Please read before you post in the comments; also I argue for why closing other schools is an easy way out
It is obvious that this BOE lacks the professionalism and humility to acknowledge that they own this--for not doing their due diligence, not asking questions, not seeking updates and details instead of blindly following their leader/their anointed one. Some in this town still blindly trust them --bc they lead with equity in mind and nothing else. Others, not so much. I’m not sure where we go from here. All I know is that I don’t trust them to make a bowl of ramen noodles at this point --so expect a new building that will be built but not necessarily set up to succeed. Also expect multiple schools to close (easy choice yes but we have the BOE that we have), extremely austere times ahead for the district, continues academic decline, a horrible contract negotiation with teachers, and a likely ask of the public to fund over $200M in expenses to fix existing structures. Ugh.
I’m a strong believer in the value of local schools that are within walking distance, even though I also agree with Tom Hayden’s diagnosis of the corruption involved in this particular project. Some money apparently has been lost, but we should build a needed local school in the fifth Ward without bankrupting D65 if we can.
I’ve worked on prepayment of several types of bonds including tax exempt municipals. There are always ways to prepay with costs. You’d have to approach the note holders (I am sure the district knows who holds them) and offer them something to compensate them for the lost interest. It would be messy and a shitshow just like the district! I think the District should be sued for doing this without a referendum. They clearly have been flaunting that they avoided one (hey Sergio - looking at you) as well as last night’s proclamation that the building of the school is “educational reparations” - again, illegal. The board views themselves as decision makers - not the voters and taxpayers - and they are willing to go as far as to use taxpayer money to redistribute educational opportunities based on race. Now one can be for that and that’s fine but it’s not lawful and should then be a private school. It’s also a slippery slope. Reparations for this school - what’s next? Last - there are studies that show busing has zero impact on academic success. It’s a weak argument for blowing up a school district budget.
Yet interesting that the “Project” as defined in the document for the lease certificate that you linked to specifically seems to talk about building and equipping a new K-8 school (as opposed to a K-5 one that they seem to want to build now).
Karl, totally with you on not wanting to see our taxes go up substantially (again), but wouldn't you attribute that more to macro conditions like avg sale prices vs. questionable fiscal management by D65? Would seem to me to be more driven by the former than the latter...
Not a 5th Ward resident here but I feel like a new school can still be a W in a number of ways, particularly to give a school that's truly WITHIN a community that overall has been neglected and mistreated for decades. Perfect is the enemy of good.
The board truly talks out of both sides of their mouth. The 5th Ward school will be more segregated by race. However, when they took away accelerated math it was because the classes weren't diverse enough. So which is it? Diversity helps the underperforming kids or harms them? How will all of the upcoming cuts to the operating budget help children? All of the mismanagement will not close the achievement gap but only widen it. Also, the hypocrisy of Sergio Hernandez is beyond. During the election all he talked about was affordable housing. How is this making Evanston any more affordable?
I was so disgusted by the lack of acknowledgement by the board last night. Just chatting away like business as usual, even laughing during their discussion. It makes me sick. Where is the apology? Where is the comment saying, we are sorry but we should have dug deeper. I see the Roundtable reached out to Horton and Obefami and they declined to comment. I wonder if this will affect their current jobs. I hope so. No other community should have to suffer like this. What's even more disgusting is we seem to be stuck with all of it.
This is not a win for anyone. Being saddled with debt for decades, creating a segregated school full of underperforming students, all in the name of equity? Has this city lost its mind? Anyone who thinks this Board would sue and therefore admit anything here is amiss…ain’t going to happen. This is disgusting. Just disgusting. Every Board member should resign and new elections held. Slash and burn at JEH. Keep Turner for the long-term interim (no perk package, keep her at current salary and no contract) only because the search is expensive. Public apologies are needed. But to say the Board was lied to, poor them, how could they know, is disingenuous. They have all the access to all the financials. If they didn’t bother or simply don’t know how to read a P/L statement, well that’s their fault. It is their job and they failed. Maybe don’t apply for a job you aren’t qualified to hold. In all of this moving forward, the Board is ultimately and completely responsible for this mess. They hired that con man Horton and kicked his boots. They failed to ask questions or do the research. What incompetent boobs. Their hubris is even worse. If they were remotely contrite, maybe people wouldn’t think they were garbage. But they aren’t. This is all their fault. Even if moronic voters elected them in.
When you say we currently have the money to pay for the smaller building are you adding in additional dollars? It appears we are $10M short of the expected cost even with the lease certs…this is based on a current $45M budget which I am rounding up to $48M for inflation bc we know this contract is not ready to sign).
Tom, thank you for all the work you put in to present information to either amplify local publications' coverage of these issues and add context or to provide deeper analysis these pubs may be lacking.
Apologies if this is already somewhere within these pages or elsewhere, but has there been any concrete analysis of what % of school-age kids within the district attend our public schools? While there are some factors beyond D65's control in terms of changing demographics, I have a hard time conceding that we are completely helpless in trying to "right-size" our district in a different way.
What if we formed a strategy to be BETTER than average in terms of anticipated enrollment declines and didn't simply throw up our hands saying "welp! we've seen less people coming in over the past few years...probably going to continue." One idea, use some of the excess building capacity to make pre-K available across the district. Not only is more widely available pre-K a good thing in general for families (esp. through an equity lens), but it also would likely pull more families into the district for school-age years -- a feeder program, if you will.
Thanks for this! Some takeaways for me are:
1. Next Super will be in charge of admin costs. Will they keep status quo or cut (as they should)?
2. Apropos the bells, whistles and certificates that the Board wants to cram into the 5th Ward school, keep close look at what alternative they actually vote for.
Somewhere on FB or Roundtable
I saw mention of a possible future referendum to raise money for D65 infrastructure ... does the Board really think the voters would trust them with more $?!
Tom, Do you have any expectation that the board will conduct a transparent superintendent search?
Some of the board members like Joey and Biz *seem* to be gently tossing Horton under the bus for not informing them of the financial situation. Leaving the absurdity of that to the side, they hired Horton.
Maybe I'm naive, but if there had been a real, transparent search I don't see how Horton could have made the finalist list. Someone with zero experience in a city like Evanston who had never been a superintendent before and when you google his name the first thing that comes up is the NBC report on all them money he owes for his failed real estate deals?
Maybe they would have hired him anyway, but my first reaction upon seeing his name as the new superintendent after two minutes of googling was 'WTF?!?!'
Are they going to go the secretive route AGAIN?
The fact that they have no shame makes me think not.
I keep checking the Atlanta and Oswego press and I don't see anything about this scandal. Don't those communities deserve to know who is running their district? Also, what can we do as a community to keep this Board accountable? Speaking at board meetings and writing emails doesn't seem to move the needle at all.
I don’t know the legalities of these loans, but I strongly disagree there isn’t a better path to be found. It may include eating some subk costs and thats a shame these board members should wear like a scarlet letter.
How can Haven be walkable for 5th ward kids but Kingsley isn’t? Or Kingsley and Dewey?
I can’t fathom allowing such incompetence and/or lying to continue for another minute. They cannot and shall not be rewarded for this repugnant behavior at the expense of taxpayers. And according to them (right or wrong) at the expense of yet another school and community (or more) within Evanston.
Fun stuff from DeKalb. Nepotism hiring? Check. Board violating sunshine laws? Check.
Amazing discourse on the D65 parents Facebook page about Halloween of all things. Soo la Kim and the Facebook ‘Equity’ Warriors getting to exercise their outrage muscles while totally ignoring comments asking about the board’s governing and financial mismanagement.
Great article as usual Tom. There's a lot to unpack here. Are you related to the late Tom Hayden, California State Rep, anti-war, civil rights, and intellectual activist?