Word from folks who attended Monday’s District 65 School Board meeting is that the board voted to extend Superintendent Hardy Murphy’s contract to 2012.

The vote reportedly was four in favor and two opposed, with one member voting “present.”

The vote came despite considerable controversy over the deal, which will financially tie future school boards to the superintendent, whose contract previously ran to 2009.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Murphy wins 2012 contract extension
    Dr. Hardy Murphy congratulation on contract extension you deserve it couldn’t make it to meeting but feel very comfortable with your leadership.

    I will be calling you personally to extend to you congratulatory remarks; also my concern that every school to be equipped to handle the need of children with special needs (very bright students needing extra attention).

    Mr. Smith, I thank you for a message board where I can write my opinion without wondering when my family will be ostracized. A community, in which my family: have proudly worked and raised their children for six generations.

  2. “flight” to private schools
    Just as a point of information: I know a woman who recently did a quick survey of local private schools to see if their enrollment had increased substantially over the last several years and specifically if their Evanston based enrollment had increased. No school reported a sharp uptick in enrollments. To my knowledge, none has a significant waiting list. For the 16 years I’ve been in Evanston, some parents have chosen private school, some after spending several years with children in public school. But I don’t think there is evidence of a run to the private schools.

    1. The drop in enrollment in District 65 is Real!
      Dr, Murphy is not he cause of the drop in White enrollment it has been going on for years. I pointed this out when I ran for school board in the late ninities interesting enough no other person running wanted to talk about. As I recall in enrollment at that time was approximately 7,300 I believe we are at about 6,300 to 6,000 now. Also White children are the minority population in the district. Bottom line the district is becoming more and more like Chicago than a suburb system. In the next ten years if change does not occur few White families will come here, I do not think it is about White families leaving they simplely are not coming.

      By the way when I ran for school board the first time I talked about the lack of Gift programs – clearly people with bright children are none too happy today any more than they were ten years ago – it is never going to change –

    2. Leaving D65 for Private Schools
      I can tell you that people are pulling their kids from D65. We moved our youngest to Roycemore this past year. Let me just tell you about his class–over half of his class are from Evanston-Skokie D65. (And, as for trends, there are many more recent transfers into Roycemore from D65 at the younger grade levels.) It is important to note–that this is a diverse group. (A higher percentage of his Roycemore classmates are African American than in his D65 classroom.) The claim that people are leaving D65 becouse they don’t like the racial make-up of their kids’ classroom (a claim embraced by the D65 Board President) is untrue — and insulting. Not only does it make us out to be racists, but stupid as well. Do people who make this claim really think people move to Evanston and then are shocked to find their kids’ classrooms are racially integrated? Give me a break.
      I can easily name many others who have left 65 in the past two-three years. By the way, Roycemore has been great! In the first month we have seen more differentiated education
      then we ever saw with him in 65!!!!

    3. Claim of no “flight” to private schools?
      Did your friend contact Pope John XXII on Ridge? I understand that its enrollment has jumped dramatically in the last 3-5 years.

      I must respectfully disagree with your conclusion that there is not evidence of a run to the private schools.

      I personally know three families that moved out of Evanston or moved their children to private schools in Evanston just this summer (and I don’t know many people) specifically because of the nonsense at District 65.

      I know of two other families with 5-year-old kindergartners who are already concerned that the general education curriculum is more like a preschool class for 3 year olds. Many children don’t know their letters or even how to sit and listen to instructions so the class must spend huge amounts of time on very basic things that were covered for other children in two years of preschool. Do you hear anything from District 65 about expanding preschool options to address this well-known problem? No.

      Life is too short to put up with all of the nonsense that District 65 dishes out. Parents with gifted or even bright children get frustrated–no programs and no level of responsiveness. Parents with children who have special needs get frustrated–the District’s special ed department is notorious for saying “too bad you live in Evanston” and ignoring obvious needs. Parents who raise issues about the past mismanagement of specific schools have been rewarded with retaliation.

      People who have the economic resources (as well as some who must strain financially to make it happen) are leaving the District in droves.

      Here’s a broader statistic that supports my conclusion that there is “flight” to the private schools:
      The District is 40 percent low income. Do you think that the residents of the City of Evanston and that little portion of Skokie are 40 percent low income? Not even close.

      I know that you can argue that lower-income families just have more children and the City poverty rate takes into account college students. But unless every low income family has at least 5 children ages 5 to 14 and every middle income or higher income family has only 2 children ages 5 to 14, the disparity between the poverty rate seen in District 65 schools and the City of Evanston overall cannot be explained by that rationale.

      Heck, one Evanston public school (Oakton) has more than 70 percent of their students on free and reduced lunch, meaning that the families are considered low income. Explain that number if “flight” isn’t involved.

      1. We flew the coop!
        Having watched silently for days as opinions have raged over another extension for Dr. Hardy Murphy, I have been moved to add my thoughts regarding flight to private schools. I was shocked to see some anonymous poster’s comments that reflected my exact experience – 10 years ago. You see, all three of my children attended or attend Pope John XXIII School, two since kindergarten and one beginning in first grade. With our first child, we were excited to have our son attend Washington School. Both my husband, and his father attended Washington School.

        However, our son was ready for school, and kindergarten was akin to daycare. As you described, the goal for the district, for kindergarten, was to level the kids out. This was not a good plan for our child who was reading. I spent time in the classroom to try and figure out what was going on. Most of the children had no experience being quiet, getting in line, following simple directions, and many of the kids did not know the basics; colors, letters, numbers, how to write their name. The best way to describe it was disorderly. I met with the principal, and then the Superintendent (Johnson) to request that our child be allowed to spend time down the hall with the first graders – reading. His response was “If we do that for your child, we will have to do that for other children too.” My request was denied.

        It was made abundantly clear to our family that the best interests of our children were not the primary concern of the District. Moreover, in an effort to persuade us to stay, statistics were provided to me that were separated by race, indicating that white, male children were being educated at Washington School, as compared to other races, so we had nothing to worry about.

        Our child started first grade at Pope John. Being Catholic, the choice was easier, but no less disappointing. There was a lot of pressure on us (me) to keep our kids in public school, not to jump ship, hang in there, it will get better…etc. We made the choice because we were unwilling to participate in a social science experiment and risk our child’s only shot at first grade, not to mention the other two kids bringing up the rear.

        I am happy to say that we made an excellent choice for many reasons, and I encourage all who are dissatisfied to come check us out! The K-8 environment is warm and structured. The class sizes are small and conducive to learning. Children are engaged and challenged – beginning at the kindergarten level. Respect and civility is the norm. Unruly and inappropriate behavior is not tolerated. There is more diversity at PJXXIII than at Washington School! We have an amazing mix of white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian children.

        Beginning in sixth grade the children can choose from Latin, French or Spanish, and can expect to place in 2nd and 3rd levels in high school. This cannot be said about the District schools. Ability placement for math and English Literature begin in the sixth grade – so children can excel at their level. Art & music, drama, and a spring musical, in addition to a Christmas performance, are all part of the curriculum (none of these are offered in the district schools either). As a bonus, this is a neighborhood school. Children need the experience of walking to school, kicking a rock, (time to figure out how to get somewhere on time!). In recent years’ District 65 has decimated the concept of the neighborhood school. The “Gen Ed” offerings are a disgrace and leave people who want a neighborhood school no choice but to apply for a “permissive transfer.” Great. I know people who have “hung in there” – and have been disappointed. This is not a very inviting prospect for young families looking to move to Evanston. Here’s an idea that is playing out: Move to a neighborhood with a failing school, then transfer to a performing school. Great. What does that do to neighborhoods? What does it say to prospective homebuyers?

        It is true what they say – people are leaving the district schools, and many are coming to Pope John, St. A’s, Roycemore, & Baker. With our third child now in sixth grade, at the beginning of our twelfth year, I invite you to come see our successful school! I was only shocked because I could have written your experience word for word – not shocked that it is no different now. It’s an Evanston thing – just look the other way, and pretend that everything is okay. I wasn’t buying twelve years ago, and not today.

        Mimi Peterson

        1. Would Barack Obama send his kids to a District 65 School?
          Mimi – I think you are making the point of many of the parents. That the schools are not meeting the needs of middle class kids. That is kids that are performing at grade level are placed in classrooms with kids well below grade level. In District 65 there are kids in the regular classrooms who are a year or two below grade level with no hope of catching up. This has been the whole issue of ability grouping versus differeniated instuction. Which district 65 never really solved.

          The liberal whites in this town for years have stated that we have a wonder diverse system. Unforunately the leaders and other in this community never solve the problem how to create a system that worked to keep the high end kids. They do not realize if this trend continues the public school system here will become an inner city system. They actually may realize this but few want to face it. There is also another interesting issue here that the city of evanston and the school district do want to face this is not 50 years ago here – the middle class white kids are now the miniority in the system!

          Years ago one of my neighbors told me how wonderful things were here in District 65 and everything was fine, until the day the kid had a gun at Haven – the next day they put their house up for sale and moved to Wilmette.

          I think far too many here think this is a huge racial issue – it is really one of social class – that is many of the black kids are from single parent lower income house holds versus the white kids who come from two parent homes with higher income and parents who in most cases went to college. The kids are at a very different level – when they start and when they finish. Ofcourse there are exceptions to the rule – but on average the poor students have the lower scores and grades regardless of race. There was a study done by the Miniority achievement network – I believe by Prof. Sampson – that stated this – interestingly enough it was not well publish – since people like Allan Alson wanted everyone to believe it was about race – or there would be no purpose for the minority achievement network which he created.

          Would Barack Obama send his kids to a District 65 school? Given his kids went to the high end UC lab school I do not think he would enroll them in a school such as Oakton in Evanston with its 70% free and reduced lunch population.

          Over the years here many white liberals talk about diversity yet when their children education is on the line few if any want their children in classrooms that the majority of kids are function below grade level.

        2. The Evanston Thing
          I think you have to have had kids in the schools past kindergarden to understand “the Evanston thing.”

          Lots of things about the schools are good, and that is why we stay. Both my kids had good experiences in the primary grades. Kindergarden, in particular, was quite the calm, nurturing environment, and both learned to be good students, even though they had very different teachers and classrooms. A big factor was most all the kids–regardless of their background–had gone to some kind of preschool or daycare or mom-tot thing that got them ready for school. That’s also part of “the Evanston thing” and it transcends race and class.

          It got harder in the older grades, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. Still, it has its good aspects.

          As with most things, the reality falls squarely between “awful” and “fantastic.” Plenty of things go well in District 65, but many things could stand improvement.

    4. don’t forget homeschoolers
      Don’t forget to take home schoolers into account when considering enrollment drops. There are enough of them at this point that the City of Evanston now runs daytime recreational programming specifically targeted to home schoolers.

      Of the three students from my daughter’s class of 24 who opted out of District 65 for this year, one is now home schooled, and two are attending private schools outside of Evanston.

  3. History of the Dispute
    I am new to Evanston. I moved to Evanston because the school in chicago (Lincoln Square) was soo bad. So, I am new to what the complaints are about District 65. So far my daughter loves her new school (Lincoln).

    1. History of…
      I’m not sure anyone on this site (to include those voicing on other Evanston internet sites; and most forms of communiqué where small pockets of the educational community congregate) has the ability to offer you an unbiased answer to your question relative to “the historical dispute.” The point given does not exclude me. Most of our perspectives are based on personal experiences, therefore, our opinions are sometimes skewed.

      So here’s something different you may want to think about. There are a total of 16 schools in D65. Fortunately for you and yours, the Lincoln school community has not gotten caught up in the storm, as far as I know, and neither have the majority of D65 schools.

      Consider making an independent parental assessment and evaluation of Lincoln. Celebrate that your family is content.

      I’ve had children in D65 from 1992 to present. Looking backward through time, the positive experiences for my children outweigh everything else. Overall, I find, it’s a quality school district where ALL students have opportunities to be successful in a place that values diversity and varied abilities.

      …if only the adults could “get along.”
      (Rodney King, Los Angeles)

      1. One of the reasons that the
        One of the reasons that the adults don’t “get along”:

        The District Administration has abandoned “great” and embraced “good enough” for our children. But, for many members of the community who express their support for Superintendent Murphy “good enough” for our children is just fine.

        Many of us refuse to accept that “good enough” is the best that we can do. If all adults demanded excellence for our children, we’d start seeing more agreement.

        Instead, we have claims of racism when others criticize the “good enough” attitude by this Administration. When that baseless argument is injected, it just shows that there’s no way to defend the Superintendent’s performance against the facts…this District is becoming mediocre.

        Some of our schools are inching closer to school choice given their abysmal ISAT results. One school is even failing miserably on the ISATs. That’s really sad. But it’s okay with the Superintendent.

        The next 5 long, long years will show that my observations are correct. And our children will suffer. Just watch.

        1. Other reasons
          Although the term has been tossed around, I have not called anyone a racist in regard to the current topic discussed. If you’re NOT a racist, why are you bothered by the realities of the term? Having experienced the affects of racism first hand, I can tell you – – it’s alive and well in Evanston… whether you happen to be one, or you are not one, or whether or not you’re a victim of it… it exists.

          I do not agree that “good enough” should be the standard. And I do not believe it is the case in D65. I support Dr. Murphy and district 65, but have not raised his color as an issue. Besides that point, the educational standards I set for my children exceed the norm. As long as my students meet my expectations, they’ll exceed all others. So, I have lesser things to worry about.

          The difference between you and I seems to be that I will NOT depend on anyone, other than myself and my children to ensure our academic expectations become realities.

          1. Why are people bothered by being called racists?
            Gee, I don’t know. Why are people bothered by being called racists and having their arguments labeled as racist? Maybe because it’s not true and it’s meant as a de-humanizing insult to stop all debate on an issue.

            Let’s change the question: would so many black people be supporting Dr. Murphy if he were white? If a white superintendent displayed this “good enough” attitude, I suspect that we would be discussing the merits of his performance, rather than this constant, baseless red herring. And many people would be expressing their disappointment with the current state of District 65.

            I am happy that you set your educational standards so high for your children. This may be news to you but so do many, many, many, many other parents in this town. You’re missing the point. The District is becoming mediocre and that’s not what our children deserve in public education and that’s not what our taxes are paying for.

            Like you, I don’t depend on anyone else to meet my children’s goals. Like many other parents, I am considering pulling my children from District 65 because the quality of education provided is sub-standard, no matter how much I am involved.

            For pity’s sake…the public schools certainly should play a role in helping, as you say, my children’s “academic expectations become realities.” But no matter how hard many parents have tried, the District has fallen far short for their children.

            You comment as if your children could be failed miserably by the public schools that they have attended (and will attend) but still grow up to become brain surgeons and nuclear physicists, given only your involvement. Sorry to say…I think that you are badly mistaken.

            Don’t you think that other parents are likewise trying hard to do the best for their children? You comment as if you are the only one engaged in that struggle and the only one who is worthy of success. You comment as if all other parents just aren’t trying hard enough to succeed as you and your children have.

            Perhaps because you work for the District, your quest for success for your children has been a little smoother than others?

          2. Why are people bothered…
            I do not mean to read insensitive. I’m not.

            Never the less, I’ve written before, I do not understand the hysteria revolving around one man. And NOT ONCE have I mentioned his ethnicity. It’s irrelevant. He’s qualified, capable and personable. Nor have I called anyone a racist. So try not to read anything extra into what I actually write.

            I do not speak for all black people, and will not make the attempt to do so now. I will, however, make this point.

            I’ve been a parent to d65 students from 1992 to present. The superintendent that preceded Dr. Hardy Murphy is a white man named Dr. Darwin Johnson.

            Under Dr. Johnson’s “leadership” the academic achievement gap between white students and students of color is huge compared to the decreased state in 2007. In 1992, children of color were not selected for gifted/enrichment programs by teachers in relevant number. During the time, the student population of these specialty programs mirrored the color of the superintendent and most of the teachers, who are white. Students of color, mostly black, were highly populated and disproportionately misplaced in Special Education programs under Johnson’s “leadership.”

            I was employed at d65 under Dr. Johnson for 5 years before he retired. And although his office was not far from mine he did not so much as say “Good Morning.” It was a gift, when I greeted him first – – and he returned a grunt.

            Under Johnson and for my kids, the standard set for school district 65 as it relates to students of color wasn’t that “mediocrity is good enough” but instead we don’t care whether or not black students fail. At that time, I appealed to the pta. There, I was invisible and ignored.

            Who took pity? No one. Not the white superintendent, not the white community, not the white pta, not the white administration, and not the white board of education. No one and no bodies. Not a peep – – not a ripple – – not a whisper – – not a sound. My quest for success has not been made easy by virtue of my employer, as you state.

            It was under Dr. Johnson’s superintendence, a white man that helped shape my paradigms and philosophical attitudes as it relates to the unwillingness to depend on others to achieve academic success for my children.

            Now, fast forward to 2007. Why is Dr. Murphy severly castigated, while the educational community sits quiet & immobile under Dr.Johnson…Alson…Witherspoon? It’s a difficult question to answer, isn’t it?

          3. Why are people bothered…
            I didn’t live here when the last superintendent was here. I have only known Hardy Murphy in charge of the schools.

            I see families leaving, given the lack of quality in their children’s education. I seeing mediocrity being the pinnacle of what can be achieved for all students…black and white and Hispanic.

            Working at the District has certainly given you a leg up on all of the rest of us poor excuses for parents. We certainly can’t hope to accomplish as much as you have for your children. Under Hardy Murphy, I am certain that you are able to get all of the attention that you demand for your children.

            How nice for you and them.

            Everyone needs to address whether they are viewing the world through racist glasses, even those who feel that they have been victimized in the past. Maybe, just maybe, after being victimized, it feels really good to be calling the shots and telling other people that they don’t deserve any attention for a change.

          4. Better things to do
            You do enjoy over generalizations and assumptions, don’t you? If it makes you feel good, continue. The clock keeps ticking.

          5. Better things to do than brag
            Many of us want all children to succeed at District 65, not just our own. And yes, my children are achieving far above the pathetic standards set by the District. I am an involved parent, just like you. So you’re not talking down to a failing parent with underachieving children. But I’d rather focus on helping those who aren’t achieving.

            Yes, the clock is ticking for all children in the District. That’s the point that you keep missing with your pontificating about how well your children have done based on your efforts alone.

            Please consider your children’s friends who may be failing. And what happens if the pathetic condition of the District starts affecting your children? That will get your attention.

            But right now, it’s just someone else’s children, right?

          6. I remember Darwin
            Tressa – Darwin Johnson was one of two possible choice present to the community years ago – the other individual as I recall claimed the KKK was after him – I believe he was from New Orleans one of the worst districts in the country.

            I was not too impressed with Darwin – he appeared to be ancient relic of the past.

            District 65 is out of control – I do not agree with your point that there were too many black kids in special ed – if they needed the support they should have gotten it – many white parents went to private sources to have thier children evaluated for serivces. Some had to sue to get services. District 65 has a history of mismanagement and lack of resources. I would agree that the services the black students most likely got were useless.

            As far as Gifted programs go district 65 does not have any – they want to have everyone in the same environment – I am sorry to say a higher percent of white than black students would have been in gift programs given the pool of students they have to select. Given the average white ACT at ETHS is 27 and the black ACT is 18 which few college will even accept.

            Don’t think I am suggesting all whites are gifted – I would guess out of district 65 white population a few percent of the white students are really gifted. Although large numbers of parents might think other wise.

            My guess of the situation in district 65 now is it is getting worst – Oakton appears to be like a Chicago public school – It appears even white students scores there are dropping.

            Also since enrollment in classrooms is hit or miss – some class rooms in any of the schools may have the majority of kids below grade level. Thus White parents are leaving.

            Since I am not a parent with children in the system – there is only one issue of interest to me my tax dollars – it does not appear they are being well used – by Doctor Murphy or the board. I keeping on wondering why all the schools remain open with over 1000 kids gone from the system?

          7. Dr. Johnson
            Junad – I meant to convey that some African American students should not have been recommended for special ed and did not require special ed supports in ’92. The students belonged in general ed, which required, in part, cultural awareness by the evaluators, effective teaching strategies in general ed classrooms and skilled labor.

            The gifted/enrichment experience was more subjective back then. Invitation was based almost exclusively on teacher recommendation. Hence, the disproportionate numbers in those programs as well in favor of white students.

          8. What about the behavorial classrooms
            Tressa – are you aware the District has behavorial classrooms – years ago they were at Orrington school – I believe most of the students in them were black. Do you think these kids should be placed in the regular classrooms? I remember staff members watching some of this kids on the playground stating years later they would see thier names in the Evanston Review crime blotter. I do not know your teaching background but few teachers who have 20 kids plus – can handle children with volient problems. The recent incident in downtown Evanston were group of black kids who appear to be district 65 students beat a person has to be alarming to any parent with children in district 65 since these kids are in the buildings and by law no one knows who they are.

          9. Special Ed
            My children do not require special services, so I have not followed the issues vigorously.

            As far as the other stuff, my response will read argumentative. After having read your commentary, perhaps one of the “Anonymous” writers will step out of their comfort zone and respond to you instead.

            As an aside, I followed gifted/enrichment closely, until I realized I have the authority to direct my children’s education.

  4. Sharon Sheehan

    I’m disappointed you felt compelled to resign your position. So, I’d like to take a moment and exploit this forum by publicly acknowledging my comprehension of your reasons.

    Within the past couple of years and at times we did not agree, at least we had the ability to communicate comradely. For some, I guess, that’s no easy communal task.

    I think you’re one strong-willed sister. And now that you’ve got more time on your hands, let’s keep up the chats about common interests, books, sociology, etc. I found our conversations cerebral and invigorating.

    All the best…

    Tressa Randolph

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