I have closely followed the pool planning process initiated by the District 200 Board of Education. Last Thursday night I attended the board’s discussion of an Option 5 offered by member Steven Gevinson. Your newspaper reported the outcome online with the headline “District 200 board rejects fifth pool option.” Your story included an illustration of Option 5 prepared by the board’s architect.
I was dismayed when the board meeting started with two mean-spirited attacks on Dr. Gevinson from two softball coaches who were upset over what they perceived to be the severe negative impact of Option 5 on softball. Once I had the chance to examine the plan illustration that had angered them, I saw the problem. The illustration depicted a seriously inaccurate rendition of the softball and baseball fields, contrary to the sketch Gevinson had submitted to the Board’s architect.
The faulty illustration was completed a day late, just two days before the Thursday Board meeting. President Jeff Weissglass was eager to have it posted without delay. During his brief opportunity to review the Option 5 descriptive materials, Dr. Gevinson says he focused on the area between the new tennis courts and the baseball field, and he failed to notice the never-explained inaccuracies in the softball field’s depiction.
It was clearly the faulty illustration and its associated dimensions that upset the softball coaches. Their strongly negative reaction may have swayed even those board members who, at their meeting of April 19, supported a further look at Option 5 but now rejected it.
This was just the first of my several disappointments that evening. Dr. Gevinson and I were both disappointed to discover that no other high school coaches were present at the meeting. In earlier conversations between Dr. Gevinson and tennis coaches, genuine interest was shown in Option 5, particularly as it provided new asphalt courts on campus as well as off-campus and the possibility for year-around practice by placing a temporary bubble over the new courts.
I was also disappointed to learn that school Superintendent Isoye had circulated a memo to the board, including reactions of coaches to the flawed rendition of Option 5. Dr. Gevinson was not allowed, by an interpretation of the Open Meetings Act, to circulate beforehand his responses to the issues raised in the memo. Thus he found himself in an impossible position. In the midst of a very full board agenda, he had only minutes to answer all the issues raised by Dr. Isoye’s memo. Moreover, he could see that the majority of the board, lacking full information, seemed predisposed to oppose any further study of Option 5. This was made clear at the very outset when his motion to particularize more precisely the steps to follow in fully vetting Option 5 failed for lack of a second.
Several days prior to the meeting I had sent an email to several members of the board expressing my view that the board’s planning process was seriously flawed. It had somehow led them to the decision that there were only four realistic options and that only Options 2 and 4, though never fully vetted, should be carried forward. I reached that conclusion based on my own background experience as a former leader in the field of planning within the Chicago metropolitan area.
It is now clear that the board will proceed without ever letting the public know the actual contents of Option 5 and its most salient feature: that it would cause the least disruptions and produce the most benefits to student athletes at OPRF High School. I acknowledge the one issue that could be a stumbling block: namely, the need of an agreement with one of the local park districts for the use of off-site tennis courts at either Keystone or Taylor parks. But I see no reason to believe either district should be opposed.
My congratulations to Dr. Gevinson, who dared, literally, to think outside the box. I refer to the box containing the existing garage and the existing two pools, which entirely encompass Options 1-4. He dared to look at the needs and opportunities for sports programs throughout the entire campus and beyond. He deserved much better than he got for his trouble.
Larry Christmas is a former Oak Park village president.