Below are some things I would like to see District 26 study. I've formed no conclusions about whether they'd add to the success of District 26, but I believe they are questions that should be asked, researched, and answered.
- How do activity fees collected compare with what D-26 expected to collect? If the district collected more than it expected, should the surplus be refunded, or returned via credit? What can we do to reduce or eliminate fees, at least for academic programs, since the Illinois Constitution says elementary education will be free?
- Is the gifted program all it can be, given the existing district resources? District 26 children with the greatest potential must have the best possible opportunity to realize that potential.
- What is the performance of D-26 alumni in high school and beyond? One of our elementary schools' main purposes is to prepare students for secondary education. How successful are we? Can we go back and survey past graduates of D-26, or at least track such data going forward?
- Are we making the most efficient use of district space? In late 2003, well before the March, 2004, referendum was defeated, I suggested District 26 had to close at least one school. The newspapers say Oak Knoll was closed because the referendum was defeated. I disagree. It was a sound business decision that should have been discussed as soon as the referendum to build the junior high passed.. After building Deerpath and Cary Junior High, keeping five K-4 schools open would have been an extravagant luxury, given the student population. Note that after Oak Knoll closed, none of the remaining schools were near capacity.
I'd also like to see the board study the space efficiency of the Administration Center and compare it with standard business practices. The current board must be somewhat in agreement, as it asked the operations manager at the February 14, 2005, board meeting to look into leasing half of the Administration Center's 8,000 square feet.
- Is District 26 collecting an appropriate amount of impact fees and transition fees from new business and home construction? We should ensure that fees collected from new home construction cover the costs the new homes present to the district at the time the costs are incurred.
- What are the true costs of "unfunded mandates"? If the cost of unfunded mandates is one cause of financial problems, these costs need to be accurately quantified and clearly presented to taxpayers. There is also legislation pending -- HB 925 -- that would exempt school districts from programs mandated by the state or federal government for which funding is not provided.
- Should District 26 do rigorous benchmarking, as other area districts have done with significant success?
- What is District 26's policy regarding mental health screening and what is disclosed to parents? Without fanfare or opposition, the Illinois 93rd General Assembly passed the Illinois Children's Mental Health Screening Act of 2003. This basically makes Illinois the national guinea pig for a program that allows government to screen children in school for mental health disorders up to 10 times from birth through age 18, without having to inform the parents.
- What is the policy and procedure for studying questions like these? How are questions raised, who can raise them, and what's the criteria for the board to commission studying a question? What is the policy and procedure for determining who conducts such studies (board members, staff, community task forces, etc.) and what the deliverables of such studies are?