CRYSTAL LAKE – For the first time ever, leadership from Community High School District 155 and the four elementary school districts that feed into it held a joint meeting Tuesday to discuss more partnership opportunities.
Board members from District 155, District 47, District 46, District 26 and District 3 came together for a special meeting at Crystal Lake Central High School where administrators from all districts presented information on curriculum, special education, finances and other subjects to give the board members an idea of the current situation in order to develop future improvements.
Ted Wagner, board president for District 155, said the idea came during a meeting a couple of years ago between all the district board presidents. The superintendents agreed to help coordinate their staffs to come up with presentations on how the districts have worked together.
"We are making history tonight," Wagner said, noting the leadership assembled was responsible for roughly 20,000 students and $250 million in budgets. "We all work together and this will get us all thinking on how we can work together and enjoy more of a shared service model between us all."
Scott Kubelka, director of curriculum and assessment for District 155, started the presentation by talking about the partnership the districts have in transitioning to Common Core with a heavy emphasis on the transition from eighth grade to freshman year.
He said instead of sending teachers throughout the region to different workshops and conferences, the districts came together to bring in a leading expert on Common Core and eighth-grade and freshman-year teachers from all district schools came together in a local location to learn how to best work together.
Administrators Kim Dahlem of District 155 and Jennifer Thomas of District 26 discussed special education partnerships that have been going on for more than a decade. As special needs cases in autism and other areas continue to rise, the partnership between all districts has naturally become strengthened.
Thomas provided an example of how the districts will hire a specialist such as a speech pathologist with the understanding the person would serve three districts and schedules would be made in cooperation.
"Kids aren't cars," Dahlem said. "We got one shot to make sure we do it right."
One disappointing development for some districts was the lack of a clear path for more efficient transportation models.
Kevin Werner, chief financial officer for District 47, said expanding the Transportation Joint Agreement District 47 and District 155 have shared for decades to the three other districts would not result in financial savings.
The program, which includes more than 125 buses serving roughly 15,000 students, would only realize some savings with the addition of districts 46, 26 and 3 at the expense of other districts, according to a recently completed feasibility study.
Still, Werner said close looks at route efficiencies and other potential savings would continued to be explored.
Tim Mahaffy, superintendent for District 3, said all board members should continue to discuss ideas for more partnerships and not hesitate to collaborate with colleagues across communities.
"We share the same students and we share the same families," he said. "We all have the same mission."