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Education

D-200 proposed goals involve facilities, technology, transparency and funding

The Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education debates its goals for the next year at an Oct. 22 meeting.
The Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education debates its goals for the next year at an Oct. 22 meeting.

WHEATON – During its Engage 200 community engagement process, those living in Community Unit School District 200 let officials know what they thought district staff should prioritize.

In November, the Board of Education is expected to vote on its official goals for the 2014-15 school year after discussing possibilities Oct. 22.

Superintendent Jeff Schuler started by outlining a draft of his "Vision 2018" plan to guide the conversation, highlighting five areas – support systems, finance, student achievement, community engagement and facilities – that he felt were sources of major issues in the district.

"We do believe this represents a full plate of work for the school district," he said. "Really, the two themes that I have continued to carry forward and use in conversation are focus and alignment."

Schuler said the draft could provide a framework for the board over the next four years as it prioritizes district policy and spending. Each year, the board would provide staff with topics it would like to see as areas of focus, and staff would offer possible courses of action to be formally adopted as goals.

Discussion largely revolved around recurring district issues.

First, the board expressed a desire to have a more detailed and scheduled plan for its aging facilities.

In early 2014, the board issued about $10 million in bonds to address what officials called "dire" needs at 18 schools, which included bringing several fire alarm systems up to code, roofing, and energy and learning environment upgrades. More than $20 million in identified improvements remain on the district's to-do list.

The district and community have also promoted building a new early childhood center to replace the aging Jefferson facility.

"There is a comprehensive plan out there ... but I think we are always in a knee-jerk reaction relative to how we take that comprehensive plan and execute it," said board member Jim Gambaiani, the only member to vote against the bond issuance. "Oftentimes that involves the possible burdening of the public with taxes. I just think we have to make that a real focus and a goal ... to execute and start pecking away at the challenges that are not going to go away."

The board also showed interest in developing a similar plan for integrating technology into its classrooms and making its professional development spending more transparent so that – should it ever need to adjust the funding – it would know where the changes were occurring. Several board members spoke in favor of making the district's website more informative about its stance on certain issues, citing its webpage on Senate Bill 16 as a positive example.

Finally, the board discussed the need to determine how to fund desired changes at a time when staffers report difficulty maintaining the district's existing level of programming.

Board members said the district should examine its grant searching capabilities and ensure the public is made aware of its efforts to find monetary alternatives and build the New 200 Foundation.

Board Vice President Jim Vroman said that, by outlining its plans, the district and community alike could have a better idea of what challenges they face.

"When we had the Jefferson referendum, there was a question in the community," he said. "'You're asking us to support this $16 million facility. How do you know in two years you won't be coming back asking for $30 million for whatever?'"

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