HIGHLAND PARK – CARE (Citizens Actively Renewing Education) is planning to endorse North Shore School District 112 candidates most aligned with its platform.
“CARE is not fielding its own candidates, but we certainly hope to find candidates to support through a CARE endorsement process,” said Jeff Hamburg, CARE spokesperson. “As soon as the referendum failed, we were asked by our supporters to help identify candidates that we think can lead North Shore School District (NSSD) 112 toward positive change. Accordingly, we have invited every candidate scheduled to appear at the 112 Caucus to participate in our endorsement process, and as far as we know, most candidates will present their views to both groups.”
In an earlier DailyNorthShore.com article, Caucus publicity chair Mandy Castle announced the seven candidates seeking Caucus endorsement for the NSSD 112 Board of Education (BOE). The candidates include: Alexander Brunk, Julie Campbell, Lisa Hirsh, Dan Jenks, Art Kessler, Jane Solmor-Mordini and Brent Ross.
“Since both forums have invited the same set of candidates, it is entirely possible that CARE’s slate will resemble or even match the NSSD 112 Caucus slate, though we imagine our questions will differ from those of the 112 Caucus,” said Hamburg. “Why? We represent a specific position on BDR3 and reconfiguration that informs our positions, and we want to let voters know which candidates most closely align with that perspective.”
Hamburg explained that CARE wants to help elect board members who understand the district’s financial situation, the necessity of consolidation, and the best way to engage the community in a successful referendum. “Real community engagement, following the lead of the Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team, can help us solve this problem,” he said. “This engagement needs to listen to what voters want while explaining to them the real opportunities and constraints. We know that this can lead to the best plan for all of us. We know that the Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team is developing a set of options, and we seek a board that will support that work.”
On Sunday, December 4, a Highland Park family is hosting an invitation-only open house to allow school board candidates to share their views with guests.The event is being hosted by Steve and Sarah Ludington, but Hamburg said this is not a CARE event. Weeks ago the Ludingtons approached CARE about having an open house and they decided to use this opportunity to introduce the candidates to their supporters who were particularly concerned about BDR3.
The Ludingtons are also concerned about BDR3. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Sarah Ludington, the parent of a special education student at Elm Place Middle School, is seeking an injunction to prevent school officials from carrying out a ‘budget deficit reduction’ plan that the suit alleges misrepresented the district’s finances. The suit contends the school closing plan was an attempt to ‘coerce’ an affirmative vote on the March referendum, or a future referendum to construct a middle school campus to relieve the overcrowding caused by school closings.”
Her daughter would be going from Elm Place Middle School with 345 students to Edgewood Middle School, which would expand to 850 students, as indicated in the Preliminary Injunction filed November 18.
The Chicago Tribune also cited, “The suit is asking the court to bar the school district from implementing the school closing plan and laying off an estimated 74 teachers. The school district says it’s too early to know the exact number of teachers affected.”
Board President Michael Cohn addressed these issues at a November BOE meeting: “The longer-term financial health of the district has improved, but not because the district lied to the public,” he said. “The district has made proactive changes in streamlined areas that have reduced costs as it should, but these cost savings are not enough.”
Cohn said the district’s budget and assumptions change all of the time and that’s why it’s so difficult to use a long-term model to predict the future. The model does show the district dropping below its 25 percent reserve fund balance in the 2018/19 school year due to the district’s current deficit spending.
“It’s most important to be cognizant of crossing this 25 percent line and the 2.0 Finance Committee agrees,” Cohn told DailyNorth Shore.com after the meeting.