What have we learned? How will you vote?
Are you concerned?
Over half your property tax bill funds our local public schools.
Are you concerned?
Barely half of the LFHS share of those taxes goes to instructional spending, well behind peer schools.
Are you concerned?
We have three times the administrator per pupil rate of New Trier, 60% more than Stevenson and double the state.
Are you concerned?
With all that spending and administration, peer schools beat LFHS in several metrics, including having two to three times the number of National Merit Semifinalists (per Senior).
Are you concerned?
91% of homebuyers say schools are important in their home search.
We are concerned. We will work to restore Lake Forest High School to its rightful place as the most collegial, academic powerhouse on the North Shore—serving all students and strengthening our community.
Vote early. VOTE NOW at Lake Forest City Hall
Monday through Friday 9 am-5 pm and Saturday 9 am-2 pm
ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, APRIL 4TH
Estimates on New Trier and Stevenson Senior class population for 2017 were derived by taking total enrollment (up by 195 at Stevenson in 2017) and dividing by 4. Winnetka’s New Trier campus enrolls 3240 in 10-12, so that number was divided by three.
http://www.lakecountyil.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/16129 and http://www.lakecountyil.gov/506/Payment-Information
Sources: Illinois Report Card at https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?districtId=34049115016, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Districtid=05016203017, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Districtid=34049109002, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/School.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Schoolid=340491130170002, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/School.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Schoolid=050162250170002,
https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/School.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Schoolid=050162140170004, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/School.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Schoolid=050162140170008, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Districtid=34049125013, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Districtid=19022086017, https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/School.aspx?source=environment&source2=perstudentspending&Schoolid=050162140170005
Berkshire Hathaway Market Study of Closed Sales 2015-2016, augmented with the same type of Home Sales Stats data for other communities on @properties realtor website www.lisafinks.com
All Boats Rise With The Tide
We are concerned: We’ve had a 200% drop in the rate of National Merit Semifinalists since 2011 and our peers have overtaken LFHS
- Currently, we trail peer schools like Stevenson and New Trier in National Merit Semifinalists by about 200% and 300%.
- But in 2011, 3.2% of our Seniors were National Merit Semi-Finalists. That’s higher than New Trier’s current rate.
- We recognize that these gifted students make a small percentage of our student population.
- We are concerned that our current curriculum is not structured in a way to foster this high achievement.
- We know all our kids are working hard, but we are concerned that these structural curriculum challenges exist across all academic levels
- We are concerned that families looking to move from Chicago are aware of these metrics and will take a pass on LFHS.
Let’s admit there are challenges. But there is also a solution. We need to focus on academic excellence that serves all our students!
Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
- $3,090.60/—for “Professional Meeting—Curr/Educ”–Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston (4 nights at $772.56 a night) with jaunts to Island Creek Oyster Bar($209.62) and Tresca ($272.91)
- $2,317.62—for “PROF DEV/MTGS—WELLNESS ODE—Holiday Home Camp, Lake Geneva
- $1,185—for “PROF DEV/MTGS—WELLNESS ODE”— Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, MN (rock climbing)
- Over $4,000 spent on food last year for “Professional Development Meetings” in Curriculum/Instruction including $1,024.44 for Panera Bread, $687.26 for Cluckers Charcoal Chicken, $504.33 in pizza and a mere $179.84 for Jimmy John’s. While in Chicago, it appears District leaders appreciate Chez Moi and Frontera Grill. While in New York, the restaurant of choice appears to be “Legends Yankee Stadium” in the Bronx.
You Can’t Trust Caucus Vetting
The Lake Forest Caucus wants us to believe it is trustworthy because it “vets” candidates. It is not and does not.
The Caucus endorsed Tomas Nemickas as a candidate for LFHS District 115 school board. He is one of nine Managers listed on the Illinois Secretary of State LLC filings for Illinois Bone and Joint Institute LLC.
As a matter of law, a managing member of an LLC is an individual who holds an ownership interest in the company, participates in its day-to day management and has authority to contract on behalf of the company. Nemickas has additional titles: “He is currently a member of the Executive Board, the Board of Directors, as well as Vice Chairman of the Operations and Technology Committee of IBJI.”
Illinois Bone and Joint Institute, LLC, the exact corporate entity Dr. Nemickas owns, has had a contract with LFHS District 115 for the past six years, with the current contract to expire May 31, 2017. The District is obligated to pay IBJ $35,000 for 1400 hours of work over the school year, with overages billed at $25 per hour.
Pursuant to Illinois law, (105 ILCS 5/10-9) and the LFHS Board’s own rules, Caucus-endorsed Tomas Nemickas will be prohibited from sitting as an LFHS Board member because IBJI company has a contract of $35,000, plus overages, with LFHS through July 2017, well past the seating of new LFHS Board members. This is a crystal-clear, unlawful conflict of interest.
Votes for him will simply not count. Should he be one of the highest four vote-getters, the fifth person in line on the vote count will actually be seated after the election.
Incredibly, Lake Forest Caucus President Christopher Collins is sending an email to Caucus people, telling them: “Neither Dr. Nemickas nor IBJI profits from the contract, as it only covers costs.” This is irrelevant. (It also does not take into account the very profitable “inside sales” aspect of having trainers at LFHS refer students to IBJI doctors!)
There is a second issue that cannot be cured, in addition to Dr. Nemickas’ inability to be seated as a board member: Dr. Nemickas did not disclose this economic interest as required by law in his sworn “Statement of Economic Interest” that accompanied his candidate petitions and statement of candidacy for School Board These papers were filed with the Lake County Clerk’s election officials by Richard Chun, Caucus officer.
This is a very serious issue and speaks to the complete and utter disregard of Caucus Committee leaders for transparency and adherence to the law.
Even more disturbing: Dr. Nemickas’ “slate-mates”, the other Caucus-endorsed candidates, approved the IBJI contract back in June 2016 and apparently see no problem welcoming him onto the Board of Education, where he will be both a government official and a government vendor of training services (and beneficiary of referrals to IBJI doctors).
With all the scandals that have plagued our school districts in the past, do we really need another one?
De-tracking LFHS one class at a time
A great body of research on academic tracking or “grouping” indicates it is the preferable approach for great outcomes for all learners.
We don’t understand why the past protocol—allowing parents, students and guidance counselors to choose courses for their children—was a system that needed fixing!
We don’t understand why the “fix” for a system that wasn’t broken is to reduce, not enhance, options for all learners by eliminating academic tracks.
The risky removal of academic tracks from LFHS started several years ago. We want to put an end to it unless and until the LFHS community fully understands it and approves, and the costs—both academic and fiscal– are fully explained!
De-tracking substantially affects LFHS’ reputation and the ability of all our graduates to obtain their highest levels of learning and to attend the college of their dreams.
Here’s the 3-step game plan Superintendent Simeck and the current Board is following. They’re using chapter 2, “What Tracking Is and How to Start Dismantling it” from the book “De-Tracking for Excellence and Equity.”
Step 1: “Begin Where Tracking Starts”
“Detracking should begin where tracking begins. If your elementary school tracks, that is the place to start. If tracking is delayed until the middle school years, begin there.”
This was accomplished about three years ago with the abrupt and controversial elimination of the Quest/Advanced Plus program in Lake Forest District 67.
(Quest/Advance Plus flyer, circa 2003)
Step 2: “Begin with Teachers Who Are Interested”
“It is not an accident that our detracking began in both the district’s middle and high school with the English and social studies departments.”
In 2013 District 115 spent over $35,000 on a trip to a New York high school for several District employees, many from English and Social Studies. This included $7,700 in hotels and over $2,000 in limousines as well as air fare, restaurants and other expenses. No work product was produced as a result of that trip, despite the explicit nature of the Freedom of Information Act request asking for it (See the District response to this FOIA request, and follow-ups and the receipts for expenses are at the bottom of the last follow-up).
Through other channels, we obtained a District 115 memo from a Social Studies teacher regarding that trip that clearly describes the Administration’s then secret plan to remove academic tracks at LFHS.
It doesn’t appear to be secret anymore, because the incumbent Board fully embraced de-tracking at the March 11, 2017 League of Women Voter’s Debate!
Step 3: Eliminate the Lowest Track First
“You should be prepared for opposition to phasing out low-track classes.”
“There were several advantages to this approach. First, it allowed parents who were worried about the influx of the former “low-track” students into the middle track to move their children up to the honors track. Although this is a less-than-noble reason for opening access to the high track, it did quell some parent opposition and allowed the reform to proceed politically.”
Since 2013, LFHS has been de-tracking by eliminating the lowest tracks first, thereby disserving that population first. Here are just a few examples: Freshman math tracks have decreased by 33.3%. U.S. History tracks have decreased by 33.3%. World Civilizations offerings have decreased by 20% (excluding “AP World History” from this calculation for both years). Environmental Geoscience tracks have decreased by 20% and a “Basic Science” class eliminated. The current board is in favor of this risky, costly plan.
We don’t understand the complete lack of transparency on this issue; the fact that de-tracking LFHS was never proposed to the community or even voted on by the Board of Education is astonishing!
We think the educational agenda of “equalizing” students and offering fewer opportunities for them to achieve instead of more, is bad for all students and does not serve their best educational interests.
Two years ago, among great community involvement and concern, we were assured that LFHS was not removing academic tracks. However, we have learnd the contrary is true: not only was the Administration in the midst of de-tracking LFHS and hiding it from parents and taxpayers, it hired leadership that embraced that goal!
We think the LFHS District 115 stakeholders—parents, students, taxpayers—deserve better. We all deserve transparency, fiscal prudence, and educational best practices—something the current board and incumbent candidates are either unwilling or incapable of giving us.
Elect the Final 4 Candidates on the April 4th Ballot
Serving Students, Strengthening our Community
How your property taxes are spent
Education is a top priority for LFHS District 115 homeowners with over 50% of Lake Forest property taxes and over 60% of Lake Bluff property taxes funding local public schools. Strong schools strengthen communities.
With all those taxes, why does LFHS spend a lower percentage of your tax money on “instructional” spending than 10 neighboring public high schools?
Even worse: why does LFHS spend a higher percentage of your taxes on “operational” expenses than 11 area public high schools?
We think those priorities are wrong. We don’t want our tax dollars propping up a bloated administration, outside consultant retainers and other unnecessary, non-instructional spending.
Strong schools dedicated to academic excellence also strengthen our community and protect our property values.
Unfortunately, the incumbent LFHS Board and Administration has put political agendas, educational experiments and non-instructional spending first.
If elected, we promise to put students and taxpayers first!
Elect the Final 4 on April 4th
LFHS ACT SCORES FALL WHILE LFHS ADMINISTRATOR HIRING SKYROCKETS
LFHS has hired nearly three times more administrators per pupil than New Trier, over 150% more than Stevenson and more than double the state average since 2012.
This doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of dollars in multiple, paid consultants on full-time retainer for such roles as “Communications and Media Strategist,” “24/7 Crises Management,” “Superintendent ‘Cabinet Member’,” and “Community Program Coordinator.”
- All four subjects and composite declined
- Math has shown the sharpest decline
- Science trends significantly below other subjects
- Examine the reasons for our excessive administration cost
- Examine the reasons for our decline in ACT scores
- Shift resources into classroom teaching and away from non-instructional personnel and expenditure
- Develop transparent evaluation of critical performance metrics to address these important issues
SAT Scores at Lake Forest High School in Sad Decline
To repeat, we are concerned about the deteriorating academic performance of our high school. In addition to our poor national and state ranking relative to neighboring powerhouses like Stevenson and Hinsdale, consider this:
- Because SAT performance implies academic rigor, top performing college admissions use SAT scores as their first cut before looking at the full application.
- At LFHS most math, verbal and writing SAT scores are trending down across the entire student body.
- These declines trace to the current effort by the school board and administration to experiment with a universal curriculum that eliminates or makes ineffective proven academic tracks: skills, intermediate, college prep, honors and AP, which better prepare students for the SAT and admission to the college of their choice. This is called “de-tracking.” We oppose it.
- The past 2 years of LFHS Administrations’ Annual Reports to the school board DO NOT INCLUDE THESE DECLINING SAT TEST SCORES. Why not? Is this a conscious attempt to hide something? We propose transparency.
Avoid the de-tracking train wreck!
Ask your counselor if colleges would rather see a “C” in an AP course or a “B” or “A” in (what used to be called) College Prep. THEY DON’T!
Our opponents favor de-tracking at LFHS and support the fact that “subject matter class ‘tracks’ have been eliminated” (See DNS article here).
We oppose lumping students into fewer tracks to serve a political agenda. Lumping them into fewer tracks doesn’t serve their interests or their particular educational needs, whether AP, Honors, College Prep, Skills or Instructional.
De-tracking is a train wreck for everyone. Everyone.
As Advanced Placement Tests Gain Popularity, Some Colleges Push Back
The Wall Street Journal
Keeping Our Eye on Academics and Housing Values
Source: Lake Forest High School, School Profile (compiled by LFHS Administration) for years 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2014-2015, 2015-2016.
We are concerned that declining academic ranking also leads to a depressed housing market because over 90% of home-buyers deem public school boundaries important in their home search.
Source: Berkshire Hathaway Market Study of Closed Sales 2015-2016, augmented with the same type of Home Sales Stats data for other communities on @properties realtor website www.lisafinks.com.
If elected, we will address these alarming trends and drive the administration to develop appropriate strategic actions. We will then make sure that we highlight these strategic actions and provide effective communication to our community and surrounding communities, realtors and businesses moving into the Chicago area. LFHS intends to regain its status as the premier North Shore public high school with a focus on academic rigor devoid of experimentation that dilute and detract from the LFHS educational mission.
Elect the Final Four
Serving Students, Strengthening our Community
Health and Safety
Alcohol and Drug Abuse at All Time Highs at LFHS
The Illinois Youth Survey presentation at the January 2017 LFHS Board meeting showed a disastrous rise in teen drinking at LFHS: 41% of 10th graders admitted alcohol use in the past 30 days and 22% of 10th graders admitted binging on alcohol in the past 30 days. This is a significant rise from 2010.
The news is even worse for 12th graders surveyed: 60% admitted using alcohol in the past 30 days and 40% admitted binge drinking.
We think this is unacceptable. The rising trends in the use of alcohol and drugs is particularly dangerous for developing brains. Our children’s health, safety and quite possibly their lives are at risk when alcohol and drug use is made easy, affordable, glamorous and consequence-free.
The Final 4 will: re-evaluate current consequences for alcohol and drug abuse by students and support solutions that are fair, just, and much more effective than those currently in place.
Elevate LFHS and our communities with the Final 4 on the April 4 Ballot
January 20th, 2017
Dear Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Knollwood Community member,
Permit us to introduce ourselves. We are four residents of LFHS District 115 who are seeking your vote on April 4 when you participate in our local municipal election for District 115 school board members.
Our goal is to better serve our Lake Forest High School students which, by extension, strengthens the reputation and value of our community.
We are intimately acquainted with the Lake Forest High School environment as our children have or are attending LFHS and/or local public elementary schools. One of us is a graduate of LFHS. One of our spouses is a graduate of LFHS. We’re long-term members of the LFHS community, a community we love and support.
We have serious concerns about the oversight of LFHS in recent years and will be telling you more about those concerns and our findings in the coming weeks.
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com. It is our job to understand your concerns and propose solutions. It will be our privilege to serve students, homeowners and taxpayers in District 115, not other agendas.
Low Staff Morale Typically Leads to Loss of Great People
LFHS Staff’s view of current leadership is very concerning. When morale is low, good people leave. Good people leaving is a drag on academic excellence.
In 2016, only 47% of LFHS School Personnel gave their Leadership a positive rating. This is unacceptable.
In February 2015 and now, in February 2017, the Administration is inviting parents, students and LFHS staff to participate in a survey called the “Comprehensive School Climate Inventory”. This tool purports to obtain a “comprehensive” view of whether LFHS is doing a good, bad or mediocre job in the eyes of these stakeholders.
In February 2016, the Administration asked LFHS staff and students only, not parents, to participate in this “comprehensive” survey.
Incredibly, there was no reason to disinvite parents from participating in the 2016 survey: the survey is priced “per student”, not per survey. Were parents not invited because the present Administration doesn’t value parental input or because the Administration didn’t want a public record of parents’ opinions about LFHS during this election cycle? Or both?
Here are the facts:
- In February 2016, the District administered The National School Climate Center’s “Comprehensive School Climate Inventory” to LFHS staff and students only, and not to parents.
- In May 2016, a puff-piece summary of those results was presented at an LFHS Board meeting. Unfortunately as of February 2017, the District 115 landing page still highlights the Winter 2015 survey and makes no mention of the 2016 survey.
Parents were not surveyed for their input in 2016, despite the fact that:
- The National School Climate Center does not deem the survey meaningful or “comprehensive” unless all three constituent groups—students, staff & parents—are surveyed and
- There is no cost saving in failing to obtain parent input as the survey is priced “per student”, not “per survey”. Therefore, calling it “comprehensive” is not only misleading, conducting the survey was a waste of taxpayer money if the goal was obtaining an accurate picture of “school climate” because fully 1/3 of stakeholders were not invited to weigh in.
As noted above, not even half of LFHS staff gave the administration a positive rating. Other results gained from the FOIA, but not made public, are these:
Only 47% of staff agree at least somewhat with the statement “I understand the long-range vision of our schools.” (The remaining responses were neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree.)
Only 45% of staff agree at least somewhat with the statement “I understand the direction building-level leaders have for our school.” (The remaining responses were neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree.)
Only 41% of staff agree at least somewhat with the statement, “I share the vision district-level leadership has set for our school.” (The remaining responses were neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree.)
Only 30% of staff at least somewhat agree with the statement, “Input staff gives is reflected in final decisions made by district-level leaders.” (The remaining responses were neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree.)
Only 27% of staff at least somewhat agree with the statement, “District-level leaders consider the impact of decisions on the workload placed on staff.” (The remaining responses were neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree.)
We are concerned taxpayers paid for a non-comprehensive “comprehensive” survey. We are concerned that staff morale is low. Most of all, we are concerned that the District doesn’t really care about what parents want for their children.
The District has recently announced the 2017 Comprehensive School Climate Inventory and invited parents to participate this time. The results of the parent surveys will be released after the April 4th election.
If elected, the Final 4 will always seek and listen to parent input. We will uncover the reasons why staff morale is low, why staff are uninformed about or haven’t bought into the District “vision” and make enhanced communication and collaboration a priority.
Source: National School Climate Center, “The Comprehensive School Climate Inventory: Measure the Climate for Learning,” PowerPoint Presentation, Prepared for Lake Forest High School, February 2016, Slide 6.
We pay a premium for inferior educational results at LFHS
This is unbelievable, but it’s true…
- LFHS ranks a dismal 580th place to neighboring Stevenson High School’s 166th place in the latest US News and World Report’s Best High Schools national rank.
- LFHS is 19th place to Stevenson’s 5th place in the Illinois ranking.
- And to add insult to injury, District 115 taxpayers currently spend nearly $37,000 (instructional and operational) to educate one student. Stevenson significantly outranks LFHS in the US News ranking but spends about $30,000 to educate one student, or about 27% less than what LFHS spends.
Our families are paying a premium and getting an inferior educational product. It’s hurting our children, our home values and our community.
The current LFHS school board, including the incumbents running against us in this race, has its eye off the academic ball, and it is time for a change. The education our children receive at LFHS is the foundation for the rest of their lives. There is no do-over!