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Last fall, School District 202 began work on developing goals for the 2012 – 2015 school years. In the past few months, administrators have met with teachers, parents, students and the School Improvement Team to gather feedback. The School Board held an initial discussion about the goals at its February 13 meeting and announced plans for a goal-setting session on Saturday, March 17 which will be facilitated by a member of the Illinois Association of School Boards and will be open to the public.
“We’ve pretty much opened the door to anyone in the community to provide input,” said Assistant Superintendent/Principal Oscar Hawthorne. In addition to scheduled meetings this past fall, the District also offered the opportunity for anyone to respond to a survey which can be accessed through the District website.
Some Board members commented that they had received some negative feedback about the survey because it was very general and “bare bones”.
“No one should feel limited by the survey or goals we have had in the past,” Board member Gretchen Livingston said. “The point of the process is to think outside of the box with a fresh sheet of paper.”
“We purposely made (the survey) open-ended,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “We were hoping people would type in their ideas.”
The Board engaged in an initial brainstorming session facilitated by Ms. Livingston and Board member Jonathan Baum.
As a way of structuring the discussion, Mr. Baum encouraged other Board members to tie any suggestions to the guidelines of the District’s equity and excellence statement (see sidebar).
Several suggestions were raised during the 45 minutes allotted for the discussion, although only some of them were identified as directly tied to the equity and excellence statements.
“We’ve had a lot of changes in the freshman curriculum,” said Ms. Livingston. “We have to nail the sophomore year … one of my chief complaints is that we’ve changed the freshman curriculum before making changes to the sophomore curriculum in the humanities … I want to make sure we’re talking about what we’re doing in the sophomore year.”
“Now we have AP classes in junior year, remarked Board member Deborah Graham. “If we do not increase the rigor associated with our sophomore year curriculum students will be at a disadvantage going into their junior year.”
“What I don’t want to assume is that students aren’t ready,” said Board member Scott Rochelle. “I’d like to see exactly what’s happening … We have to ask the administration to show us what’s going on in sophomore year before we change anything.”
Ms. Graham suggested that in addition to focusing on race, the Board include issues related to the barriers to achievement for female and low-income students.
“So we should diversify equity to include issues of gender and income?” asked Mr. Baum.
“The income situation still comes back to race,” said Vice-President Martha Burns, reminding her colleagues of the more limited opportunities for economic equality for racial minorities.
Mr. Baum suggested that there be a joint goal which addressed working with D65 to implement reducing the racial achievement gap when students arrive at D202.
“You have to take responsibility all along the line,” he said. “(We should see) what can we do working together that we can’t do separately.”
Ms. Graham commented that Assistant Principal Peter Bavis had reported at the joint board meeting in January about how he had already “commenced that process. We need to continue and refine.”
“I can agree to a goal between both districts,” said Ms. Burns. “I would like us to reframe how we look at that goal (so) it doesn’t put either one of the districts in a defensive mode.”
“We should be looking at a growth model,” suggested Ms. Livingston.
“A lot of things are not within our power,” Mr. Baum pointed out, “but growth should be susceptible to our methods.”
Board member Rachel Hayman requested a goal “that addresses alternatives to suspension.”
Several Board members supported more focus on encouraging students to get involved in extracurricular activities and also referred to a need for a mentor for each student at ETHS, an idea currently in the planning stages.
“This goes to the idea of having one person looking out for you,” said Ms. Livingston. “We don’t have a systematic way for scooping up the kids who are around the edges.”
“There are too many kids slipping through the cracks,” commented Ms. Graham.
“We need to do internal and external marketing – to community and students,” said Mr. Rochelle. “Let’s make kids fall in love with Evanston High School … let’s find those kids who don’t have the connection … that’s a goal we can focus on.”
Board members agreed that they would revisit the discussion at least once more before the proposed March 17th meeting.
District 202 Equity and Excellence Statement:
ETHS is committed to equity because excellence for all students requires equity. This commitment will be achieved by:
- Providing all students with resources, opportunities, supports and interventions to ensure that they achieve their full potential.
- Giving students what they need to maximize their learning and well-being.
- Assuring that all ETHS staff members actively continue to examine and eliminate institutional beliefs, policies, practices, and teaching that perpetuate racial disparities in achievement.
- Preparing all students to succeed in a multi-cultural society by teaching the contributions and viewpoints of all people.
- Raising the achievement of all students while eliminating the racial predictability of achievement.