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Elgin talks education at first mayor’s summit

Ronald Raglwith Educational Service Center talks during discussiThe Centre Elgas part Mayor David Kaptain's educatisummit Friday May 3 2013. The

Ronald Raglin with the Educational Service Center talks during a discussion at The Centre in Elgin as part of Mayor David Kaptain's education summit on Friday, May 3, 2013. The Mayor's office partnered with School Districts U-46, 301 and Elgin Community College to have a discussion on what can be done to support local children outside the classroom as well as hear how other communities have created civic partnerships to benefit their schools. | Brian Powers~Sun Times Media

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Community Reading Challenge

Elgin School District U46 Jose Torres wrangled a crocodile.

Elgin Community College President David Sam wore graduation robes.

Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain is pictured in a life-size cardboard standup holding a bag of trash.

“I think I know where I fit in,” Kaptain joked.

All three, along with Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn, unveiled the standups, each holding a favorite book, as part of their challenge to the entire community to read a record-breaking 100,000 hours this summer.

Starting May 15, Elgin residents are encouraged to track and submit the hours they spend reading this summer on the Gail Borden Public Library website, according to library public relations and development chief Denise Raleigh.

“Adults need to set an example to our youngsters that reading is important, fun and entertaining. By getting adults excited about the reading challenge, we hope that students will follow their lead and become avid readers themselves,” Raleigh said.

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Updated: June 6, 2013 6:51AM

ELGIN — It’s often said it takes a village to raise a child, School District U46 Superintendent Jose Torres said.

But in the second-largest school district in Illinois, Torres said, it takes 11. And in Elgin alone, that takes the city and its public and private schools and businesses and nonprofits.

About 175 representatives of all those groups attended the first Mayor’s Education Summit Friday morning at The Centre of Elgin, a parnership between the city, U46, Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301 and Elgin Community College.

That’s the largest community conversation the city has had, according to Mayor Dave Kaptain. And that’s because, he said, “It’s an important topic to talk about.”

“You’re all here because you understand that education doesn’t just happen in schools, that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom,” Kaptain said.

The summit comes as the Elgin City Council identified education as one of the nine goals of the strategic plan it adopted in 2012. And that’s not because the superintendents of U46 and District 301 need help running their districts, the mayor clarified, but because he felt “a responsibility to help rally all of our community partners around this most basic issue because it affects everyone of us in one way or another.”

“A well-educated community can attract employers who provide higher paying jobs, which in turn makes our residents more financially stable. This also leads to more stable neighborhoods, lower crime rates and less dependence on social services,” he said.

Guest speaker Laurie Preece of Alignment Rockford talked about her city’s similar focus on education over the past three years.

There, Preece said, the city has decided its public schools know best how to educate children and is “very subservient to the strategies the schools have created.” And it’s realized “the work is generational, so in 20 years, we will love our public schools.”

“Ten years from now, we’ll see evidence of the work that we began three years ago, and in about two or three years, we anticipate beginning to see some early indicators of that change,” she said.

Torres said community partnerships also can help schools “embrace the whole child.”

Education partners

The largest breakout session, about learning outside the classroom, brought together about two dozen representatives of the Elgin Public Museum, the Elgin History Museum, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Comcast, Sam’s Club and more to discuss ways they can partner to improve education. Facilitator Terri DeDecker said during the session she’s been in U46 for 20 years, and she never had heard of many of those groups.

Those representatives also discussed obstacles to partnerships, including communication about what’s available, transportation, language barriers and connections with private schools and parents.

Kaptain had asked participants to discuss the idea of turning the former Fox River Country Day School into an environmental education site, maybe a camp similar to Camp Edward in Wisconsin, as well. More than a dozen organizations expressed support for the idea, including U46, he said afterward.

Other discussions included college and career readiness, school safety, stressing the importance of reading and preparing children to start kindergarten.

Torres said he thought that was “great start.”
But, he said, “The work is not done just because we had a meeting, right? I really will challenge all of us to take the next step, whatever that may be.”

The school district superintendents, community college president and city officials will meet again soon, Kaptain said.

And there seemed to be a lot of interest in further partnerships from the community, he said.

Next up, he said, “I think we’re going to talk about how do we put the glue together to keep this moving forward.”

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