School boards prod administrators on staff collaborations

District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum

After meeting for more than three hours about ways the two districts can collaborate on various issues, the joint meeting Monday night between the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 finally touched on the issue of staff reductions as a way to save money.

The issue surfaced after the chief financial officers of the two districts finished their report on ways the districts have reduced expenditures largely through consolidating purchases of goods and services, such as computer hardware and software.

Jonathan Baum, of the District 202 Board of Education, suggested that there might be instances whereby two persons were performing a certain function for each of the two districts, when perhaps a three-person staff could perform the same function for both districts, thereby cutting one position without materially affecting output.

District 65 Board President Candance Chow echoed his sentiments, saying that a number of her constituents have been demonstrating “interest, pressure, and pushback” as she has attended public information sessions in connection with an operating referendum for the district that is on the ballot for the April school board and municipal election.

She noted, however, that in the last 10 years, the number of students per administrator has increased from 114 to 175, demonstrating  increased efficiencies outside of the classrooms.

The two CFOs agreed to put staff collaborations higher on their agenda as they pursue their exploration of additional ways to cut costs for the benefit of the district’s taxpayers.

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Comments

Collaboration?

How about consolidation?  Start with the districts and  school boards.  I know the board members aren't paid, but seems like they have the same ultimate interests, and creating just one Board will be more efficient. They could then decide to consolidate/eliminate waste, while fostering in true collaboration and consistency from K-12.

Consolidate D65 and D202

Why is the high school considered a school district?

Notice how we have two CFO's trying to figure how to cut costs. Also notice that D65 prez Candace Chow is feeling the heat from Evanston residents unhappy about a $14 million operating referendum THAT HAS NO DETAILS? Chow I think is scaring residents by saying if the referendum fails then schools will close. I doubt the D65 school board has the courage to close any school.

Here's a thought. Consolidate D65 and D202 into one school district and eliminate high ranking, high paying staff such as a CFO. Imagine how many duplicative services could be cut from a consolidation. Then maybe overtaxed residents could accept a $14 million referendum that will increase their property taxes even more.

Consolidation can happen only if Evanston residents are willing to protest in large numbers. 

Consolidate

One other benefit of consolidation may be the school board itself. We've had uncontested elections from time to time. With only one board to seat - the entire community will be engaged in a focused conversation and hopefully result in enough willing community members for a full robust and competitive board every time.

While at first glance the

While at first glance the consolidation of districts appears to be a sound cost cutting idea, it is simply not.  This is due to the structure of the current teachers' contracts, and that should D65 merge with D202, the D65 teachers would position for the higher D202 contracted wages.  Teachers likely would be supportive of such a consolidation.

The true cost control comes not from merging districts, but instead from meaningful, thoughtful, strategic change to the Defined Benefit Pension scheme -- pivoting to where all new hires are provided with a Defined Contribution Plan, with District match, similar to the retirment plan provided to 95% of the nation's workforce.  Among other benefits, this allows the district employees and teachers the opportunity to self-manage their retirement accounts.

Until this happens, retiree costs will simply continue to balloon, and jurisdictions will be required to ask for further tax revenue to cover these costs.

Consolidate & keep 2 teacher unions

There is a mistaken assumption amongst people that merging D65 & D202 automatically requires only 1 teacher union, and of course that assumes that D65 pay scale would be required to go up to the same level as D202 pay scale.

I don't think that is legally required, and if it is, let's work with our state lawmakers to enable 2 separate teacher unions to continue to exist.
Both D202 and D65 have several different unions already.

Remember when many people thought Evanston should keep the Township structure? How many people notice that it's been eliminated and
taxpayers save money, each and every year.

Let's do the same with the 2 school districts and consolidate into 1.

YES WE CAN !!