ETHS keeps federal funds amid rumors of opting out

Paul Thissen

Despite buzz over whether Evanston Township High School would forfeit federal funds tied to the No Child Left Behind Act, the school’s superintendent said at a school board meeting Monday night that discussion of the issue was only “preliminary and speculative.”

At the previous District 202 School Board meeting, board member Ross Friedman posed questions of what the ramifications of declining to accept federal Title I funds would be. If the district forfeited the funds, it would become exempt from some provisions of No Child Left Behind.

Although some board members seemed to support the inquiry, significant skepticism remained concerning political considerations and how much of the law the district actually could avoid.

The board took no action, nor did it set a timetable for future consideration, but it did request that the superintendent prepare a detailed list of all components of the law, including which sections are tied to Title I funds and how much everything costs.

“The board may or may not look at, in the future, our staff obligations with No Child Left Behind,” said Superintendent Allan Alson. “After that, we could discuss Title I funds.”

Some news reports, however, suggested on Sunday that the decision would be forthcoming.

“It was nice for (The Chicago Tribune) to hyperventilate a little bit,” Alson said.

Kathy Miehls, the school’s director of public relations, said many local and national media outlets contacted the school Monday seeking comment on a decision to drop Title I funds.

“It’s really a non-story,” Miehls said.

The board will hear the superintendent’s initial report at its March 22 meeting.

The board considered the school’s textbook purchases for next year and heard a report on a support program for student immigrants from the Caribbean.

Because of a November initiative to reduce the supply budget for the school by 10 percent, the administration plans to wait a year longer before considering whether to replace textbooks.

Board Vice President Steve Gilford suggested that students be required to purchase some novels for themselves from local bookstores, instead of ordering hardback copies at the district level.

“It might be a disaster, but maybe everyone will go to the book store and buy the book,” Gilford said.

Overall, the board had few complaints about the textbook proposal. Several members commended teachers for including books that reflected the board’s policy initiatives. Board member Mary Wilkerson said she was pleased at how diversity was reflected in many of the text choices.

Board members also praised “The Reader’s Handbook,” which both ETHS and the middle schools in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 have adopted.

Earlier in the meeting, the board heard a presentation on the Caribbean Academic Program, which assists immigrants from the Caribbean who speak primarily English Creole. Because this language, which is derived from English, does not fit the federal definition of a foreign language, funds for bilingual education are not provided from the federal government.

The Board of Trustees of the ETHS District Foundation also met Monday night. The board comprises all of the school board members along with representatives of teachers and the Parent Teacher Student Association. The foundation raises and distributes funds for programs in the district independently of the district itself.

The board decided to pay a portion of the fee for one of the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., to come speak at ETHS. It also will pay for a teacher to accompany her student to a national Shakespeare soliloquy contest.