More community feedback needed, says Sycamore School District 428 school board

School Board deliberates over town halls, likely to schedule in the fall

Michael DeVito talks during the July 18, 2023 Sycamore Community School District 427 Board of Education meeting as Board Chair Jim Dombek (middle) and Eric Jones (right) listen.

SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 428 school board members are deliberating over ways to up community engagement at school board meetings, and say they plan to host a town hall in the fall.

“There’s no question of if, it’s a question of when” the school district will host a town hall during the up coming school year, said Sycamore Board of Education member Michael DeVito.

The Sycamore Board of Education has spent the summer brainstorming ways to hear from the public and discuss with them about their ideas and concerns. The board has not yet officially decided when or where the town halls will take place, but DeVito said on Tuesday the board will likely hold town hall meetings this coming school year.

Sycamore Community School District 427 did not have a district wide town hall meeting during the previous school year and members of the public seldom make comments at Board of Education meetings. Those school board meetings often have an audience that numbers in the single digits.

“It’s like crickets in there [school board meetings], there’s a bunch of empty chairs. Now, I’m not an expert on matters related to education, I know a thing or two like any other citizen would, but I was voted in at the very least to be a vessel of ideas. And when there’s empty chairs, and I don’t have people emailing me or calling me about issues. It’s like what do you do?” DeVito said.

Beth Marie Evans, who will alternate with DeVito as the Board of Education’s representative on the school district’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee, said she’s excited about the function of her committee assignment. Evans said she thinks town halls would be a good way for her to learn about the community’s desires.

“I know we’ve been talking in the meetings ... about having a town hall with the citizens; and I am very interested in learning what citizens want, like what’s important to them,” Evans said.

DeVito expects a firm date for at least one town hall to be set during the Aug. 8, 2023 Board of Education meeting at Sycamore Middle School, and said he believes town halls will help him and the board’s other members access what the public wants out of school district.

“Town halls solve that issue because it’s like you’re sort of ringing the bell for attention. Like, ‘Hey public, we want to have two-way dialogue, what do you think of this?’ So, I think more government should involve town hall meetings,” DeVito said. “Conversation that leads to action – that’s the point of a town hall meeting, at least that’s what I would think.”