Evanston, Skokie superintendents discuss state of local schools


Marissa Page/The Daily Northwestern

School District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, seated, and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Paul Goren address more than 200 Evanston parents, community members and school district alumni about the current state of and future plans for Evanston schools.

Marissa Page, Reporter

Superintendents of District 202, which serves Evanston Township High School, and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 delivered a “State of the Schools” address at ETHS on Thursday evening, the first event jointly hosted by the districts in recent history.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half program in the ETHS auditorium, District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon discussed the current statistics, programs, challenges and goals of their respective districts, as well as collaborations between the two.

District 65 and District 202 alumna Jacqueline Newsome opened for the superintendents, discussing the academic foundation Evanston’s school system provided her to later attend New York University and the University of Chicago Law School.

“The Evanston public school system is one of the best school systems in this country,” Newsome said. “Where else can a little black girl whose parents grew up on the West Side of Chicago grow up to attend the No. 4 law school in the country?”

Despite her praise of districts 65 and 202, Newsome reflected on microaggressions she endured throughout her secondary education because of her race. Students of color are a majority both at ETHS and in District 65, and both superintendents discussed the importance of providing equal opportunities and instruction to students from all backgrounds.

“Our challenge by addressing the disparities in achievement between our students is that unfortunately there is often a predictability based on race and there is no excuse for that,” Witherspoon said. “You cannot come up with a logical reason that says that’s okay.”

Goren discussed, among other things, District 65’s top five priorities in the coming years: high quality teaching and learning, a thriving workforce, family and community engagement, safe and supportive school climate and financial sustainability.

One major topic of discussion was the implementation of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized testing in schools, as part of the new Common Core standards for public schools in the country. Audience members questioned the financial practicality of enacting PARCC testing in Evanston schools. Goren explained that their budgets could suffer serious cuts if they refused to comply with state reforms.

An educational bright spot for both schools was collaborating with Northwestern, particularly in fostering science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in both schools.

“We’ve been working very closely with Northwestern,” Goren said. “District 65 couldn’t be more happy to embrace this great university in our town and the graduate students who work with us.”

The seminar closed with a question-and-answer session in which Goren and Witherspoon answered questions from the audience and shared remarks about their growing partnership.

“It’s just a fabulous opportunity to find alignment across the systems,” Goren said. “We serve all of you, you are our families, you are our community members and we are committed to providing the type of world-class education we believe we’re doing and that we will do in the future.”

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