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News and stuff about Lake Forest and Lake Bluff

Reader Forum: Tax Reform for Illinois

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by Jane Partridge, Co-President, League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

 

By Jane Partridge, Co-President, League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area

The fight for a fair tax in Illinois is gaining momentum, thanks to a groundswell of support from small business owners, service providers, people of faith, taxpayers, and legislators.

They know that cuts of $2 billion this fiscal year and $5 billion the next without further budget cuts to public safety, education, and other critical social services are both untenable and unsustainable.

They know that Illinois families cannot afford the higher property taxes that might be necessary to fund Illinois’ essential services.

They know that Illinois must meet its fiscal responsibilities, and at the same time be equitable to Illinois’ families, by creating a tax structure where all taxpayers would pay their fair share. The result would help boost local economies and grow jobs.

They know that a fair tax is what Illinois needs.

State Senator Don Harmon has filed an amendment to the Illinois Constitution which, if passed, would produce the stable and sustainable revenue required to provide critical public and social services in Illinois, including education, public safety and health care.

As part of his proposal, Senator Harmon has introduced a rate schedule to provide a tax break to the 94% of Illinois taxpayers earning under $205,000. This rate schedule proposes 3 tax rates:

  • 2.9% on the first $12,500 of one’s taxable income
  • 4.9% on the next $167,500 of one’s income (up to $180,000)
  • 6.9% on any income above $180,000.

Go to www.FairTaxCut.com to calculate your own tax rate.

The Illinois General Assembly is taking a recess until Tuesday, April 29; take the time to contact your state legislators and let them know that Illinois voters deserve the opportunity to vote in November on the proposed Illinois Constitutional Amendment, and that a fair tax is right for Illinois families.

Jane Partridge, Co-President
League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area



What You Should Know About the Route 60 Whole Foods Development Proposal

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by the Board of Directors of the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

 

The Board of Directors of the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation has followed closely the ongoing review of the Special Use petition for the property at the corner of Rt. 60 and Saunders Road, commonly referred to as the “Whole Foods” development. This petition has recently been presented for a Special Use Permit at the Plan Commission and for architectural and landscape review at the Building Review Board.

Misinformation and confusion about the underlying requirements of this special use petition have been apparent at the hearings and in ongoing public commentary. Our Board of Directors has in-depth knowledge of the City’s regulations because many of us have served on City boards, the City Council, or as architects working with these regulations. Many residents may not have had this type of experience and may not be as familiar with local governmental codes and procedures. As this petition involves issues related to historic preservation, we want to share our understanding of the issues with the community. We strongly believe that Lake Forest’s Comprehensive Plan, careful attention to details of subdivision, stewardship of quality architecture and landscaping, and defined commitment to preserving our community’s historic buildings and landscape heritage are what make this a very special community of distinction.

First, it is important to understand that the petition for Special Use before the Plan Commission and Building Review Board is not about whether Whole Foods will be allowed to come to Lake Forest. Whole Foods is the proposed anchor tenant in a proposed commercial development. The issue before the City is not “Whole Foods” or “no Whole Foods.” The issue is whether the commercial developer and owner of the property will be granted a special use permit that allows changes from the “Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the Rt. 60 Sub-Area” of Lake Forest adopted by the City Council June 4, 2001, as well as the requirements set forth in the approved subdivision agreement for the subject property. Both documents are City-approved plans for the vision of the Rt. 60 corridor. Further the Zoning Code, Section 46-53-5 Transitional District, specifically references consistency with the Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the Rt. 60 Sub-Area.

What does the “Comprehensive Plan for the Rt. 60 Sub-Area” recommend (see quotes below)? What is the developer asking to be changed?

1. “Enhance Route 60 as the western gateway into Lake Forest.” The developer asks to place small clapboard structures within the front 20% of the 150-foot setback established by the Comprehensive Plan and the subdivision requirements, in stark contrast to the rest of the Rt. 60 western gateway to Lake Forest which maintains the setback.

2. “Enhance Conway Park as a world-class corporate park.” In contrast to Conway Park’s image as a world-class corporate park, the developer asks to place small shed-like structures up close to the road in violation of requirements established by the City.

3. “Enhance and preserve significant tree stands, wetlands, and water views.” The developer asks to remove over 300 mature trees.

4. “Continue improving the frontage along both sides of the roadway (150 feet north/south of right-of-way) with landscaping, and other design features to create a greenway/gateway setting.” The developer asks to reduce the 150 feet to 25 feet, less even than Vernon Hills has in its Rt. 60 development. The developer asks to remove trees within the required setback area. All others who have developed along Rt. 60 have complied with the 150-foot setback and landscape requirement, setting a precedent for compliance on this final undeveloped parcel facing Rt. 60.

5. “The landscaped greenway/gateway should extend along Route 60 from the Tollway to Waukegan Road. A comprehensive plan for this area shall be developed and all future development shall landscape their front 150 feet in accordance with said plan.”  The developer’s petition removes over 300 mature trees and requests a 25-foot setback. Most of the required 150-foot setback will be paved with the developer’s parking lot. All others who have developed along Rt. 60 have complied with the 150-foot setback, setting a precedent for compliance on this final undeveloped parcel facing Rt. 60.

6. Specifically, regarding the parcel in question:

  • “Moderate density low-rise residential with a range of housing product types that preserves significant tree stands, preserves the site’s overall wooded character, and links to the future residential neighborhood to the east.” The developer asks to remove over 300 mature trees, destroying the “wooded character” of the site.
  • “Adaptive re-use of the Miller estate house.” This provision also is a condition of the approval for subdivision of the property, which also includes reuse of the surrounding mature landscape. The developer asks to demolish the Miller estate house (also known as the Everitt House and/or “the old mansion.”), which received one of the City’s highest honors by being designated a landmark by the City in 2006.
  • The developer also asks to remove the estate’s entry landscape created by famed landscape architect Jens Jensen, who also designed the landscape of the J. Ogden Armour estate, an adaptively re-used estate across Rt. 60 on the north side, which sets a preservation precedent in its adaptive re-use as Lake Forest Academy.

If a special use is recommended by the Plan Commission under these conditions, the Historic Preservation Commission will be required to review the request for demolition of the landmarked manor house to determine whether the building is re-useable or not. The burden of proof is the responsibility of the petitioner. The developer and property owner to date have provided no evidence that the building cannot be adaptively re-used and, in fact, have chosen to ignore the City’s designation report and an additional report that they commissioned which documents the quality and distinction of the manor house, its auxiliary structures, and its landscape.

Note that there also are aesthetic issues under review for this project, relating to the developer’s plans for architectural design, building materials, and landscape and hardscape design, which are being addressed by the Building Review Board. The Board at its last meeting requested revision of these and other plans for the project to help ensure that it is more compatible with the design and materials used at neighboring properties, which set an architectural and landscape precedent for the visual appearance of the Rt. 60 gateway to Lake Forest.



Reader Forum: Whole Foods Is Not Lake Forest

Editor’s note: Lake Forest resident Lee Enz sent the following to Third Ward Alderman Jack Reisenberg on April 6 and also shared it with the GazeboNews Reader Forum. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum
To 3rd Ward Alderman Jack Reisenberg:

At the 3rd Ward meeting, Thursday, April 3rd, you said several times that “Whole Foods is Lake Forest.” We believe that the Landmark Mansion in Amberley Woods is far more representative of the City of Lake Forest.

Lake Forest is recognized as one of the premier communities in the United States. As such, it has always taken pride in its trees and historic preservation. We should not have a Big Box shopping center as its western gateway.

In all due respect, shouldn’t you reconsider your statement? West Lake Forest should have an opportunity to preserve its history just as other parts of the city have done.

The Everitt House, aka "the old mansion," at Amberley Woods in Lake Forest.

The Everitt House, aka “the old mansion,” at Amberley Woods in Lake Forest.



Letter from Uganda: Jiggers, Malaria and Typhoid

Editor’s note: Allison Godwin Neumeister travels to Uganda twice annually to distribute aid and partner with organizations that support the health and education of children in Uganda. Allison shares her stories with GazeboNews in a series of personal letters about her time in Uganda.

allison_neumeister_matoke_boy

Today, a little friend came to me with pain in his foot. The 3-year-old boy, Waleka, had jiggers in his feet, also known as Chigoe fleas. His mother said she had removed a jigger two weeks ago. Villagers are skilled at removing jiggers from children’s feet, but not so skilled at using clean blades or needles. As a result, Waleka developed an infection, and his foot was swelling.

allison_neumeister_hut

You can usually identify a child with jiggers because they walk on their heals. The health clinic sees many of these cases, and children often lose toes due to untreated infections. We urge parents to take kids to the clinic for all open wounds. Second to GI problems, secondary skin infections are the most common complaint we see at the clinic.

It’s no surprise. Everything is pretty run-down here, and we frequently get poked by sharp metal objects — exposed metal barbs in vehicles and window frames, passing motorbikes with broken projecting mirrors and the sharp edges of hoes and machetes. Cuts, scrapes and burns occur almost daily, and cleaning with soap and water isn’t a common first aid practice. Now that I’ve run out of alcohol and antiseptic, I’ve resorted to passing out hand sanitizer to families for superficial wound treatment to reduce the risk of infection.

Treating a jigger infection

Treating a jigger infection

While attending to Waleka’s feet, another boy, 15-year-old Kaliba, showed up, having just arrived from a long journey home from his boarding school. The school sent the boy home after two weeks of fever, flu, headache and aches. The trip home, in a hot and crowded matatu, must have been terrible for Kaliba, who was nauseated and vomiting. Then, of course, there’s the long hike up the slope to add to the boys’ misery.

When Kaliba initially developed symptoms at school, the hostel patron (R.A.) suspected malaria, but children are frequently misdiagnosed because schools generally don’t have health services or testing facilities. Any time a child complains of a fever and headache, villagers insist, “It must be malaria!” As a result, malaria meds are overprescribed and can do more harm than good.

State school "sickbay"

State school “sickbay”

Like most kids, Kaliba was given malaria pills, which didn’t help. If it’s not malaria, it’s tough to get a diagnosis unless you have access to a private hospital or large clinic.

Kaliba’s symptoms also indicated typhoid, and I was directed to the local public hospital and told to ask for Amin. Amin has a side job. He administers unauthorized tests at the hospital. The hospital doesn’t test for typhoid — no budget for it — but Amin buys kits off the street and networks through his colleagues for business.

Amin is no different than other hospital personnel. The hospital doesn’t pay well, so medical staff set up private clinics (sometimes in their homes) to earn additional income. As patients arrive at the hospital, these bootleg doctors often direct patients to their home clinics for “personal care.” This care ranges from home circumcisions to abortions, regardless of the health provider’s qualifications or skills. Tragically, many of these procedures are botched, and the very staff that undertook the procedure at their home is the same staff member that later attends to the patient in the emergency ward.

Water sanitation lesson

Water sanitation lesson

Kaliba is now on an antibiotic for typhoid and is improving each day. The real tragedy, however, is that once Kaliba recovers, he will return to boarding school, where students continue drinking contaminated water, the cause of his typhoid to begin with. Apparently, many large schools don’t have the infrastructure to provide clean drinking water. The best alternative is to “lack,” which means to go without.

Discussing Aquasafe  water purification tablets.

Discussing Aquasafe
water purification tablets.

Bad water is a pervasive problem at boarding schools throughout much of East Africa. The most vulnerable students are primary school students, who have the poorest recovery rate. In Kaliba’s case, all I could do was to send him to school with my small personal stash of Aquasafe tablets and suggest that his father buy him bottled water, though I doubt bottled water is in the family budget.

One could argue that at least Kaliba’s school has water. That’s more than I can say for the public hospital where I brought him for his test. While we were waiting for the test results, I searched every bathroom for running water and there was none to be found in the entire hospital.

allison_neumeister_two_kids

Texting while carrying charcoal...

Texting while carrying charcoal…



D-67 Parents: It’s Time To Stop Labeling Our Kids

Editor’s note: Lake Forest District 67 School Board member Mike Borkowski prepared the following for the board’s meeting on March 18. He shared it with the Reader Forum at the request of GazeboNews. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

District 67 Board of Education
March 18, 2014
Mike Borkowski

Topic: World Language Program

Good evening. First, I want to thank each of you for being here tonight. I know many of you representing both sides of this issue, some of you for many years. Some of you – again representing both sides – I consider close friends, while others I am happy to be meeting for the first time. And some of you I don’t know at all, but I care about what you think, too.

Some of you will made statements tonight, some of you did not not. But all of you have one thing in common –you are here because you care. Thank you for that.

The fact that you care about your schools and your children’s education is a wonderful thing. Amidst the turmoil and the different perspectives, I celebrate that. We have an engaged community that cares about education. Even when the debate turns ugly – and it has a few times – I still take great joy in that.

I try to be careful not to speak for other Board members at these meetings as I am only one of seven Board members. But when I say I am trying my best to listen to each and every person, I am confident that is true for all of us. I am attempting to respond to every email sent to me…and I’ve received a few…hundred. I may not be perfect, but I do read them all. And I will continue to try my best to listen to each one of you and understand your concerns.

I want to share a little background about my personal situation, then a little about what I think I’ve heard from you, and finally a little on where I am at on this issue.

I have two third graders at Cherokee. When I am asked about them – which happens almost daily – that is what I say, that I have two third graders. I don’t introduce myself as the parent of two Mandarin or non-Mandarin kids, just as I also don’t say have a kid in the gifted program or in spc ed. I simply have two third graders. I’ve received strange looks – sometimes angry looks – for sticking to that answer…it seems that the standard introduction process at Cherokee has changed to now include whether our kids are in this program or not. But I don’t think labeling is healthy, so I don’t do it. I encourage each and every one of you to consider that, since labeling has nothing to do with our kids receiving world language instruction. We label to point out our differences; our common ground is that we all have students that we care about. Because of my refusal to label, perhaps also combined with the fact that my kids are not in the program, there are some people that feel I am against the program. Unfortunately, my relationships with some of you have even been negatively affected, and that is sad.

The division in our community becomes especially sad when people label and/or make assumptions about each other that are incorrect. I ran an election campaign for this position and one of my core values was transparency. I am painfully aware that some folks now think I’m not being transparent. As I wrote in a recent email “this situation isn’t about a lack of transparency, rather it’s a lack of a good answer.” I know some of you feel differently, so I’m thankful to have an opportunity to share with you where my head is at.

Here is some quick interesting background that most of you don’t know about me – although my kids currently are not enrolled in the Mandarin program, my kids actually started their world language education long before District 67 introduced this partial immersion program. My kids attended Language Stars and took Spanish Immersion classes starting at age 2 – actually my daughter was 17 months old when she started. When my kids were old enough to enter school, I wrote a home-school type curriculum and had our babysitter – who was fluent in Spanish – continue to provide language instruction to our kids. My wife and I considered throwing a third language at our kids when D67 announced this program in 2011, but we decided two languages was enough at that time. My point with this story is that I clearly do believe in early exposure to world language. However, some people look at my kids not being in the program and assume the opposite about me. If we all walk away tonight with a little better understanding of each other, then we will have taken a valuable step forward.

So what have I heard the community say on this topic? Clearly, a variety of opinions exist:
➢ Many parents with children in the program love it – and that is a fantastic thing
o These parents don’t want the program changed in a major way – they love it just the way it is
o They want it to start as early as possible – meaning Kindergarten – and will address that specifically in a minute
o They don’t want to lose minutes per day of language instruction
o Many of them feel additional choice of language would be nice, with Spanish being named by a majority of this group

➢ I’ve also heard from some parents in the program that feel its OK, but perhaps not as great as is advertised. Perhaps the content being taught could be improved. They are correct.

➢ I’ve also heard from many parents with children not in the program who are not thrilled with some of the unintended consequences that the program has had
o Some of these unintended consequences are parent driven
o Others are structure driven
o Very few, if any, are created or driven by the children … although most of them affect the children

➢ I’ve also heard from parents expressing a desire to keep their neighborhood schools – I’ve actually heard this from parents at all three elem schools, not just CH. This is a district issue, not a CH issue.

➢ So there are a lot of different perspectives – and none of them are wrong. On the contrary, every single one of them is valid and has great meaning.

The challenge, of course, is how to find a solution where those differing perspectives can not only coexist, but can thrive.

So after listening to everyone as best as I can – and after living in the program for the past three years – what do I actually think? How do I plan to use my vote? Well, its important to note that the Admin has the job of developing a recommendation, then the Board supports it or sends it back to the drawing board. But I will share some of my thoughts…so the community and the admin both know what is in my head.

First point I’ll make: one thing I notice when I look at everyone’s feedback is very few people are against world language. Most folks that I heard from that are unhappy with the current situation don’t talk about world language being the problem, they talk about the structure and the unintended consequences. They also talk about equity. But they generally don’t say world language is a bad subject to teach our kids. I think that is an important point when trying to develop a solution. That gives me hope that maybe there is a solution.

My next point is about equity. And equity, in my view, is one of the major issues we are dealing with. I am searching for a solution that provides an exceptional educational experience for each and every student – not just at Cherokee, but across the district. After the Mandarin parent meeting a couple weeks ago, I stayed around until the bitter end and I discussed this issue with a handful of you. And I would summarize the very valid concerns I heard on this topic from the pro-Mandarin group like this: one approach to equity is to dumb down the curriculum so everyone is equal. I call that the lowest common denominator approach. Let me be perfectly clear: I abhor the lowest common denominator approach. I will repeat that in case anyone missed it – I absolutely abhor the lowest common denominator approach to education. I want equity for all students, and for me, that means we need to find a solution that raises the educational experience for each and every student. The bar needs to be raised, not lowered. Part of that means being innovative, and part of that means nailing the basics.

I want to stress another phrase I just said: I said every single student. I didn’t say most students or the majority or the vocal minority that both sides claim the other side represents. I actually really want an exceptional experience for every student. I had a parent tell me that was a nice thing to say, but that I really meant it in the context of the broad student body. No, that’s not what I said. I actually mean it at an individual student level – for your kid, and your kid, and her kid, and my kid. I want every student to have an individualized learning plan that’s unique to them. Now I’ve shifted from talking about an operational issue called Mandarin Structure to a different topic called District Vision. Can we achieve that vision? I don’t know, but that’s what I’m pushing for. If it can be achieved anywhere, it seems to me that Lake Forest might just be the place…we have the resources and we clearly have the passion. But if that is our mindset, getting just the right solution for the issue at hand becomes a bit trickier. It’s easier to take a vote, go with the majority, and move on. But that doesn’t serve every single kid in the best manner.

I am relatively confident that there will be at least one person unhappy with the whatever long-term solution the Board ultimately approves, and that person will be able to throw my words back in my face. They will tell me that the new structure is not exceptional for their child, which I said was my goal. That, I have come to realize, is the price of transparency. But that is my goal…and now you all know it … I may fall short. I’ll try my best.

Another item related to equity is how our students’ days are structured. We’re currently treating our first graders at Cherokee like 8th graders, some of them moving from classroom to classroom all day long. This was done with the best of intentions in the name of integration. Some of you may have 1st graders and you may be ok with that. I respect your opinion, but I need to tell you – I’m not ok with this structure. I don’t believe its healthy for our students. I don’t think it is particularly healthy for your kids, regardless of if they are learning Mandarin or not.

I believe the social/emotional needs of students are just as important as the academic needs…and I don’t think that an 8th grade structure is Best Practice for 1st Graders. I had a parent ask me if I have any research to back that statement up. I’ve looked for an actual research paper on the topic and I’ve not found one. I’ve come to the conclusion that part of why there is no research paper is because there are few, if any, other elementary schools treating their 1st graders like 8th graders. Some might say that makes us innovative and ahead of the curve. I believe it is not healthy for our kids. So another item that I hope is part of the long-term solution is having integration among the students, but in a nurturing, rationale, and consistent environment.

A few final thoughts…

I spoke of labeling a few minutes ago, but it comes up again and again. Whether it is labeling our kids – yours is a Mandarin kid and mine is a non-Mandarin kid – or whether it’s what we call our schools – is it a neighborhood school, an immersion school, a magnet school? I find the topic of labeling to be somewhere between not helpful and counter-productive. So I avoid it.

The Administration is charged with developing a long-term recommendation and bringing it to the Board for consideration. I hope the long-term solution includes a school named Cherokee Elementary. In my head, Cherokee, as well as Everrett and Sheridan, would be a school that has a spot for every kid in the neighborhood, and every one of those kids can have an exceptional educational experience. Perhaps part of the experience is that Cherokee has a focus on world languages such that all students who go there receive innovative and best-in-class instruction in some world language … maybe there is more than one to choose from. Part of that experience also must include excelling in the basics, the core subjects. And part of that experience must be that every kid walks away feeling special … because each one is special.

Did I just tell you what I think the answer might be? Maybe. Or perhaps there is another structure that has yet to bubble up. I do think we are getting closer. The Administration has the job of developing that long-term solution and bringing it to the Board. I know they are still listening, processing, and discerning, as am I.

OK, I’ll quickly address the elephant in the room – Kindergarten. A lot of focus on kindergarten … with people asking, “Will I reverse my vote on kindergarten or will I stand firm on no kindergarten next year?” There are two petitions going on right now, both with hundreds of signatures, each at least tangentially related to the kindergarten question. Here’s my two cents on kindergarten, being as direct as I can be….

I want us to arrive at the right solution for the long-term – and I want us to get there quickly. I don’t believe more short-term attempts at band aids are helping. The kindergarten answer – whatever it is – should fall out of that long-term solution. The Administration has said that their target is to bring the Board a recommendation regarding the long-term solution this spring, hopefully at the April board meeting. We’re not talking about another 6 – 12 months of this uncertainty, but rather a few weeks. I expect every grade, from K-8, to be discussed as part of that recommendation or one following soon thereafter.

I also hope that some level of implementation of the long-term solution might start this fall with the new cohort of students – but I don’t know if that is realistic. I don’t know what that looks like since we don’t know the long-term solution yet. That is where my focus lies and I encourage you to put your focus there as well.

How can you help? Many of you are helping by coming to the meetings that the admin is hosting and providing your input. There is another great opportunity to provide your input tomorrow, Wednesday at 10 am at Cherokee School. Staying positive and focusing on solutions that elevate all students’ experience also is a great way to help. Tearing people down rarely helps … really trying to understand other perspectives and working together to find a mutually acceptable solution – that’s harder to do, but that is how you can best help.

I’ll close by again thanking each of you for coming tonight. We have a great community with passionate parents, really awesome kids, and great schools that I want to make exceptional.

Thank you for being here tonight. More importantly, thank you for caring.

Mike Borkowski, member of the District 67 Board of Education



Message To D-67: Mandarin Immersion Put on Pause For Good Reason

Editor’s note: This is the Vice President’s Report that Lesley Fisher prepared for the Lake Forest School District 67 Board of Education meeting on March 18. She shared it with the Reader Forum at the request of GazeboNews. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

By Lesley Fisher, vice president of Lake Forest D-67 Board of Education
March 18, 2014
Message to Community

I want to begin by thanking all of those in attendance tonight, as well as those who may not be present, for your willingness to share your thoughts via emails, phone calls, face to face meetings, and even during encounters by chance. There have been many of you who have also attended Vision meetings, Mandarin Immersion parent meetings, and elementary school meetings. Thank you for your time. I especially want to recognize the members of our community who have given their valuable time to serve on our LASIC Committee. We learned, discussed, deliberated, and presented ideas to each other. I have a better understanding of what you value as individuals, and the benefits of language exposure, FLES programs, and immersion programs at an early age.

Some have said that the administration’s recommendation to halt Cherokee’s Mandarin Immersion Program for incoming Kindergartners in the upcoming school year, agreed upon by the Board at the February 25 BOE meeting, has ignited feelings and damaged the culture. I agree. While this is disconcerting, perhaps it is not wholly negative. While it is hard to see past the strong emotions and willful desires in this moment, a future will come, and it will come soon. These feelings of disbelief, disdain, acceptance, and even apathy, have festered for some time now. Some have been more vocal, some more subdued. All matter.

In the past four years, since the Mandarin Immersion Program’s inception, we have seen a school divided. Approached by a well meaning administration in the name of cognitive development, global awareness, and innovation, parents were excited, albeit reluctant, to enroll their children, their most precious individuals, in this new program. The program has not disappointed these families. The majority of these families are very happy in the program. Their kids are happy, excited about learning, and many have acquired expressive language skills, both verbally and written. Many parents also value the time spent learning about and celebrating the Chinese culture. As a trustee of our schools, there is nothing more gratifying than hearing from parents and students who are happy, engaged, and enriched by their school experience. The program has grown, as we know, potentially adding to evidence that it is headed in the right direction.

The question has been posed repeatedly, ‘Why would our administration and Board members dismantle a program that is so successful?’

My simple answer to this very valid question is: ’It isn’t working for many of our students and families in its current implementation.’ How do we know this? At this point, our two other elementary schools have little interest in expanding the program. The Cherokee students who elect not to enroll in the program have a very small cohort of classmates, many smaller than the preschool environment from which they came. There have been families who have requested to transfer outside of Cherokee. There is no longer full day Kindergarten offered at Cherokee. Much has changed for these families, and I have yet to receive any input from any one of them that things have changed for the better. I am confident most everyone here tonight can find common ground in respect to the feeling of having something taken away from you that you hold important. For some of you it happened years ago, for others the fear of loss has reared its head, especially throughout the last month.

Many have questioned why neighboring communities such as Highland Park and Vernon Hills can offer Spanish Immersion and Spanish dual language programs, but we in Lake Forest ‘just can’t seem to figure it out’? Having worked in both of these districts, the sheer number of students they have (8 elementary schools in HP, 4000 students in VH District) coupled with their large number of Hispanic students, lends itself to the implementation of a more robust language program, with less negative, unintended consequences. Barrington’s Mandarin Immersion Program is slowly being implemented throughout its 9 elementary schools. The divisiveness that a strand program, one which is traveling in its own, unique direction, as our current MI program is, can create is all the more pronounced when numbers of students are fewer, and as we look to the future, fewer even more. It can be further exacerbated in a smaller school setting when there is no limit placed on the number of participants.

Why did I agree with the administration’s recommendation to pause the Mandarin Immersion Program for the upcoming school year? Three reasons:

  • First, multiple LASIC prototype groups recommended treating Kindergarten as a welcome to school year, without the offering of MI. The rationale for this recommendation indicated that full day school is a transition in itself and that kindergarten should offer the opportunity for both Mandarin and non Mandarin students and parents to comingle, encouraging lasting friendships and family connections at the onset of school.
  • Second, we have taken nothing away from those students currently enrolled in the program. We have made a commitment to continue their MI experience throughout fourth grade.
  • Third, the Illinois School Board Organization states: it is our “role and responsibility as a board member to seek first to understand the issues and components of a reform and once understood, use time to an advantage by obtaining as much information as possible from reform measure terminology to details of successes and challenges before taking a position or making a recommendation.” This pause is allowing for this time to thoughtfully consider, determine, and plan well.

Will I reconsider the pause in MI K programming and reinstate the program for kindergartners in the upcoming school year?

At this point, no. The administration has not made the recommendation for reconsideration. As many of you are aware, the LASIC Committee reconvened on March 10. Not one of the participants, including the participants who have students currently in the MI program and/or incoming Kindergartners, showed ANY support for maintaining the program in its current form. This observation coupled with declining enrollment and the dissatisfaction expressed by many parents who have children in the English/traditional classroom(s) solidify the notion that neither group wants the program to continue as is, so why initiate yet another cohort in the same form? The superintendent and administrative team are professionals employed by the Board to investigate, study, recommend and implement reform initiatives. They are currently engaged in this process, and if, in the upcoming months they recommend a reinstatement of the K program for the upcoming school year based on the determination of our world language program, I would certainly consider supporting the reinstatement for the upcoming school year at that time.

I am a believer in education. My passion, volunteerism, and professional life revolve around it. I support world language at an early age. I also recognize the value of language immersion. While I am disheartened, I am not discouraged. You are invested in your childrens’ education. This is perhaps the strongest asset we have in our community. If this painful period of time forces every single one of us, community members, parents, BOE members, and administrators, to reflect on what should be emphasized and what are non-negotiables in our childrens’ education, then I would argue the current discomfort and uncertainty are well worthwhile.

Our administration is charged with a great task. I am grateful to our superintendent and our administrators as they continue to listen open-mindedly, collect data, study successful world language programs, and prioritize our programming based on our Vision, as it is ever more clear.



District 67: Let Mission & Vision Effort Discern Community’s Education Goals

Editor’s note: This is the President’s Report that Bill Andersen prepared for the Lake Forest School District 67 Board of Education meeting on March 18. He shared it with the Reader Forum at the request of GazeboNews. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

President’s Report
By Bill Andersen, Lake Forest D-67 School Board President
March 18, 2014

Good evening, and welcome to everyone. We are very glad you are here. In the past few weeks we’ve been fortunate to receive an unusual number of communications about the world language program at Cherokee School. The communications have overwhelmingly been passionate, polite, fact based and oriented towards finding solutions to the issues the district is working on. Thank you very much. We sincerely appreciate hearing from so many of you. Your emails have had a meaningful impact on us. We assume some of you will have statements for the Board this evening and we look forward to hearing them as well. For those of you who haven’t attended one of these meeting before, we have a process we follow which isn’t necessarily designed around entertainment value, but we will get to the topics you are interested in.

Specifically, Mr. Simeck will address this issue of world language directly in his superintendent’s report in a few minutes. Before he does so, however, I wanted to offer some perspective on the challenges of managing our school district and how we as a Board are continually trying to better serve our community.

In 1599 a group of Roman Catholic priests from around Europe came together to publish a groundbreaking book called Ratio Studiorum. The priests, part of the recently formed order which came to be called the Jesuits, wrote this book not about theology, but about how to operate a school. The book goes into great detail on such topics as curriculum, faculty, facilities and more.

Writing in the midst of the Renaissance, the book wrestles with such topics as how to deal with Aristotle’s writings on science which could be construed to be at odds with some church doctrine. There was never a doubt about why these schools were called for—in the words of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, the schools were “to save souls.” Before long, Jesuit schools rose up around Europe, with several hundred of them in place by the 17th century. Today, over four hundred years later, this book continues to have an influence on Jesuit education, and of course Jesuits operate schools in the US and abroad from the elementary level to some of our most prestigious colleges and universities. Only about 5% of Americans attend Catholic schools now, but they are a high performing group, including 4 out of 9 current Supreme Court justices. We are fortunate in our community to have both St. Mary’s and Woodlands Academy which are part of this tradition.

In the early 20th century, Italian physician Maria Montessori was operating a school for low-income children in Rome.

Observing their behavior, she noticed that children seemed to have an innate ability to learn, concentrate and even practice a level of self-discipline if they were placed in an environment which was natural for them. She felt that schools, with their emphasis on rote learning and memorization failed to take advantage of the natural curiosity of children, losing out on an opportunity which could never be recaptured. She wrote extensively and developed a school which became a model for an educational movement. Early fans of her teaching philosophy included Henry Ford and Alexander Graham Bell. Graduates of schools she inspired today include the two founders of Google, the founder of Amazon.com and countless others who’ve been successful in many creative and professional fields. Hundreds of Montessori schools operate around the world, including two here in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

The history of public schools in the United States predates the founding of our nation. There were public schools in Massachusetts as early as 1647. Many of the founding fathers, perhaps most notably Thomas Jefferson, saw public education as absolutely essential for the success of the newly formed nation called the United States of America. Jefferson listed his founding of the University of Virginia, along with authoring the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom as his three most significant accomplishments. Due to the work of Jefferson and countless educational professionals in the past 200 years, public schools have been a vital part of our nation’s history and a significant reason why our democracy continues to thrive.

But here is an important paradox. While Jesuit schools or Montessori schools and many others were founded around a particular educational philosophy, there is no educational philosophy around which public education in the United States is organized. We have a general feeling that democracies work better if the people are educated. We have a general feeling that parents know what is best for their children, so we favor local control. We have a sort of general feeling that public education should meet a certain standard nationally, but we are very skeptical of too much involvement from outside.

To these feelings about why we have public schools, we also have ideas about how they should operate in the current world. We feel the world is getting more competitive, so we need to make schools more rigorous. We feel kids are stressed, so we add in initiatives for emotional wellness. They need to be more international, so we add more language programs.

Not being tied to a particular educational philosophy can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. Because public schools are not linked to one school of thought, they have the ability to pick the best from different philosophies and adapt as the world changes. However, that is easier said than done. In practice, what looks like adapting can often be just chasing the latest educational fad or trend. Two months ago in this report I listed some of these fads from the last 10 years. Without even googling I was able to come up with over two dozen of them in just a few minutes. Without discipline and proper governance, the freedom of being unencumbered by a particular philosophy can quickly degenerate into being untethered and ineffective.

The problem is exacerbated by organizational dynamics. We all love local control. But in practice it means school districts are overseen by part time amateurs who are prone to being co-opted by educational professionals. You see this in industry all the time, where regulators may become captives of the industries they are supposed to regulate. The same is possible here. In many school districts (not this one) the superintendent is the only person in town with a Ph.D., and the chance of any meaningful oversight by local community members is pretty remote. Even in Lake Forest, where the population is highly educated, it can be challenging to have a meaningful exchange of views with educational professionals.

The way in which a district works with educational professionals also presents many challenges. There is often a mismatch between the timeframe in which they think and the time frame of the decisions they make. A new idea in education may take several years to roll out, followed by another five to ten years to perfect, and then of course many more years to see if the long term results are meaningful. Contrast this to a young education professional who may stay at a district for five or six years. What happens after she leaves? Is her idea abandoned, is there a structure in place that allows it to carry on, or is a totally new and contradictory idea put in place by the new administrator?

What works best? Obviously the answer is not for board members with no experience in education to jump in and try to do the job of the highly trained professionals our district and others are honored to employ. But at the same time, a Board that passively sits in the balcony and watches while parade of experts passes through over the years, each with different expertise, interests and beliefs to put their mark on a school system isn’t doing its job either. In my view, the only thing that works over the long term is a productive, engaged relationship between the Board, the community and school district, with each doing their proper part to further the education of our students. Will this relationship be messy at times? Of course. Does it require each group to make some compromises at points? Sure.

During periods of dispute, all participants should remember that despite their differences, they share many common interests. The reputation of a school system, the environment for its children, and the attractiveness of a community to new families may be at risk in such cases. If care is not taken, a sort of circular firing squad may develop in which all parties end up being losers.

These sorts of problems aren’t new. They will always be a present in some form for this district and others. Board members come and go. Administrators come and go. What endures, hopefully, is the community of Lake Forest. We’ve had public education here since 1859, when our community was founded. By way of perspective, that’s only 33 years after the death of Thomas Jefferson. How can we govern this district in a way that honors that long tradition, and builds on it and keeps it current and forward looking?

The answer to this question gets very close to what a school board should be doing and why the work we are involved with this year developing a mission and vision of the district is so important. That work is being led by your Board along with Mr. Simeck. It has included input from Board members and the district, but there have also been many opportunities for community involvement. The process is designed to truly discern and understand our community’s shared values, hopes for our children, the priorities we have for them and the way in which our district can help them be realized. It’s a very big task but it is very important that we get it right. It is my sincere hope that this work will result in a sort of roadmap from the community to which current and future board members and administrators can look as they take their turn steering our district into a promising but unknown future. If we can do that, we will be able to say we’ve made a meaningful contribution to our public schools and to this community which has provided so many things for all of us.



Mandarin Immersion: ‘Choice Is A Good Thing’

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by Georgia M. Kyriacou of Lake Forest. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

Dear Lake Forest Friends,

This letter is in response to an email that I received from protectcherokee@gmail.com. There is no name attached to this anonymous email requesting that you sign a petition and I have no idea who is behind it. Protect Cherokee is circulating a petition to protect Cherokee School from continuing a Mandarin Immersion program that has been in place for the past three years. There are two sides to this story.

My daughter Maria has been in the immersion program at Cherokee school for nearly 3 year and has had an amazing experience. For the past three years, all incoming kindergarteners in Lake Forest have been offered a choice to either participate in Mandarin Immersion or to participate in a traditional program. To my knowledge, everyone’s preference has been accommodated. A few even requested that their child be transferred to either Sheridan or Everett and those choices have also been accommodated.

Cherokee school currently has children from both programs mixed in classes together throughout the day including classes such as language arts, science, art, music, wellness, etc. If you visit Cherokee school, you will see children happily playing together with no discernible distinction as to which child is in which program and children have friends from both programs. There are many myths circulating that are simply not true and alarmist. Cherokee has a harmonious and thriving environment and it continues to have the feel of a neighborhood school.

I believe choice is a good thing and ask you to get informed and help to preserve parental choice and excellence in education. I ask you to talk to someone whose child attends Cherokee (both in the immersion program and in the traditional program) and to get informed. This program provides a wonderful opportunity for those who chose it, yet still provides a world class education to those in the traditional program.

Unfortunately, a few people have propagated misinformation and erroneous fears about the program and it is currently being suspended for incoming kindergarteners for 2014-2015. This would be a horrible loss of a program that has received overwhelming support from those participating in it. I also believe that most parents whose children are in the immersion program are sensitive to the concerns of everyone and a solution can be found without jeopardizing this wonderful program. The district administration has worked diligently to address many of these concerns with great success. We may have had a few glitches in the beginning but today Cherokee school is welcoming, inclusive and nurturing for all students. We need your support to rebut the inaccuracies and to re-instate mandarin immersion for the incoming kindergarten class next year! Our goal is choice and excellence in education for all!

I greatly appreciate your consideration of reviewing and potentially signing the petition to reinstate the program. It supports the concepts of innovation, excellence, and choice. Thank you for considering endorsing the viewpoint shared at the following this link to Change.org: “Demand District 67 to Reconsider Kindergarten Mandarin Immersion for 2014-15.”

Sincerely,

Georgia M. Kyriacou



League Asks Community: Support Petition to Change Redistricting

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by by the League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

By the League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area

Make A Difference! Join with business, civic, and political leaders along with your neighbors in supporting a petition drive to change the redistricting process. Recently the City of Lake Forest passed a resolution encouraging voters to learn about the redistricting efforts by the coalition group Yes! For Independent Maps.

The current process has led to one political party having control of drawing all of Illinois’s legislative districts, enabling it to gerrymander districts in its favor, and consolidating power in these safe, incumbent-protected districts for 10 years. In these safe districts, politicians rarely have to worry about a credible challenger or seek support from voters of different parties.

We need to change that. All over the state, Yes! For Independent Maps volunteers are asking registered voters to sign a petition to place the “Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment” on the November Ballot. This constitutional amendment would create an independent redistricting commission designed to provide an unbiased and apolitical approach. California, Arizona, and Florida are some of the states already creating independent commissions. Independent redistricting will make elected leaders more accountable and put voters back in charge.

The League of Women Voters is part of the Yes! For Independent Maps coalition and members have petitions available for signing. If you would like to make arrangements to sign a petition, please email contact@lwv-lflb.org or call Mary at 847-295-1494.

Members have been gathering signatures in Lake Bluff, Crystal Point, Lake Forest Place, Dickinson Hall, and individual homes.

For more information about the Yes! For Independent Maps campaign and a list of some of the supporters, go to http://independentmaps.org . You can view the City’s resolution and related information on its website http://www.cityoflakeforest.com/city-council-passes-yes-for-independent-maps-resolution/.



Barkhausen: Recommendations for March 18 Republican Primary

Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by David N. Barkhausen, Lake Bluff resident and Republican Precinct Committeeman, Shields 241. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.

GazeboNews Reader Forum

By David Barkhausen, Republican Precinct Committeeman, Shields 241

Here are recommendations and information relating to the Republican primary ballot, with a focus on the contested races. Voters may choose to vote in one primary or another. I hope you might consider voting in the Republican primary. There is only a contest for sheriff in the Democratic primary and token opposition for governor.

Governor: Illinois is in such deep trouble financially that it will take a very different approach to begin to turn the State around. In my opinion, businessman and civic leader Bruce Rauner is better positioned than the other three candidates both to defeat Pat Quinn and to bring pressure on the Democratic Legislature to bring Illinois back towards fiscal solvency and an improved climate for business and jobs.

U.S. Senator: State Senator Jim Oberweis has considerable name recognition from his previous statewide campaigns and dairy product business of the same name. But young ex-Army Ranger and businessman, Doug Truax, an expert on the subject of health care and the problems with Obamacare, would be a stronger candidate and fresher face in a campaign against Dick Durbin.

State Treasurer: State Representative Tom Cross, who has been the Republican leader in the Illinois House, is an attractive and respected official and would likely stand a better chance of success in the fall than DuPage County Auditor, Bob Grogan.

County Treasurer: David Stolman has been a county government leader, serving on the County Board since 1992 and as chairman in the last term. Jeri Atelson, a certified public accountant and township board member from Mundelein, would also make a good candidate.

Unopposed Candidates: We are fortunate that former Congressman Bob Dold is seeking to regain his old seat in this difficult district for a Republican to win. I will also be urging strong support for physician Mark Neerhof for state representative, who ran in the primary two years ago, and Lake Forest resident Carla Wyckoff for County Clerk. Carla is ideally qualified, as she has represented the County Clerk’s office in all legal matters, including those relating to election laws.

Other unopposed candidates include, for state offices, Mike Webster for Secretary of State, Paul Schimpf for Attorney General, incumbent Judy Topinka for Comptroller – and, for county offices, incumbent Sheriff Mark Curran and Regional Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood of Lake Bluff. Judge Michael Burke, who has been appointed to an Appellate Court vacancy, seeks to continue in that capacity. My lofty position as precinct committeeman is at the bottom of ballot.

Voting In Person and By Mail: Early voting in-person begins on Monday, March 3rd at Lake Forest City Hall (847-810-3674), followed by three days of in-person absentee voting on the Friday, Saturday, and Monday before Election Day. You must have a government issued photo ID with you to vote early in person.

To vote by mail, the easiest and quickest method to request a ballot is at the Lake County Clerk’s website (www.countyclerk.lakecountyil.gov). Click on “Voter Power,” enter your personal information, then click on “Request a Ballot by Mail.” Then choose “Electronic Request” rather than “Paper Form,” and the ballot will be sent to you. If you would rather not deal with the Internet, you can request that the Application for a Ballot be sent to you by calling 847-377-2406. If you have children away in school or other out of town family members or friends, please forward these instructions, and follow up to see that they complete the process.

Please send an e-mail if you have any questions — dnbarkhausen@gmail.com.

Many thanks for your interest and for voting.

Sincerely,

David N. Barkhausen