Sunday, November 11, 2018

Dear District 95 Parents and Guardians,

First, a profound thank you to our Veterans on this Veterans Day.  100 years ago today WWI ended, the most horrific conflict in human history by that time, and our American troops were pivotal in ending that war.  We owe a debt of gratitude to all of our Veterans for their selfless service, whether in conflict or in peace.  Below are some pictures from Sarah Adams Veteran's Day breakfast.  In future years, as we hold school on Veteran's Day, we anticipate more and more honoring the day with our students.

      

Parent Excellence
Thanks to all who could attend our HS and MS parent-teacher conferences.  Elementary conferences are this coming week and early next week. Connecting with your child's teacher about his or her progress and working together to continue to support it is an essential part of a successful school.

Speaking of "essentials," starting November 15, the window opens for our annual 5Essentials Survey. It is your opportunity to respond to research-based questions that indicate how well a school is performing.  Staff members and students (down to 4th grade) take a version of the survey too.  The standards in the survey and the responses help school improvement teams set goals and help me set goals with principals.  You can find out more here:  5Essentials Parent Survey

And parent participation in important school events is a pillar of the school-family partnership.  One example is the MSNConnect initiative at Middle School North, which I posted about previously.  On October 28th, 11 staff members and 115 parents/students completed food packages at Feed My Starving Children.  And on November 1st, 63 students made 20 activities kits for the Make A Wish Foundation and wrote 72 letters for Macy's Believe Campaign.  It is so amazing to see how collaboration helps fulfill our vision to "make a positive impact on the world."

Community Engagement on VAPING - November 28
Vaping continues to be an increasing problem for high school and some middle school students in the community.  In partnership with our local police and The ELA Township Coalition, last year we provided our first community update on vaping.  This will be an update on that topic and an opportunity for you to ask questions from our panel of experts.  The event will take place at the Sfire Family Education Center at 832 S. Rand Road (District Office) from 7 to 8:30 on November 28.

Strategic Plan Highlight - Standards Based Grading
Our Strategic Plan calls for shared best practices across the District whenever possible, and an area of focus is grading and grade reporting. One action plan is currently laying the groundwork for reporting grades based on curriculum standards for grades K-8.  That work takes time and will only be piloted in the early grades in 2019-20, then will be phased in slowly over time.  Traditional grading and grade reporting do not provide students or parents much useful feedback regarding a student's learning progress or where students can improve.  By taking our time, we will produce a high quality grade reporting system that will lead to greater student achievement over time.

Board Review / Preview (you can see details at Board Docs)
November 8

  • Learning Progress Report
  • Resolution of Intent to Levy - Action
  • IASB Resolutions - Action

November 29

  • Levy - Action
  • Bids - A/C at Isaac Fox and Middle School South - Action

Have a great week,




Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dear District 95 Parents and Guardians,

A statement about recent political and anti-Semitic violence in our country.  Our hearts ache for those killed or affected directly by last Friday's violence in Pittsburgh.  In order to preserve our democracy, we must renounce such heinous acts.    Together we must clearly state that such beliefs and actions have no place in our country.  In addition to being an unpardonable transgressions against humanity itself, anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence are not compatible with authentic American values that are inclusive and guarantee true freedom of religion.  If any of your students are confused or frightened by what they are seeing and hearing, please let us know so we can be sure to understand their feelings as they come through our doors and we can reassure them that our schools remain committed to District 95 values that cherish each person, especially our emphasis on Respect and Equity.

Community Engagement Tuesday night at Middle School North is our second event on Digital Citizenship. Project B3's 90-minute seminar on Digital Citizenship will provide parents the latest information on what this “digital generation” is doing online, including the Top 10 Apps and how kids are using them. The presentation reviews trends and gives parents tips and advice on helping students keep their digital lives in balance - with an emphasis on safety, future impact, and cyberbullying. The session is free to District 95 parents/guardians, but especially geared toward those with upper elementary and middle school students. Free childcare will be available. Tuesday night's session starts at 6:30. 

Student Excellence
The Fall is an exciting time, even as we transition into ... (whisper) Winter.  As our Fall sports seasons come to a close, a congrats to these teams for their post-season advances:

Boys Soccer - Regional Champs, Sectional Finals
Girls Volleyball - Regional finals
Boys golf -Alec Rosenbaum & Jason Czabaj, Sectionals
Girls golf -Grace Loverde & Bryana Hogan, Sectionals
Girls tennis -Sophia de los Reyes, State
Football - Won first playoff game Saturday
Boys XC - Qualified for State
Girls XC - Qualified for State

Thanks to Kristen LaJeunesse and Matt Winkleman at LZHS for bringing "Portfolio Day" to our LZHS art students and art students from across the North Suburban Conference.  More than a dozen representatives from top art and design schools nationwide were on site to look at our students' art and provide feedback, including from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Savannah College of Art and Design, Columbia College, STAMPS School of Art at University of Michigan.


ESSA / School Report Card Update
         On October 31, the Illinois State School Report Cards will be released and will reflect a new way of reporting school performance.  Many goals of the new plan are laudable, including a greater emphasis on multiple indicators (not only test scores), and growth in assessment performance rather than just achievement.  However, the plan is deeply flawed, including that it ranks and orders schools, then labels schools according to this ranking.  Nothing we know about education teaches us this is good for schools or kids.
     Our schools are high performing and continue to perform well according to these new metrics, despite the fact that some aspects of these metrics do not clearly make sense.  However, our path to achieving our mission is through our strategic plan and living our values.  The plan was adopted as a result of a community based process and we believe in the shared vision established with the community.
      If you review you school's Report Card online and you have any questions about your school's performance, your principal will be glad to speak with you about that.

Strategic Plan Highlight - Website Update
The goal of Action Plan 3.1.19 this year is to adopt a new website for the District.  A website is a key tool for communicating to you about what is going on in the schools and the school-parent connection is essential. This is a labor-intensive action plan, and our committee of teachers and parents is working hard.  In the coming weeks, you will be contacted through surveys about website usage.  The committee will finalize criteria  to review options for website platforms/products to adopt.  The current website is more than a decade old and we look forward to bringing you a new website in 2019-20.

Board Meeting Review / Preview (details at BoardDocs)
October 25
  • Recognitions
  • School Report Card / ESSA Update
  • Summer School 2018 Update
  • 2018 Levy Recommendation - Discussion
  • IASB Resolutions - Discussion
November 8
  • Learning Report
  • Quarterly Financials
  • Resolution of Intent to Levy
  • IASB Resolutions - Action
Have a great week,


Monday, October 15, 2018

Dear District 95 Parents and Guardians,

Community Engagement Tonight - Digital Citizenship
Tonight at Middle School South is one of our first engagement events, this one on Digital Citizenship. Project B3's 90-minute seminar on Digital Citizenship will provide parents the latest information on what this “digital generation” is doing online, including the Top 10 Apps and how kids are using them. The presentation reviews trends and gives parents tips and advice on helping students keep their digital lives in balance - with an emphasis on safety, future impact, and cyberbullying. The two session is free to District 95 parents/guardians, but especially geared toward those with upper elementary and middle school students. Free childcare will be available. Tonight's session starts at 6:30.  (The next seminar is on October 30th at MSN.)  

Red Ribbon Week - October 21-27
Below is the proclamation signed by Board President and me just last Thursday:
WHEREAS, children face decisions about using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as early as their elementary school years: and 
WHEREAS, it is critical to reach youth with anti-drug messages and encourage them to choose healthy lifestyles; and 
WHEREAS, parents, teachers and community leaders play an important role in providing positive activities which give youth the opportunity to channel their creative energies in positive directions; and 
WHEREAS, Community Unit School District 95 is taking an active role in Red Ribbon Program; and 
WHEREAS, our most precious resource –our future leaders– are the children we see daily in our classrooms; 
NOW, THEREFORE, the Board of Education of Community Unit School District 95 does hereby proclaim October 21– 27, 2018 as RED RIBBON WEEK in our school district and urges all citizens to do what they can to help our youth make a commitment to a drug-free life.

Examples of Excellence - Student Art at ELA Library
Come see artwork from District 95 students throughout November at the township library.  

Educational Foundation - Holiday Boutique
For yourself or for others, great early season shopping with high quality vendors is to be had on Sunday, November 4th at Kemper Lakes from 3 to 6 p.m.  Profits benefit the D95 Education Foundation, whose funds support innovations like Lego League, instructional innovations, the STEAM Summit, the Film Festival, summer school scholarships, and more.  Learn more by clicking here.

Strategic Plan Update - Mobile Learning Initiative
One of the action plans embedded in the Forward95 Strategic Plan is to evaluate the district's Mobile Learning Initiative (MLI, iPads for every 6-12 student) and make recommendations to the Board of Education regarding the program.  A committee of staff members and parents is currently working with consultants from Apple to confirm the vision for the MLI, then visit other districts, assess the initiative against our vision, then determine what improvements can be made.  This work will encompass academic, social- emotional, and fiscal matters related to the MLI.  Soon our committee will be visiting districts, and we anticipate a recommendation in the Spring.  The current assessment is only for Grades 6-8.  Stay tuned for more about this and other strategic action items in future posts.

School Report Card Release - Reminder
     On October 31, schools across Illinois will receive their first designation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind and each state has implemented its own federally approved system for evaluating schools. ESSA's goal is to guarantee equal educational opportunities for all students.
     The long-term academic goals within ESSA are laudable as misguided as NCLB, ignoring what we know about how to best support both high achieving and struggling learners.  Additionally misguided is the "accountability" system for Illinois that includes a “summative designation” for each school, those being: Exemplary, Commendable, Underperforming, or Lowest Performing School. 
     Across Illinois, 10% of schools can receive an Exemplary label, and 5% of schools will receive the lowest designation. All ratings will be determined using data from the 2017 – 2018 school year. It is possible for each of our schools to receive different designations, despite the academic performance and opportunities for students between D95 schools being far more similar than dissimilar.
    As a community in 2016 we adopted a new mission, explicit values that represented what is important to us, and a vision for what our learners will look like when they achieve that mission "To empower every learner to achieve personal excellence." Ultimately, our mission, values, and vision are what will support our growth as a learning community, and this is where we will place our focus in the coming years, not on misguided attempts to name, shame, and denigrate the hard work of our teachers, students, families, and community through a misguided accountability system.

Board Meeting Review / Preview (click here for Board Docs)
October 11
  • PARCC and SAT Update - Report
  • Facilities Committee Update - Report
  • IASB Delegate - Discussion only
  • Transportation Safety Review - Discussion only
  • Overnight Field Trip Approval - Discussion w/Action
October 25
  • Student and Staff Recognitions
  • ESSA Update - Report
  • Summer 2018 Review - Report
  • Levy Recommendation - Discussion only
  • Transportation Safety Review - Discussion w/Action
  • IASB Delegate - Discussion w/Action
As you can see, there is a lot of important work going on in District 95 designed to fulfill our mission to "Empower every learner to achieve personal excellence."

Have a great week,


Monday, October 8, 2018

Dear District 95 Parents and Guardians,

An "extra" post to remind you of exciting upcoming events.

Color Run - October 14 at LZHS
Even if you did not register for Ed Foundation's Annual Color Run at LZHS on October 14, you can still come out and cheer on the runners.  The race begins at 10 a.m. Learn more about the race and the race sponsors by clicking here.

Community Engagement on October 15 and October 30 
Please attend our partner, Project B3's 90-minute seminar on Digital Citizenship. Parents will get the latest information on what this “digital generation” is doing online, including the Top 10 Apps and how kids are using them. The presentation reviews trends and gives parents tips and advice on helping students keep their digital lives in balance - with an emphasis on safety, future impact, and cyberbullying.  
     The two sessions are free to District 95 parents/guardians, but are especially geared toward those with upper elementary and middle school students. Free childcare will be available at both sessions. Feel free to attend either date; the content will be the same at both sessions.

October 15 - 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Middle School South
435 W. Cuba Road, Lake Zurich

October 30 - 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Middle School North
95 Hubbard Lane, Hawthorn Woods

Have a great week,





Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dear District 95 Parents and Guardians,

Every Student Succeeds Act
     On October 31, schools across Illinois will receive their first designation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). At the federal level, ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind and each state has implemented its own federally approved system for evaluating schools. ESSA's goal is to guarantee equal educational opportunities for all students.
     The long-term academic goals within ESSA are laudable but just as misguided as NCLB, ignoring what we know about how to best support both high achieving and struggling learners.  Additionally misguided is the "accountability" system for Illinois that includes a “summative designation” for each school, those being: Exemplary, Commendable, Underperforming, or Lowest Performing School. 
     Across Illinois, 10% of schools can receive an Exemplary label, and 5% of schools will receive the lowest designation. All ratings will be determined using data from the 2017 – 2018 school year. It is possible for each of our schools to receive different designations, despite the academic performance and opportunities for students between D95 schools being far more similar than dissimilar.
     In July, the state released a “preliminary designation” to schools predicted to receive the lowest two designations. ISBE made these predictions using incomplete data from the 2016-2017 school year. While no school in District 95 received one of these preliminary designations, many high performing schools across the state did.
     As a community in 2016 we adopted a new mission, explicit values that represented what is important to us, and a vision for what our learners will look like when they achieve that mission "To empower every learner to achieve personal excellence." Ultimately, our mission, values, and vision are what will support our growth as a learning community. On these and our strategic plan we will place our focus in the coming years, not on misguided attempts to name, shame, and denigrate the hard work of our teachers, students, families, and community through a misguided accountability system.

Impact on the Community
Our vision identifies that every learner "aspires to make a positive impact on the world" even though that might not be easily measured by something like ESSA. That vision for our students is thriving at Middle School North, where the PTO and staff have developed the "MSN Connect" initiative.
The initiative

  • Distributes information about volunteer activities;
  • Provides quarterly "drop-in" service opportunities for students, and;
  • Promotes acts of kindness that students can engage in easily.

It's a great way our parents, students, and staff have taken up the mantle of our District 95 vision and made it their own.  For more information, contact cindarae@me.com

Excellence in D95
     Last post I had a chance to highlight some student examples of excellence.  Now I would like to point out excellence among our staff that is in public view too.  District 95's Director of Communications and Community Relations, Jean Malek, on October 20th will be given an Award of Recognition by The Illinois State Board of Education. Jean's award is for her work in developing district-wide communications, helping start Joanie's Closet, supporting operations and communications for events like the STEAM Summit, and leading our annual Residency Event.  Most of all, Jean is being recognized because she empowers the achievement of personal excellence by our staff and students.
     Jean's work relates to another recognition of excellence received by District 95.  Specifically, the District was just awarded the Golden Achievement Award of Excellence by INSPRA, the Illinois-National School Public Relations Association.  This is the industry group for school communications and the Golden Achievement Award is its top recognition.  As you can see, District 95 won this recognition for its Community Engagement in 2017 regarding Facilities and Finances, in preparation for the 2018 Referendum.

Fiscal Excellence
     On September 27, the Board of Education officially adopted the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.  You can learn more about it by visiting the September 13 or September 27 agenda on Board Docs by clicking here.  On an annual operational basis, our budget is again balanced.  
     As promised, in order to make the 2018 Referendum fairer to our stakeholders, the Board of Education is investing millions of dollars in reserves toward construction projects. This investment can cause the budget to appear out of balance.  For example, in June 2019, we will break ground on a new May Whitney Elementary school and we will install air conditioning in Isaac Fox and Middle School South.  Nonetheless, our fiscal rigor remains in place, and we will continue to match expenses to revenues in coming years.

A Diverse Learning Community
     September and October is filled with recognitions and consciousness raising, and we are grateful to be a District that values equity and includes a vision for itself where learners  "contribute to a collaborative and diverse learning community."  
     In that vein, "Ally Week" just concluded where the high school's Gay Straight Alliance club worked to raise consciousness to support equity and acceptance for all students, regardless of their sexuality, race, gender, or religion.  You can learn more about this club here:  LZHS GSA
     And September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage month.  Nearly 8% of District 95 students identify as Hispanic and recognizing their heritage as a meaningful contributor to Lake Zurich's community is part of having a "diverse learning community." 

Board Review / Preview (click here for BoardDocs)
September 27

  • Summer 2018 Interns Report
  • Summer 2018 Construction Report
  • 2018-19 Staffing and Enrollment Update
  • Policy Updates - Discussion
  • 2018-19 Budget - Discussion with Action

October 11

  • PARCC and SAT Update / ESSA Report
  • Facilities Committee Report
  • IASB Delegate - Discussion
  • Annual Overnight Trips - Discussion with Action
  • Overnight Field Trips - Discussion with Action
  • Policy Updates - Discussion with Action

Have a great week,




P.S. Last day to sign up for the Color Run! Click here!