Dist. 73 to hold final engagement meeting on building plans

The last in a series of community engagement meetings to narrow the focus of building improvement plans in Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary School District 73 will be held Wednesday.

As in previous sessions, stakeholders are being asked their priorities as the school board hones a proposal that will be pitched to voters in a November referendum. Wednesday's meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Townline Elementary, 810 N. Aspen Drive, Vernon Hills.

Options on how to address a space crunch in the district's six schools have been narrowed to two. Architectural firm DLR Group is expected to present estimated costs as the school board considers the next steps.

"It's refining those two options now," school board President Sonali Patil said. "The faster we come to a conclusion, the faster we can refine one plan."

The district has approved an educational facilities master plan calling for renovations and additions at schools to deal with climbing enrollment. However, voters last April rejected a $42 million bond issue to fund the work.

The district is expected to try again in November, but the scope of the work and amount to be sought is being determined. Paperwork must be filed with the Lake County Clerk's office by Aug. 28.

As the process proceeds, the school board also has a full plate with other issues.

An 18-classroom, 36,000-square-foot kindergarten center planned as an addition to the Vernon Hills Park District's Sullivan Center is part of the same master facilities plan, but will be funded separately with reserves. However, the low construction bid came in about $2.7 million higher than expected.

"Right now (architects) are doing what's called value engineering to see if we can lower the cost," Patil said.

School board members also are facing the pending departure of two top administrators who have accepted jobs elsewhere.

Superintendent Nick Brown has been hired to the same post in Merrillville, Indiana, and Lisa Leali (Cerauli), assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, is heading to Kenilworth District 38 as chief education officer.

Brown was hired in 2012. Leali has been with the district for 19 years. Both departures are effective July 1.

Patil said a search firm will be hired to recruit an interim superintendent. Whether that person comes from the ranks or outside is to be determined. The interim superintendent will serve for a year. and Leali's post will be shared in house for the time being, she added.

Until then, remaining administrators will be asked to do more.

"We have an amazing administrative team the will help run the schools," Patil said.

Talks also continue with the teachers union regarding a new contract.

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