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posted: 1/31/2015 7:31 AM

Elgin area education initiative kicking off

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After more than a year of intense behind-the-scenes work, an Elgin-area communitywide education initiative is about to kick off.

Alignment Collaborative for Education wants to increase students' success -- by having them start kindergarten prepared to learn, read at grade level by third grade and graduate from high school prepared for college or employment.

The ultimate goal of that is to improve the community's social and economic well-being, said Gene Crume, vice chairman of the group's governing board, in a presentation to the Elgin City Council earlier this week. Crume is also president of Judson University.

The initiative is a partnership among Elgin Area School District U-46, Central Community Unit School District 301, Elgin Community College, Judson, the city of Elgin, Grand Victoria Foundation and United Way of Elgin. It will kick off with an invite-only breakfast Wednesday at Villa Olivia in Bartlett.

"This is an amazing group of community leaders who have come together to put this partnership in place," Crume said.

The partners entered into a consulting contract with Alignment USA, formed out of Alignment Nashville, which implemented the first such model of community collaboration focusing on education.

Linda Deering, president of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, will serve as chairwoman of the governing board. The board also includes members of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, Gail Borden Public Library and Presence St. Joseph Hospital, plus local businesses.

Additionally, Alignment is reaching out to more than 250 organizations and community members. Three teams of individuals will focus on early learning, dropout prevention, and career and technical education, Crume said.

"It's the school strategies that the community comes together on and focuses their resources on accomplishing those," he said.

Alignment will seek nonprofit status, which will open up more sources of funding, and eventually hire an executive director, he said.

The initiative was borne out of an education summit spearheaded by Elgin Mayor David Kaptain and held in May 2013 in Elgin, where representatives of Alignment Rockford talked about their successes.

"(Crume and Deering) are already making great strides in bringing to life to what was just a dream a little over a year ago," said Alignment media coordinator Cherie Murphy of the city of Elgin.

At the Feb. 4 breakfast, Alignment officials will detail the organization's structure, how it will work, and the role each community organization will play in ensuring students' success, Murphy said.

In the next few months, public informational events will be held throughout the U-46 and 301 school district areas, Murphy said. For details or to join, visit align4edu.org.

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