Voting no will send clear message to District 97


Opinion: Columns

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Noel Kuriakos

District 97 board members take an oath at the beginning of the term which includes the following:

I further swear (or affirm) that: I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district's assets.

As stewards of the taxpayers' money, any inefficient use by District 97 is considered mismanagement. Over the last 10 years the board of District 97 has not faithfully protected District 97's financial assets. Every year the board and administration has spent more than what the tax levies have brought in. The Illinois State Board of Education has placed District 97 on financial review status, year after year, giving District 97 the dubious distinction of joining the 20 percent of Illinois districts that are in financial straits. Close to 70 percent of the districts in Illinois have been given the ISBE seal of approval because they were fiscally prudent.

This should not have happened to District 97. Over the last 10 years, the district's tax levy has increased close to 50 percent. At the same time the consumer price index only rose about half that rate. A fiscally prudent board with the best interests of the taxpayers would have controlled costs, and banked the difference for rainy days.

Those rainy days are here and we find District 97's finances in dire straits. The cause of this financial problem stems from generous increases in total compensation to teachers and administrators, without a commiserate increase in teaching effectiveness or an increase in educational outcomes. For example, in 2010, four schools in District 97 failed the annual yearly progress set by the ISBE, even as District 97 spent well over $13,000 per pupil (all certified employees still got a pay raise).

A permanent tax increase of 3.8 percent (which is three times higher than what is stated on the ballot) will not address District 97's tax-and-spend behavior. It will only hurt our community more, as our property values continue to decrease, with young families opting to look at other communities that are more affordable, with lower taxes and better schools with higher test scores.

Even without a tax increase, District 97's levy will automatically increase by close to 3 percent (the average CPI increase over the years).

Voting no is a clear message to the board to sober up and face reality. It is time for a new normal. It is time for the board to cut back some of the generous compensation increases to District 97 employees, instead of cutting core curriculum programs like music and the visual arts. A small reduction in pay, about 2-5 percent (on $44 million of salary expense) and shifting more of the increases in benefits to employees, will allow District 97 to keep expenses in line with levies.

Voting no is a message from taxpayers to the board: keep your oath, be fiscally prudent. When District 97 shows us credible evidence that they can manage their finances, then the taxpayers will be ready to listen to their funding requests.

Noel Kuriakos is an Oak Park resident and coordinator of Citizens Alliance of Oak Park, a group organized in opposition to District 97's tax increase referendum.

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Voted Yes! from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 5:43 PM

Wow, so the comment from the guy with annoying neighbors got pulled and so did my response? I admit, the exchange may not have added much to the discussion, but it was pretty funny. The PC police must be hard at work today. Nothing like free speech!

Don't Kick the Can-Vote No on D97Ref  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 4:37 PM

I agree @JennyWren, a big thank you to Noel, for his commitment to shine the light on the facts and figures detailing the D97 budget and advocating that OP's hard earned tax dollars be used efficiently and effectively in 'the new normal'of our lives. To all who have not yet voted: Please consider the 'big picture' of this country before you vote this evening. Check out:


Posted: April 4th, 2011 11:43 AM

Thank you Noel for your hard work and message of fiscal reponsibility. We need to see an effort by all village departments to trim budgets to realistic levels-even Cook County has managed to do this-and stop spending above expected income with no accountability for results ($1 million for unusable software?). The arrogance of OP leadership ruining the quality of life for lower income residents and continually acting as if everyone has unlimited resources is unconscionable.

Interested Parent  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 10:13 AM

Well voting NO on the D97 referendum will certainly show those folks in D.C. how to behave!

Don't Kick the Can-Vote No on D97Ref  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 9:43 AM

"Imagine that you had an average monthly income of about $170 balanced against average monthly expenses of about $940-and that you were more than $14,000 in debt. Then imagine that as of today, you had only $58.60 in cash left in your bank account and $130.50 left on your line of credit. Now multiply these numbers by 1 billion and you will have the up-to-date financial situation of the U.S. government." Quote From:

@Jassen and @Interested Voter  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 9:32 AM

The March/April 2011 edition gave the one-line reference to the referendum that I mentioned below. Jassen, are you saying only the email version of the newsletter (not the print edition) contained information about the referendum and superintendent search?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 9:01 AM

@Interested Voter - That information was included in the VOP Email newsletter. They will include school information when it is something that is aimed at the entire community. For example, on 9/16 they included info about meeting the new Superintendent. Starting on 10/21 they included info about the D97 referendum surveys. Anyway, point is they will include schools stuff when it pertains to village wide audience.

Interested Voter  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 8:39 AM

Going back through the online archive of VOP newsletters, the referendum is mentioned in the article on elections in the March/April 2011 edition. In looking at all the other stories over several months, the newsletter covers Village business and programs. They don't seem to routinely put in news about schools or such groups. That would probably greatly increase the publication and dilute the Village news they want people to know.

@Chris Jasculca  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 8:31 AM

Was there ever an article about the referendum, the survey, or the forums in the mailing that that village sends out every few months? I saw a one-line reference to the D97 referendum in one of those mailings that gave virtually no information. The electricity referendum, by contrast, had a full page article.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 8:12 AM

The forums were advertised using all of the same resources.

Chris Jasculca from District 97  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 8:11 AM

Information about the community survey regarding the referendum was disseminated via the following resources: the district's family of Web sites, the District 97 community listserv,, Live Here Oak Park community Web site, Wednesday Journal, Oak Leaves,, the Oak Park Journal, the Village of Oak Park, the Oak Park Public Library, the Park District of Oak Park and Oak Park River Forest High School.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2011 7:55 AM

@question for Jassen - The Ref. surveys where publicized in the WJ, OakLeaves, Patch, TribLocal,, through the Villages VOP News, through many churches, community groups etc etc. The Journal/Oak Leaves even did followup stories about the extending of the survey deadline. I think D97 did about everything possible to get the word out. Might have missed something but Chris J. at the District would know exactly as that is his job.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 10:26 PM

@Jassen. Carrying the last sentence from my 10:07 post to the next step - I simply think that ONLY a failed ref will provide the leverage/courage for D97 bd members to confront their child's classroom teachers about the need "to hold line on expenses". Why? Because then they can say "I didn't have a choice." Win/Lose/Draw - nice campaign and I'll see you soon! Peace (and good night for me!).

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 10:07 PM

@Jassen. I don't disagree with anything that you wrote and agree with most. I commented about "protest" and "aggrieved" parents in my 7:49 post. I also wrote "Nixon to China?" in my 8:52 post in reference to JGates. "Group Think" is a common problem for ALL boards - esp when their motivations for serving are similar. In this case, it's "for the children." How many D97 bd members wish to confront their child's teacher at conference - after stating that we need to hold line on expenses? NOT ME!!!

question for Jassen  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 10:06 PM

How are these forums and surveys publicized? I didn't know about the survey about the referendum until long after it was complete. I read somewhere that the survey was available in D97 schools, the D97 website, and the public library. Those locations would seem to miss a number of citizens.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 9:50 PM

cotinued - They had 14 show up at one and 11 at the other. So when people complain about the new super, I ask, did you give your input, fill out the survey, show up. Usually NO. My point isn't that the board is perfect, it's that they would be helped by more parent/citizen input all the time, not just when people in crisis. That is often lacking.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 9:47 PM

@chet21 - "but my general pt is that most school bd members (everywhere)...come to a bd with an unwillingness to challenge the status quo." I don't spend time at Board meetings outside D97/D200 so no idea but for this board, part of the problem is they only get input from people when they are angry or at time like this with the referendum. For example, when they started the search to replace Collins, they had a series of forums asking parents to give input on what they wanted in a new super...

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 9:42 PM

@chet, @unbelievable - actually this board will be changed. There are two new members as Rance and Michelle step down. Chet, I understand your speculation about Jim Gates as a former teacher Union pres but if you talk to him, he is actually one of the strongest advocates for changing how we evaluate teachers. I wont speak for him so I will leave it at that but if you think he is a puppet for the union, you are very wrong. Shoot him an email. He is more than happy to discuss with anyone.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 8:52 PM

@Unbelievable. I want to believe you (and I don't "dis"-believe you) about the bd, etc., but this was the same board that agreed to extend the existing contract during the freeze negotiations. Why did they do that? It extended generous "CPI plus step" and there was NO reason to do it. True, I believe that the "belief" of crisis then wasn't as great - which only makes me worry about "status quo," if ref passes, returning in months that follow. Then there is ex-union prez on bd. Nixon to China?


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 8:39 PM

@chet, if you go watch the video of the Hatch/Whittier forum, u will see that Peter T, Board President address pay increases and said they will have change the contract during the round of negotiations. This board gets it. There is not a next board because no one new dare try to step up and take on this thankless job. We will have the exact same board. The same board that let Dr. Collins know they were not going to renew her contract. They get it. Vote Yes

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 8:00 PM

@ Curious. Pt. 2. I truly believe that the next board, if presented with a failed ref, will then have the leverage AND need to address/confront/reform the fin'l conditions of their 5-yr budget (if ref succeeds) - which leads to D97 needing ANOTHER ref shortly. I agree completely with you regarding how the board "has a thankless job..." and I honestly do express gratitude and appreciation for their efforts. However, they must also acknowledge high OP prop taxes AND fin'l pain of many in OP.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 7:49 PM

@Curious. Pt.1. We'll agree that Noel is an exception (for PTO's), but my general pt is that most school bd members (everywhere), unless protest "truth to power" ones or aggrieved parents, come to a bd with an unwillingness to challenge the status quo. One of their most impt functions is the budget and compensation - I see no profiles of courage there. Are they going to question the pay of their childrens' teachers? Programs are always a "need" & never eliminated. (cont'd).


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 6:39 PM

Chet21 - Did someone answer the question about how many Board members are former PTO members/leaders? I don't believe Jennifer Reddy (Irving parent) was a leader of the Irving PTO. Are you saying that anyone who belongs to the PTO at some time would be biased toward the referendum? Not true of Noel! Also, many parents support their local schools through the PTO and may not vote yes blindly. The Board has a thankless job and does extensive research, including input from fiscal expert citizens.

Merit Pay  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 6:32 PM

Chet, I don't believe all six members of the board are PTO people (I will definitely agree with the one being a former teacher union president). I do know for sure that at least two of the incoming board members are not.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 6:26 PM

Agreed that "merit pay" is a complex subject. What is NOT "complex" is that D97 plans on increasing pay and benefits by 5% per year if they win the ref - per their 5-yr plan ( Financial Projection of Limiting Rate Increase.pdf). That's NOT a "complex subject" - it will lead to another ref and higher taxes. What can stop a school bd of 6 PTO members and 1 teacher union president? Just one thing - vote NO - for reform.

Merit Pay (cont)  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:56 PM

Success is difficult, if not impossible, to define and measure. NCLB has already proven how the various unleveled playing fields in the American education system inherently set up a wide variety of standards and expectations. Consider the diverse needs of English Language Learners, Special Ed Students, and low income neighborhoods, & you'll see why it would be opening a messy can of worms to define standards of success for American schools when the stakes are cash in the pockets of real teachers

Merit Pay  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:53 PM

Couple of cons for you: Good will and cooperation between teachers will be compromised. In places that have previously tried variations of Merit Pay, the results have often been unpleasant and counter-productive competition between teachers. Where teachers once worked as a team and shared solutions cooperatively, Merit Pay can make teachers adopt a more "I'm out for myself only" attitude. This would be disastrous for our students, no doubt. cont.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:53 PM

I found "What the US can learn from the world's most successful reform efforts" to be pretty interesting: . This report was referred to in the NYT discussion called "How to Raise the Status of Teachers" in March. Education is a complex subject, and the way we fund education is complicated. I'm voting YES.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:38 PM

I always wonder why anyone thinks students would perform better academically just because their teacher's salary depends on it.What is the motivation for students?IMO, teachers need tenure or some job security w due process because they are the standard bearers.Many parents blame teachers for their kid's grades.You can see from the comments how disrespectful some people are towards the teaching profession.In higher performing countries, teachers are respected and paid like professionals.

Interested Voter  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:22 PM

I'm guessing that the various books on the pay for performance subject deal mostly with business settings where a product is produced or a sale is made. Schools are a different place to work and high performers don't "get promoted" away from their less deserving peers. Anyone have any research comparing pay for performance comparing the two types of work places?

But, Seriously from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 4:58 PM

@OP Resident: Funny, I've read literally dozen of books that show via published peer-reviewed research that Pay for Performance is literally the most effective way to incent employees to action and effectiveness. These books were written by several of the top minds in Management and Public Policy. But, I guess if your book was written by and Oak Parker, it must be more true, right? Or was the author perhaps a member of the Teachers' Union?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 4:45 PM

Pay for performance is a bad idea. It destroys the concept of teamwork. An Oak Park resident wrote the book on the subject.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 4:28 PM

@OP from OP. Does anything in life send a "clear message"? I believe that the D97 Bd is composed of 7 good people, but that their membership is skewed to reflect their personal biases. Can I guess that 6 of them originated from school PTO's? The 7th is the recent teacher union president. This, IMO, is a formula for status quo "group think" and the results led to over-spending - "for the children." Today? A ref in these hard times has brought oversight.A "no" vote says to D97 - "reform, please."

OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 2:31 PM

I guess that is my frustration as well with saying a "NO" sends a clear message. I totally agree with some of the NO arguments. I think performance based pay and an end to tenure or at least reforming it, are all good things. Totally for it. I just don't see how a NO vote gets us any closer to that. We have the same board. I would much rather be picking from a bunch of board candidates with ideas. Instead, uncontested again. Maybe Noel's group will put some energy into candidates after April5

OP Resident  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 2:17 PM

As for the value of a "protest vote," I and others made a protest vote against the trapani- era VMA and we ended up with Mr. Baker and the whole ($7 million?) Colt debacle. In OP, an ill-informed protest vote can have lasting, bad consequences. Regardless of how you vote, I recommend getting as much information as you can from both sides before you vote. This isn't a beauty contest.

Be nice  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:57 PM

And I agree wholeheartedly, I can't wait until this is over. So we agree on something!

Be nice  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:55 PM

I was trying to be nice, what the heck, don't hate me for that. It's just that if, as you say, you don't know much about the referendum, I recommend you look a wee bit further than a purposely deceptive flyer drafted by out-of-towners/teapartiers. As for Dr, Collins' salary and that of our current supt, I guess that is the going rate for superintendents. I'd like to find one for $20k, but with the size or our district and the complexities in running a large public school system, that's unlikely

What the Heck - Still Voting No  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:48 PM

I guess I can see why people have warned me to stay away from these comments section. blasted by both sides. JMG, i agree, money spent is money spent. what a waste. either way, cant wait until this is over. after spending time here, you can see people are nasty about this referendum.

Be nice  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:42 PM

@jmg, ha, I was thinking the same thing! And yet, no. I wish I were that crafty. I believe heck no is sincere.


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:34 PM

Be nice and heck no, do you use Different keyboards? Setting them up and hitting them out, that's truth. Re Dr. Collins that is less than 10 months ago and valid. That is money we spent, same board too.

Be nice  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 11:53 AM

@Noel, at the last board meeting, there was a very detailed discussion of the MAPS testing, its relevance in assessing and challenging students and also in using it to assess teachers.

another op parent  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 11:50 AM

If you vote yes based purely on the emotional "it's for the children" and "save the arts" rhetoric (not to mention their complete lack of ability to address the tough issues that face the district) then you too are an idiot.

Be nice  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 11:48 AM

@What the heck, Constance Collins is the Former superintendent of district 97. There are several former staffers on that list, plus the head of curriculum and finance director. Funny how the No people didn't specify that, and how they don't trust you with the truth. If that is the flyer I am thinking about, they also think River Forest is part of D97, and in case you were wondering, it isn't.

op parent  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 11:44 AM

If you vote no based purely on the disinformation the No people are putting in a flyer, you are an idiot.

What the Heck - Voting No  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 11:30 AM

Are you kidding me? I had a flyer left on my car window in downtown Oak Park by the RefNO people. I haven't been following this ref all that closely but was shocked to find out that d97 is planning a $5M landscaping project at one of the schools? That is crazy. Are they going to gold plate the trees? Also, why is someone named Constance Collins being paid $236K a year? What does she do, it just says administration on the handout? WASTE OF MONEY!!!

Arc Light  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 10:18 AM

Noel - The $13,000 is a lowball amount - Here is the REAL numbers - Add "Pension Cost, Pension bond interest cost, State and regional costs and other expenditures, it is $16,000 in real costs average statewide. But in Oak Park, we are far from average: I lay dollar to donuts that we are close to $21,000 to $22,000 per pupil here....

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 7:46 AM

This is an excellent summary and I absolutely agree with it. Unfortunately, voter apathy tends to be high and election turnout low in these off-year elections. Those who aren't paying attention may not notice the implications of this election until they get their property tax bill. Far too late. Those with children in Dist 97 may be the most motivated to vote and vote yes. They are stuck, given the OP housing market and the financial costs of trying to sell and move out to a better district

OP rez  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 7:44 AM

@unbelievable - those teachers won't quit if given a 2-5% salary decrease. This is a cush job. I know, I did it with far less resources than D97 would have with the proposed cuts.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 5:20 AM

@EJackson: Thanks for providing the links. While there is good and even exciting information there, I see Supt. Roberts' vision, some evaluative measures that are encouraging, and an analysis of why the Ref is needed. What's still missing is an actual plan or sustainable model of excellence for OP schools that has measurable goals/outcomes, and addresses the underlying structural budget challenges. So, anyone who votes yes should be prepared to do this all again in a few short years. Sad.

Can't Do it  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:49 AM

Noel, MAP testing is a tool for teachers not a "true" assessment test. U can contact the district's person and she can explain it to you.


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:40 AM

Yeah, some districts have. Knowing how u twist #s I would have to really look at the percentage. Where did u get it. D200 is one of the schools that made it. We know they have surplus, a large surplus. Are you going to demand they give back some of that money? It is the natural next step in activism.


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:35 AM

Noel, using your need for "data based" analysis, the District's test scores have IMPROVED by 14 points since 2002. Now, can we say they used the money to improve test scores?


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:32 AM

Okay, let's take away 2-5% from teachers. They will quit. Bring in newer, unproven, cheaper teachers and we'll have more money but who knows what else.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 1:08 AM

You can spin it any way you want. The state has objective standards, D97 is well aware of it, yet they consistently CHOSE not to meet those basic standards (clearly 70% of other schools districts were able to do that). Mismanagement is not using resources to the highest & best use. D97 can't manage comp costs. It can't have EAV envy of other districts & pay teachers those salaries. It needs to spend within its means, especially now that the good times are over.


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:59 AM

Seeing how the article mention's the State board, here's the scoring, Here's the list of all districts District 97 is just a few points short of the highest grade. It's like we got A- not a F as the article would have one believe. Even if you keep saying it, doesn't make it so. The district has not mismanaged everything.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:52 AM

D97 has been spending $ on unsustainable comp practices. Dist tax levies have inc 50% over the last 10 yrs, twice the rate of CPI. There was more than enough $. The Dist chose to spend it on tenure based pay instead of demanding performance based pay. D97 knows its cash flow cycles like the other 70% of the dist who passed the fiscal review. They were able to cut costs & keep costs in line. D97 is no different. It consistently made poor fiscal decisions, stemming from pay practices.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:47 AM

@Erin Jackson, why isn't D97 using MAP scores as part of teacher eval? School MAP scores for principal eval? District MAP scores to superintendent eval? A vote NO will force D97 to reduce comp exp & tie increases in salaries to measurable & verifiable gains in teaching effectiveness & learning outcomes (MAP scores should be one component). Higher taxes are not needed to implement a rational comp system based on performance outcomes. It will only continue the current tenure based comp sys.


Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:46 AM

Seems to me, Noel made the argument for a YES vote. If the district has been on Illinois watch list for ten years, then for ten years they haven't had enough money to "properly" fund operations, but have made it work. Now, they are saying we can't make it work anymore, we need this referendum. And if you look at the list, there are a lot of schools on this watch list, which is probably because state hasn't paid it's bills. Not because the district has mismanaged anything. VOTE YES!

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:33 AM

A vote NO is a credible way to force changes at D97. A tax increase will only continue past practices. Taxpayers have endured too many promises from the board. A sustained reduction of costs through comp reductions is the first step. Spending constraints will allow D97 to implement end-to-end transformation of multiple edu processes, change D97's staid culture, develop 21 st century staff skills, & implement better perf mgmt. This can lead to a balanced budget, inc in learning outcomes.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 12:21 AM

@Erin Jackson. 4 D97 schools FAILED AYP & teachers still received raises. D97 does not use MAP to create individualized learning plans. Teachers don't use it to create differentiated learning plans for students. Both my daughters have taken MAP tests & I have asked their teachers how they use the MAP scores. D97 is using MAP primarily to inc ISAT scores. Higher taxes are not needed to implement a continuous learner centric assessment systems. We need to reallocate current resources.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 7:19 PM

@M.Thieg. Very funny. Very, very funny.


Posted: April 2nd, 2011 4:28 PM

Also, the student improvement plans presented to the Board in March are just the latest reports. These reports have been going on for several years and have highlighted the new efforts to increase achievement for all. This is not new, but people haven't paid much attention, especially if their children have been attending other schools in town. Perhaps the D97 mistake was assuming people paid attention and didn't need reminding.


Posted: April 2nd, 2011 4:24 PM

While it's nice to tout the accomplishments of Elmhurst, LaGrange 102, and Western Springs, their actual district overall ISAT passing rates are only 1-2 % higher than D97's. This is with much lower low income numbers than D97 and low income students generally require more remediation and more money spent on catching up rather than moving ahead. D97's ISAT passing rates are actually better than these other schools when data is controlled for low income impact. Quite an accomplishment!

M.Thieg from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 4:14 PM

Girls, Girls, you're BOTH pretty!

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 4:06 PM

@E Jackson: While I don't personally believe that ISATs and the like are the only measure of good schools, research clearly shows that they are the measures most tightly linked to increased property values (a promised benefit of the Ref). In addition, having several credible sources (Trib, Sun times, etc.) say D97 schools are "among the best in the state" with consistency so that we can reap community-wide benefits would be great. Today, D97 does not have even one Top 100 school in Illinois.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 4:03 PM

Pages 16 to 31 of the presentation on; the report on student achievement found on; the report about student achievement from the board meeting on March 22, which can be accessed by visiting; the report on evaluations found halfway down the page on

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:58 PM

Alan Reed, I will say to you what I said to chet21 a week or so ago on one of these forums: You are a better man than I.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:58 PM

Well, unlike many of the folks on the no side, I don't judge the quality of a school or district based on the ISAT. I don't downgrade the quality of the exemplary staff or programs at Brooks because a small percentage of students in one subgroup didn't pass one portion of the ISAT, which is why the school failed to make AYP.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:56 PM

@E Jackson: then please share these plans! By all means. I'm genuinely excited to see great detail and as soon as possible. Perhaps I'll even change my vote?

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:55 PM

Plus, what, in your opinion, would make them among the best school districts in the state? Is your entire basis ISAT results? Should D97 spend all of its time, energy and resources to ensure that more kids pass what many consider a flawed standardized test thanks to NCLB rather than focus on providing a well-rounded education?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:54 PM

@E Jackson: And, as you well know, not every school in D97 made AYP either. So are you suggesting that those schools are also "bad" and that parents should pull their children out? I think not. Thus, your point is semantic, clearly.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:52 PM

Actually, Alan, I am not angry. Frankly, I am pleased with the plan laid out by the district that includes investments in technology, foreign language, music, etc., while also focusing on the student achievement initiatives Curious mentioned below. Doesn't seem like the status quo to me.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:48 PM

@E Jackson: Actually, I'd like D97 to have a vision of living within its generous ~$80million per year budget and being one of the best school districts in the state. The Referendum asks for more budget but has no vision for any improvement ("Status Quo for More Money"). I'd support "More Money for Better Schools", but that's not what's currently proposed. Why aren't you angry about that rather than at people who are asking tough questions?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:42 PM

@E Jackson: Bottom line: both of those districts had higher overall percentages of their students pass the ISAT than D97 for less cost per student. As with all statistics, we can rip them apart. Thus, I encourage you and others to pick other districts you find relevant and compare D97 performance, which is very, very good. But other than inserting North Shore schools or those with far higher EAVs, it's difficult to see how additional funding for D97 is warranted.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:37 PM

Other than wanting D97 to aspire to be more like districts that failed to make AYP, what would you have wanted to be part of the vision?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:33 PM

@Curious: I'm glad to hear that long-term plans are in development. It's a shame that those weren't done before the Ref was asked for. If the rallying cry for the Ref had been about a real vision for "Let's make ours the best schools in the state", many others (including me) would have been beating the drum. Instead, what has been laid out is very roughly "Pay more for the status some new tech." At a current $13K per student, when more $ is asked for, better vision is required IMO.

E Jackson  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:32 PM

@Alan - D97 made AYP as a district, while both Elmhurst and LaGrange did not. Is that really what they should aspire to?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 3:21 PM

@Curious: "Less" is specifically lower district performance for more costs. Please look at "Illinois Interactive Report Card" ( and compare District 97 to similar districts in Elmhurst, La Grange, and Western Springs. All have higher overall scores, for less cost per student, and EAVs that are generally higher than D97's. This means that those coveted young families moving from the city can get a better value elsewhere...which doesn't bode well for OP longer term.


Posted: April 2nd, 2011 12:54 PM

Alan - I understand your concerns about long-term plans. Actually, the recent presentations by principals and District staff at Board meetings have laid out new initiatives dealing with student achievement and discipline. Presentations about tech improvements have also been made recently, and teachers have demonstrated how new teaching initiatives are reaching the students. So... What is the "LESS" that students are getting here compared to other districts?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 11:17 AM

Thanks. Many voting NO share the concern that this Ref fails to create a needed sustainable model of excellence for OP schools. Instead, the Ref is a permanent increase in property taxes with no credible long-term plan for addressing issues within the district that have costs rising faster than revenues. More $ now will "kick the can" further down the road, but not answer the question of why we spend more and get less than comparable districts. YES voters can expect another ref in a few years.

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