Jan Shaw to CUSD 200 taxpayers

Dear Neighbor,

I’m Jan Shaw.  My husband and I have lived in Wheaton for 34 years. This is a wonderful, caring community.  And it is HOME. All four of our sons were born here, raised here, and attended public school K-12 in Community Unit School District (CUSD) 200.  They received an excellent education.  Along the way we volunteered to help in the classroom, on field trips, with scouts, baseball, etc.  I even worked as a substitute teacher for several years. I’ve seen our District from many angles over many years.

Like me, I suspect many of you who are long-time residents remember what the District has done and promised.  Right now, District 200 claims Jefferson is its priority – and that we must build a new school.  They are counting on us to forget that Jefferson had not been their priority until it became Jefferson’s turn.  In fact, they have spent our money on just about everything possible other than Jefferson.  For example:

  • In 1999, a $35 million referendum was passed to update elementary schools and middle schools – There was nothing for Jefferson.
  • In 2003, a $72 million referendum was passed for expanding both high schools – Due to declining enrollment the high schools are now overbuilt –There was nothing for Jefferson.
  • In 2008, a $58 million referendum was passed to build a new Hubble Middle School – a school that is now well below capacity – There was still nothing for Jefferson;
  • In 2012, the district received a $14.46 million state capital improvement grant that could have paid for a new, appropriate-sized Jefferson in cash, but the District put it in the bank to shore up their deficit spending – There was still nothing for Jefferson.
  • In 2013 the voters rejected a $17.6 million referendum to build a new Jefferson that was too big and too expensive.
  • After that, the District skipped five opportunities from 2014 through 2016 to seek voter approval of a right-sized, affordable Jefferson project. And
  • In 2017, the District bundled Jefferson as part of a massive $132 million borrowing plan to do many other unrelated things. It sank of its own weight.

Along the way District 200:

  • raised our property taxes every year to the maximum amount permitted by the tax cap,
  • supported Courthouse TIF financing that kept valuable property off the tax rolls and shifted the burden to homeowners,
  • Issued $30 million in non-referendum bonds (“Working Cash Fund Bonds” in 2009 and 2014) to cover deficit spending,
  • signed teacher contracts that gave raises in excess of projected property tax growth, and
  • had the highest paid superintendent in the State of Illinois at one time, while fighting all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court against disclosing his contract terms.

 

Because of this track record, and their recent decision to find a “clever way” to borrow and build a new Jefferson without voter approval after two failed referendums, despite the law requiring a successful referendum to build a new school, I decided to file a lawsuit.

 

In response to my lawsuit:

Last Wednesday, the board tabled the two action items regarding Jefferson:  One to issue millions in new debt called “lease certificates” and one to approve construction contracts. Monday, 8/20/2018, a special meeting was held at which they voted to terminate the lease agreement and to place the building of a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center on the November ballot.  What I don’t see in the resolution is what the building will cost.  Remember, if they spend it, we will pay it.

I am pleased that the Board has agreed to request authority from the community via referendum as required by law rather than proceeding without permission. However, the District must also be candid about the financial impact of a new building. Can the district afford to build a new Jefferson without raising taxes, increasing debt, or cutting other programs, while still maintaining all schools? The answer is, not without cutting something else. In a video posted last year, Dr. Schuler told us that if the 2017 referendum failed (as it did) the district would need to set aside $6.5 million per year for building maintenance.  See: youtube.com/watch?v=7lpcowogMPs. Has anything changed?

We have suggested cuts from salaries and benefits, starting with eliminating all end-of-career bonuses and having administrators pay their own pension contributions, just like our teachers do.  The Board ignored our suggestions and approved:

  • a new superintendent’s contract with annual raises and a new bonus at the end of that contract extension.
  • a new teachers’ contract that still contains end-of-career bonuses plus a new benefit of extra sick days for experience (varies from 15 to 27 sick days for teaching students 176 days per year. Up to 340 sick days can be accumulated for 2 years of service credit in computing their pension),
  • new contracts for each administrator with raises and no concessions.

At the May 9 board meeting prior to approving the new teachers’ contract, Jim Gambaiani read his prepared statement: “…The financial impact of this contract will place the district in deeper financial stress.  The current 5-year budget forecast reflects a deficit of nearly $8 million.  Approval of this contract will add an additional $13 million pushing the total 5-year deficit to $21 million…”   That $13 million would have gone a long way toward paying for a new Jefferson.

After 34 years as an active Wheaton resident, I will continue to expect the best for our children. The real question is what are we teaching them?  Are we teaching them to live within their means and to take care of what they have? Or are we showing them that they can ignore building maintenance until fixing the existing “old” building is “too expensive” in order to justify spending millions more for something “new”?

It is now up to the adults in the community to determine how we go forward from here. With honest information, I trust the adults will set a good example and make the best decision for our community.  The children are watching us and they are learning.  What will we teach them?

Jan Shaw – Wheaton Resident
Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 “watchdog”

 

Printable pdf version Jan Shaw 8_21_2018 open letter dated

 

The 2012, $14.46 million state capital improvement grant check:

check

Related posts:

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Jan Shaw to CUSD 200 taxpayers

  1. Yes….it’s just a pile of corruption…except when you were receiving a salary and your kids attended the schools. How convenient.

    Even if everything you wrote is accurate and included all the relevant facts (it isn’t, and doesn’t), still fails to resolve the issue of the current Jefferson School matter. Your actions have actually cost the District $610,000.00 in wasted effort over the past year of planning to resolve the matter. You waited until the 11th hour to take action at tremendous financial and scholastic impact to the District. I understand the tactical reasons why you did so at the behest of your shadow group, and I’ll be sure to educate the District and parents about it. And the fact that you do not seem to understand the lease process and “diversion” of funds previously proposed to resolve the matter does not make the plan illegal or against the “will of the voters”.

    These and other facts will be part of our planned communications, advertising, websites, press releases and other plans to counter your simplistic narrative…with the finger squarely pointed at you as the cause of the lack of progress and loss of tax dollars.

    You and your shadow group actually funding you and actually writing your complaint will now have to deal with a competent and volunteer force of unpaid lawyers, professionals and caring District parents who will be shining a light on your “noble cause” to prevent a resolution for the Jefferson School.

    I notice you fail to allow posts on your site that disagree with your unique view. Says a lot. If you can’t take the heat and debate the issues, perhaps you should bow out and let the shadow group take over. But your voice will no longer be the only one…and not the loudest.

    If you would like to debate the matter, pick a date and a time and I’ll be there.

    Like

  2. I’m thankful Jan has done what she’s done. I think the way the board has gone against two referendums is terrible. They are spending operational money for capital purposes. That’s is both irresponsible and short sighted. We will need operational money and they will get it by raising our taxes.

    I support the need for a new Jefferson. I do NOT support the current plan. The new building is extravagant and will destroy precious green space. IF they come up with a better plan (I have attended the community meetings prior to both referendums, attended board meetings and met with Dr. Schuler personally to voice my suggestions), I’d support it.

    I DO NOT support the current plan. The board continues to be deceptive. Most recently, in their choice of words for the referendum. No mention of the cost or how it will be paid for.

    I believe in making an educated decision which requires a transparent board providing complete, fact-based information. They used a “clever way’ to try and build a new school…and got caught breaking the law. Now they are being “clever” again with misleading, half-truth wording on the referendum. Hopefully, our community will recognize this for what it is and vote NO on the referendum….for the third time.

    Like

    1. James, thanks for engaging in a discussion. Note that the previous location in the park near the middle school off Manchester was scrapped and the most recent planned construction was to be at the current location on Hazelton, so no park green space would have been impacted.

      The Board did not break the law. The Referendums that failed called for a tax increase to provide for the construction of a new school. The referendums did not result in a vote stating that no school could be built. In fact, it is required that sufficient facilities to meet the needs of students be provided….by law.

      A lease buyback is not new. It is done all the time in commercial real estate. While relatively new to school construction, it is not a case of first impression. It is not misleading to find ways to do things that do not violate the law and do not increase taxes.

      We can and should hold our officials’ feet to the fire on spend. I don’t see what has been sneaky and not transparent. It’s all in the various meetings and Budget. I don’t think they are flawless or without issue, and your concerns there are valid. But spend one-hour walking around Jefferson, and you would understand the need.

      I believe you when you say you care. But even if you didn’t care about the children, let’s just talk about money. I accept that some people only care about money, even if they don’t want to seem that way outwardly. Jan’s untimely actions cost us all $610,000.00 and growing. Also a budget fact. If she had taken the action months ago when this plan was first enacted, that expense wouldn’t have occurred and perhaps an alternate plan that you and others could find palatable could have been implemented without further hurting our children.

      The current school wastes thousands in maintenance and other excessive costs. It is a fact that early intervention of the kind provided by Jefferson saves money downstream by having fewer children in special needs classes, less needed staff, facilities, etc. which otherwise costs money. Crappy facilities impact our school rating and all our property values.

      And if you don’t like conspiracies and less than transparent behavior, read the Complaint Jan filed. She didn’t write that, but she filed it pro se as if she did. Why is she obviously receiving significant and costly help from an unknown source which she won’t disclose? Who are they, what are their objectives? If they are so noble and just protecting all the poor taxpayers, why not be upfront about it?

      Meanwhile, the Jefferson School issue gets worse and remains unresolved.

      Like

      1. The waste of $610,000 was caused solely by CUSD200. Hiring a private company to conduct “community” surveys was the first in many errors, we can see thru the fog and double-speak. Here is the quote from Hazlewood’s school superintendent :
        “School leaders who hope to move their district’s forward must understand that we can’t make progress without the informed consent, active participation, and sound advice of those who pay the bills! UNICOM•ARC understands this fact of life in public education better than any group I know. They can steer a district through a public engagement process, secure accurate survey data, and guide election efforts to achieve even the most ambitious district goals.”
        .
        I have been in CUSD200 for 24 years. We voted no twice. What is so hard to understand about that word?

        Like

      2. Marty. The referendum was to approve a special assessment to pay for the new Jefferson School. The referendum did NOT result in a prohibition to otherwise build a new school. The plan would have accomplished that.

        The Board has an obligation to provide adequate facilities for our students. Jefferson School is inadequate. All Jan’s interesting “facts” going back to the years of the Clinton Presidency (when none of the current Board members were even here) fails to resolve that underlying fact. The Board took action to find a resolution. Jan’s lawsuit stopped a resolution and resulted in a great cost to the Taxpayers… and still no resolution! (She’s good at complaining….but bad at resolutions) I often wonder if this is based on a noble cause to protect us or merely being a poor loser for not winning a Board seat…twice.

        As I always end every post on every media outlet on this matter, I would be happy to discuss this matter and debate the issues and facts. Let’s find a time.

        Like

      3. Everything Greg is saying is so true, well researched and exactly what most of us are thinking!

        Greg, keep up the great work on spreading the correct information. If it was not for this small but loud group, the district could have moved on to the long list of other things the board has on their agenda to better our students’ educational environments.

        Like

  3. School boards in Illinois share the attitude of righteous indignation against anyone who tries to thwart their profligacy.
    Board members invoke the law as a rationale…in defending spending in violation of the law.
    Just because other schools have used the lease certificate scheme doesn’t mean it is legal. It means that in those particular circumstances, no citizens were willing to, or could afford to, seek judicial determination.
    Ms. Shaw seems to have struck a nerve, judging by the ad hominem diversions and overt threats posted in comments here.
    I suggest taxpayers investigate the TIF for conflicts of interest by board members or school financial administrators.
    Also, check the transportation fund for serial excess levy/transfers out to Ed Fund.

    Like

    1. Thanks for participating in the discussion, Susan.

      As I have said here and other places, nothing the Board did was illegal despite Ms. Shaw’s allegation (and that’s all it was…an allegation). You and Ms. Shaw imply a conspiracy when this was an open process. Just because you don’t LIKE the elected Board decisions doesn’t make those decisions illegal. I would be happy to discuss this matter further with affected members of our District who have a right to discuss how their District Board uses resources.

      And therein lies the rub. Ms. Shaw’s actions seem more driven by the goals, money and efforts of others. Others…most of whom are not part of our District. A failed far-right gubernatorial candidate rejected by even her own party, far-right media outlet owned by Dan Proft and associates that pretends to be legitimate and unbiased news sources as an attempt to fool unknowledgeable readers, organizations whose stated goals are to dismantle public education, and others who have goals and objectives that are more than just the otherwise noble goal of protecting taxpayer money.

      I’m sure your school district in McHenry may have issues of its own for which your efforts could be more useful. The constituents here…who pay taxes here and whose children attend schools here should be the rightful decision makers of how our tax dollars are spent. I’m sure you would not want me to spend money, time and efforts to counter your efforts in your own District where I have no legitimate standing or right to do so.

      Parents like me and many others do not want the Jefferson School problem in our District to continue unresolved, as it negatively impacts the students, our City reputation, property values, downstream special needs expenses, and other pocketbook issues (for those who only care about money), and subjects the District to liability due to noncompliance with laws as to infrastructure requirements based on Federal and state law. We object to 1 person being able to constantly derail a resolution to the detriment of many others without legitimate cause…and based on the shadow agenda and efforts of others.

      Good luck with your efforts with the McHenry County Woodstock School D200 Board and any legitimate issues you may uncover, and do voice your concerns accordingly.

      Like

      1. Again, your arguments veer from the specific topic toward ad hominem attacks which have no bearing on specific issue at hand.

        Illegal? That is for a court to determine. Apparently that has happened, as Shaw’s lawsuit was settled. It is very rare to find one citizen willing to risk her all on behalf of everyone’s benefit, to challenge arguably illegal activity by local government operators.

        Legal responsibility for Jefferson? Evidently that responsibility was shirked over and over again in the past.
        Illinois Law provides ample leeway for wealthy communities to fund their operational spending needs.
        For you to argue that your district spent the money (which you had a legal obligation to spend on Jefferson) on different discretionary purchases such as big bonuses and perq’s for union staff and admin, then justify disregarding school code to ‘fulfill your legal responsibility for Jefferson’ is like
        the husband saying he blew his paycheck at the track so the wife must come up with that month’s rent money.
        If you argue that ‘needs’ (as defined by a Board with no checks on conflicts of interest) justify any behavior in ignoring statutes meant to rein in overspending of public funds, where do you stop?

        Speaking of Woodstock CUSD 200 in McHenry County, Our property tax rate has been well above 4% of total home fair market value for many many years. It has been devastated our property values. Our Board exhibits the same attitude displayed by Greg.
        Think it can’t happen to YOU? Ha! Neither did Woodstock.

        Like

      2. Susan,
        My “attacks” are not “ad hominem” but rather specifically address the Jefferson School issue, the actual basis for the claims, and what has actually has occurred.

        Thankfully, you are not a judge. Anyone can file a complaint. Doesn’t make the allegations in the Complaint proven or true. The case was not “settled”. Like other things stated on this website, that is just factually inaccurate! It was dismissed. That means no judgment of “illegality” of action was ever reached. The new pending referendum makes the Complaint substantively moot, thus the agreed dismissal. Ms. Shaw did not “win” or prove the Board acted illegally…nor did the Board prove it acted appropriately.

        Like Ms. Shaw, you give us a historical narrative going back 5 ….10…20 plus years as to what other Boards did or did not do to address the Jefferson School issue. Even if that narrative was accurate, how does that means the CURRENT Board is incorrect for seeking to fix something other Board’s should have done…..and which we district members expect them to do? Many new elected officials across our entire political system fix or attempt to address issues otherwise neglected by others in the past. That’s one of the major parts of their platforms…change for one reason or another!

        I never made the argument you apply to me that money paid for wages were diverted and could have paid for the School. Doesn’t have any bearing on what I actually wrote, nor any basis in fact.

        Whereas my statements about the Complaint, the far right wing media
        and public education haters support of Ms. Shaw’s allegations, and the apparent support by others who don’t pay taxes here and are not part of our District (like you, for example) have basis in fact.

        Good luck in your District.

        Like

  4. The facts as I have read them here are:
    your wealthy district could have afforded to fix the ‘Jefferson problem’ in years past, and elected instead to award lavish salaries and bennies perqs and OPEBs , and spend your money otherwise.
    your district has proposed two Jefferson funding referenda, in accordance with school funding law, which failed to pass.
    your district then decided to test the interpretation of ambiguous and arguably conflicting Statutory law, hoping that no citizen could afford to take the deep-pocket school district to court seeking judicial review.
    (your district decided that wasn’t a winning argument? wasn’t ready to risk establishing case law to the contrary?)

    I think I got all the Facts.
    This last bit is my speculation:
    now your district will have a referendum. you will undoubtedly spend taxpayer money to advertise the evils of voting NO to your referendum.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s