District 205 officials hire consultants to assist with long-range planning

Experts will assist with facilities study, feasibility of all-day kindergarten

long-term facilities
(Elmhurst Titan file photo)

ELMHURST – Several outside consultants will soon be brought into the fold as long-range planning in Elmhurst Community Unit District 205 picks up steam this school year.

District officials have issued contracts to two communications consultants who will assist in getting a pulse on district residents’ desires to expand or build new school facilities.

Elmhurst also is enlisting the services of a statistician who will guide an effort in determining whether kindergarten classes should expand to an all-day format.

Superintendent David Moyer and other District 205 administrators came before the School Board at a meeting Aug. 8 and discussed next steps in the Focus 205 community engagement process that has been underway for several years.

Under the plan adopted, a Seattle-based firm, Strategies 360, will serve as a communications consultant in the next phase of Focus 205. Company representatives will provide a range of services, including public opinion polls, focus group meetings and more granular activities.

Since Strategies 360 is based on the west coast, the district also is enlisting the services of a local consultant, Marcia Sutter is Minding Your Business, to assist with some of the day-to-day activities that might benefit from local expertise.

Strategies 360, per the approved contract, will receive base compensation of $59,500 for its services, plus reimbursement for expenses. Sutter will be paid $100 per hour for her services, and the contract has been capped at $15,000.

Moyer said the experts’ contributions will be important as District 205 contemplates facilities upgrades as current ones are bursting at the seems and, in some respects, offering an antiquated layout in a 21st Century learning environment.

Members of the School Board agreed with Moyer’s assertion.

“It might seem like a lot of money … but I think this is essential,” board member John McDonough said. “We can’t consider these things in a vacuum.”

As for the all-day kindergarten study, Elmhurst has issued statistician Steve Cordogan a $5,000 contract to assemble concrete information on the proposal.

“This will drive a lot of the future planning,” Moyer said. “I think it will be an impetus.”

Board member Karen Stuefen, who voted against the kindergarten study, said she was against the effort – at least at this time.

“The timing is my concern,” Stuefen said. “I believe we need a lot more information.”

During the board meeting, elected officials also heard a series of reports that could fall under the banner of, “How I spent my summer vacation.” Teachers and administrators across all of Elmhurst’s schools attended a variety of conferences aimed at bringing new strategies and practices into District 205 classrooms this fall.

A number of staffers took part in a series of training activities this fall revolving around the model schools concept, which relies heavily on culture and having the best possible learning environments within each of the district’s classrooms.

Mary Henderson, assistant superintendent for learning and leadership development, said 120 teachers across District 205 took part in professional development courses this summer.

“There’s not a day that went by where we didn’t have teachers coming in and refining their craft,” Henderson said.

A number of middle school teachers and administrators also discussed a conference they attended this summer in San Diego. The event, geared specifically toward educators at the middle school level, touched on enhancing student engagement in the classroom.

Gina Pogue Reeder, a principal at Churchville Middle School, said the strategies will prove beneficial as the new school year gets underway.

“It’s helping us to develop next steps in defining a true middle school learning experience in Elmhurst,” Pogue Reeder said. “We are excited about the opportunity to build the best possible learning environment for our students.”

Additionally, a number of Elmhurst teachers attended a five-day conference in Lisle that centered on a series of strategies under a model known as Kagan Cooperative Learning.

The conference, according to district officials, was designed to help deliver on a mission of ensuring all students attended class in a safe and welcoming learning environment.

“It was nonstop and so educational for us,” Erin Wedell, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, said of the conference. “The great thing about Kagan is it’s very easy to implement.”