Palatine Dist. 15 reaches out to skeptical community
Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 is launching a new community engagement planning committee to provide a way for parents and other residents of the district to contribute to school board decisions.
The move comes at the end of a tumultuous year that saw the school board criticized for failing to communicate effectively with community members, especially on an unsuccessful proposal put to voters by referendum to build two new schools, and its unprecedented 10-year labor contract with teachers.
No board members were on the contract negotiating committee, and the contract was not made public until weeks after the board voted on it.
The new committee will explore critical issues facing the district's schools, including financial planning and school overcrowding, officials say.
Superintendent Scott Thompson said each school board member talked to him separately about the need to better engage the community in the wake of voters overwhelmingly rejecting a plan to borrow $130 million to build two new schools.
"We put forward a plan and asked the community to consider it," Thompson said. "The community said, strongly I think, that they wanted more input on the plan rather than just deciding on it."
The need for community input is one of the reasons cited by five candidates running as a slate for seats on the school board in April. Barbara Kain, co-founder of a group opposed to the building proposal and a candidate, said this week slate members want to be part of a more transparent board that listens to parents and the community.
Under a plan outlined in a message to community members Thursday, the committee will meet on several occasions to determine the structure and content of proposed community engagement sessions. Committee members will then be a part of analyzing input from those meetings and creating a set of recommendations for the school board.
The Community Engagement Planning Committee initially will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 19, Feb. 9 and March 9, at the Joseph M. Kiszka Educational Service Center, 580 N. 1st Bank Drive, Palatine.
An application to volunteer for the new committee can be found on the district's website.