Evanston city-school pact to beef up security, reach students
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:08AM
City and Evanston Township High School officials are quietly putting steps in place to beef up security at the high school, and also find a way to reach disengaged students so they have a plan after high school.
A city committee on Jan. 28 authorized City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to negotiate an intergovernmental agreement with the high school for the staffing of a police officer as a school resource officer.
Meanwhile, the agreement calls for the high school to employ a career/job coordinator to work on vocational training activities.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, in particular, has been vocal about the need for more career options for ETHS students who aren’t going to college after high school.
In community meetings about recent violence, Tisdahl has quoted figures, approaching 30 percent, of students who don’t go to college and the need to reach that group.
In discussion with aldermen on the council’s Administration & Public Works Committee, Shelley Gates, the high school’s chairman for applied sciences and technology, said the high school currently has a vocational training program.
However, because of the many requirements in place to graduate from high school, “sometimes it’s difficult for kids to fit electives into their schedules,” and participate, she said.
She said the high school is looking for someone who ideally could work with “the average student, perhaps someone not happy to be in school, and a little disengaged.”
The counselor would coach such students, encourage them to stay in school and to develop a post high school career plan, she said.
Alderman Delores Holmes, who worked with many youths when she was director of Family Focus/Our Place, said there needs to be some “out of the box” thinking to reach the youths and see that “they at least have some skills” when they leave ETHS “so they’ll be hired either in this community or the surrounding community.”
Meanwhile, both Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington and Sam Pettineo, director of safety at the high school, spoke of the need for the staffing of a police officer as a school resource officer.
“We don’t feel it sufficient to have one officer responsible as armed presence for the entire building,” Pettineo told aldermen.
Logistically, the school is at a disadvantage when the one officer has cases which take him out of the building for court or investigative purposes, he said.
Moreover, the school has seen an “uptick” in gang activity within the building recently, including one incident where young person had a gun in his possession for some period of time, said Pettineo, formerly with the Evanston police department before he took the top security position.
Funding for the position is to come out of the police department budget.
Along with the moves, the city and ETHS will form a joint committee to meet quarterly to review the progress of the initiatives now being put in place.
The initiatives include the work of the school resource officers, the progress of school safety initiatives such as lighting and camera installation adjacent to campus, and ETHS career and job programs including participation in vocational training and post-graduation employment of students.