We share a common desire to inspire excellence in our students, our community and ourselves. To achieve that mission, we must work together.
Recently, however, based on the outcomes of the last two referendums, our community, school board, and district haven’t been on the same page. We take responsibility for that. We can, and will, do better.
Under the direction of our School Board and Superintendent, District 200 is turning the page on the past. We will collaborate with our parents, taxpayers, teachers, community leaders and anyone else that wishes to work together to move our schools forward.
Our community wants the best possible education for our children at an affordable cost. Our community wants efficient spending and property tax relief. Our community wants to work together to achieve our shared vision for our schools. We’ve heard you loud and clear.
This is our commitment to you: we will collaborate with you on the future of our schools, reduce costs and be fiscally responsible, and provide our children a 21st century education.
Collaborate with You on the Future of Our Schools
We will continually ask for your feedback, and when you share your ideas and concerns we will listen. We will seek your guidance as we make major decisions affecting our district’s future. We will be fully transparent with our finances and in our decision-making process, and we will communicate with you regularly so you know what is happening with our schools. This process has already begun—over the past 16 months, we have held a number of community engagement sessions, surveyed our community and sat one-on-one with many who wished to share their thoughts.
Reduce Costs and Be Fiscally Responsible
We will manage our finances conservatively. We have already made excellent strides in reducing expenditures, continuing to spend less per student than the state average. We eliminated two administrative positions, streamlined operations, reduced energy costs and increased efficiencies. We restructured debt to save taxpayers money. As a result, our tax rate has gone down each of the last three years, and we now have the 3rd lowest tax rate among our benchmark districts. Our fiscal responsibility has earned District 200 the highest-possible “Financial Recognition” designation with the State Board of Education, an upgraded AA+ Stable Standard & Poor’s bond rating, and a balanced budget for nine consecutive years despite state support dropping by over $50 million since 2008.
Provide Our Children a 21st Century Education
We will improve education for our children in an affordable way. This will build on our students’ current successes, as they score well above state average in PARCC grades and ACT scores. Compared to K-12 districts at our per-pupil expenditure level, we have the highest percentage of students meeting/exceeding standards. We have a 95% graduation rate with 93% of our graduates attending college. District 200 is one of only 447 school districts in the US and Canada to be placed on the AP District Honor Roll, and our school district was ranked the 8th best in all of Illinois by Niche.com.
We have already taken steps to implement our new commitment. With the cost savings we’ve achieved, we began to address the most critical capital projects. This summer we spent $4 million on capital projects in order to provide secure entrances at all K-12 schools and address other critical needs.
As the next step in this process, we are engaging the community to solve the issues surrounding Jefferson Early Childhood Center, which we must resolve to remain compliant with state and federal requirements. Based on your feedback, we reduced the number of classrooms from 20 to 16 and made more efficient use of space. As a result, what started as a $17.6 million project is now down to $15 million in the latest construction bids. Utilizing a lease agreement, we are able to fund this building through the district’s operating budget without a tax increase.
While we’ve been advised we could move forward without a referendum, we believe the right thing to do is to put this issue to the voters.
Staying true to our commitment to transparency and collaboration, we have placed a referendum question on the ballot in the upcoming election for you to give us direction on how you would like us to proceed.