Aldermen this week approved a plan to double the number of police officers assigned to Evanston Township High School in return for the school’s pledge to add a new career planning counselor.

Under the plan the number of officers assigned to the high school during the regular school year would increase from one to two. 

The new counselor would focus on at-risk youth who aren’t planning to attend college and haven’t set a clear path for their careers.

Top: Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington with ETHS Security Chief Sam Pettineo. Above: Shelley Gates, the chair of the career/technical education department at ETHS.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said the second officer would be at the school during the regular school year, but not during summer school sessions.

ETHS Security Chief Sam Pettineo said that because of the large size of the ETHS campus, one officer isn’t enough, and that the officer now assigned there is often away from the building for court appearances.

Pettineo also said there has been a slight increase in gang activity at the school recently.

Shelley Gates, the chair of the school’s career/technical education department, said abou 25 percent of ETHS graduates do not go on to college — at least not immediately.

She said the new counselor, who hasn’t yet been hired, would focus on at-risk youths who are “a little disengaged” and “may not be too happy to be in school.”

“They need somebody to coach them and encourage them to stay in school and to focus on what they’re going to do afterward,” Gates said.

Funds for the new school resource officer will come from the existing police department budget.

The proposed new intergovermental agreement adding the second officer in return for the school’s increased counseling staffing will replace an informal arrangement that has seen the city assign one officer to the school in the past.

City officials who’ve been trying to deal with crime problems among young people in the community have frequently suggested that part of the solution is to get more high school students on a steady path to a successful career.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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