The departure of Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Superintendent Hardy Murphy presents an opportunity for Evanston’s two school districts to consider a dramatic step toward virtual consolidation.

When the two boards came together for their annual joint meeting last January, they vowed to consider additional ways to cooperate in a manner that would enhance the educational achievement of the district’s students and save money for taxpayers at the same time.

Evanston has two school districts, each with its own board and administration. District 65 operates schools that serve students from kindergarten through eighth grade, while District 202 operates Evanston Township High School for students from grades nine through 12.

Through the use of joint committees, the two boards have strived to operate a functionally unified system that they hope will serve the area’s students well, from kindergarten through high school.

One model that has attracted some attention, however, has been that of Lake Forest, whose two districts, 67 and 115, entered into a shared services agreement in July of 2004, which supporters claim provides a more effective educational product while reducing administrative costs to both districts.

For example, seven of the top administrative officers—the superintendent, chief financial officer, and the heads of business services, human resources, curriculum, communications, and buildings and grounds– are shared by the two districts. Yet each has administrators, principally in specialized areas, who serve only one district.

Examples of the latter are an athletic director for the high school district and a director of Mandarin Immersion for the district that serves the lower grades.

Each district still has its own board and its own tax base, and each negotiates separately with their respective teachers unions.

Such an arrangement in Evanston would require a great deal of negotiation among stakeholders of each district. It remains to be seen whether District 65 would be willing to delay its search for a new superintendent until these negotiations could be completed or even whether District 202 is interested in pursuing such an arrangement,

Yet, once District 65 hires a new superintendent, the window of opportunity for this level of virtual consolidation would, for all practical purposes, be closed.

During the campaign for school board elections last April, most candidates for both districts said they were in favor of virtual consolidation so long as it would be the best deal for the students.

It will be interesting to see, in the months ahead, how serious they were about the concept, or whether it was just campaign rhetoric.

Related stories:

School consolidation on the agenda again

Boards vow to collaborate more

Report: Schools should share services to save

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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7 Comments

  1. YES!!!  Please seize this opportunity!

    YES!!!  These very highly paid administrators are not teachers.  I think it has been obscene to have a superintendent of a district with exactly one school, which in turn has a principal and lots of other administrators, the way the current District 202 functions.    Please, please seize  this opportunity!  Our taxes are unsustainable and unaffordable. 

  2. Consolidate D65 & D202 Report

    Charles, can you provide a link to the report from the Northwestern professor who looked at consolidating D65 & D202? 

    On the surface this seems to make sense. With one district, education quality should improve and costs should be lower.

    Regarding education quality, no more finger pointing between the districts, curriculum should be consistent, expectations should be high starting in all grades, more longitudinal studies can be conducted to better understand the deficiencies in educational experiences and then fix the issue. Technology can be better coordinated.

    Regarding costs, with 2 districts we have 2 superintendents, 2 CFO's, 2 separate Human Resource departments, 2 separate Technology groups etc.

    As the prior comment mentioned, "our taxes are unsustainable and unaffordable." More and more people are struggling to make ends meet. The schools account for about 2/3 of our tax bill. D65 spends about $15,000 per student and D202 spends about $23,000 per student or almost 50% more than the state average.

    Thank you

  3. Consolidation

    After all these years, could it possibly come to fruition, strenghen our school system and reduce taxes? Can always look for a miracle.

  4. It is time for one Evanston School District

    It is my thought, the continuation of two school districts in Evanston is continued mis-appropriation of our taxes. Such contributes to our high taxation…it is time to consolidate our local school system. It will take courage and "Grace"…

  5. Who would object

    The only people that would object are both boards and the teachers' union. It is about money and power. They will act quickly to replace the the superintendent of D65 and will try not to take up consolidation. They can not find a justification for not consolidating.

    1. Equal pay for School District?

      The one argument raised more than any other I've seen is that consolidation would require equal pay for all K-12 [K-8 being brought up to 9-12 level].  Is there documentation on either side why that would be required ?

      Laws ?  Union Contract ?

      As far as I know City and Township staff [as much as not identical] are paid different.  Various Evanston departments pay different.  NU schools have vastly different pay—Kellogg is much higher than [most/all] Weinberg and I'm sure the Law and Medical pay much more than Kellogg.

      The argument sounds made-up or a bad contract that would not stand under legal evaluation. Shocking that Evanston officials would make bad contracts !!!

    2. Leadership for an elementary school district

      I am not sure that I just want a high school superintendent imposed on D65.  The two districts are very different, and one could argue that D65 is more complicated.  More buildings, more students, larger age range, more employees.

      If the idea is to hire a new D65 superintendent with the idea that we are hiring  someone who could lead both districts,  down the road, that is another story.

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