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Neighbors offer ideas for closing achievement gap

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About 40 people turned out for a meeting Monday night at Second Baptist Church to offer ideas for volunteer efforts to help close the achievement gap in Evanston schools.

Ideas ranged from putting books in barbershops to holding workshops to teach parents how to better navigate the school system.

Michael Nabors.

The meeting was organized by Second Baptist's pastor, Michael Nabors, and drew other religious leaders as well as school and city officials in addition to other residents concerned about lagging academic performance by low income students.

Nabors said he's spoken with leaders at at least 30 of the city's 114 houses of worship, all of whom were willing to help create a community collaborative to improve achievement levels in the schools.

Paul Goren.

School Superintendent Paul Goren said District 65 has to "own the performance level of kids."

"We need to welcome families into our schools," Goren said, "We know we have to work harder, and faster and make a difference. Yet we can't do it on our own."

Community activist Bennett Johnson, a former teacher, said, "Teachers, like policemen, need to be monitored constantly," adding that "the failure of society to provide economic and financial suport to black families is critical."

Cradle to Career Executive Director Sheila Merry said ending "summer learning loss" should be a key focus and said summer freedom schools are an exciting new way to address that problem — with one now planned for Friendship Baptist Church in Evanston.

And Monte' Dillard, pastor at First Church of God Christian Life Center, said the parenting issue is key. "I'm passionate to help with that," said Dillard.

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