At its June 1 meeting, District 65 School Board members began discussing which of the many goals in the District’s five-year strategic plan the District should focus on next year. Board president Keith Terry asked each member of the Board to identify three priorities.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy kicked off the discussion by identifying four priorities the administrative staff had identified in preliminary discussions.

First, “I would argue that implementing the differentiated instruction/enrichment activities has to be a priority,” he said.

Second, Dr. Murphy identified the strategic plan’s goal that by the end of third grade all students enrolled in District 65 for a continuous four years are reading at grade level. “We have an outcome measure that we really think we want to address that talks about augmenting our early childhood program,” he said. “We ought to look at our 3-year olds or 4-year-olds … and at the end of the third grade that ought to be our measurement group.”

Third, Dr. Murphy said, “We think that based on the Cole Report – although she said we have made great strides, enormous progress and that was worth celebrating – we think we have to engage in a fairly aggressive push for inclusion [of students with a disability] in this District because it is the right thing to do. I think there is an ethical issue there in making sure we are able to educate students with their peers. We know when students with disabilities are educated with their peers … they thrive and do a lot better.”

Fourth, Dr. Murphy said the District has invested a lot of money in technology. “We want to be sure teachers are able to use that in a transformative way.”

The priorities listed by School Board members covered a wide range of goals. Katie Bailey thought it was important to solicit feedback from District 65 stakeholders to evaluate the District’s programs and services.

Tracy Quattrocki agreed that soliciting feedback would be a good way to get at a lot of issues. “Another area that would touch many of these goals would be to improve instructional leadership of principals and other District leaders,” she said. “I think so often we have these wonderful programs and we are not seeing uniform implementation in the classroom. How do you make teachers accountable? It really comes back to the principals.”

Mr. Terry said the District should develop more effective parent/school partnerships and implement the District’s capital improvement plan.

Bonnie Lockhart said the District should determine the purpose of the District’s magnet schools.

“That’s something we’ve been talking about a long time,” she said. She added the District should look at improving parent/school partnerships and create a climate that is welcoming and supportive of parents. “Town hall meetings are something we want to have every year,” she said.

Jerome Summers said one of the “strongest goals” in the strategic plan is the third-grade reading goal, which he supported. He also said, “We need to have a school in the Fifth Ward,” and “Parent/community involvement is a huge deal to me.”

Andy Pigozzi said his top three priorities were to “increase the use of co-teaching and push-in instruction, improve the leadership of principals and other District leaders, and provide professional development.”

Dr. Murphy said he would present the administration’s proposed strategies to implement the five-year strategic plan, together with proposed timelines for the strategies at the Board’s June 15 meeting.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...