Warren Passes Referendum

Julia Waelder, Contributor to Scratch Paper

Tuesday, June 28th–District 121 voters decide to pass the referendum, which will include a 60 cent tax raise on Gurnee residents once it goes into full effect in the 2023-2024 school year. The reactions to the passage of the bill varied–many students involved in extracurricular activities were overjoyed, while other citizens against the raising of taxes sighed and hung their heads.
All reactions confirmed one thing; more money would be going towards the school. Patrick Keeley, the Associate Superintendent of Student Services, oversees all extracurricular activities for students, including electives they may choose to take during the school day. As Associate Superintendent, Dr. Keeley is most concerned about the quality of education and activities for each student, and is relieved that nothing will need to be cut. “Without competition band I was concerned interest in the program would decline,” he explains, “losing competition band would have cut a significant meaningful experience for our students.” Warren’s band program is held very close to the heart of students, and many were heartbroken at the thought of losing that opportunity. Had the referendum not passed, competition band, all junior varsity sports, drama club, and art club would cease to exist, thoroughly limiting students’ high school experience and self-discovery. Many teachers would have lost jobs, and some even preemptively left before the decision was made official in search of a more secure environment to work in.
“We had an awesome band director, full of creativity, and we lost him.” recounts Rocco Oddo. Oddo, an art teacher at Warren as well as a member of the referendum committee, has been fighting for the passage since last year, when they had originally attempted to pass the bill during the 2020-2021 school year–the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The revitalization of the referendum this past year sparked online arguments, lawn signs, and many tense moments at community meetings. Oddo goes into detail on how his wife would wake up at five in the morning, each morning, and immediately begin texting people to try and change their mind
about voting “no”.
The vote on the referendum was incredibly close, with a margin of only about a thousand votes; both sides of the argument had done their homework. Many people were given small, red cards in the mail detailing how much money the school was hiding, asking where taxpayer’s money was going. These cards, though official in design, were chock-full of misinformation, a thriving epidemic in the modern days of social media. Calen Shackleford, a senior at Warren, received one of these cards in the mail. “I was just confused, why not budget better before we take from local families? Now is not the time to increase taxes when people are struggling financially.” As a member of the community, Shackleford keeps his community in mind, and it was the first thing he thought of when news of the referendum first appeared. While his reasonings behind his opinion are valid and good-hearted, the spread of misinformation is not.
“It’s very frustrating,” says Keith Stocker, another art teacher at Warren, “People believe everything they read online, ride or die.” He continues to explain how social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can very easily feed directly into the expedient increase of fake news and misinformation in the current day and age.
“You can’t just leave these lies sitting out there, because people will believe them,” Oddo continues. His committee had a focus on providing accurate information, especially during this second referendum. It is something that he, Stocker, and Keeley all agree upon: people should be able to have access to true, valid information and then make their own educated decisions on what they think should happen or not. With the passage of the referendum, students involved in extracurricular activities no longer need to worry about the future of their passions.
“The thing that’s amazing about Warren,” Oddo comments, “is there’s always talent…I love that.” The community loves it, too.