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Letters

The Lincoln Daily News publishes letters to the editor as they are received.  The letters are not edited and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Lincoln Daily News.


Board member explains his decision
for two new schools

10-18-00

To the editor:

On Tue. Nov. 7th, the voters of Lincoln will be asked to vote yes and build 2 new schools and receive $8+ million from the State of Illinois. A no vote simply means the voters want nothing done to the schools. Renovation is not an option on this ballot. The question is simple. But there has been so much misinformation, "disinformation" and downright untruths, that the issue is becoming unnecessarily complicated.

As a school board member, I am guided in my decisions by three main principles. First, is the decision in the best educational interest of the children, their welfare, and safety. Second, does the decision give the teachers the materials and support they need in order to carry out the job which the administration and board has tasked them to do. And third, is this the best use of our tax dollars. I try very hard not to be penny wise and dollar foolish. And in my opinion, one should not be on a school board if his or her priorities lie elsewhere. They should simply be on a different board.

Now how did I come to the conclusion that Lincoln should have two brand new schools? Well, contrary to some rumors, my decision was not made in haste. Although I made my decision almost a year ago, the district challenges have been increasing much longer than that. It should be understood that this is a solution for the whole district, not just one or two schools. To me this is not an issue about whether to save a building or not. This is an issue about what needs to be done for the future in the most cost effective manner without throwing away our hard earned tax dollars.

Central, Washington-Monroe, and Northwest Schools are over crowded, severely in some instances. The reason is not that there has been an influx of students, but there has been an increase in programs as a result of student needs. So to ask for some sort of demographic study is to be totally ignorant of the cause of the problem and merely a diversion. Labs are held in janitor closets, small classrooms set up in the halls, sick kids are on benches in the hallway because there is no other place. Should we undertake more building projects to increase the size of the Washington-Monroe and Northwest? Is that the wisest use of our tax dollars? Can we find some other way to satisfactorily and more economically resolve this problem? I think so.

When a new larger junior high is constructed, it will serve as a middle school. This means that 6th graders will be there also. Since many 6th graders already go to the jr. high for band, sports, etc., it will be much more convenient to have them all there. This frees up 2 classrooms each at Washington-Monroe and Northwest. These can be changed at minimal expense to help the overcrowding situation without new more costly construction to add onto the buildings. The construction of a new larger Central school will help with the overcrowded situation there.

And what happens to poor old Central school? Some of us have a lot of fond memories and not so fond memories of attending there. I went all 9 years there before attending the "new high school", my kids went there, and my wife has taught there 14 years. The front looks good to some and ugly to others, just like a Picasso. But that is just a matter of opinion and not fact. Inside is a different matter. It is becoming unsafe as well as impractical for the way we teach today as opposed to 85 years ago. Walls are separating from floors, so much so that books can be dropped down these cracks to wherever. Plaster has fallen from the 14 feet high ceilings and the suspended replacement ones have collapsed from water leakage. Floors have become so sunken that pillars have been temporarily put beneath them and furniture moved to the perimeter of the room. The bookshelves around the room must be shimmed because they lean so much the books fall off. No more electrical service can be installed because the maximum limit has been reached. The basement wall in the gym is bowed considerably and it is believed this is what is causing the building to twist slightly. This results in constant roof repair to fix leaks in the flat roof. The boiler was installed for old Central school which faced 7th street and was constructed in 1870. (not long after the civil war) When new central was built in 1915, the boiler was directed into it and old central torn down. Can all of this be fixed, absolutely. Can it be done economically, not a chance. This is major reconstruction. This is lead paint abatement, which is very expensive. And this does not even consider all the structural changes that would necessarily have to be made for handicap accessibility as well as safe entrances. If all of this work were to be done, the building would not even look the same. And we would still wind up with antiquated buildings that do not meet current needs much less those of the future. Well, so what? We have saved a building! The kids, thatís so what.

Where do the kids go for a year or two for school while Central would be worked on? They could certainly not remain in the building during such a massive undertaking. Perhaps we could convince all the moms to home school them for a year or two! Or better yet, let dad stay home and do it. We learned from the fire experience at Jefferson just how chaotic and disruptive to education that relocation is, even on a small scale. The only viable option the board has is to put temporary classrooms on Ralph Gale Field. The cost to the taxpayers alone is more than a half million dollars. Is it worth it? No, not for my money it is not. Central has many kids with special needs and special classes. Try to imagine for a moment how or where lunch would be handled or dispensing medication or emergencies that arise all from a bunch of temporary facilities on the ball field. In my opinion it is nothing sort of criminal neglect or child abuse to willingly and needlessly subject children to such unnecessary conditions. Obviously, the ball field would be out of use for several years and since there are sink holes on it, I am not too sure as to how many temporary classrooms could be put there anyway.

The state program to apply for building grants came at the most opportune time for we certainly will have to address the problems at Central within a few short years. Life safety inspection by the state occurs in 3 years and they will surely insist the building be made safe and accessible. That work will all be done without any vote from the public. Since it is life safety work, bonds will be issued and the work done-whatever it costs. It will be significant and totally at local taxpayers expense. But just as important, one will still only wind up with a patched up school, certainly nothing to be proud of going into the 21st century. Therefore when I realized what could be had for much less cost to us taxpayers as well as much less human cost to the kids and teachers, I knew there was no way remodeling was even an option.

As far as the "expert" from Chicago coming to Lincoln to tell us "hicks" just how the big city boys would do it, I am not impressed. How arrogant for someone, who has not even set foot in a building, to speak about what and how something should be done. I have toured several renovated Chicago public schools, not all of them of course. But I was not overwhelmed with what was done. If I am not mistaken, they had no option in most cases to do anything other than remodel. They simply did not have the option to build new. While the schools appeared adequate for now, they did not serve as a model to me as something to which I would aspire for the future. The school layout and classrooms simply had to conform to the old structure rather than a new structure conforming for the needs of today and future flexibility. I have had the opportunity to investigate many, many schools, and not just in Illinois nor just in the United States. In addition, each year the district #27 School Board attends the School Board Convention in Chicago. There we are afforded the opportunity to tour Chicago public schools as well as meet with school board members from the entire state to hear their problems and solutions to them. To suggest that I am clueless about the differences between renovated and new schools and have no point of reference is just to be ignorantly biased.

We have received a state grant to build 2 new schools with the state funding about $8 million of the $12 million total cost, or about 2/3. This is what the grant approval is about, nothing more and nothing less. There is not grant approval for any type of remodeling plans. If Lincoln does not wish to go ahead with the project, the next district on the list gets its share and so on down the list. We are about 33 on the State approved list of about 147. The funding for these projects is approved by the legislature for 2 more years. That is One more year beyond our expected date of receipt in July, 2001. There are many more schools in line after us. The money is not endlessly available in some sort of Santa Claus fashion whenever we want it. Will the state legislature fund more sometime in the future? Since this is election time, would you count on there not being other projects they deem more worthy of funding? Would you take a chance if it were your money? Does anyone really know? "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!"

The decision made at the ballot box will reflect on the people of Lincoln and their values. What is really more important to them-an old building or the education of future generations of kids in Lincoln?

Jim Wilmert

Lincoln

 

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Writer would like to secure funding for District 27 now

10-26-00

Dear District 27 Voters:

With reference to the district 27 referendum, I offer the following comments.

This should not be a strictly "bricks and mortar" issue. The issue is - how do we plan now, and in the future, to educate the children of our community.

The issue is - now that we are on the approved list to receive 8.3 million dollars in funding to move our educational facilities to the 21 st century - will we be a responsible community; or do we put at risk the issue of when we will again be put on a priority list to receive funding and at what amount. I am certain that our number will come up again, but when. I opt for the "bird in the hand".

Some of my very good friends favor renovation; I respect the sincerity of their opinions. While not particularly thrilled with the prospect of razing buildings, I temper this lack of enthusiasm with the following thoughts. When would the renovation be done? Obviously, when students are not present. Surely, we would not consider using non-district facilities in various parts of town. This leaves summer months; can contractors be found, who will work around the clock seven days a week and at what expense? I truly doubt this could be accomplished in one summer.

Support of this referendum will secure 8.3 million dollars for District 27 NOW if the referendum is successful. Support of this referendum allows us to say to "our kids" WE CARE, we want you to have what you need and deserve to move into the 21 st century.

Sincerely

Bill Gossett

 


Task force appreciates participation in vigil for domestic violence awareness 

10-25-00

Dear Editor,

The members of the Logan County Domestic Violence Task Force would like to express our gratitude to all who attended and participated in our first Candle Light Walk and Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil on Thursday, October 12, 2000. We were pleased with the number of people who came out to take a stand against violence and show support for victims.

We wish to publicly thank Judge Donald Behle for his moving words, the Kingdom Life Expressive Worship team for their interpretive dance, the Lincoln Jr. High School H.Y.P.E. kids (Helping Youth in a Positive Environment) for offering their time and service for child care, and all of the task force members who put time and effort into making the evening a success.

Because October is the national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we plan on making this an annual event. We invite everyone to get involved and be an agent of change in our community. Concerned citizens, domestic violence survivors, social service agency reps., pastors, young people, anyone who wants to get involved and join the task force, can call 732-7890.

Again,thank you everyone who came out and participated.

Curtis Sutterfield

Logan County Domestic Violence Task Force

Lincoln

 


Oasis directors have new proposal for tax allocation

10-20-00

Dear Editor,

Our Board of Directors for the Senior Citizens of Logan County, Inc./Oasis Senior Center discussed and approved a new proposal for the allocation of the Social Services for Senior Citizens Tax at its Regular Board Meeting on October 19. We had hoped to present this new proposal to the Logan County Board that same evening, but we were denied that opportunity. Weíd like the County Board and the public to know what that proposal would have been. Here it is:

1)  Levy the full 100% of the tax for Social Services for Senior Citizens Tax. This will provide much-needed funding of $93,000 for senior services in Logan County. We believe this is what the voters approved.

2)  Approve $50,000 of that funding for the Senior Citizens of Logan County, Inc./Oasis Senior Center. We will seek funding elsewhere for a 15-passenger van.

3)  Approve $30,000 of that funding for the Central Illinois Economic Development Corporationís (CIEDC) programs for Logan County senior citizens.

4)  Approve the rest of the funding to the Rural Health Partnershipís mobile health unit.

This plan will help all of us. We respectfully request the Logan County Board to re-think the funding plan it approved on October 19, as itís obvious from observing that meetingís proceedings that the decision-making process for the allocation of this tax is not an exact science.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Judy Donath

Executive Director

Senior Citizens of Logan County, Inc.


Former school board member and preservationist responds to Jim Wilmert's letter

10-20-00

To the Editor:

Jim Wilmertís recent letter does not deserve to go unanswered. When he accuses those who want to preserve and renovate Central and the Junior High of distributing "disinformation" and "downright untruths," he is dead wrong. Those of us who want the save the schools have been extremely conscientious in presenting only factual information, to the extent of our knowledge, and in trying to get as much information as possible before the public prior to the election.

Jim is guilty in his first paragraph of the same "downright untruths" with which he erroneously charges our group. His statement, "a NO vote means simply the voters want nothing done to the schools," has no basis in fact. No one who has followed our arguments could believe this statement. Far from doing "nothing" to these neglected buildings, we are urging a much better solution than demolition. We want to see the buildings renovated to state-of-the-art condition.

Throughout the rest of Jimís letter, he is guilty of similar distortions.

1.  Jim claims that the schools in District 27 are overcrowded, despite the facts that the school population is "declining slightly," according to the superintendent, and that the teacher-pupil ratio is less than the state average. He says that new mandated programs cause the overcrowding. But if student population is not increasing and classroom size is below average, then the obvious solution to this "overcrowding" problem is not to tear the buildings down. Instead, the better solution for our children is to reconfigure the buildings, moving walls and reclaiming unused space.

2.  Jim says that the schools are becoming "unsafe as well as impractical." But every single example that he cites can be corrected completely by renovating the buildings, according to the District 27 architect. School Board President Bill Bates also conceded this in a letter to the Courier. Dr. Kidd and the architect have also stressed repeatedly at public meetings that the buildings are definitely not unsafe at this time. We can ensure they will not become unsafe in the future by renovating the buildings to optimum condition and making sure they are properly maintained.

3.  Jim claims that students would need to be relocated for two years during renovation, at a cost of half a million dollars. This statement is not true. The district architect projected a 12 to 15 month relocation period. And no one has ever felt that portable classrooms would be an acceptable solution. This is a complete "red herring" on the superintendentís part. The foremost expert in the country on school renovation, Bill Latoza of BauerLatoza Studio in Chicago, has renovated many, many schools without relocating children at all. Our own school board should demand nothing less.

4.  Jim says that those who want to relocate students (which we do not think would even be needed) are guilty of "criminal neglect" and "child abuse." I will not even bother to address such careless rhetoric.

5.  The only way that Jim and others know how to refute the expertise of an architect with Bill Latozaís credentials is to assert that he is "from Chicago." All who attended Latozaís presentation know that he was never condescending and spoke solely from his own vast experience in the field. He never claimed to know more than the Lincoln residents about their own schools. The irony here is that District Architect Dave Leonatti, whose Springfield firm has very little actual school experience, relies on the expertise of a partner firm in Indianapolis. Why is the urban firm from Indiana credible when Latozaís is not?

6.  Jim continues to use the scare tactic of implying that the state money will not be there for renovation if we do not pass this referendum. This is simply not true. We have every assurance from state officials that the School Construction Grant will be in place for many years to come.

Finally, it is interesting that Jim and the Save Our Schools Citizens Committee agree completely on his three major priorities, namely, that the decision made on November 7:

  • Be in the best educational interest of the children, including their welfare and safety;
  • Give full materials and support to teaching staff to allow them to do the best job possible;
  • Provide the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Those of us who want to preserve and renovate the schools feel that voting NO is the best means of achieving all of the above.

Sincerely,

Valecia Crisafulli

Crisafulli was a member of the District 27 Board of Education from 1982 to 1993. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Association of School Boards for six years, chairing the State School Finance Committee. She has a masterís degree in education and taught school, grades 6 through college level, for 10 years. For the past 10 years, she has worked in the field of preservation-based community and economic development.

 

[click here for the letter to which this writer is responding]

 


 

 

Please send your letters by e-mail to ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com or by U.S. postal mail to:

Letters to the Editor
Lincoln Daily News
601 Keokuk St.
Lincoln, IL  62656

Letters must include the writer's name, telephone number, mailing address and/or e-mail address (we will not publish address or phone number information). Lincoln Daily News reserves the right to edit letters to reduce their size or to correct obvious errors. Lincoln Daily News reserves the right to reject any letter for any reason. Lincoln Daily News will publish as many acceptable letters as space allows. 



 

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