Spot Check: Deliberation, Check. Taxation, Check. Representation, TBD.

On Tuesday, June 6th, the District 36 School Board was expected to meet with the Core Team and go lid-down on 11 months of meetings, field trips, PowerPoints, engagement sessions, and shared documents. The agenda: Deliberate, debate, and decide the fate of the Future Ready Educational Master Facility Plan...and of every taxpayer in Winnetka.

But on Tuesday, May 22nd, an hour after “just to be clear, the Board anticipates approving a long term Educational Master Facility Plan at the June 6th meeting,” the School Board’s rep to the Core Team went all hmm, maybe not so much. 

(Watch the meeting. Freestyling at 0:33, backtracking at 1:17:10) 

What We Know

  • Concept. Singular. Transform and Maintain are out, for now. Enhance is in. Just the concept, not the name. Three versions - K-3, K-4, and K-5.
  • Five schools reduced to 4. Yes, neighborhood schools. Rinse and relentlessly repeat.
  • Four transitions reduced to 2. Lower grades – neighborhood schools. Upper grades – Washburne. Definitely deja-vu-all-over-again. Think pre-1998. Enlighten yourself.
  • Done deals: Health and life safety items, ADA accessibility, “cosmetic updates,” safety and security enhancements, HVAC with A/C, domestic water pipe improvements, and upgraded electrical capacity.
  • Financing options – plural – out. Referendum – in


  • School boundaries. Oh, they will change. But, how much and where? Neighborhoods, start your engines. Check out the Enrollment Balancing Project.
  • The roll-out. How, how much, and when?
  • As always, how much Future Ready is ready-enough for Winnetka? In dollars, disruption, and deliverables.
  • Referendum Fall or Spring? Looks like Spring, right now.

How Will the Core Team Tee it Up?

Six teachers, six administrators, seven residents, one School Board member. One honkin’ big decision.

Fly on the wall.

They’ll probably reboot the research for clues on grade levels and Future Ready outcomes, review and possibly revise those pesky enrollment projections to the requested "average-plus-one-standard-deviation," model how to balance enrollment with the least disruption of school boundaries, rework architectural renderings. Then give the Board at least one reason to reduce and return. Over and over again until they get it juuust right. Then block all calls and call it a day.

Which day depends on how curious and collegial the School Board is.

If We Were King

It’s been almost a year. Eventually the School Board will have to dump that waiting-for-Godot thing and make a decision. The Core Team can only tell what it knows. The residents that don’t have kids in the school system (looking at you, Significant Seventy-Five percent) can tell what will pass a referendum. Exclude them at your own peril. Right, New Trier?

What We’re Still Watching

  • Sticker shock. And a Transform reboot? The one with kindergartners and first graders in one school, and the rest in a spanking new Skokie School. No neighborhood schools. No neighborhood boundaries. No rebalancing. And full-on Future Ready.
  • Upgraded engagement. Only seven residents on the Core Team? Fuzzy math, say some. Bugged about taxation without representation, they want town halls, focus groups, and answers. Sounds good to us.
  • R.O.I. As in our kids’ futures per dollar spent. Will the folks who graphed and charted the condition of our buildings, graph and chart the academic uptick for our $100M and beyond?
  • Speaking of which… Hard numbers. Capital costs, operating costs, financing costs. With and without options. And second opinions.
  • New tax laws and possible pension reform. If the public’s appetite for high-ticket items, no matter how juicy, goes all Weight Watchers, will charitable gifts become the new ask?
  • Other taxing bodies, AKA Park District, Library Board, and Village. Their to-do’s and our tax dollars.
  • Culture. The Winnetka Way. Ubiquitous, unquantifiable, easily underestimated, and dangerous to ignore.
  • The next Core Team agenda. Always good to know if what they think they heard is what the School Board thinks it said.

Prepping for the Final

We’re still a couple of School Board meetings away. And no meeting in July. So far.