The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
This letter came to me by way of a good friend. The individual who wrote this letter has expressed their wish to remain anonymous, but wants to have this letter published. After reading the letter and much discussion we have come to the conclusion that we feel strongly that we would endorse this letter with our names. The letter states as follows:
Last week's Hancock County Journal Pilot announced the revealing of the plans for the new Illini West High School building.
Buried within the article it was also disclosed that Illini West had an operating deficit for 2011-2012 of $232,000.00.
In today's economy with deficits in education at the local level, in addition to the massive problems at the state level, it is hard to believe that Illini West continues to pursue this $9,000,000.00 building bond.
Illini West has never turned down the opportunity to raise your taxes to the fullest amount permitted by law. As per Illini West School Board President Anders "We don't want to be perceived as leaving money on the table." Any surplus Illini West may have on the books will not last long with annual deficits of almost a quarter million dollars.
Did anyone on the board or administration of Illini West stop to consider if the district to IS operate in the red, how soon it could be when they are back asking the taxpayers to approve further increase of the tax levy for the operating funds above their legal limits in addition to this proposed building bond?
Illini West claims that additional space is needed for future growth. Where is concrete data that enrollments are truly increasing?
Feeder district enrollment has declined almost every year since the convergence. The original projections for the convergence indicated declining enrollments for 10 years, then leveling off (and that didn't anticipate Methode downsizing).
Plus or minus 10-15 percent is a fluctuation, not a trend. When you are as small as Illini West, a few of extended families moving into town could account for increased enrollment in a given year.
So then, where is that going to come from? The most plausible answer is state mandated consolidation. Everyone involved in education agrees that consolidation is not over in Illinois, especially in Hancock County. Should the state finally step in and mandate a county wide school, is it fair that the taxpayers of Carthage, Dallas City and LaHarpe shoulder all the cost for the county wide facility?
If a new Illini West is built, what guarantee is there that a county wide school will be located in Carthage? Good, solid, abandoned schools such as Industry, Rushville, and Union Douglas stand in stark evidence to buildings out lasting their perceived needs and usefulness.
If the population continues to grow in the Nauvoo, Hamilton, & Warsaw corridor, as the rest of the county population declines, a reasonable argument could be made that the consolidated school should be placed to the west so that fewer children are riding buses to and from school.
Why do they need 40 acres? When the failed consolidation with Nauvoo, Carthage, Dallas City, and LaHarpe was being proposed, the consultants indicated that 40 acres was needed to build an adequate school from scratch.
That school, to be located in the geographic center of the district, would have been 20-25% larger that Illini West. There are already adequate facilities at Illini West for parking, weight training, track and field exercise, and ball diamond.
If we are not going to duplicate the existing facilities, we simply do not need 40 acres at $20,000.00 per acre. This is the first evidence of disconnect between Illini West's Administration and Board of Education, with reality in Hancock County.
Anyone who has attended a function such as prom preview, or graduation can attest that the gymnasium facility is pretty limited and outdated. Other facilities currently exist in the supporting feeder districts with larger seating capacity, climate control, and better ingress and egress that could be utilized for "high attendance" events.
Has the Illini West Board of Education ever investigated using them? Actually working together with the feeder districts and more sharing of facilities and resources might help bring the system together instead of this perception that there's "North Board Members vs. Carthage Board Members".
Portable units are a cost effective way to house excess students. Each self contained unit has its own restrooms. Students are under better supervision. Some teachers actually prefer them as they are isolated from outside distractions, and have self contained climate control. Many schools have used them for much longer periods than Illini West. We are going to spend $9,000,000.00 of taxpayer money to save a few hundred thousand?
Everyone agrees that the current cafeteria is insufficient to meet existing needs. If Illini West continues to have their "open lunch" policy, how much will the high school students actually benefit from an expanded lunch facility?
Having children in Illini West since its inception, I can count on one hand the number of lunches that my family has consumed at Illini West.
Illini West has formed a committee to "get the word out" about the new school building program. Essentially, these folks are charged with "selling" the building proposal to the community.
Did they hold any meetings to find out how the community felt about the facilities at Illini West? Did they involve the community in determining what the needs of the district were?
Did they look at any alternatives to a new building? If they haven't made an effort to involve all the stake holder in the process, how can they prove they have made the best recommendation?
If the Board of Education had taken the time to involve all the stake holders from the inception, just how much "selling" would be required now?
The most cost effective solution is for Illini West to make do with the facilities it has. Yes, it is not ideal, but it has worked well enough for the last 5 years. Learning is still taking place; the children are graduating into college or jobs.
The facilities may be less than ideal, but people have coped. When the economy improves and any uncertainties regarding state funding and county wide consolidation are worked out, then a committee should be formed at the invitation of the Illini West Board of Education, comprising all the stake holders in the community. That committee should be charged with determining the course for the facilities of Illini West. The time is simply not right to embark on an aggressive building program.
MIKE & TINA LIONBERGER
I would like to appeal to the voter's sense of equality and fair play.
Is it fair that our children and grandchildren continue to be handicapped in the quality of their education by inadequate facilities and resources in their effort to compete in today's world?
For a few dollars each month, we can level the playing field to the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Surely, that is well worth the effort. On November 6, VOTE YES for our children's and grandchildren's success in life.
VOTE YES for the Illini West Bond Issue Referendum. Thanks,
As you know, the voters of the Illini West High School District will be asked to pass a referendum on November 6 to acquire and improve a site for a new school building.
This issue will affect everyone, not only the families enrolled in the high school district and the elementary districts, but even the business people and citizens who have no children in school.
Good schools attract new residents in a community.
Most people with families considering a move to a different town or city will ask about the quality of schools before deciding on the relocation of their family.
If our communities are to grow and prosper, we must provide the best educational opportunities possible for our children and strengthen our K-12 school system.
A new high school building will help us do just that.
Even though there will be a tax increase, the benefits will far outweigh the disadvantages.
The State of Illinois will pay approximately 68% of the cost of the project.
Our share will give us a new state of the art high school for about the same cost of remodeling the current 60-year old building.
We must seize this opportunity while it is before us and ensure the future of our communities. On September 25, the City of Carthage passed a resolution in support of this referendum.
We recognized the need for a new and improved high school building, which will enhance our quality classroom programs, increase the supportive technology, and give our children the tools they need in an ever-changing world.
This referendum is not only on a school building it is on our future. I encourage our voters to support this referendum! Sincerely,
JAMES R. NIGHTINGALE