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Letter: Retired Jefferson Staffer Understands Need for New School, Budget Challenges

Retired speech/language pathologist at Jefferson writes in support of the Jefferson Early Childhood Center referendum on the April 2013 ballot. To send a letter to the editor, email Charlotte@Patch.com.

Wheaton Patch accepts and publishes letters to the editor emailed to Local Editor Charlotte Eriksen at Charlotte@patch.com, or sent as a message through the Wheaton Patch Facebook page. Please note in subject lines the message is a Letter to the Editor.

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As a retired speech/language pathologist in the early childhood program at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center in Wheaton, I do understand the need for a new building, as well as the tight budget we all are forced to follow. As a district taxpayer, I am happy to pay for the small increase needed. Let me give you some first hand reasons for a new building based on the conditions at Jefferson that we need to consider when voting in the upcoming election.

One of the goals for each child is to build independence. It is very hard to achieve this goal when the bathrooms are too small for wheelchairs and walkers to fit. There are 2 separate faucets per sink that either scald or freeze their hands.The sinks and toilets are too tall for the students to use without stools in front of them. This does not support the independence goal.

Some examples of the overly-cramped space include:

  1. Children are receiving physical therapy and occupational therapy in the hallways, while other classes are attempting to move to the library or gym. Speech pathologists are often seen sitting on the floor in the hallway with a child, since there is no other space available for them. They need a separate integrated space for therapies. which new facility would provide.
  2. Equipment such as walkers, standers and wheel chairs are often seen outside a classroom, which adds to more congestion. There is no room to store them inside the class.
  3. Office staff space is currently housed in the classrooms, with a teacher, and specialist having desk space. The rooms are much to small to have the staff desks in there.
  4. Storage closets have been converted to workspace for children, but are often non-ventilated and quite small. 

In spite of all the physical shortcomings, good things are happening at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center! The staff is dedicated to all children and the students are excited to learn!

There are currently 12 classrooms filled with children with special needs as well as typically developing children. There are additional early childhood sites at Johnson (2 rooms) and one at Madison, since there is no available space at Jefferson. In a recent letter to the editor, a writer commented that the school will probably be half empty within a few years. This is unlikely at Jefferson, since the state mandates early education for children with special needs. These numbers continue to grow. Added to that is the growing support for early childhood programs for all children that will require more space. 

Thus, it would make more sense to put all of these classrooms under one roof as the district would not be duplicating costly equipment, materials and resources.

The typically developing classrooms are self-sustaining, in that the parents pay tuition for their child which offsets the cost of running the classroom.  There is always a waiting list for these classrooms.

Ninety to 95 percent of the children at Jefferson can go on to kindergarten with their neighborhood peers, with added support as needed. 

The new building would only cost the average taxpayer $2.50 per month for 10 years. There will be no surprise balloon payment at the end of this time. In the 11th year taxes will decrease. That is a real value for such a great need!

If you would like a tour to see the building for yourself, just call Jefferson Early Childhood Center and someone would be happy to set it up. You may also visit the website www.jeffersonyes.com.

Please consider the advantages of this new school and the children it will help, when you vote! 

Mary Kalitzky 

Joe Marek February 21, 2013 at 08:27 PM
"The new building would only cost the average taxpayer $2.50 per month for 10 years. There will be no surprise balloon payment at the end of this time." There is absolutely a balloon payment at the end of the loan. Please don't try to mask the facts!
Mary Kalitzky February 22, 2013 at 10:40 AM
I respectfully disagree that there is a hidden balloon payment in year 11. In fact for an average home taxes will decrease with or without the referendum passing. Yes, they will go down more without it, but the children are worth it!! Mary Kalitzky
Brian Wells February 22, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Mary, I am sure District Superintendant Dr. Brian Harris is delighted to see your misinformation trail here. I was at a meeting last night where he acknowledged a balloon payment of about $250 or so on the last year (as compared with $25/yr for the first ten years) for the average household. Dr. Harris knows (and acknowledges in small-group settings) that what you're saying is not true. I repeat: he acknowledged the balloon payment last night in person. But as long as people like you misrepresent the facts, it will go a long way toward his goal of seeing the referendum through successfully. Now, that said, I want to be clear that I am sure you believed what you said. I'm not questioning your character. But I do ask you to do one of two things. Either retract your claim, which is false, or give Dr. Harris a call yourself if you think what I'm telling you now is not true.
Brian Wells February 22, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Speaking of false information, Mary, I wrote a blog last night about a conversation I had with Dr. Harris revolving around this very topic. You and other readers may find it illuminating. http://wheaton.patch.com/blog_posts/a-taxpayers-guide-to-surviving-cusd-200-part-i
Hank Kruse February 22, 2013 at 02:45 PM
If the fact pattern created by the school district is misleading, why should the district taxpayer have any confidence voting for the referendum?
Kevin Fitzpatrick February 22, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Brain, Hank, Joe, et al. I do admire your desire and motivation to keep local taxes from escalating. I'm almost always on that side of the equation. I don't know Mrs. Kalitzky personally, but I do know of her work battling in the trenches to make life better for the special needs children and the parents of those children who rely on people like her to offer them the best chance for their children to reach their highest level of proficiency and independence. She's a Godsend to these parents and to the community. I've taken to reading the financials on this much more closely. After 10 years, there is in fact a higher payment for this set of bonds, but another set retires in that year which results in the tax bill NOT seeing this dramatic increase you gentlemen are referring to. It's a cash flow management strategy to keep the bond payment lower while the other bonding payments exist, and when they are paid off, more money will go to this bond issue than the previously issued bonds. It's not at all hidden, especially in light of the fact that it has been brought up by many of you multiple times. It's a public service to highlight the terms of the repayment, but not any more misleading than you accuse others of being when you state that in year 11 all hell breaks loose and your taxes will rise dramatically for the district. That's just not an accurate rendering of the truth. Public funding of things can be ingenious, foolish or somewhere in between. It always is confusing.
Kevin Fitzpatrick February 22, 2013 at 04:38 PM
cont'd. You live in a very compassionate and intelligent community. If you read Mrs. Katlitzky's letter, she's telling you precisely what the current challenges are. I sit on a number of NFP boards dealing with senior care. I'm amazed at how similar the issues of bathrooms, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. affect this community the same way. Occupational therapy and physical therapy are consistently hindered by the lack of spacing these people require to achieve any independence. The private sector has conformed to this with the design of newer facilities that take these issues into account. People who are able to choose where to live are choosing these facilities because they want as much independence as they can for as long as possible. If you have children, just think of how it was when you brought home your 20" little bundle of joy. Hardly takes up any space, right? NO...Swings, cribs, toys, bouncy chairs, (drum sets from cruel siblings..lol) pretty soon that little baby has reduced your living space by 50%+. These kids are special ed with special needs. Having them under one roof in an appropriate space is cost effective. As for Mrs. Kalitzky, be glad God inspired her and people like her to accept a vocation that while rewarding is very, very difficult. I hate higher taxes as much as the next person, but at the same time they are the price we pay for a civilized society stated Ben Franklin. There are places to find efficiency. Look for a better place.
Kevin Fitzpatrick February 22, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Hank, I would respectfully ask you to hold yourself to the identical standard. If they are being misleading; call them on it. If the truth isn't framed precisely the way you want it to be framed, determine if it's still the truth and just not one you're personally happy with. No sarcasm or mean-spiritedness intended here. Just a request for a bit more reflection.
Hank Kruse February 22, 2013 at 04:48 PM
First tell the truth. The cost of the bonds are backloaded and should be disclosed by the district. The school district has the money; it simply wants to pad their budget while hurting the taxpayer. Kevin, answer one simple question: Why are taxpayers fleeing the State of Illinois?
Kevin Fitzpatrick February 22, 2013 at 05:22 PM
They are fleeing because the entire taxing environment in Illinois and the incredible time bomb of public pensions being woefully underfunded has made us the 50th most competitive state in the nation. We'd be worse if they counted territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and maybe even DC. When the State of Illinois is late with their reimbursements to your district for the final 3-4 months of the school year, you'll see those reserves go down dramatically while they continue to function waiting on the late payment. Hank, I'm rich on the first of the month every month before I pay my bills. On the 25th of the month, I could be eating Mac and Cheese (Thank God it's Lent...lol) We don't disagree that Illinois is a mess. I'm not, and never have tried to get into the competence of your School Board. I simply don't know. The cost of the bonds are set to be more modest until some other debt falls off the books. The overall look of the tax bill won't balloon on people in year 10. You could make a case that if you don't bond taxes could go down in 10 years. I suppose that's possible, I've seen public entities do that. When they do, their facilities and maintenance can fall into disrepair to the point of having to replace too many things or fix too many things at one time. That too is a balloon. The most ingenious boards are the ones that regulate the flow of cash in a way that maintains high service and functional facilities.
Hank Kruse February 22, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Kevin, the majority of our taxing environment are schools. High property taxes are mainly derived from schools. The pension bomb derives from our schools spiking salaries and then sending the bill downstate. It is time that our schools comport themselves with the times: It is clear the CUSD #200's board is not creative and runs the same time worn arguments for increasing taxes. The board is giving the taxpayers a false choice rather than looking at best practices on a nationwide scope. It is time for a change.
WheatonWisdom February 22, 2013 at 09:09 PM
First let me address the supposed benefit of expanding pre-school (early childhood education) for non-special needs students. The Obama administration has released the findings of the most comprehensive study (5,000 students) ever done on the Head Start (early childhood) program. A succinct summary review of the study can be found on a Heritage.org web page at http://blog.heritage.org/2010/01/14/long-overdue-head-start-evaluation-shows-no-lasting-benefit-for-children/ . If you are concerned about bias from this conservative organization, click on the evaluation link and read the research executive summary for yourself. The bottom line - tax payer funded early childhood education provides no lasting academic benefit to young students. More to follow.
WheatonWisdom February 22, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Next, consider that fully allocated CUSD 200 operating cost (including instruction) per pupil is $11,529 from the 2012 Illinois Interactive Report Card. Using Jefferson tuition of $235 per student per month for two sessions per day times 10 months, total “student” tuition amounts to $4,700 which means that taxpayers are losing $6,829 for every tuition based “student”. Therefore, I disagree with you, the district, and the board that the “typically developing classrooms are self-sustaining”. They are not, they cost thousands per year per student. No wonder there is a waiting list at only $235 per month. However, supporting our most vulnerable is not just a government mandate, it is the right thing to do. If the current Jefferson facility requires reasonable expansion, remodeling, etc. to provide appropriate facilities for the special needs students we should spend some money. But this voter is not convinced that a $17.6 million referendum or a $23.4 million debt for a completely new building with all the bells and whistles is warranted at this time. The taxpayers have already burned by the financial disaster of Hubble.
P Friely February 23, 2013 at 03:59 AM
It seems to me that there are definitely issues that need to be addressed with regards to Jefferson - but what about the 5 million dollar renovation option as opposed to the over 17 million dollar rebuild option? I think a lot of taxpayers feel some distrust with the way things have been handled with the school board - the aftertaste of Kool-Aid is still lingering after the Hubble fiasco.
mindy k February 26, 2013 at 04:26 AM
how flipping cheap are you people that you can't understand the benefit of putting money in at the EC level? i am probably among the lowest income brackets in the district, with my $250,000 house in unincorporated winfield. say it is $25 per year for 10 years, and for giggles, let's just say there IS a $250 balloon payment.... we are seriously bitching about $500 for the benefit of the littlest members of our community??????? i pay $235 per month for the privilege of sending my typically developing son to jefferson because the program is phenomenal. the mentality of so many of you in this community is heartbreaking. shame on you, wheaton.

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