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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:15AM



U46 must be responsive to parents and taxpayers

Wanting to be involved in my two daughters’ education brought me into contact with the U46 Citizens’ Advisory Council the year of the boundary changes. I joined the Legislative Committee, always being interested in politics. Through my involvement in CAC, I have been co-chair and chair of the CAC Legislative Committee, co-chair of the CAC Enrollment & Facilities Committee for two years, and vice chair of the CAC as a whole.

Through my involvement in CAC, I was a charter member of former state Rep. Ruth Munson’s Legislative Roundtable and served on former Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s NCLB/Education Advisory Committee for five years.

In my opinion, this school district is headed in the wrong direction. There are several issues that come to the forefront. Please let me try to elaborate on a few of those issues, and my position on them.

First, no one really seems concerned about the taxpayers of U46. When community taxpayers address the board and administration with concerns, generally they are dismissed as not representative of the community. Taxpayers are the backbone of any school district, and I hope to redress that problem.

U46 has a multitude of buildings and properties, altogether 103 permanent buildings. The age range of these buildings vary; they were constructed anywhere between 1880 and 2004. With that many buildings, 50 percent of which were constructed between 1953 and 1983, upkeep should be a major concern. According to recent study done for the district in 2008-09 by Wight & Co. (I will quote the study), “Current facility condition costs, including general condition and educational facility deficiencies, total $300.5 million. Of that total, $215.1 million are related to the general condition of the site and buildings, while $85.4 million are related to educational facility deficiencies districtwide.”

District upkeep ties in with my next concern: the discrimination lawsuit and school overcrowding. During the 2010-11 school year, I was one of four co-chairs of the Citizens Advisory Council Enrollment & Facilities Committee. We were charged with the task of looking at school boundaries, feeder patterns, etc., and trying to alleviate some of the more heavily overcrowded schools: Nature Ridge, Lincoln, Coleman and Lords Park, just to name a few. When we were just about ready to finish our work, and were close to an agreement on minor changes and recommendations on overcrowding, the rug was pulled out from under us; we were told to cease and desist our work on boundaries. I can only assume people in power were afraid of another lawsuit. So, a few years later, the 2012-13 school year, the lawsuit continues as does the overcrowding at some schools and underutilization at others. That is no way for our kids to learn. We need a comprehensive look at school utilization and boundaries now, lawsuit or not.

I am in favor of charter schools, parent-trigger laws, “common-core” standards, merit/performance pay for teachers and tenure reform, as well as school day/school year reform.

Therefore, a broad-based board of education that is cognizant of, and responsive to, the parents and taxpayers of U46 will be my primary objective.

Gary Percy

Elgin



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