School Board Elections 2015 – Why should I care?
While our neighbors in Chicago are abuzz with a mayoral runoff election on April 7, we Evanstonians have another election the same day, one which will have an even bigger impact on Evanston and Skokie families. April 7 is when we will elect three members each to the boards of education of District 65 and District 202 (ETHS). What impact will this election have?
1. The school board sets broad policy for the district. Should TWI be expanded or replaced? Should more or less emphasis be placed on math, music, wellness, or class size? Should school attendance areas be redrawn? Should the school year start – and end – earlier or later? These and other questions are decided by the board of education.
2. The school board hires and evaluates the superintendent of schools. Last year, the District 65 board held a national search which ended in the selection of long time Evanston resident Dr. Paul Goren as our new superintendent. He has brought new faces and new ideas to the administration. The board sets goals for the district and will determine how well Dr. Goren and his team are reaching those goals. District 202 superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon is in his 60s and may retire in the next few years, at which point the District 202 board will have to select his successor.
3. The school board sets the district’s budget. Two thirds of our property tax bills go to Evanston ’s two school districts, far more than goes to the City of Evanston , to parks, libraries, the water reclamation district and the mosquito abatement district combined. This does not only affect homeowners – parents who are renters pay their landlord’s taxes as part of their rent. Remember also that the success and quality of our schools can have a significant impact on our property values.
4. The school board sets priorities when the budget is squeezed. Governor Bruce Rauner and the state legislature are discussing reducing and reallocating state education funds and shifting pension costs in ways that could dramatically affect school funding. If the districts have to make painful cuts, the school boards will first need to articulate what gets cut and what gets kept.
5. The school board approves the contract with the teachers’ union. The District 65 Educators’ Council has a contract through June of 2016. Next year, the administration and board will start negotiating with DEC leaders for a new contract. This contract will not only affect teachers and how they are paid, it will affect how our schools operate. Many important questions – how and when parent-teacher conferences are conducted, full or part day closures for teacher professional development, the use of substitute teachers, how teachers are evaluated, mainstreaming of special needs students, who sets the calendar for the school year – are affected by the teachers’ union contract.
6. Only have a student in the youngest primary grades and wondering why you should worry about District 202, which operates Evanston Township High School ? The vast majority of District 65 students will find themselves students at ETHS in a few short years. Your mother might say in the blink of an eye. We District 65 parents need to keep an eye on both how strong ETHS is, and how effectively the two districts manage students’ transition from eighth grade to ninth.
Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to. Learn about the candidates and their positions on this website, and vote for the candidates you feel will be most effective. Register to vote by March 10th if you haven’t before. Talk to your neighbors and friends about the issues and the candidates. You can vote by mail (request your ballot online by April 2) or vote early in person from March 23 to April 4 if you will be out of town for spring break on April.