Shifting decision-making from the district level to school principals is one of the details that have emerged on how Round Lake Area Unit District 116 intends to change how education is delivered to students to boost academic achievement.
About 65 spectators attended a community forum Monday night at Round Lake High School's theater to view the latest presentation on the district's tentative restructuring plan. As part of the process, the final plan will be presented at a school board meeting Feb. 25, before it goes to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Veronica Lake, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, led the presentation Monday. She said district administrators have been in charge of individual school budgets, curriculum alignment, professional development plans and other decisions affecting education.
But under the proposed restructuring, the principals would have greater control over building budgets and be charged with making decisions based on school needs, Lake said. Principals also would participate in the curriculum and, in collaboration with school teams, identify professional development needs.
Lake said District 116 officials have reviewed research showing a strong link between higher academic performance when principals are more involved with decisions regarding their schools.
"It's a research-based way of ensuring achievement will happen," Lake said.
Among the previously stated improvements listed in the restructuring proposal are implementation of frequent monitoring of student progress, responsive approaches for struggling children, a clear mission guiding daily activities, and strong leadership and management practices.
Consistently poor performance on the state's annual report card and failure to meet federal No Child Left Behind guidelines are driving the need to restructure, district officials said. All of District 116's schools are in state academic warning status. Five elementary buildings are in federal corrective action or restructuring status.
Until Constance Collins was hired as superintendent in 2010, five school finance authority members appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education had overseen District 116 operations. The state takeover was in place from 2002 through 2010. District 116 was near collapse because of its poor financial condition when the panel received the oversight powers.
Responding to a parent's concern about her children using old textbooks, Collins said part of the problem is traceable to the state takeover. She said the district may need to spend up to $1 million for new materials.
"I think we really were not spending a lot of money and a lot of our books have become antiquated," Collins said.