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Board adopts compromise school calendar

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board Monday formally adopted its calendar for the next school year.

The calendar includes the state-required 176 student days, monthly school improvement days, and parent-teacher conferences in October and February.

The timing of the conferences was a point of discussion at the board’s meeting on Monday. Dorothy Millard, president of the District 65 Educators Council, told the board that the teachers union prefers November conferences for elementary schools.

Millard said teachers are unhappy with the rigidity of the scheduling. "They are recalling the more recent past when multiple options and times were available to us," Millard said. "Unfortunately this option is no longer available."

Superintendent Hardy Murphy acknowledged that some teachers are concerned that holding conferences in October does not allow enough time to adequately evaluate students. But Murphy contended that October conferences are important to correct early signs of underachievement.

"I don’t know how by the middle of October you can’t have some idea of what a student’s weaknesses are," Murphy said.

While teachers hold a majority of seats on the district’s calendar committee, the committee only makes recommendations to the district administration, which develops the calendar presented to the board.

Millard praised the calendar’s school improvement days, which will occur on the first Wednesday of each month from October to May, except March.

Students will get a half day of classes in the morning, and teachers will remain in school for professional development activities in the afternoon.

Millard also thanked the board for keeping the day before Thanksgiving a holiday.

Rhonda Present, founding director of ParentsWork, said calendar negotiations this year were “the most effective to date,” referring to her four years on the committee.

Present praised, among other things, the decision to hold school on Columbus Day, which she said is not a day off from work for many parents. 

But Present also urged the board to be more "proactive" in coordinating holidays and staff development days with Evanston Township High School. That, she said, would be "a welcome relief to Evanston parents who have children in both school systems."

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