School boards have ‘articulation’ on their agenda

Once a year, the two school boards that operate Evanston’s public schools hold a joint meeting to discuss ways in which they can work together, or “articulate,” better.

This year, that meeting will be held Monday night, beginning at 7 p.m., at the headquarters of District 65, which is responsible for grades kindergarten through eight.

The other board, District 202, operates Evanston Township High School, which includes grades nine through 12.

Most communities in this country have only a single district that covers grades K through 12, so articulation is not so much a problem as in Evanston.

But here we have two districts, each with a highly paid superintendent and a cadre of teachers and administrators, that need to communicate with each other in order to provide a seamless transition for the student from one level to the next.

In a memo to the two boards, an assistant superintendent from each district collaborated to list 42 meetings held within the last year between different groups of the two districts to enhance this “articulation” between the two.

The “Academic Articulation Log” they came up with listed meetings in such areas as English, mathematics, world languages, science, and fine arts, as well as special education, technology, and physical education .

They also listed 14 “additional strategic partnerships” utilized by the two districts, including food service, joint borrowing, crisis planning, and a joint breakfast with real estate agents to tout Evanston’s schools as a reason for families to choose this area as a place to buy a home and raise a family.

But the “elephant in the room” at the meeting will be the opportunity for collaboration that was presented by the resignation last August of District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy.

In Lake Forest, for example, the two districts there collaborated by combining the administrative staffs of their districts under a single superintendent.

To date, none of the members of either board have proposed exploring similar opportunities to enhance articulation or financial savings for Evanston parents and taxpayers, except to say that any such collaboration must show clear benefits for the education of the area’s students.

Board watchers will be curious to see if any proposals are discussed at the joint meeting to propose additional articulation between the two districts. 

Comments

It's "Time to Combine"

Hopefully both D65 & D202 School Board's will seriously consider combining the 2 school districts.

The benefits are many and boil down to 2 primary issues; improved quality of service and lower costs.

Regarding quality of service : One district would enable a seamless transition from Kindergarten (or earlier) all the way through 12th grade (and beyond). Curriculum can be better planned. Doesn't it make sense to have 1 person in charge of creating and overseeing an English curriculum starting in Kindergarten and going all the way through 12th Grade? There wouldn't and shouldn't be any gaps or missing pieces or excuses. Similar approaches can and should be taken for Math, Science, History, Languages, Music, etc. Longitudinal studies can be easier conducted to determine what's working and where is there an opportunity to improve instruction to enable all students to achieve their potential.

Regarding lower costs : With today's structure, we not only have 2 superintendants (i'm happy to pay very attractive salaries to superintendants, administrators and teachers as long as our students are getting an outstanding experience) but we have 2 CFO's, 2 Human Resource departments, 2 Technology Groups and the list goes on and on. It would seem logical that costs can be lowered going forward, or at a minimum, the growth of costs in the future should be lower. Too many Evanstonians are struggling to pay all our bills today, and leadership at the schools (and City) need to creatively address these challenges. Shifting tax burdens to higher fees isn't sustainable.

I know a group looked at consolidating the districts not too long ago, and it would be helpful if Evanston Now could post the report.

Common sense would dictate that Evanston has 1 coordinated and outstanding school system that serves all students and families in a cost effective manner. 

It's time for both D65 & D202 School Boards to act.

 

Progress is disappointing

While consolidating the administrations of the two school districts is an ambitious and potentially worthwhile goal, even if both boards and administrations were very supportive of the concept, it would take a while to sort out how to do it. Both boards and administrations have spoken of expanding the areas in which they collaborate and coordinate. However, action (or too often, inaction) speaks louder than words. Reports from the November 13 joint board committee described discussion about the joint literacy goal and areas of articulation where the handoff from 8th to 9th grade can be made smoother, and it appears that the districts are working well on those initiatives, for which they should be commended. However, the same reports described discussion about joint RFPs for legal and auditing work, pursuing combining the research and analysis functions of both districts (beyond simply sharing raw data), and inviting teams of Northwestern business students to do some legwork on certain other areas where collaboration might be increased. Of these, it appears that only a joint auditing RFP has been pursued, and despite joint interviews of three qualified firms who provided combined bids, each district's staff is proposing to stick with their current auditing firm, both for three year contracts. Let's hope the respective boards will avoid locking the districts into another three years of missed opportunity to better align their financial management, and that they will pursue some of the other initiatives which appear to be supported by board members but not so much by administrators.