The District 65 Council will discuss new safety measures this morning



District 65 Joseph E. Hill Education Center. Credit: Adina Keeling

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 School Board will hold a special meeting Wednesday morning to review the school’s new safety plans, including a number of proposed new positions both in individual buildings and at the central office. .

According to a memo posted on the district’s website with the agenda for the 8 a.m. meetingproposals currently on the table include partnerships with up to four different software companies to help with emergency response and visitor tracking in school buildings.

Terrance Little, former assistant superintendent of schools, will assume the new role of assistant superintendent of operations.

“Due to the noticeable increase in violence across the country as well as the fact that violence in schools appears to have simultaneously increased, District 65 is taking more aggressive action to protect and prepare its schools, students, staff, and its stakeholders to whatever happens,” said the memo, authored by Little and sent to Superintendent Devon Horton.

Additionally, the district is offering 16 new building janitor positions to monitor the main entrances, a director and deputy director of prevention and special response, and an assistant superintendent of operations.

District, council and process

In phone and email interviews over the past two weeks, the roundtable has attempted to learn more about these positions, clarify how the district will fund them as well as if and when new jobs and partnerships have been approved by the district administration or council. But we seem to have gotten conflicting information.

The board approved the director and assistant director of prevention and special response in a closed session at its June 13 meeting, Horton said, and the district posted these jobs on its website the next day.

Supt. Devon Horton

In a Zoom call, Horton described those positions as security liaisons between the district and the Evanston Police Department.

Job postings show the prevention and special response manager will receive an annual salary of between $85,000 and $112,000 and provide “direct day-to-day security for the superintendent and school board members.” . The assistant director of prevention and special intervention will carry out the same functions while reporting to the director, and the position will cost the commission between $65,000 and $86,000 per year, depending on postings.

According to Horton, the council discussed those roles behind closed doors because all district personnel-related decisions are made behind closed doors and then approved as part of the consent agenda portion of the open meeting. This process “is how all HR [Human Resources] hirings, furloughs, layoffs and new positions are reviewed,” he said.

Yet Illinois’ open meeting law is pretty clear that personnel matters are only discussed behind closed doors when there’s someone already in a job, not when the discussion involves funding. of a new post and the approval of a post description.

Section 2(c)(1) of the act states that public bodies, including school boards, may enter into closed session only when discussing “[t]the appointment, employment, remuneration, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees, … or legal counsel for the public body[.]”

According to Kara Kienzler, associate executive director of communications for the Illinois School Boards Association, the Illinois Attorney General has previously ruled that Section 2(c)(1) “apply to discussions about employees specific and requires a public body to discuss categories of employees in open session.

In a telephone interview with the roundtable, Joey Hailpern, board member and chair of the finance committee, said he was not present at the June 13 meeting and could not recall not having discussed or approved these security posts in open session or behind closed doors. He remembered, however, first hearing about the special response and janitor roles at a finance committee meeting.

“We have seen job descriptions that have crossed the board file as we discuss the need to change roles as directed by staff behind closed doors, but we have not voted on the posting of positions. positions behind closed doors,” Hailpern said.

The board generally approves the overall staff budget and final hires. But, he said, he doesn’t vote on every post or job description. He said he plans to ask for more information about these positions and where the money for them will come from at the Wednesday, July 13 meeting.

In an email to the roundtable, Horton said adding these positions is “generally cost-neutral” because the district expects to save more than $1 million a year by bringing in its staff. in-house substitute teachers, rather than paying a separate company to provide substitute teachers.

In 2019, when the district decided to contract out its substitute teachers through an education staffing and recruitment company called HSEformer deputy human resources superintendent Beatrice Davis said the change would be cost-neutral because the cost of training and onboarding replacements would be offset by contracting out SST.

Additionally, Horton said the district would save a significant amount of money by reducing his personal security details. After reporting a deluge of racist emails and voicemails sent to him more than a year ago, Horton began receiving armed ‘executive protection’ from private security guards via Skokie. Phoenix Securitywhich cost the district between $45,000 and $50,000 a month, according to bills obtained by the Roundtable through Freedom of Information Act requests.

When the roundtable asked District 65 and the Evanston Police Department about the threat assessment process or what had been done to assess a need for private security for council members or district administrators, no agencies did not have written documents responding to the request.

The new safety program positions and partnerships the district is exploring are designed to improve the school climate, culture and safety so teachers can focus on education and students can focus on learning. learning, Hailpern said.

“That’s what it’s all about for me, it’s the culture, the climate and the confidence,” Hailpern said. “And I think we’ve certainly seen over the years that there’s a breakdown in communication, there’s a breakdown in trust, and we need that to be rebuilt within the school communities, but also within the district as a whole.”

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