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Dear District 65 Community -

I have shared several commitments in which this community can hold me accountable in my leadership as well as my beliefs. With all of my heart and soul, I believe our schools are the hub of our organization and everything we do must center the needs of our students and educators. I say this because I want to assure you that I will maintain a laser focus on our schools as we work to improve our district’s overall financial health.

After the departure of our Chief Financial Officer in August, I engaged Dr. Robert Grossi and his firm Illuminate, Inc., as an independent financial advisor to assess the district’s financial condition. Dr. Grossi is well qualified, serving as an advisor to dozens of school districts in Illinois.

District 65 Financial Outlook

On Monday, Dr. Grossi presented financial projections for the next five years (watch video). They did not come as a surprise and reflect the district’s long standing structural deficit (which means expenses are growing faster than our revenues). Our School Board along with prior administrations have taken steps to offset by making budget reductions over the years. In addition, the 2017 operating referendum generously passed by our community provided relief along with an influx of significant federal grant funding due to the pandemic.

I take very seriously, as does our Board, the need to take permanent action to change our financial trajectory once and for all. Our students deserve the highest quality education in safe, supportive schools. We also must ensure staff are fully supported with the needed resources.

Development of 2024-2025 Budget Reduction Plan

Based on current projections, we must make $5-$6 million of permanent reductions for next school year. This sounds like a lot and I know that there will undoubtedly be feelings of concern and uncertainty. Our leadership team is developing a plan that prioritizes equity and keeps reductions as far from the classroom as possible.

At my direction, we have already reduced district-level spending this year, with a particular focus on consultants, purchased services, and transportation. Additionally, in January, the Board took necessary action by approving the 5th Ward School redesign at a significantly reduced cost.

We will continue to identify further efficiencies so that we can deliver quality services in a more effective manner. In March, our reduction plan will be brought forward to the School Board for their consideration.

Future Need to “Right Size” District Footprint Based on Declining Enrollment

As part of the district’s budget reduction plan, a comprehensive Master Facility Plan along with 10-year enrollment projections were developed by various experts. Our team has also gathered quite a bit of data and community input through our multi-year student assignment process. This has included ongoing dialogue on the need to “right size” our district footprint to better utilize our school buildings, and potentially consolidate where needed.

Declining enrollment provides the opportunity to potentially take decisive action to stabilize the district’s financial operations without adversely impacting student learning opportunities. We know these will be difficult and heartfelt conversations and we are committed to engaging our community when this time comes.

I know this was a lot to digest but it's important that we remain forthcoming and transparent. Stay tuned for additional information. Thank you for your continued partnership and support.

 

Yours in education,

Dr. Angel Turner (she/her)
Interim Superintendent