted on the website.

David Kindler from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:23 PM

Cheap money is a very common expression that only means low cost to borrow. Anyone reading more than that into it, is reading more than that into it. Debate the merits of the expenditure, not an expression used very much in context to describe the low cost of borrowing money at present. Ideally, taxing bodies needing to borrow for capital projects would do so when the costs are the lowest.

Maggie from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:21 PM

Only thing I an say is I voted NO. Why not save any extra money for a rainy day. They sure will be coming with the way the economy is going.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:08 PM

Also, because of the Open Meeting Act, we know what they have been discussing. Just look it up on their website, all the minutes are there.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:07 PM

I don't have to ask the board member to say that. All I have to do is read the article. Have you?

OP Parent  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 2:00 PM

Mimi - you are correct, the $4 mil for a new or fully refurbished building was just one of the "spend money" options presented. The problem is that apparently not so much as one board member had the sense/guts to speak up and say that this "option" was not appropriate and should be taken off the list immediately. And keep in mind - if they kill this "option" it appears they have a long list of other things they are willing to borrow "cheap money" for. Where is the constraint we were promised?


Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:53 PM

@Mimi M, fine then have someone from the board jump into the discussion and say that they haven't been discussing this for a while and that they realize that this is a silly idea and that the entire board has elected to stop the madness and they will not do any improvements to the building much less consider buying a new building. It would also be nice for the new super to jump in and agree that this is dumb to even consider. Thanks, Mimi.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:52 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, which adds so much to the discussion.

dazed and confused  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:49 PM

Is "blue sky" one of those new designer drugs the kids take? If it is, then the whole thing makes a whole lot more sense.

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:45 PM

John, to be fair, I don't think this was a BOE announcement, so much as a blue-sky discussion.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:29 PM

Maybe the BOE and the Admin can build on Irving's $2Million dollar new play ground. Really futuristic, modern glass design.....by a local of course! What does Mr. Strockash think?

Tom Scharre  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:27 PM

Was it only six short months ago we were told that if the referendum did not pass Oak Park children would have to share a single crayon for art education & music courses would consist of impromptu humming? And now, the talking points are "cheap money" and "think big." One word: chutzpah.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:25 PM

Pathetic. I just registered my kids at the District 97 office. Looked fine to me. It was also air conditioned - unlike most of Hatch school where my kids just started. Also are we sure the pensions are sufficiently funded and that no surprises lurk in future fiscal years? Maybe the $4M should go toward the $4.2M unfunded pension liability in District 97 so we don't have to raise taxes again to cover teacher pensions.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:25 PM

I'd vote Yes again without strings attached, The millage vote was for continuance of the children's education. Without doubt D97 managed to completely erased the public trust with its lousy time and poor public relations execution. Even if the capital improvement package had been ready for years, I would have delayed the announcement until they had public proof that they were using the millage money in a solid custodial way. That's at least a year. Kinda dumb D97.

LiquidEvil from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:10 PM

Wow. I wish I could have voted NO twice. These idiots don't even have have the decency to be embarrassed about screwing us! Who cares if they can borrow at 2%? We still have to pay back their frivolous spending!

epic lulz  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:10 PM

Here's a great idea! How about the D97 administrators move into one of the houses that was foreclosed upon due to the inability of the owners to pay the D97 tax increase? Win-win!

Another OP resident  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:10 PM

I voted NO. This shucks.

The Hens from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:00 PM

Let just say that the job market is lousy in Illinois and many of us private sector people are hurting. We can't afford to make much needed capital improvements to our homes even with Mr. T's so-called cheap money. And this tax burden is oppressive to us. What's the latest foreclosure rate? Somehow learning of Mr. T's logic makes me want to read about the pigs in Animal Farm.

District 97 Parent Voted NO  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 12:57 PM

This confirms what I've suspected: Oak Park board members smoke crack.

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 12:24 PM

Is it April Fool's Day? Or fool's that passed the referendum in April? I can't wait to hear the banter when the tax bills arrive.

OP Parent  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:18 AM

I am disturbed by Peter T's comment regarding "cheap money". Money is money. You borrow it, you have to pay it back. Yes, borrowing at lower interest rates cost less than borrowing at higher rates. But you are still borrowing. You are still spending money. You still have to pay that money back. Time to get these kids out of the candy store!

Virginia Seuffert from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:11 AM

Are your really surprised? Taxpayers in this town have NEVER demanded fiscal responsibility from the schools or other governing bodies. We fall for the same old threats to end Bravo and open our wallets. D97 admitted before the vote that they were looking to hire another administrator to facilitate parent/school relations. Shame on anyone who voted YES. I agree DEMAND A RECALL!

YOU Think Big, Barber from OP  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:05 AM

"Think Big", says Barber. And I agree...in the sense that our School Board should be thinking big about how to improve the educational experience for the children of Oak Park. Improving the administration building has GOT to be a low priority...that is, the discussion of it is by definition "thinking small." Get your priorities straight D97 Board -- ASAP!!

I Demand a Recall from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:53 AM

So, would people have changed their vote if the referendum rallying cry was "It's for the comfort of the administrators!"....? Obviously. And don't start the "but capital expenditures come from another bucket" song and dance...my taxes are still paying for the capital expense of the two middle schools, so what's two buckets to D97, still comes from the pocket of the taxpayer. No fiscal responsibility shown here at all. DEMAND A RECALL!!!

Adele from OP  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 9:14 AM

What perception problem? The perception that the referendum folks orchestrated an info campaign, filled with threats, cuts, and dire consequences, strong arming tax payers to cough up even more during the worst recession in decades, and now that the deal is done and I have less money for my family, reveal their wish to spend 4 MIL on new construction for admin? The perception that they were disingenuous and consider us easily duped ATM's? That perception problem?

Tim from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:55 AM

Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I feel more at peace with my no vote.

Michael Lotus  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:53 AM

We just had a hotly contested referendum that passed 55 / 45 -- not a landslide -- during the worst recession in 80 years. The response from the winners of that contest: borrow money to "dream big." In the immortal words of Johnny Rotten, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Prouder than ever of my NO vote.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:19 AM

I really hope that there is some explaining on this one. It's about more than perception. Borrowing money doesn't make it "free money"...just because it's cheap doesn't mean you should take it after you just insisted you didn't have enough money to run the place. If I didn't have enough money to meet my grocery/gas/etc. expenses I wouldn't be going to get a loan to rehab my house.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:00 AM

Really, was more debt service the purpose of the last referendum? No, "fool me once ..."

Mimi M  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 6:39 AM

I agree, spend money on educating our children, not redecorating. It's nice to see the board is considering some of those options, like therapeutic day schools instead of battling with parents of special ed kids and sending the kids great distances for $$$ to distant suburbs that have such schools. Meanwhile, Julian seems to have spent its money repaving the employee parking lot.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:57 AM

So what if the administration building is not up to par for some board members, is it preventing the employees from doing their jobs? I can't afford to fix my house because of the taxes I have to pay, including the increase because of the referendum. Spend ONLY what you can afford, paint the walls a nice new color, spend money on educating our children not redecorating.

Failure of Leadership from OP  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:45 AM

"It's for the kids!" they cried as they held a gun to the head of the arts and music programs and distributed pink slips to teachers. "We promise fiscal constraint...and we've always been budget conscious" they said as they urged everyone to vote for a tax hike. And now, just 4 months later, we see them focusing on priorities that have no ability to improve the performance of our schools or the education that our children receive. It's sad. And I hope everyone who voted "yes" feels betrayed.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:40 AM

Wow...where was this in the vision for the district that we were sold just a couple of months ago?

Hot and Humid Taxpayer  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 12:13 AM

AC in all of the schools should be the priority.

you can't spell referendum with out d-u-m  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:41 PM

Everyone knows people move here for the good school administration buildings. I think this proposal just make my house worth $15,000 more. Hey say yessers..... feel duped yet?

Ok from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:33 PM

Tax payers, you don't have any control over how money is spent so stop thinking you do. Let the boards that run Oak Park do their own things.

OP parent  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:29 PM

Remember the referendum - it was "for the kids". Now it seems those kids need a new administrative building! Just a few months ago the board was threatening to cut programs and fire teachers. Now that the programs have been reinstated (and expanded)and the teachers rehired I guess it's no surprise that the board needs to find new ways to spend money. Are we still glad we live in Oak Park?

Crappy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:15 PM

In an educated town such as Oak Park, wasn't there any other term to use instead of "a crappy building"? Who was the one who said that?


Posted: August 24th, 2011 9:18 PM

Please, please, please tell me that I'm in a deep sleep and dreaming about this article? Did I truly read that Mr. Barber said "think big!" (translated: "think expensive!") and that Ms Sachs was so enamored about the 2% interest? Does this suggest that I can afford to move from Irving district to RF?!? Can I right now predict the next phrase? Alright, here goes, "we should do this project today because construction costs are so low due to the recession!" Next? "It's for the children!" U-Haul?


Posted: August 24th, 2011 8:30 PM

WJ staff: with all due respect to the oak park dad/comedian... this needs to be on the front page of Oakpark.com i hope you will find room on the front page and leave it there for the entire week. Also please do a survey monkey, with a link from the article, asking your readers what they think.


Posted: August 24th, 2011 8:27 PM

ok, so let's dump the whole board. this is an insult to the tax payers of oak park and the parents and students of d97. last year they were going to going to make deep cuts to d97 programs because of no money? pass a referendum and now they want to build a 4 mil. building? all i can say is "chet 21, you are up to bat---swing away!"

mv113 from OP  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 8:02 PM

"They would be glad we 're using borroed money" Really? "It's a perception issue" Really? I'm so glad the referendum passed.

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