ETHS To Unite With Community College To Expand

Diana Xin

By Diana XinThe Daily Northwestern

Starting in fall, Evanston Township High School will merge its Adult Continuing Education program with Oakton Community College.

The Evanston School District 202 school board voted unanimously to change its program during its meeting Monday night. District officials said doing so would cut costs, expand opportunities in the ACE program and allow current students at the high school, 1600 Dodge Ave., to receive college credit.

The idea was formally introduced to the board on April 16.

ACE classes will continue to be offered in Evanston, said District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

“From the consumer’s point of view, this will look and feel and be the same kind of adult continuing education program that we have here,” Witherspoon said. “What we’re really talking about is how we administer and offer the program, how we add more value to what’s available in Evanston.”

Adult registration fees will go down from $20 to $5, and senior citizens will receive a 50 percent discount on most classes, according to a district memo.

Oakton Community College was ranked one of the of the 11 best community colleges in the country by The New York Times, according to a memo from Chief Financial Officer Bill Stafford. Oakton already runs adult education programs in other districts throughout the North Shore.

Two current students in the adult education program said the school board was not forthcoming about the changes.

Both Valerie Swords and Susan Whiting said they believed ACE classes and enrollment would take place at Oakton, making it difficult for students unfamiliar with English or who have transportation problems.

“I thought this would be a meeting with some discussion of the ACE program,” Whiting said. “Instead, I see there is a proposal for immediate action. I really would expect more from the board.”

Swords also said she was disappointed at the lack of discussion when it had been promised to the public.

“This is just going to eliminate ACE,” Swords said. “This is going to increase the competition for the classes I want to take, (but) I think the group of people that are going to be most sorely affected is the English as a second language community.”

Witherspoon said the new partnership would not endanger the program.

“This is absolutely one hundred percent not about closing our adult continuing education program,” Witherspoon said. “This is just the opposite.”

Board member Missy Fleming asked how information was distributed to the public. Witherspoon said letters about the changes were sent out in English and Spanish in addition to e-mails to community leaders, Web site updates, letters to ACE students and e-mails to ETHS faculty and staff.

Witherspoon said that “thousands upon thousands of communications have been distributed.”

Board members said the speed with which the change was accomplished was not cause for concern.

“The administration did move swiftly because the opportunity presented itself in this way,” board member Martha Burns said. “It was not done in a result of disregard, but more so from a financial standpoint and an expedience standpoint.”

Board member Mary Wilkerson apologized for the miscommunication but said the change would be beneficial for the district.

“I hope that they have finally heard us,” Wilkerson said. “Let me say it again: We’re not eliminating the ACE program. We’re planning on enhancing the ACE program.”

Reach Diana Xin at [email protected]