A Committee of the Whole and Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, August 13. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.
The Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of hiring three new staff to fill key positions. These new staff members are Alma Tamayo, coordinator of special services, Allison Stein, director of teaching and learning, and Jennifer Haack, Ed.D., principal of Townline Elementary.
Alma Tamayo is no stranger to Hawthorn. She served as a dual language special education teacher at Hawthorn’s School of Dual Language from 2015 to present, as a first-grade dual language teacher at the same school from 2014 to 2015, and as a bilingual/ELL teacher at Hawthorn’s Elementary South from 2013 to 2014.
Allison Stein formerly served for eight years as the principal at McCracken Middle School in Skokie, Illinois. Prior to that she served in the roles of principal and associate principal at several schools, including Edgewood Middle School and Indian Trail Elementary School in Highland Park, Illinois.
Jennifer Haack, Ed.D., most recently served as associate principal of Fremont Elementary and Intermediate Schools in Mundelein from 2013 to present. Prior to that she served as the associate principal of Fremont Elementary School from 2011 to 2013 and as a fourth-grade teacher at Woodland School District 50 in Gurnee from 2001 to 2011.
Board Approves Two Referendum Questions for November
A. 2018 Educational Facilities Master Plan
Over the past year, the board held a series of community engagement meetings to receive community feedback on how the district could resolve the space constraints its schools are presently experiencing. The board selected one option out of several options based on feedback from the community and guidance from professionals. The option includes renovations and additions to all buildings, the construction of a kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center, and STEM centers in the middle schools, but no library renovations. The board unanimously approved a resolution asking for voter approval to issue $48,700,000 School Building Bonds to fund this option. The resolution will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
B. Increasing the Limiting Rate
The addition of the kindergarten building and other building expansions will lead to an increase in the district’s operational costs. To cover these costs, an additional $1.3 million is necessary, which would result in a $.10 tax rate increase. The tax increase on a home valued at $350,000 would be $111. The board unanimously approved a resolution asking for voter approval to increase the limiting rate for the district by an additional amount equal to 0.10 percent above the limiting rate for school purposes for levy year 2017 and establishing the same at 3.332646% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property for levy year 2018. The resolution will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot.
Cost Cutting Measures
Facilities Manager Mike Christensen spoke about the district’s cost cutting measures. He said the district is researching moving to solar power in the near future as a way to reduce costs. He said the cost savings at Elementary North alone would be approximately $1.1 million. He said that he is reviewing and dissecting maintenance contracts, and has found opportunities to save $130,000. He also reviewed several changes, such as hiring far less summer workers, not using outside contractors, and using one procurement company instead of multiple vendors, that have led to significant savings.
Board Vice President Jayson Tran thanked Wendy Peterson, administrative assistant to the superintendent, for her years of service at Hawthorn, as she is leaving the district.
Superintendent Joseph Porto discussed the organization of a communications campaign to educate the public about the referendum questions. He mentioned that the Residency Event in August would be a good time to launch the campaign.
The meeting began with a presentation by PTO President Wendy Elman and Treasurer Katie Agam. This year, the PTO raised $65,000 for the schools. Ms. Elman said that with books and programming, the PTO’s overall contribution came to approximately $86,000. Board of Education President Sonali Patil thanked the PTO for all of its efforts on behalf of the District.
Dr. Mark Friedman and Dr. Anne Noland of BWP Associates discussed their strategy for recruiting candidates for several key positions at Hawthorn. They are conducting searches for a new Principal at Townline Elementary, the District’s Director of Teaching and Learning, the Interim Superintendent, and the Superintendent. The search for the Superintendent will begin in August. BWP Associates will launch an advertising campaign as well as gather community input through several community engagement meetings and a community survey. They will begin screening interviews in November. The Board will interview the final two or three candidates with the goal to appoint a new superintendent by December/January. The new superintendent would begin at Hawthorn on July 1, 2019.
Director of Finance and Business Operations Abe Singh gave a presentation on the 2018-2019 tentative budget. He said the goal is to have a finalized draft of the budget for the public hearing on August 13. The adoption of the budget is scheduled for September 17. The budget is due to the tax extension office on September 28.
Mr. Singh discussed Hawthorn’s Fund Balance. He said that while a Fund Balance should ideally grow every year, Hawthorn’s Fund Balance is decreasing due to the District’s growth and the fact that the District’s revenue doesn’t match the financial needs of that growth. The District had an operational deficit of approximately $3 million in 2015, $467,000 in 2016 and $1.7 million in 2017.
He also discussed Hawthorn’s cash reserve. He said that if $12 million of the District’s cash reserve of $13.1 million were to be used to fund the building of the kindergarten facility at the Sullivan Center, the cash reserve would be reduced to $1 million within a few years. He noted that it is important for a school district to have enough cash reserves to cover unforeseen emergencies and avoid short term borrowing. Right now, Hawthorn has two and a half months in its reserves.
District Superintendent Nick Brown was asked whether it would be appropriate to charge tuition for Hawthorn’s full day kindergarten program. Several districts in close proximity to Hawthorn charge tuition or charge a registration fee. He said that when the full-day program started it was agreed that the program would be free since many families within the District could not afford the tuition of $4,000, and it was part of the strategic plan to offer such opportunities to all families. It also supports the strategic plan goal of expanding early intervention opportunities to all students as well as equitable access to high quality programs for all students. The full day tuition program was available in only two buildings previously. He said that full day kindergarten was one of the best things that could be offered to Hawthorn families.
Ms. Patil led a discussion on value engineering for the kindergarten building construction. She said that since the bids for the construction of the kindergarten building came in about $2.7 million over the projected $12 million cost, Lamp, Inc. looked at ways to reduce costs. The Board reviewed a list of items that could be deleted or altered to reduce costs. The list included items totaling about $500,000. The Board either accepted or declined to accept the changes for each item.
The Board discussed possible revisions to the Educational Facilities Master Plan. Some Board members expressed concern about using funds from the limited cash reserve for the construction of the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. Options discussed included using only a portion of the Fund Balance for the kindergarten building. A different idea put forward was to include only the kindergarten building on the referendum to help ensure that it passed. The discussion will continue at the June 25 board meeting.
In her President’s Report, Ms. Patil thanked Mr. Brown for serving as the District’s Superintendent. She said that she appreciated his availability and his focus on the students. She paraphrased one of his mottos: “It’s all about the kids. The rest is noise and it will sort itself out.”
Winners of Most Improved Student Award Announced
Dr. Joe Yomtoob, a former Hawthorn superintendent, and his wife, Mrs. Parichehr Yomtoob, presented the Most Improved Student Awards at the beginning of the Board meeting. The 2018 recipients are:
Joseph F.- Aspen
Tony L. – School of Dual Language
Elizabeth S. – Elementary North
Cristian G. – Elementary South
Renz S. – Townline Elementary
David “Junior” F. – Aspen
Diana H. – School of Dual Language
Trey M. – Elementary North
Daniel N. – Elementary South
Layla S. – Townline Elementary
Candela A. – Middle School North
Arleth A. – Middle School South
To apply for this award, students submitted essays on why they felt they deserved the award. They were asked to reflect on how they grew in the last three years of school. They were also asked to detail the steps they took to make improvements, who helped them, and how they planned to continue to grow.
Middle School Dual Language Expansion
District Superintendent Nick Brown provided an update on the middle school dual language expansion. He said that the expanded dual language program will be provided for sixth grade and then for seventh grade with zero impact to the budget. The Board has yet to approve the expansion to eighth grade. The program will include Spanish literacy and social studies classes. The teachers hired to teach social studies will also be helping ELL students.
Kindergarten Building Construction Bids Update
Tom McGrath at Lamp, Inc., discussed specific items that could potentially be reduced or deleted in the construction of the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center to reduce costs. The DLR Group is preparing a memo on how the proposed reductions would affect the overall design of the building. The memo will be submitted to the Board prior to the May 21 community engagement meeting.
Jason Lembke and Bonnie Sanborn of the DLR Group presented the results of the EFMP survey. They said that the survey had a good response rate with 770 responses, of which 637 were complete responses. (The previous Educational Facilities Master Plan survey had less than 500 responses.) Survey participants were asked to rate the importance of 10 priorities. Participants rated the priorities as follows (in the order of highest to lowest):
- Equity in space
- Low first-time cost
- Extra-curricular spaces
- Building shift
- Low life cycle cost
- Outdoor play/green space
- Higher density campus
- Keeping current density
- Solving traffic issues
- Preserving enrollment boundaries
The survey also asked participants to rate options offered by community members at the April 30 Community Engagement meeting. The survey found:
- By a very small margin, there is less support for a kindergarten addition at the Sullivan Center than for the other options.
- There is somewhat less support for a 450-student dual language K-5 option.
- There is somewhat more support for an option which accommodates grades 5-8 at Middle School North and Middle School South, and create a new or adaptive reuse building for 750 students in grades 5-8.
- There is somewhat more support for an option which prioritizes middle school changes over elementary school changes.
- There is no clear support, or lack of support, for creating a new or adaptive reuse building for Elementary South, grades K-5.
- There is no clear support, or lack of support, to move forward with the existing Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP). About 25% of the respondents were unfamiliar with the EFMP.
Mr. Lembke provided estimated costs for the options, with the new 5-8 middle school costing the most at $141,500,000 (conventional) and $125,300,000 (adaptive reuse). The least expensive option was the new dual language + pre-K building projected at $107,500,000 (conventional) and $100,400,000 (adaptive reuse). The options will be discussed in further detail at the May 21 Community Engagement Meeting that will take place at 7 p.m. at Middle School South.
Village Trustee Letter
Board members discussed the draft of a letter to trustees of the Village of Vernon Hills asking the Village to explore new ways to generate financial support for the school district. Board members agreed to ask the Village Board to add the letter to the agenda of an upcoming board meeting.
Mr. Brown mentioned that the eighth-grade promotion ceremonies for Middle School North and Middle School South will take place on May 29 at Vernon Hills High School. The Middle South ceremony will start at 6 p.m. and the Middle North ceremony will begin at 8 p.m.
Teachers Receive Tenure
Approximately 30 teachers were granted the status of tenure at the beginning of the meeting. Following a reception for teachers and their families, administrators and board members congratulated the teachers.
The New STAR Team at Elementary South
Dr. Jill Martin, Principal of Elementary South, gave a presentation on a new initiative at her school called the STAR Team. This is an opportunity for fourth and fifth grade students to take ownership and feel connected in their learning community. More than 100 students volunteered to take part in the STAR Team. Participants were divided into four groups:
- The Tech Team provides tech support throughout the building.
- The Beautification Team helps keep the school and its grounds beautiful.
- The Rewards and School Spirit Team helps celebrate the accomplishments of students.
- The Growth Mindset Team reminds students they can do anything they put their minds to.
Dr. Martin said that the STAR Team has been an awesome addition to Elementary South this year. It has given many students a chance to take leadership roles and to have fun while doing it.
Kindergarten Building Construction Bid Update
Tom McGrath and Chad Alexander of Lamp, Inc. discussed the collected bids for the construction of the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. They said that if the building were to be constructed based on the bids, the project would be over the projected budget.
Mr. McGrath asked for more time to go back and figure out why the bids came in so high. The Board agreed to his request. Lamp, Inc. will come to the May 14 Board meeting with a report.
April 17 Community Engagement Meeting
Board President Sonali Patil discussed the April 17 Community Engagement meeting. She said that community members provided a number of ideas and suggestions for moving forward. Some residents sent ideas via email and through Let’s Talk. Their suggestions included: not building a kindergarten building, constructing a new building in Mundelein, adaptive reuse, moving the eighth-grade class to the high school, reconfiguring the schools into grade level centers, and a smaller referendum. She said that all those who submitted ideas should have received a response. During the April 30 working meeting, the board will determine several viable plans, and prioritize them. The public will be able to weigh in on the various plans through a survey.
A number of construction projects have been scheduled for the summer at various Hawthorn buildings. The estimated cost for these projects is $300,080. The Board approved the budget for these projects.
A Special Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Middle School North gymnasium, 201 Hawthorn Parkway in Vernon Hills.
The Hawthorn School District 73 Board of Education is inviting the public to a series of community engagement meetings to discuss how to resolve the District’s space challenges. Currently, District 73 is at capacity and it is growing.
The six meetings will include presentations by the Board of Education and opportunities for community members to provide their feedback and advice. The first two meetings will focus on prioritizing solutions. The April 30 meeting will be a working meeting. The later meetings will focus on communicating solutions. The meetings will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the following dates and locations:
- Thursday, April 5, Elementary North, 301 Hawthorn Parkway in Vernon Hills
- Tuesday, April 17, Elementary South, 430 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills
- Monday, April 30, Middle School North, 201 Hawthorn Parkway in Vernon Hills
- Thursday, May 10, Aspen Elementary, 500 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills (this meeting is canceled)
- Monday, May 21, Middle School South, 600 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills
- Wednesday, May 30, Townline Elementary, 810 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills
Spanish translators will be present. Childcare will be provided on April 5, May 21 and May 30. If you need childcare, please register at least one week prior to the date of the meeting you wish to attend. Send an email with the number of children attending to: email@example.com.
Hawthorn School District 73 is a preschool through eighth-grade public school district serving approximately 4,300 students. It serves the communities of Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Libertyville, Indian Creek and unincorporated areas of Lake County, Illinois.