RB forum article didn’t tell whole story
I appreciated Bob Skolnik’s article about the recent renovation meeting at Riverside Brookfield High School on Feb. 2, 2006 (“Some wary of RBHS renovation cost, News, Feb 8). He fully explained our needs, and presented the district’s proposal quite accurately.

But he did not truly represent the mood of the evening. He failed to mention the dozens of positive comments, the smiles of the people examining the architect’s drawings and the loud ovations in support of the proposals Mr. Baldermann presented.

He did not write about the support of Dr. Stuart Strahl, director of Brookfield Zoo, who believes in a strong, long-term partnership between the zoo and our high school. He also left out the support of Anthony Peraica, Cook County commissioner, who reassured the audience about our athletic fields, green space and parking lot.

An overwhelming majority of the audience left that night in complete support of the renovations, and many volunteered to help our cause.

As the Science Department chair at Riverside-Brookfield High School, I can assure you our needs are real. Students learn science by doing science. The current facility no longer allows our students that opportunity.

We have only five science lab rooms, and more than half of our science classes meet in rooms without any lab facilities, like running water. These students are denied the chance to study science as they should, through inquiry learning in a lab setting. The configuration of a school building should never get in the way of student success.

When the building held 2,000 students, one year of science was required to graduate. Only 30 percent of the student body took four years of science, and many only took one class. We now require all students to take three years of science, and 70 percent of our students take four years of science.

Next year, RB will have 150 students enrolled in college-level AP science courses. Six years ago we had 35 students enrolled in AP courses. Because of these curricular changes, we offer more science classes than at any time in RB’s history. We have outgrown the science wing.

Riverside-Brookfield High School links our communities together, and has provided wonderful educational opportunities for generations of our young people. I am honored to be a part of this renovation process, and I am confident we will build an excellent school that will be a source of pride in our community for decades.

Troy Gobble
North Riverside.

Henninger’s missed by former patron
I was just reading about Henninger’s being demolished (“When Henninger’s was more than a drug store,” JoAnne Kosey, Jan. 25). It is such a shame. I remember when it was right next to the railroad tracks and had a soda fountain and all that dark wood.

Then Reed Henninger built the new store, all modern and no soda fountain. It will be missed by this former customer and neighbor (I used to live right across the street from the Henningers).

Jessie Lewis
Las Vegas, Nev.

RB asking for more than it needs
My wife and I have a simple litmus test for any tax issues: Is it reasonable and proper for taxpayers to assume the burden for that specific tax increase?

Regarding the D-95 referendum, failure to pass this referendum would have tangible effects on

education: Loss of jobs, loss of programs, increase in class size. Is it reasonable and proper for Brookfield taxpayers to pay more to protect the educational quality and experience at these schools?

Absolutely. We will vote yes.

The Riverside-Brookfield High School referendum is thornier, and after attending a public meeting on Feb. 2, some things have been clarified. We are grateful for all involved in holding that meeting.

The RB physical plant requires significant upgrades. Illinois mandates require this. This is a significant need. Would this be reasonable and proper for taxpayers to fund? Yes. More classrooms and science labs. Reasonable and proper? Yes.

If the referendum solely funded these needs, we would gladly vote yes.

However, we cannot vote yes, as the referendum includes funding for a parking deck, a third gym with an elevated, indoor running track and a pool with movable bulkheads. This is excessive and does not represent a proper and reasonable expense for taxpayers to bear. We classify these as want areas, not need areas.

At the Feb. 2 meeting, logical and tangible reasons for the infrastructure and classroom space were enumerated, understood and well-received.

As for the “want areas,” the reasons were cloudier. We heard tales of woe about middle school teams, lack of space for Pilates classes and athletes not returning home until after 8 p.m. We heard baseless platitudes about how extra gym space will prevent kids from becoming career criminals. We heard impassioned speeches that served only to arouse guilt in those who dared to have doubts about these “want areas.”

We have no doubts that these extra spaces will be used, and they certainly looked fantastic. That is not the issue. The issue is should the already heavily burdened taxpayers pay for such luxuries. The answer is no.

We absolutely understand the importance of educating the body as well as the mind, and we support this. We just can’t justify the extra expense.

A gentleman at the meeting decried the “all-or-nothing” nature of this referendum and was roundly derided. One woman had the pomposity to basically say that anyone who had not attended previous meetings missed out on the chance of throwing in their two cents on the issues, and they were too late with their opinions now.

We were also surprised at the cavalier attitude with which it was said that these “want areas” account for only a fraction of the total cost.

That fraction is still millions of dollars, and taxpayers should be shown more consideration. It’s almost as if proponents know these areas are excessive, but by tacking it on with needed, costlier improvements, it would make it easier to swallow. Those who disagreed could then be subjected to a heavy dose of guilt.

We care about RB. We care about its students. But it is with a heavy heart that we will vote no for this referendum.

While infrastructure and classroom needs are proper and reasonable expenses for taxpayers, it takes great hubris to deem these “want areas” as proper and reasonable.

Matthew Corradino

RB renovation will be money well spent
I started at Riverside-Brookfield High School when the new wing was being built, and graduated in 1956. It was a wonderful facility then, and we were very proud of it. In the 1970s, I founded an international music program for high school students, which took me to literally hundreds of high schools all across the country and abroad.

I can’t remember seeing one that was kept up any better that RB, and every time I enter the school to attend a game or for some other purpose, I always try to tell someone on the maintenance staff what a fine job they are doing. But maintenance isn’t enough.

In the year-and-a-half since I’ve been back, I’ve spoken to many young people and read all I could find about RB. The results being achieved here by Jack Baldermann, his administrative and teaching staff, the board and the students are not an accident. We all have something to be proud of here and we should take the steps to keep it going in the right direction.

This year, my class will celebrate our 50th reunion. Many of the homes in Riverside and Brookfield are occupied by people around my age who don’t have sons or daughters in school anymore, and are sometimes inclined to vote against bond issues like this one, because they think it won’t do anything directly for them. That is a great mistake.

Renewing RB, bringing the physical plant in line with what is needed, is the best investment in our community that any of us can make. It’s a competitive world out there, and quality schools are necessary to produce a quality education.

Families search communities with fine schools and property values are directly affected by the performance and ratings of their school system. This small additional tax burden will be money well spent and return huge dividends in the future. I urge all my fellow voters to support the bond referendum for RB.

Donald Spatny

D95 can’t tighten belt any further
In regard to Gregory Gates’ letter to the editor, “D95 should tighten belt, not ask for more,” (Feb. 8), I strongly disagree with his opinion on both the costs and needs of education.

His premise is that the need to fund our schools should be equated with a utility company negotiating a price increase. Our schools are absolutely underfunded. We have not had a rate increase in over 20 years.

Can you imagine trying to raise your family without a salary increase in 20 years? Mr. Gates indicated his net income keeps decreasing because his costs are increasing. Can you imagine what our schools are dealing with after 20 years of this? We cannot tighten our belts anymore.

Without the necessary increases in revenue, we will have to cut 12 teachers, resulting in large class sizes, all special programs such as physical education, music and art, as well as all extracurricular and sports programs.

Mr. Gates indicated that in 2008, there would be a surplus of 1.2 million. If the referendum is successful, we won’t even be getting out of deficit spending until 2008. He said we were wasting money by not repairing the boiler and the stage curtain at S.E. Gross.

I think he proves the point precisely that we don’t even have the funds for necessary facility repairs, let alone core education needs such as teacher salaries. Also, it’s important to understand that when you are dealing with a 100-year-old building, repairs to anything are not quick and simple.

In order to renovate the consumer science room, costs did increase because of extensive electrical and other system updates. It’s the same for the boiler and the stage curtain. In an older building, for even minimal repairs, we have to deal with old wiring, asbestos issues and other related and expensive costs. So, yes, Mr. Gates we definitely want and need these repairs, but we need the revenue to be able to make them.

I also disagree with Mr. Gates’ opinion in regard to quality issues of education. Mr. Gates said, “2 plus 2 still equals four, no matter how many children are in the room.”

I defer to all the teachers out there to let us know the difference in learning when you are teaching a class with 20 students versus 30. Also, my children have benefited greatly at both the elementary school and middle school in foreign language, band and all the “extra” programs that Mr. Gates thinks our children can learn better on the street.

In regard to his objection to all-day kindergarten, it should be noted that the parents of our community requested all-day kindergarten in a strategic planning survey conducted a couple of years ago. Unlike 40 years ago when some of us were children, most children today participate in preschool prior to kindergarten. That time in preschool is their “transition period.” Many are not only ready, but eager for all-day kindergarten.

Finally, I think it’s important for all of us to attend the board meetings and referendum meetings so that we have all the information we need to understand how important this request for education funding is to our community.

As the wife of a board member, I know how many countless hours the board and citizens referendum committee members have spent attending community meetings, conducting research and doing everything possible to make sure that our schools are the best they can be while using sound financial judgment and prudence.

Please, our schools and our community need your support with this referendum.

Pam Powers

D95 has earned communities’ support
I’m writing to both compliment District 95 and support the upcoming referendum. As we all know an increase in property tax does not translate to an increase in the amount of dollars sent to our local schools.

Due to legislation, schools that want an increase in funding have to either get bonds or ask the taxpayers in the district for an increase through a referendum. Bonds can be effective in the short term, but like a credit card they must be paid back with interest.

In the long term, the interest can add up to several hundred thousands of dollars that never went to help improve/maintain our schools.

I would like to compliment the fiscal responsibility of District 95. They have not asked for a single penny via referendum in over 20 years. Neither I nor anyone else could run a household on the income I made 20 years ago.

No business could operate on the capital they earned 20 years ago to cover the expenses of today. Many school districts ask for referendums about every five to seven years to meet the increasing costs of running a school.

District 95 has had to deal with meeting state and federal requirements to remove asbestos, upgrade worn out equipment, keep up with technology to prepare our children for a high-tech future, deal with an influx of non-English speaking students, train staff, deal with sky-rocketing energy costs and meet new federal and state guidelines brought about by the No Child Left Behind Act.

All of these requirements are not extras, but either mandates of the government or the result of a changing global economy. Even with this enormous stress upon this system, the teachers and administrators have continued to produce top-notch students who are meeting, and in most cases exceeding, federal guidelines used to measure student success.

RB High School is one of the very few schools to meet the No Child Left Behind act. One of the main reasons they have is because of the excellent job the elementary schools have done preparing students for high school.

The teachers have done this while being paid some of the lowest salaries in the area. Many of the teachers volunteer countless hours before and after school to tutor and coach our children. During the summer a soccer camp is held. The coaches volunteer to set up fields and train over 50 boys and girls for no cost.

The after school events keep our children in a safe environment full of positive role models while eliminating the chance they may fall prey to a dangerous world. I pray that none of these fine educators tries to figure out what they make an hour for I fear they may walk off the job.

I talk to people almost daily about the town I live in. They all want to know how much homes cost in the hopes of being able to move into District 95 so their children can attend one of the finest school systems in the state. This is probably one of the top reasons our homes have the value they do. For me, it’s the main reason I’ve been here 15 years.

In short, District 95 has not put together a wish list. They are asking for what they have earned: the bare minimum to continue to uphold the fine tradition of producing excellent citizens for our future. I hope you will join me by voting yes in the upcoming election.

Tom Tarrant

Support both D95 and RBHS referendums
My child graduated from Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 and is currently at Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208. I have watched District 95 over the last decade. My wish is that my child had the opportunity to participate in the curriculum and programs now in place in District 95.

District 95 has never been satisfied with the status quo. District 95 has continued to challenge students, offer new educational opportunities and provide after school activities to further help students.

Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 has an excellent curriculum and is rated highly among other high schools. District 208’s success is based on an excellent staff and programs but also on the foundation students received from the feeder schools.

You can’t compare educational costs to your utility bills. Schools are supposed to be funded by our state. For many years the state has not funded education to the level needed. This puts the burden on the community to decide if they want their children to have a good education or to just meet the basic minimums. It has been over 20 years since District 95 went to the community to help fund our schools.

District 95 completed a facilities study. District 95 has older buildings. To fix one problem (like a boiler) but not address the entire ventilation system may correct a problem short term but may involve additional expenses long term. The purpose of the study was to identify all areas that need attention. This will allow the board to address building issues in the most cost-effective process.

Gross School rehabbed a consumer science classroom. It appears costly on paper, but if you look at the project, there were other issues involved such as electrical upgrades to the building and an abatement process.

Colleges today are raising the bar on entry requirements. Foreign language is essential for a student to do well in high school and college. Music develops an appreciation of the fine arts and helps instill a discipline in the child to learn and participate as part of a team.

If you want to see if District 95 is effective, look at the results at RB High School. …

Do we want our children to succeed? Do we want our children to have the education needed to meet the requirements of high school and college? Do we want to see our children excel or do we want to only provide the minimum requirements? People choose communities on the basis of the school system. Let’s keep our community a great place to live. Please support the District 95 and District 208 referendums.

Jerry Werner
? Jerry Werner is a former District 95 board member.

Supporting D95 means adequate education funding
I agree with Mr. Gates (“D95 should tighten belt, not ask for more,” Letters, Feb. 8)that School District 95 can spend its money better. The Board of Education has avoided asking for an unpopular property tax increase for 20 years by instead borrowing money to cover the shortfall in the education fund. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but there’s a price to pay, above and beyond the interest on the bonds.

The current financial crisis is not a new development. The school district pays the same escalating bills that Mr. Gates does, only on a much larger scale. State funding for schools is inadequate, leaving property taxpayers to foot the majority of the bill. The state-imposed tax caps limit new revenue from property tax, restricting the largest source of school funding.

District 95’s referendum is for the education fund, which has been deficient for a decade. This money cannot be spent on the facilities, only on direct instructional expenses like teachers, textbooks and technology. Education must be a priority before buildings, but they need attention too.

I agree that the heating systems at both schools need repair. The auditorium at S.E. Gross has water damage, and the beams that held the lighting and stage curtains are structurally unsound. The auditorium repairs were put out to bid and the lowest bid was over $200,000. The district cannot afford major repairs like these when the financial reserves are subsidizing the education fund.

District 95’s belt has been tight for so long, that both buildings have been neglected. Only minor improvements have been made to the curriculum, some necessary to meet state and federal requirements. District 95’s instructional spending per student is $4,642, $574 less than the state average. This district has made the most of the little money it has, but it is simply not enough.

Cutting the “extras” doesn’t save much money, since our kids do pay fees to participate. The district has relied increasingly on the generosity of the parent teacher organizations, which have moved far beyond sponsoring ice cream day and holiday parties.

The S.E. Gross PTO and Brook Park Council spend thousands of dollars each year purchasing items that should be paid for from the education fund. Parent volunteers spend countless hours helping teachers, taking the place of paid classroom aides. Our teachers held a fashion show fundraiser in the fall that raised almost $20,000 for 24 new computers. While everyone involved is happy to help a worthy cause such as education, you have to draw the line when the district can’t meet its basic financial obligations.

Just 4 percent of District 95’s money goes to total administrative costs, and some of these expenses are mandated by state law. Like it or not, someone has to be in charge of the schools. We actually have fewer administrators than the surrounding districts.

Three-quarters of the budget goes to teaching kids, which is as it should be since the district’s mission is “to provide optimal educational opportunities for all our children.” This referendum directly supports that objective.

Voting “no” won’t solve the district’s financial problems?”it will continue them and result in a sub-standard education for our children. Each year that passes, it only gets more expensive to fix the facilities. It’s ludicrous to cut programs one year and put them back the next, as has happened in the past. We need to protect the investments in education that have already been made over the years.

There is a reason why it says “opinion” at the top of these pages. I formed my opinion by witnessing first hand the challenges our teachers face, attending a year’s worth of school board meetings, and all three facilities forums in the fall. There are two remaining community referendum meetings: Monday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Brook Park School and Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at S.E. Gross School. Take advantage of the opportunity to get the facts and form your own opinion.

Unlike Mr. Gates, I have two young children in the schools. I agree with him that fiscal responsibility is important, but it must be balanced with the needs of our children. We need adequate funding for education and facilities that will serve the community for many years to come. The practical solution to both concerns is to vote “yes” for the District 95 referendum.

Kristine Gauger
? Kristine Gauger is chairperson for the Citizens for District 95 referendum committee.