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District 200 residents prioritize achievement, facilities, community engagement organizers say

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014 4:27 p.m. CDT
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(Nathan Lurz - nlurz@shawmedia.com)
The Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education received recommendations from its Engage 200 committee Wednesday.

WHEATON – After months of planning, outreach and meetings, Community Unit School District 200 finally has the results of its Engage 200 community program.

Now, they just have to decide what to do with them.

Committee co-chairs Scott Brown and Liz Corry presented the findings and suggestions gleaned from the six engagement sessions at a Board of Education meeting Wednesday. The process involved inviting residents to hear from district officials on specific topics and provide feedback.

"It's your job, ultimately, to implement or figure out how to implement our recommendations," Brown said.

Suggestions about student achievement – the most important topic, according to residents – centered largely on addressing the needs of all students, particularly those who don't speak English. The committee asked the district to consider adding more intervention teachers and professional development and involving the parents of non-English speaking students.

It also advised the district to provide an appropriate amount of high quality staff and use more volunteers and partnerships to enhance programming.

Regarding facilities, a controversial topic in recent years, residents requested a facilities master plan to address infrastructure problems, including a solution for its early childhood education facility needs.

Financially, the community acknowledged with state and federal funding on the decline, the district had been stretched thin. But the report said it should still maintain quality staff and programs – "as a result, the status quo is not an option."

With more potential lean years coming, the committee asked the district to consider a referendum to increase tax revenue, particularly after learning it had the second lowest tax rate among benchmark districts. Additionally, residents asked the district to consider fee increases, seek additional private funding sources and encourage local municipalities to expand commercial development.

Earlier in the meeting, the 2014-15 district budget, which includes cutbacks in professional development and staff, was presented.

The district is carrying out $7.2 million in summer renovations at 18 of its schools, but has more than $20 million in identified improvements to undertake in coming years. It also lost a major referendum in April 2013 that would have provided funding for early childhood facilities.

Still, Board President Barbara Intihar said the suggestions would not be ignored.

"We will not let it just be a report that sits on a shelf," she said. "You can guarantee that."

Interim Superintendent Faith Dahlquist said the district and the community were able to connect during the process, and hoped it would improve future discussions.

Vice President Jim Vroman said he would like to see the board soon address how to implement the suggestions and keep the public aware of its progress.

"I think we have an obligation, not only to the facilitating team, but our entire community, to give status reports on how we are progressing and implementing those recommendations in the report," he said.

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By the numbers

Nearly 700 stakeholders• attended one or more sessions

• 57 percent were parents of current students• 30 percent were parents of future or former students• 25 percent were staff• 7 percent were community members

*Some attendees listed more than one category to classify themselves.

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Community engagement session topics

• Introduction• Student achievement• Programs and services• Facilities• Finance• Summary

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Know more

To view the full report, visit www.cusd200.org.

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