A detail from the cover page of the District 65 "MIRACLES in Action" report.

The timing appears to be just coincidence.

But just after the teachers union at Evanston/Skokie District 65 sent a public letter blaming the administration for having “destroyed morale,” and fostering a “toxic climate” in schools, the superintendent issued a report thanking teachers and other employees for “pour[ing] their heart and soul into their work every day.”

Superintendent Devon Horton dedicated his Winter 2021 MIRACLES In Action Report on Thursday to the staff, for helping to bring District 65 schools “back to life” after remote learning caused feelings of isolation in many children.

“We know this year has been difficult,” Horton said, “and yet it was one filled with a reinvigoration for learning and connection!”

MIRACLES is an acronym for a variety of educational programs, policies, and targets.

In the report, Horton says “We need continuous improvement in the district if we want to achieve our goals of improving academic outcomes, eliminating racial predictability in student achievement, and all while centering the social emotional needs of our students.”

Twenty different areas are listed, including the establishment of Academic Skills Centers for tutoring, a teacher residency program for training new educators, and the facilities master plan and student reassignment process now being developed.

The report also highlights specific staff members in each of District 65’s 18 buildings for going “above and beyond” expectations.

For example, Laura Rouse, a 4th grade teacher at Walker Elementary, is acknowledged for organizing a “Strong Runners” program, which trains children for a 5K race while teaching them life skills.

Rouse, who is in her 33rd and final year in District 65, has also set up a Book Club to help young children learn to love reading.

Besides thanking District 65’s 1,517 employees, Horton also expresses his gratitude to the school board, and, of course, to the district’s students, parents, and guardians.

Despite the many past and ongoing challenges, Horton says he is “extremely optimistic about what the future holds for District 65.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.