Recently, countless citizens lined up at city council and board of education meetings to protest the rushed, unnecessary school closures District 112 is poised to implement through a budget deficit reduction plan called BDR3, a drastic 4-school-closure austerity measure.
Following recent board deliberations about BDR3, what is particularly troubling is the degree to which board members keep approving new BDR3 expenditures. Last spring, District 112 claimed to be in such dire financial straits that it had absolutely no other option except to shutter four schools. Now, suddenly, it has enough money for a ring road around Edgewood Middle School, for enhancing Edgewood with “middle-school philosophy” ($700,000!), for expanding Edgewood’s cafeteria, and even for considering associate principals for our new mega-elementary schools since some remaining elementary schools may become too big to be effectively managed by single principals. That’s right: now the Board is contemplating hiring more administrators even as it fires teachers. Meanwhile, the Board has not yet identified other costs that may accrue due to BDR3: rental space for administrators, maintenance costs for abandoned school buildings, and increased busing costs. What, I ask, is the grand total of these and other costs connected to implementing BDR3 and how do those creeping costs affect actual savings? Although the board’s majority seems blithely indifferent to BDR3’s mounting costs, the Board should stop moving forward with BDR3 until all implementation costs can be fully accounted for to the taxpayers who are funding them.
There are myriad other reasons for the Board to stop BDR3 now, as engaged citizens have repeatedly argued in opinion letters, public comments, private emails to elected representatives, social media postings and elsewhere. But just as the board’s majority seems indifferent to the mounting costs of its BDR3 boondoggle, so school board president Michael Cohn seems indifferent to the many people who have spoken out against BDR3 for the ill effects it will have on our children and community. He dismisses such critics as “just the vocal ones” from mere “pockets” of the whole district. Sadly, he’s getting things wrong a second time. When people vocally protested the $198 mm referendum and the mega-middle school, their voices were dismissed and ignored by Cohn and his colleagues. As it turned out, those outspoken voices reflected 68 percent of the electorate and majorities in every precinct. Now, Cohn and the board majority (Ross, Mordini, and Denham) are making the same mistake: hearing but not genuinely listening because what they hear is not what they want to do.
The Board’s majority has broken faith with our community, claiming financial crisis when faced with funding things the community values but they don’t, and magically finding funds when needed to support what board members value. That is not the way good representative democracy should work. Therefore, I urge district residents to call for the resignations of all board and administrative members who continue to promote BDR3. Those who persist in promoting that plan are out of touch with the community and damaging its future.
Highland Park Resident
Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of Daily North Shore. We encourage readers to post Letters to the Editor– please use this link to do so.