District 15 taxpayers question $130 million school plan
More than 35 parents and community members attended a Palatine Township Elementary District 15 meeting Thursday where district attorneys briefed board members on their legal obligations and taxpayers voiced their concerns about the proposal that will be on the November ballot.
After a presentation from the district's law firm, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, parents and taxpayers aired their grievances and asked questions about the referendum question, which asks voters to approve borrowing $130 million for the construction of two new schools.
Several District 15 parents questioned how the proposed new boundaries for schools were drawn up, how the committee that recommended the district build two new schools was chosen, and why it was all done quickly.
"I would like to know why the board proposed putting a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot without consulting with the community at large," District 15 parent Melanie Santostefano said. "We need you to not make it appear as if you are slipping these things behind our backs."
Parents, residents and stakeholders deserve to be consulted and considered before big decisions are made, Santostefano said.
In addition to boundary changes, several District 15 residents have questioned whether the new elementary school proposed for the district's northeast corner would siphon many of the district's low-income and minority students into one school.
"I'd like to know what the anticipated demographics will be for each of the schools in District 15," Jane Van Wolvelear said.
Superintendent Scott Thompson said boundaries are still being reviewed, and presentations on the referendum proposal are coming.
"We will have meetings at all schools and at many different places so people can get that information," Thompson said.
In the 10 weeks leading up to the November election, board members are prohibited from participating in certain advocacy activities, said Steve Richart, partner with District 15's law firm.
Board members cannot advocate for or against the bond issue using public money or while assuming their duties as a board member. Board members and district staff members can, in their private time and as private citizens, campaign for or against the proposal. Richart said board members should include a disclaimer in any literature they may send out advocating for or against the proposal that they are doing so as a private citizen.
He said District 15 board members and district staff cannot:
• Use district copier or email addresses or websites for campaign activity.
• Tell students to tell their parents to vote "yes" or "no."
• Describe the proposal as "good for schools" or "badly needed."
• Pay or reward personnel for support of the proposal.
District 15 board members are allowed to:
• Identify possible consequences for both the approval and denial of the referendum request.
• Distribute information that describes the proposal using facts, including enrollment projections and comparisons to other districts.
• Campaign and wear advocacy buttons in their private time, put bumper stickers advocating for or against the proposal on their personal vehicles, and place campaign signs in the yard of their personal property.