Information | Communication | Transparency | Accountability

A Movement By Citizens  Demanding Transparency, Accountability, and Community Engagement for school districts in the State of Illinois.

Building A Better District is a taxpayer-led movement and is not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, the State or Regional Board of Education, any individual school district, or administration/Board of Education. 

96% Represents 157 People

The district touts the current referendum option as the choice of an "overwhelming majority" of Focus Group participants.  According to their own numbers, a total of 164 people participated in these Focus Groups. 96% as indicated in the district's slide means only 157 people in our community selected this option from the four that were presented.  Does the Board of Education really believe this is a strong enough level of community engagement to move forward with a $195 million ask for taxpayer funds?

The district also says "a handful of emails" were sent to district families making them aware of these focus group meetings. 

  • Did the district reach out aggressively to the entire taxpaying community? Did the Board of Education reach out to their constituents?
  • Other than e-mails, how else did the district communicate to the community that these focus groups were going on? 
  • How did the district involve the community in this process prior to the presentation of these four options?  
  • How were these four options developed?
  • What data was used to develop these options?
  • How did the district communicate back to the community ALL of the feedback provided in the small breakout sessions?
  • The Focus Group presentation was changed after feedback was received in the first Focus Group meaning all three groups received different presentations.  How do you build consensus when the information has been changed from one group to the next?


Building A Better District vehemently disagrees that this "96% support" is an accurate representation of the community.  We believe other less expensive options exist for our district. The community must:

  • vote NO to the referendum and
  • demand our Board of Education direct the district to hire an expert demography firm to conduct and Enrollment Forecast and Facilities Analysis and present those findings to the community. 

From those results, the community should work together to arrive at the best solution for our district's future.

A Word on Focus Groups

Focus Groups are a very specific type of meeting that typically run with very stringent guidelines to make sure the hosts remain neutral.  The purpose of Focus Groups is to provide neutral information on challenges to a community and ask them to problem solve for those challenges and send back their recommendations to the Focus Group hosts, in this case, the district.  Information should be presented without commentary that would sway the participants in one direction or another.

In November 2022, the district held meetings with the community to present the four options it developed to what it represented was "significant expected growth".  The district presented the information in a high-level overview format without sharing the process of how these four options were developed and with whom.  Many months of work and conversation should have been conducted in an aggressive two-way communication in the form of public charrettes or a similar framework to work through the district's numbers, challenges, the community's wishlist and more before arriving at these "considerations".

Because the district failed to present an independent Enrollment Forecast and Facilities Analysis to the community, we cannot know what these considerations are based on.  Not enough supporting information was provided to the very few participants of the Focus Group sessions to truly make an informed opinion.

Failing to Follow Focus Group Best Practices

The district took feedback from the first Focus Group and made changes to the information presented to the second group and the virtual group.  This means the 164 participants did not receive the same presentation and information.  Focus Group "small breakout" sessions also were visited by Superintendent Stirn and then-Deputy Assistant Superintendent Mongan who spoke on the considerations and some included sitting Board Members as participants who provided feedback to their groups that may have included information only known to the Board they may have influenced perceptions and opinions. 

All of these things are prohibited in well-run Focus Groups.  These were not true "focus groups", but rather Town Hall meetings where the district shared their solutions, strongly positioning "A" as the obvious "best" choice.  We contend other less expensive solutions exist for our community.

Analysis of "considerations" A, B, C, & D

Building A Better District has run these scenarios through data models based upon the limited information shared by the district with the community.  We believe there are several other considerations that should have been presented in a more clear format with recent examples from other districts provided as context.

Consideration A

This is the scenario that the majority of participants in November 2022's Focus Groups chose. 

In this scenario, at a 1.2% growth rate, all district buildings including the new high school are underutilized, with the new high school less than 70% utilized.  In this scenario, operational costs to run 8 schools under 70% capacity (and CMS at under 25% capacity) could potentially exceed what the taxpayers can carry through property taxes alone. 

The district should endeavor to provide the community with an Estimated Operational Budget for the district based on this scenario to determine what other tax impacts this scenario would have above and beyond the $195 million bond referendum.

NOTE: This plan requires Early Childhood to move to CMS.  A few years ago, the district moved Early Childhood into the individual elementary schools so that children would be in their "home school" that would eventually include their kindergarten.  

BABD - D301 Consideration A Analysis

Consideration B

In this scenario, slow 1.2% growth is accommodated more optimally than in scenario A.

BABD - D301 Consideration B Analysis.pdf

Consideration C

In this scenario, slow 1.2% growth is accommodated more optimally than in scenario A.

BABD - D301 Consideration C Analysis.pdf

Consideration D

The slide presented by the district was quite unclear as to what the final capacities would be with the inclusion of mobile unit space.  We made our best assumptions to run the information in the slide through the data models. 

BABD - D301 Consideration D Analysis.pdf

About us

We are a local group dedicated to cultivating an empowered and engaged community of parents and taxpayers to build an environment of transparency, accountability, and communication within Central Community Unified District 301 (D301), representing the unified voice of the people for a successful and sustainable future.


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Building A Better District is a volunteer community group advocating for transparency, honesty, accountability, and community engagement from Central CUSD 301 in Burlington, IL.

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