Project story

Chicago Public Schools Board of Education

Saving Chicagoans' time and maximizing Board efficiency

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third largest school district in the United States with more than 400,000 students and 600 schools. The Chicago Board of Education, founded in 1840, is responsible for governance, organizational and finance oversight of CPS and is regarded as a leading innovative model for public education. However, the Board did not manage their own website and relied on an offline, paper-based registration process for monthly Board meetings that often required hours of waiting in line.

Online registration for board meetings

Archive of past board meetings

Webitects worked closely with the Office of the Board to determine project requirements, conducting stakeholder interviews and contextual research (including joining the public in line to register for a meeting). This initial research resulted in the new website, online meeting registration system, and an integrated content management system tailored to the Board's specific needs. Design and implementation was an iterative process—interfaces and functionality were tested with Board staff and then refined to optimize usability. Upon final implementation, Webitects trained staff and assisted them on-site for the initial rollout.

One of the Board's primary goals was to provide more transparency—making it easier for the public to learn about Board activities and engage with Board members and staff. Additionally, the Board is required to comply with the Illinois Open Meetings Act. This requires that actions of public bodies be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly—the website supports the Board's committment to this requirement by making it easy for staff to post documents and easy for the public to find them.

Monthly board meetings (and occassional special meetings) are the Board's primary public touchpoints. Members of the public wishing to attend or speak were required to line up to be admitted on a first-come first-served basis exclusively on the day of the meeting. This often resulted in long lines of people hoping for the opportunity to attend, some arriving as early as 6:00 a.m. for a 10:30 a.m. meeting. For those turned away, the experience often exacerbated their frustration and left a negative impression of the Board. The new process turned long lines into online by offering the public a full week to register for a meeting, displaying the number of speaking slots available in realtime, streamlining the Board staff's meeting preparation, and better serving the public through a more convenient and accessible registration process.

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