District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton told Evanston 5th Ward residents Thursday night that students from the ward “have always had challenges” at Haven Middle School.
“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Horton said, adding that with the planned opening of a new 5th Ward school, “We’ll be bringing our babies home.”
The superintendent, speaking to the virtual ward meeting from his basement, where he said his wife was telling him to stay after he came down with COVID-19, conceded that the district “didn’t have a strong enough system in place” to provide supports for students who were involved in fights or other disruptive behavior at the school.
Horton said 46 students — that’s just over 5% of Haven’s enrollment — were responsible for 75% of the 1,300 disciplinary infractions reported so far this school year.
Thirty-three of those students, he said, were Black. That’s about 20% of the Black students at the school.
Another nine, he said, were Hispanic. That’s about 8% of the Hispanic students at Haven.
Most of the minority students who currently attend Haven live in the 5th Ward.
Horton conceded that current Haven students will have graduated by the time the planned new school opens. But Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said the move could still benefit their younger siblings.
The 5th Ward school, Burns said, would provide “a wonderful opportunity to start from scratch” with what’s been learned about restorative justice, differentiated instruction, parental involvement and the community school model.
Horton said 26 of Haven’s 87 teachers have reported disciplinary infractions this year, and noted that only three teachers at Haven are Black.
The superintendent said the trauma students have experienced during the pandemic has been a major factor in discipline problems at the school.
“Eighth grade students, the last time they had normal school was in 5th grade,” Horton said. “We’re hearing about this across the country,” he added, “that students are quite a bit behind in the social art of their development.”
Horton also said the district had failed to make use of resources from other organizations in the community.
“Family Focus tried to do outreach, but couldn’t get into the building,” he said. “At the building level and the central office, we have to own that, we didn’t capitalize on resources for students.”