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D200's moment of truth

October 16th, 2018 3:58 PM

A 4-story physical education facility or address the achievement gap? With the eyes of America on Oak Park as the achievement gap is explored in America to Me, we are faced with a stark choice. Do we invest a significant portion of our +$100M reserves in improving educational outcomes for all OPRF students or do we build a 4-story physical education facility? 

I attended a recent Imagine OPRF Community meeting. I appreciate the work and time the Imagine team spent in developing this plan. They did a nice job talking about the "path to equity" and what role facilities play in this. Specifically, ADA accessibility in Sequence 1, elevator in Sequence 2, Student Common in Sequence 3 and Sequence 4. All seem to meet that goal of improving student outcomes and making OPRF a welcoming and supportive place for all students. 

These specific facility changes should be costed and prioritized. We also need to be clear on what are the specific measurable student outcomes supported by these facility changes. Unfortunately, the majority of the spending in the master plan is on a new 4-story physical education center. This is a "want" and is not directly linked to the core educational mission of the school. 

As America to Me has shown all of us, some of our students of color are in crisis and cannot wait. While facilities have a role to play in improving student climate, we need to balance this with additional changes (that may require funding) to close the gap now. There is not an unlimited amount of funding available from the residents of Oak Park and River Forest. Hard choices will need to be made on how we can best use our limited funds to address the achievement gap. Improving student outcomes is what should guide us on what to prioritize in the Imagine OPRF master plan. 

What do we want our legacy to be in the wake of America to Me

Lisa Reed

OPRF parent

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  • Kevin Peppard (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 21st, 2018 1:40 PM

    Christine: The Village Trustees are paid $15,000 per year, and the President $25,000. He wanted even more.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 21st, 2018 10:00 AM

    Is it possible that IMAGINE wants to float this entire program, knowing full well that the additional funds will not be available, in order to get their pool built? The pool idea as proposed was voted down. Now, propose a 500 million project building the pool first, knowing that additional funds will not be available, and walk away with the pool they wanted with a smile,, and the excuse, oh well we tried no additional funds for the rest of the project,, but the pool is built. We did the best we could.

  • Nick Polido (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 21st, 2018 9:14 AM

    To expect district 200 to be responsible with our tax dollars you only need to look at Principal Rouses rational last week to moving the Graduation to the UIC and making the absurd claim this will save tax payers $16,000. "According to Rouse, it would cost $12,500 to rent the arena from UIC, while use of UIC staff and security would cost an additional $18,890 for a total cost of $31,390. According to Rouse, OPRF currently spends about $47,670 to host graduation on campus, which means the district could see a cost savings of slightly more than $16,000 by moving the ceremony to UIC."

  • Neal Buer (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 21st, 2018 8:33 AM

    We need your help - A few years ago the voters rejected a very expensive pool plan. A few years later OPRF formed a committee to analyze the long term facility needs of the high school. This committee is called Imagine. And Imagine they did. The Imagine committee did not have costs constraints, so they came up with a 5 phase plan. The first 3 phases will cost $145 million and include tearing down a third of the structurally sound school and building a 4 story athletic complex, which includes the huge pool that was already rejected by the voters. Imagine still hasn't released cost estimates for the remaining 40% of the project. The board of education is trying to start funding this project through current reserves without voter approval. The D200 School Board will hold a Town Hall Meeting to answer questions about its Imagine Pool and Facilities Plan on Tuesday, October 30, at 7:00 pm in the south cafeteria. Please consider attending and asking the board to put this massive and expensive project to a public vote. In addition, please go online and sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/oak-park-and-river-forest-voters-assert-your-right-to-vote-on-d200-s-most-expensive-capital-works-project-ever

  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 20th, 2018 12:53 PM

    Lisa, I appreciate your letter and agree that student outcomes should drive any facility proposal. Some of the proposed improvements are "needs", while others are "wants". In Sequence 2, $66 million would be spent on demolishing and rebuilding the south east corner of the building to house a pool that's double the size of a standard size high school competition pool and an aquatic center with seating for 600 spectators. OPRF doesn't "need" this size pool and aquatic center. Despite repeated requests by the community over the past few years for the D200 Board and administration to review and update the school's outdated swimming requirement, no review or action has been taken. The self-imposed swimming requirement is being used to inflate the need for pool water. The other elements in Sequence 2 could be accommodated by renovating the existing building, but that's not true for the 17-lane pool. Based on 2014 cost estimates, it is cost prohibitive to build this pool within the existing building. In the proposed plan, D200 disingenuously says only $2.5 million is a pool cost (digging the hole, mechanicals and liner), yet in reality the entire $66 million is an associated pool construction cost as it can't be built without demolishing and rebuilding the structurally sound building. It is also a false narrative that much of the cash reserve can be used to fund any facility plan. The cash reserve is already "spoken for". It's earmarked to offset the school's deficit spending for the next five years, according to D200's Five Year Financial Projections, released in October 2017.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 20th, 2018 12:37 PM

    We are at a point where the school needs a plan to fix the current pool situation with some amount that is reasonable, lets say $5 million. Fix what is already there. If that is an impossibility, then it is time to accept that a pool is something we no longer need. Yes, no swim team. Then we use that space for something new, classrooms or whatever for helping the so called gap kids achieve more than they otherwise would. All the twisting and turning with ideas to spend a quarter of a billion so a new olympic pool can be fit into the school has got to end.

  • Lisa Saxon Reed (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 20th, 2018 11:58 AM

    Christopher Bell. I agree we should be able to improve the facilities and improve student outcomes. My concern is about making sure we prioritize the elements of the facilities improvement that will drive equity/outcomes. We do not have the funding to do it all. A 4 story Phys Ed facility is something I would not prioritize. This then allows us to have funds for additional resources to help those students who come to OPRF "behind" so we can help close the gap.

  • Christopher Bell (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 19th, 2018 7:45 AM

    As I mentioned, there is nothing new in the series for black OPRF grads. This is a force function as it now exposes the issue to entire world and hurts two critical element of OP brand - progressivism and the quality of our schools. The other issue is due to narrow narrative it almost makes OP appear hostile toward kids of color - which will no help attract middle/upper end families. The investment in pool/facilities is long overdue and we can accomplish both IF we are willing to make tough choices and have leadership to execute. IT is not either or decision ....

  • Christopher Bell (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 19th, 2018 7:07 AM

    We continue to frame this as resource issue - that is false - this is innovation/process change / culture change issue. Further, when kids show up to OPRF far behind - (either from CPS or 97), does OP have the will power to make those tough decisions/actions? Hard truth is no amount of money will likely help a child 3-4 years behind thrive ...

  • Christopher Bell (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 19th, 2018 7:02 AM

    Perhaps is counter intuitive but these are not mutually exclusive but rather related. Both relate to one of the crown jewles of Oak PArk - quality of the schools. IF we don't address either, there are real long term risks. Regarding the GAP - I attended OPRF, am Black and there is nothing new in series. OPRF needs innovation not more money - new ideas and approaches, holding parents and teachers at middle/grammar accountable.

  • Kevin Peppard from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 18th, 2018 6:31 PM

    Yes Kenn Meade, what if the gap is here to stay? We have been members of the Minority Student Achievement Network for ages. That has included elite communities such as Berkeley, Evanston, Shaker Heights Ohio, Princeton, Birmingham Michigan (where I once owned a home), and others, some of which have since dropped out. Good intentions and throwing money at things do not necessarily work.

  • Kenn Meade (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 18th, 2018 5:07 PM

    In thinking about the achievement gap,locally, it is useful to consider national trends in average test performance for students who have taken a widely recognized test, such as the SAT, for example. As indicated in the table, below, the All Student average for SAT Critical Reading hasn't changed materially in recent decades?" true as well for average scores of groups classified by race/ethnicity--except for Asian-Americans. How did they do it? Quien sabe., (It is noteworthy that Asian-American (Asians elsewhere, too) have higher SAT Math averages than all other groups). SAT Critical Reading average selected years 1987 '97 2001 '06 '11 2015 507 505 506 503 497 495 All students 524 526 529 527 528 529 White 457 451 451 454 451 448 Mex-Am 436 454 457 459 452 456 Puerto R 464 466 460 458 451 449 Oth Hisp 479 496 501 510 517 525 Asian/Pac 471 475 481 487 484 481 Amer Ind 428 434 433 434 428 431 Black SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 2. SAT mean scores of college-bound seniors, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1986-87 through 2010?"11 (Note. 2015 data source: https://www.albert.io/blog/... Local experience generally mirrors national experience. Given the effort, time and money expended during the same period, it seems reasonable to conclude that we shouldn't expect marked change in average performance in this critically important ability for any subgroup in the foreseeable future. However, hope springs eternal. But what if the achievement gap is here to stay?

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 18th, 2018 9:01 AM

    The new athletic complex will give the under performing minority graduates of the high school job opportunities in the janitorial, concession, and locker room attendant jobs. A win all around.

  • Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 18th, 2018 8:14 AM

    I couldn't agree more. It would be nice to have a new "athletic complex" and as much as extra activities play a role in increasing grades they shouldn't be the main emphasis, education should be. The Equity issue needs to be addressed NOW. This plan certainly doesnt seems to offer much for our Africa American students. We "talk the talk" but after watching "America to Me" we're not "walking the walk" and never have been. This plan needs to be put to a vote by the taxpayers not irresponsible fundng the D200 Board of Education is now talking about. We can't have another debacle like the D97 referendums turned out to be with incorrect funding numbers and incorrect remodeling costs. "Needs" are all our tax bills can handle, PERIOD.

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