Superintendent Eric Witherspoon began the May 20 meeting of the District 202 School Board by announcing national recognition achieved by some Evanston Township High School students. The math team of Maggie Davies, Caroline Duke, Laura Goetz, Katie Latimer and Dina Sinclair, all ETHS seniors, was named one of six national finalists in the Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, an applied math contest that is organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). The only finalist from Illinois, the ETHS team was selected from more than 1,000 teams which represented a record number of competitors in the contest. The ETHS second team was composed of Marc Bouchet, Jay Honnold, David McDonald, Sam Miller and Austin Schilling; math teacher Mark Vondracek coached both teams.

Junior Aaron Clarke finished fourth in Congressional Debate at this year’s national Tournament of Champions (TOC) event. The 2013 TOC, held April 27-29 in Kentucky, is now in its 41st year and serves as a forum of competition for the nation’s very best Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, Public Forum and Congressional debaters.. Coach Jeff Hannan said Aaron had debated such issues as the “intersection of race and gun-control” and the “tax-exempt status of public bonds.” He is preparing for debate on the “harm and benefit of drone strikes,” Mr. Hannan said. At the same time Russell Fillmore Brady, the 202 student Board member, is preparing for a debate on the “role of public education in closing the economic and achievement gaps,” added Mr. Hannan.

Committee Assignments

As the academic year winds down, the year for the new District 202 School Board begins. Board President Gretchen Livingston announced the committee assignments for the next year, some of which are as follows: Discipline Committee, Pat Savage-Williams and Jonathan Baum; Joint District 65/District 202 Committee, Ms. Livingston and Mr. Baum; ED-RED (regional education advocacy), Ms. Livingston, Mark Metz and Scott Rochelle; ETHS Foundation Board, Mr. Rochelle and Mr. Metz; Park School, Mr. Baum and Ms. Savage-Williams; Policy, Bill Geiger; City/School Liaison, Mr. Rochelle and Mr. Geiger; School Improvement Team, Ms. Savage-Williams and Doug Holt; and Joint Legislative Task Force (new name in the works); Mr. Metz, Ms. Livingston and Mr. Rochelle.

Community Service Update

Mary Collins, Community Service Coordinator at ETHS, described community service at ETHS as the “unconventional classroom. We … teach kids how to make an impact on our community.” She reported that ETHS students logged in nearly 10,000 hours of community service this academic year.

“ETHS is well on its way to having a premier [community service] program,” Ms. Collins said.

Among the benefits of community services are meeting caring adults, enhancing college and job applications and having “real-life” experiences such as learning to communicate, advocate and resolve conflicts, Ms. Collins said. She added the community service division “doesn’t push” community service for those reasons but “we tell them, ‘Do it for yourself and your community and the benefits will come.’”

Committee Reports

Ms. Livingston said safety was the major issue at the most recent City-School Liaison Committee meeting. Ms. Livingston, an attorney, said she has drafted an ordinance to expand the Safe School Zone around ETHS. Doing that would allow the City to enforce Safe School Zone laws – such as stiffer penalties for guns or drugs – in a greater perimeter around the school. At present, said Dr. Witherspoon, the Safe School Zone extends only to the sidewalk in front of the school. She said District 65 had expressed an interest in a similar ordinance; theirs would be different because of the number of schools in that District, she said.

Mr. Baum discussed the written report he had submitted on the most recent meeting of the Discipline Committee. Some issues that appear to remain unresolved are whether students can merely accumulate detention rather than attend detention sessions; whether tardiness does or should lead to detention; a continued misclassification of some infractions of school rules; and the continued vagueness of the suspension category “inappropriate behavior.”

Regarding accumulated detentions, the committee discussed “what measures can or should be used to enforce attendance at detention, with general agreement that reducing classroom learning times is not productive,” according to Mr. Baum’s report.  Regarding “tardy/detention,” the data showed 99 suspensions in that category, although “Dean [Cynthia] Bumbry and a safety officer both stated that tardy/detentions, no matter the number, never give rise to suspension,” according to the report. Finally, there appears to be a continued “racial imbalance” in the suspensions for “inappropriate behavior,” because of the subjectiveness of the category.

The committee agreed on the need for uniformity in the “offense codes,” to make reporting more unified, and Mr. Baum said the committee plans to “spend a year going through, rule by rule, the rules of “The Pilot,” the student handbook.

Student Board member Russell Brady reported that some aspects of student government are being reorganized. A student senate has been created, he said, and Student Council will devote two meetings each month to the discussion of school policy. The Principal’s Advisory Council, he said, offers “an avenue to comment directly to administrators.” Among the policy changes, he said are “expanding the role of intramural sports and looking at the role of graduation requirement for students in four-year programs,” in which taking elective courses may be difficult. He said Student Council is also looking at restructuring the detention system and would like to have student on the 202 Board committees.

Graduation Day is June 9, and the last day of school is June 14.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...