Tributes were paid to the three outgoing members of the District 65 School Board, Andy Pigozzi, Jerome Summers and Kim Weaver, at the Board’s meeting on May 6. Unlike most meetings which have addressed serious, complex and at times contentious issues, this one was lighthearted and punctuated with humor.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy outlined ten things that have been accomplished during the tenures of these Board members who have served eight years (Mr. Summers), six years (Mr. Pigozzi) and four years (Ms. Weaver):
• The District has been recognized for improving student achievement, he said. He noted that one school consultant reported in January that District 65 improved its ranking from 333rd among 800 school districts in the State to 75th in the last ten years.
• There was one academic year in which, he said, the average scale score of District 65’s African American students, its Latino students and its low-income students on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test exceeded the average scale score of all students in the State. This shows it can be done, he said.
• The District implemented the Inclusion Program to better serve the needs of students with a disability in the general education classroom.
Dr. Murphy also mentioned the successful implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) at many schools, the high teacher-retention rate, the building additions and improvements, the implementation of the first teacher appraisal system in the State to take student growth into account, lengthening the school day, improving achievement of middle school students, and expanding the drama program.
Dr. Murphy also singled out qualities of each of the retiring Board members.
Jean Luft, president of the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union) said, “We appreciate the countless hours you have spent. Your dedication and passion mean so much to us.”
Katie Bailey, who completed her second term as Board president, said Mr. Pigozzi brought leadership to the District, serving as vice president of the Board, chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, and as one of the negotiators of the most recent four-year contract with DEC.
As did many others, she thanked Mr. Pigozzi, a school architect by profession, for his perspective on the District’s buildings, a major focus during his term on the Board. The District has had to wrestle with addressing life/safety issues and building expansions to accommodate increased student enrollment.
Mr. Pigozzi brought his expertise as a school architect to the Board and educated the Board about architectural and construction issues, as well as the importance of healthy buildings to student learning and achievement, said Ms. Bailey. “We’ve learned how buildings operate. Our buildings operate more efficiently and sustainably and everyone says you helped us save money.”
Addressing another commonly recognized trait, Board member Eileen Budde said, “I always appreciated the way you were quiet and thoughtful before you crafted your response to something. By the time you finally speak, it’s really full of good stuff and is very, very meaningful.”
Many speakers commented on Mr. Summer’s passion. “Whatever you’re sharing, whatever your position was, whatever your view was, I know it was authentic and it was coming from your heart,” said Board member Richard Rykhus.
“The way you have kept us focused on our status as a lighthouse district, you’ve asked us not to be better, but the best we can be. I’m so appreciative of that,” said Tracy Quattrocki, newly elected Board president. “You have changed the dialogue here about the children in the Fifth Ward, and I hope we will continue to focus in the way you have asked us to.”
Ms. Bailey singled out Mr. Summers’ persistence in urging that a new school be built in the Fifth Ward. She said the referendum on this issue last year had to be mentioned.
“I appreciate your hard, focused work, your continued patience with us and the education of all of us,” said Ms. Bailey. She mentioned “the history of the Fifth Ward, the impact of busing, the importance of looking at the needs of each student in all communities across Evanston.
“You’ve given a voice to so many who did not have a voice,” she said.
“Because of her professional career, Ms. Weaver has exposure to what’s happening in school districts throughout the State,” said Dr. Murphy. “The broad perspective helped her and us in reaching sometimes difficult decisions.”
Ms. Bailey said Ms. Weaver had served on the Board’s finance committee, the Joint Legislative Task Force, and as the District’s liaison with the Illinois Association of School Boards. “Her knowledge of schools and school boards, operational issues, business issues, legislative trends served this community and it served this Board.”
“When there was disagreement among Board members, she purposely picked the most important battles rather than every one,” said Ms. Bailey. “I believe she knew that to move forward you had to find consensus.”
“I do appreciate Kim’s great business sense. The fact that she brought her focus on energy and energy efficiency were tremendous assets,” said Ms. Quattrocki.
Mr. Pigozzi’s humor showed through when he addressed each Board member. On a more serious note, he said he has worked professionally with more than 100 school districts. “I have yet to meet a superintendent and his or her cabinet that is more dedicated to helping children than this District here. You guys are my heroes. It’s not just that you work hard, it’s that you really do look out for the kids that depend on public education the most, and that’s very admirable. I’ve seen that consistently throughout the years I’ve served here.”
Mr. Summers said, “This District is more than 50 percent black and Latino and mixed-race kids, and this day there’s no blacks or Latinos on this Board. But because of their sheer numbers, if we’re not concentrating on raising their achievement, then this District goes nowhere. We must always be conscious of lifting all boats. That’s extremely important.
“I think that Evanston should be the model for what a diverse American school system should be. That is this place. People all over the country really do look at us. We need to step up to the plate and be the model for America.”
Ms. Weaver was not able to attend the meeting.