When the Joint District 65-202 Board Committee met early Thursday morning in the new Welcome Center of Evanston Township High School, its agenda verified the trend towards collaboration on the part of many community elements for the benefit of its young people.
For years, there has been a hue and cry for consolidating the two school districts, primarily as a way to save taxpayer money.
After close examination indicated that few taxpayer dollars would be saved by such a move, the focus turned to what was dubbed “virtual consolidation,” whereby the two districts would increase their communication with each other to ensure that students would not be shocked as they crossed the line from the eighth grade in District 65 to the ninth grade in District 202.
It gained momentum from the realization that the perennial gap in test scores between students of different racial and ethnic groups was not budging, despite efforts at both districts to accommodate specific needs of all students, regardless of racial or ethnic identity.
Educators noted that research indicates that success in education is tied more to the family and is largely determined by educational exposure in the early years, beginning at birth.
The result was establishment of the cradle-to-career initiative that involves many private and public groups, of which there are many in Evanston, including the two school districts, Northwestern University, the City of Evanston, the Youth Organizations Umbrella, the YMCA, the YWCA, a number of child care facilities, and several health and charitable agencies in the city.
One of the leaders of this movement was former McGaw YMCA executive director and current District 202 board member Bill Geiger, who noted Thursday that the recent hiring of an executive director by the cradle-to-career group should not be an excuse for its partners to lean back and relax, but rather should be met by “leaning in” to work harder at making the concept work.
The group also heard a report from a new District 65 administrator, Peter Godard, Chief of Research, Accountability, and Data, who described efforts between the two districts at developing a joint achievement report that would track the success of students as they traversed the two districts on their way to college.
Virtual consolidation also includes a joint calendar committee that reconciles the different needs of the two districts in meeting state attendance requirements as well as the differing needs of the two districts in composing a joint school calendar that would also help families with students in both districts plan their vacation and child-care schedules.
The calendar would also specify certain holidays, such as Pulaski Day, that would be sacrificed as makeup days for weather-related closures.
Many of these agenda items will also show up on the agenda for the next joint meeting of the two school boards that is scheduled for the evening of March 16 at the high school.
But in the future, additional items will surface, such as consolidation of such back-office functions as finance, communications, and janitorial services that could actually save taxpayers some money.
In the meantime, however, the focus of both boards is on those activities that will make a difference in the educational outcome of the community’s students as they move from cradle to career.
Top: Thursday’s meeting of the Joint Board Committee.