Surprise Monday Board Meeting on Fifth Ward School
A chance to have your voice heard...
On Friday at 4:07 PM, the District 65 Superintendent announced a special board meeting for the following Monday at 5:00PM. The announcement is below.
Dear District 65 Community -
As we head into the weekend, I wanted to ensure our community is aware that a Special Board Meeting has been called for Monday, October 16, 2023. This meeting will follow the scheduled Personnel, Buildings and Grounds, and Finance Committee Meeting.
Recently there have been conversations in the community about our new school in the 5th Ward and the status of our student assignment planning process overall. It is important to both the Board and to this administration that we engage in a public discussion about this important project in a spirit of transparency and collaboration.
The Special Board Meeting will be held in-person and will begin at 5pm in the BoardRoom of the Joseph E. Hill Education Center (1500 McDaniel Avenue, Evanston). We encourage our community to tune into the livestream which will be available on the District 65 website. The recording of the meeting will also be posted within 24 hours.
We appreciate the continued support and engagement of our community and wish you a restful weekend.
Dr. Angel Turner (she/her)
I should be in attendance at this meeting, as will a fair number of folks I know who are engaged in the process.
I’ve written extensively about the school, you can read my reporting at the links below:
Fifth Ward School Finances Don't Add Up (June 21)
Here’s what I believe are the challenges the District faces, many of these problems are the direct result of decisions made by the Board of Education and former Superintendent Horton:
The District took out a lease certificate for $38,315,000 based on the fact they claimed they would save $3,000,000 per year in transportation costs.
It’s debateable whether using a lease certificate in this manner is even permissible under IL Law 105 ILCS 5/10-22.36.
In Wheaton a taxpayer sued the District under this clause and the District settled and held a referendum.
The District 65 lease certificate at $38,315,000 is 46.15% larger than the next largest lease certificate I could find ($26m) and is quite expensive.
It will cost more than $18.5m in interest over the life of the loan ($3.25m year x 18 years - $40m)
The lease certificate funds were deposited in May 2022. It is October 2023, 17 months later and we have nothing to show for this.
Skokie, for instance, took out a lease certificate for Lincoln Junior High and 22 months later had a new school.
The Board still has not indicated whether this will be a K-5 school, a K-8 school, and the situation with Bessie Rhodes seems in flux.
The Board and Administration made a lot of promises, including a “Magnet School within a School” - You can even read Khelghati’s letter to the ISBE that mentions this promise.
It’s uncertain whether they have enough funds to build the large K-8 facility they have in mind; construction costs and budget situations have changed since May 2022.
The recently completed Lincoln Junior High School in Skokie cost $44,000,000.
They may be able to dip into the 2017 reserve funds for this but that touches upon the earlier point about whether another referendum is required if they do so.
The main D65 proponents of the school that pushed it through have bounced: Dr. Horton (Superintendent), Mr. Obafemi (CFO), Mr. Khelghati (Director of HR), and Ms. Tanyavutti (Board President in 2022)
Most of the current board was there in 2022, except the two recently elected members, Ms. Wilkins and Mr. Salem
This school was widely cited on Dr. Horton’s Job Application in Dekalb as a major win.
If you care about this project, Monday is your chance to have your voice heard.
The Special Board Meeting will be held in-person and will begin at 5pm in the BoardRoom of the Joseph E. Hill Education Center (1500 McDaniel Avenue, Evanston).