Evanston’s two school boards—District 65 and District 202—have pretty much dismissed the idea of consolidating. Instead, they agreed at a joint meeting Monday night to look for more opportunities to collaborate.
District 65 President Katie Bailey noted that the two districts engage in a fair amount of collaboration already, in such areas as legislative lobbying and operation of the Park School for students with special needs.
In fact, they took one collaborative step Monday night by agreeing to a joint resolution calling on the Illinois General Assembly to take action to resolve the state’s pension problems in a way that minimizes the impact on state funding for education.
They heard a brief presentation from a former student of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Tyler Thornton, and her supervising professor, Therese MGuire, who had conducted a study last year for District 65 that recommended “virtual consolidation” as a way to increase efficiencies and educational effectiveness of the two boards.
The Kellogg study pointed to Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115 as a possible model for intergovernmental cooperation.
The Lake Forest boards, according to the Kellogg report, eliminated 11 positions by sharing a superintendent and administrative center. They also jointly contracted services such as cleaning, auditing, and appraising and achieved some economies in technology improvements.
Previous attempts over the years to consolidate the two Evanston-Skokie districts into one regularly bogged down on the issue of teacher salaries, in that high school teachers enjoy higher salaries than teachers in the K-8 system. The assumption was always made that teachers in a unified district would have to share the same salary structure that would effectively make consolidation more expensive for taxpayers.
District 202 members Jonathan Baum and board president Mark Metz suggested that collaborative efforts begin with a statement of objectives and that they look for ways of achieving those objectives better through joint efforts.
District 65 member Richard Rykhus suggested that the best place to start would be on operational issues. He said that financial savings would then have a positive impact on academic initiatives that would be more likely to be funded.
The two boards already have a joint coordinating committee established and they agreed that this committee should be encouraged to develop proposals for additional collaborative opportunities.