District 65 rewarded for its communication and community involvement

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After an ongoing effort in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 over the past year to gather feedback from the community on how best to develop a comprehensive student assignment plan, the district recently received a Golden Apple from the National School Public Relations Association for “outstanding communication and engagement efforts.

“It’s a big deal,” said Sarita Smith, district student assignments manager. “It took fifty years to come.”

The National School Public Relations Association calls on schools in the United States and Canada to submit strategic work in all aspects of public relations, communications, marketing, and school engagement to be considered for the recognition of the awards, said Deborah Keegan, communications specialist at Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

She said the district’s “Student Assignment Planning: Fostering Equity and Access to Education” campaign was selected from multiple nominations submitted across the country to receive the 2022 Golden Achievement Award for its efforts. exceptional communication and commitment. The winning entries were recognized at the 2022 NSPRA National Seminar July 17-20 in Chicago.

According to the association’s website, the organization’s “Golden Achievement Award” recognizes outstanding strategic work in all aspects of public relations, communications, marketing, and school engagement. He also said that the NSPRA Publications and Digital Media Excellence Awards recognize outstanding educational publications, electronic newsletters, digital media programs, radio/TV/video programs, social media , infographics, blogs and websites.

In the spring of 2021, District 65 launched the first phase of a multi-year process to develop a comprehensive student assignment plan to modernize its structure and address the historic inequities that most affect students of color, said Keegan. She said the process included updating school attendance limits, a selection process for magnet schools/programs, and the possibility of returning a school to the Fifth Ward community.

Smith said that despite changes to enrollment, student demographics, academic services and programs, the district hasn’t holistically reviewed attendance limits or recommended changes in nearly 30 years.

“As your city changes, as the demographics change, as the population of the city changes, you should be – as a school district – sort of modernizing your processes as those things have changed,” said she declared. “We haven’t done that, at least not systematically.”

“I think that process was just different for the district because we had a reputation for just doing things or saying we wanted feedback and not using it for anything,” she added. . “I got a lot of comments saying ‘we’re glad you listened to us. “”

After more than a year of community engagement and communication efforts, the school board approved a new student assignment plan in March 2022, as well as a funding plan for building a school in the Evanston’s Fifth Ward, Keegan said, adding that the sooner the new plan will take effect from the 2024-25 school year.

“We are honored to be selected for the Golden Achievement Award, which encompasses the hard work and dedication of so many within D65,” Melissa Messinger, executive director of communications, said in a statement. “We knew the potential impact of student assignment planning on our community and the need for a strong and inclusive stakeholder-driven process. It is gratifying to have our team recognized for their efforts, but even more so to know that the new plan will positively affect so many of our students and families for generations to come.

Planning for phase two of District 65’s student assignment plan is currently underway, with additional community outreach planned for this fall, Smith said.

“I’m not a person who’s just going to say what we’re going to do and not do,” she said. “If we say we bring a decision to a community, we are going to bring a decision to the community. Then we go back to the drawing board if the community says you’re crazy. There were a few decisions where they told us that.

Brian L. Cox is a freelance journalist at Pioneer Press.

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