School District Profile
Benjamin School District 25 is a two-school elementary (PreK-8) school district located approximately 28 miles west of the city of Chicago, Illinois in the western portion of Du Page County. The Benjamin District 25 schools serve students from portions of Carol Stream, West Chicago, and unincorporated West Chicago (Wayne Township), with the majority of students living in Carol Stream. The total area of the school district is approximately ten square miles.
Residences in the district are comprised of middle to upper middle-priced homes. Most of the available land in the district has been developed. Therefore, the potential for future growth of the student population is limited to development of individual lots or future development of the few remaining undeveloped land parcels. The majority of residences within the district are single-family homes. Generational turnover of homes and mobility have not yet been significant factors affecting the student population. Once families settle in the district, they choose to remain, sometimes for multiple generations.
A few businesses exist along two narrow strips of land bordering North Avenue (U. S. Route 64). Most of these businesses are small, retail companies along with contractors who have their offices and equipment storage areas within the boundaries of the district.
There are two main facilities, Evergreen Elementary School and Benjamin Middle School. The District offices are attached to the middle school and are contained in a former home residence. Through continuous support from the community and a very judicious Board of Education, the facilities are in excellent shape and have been very well maintained, remodeled and updated to create excellent learning environments for all of our students. Several major projects have been completed since the buildings were first constructed and the District has managed and maintained the facilities in an impeccable fashion.
Benjamin School District 25 has been managed very well over the last several decades. The Board, administration, staff and community members have consistently based decisions, projects and programs on what is best for students. While Benjamin 25 may not have the fanciest or newest facilities, students receive an excellent education and are afforded the opportunity to explore co-curricular and extra-curricular activities not possible in many larger districts. The District has worked diligently to maintain appropriate fund balances while not shortchanging student programming and activities or overburdening the community.
School, Staff and Community
Benjamin District 25 consists of Evergreen Elementary School and Benjamin Middle School. Evergreen serves students in grades PreK-4 and Benjamin Middle School serves students in grades 5-8. Most graduates of the district attend West Chicago Community High School in District 94. Less than 10% of graduates attend one of several local, private schools for high school. In recent years, and due to declining birth rates, the student population has dropped below 1000, with the current PreK-8 population being approximately 625 students. The teaching staff consists of approximately 60 full-time-equivalent staff members, all of whom are highly qualified according to No Child Left Behind requirements. The District also employs approximately 25 teaching assistants and approximately 10 support staff. The District currently outsources food service, transportation and custodial services.
History of Benjamin District 25
The community takes pride in the district’s school history. Benjamin is the oldest operating school in Wayne Township.
In the spring of 1834, after weeks of traveling West by wagon train, Robert Young Benjamin, then 26 years old, with his wife, Nancy and four young children discovered their homestead near St. Charles Road and the West Bank of the DuPage river. Within three days he had erected the first log house in Wayne Township. Robert and his brother, John Benjamin, claimed about 600 acres of land in our school district.
Benjamin School was erected sometime before 1844. In 1841, there were at least eleven children of school age living in the area - enough to warrant the building of a school by their parents. It is not known for certain whether the school was named for Benjamin because he donated the land for the site, or because he was the first settler. In either case, the descendants of both Robert and John Benjamin served in school in many capacities during the following years. The late Verna Benjamin Kautz, a great-granddaughter of Robert Benjamin, summed it up: "The Benjamins always saw to it there was a SCHOOL there."
The original school was used until 1901 when it was sold for $30.00 to be used as a granary on the John Gaede farm where it still stands. Harry Benjamin and Charles Plane, both 86 years old, remembered how cold the little school was in the winter - heated then by a wood fire at one end of the room. It became warmer when the room was filled with 25 students in 1898.
In 1901, a new, one-room school house was constructed on the site for $831.24. Many local residents attended this school. William Gaede's job was to unhitch and care for the teacher's horse after she arrived. The McCage boys had fire duty, which meant arriving at school one hour ahead to haul kindling and start the daily fire. George Reed remembers snowballing the girls as they returned from the outdoor privy. This school served the community for more than 50 years, after which it was auctioned to Frank Klein for $100.00. The Old Wayne Golf Course deconstructed the school after it bought the Klein farm and developed the property into a golf course.
In 1954, the nucleus of our present brick school house was constructed. It consisted of two classrooms divided by an all-purpose room. The gym, teacher's lounge, washrooms and three classrooms were added in 1963. The gym was dedicated to Ted Schramer for his many years of service on the school board. The north section of four classrooms was added in 1965.
By 1970, more space was needed, and coincidentally, the adjacent Johnson home with 10 acres was put up for sale. Benjamin District No. 25 bought it and by fall of that year "the annex" was converted to school use. It now houses the administrative offices.
In 1971, the mobile classroom was added to the grounds of the main building, and in 1985, a large addition consisting of 7 classrooms, a learning center and a multi-purpose room was completed.
In 1974, the Morton Road School was constructed. The school was in the middle of a cornfield. You had to walk about 200 yards to get to the school. There was a facsimile of a road and the school busses were able to get through to drop off the children.
In 1978, a 13-room classroom addition was added to the school to accommodate the increased enrollment in the area. The school now was located on Evergreen Street, rather than Morton Road, and in the spring of 1980, the students voted to change the name of the school to Evergreen. A five-room addition was added to the school in 1987. Additions have also been added at both schools in 1991.
The many additions which have been added to both Evergreen and Benjamin Schools have included classrooms, computer labs, specialists’ classrooms, gymnasiums, conference rooms, support staff offices, and a multi-purpose room at Benjamin School. The most recent additions to both buildings were completed in the fall of 1998.
Attributes of the School District and Community
The geography of the district is unincorporated countryside, which makes it basically a district without a town. This fact tends to encourage extremely high family participation since the schools, from both student and parent perspectives, are the center of activity much the same as schools were in rural America before towns were formed.
The Board of Education has been fortunate to have a community supportive to the district’s needs. A very active Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Benjamin Foundation For Educational Excellence have become the primary fundraising groups for students and staff alike and are also the focal points of parental involvement. The PTA conducts several activities each year that are a service to the students and families in the district and draw people into the schools for both education and entertainment. The PTA has funded several projects to benefit the students of the district including field trips, assemblies, equipment, and technology while the Benjamin Foundation has provided thousands of dollars to fund specific staff proposals to enhance learning.
An excellent working relationship exists with the Carol Stream Park District which resulted in an inter-governmental agreement to build and share an expanded gymnasium at Evergreen School. In addition, a mutually beneficial relationship has been established with a local church that allows each entity to share facilities as needed.
The positive support of the community was evidenced in the passing of an Education Fund referendum in November of 2003. Support of the referendum allows the district to continue the long-standing practice of maintaining class sizes at or below 25 students in grades 3-8 and at or below 22 students in grades K-2.
As noted in the mission statement, the district is strongly committed to providing students opportunities to realize their potential toward becoming "lifelong learners." Curriculum review is scheduled regularly to ensure that quality programs are offered. The district has a commitment to maintaining quality programs in all areas of education including regular education, special education (resource and inclusion), ESL, speech, reading support and gifted programming.
The variety of instructional strategies offered is another strength of the district. The strategies include special education resource support and inclusion, cooperative learning, integrated content teaching, differentiated instruction, hands-on math and science instruction, and technology as a learning and information management tool.
Reading incentive programs are actively promoted in both schools. The superintendent has created a recognition program for students, which is conducted at Board of Education meetings. Students often provide presentations highlighting both curricular achievements as well as academic progress.
Challenges to Benjamin District 25
With a very limited number of businesses as a tax base, the district relies heavily on local taxes to remain financially sound. In addition, like many other school districts, Benjamin faces financial challenges under the tax cap. This requires more efficient use of district resources. The Benjamin Board of Education, with a long history of being fiscally responsible, has incorporated a series of cost-saving measures to help reduce the tax burden to district residents. These fiscally responsible practices have enabled the school community to continue to support and expand a variety of educational programs to meet the needs of all students, and activities which include a well-rounded extracurricular program.
The changing demographics of our school district, as evidenced by the increase in students with special needs, present some new challenges. Meeting the needs of a more diverse population--some of whom have limited English skills--requires a broad range of solutions that include changing instructional models and developing alternative means of assessment and evaluation.
Benjamin District 25 continually strives to achieve higher levels of excellence in academics, and supports students in developing 21st Century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, citizenship and problem solving. Staff, students, parents, and the community work together to provide each child with the best educational opportunity to become a lifelong learner, achieve the highest personal growth and be a contributing member of society.