Here’s a trivia question: If it takes the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board 20 minutes to discuss a $30,000 budget item, how long would it take to give the same amount of attention to its entire $100 million operating budget?

The answer: Assuming they work at it full-time for eight hours a day, five days a week, and take no days off for holidays or vacations, it would require more than six months to work their way through the entire budget.

Yet that was the level of time management demonstrated Monday night by the board at its regular monthly meeting that, incidentally, did not adjourn until 11:15 p.m.

The $30,000 issue was a request by the administration to quit subsidizing the $2.95-per-transaction fee charged by an internet provider who collects food money from parents for their kids’ breakfasts and lunches in the district’s schools.

Last year the district picked up those charges to the tune of $30,000 for the year, but a survey of other districts in the same purchasing cooperative revealed that most other districts let the parents and guardians pay their own fee for the transaction.

The online option could be avoided by the parent by paying the food bill directly to the district by check.

Some board members thought the $2.95 fee was excessive for parents on a tight budget and said they thought the amount should continue to be paid by the district. Others thought the $30,000 could be better spent on instructional items for the classroom.

After mulling the pros and cons for 20 minutes, the board voted 5-2 to let the parents pay the fee.

In the meantime, the board quickly voted unanimously to leave an administration request for funds to pay for six additional assistant superintendents in the tentative operating budget for next year.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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