Superintendent's Message, 3.20.2017

Posted Monday, March 20, 2017

Before we know it, we’ll be turning the page on March and spring break and moving into the part of the school year that always seems to fly by…. When our students in Grades 3–8 return to school in April, they will take the PARCC assessment (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) during the testing window of April 5–28.

Why do we administer the PARCC assessment?
I believe we’d all agree that an assessment that has authentic value for students and their teachers is one that measures critical-thinking skills and gives an accurate understanding of a student’s preparedness for the future.

PARCC assessment results bring a meaningful perspective on our students’ level of mastery of skills. The standards on which PARCC is based are aligned to college and career readiness–the future for the vast majority of our students.

Taking the PARCC assessment in elementary school is, in fact, preparing your student to succeed on the college admission exam he or she will likely take in high school. Indeed, faculty from approximately 800 colleges helped create PARCC. High-stakes tests such as entrance exams are a reality that your sons and daughters will experience as they move beyond high school to college and, eventually, their adult careers. Having familiarity with the format and multiple first-hand experiences at applying knowledge to solve problems on such tests is beneficial.

What distinguishes PARCC from other assessment tools?
PARCC assessment results give families and educators information about how their students perform not only relative to their District 96 grade-level peers, but also nationally. A “big picture” view allowing state-to-state comparisons of student performance is informative for guiding state and national education policy.

How PARCC measures mastery also merits consideration. For example, In the area of English/Language Arts/literacy, many states do not assess writing skills at all and few assess critical-thinking skills.

Likewise, many current assessments for math are in the format of choose-a-listed-answer “bubble tests,” requiring students to select and shade in the “bubble” beside the correct answer listed. In contrast, the math portion of PARCC uses complex problems and the requirement that students show how they solved the problem to measure their math understanding.

Also, information from the PARCC helps to hold all stakeholders accountable more effectively than many other state tests. The reason is that PARCC assessments meaningfully measure the skills and knowledge of students working not only at grade level, but also of students working below or above grade level. That is, the PARCC more accurately identifies students’ strengths and their areas of learning need–information important to the students, their parents, and their teachers. It tells the impact and effect of our core curriculum, our systems for intervention and enrichment, and our special education program. As a result, District 96 educators can and do delve deeply into meaningful data to fine-tune and guide their practice so that children working at all levels may receive the support they need to grow academically.

The PARCC assessment is an important one for all our students for the experience of taking it, the story it tells of your child’s academic strengths and areas for growth, and the review and refinement of teaching practice it makes possible. To learn more about the PARCC assessment, please see the following resources. If you have questions, please feel free to contact your student’s principal.







Superintendent's Message, 3.8.2017

Posted Wednesday, March 08, 2017

As we prepare to register our returning students and plan for the year ahead, I want to tell you about some changes in the next school year that I’m eager to share with you.

I’m very excited about the opportunities the new middle school schedule will give our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders!

First, some background information…. Work on envisioning this new middle school schedule began three years ago. The process included examining how other highly achieving middle schools organize their daily minutes, surveying our parent community, and generating ideas and eliciting feedback from all of our own middle school teachers. Our work together throughout has been comprehensive, thorough, and reflective, including regular feedback to our Board of Education.

Why make a middle school schedule change? Our goal was to create a middle school schedule that accommodates the need for more minutes for learning in all core content subjects; that includes flex time during the school day for supporting students’ learning in a variety of areas; and that adds the opportunity for learning a world language beginning in the 6th grade–a request we heard frequently in KCSD96 parent responses in surveys we administered.

The new schedule is the result of many hours of collaboration, countless iterations, and an unwavering conviction to do what will best equip our students to succeed. The length of the school day remains the same, but the organization will be new and significantly beneficial for your sons and daughters, offering them opportunity for choice as they move through their middle school years. So, what will the new schedule look like?

What will be a part of every KCSD96 middle school day? Every day, all of our middle school students will have 60-minute periods of math, science, social studies, and language arts–the Core Classes. In addition, all students will have a 40-minute Flex Period for learning intervention or extension and the opportunity for cross-curricular connections. Note that the Flex Period is not a study hall, but will engage students in varied ways we will explore to develop their communication/interaction, problem-solving, creative, and higher-level thinking skills. Also, recognizing its importance to healthy lifestyle and well-being, our students will continue to have physical education (PE) class each day.

Every other day students in grades 6–8 will participate in Spanish and one other Exploratory Class (art, music, or the Art and Science of Living) , rotating by trimester. That is, every other day one trimester will include Spanish and art, another trimester Spanish and music, and another trimester Spanish and the Art and Science of Living.

Does your student participate in band or orchestra? If so, his or her schedule will vary in this way:
If a 6th grader, there will be rotating pull-out band/orchestra rehearsal sessions during Core subjects (math, science, social studies, language arts) as well as after-school full-band/orchestra rehearsals in keeping with the current model.

If a 7th grader, your student will attend band/orchestra instead of an Exploratory Class, but will have the option to select an independent study in one of the Exploratory Classes (art, music, or the Art and Science of Living) for a portion of the 7th-grade Flex period. Full band/orchestra rehearsal will be after school.

If an 8th grader, your student will attend band/orchestra instead of an Exploratory Class, but during Trimester 3 will have the choice of band/orchestra or an Exploratory Class (and can attend full-band/orchestra rehearsals after school).

We recognize that you will have questions and want more details about this new schedule and how your student will benefit from and navigate it. For that reason we have scheduled a Parent Night at each middle school and encourage you to attend. Parents of students currently in Grades 5–7, please plan to come to either school on the date most convenient for you:
Wed., Apr. 5, Woodlawn, 6362 Gilmer Rd., Long Grove, 7–8 p.m. OR
Thurs., Apr.13, Twin Groves, 2600 N. Buffalo Grove Rd., Buffalo Grove, 7–8 p.m.

Still have questions? Attend a Parent Coffee and get answers at Woodlawn or Twin Groves on Tuesday, April 18, 8–9 a.m.

I’m pleased to share that at their meeting last night our Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment of Robert Hanrahan as principal of Ivy Hall School, effective Aug. 1, 2017.

Mr. Hanrahan brings valued relevant experience from both the classroom and as a school district administrator. He is, in fact, returning to District 96, where in 2011 he began his work with teachers as an educational technology coach, delivering and supporting their tech training. His commitment to student learning led him to become a technology coach at Country Meadows Elementary the next school year, where he provided leadership, academic coaching, and co-teaching support while increasing teachers’ competence and confidence in best use and integration of digital teaching tools.

For the past several years, Mr. Hanrahan has served Skokie School District 73½ as the director of innovation and instructional technology. He has led highly successful implementations and associated staff professional development. In addition, his role has required his leadership in anticipating infrastructure needs and managing implementation of several significant projects, increasing his understanding of essential 21st-century skills for students.

During his previous years in District 96 Mr. Hanrahan was highly regarded by his colleagues and peers and was awarded a District 96 Foundation Crystal Apple Red Schoolhouse Award in 2014 for his exceptional commitment to students’ learning and educating the whole child. He holds an undergraduate degree in business/pre-law from Michigan State University and has earned master's degrees in education from Dominican University and in school leadership and teaching from Concordia University.

Mr. Hanrahan will succeed Mrs. Amy Gluck in his new role, effective August 1, as she assumes the responsibilities of our director of educational services. That position currently is held by Mrs. Heather Friziellie, who has accepted new responsibilities beginning in the 2017–18 school year as superintendent of Elementary District 114.




Superintendent's Message, 12.15.2016

Posted Thursday, December 15, 2016

Would you prefer to LISTEN to this message? CLICK HERE


I am pleased to share that at their December 13th meeting, the Board of Education approved the appointment of Mrs. Amy Gluck to the position of director of educational services beginning July 1, 2017. Mrs. Gluck is a District 96 and Stevenson graduate who began her career here in 1997 serving as a 3rd-grade teacher and then reading specialist before becoming an assistant principal at Twin Groves in 2011. Mrs. Gluck was then appointed principal at Ivy Hall Elementary beginning August 1, 2012. We are excited to welcome her to the district-level team.

Learning and Celebrations
You may remember that in August I introduced our Twitter hashtag Inspire96 and encouraged our teachers and faculty to use it to share the exciting learning ongoing in our schools.

A picture, a brief video, or a description in a Twitter tweet gives a quick perspective on some innovative ways our faculty and staff connect with and engage your kids to help them learn.

I know that everyone doesn’t use Twitter–I was new to it then, myself–but as one committed to lifelong learning, I resolved to jump in and explore its possibilities as a communication tool for District 96. I’m glad I did. As I said, tweets are a window into D96 schools!

You’ll find simple how-to instructions included at the end of this email to help you set up your Twitter account and “step into” our classrooms!

As our tweets help to illustrate, since we began this school year together we’ve experienced quite a lot. In staying true to our value of celebrating success, several highlights emerge….  They include full-day learning opportunities for our kindergartners and the opening of the newly renovated Willow Grove Early Learning Center, a second U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon for Woodlawn Middle School, Country Meadows’ recognition in Chicago Magazine’s Lake County Elementary Schools list, and our student musicians’ and athletes’ proud accomplishments.

But this school year has also included experiences that have led us to return ever more frequently to our District values to guide our practices as a school community….

Inclusion and Unity
We’re barraged with images, audio, and details of events around the world–and close to home–that deeply concern us and challenge us as parents and educators working to prepare our children to be empathetic, ethical adults who enjoy healthy relationships. We’re committed to cultivating caring citizens able to dialogue effectively and respectfully to convey an idea, propose a compromise, or explain a position. That’s an important life skill, indeed, and–as a matter of fact–the results of our recent Parent Satisfaction Survey make it clear that the development of your children’s social/emotional skills are among your top priorities as parents.

More than ever, we’re both dedicated and determined to keep our schools places where all individuals are confident that they’re valued and respected–regardless of color, language, gender, religion or ability–true to our District value and commitment to every child, every school, every day.  These values translate into action as we intervene, support, and teach when behaviors contrary to our values are demonstrated at school.  We are unwavering in our commitment to our schools being places where disrespectful and discriminatory actions and words have no place.

We regard the diversity of our District 96 community as an asset–a rich resource that allows us to broaden our understanding and explore new and different ways of thinking. We’re working to help all of our stakeholders to recognize it as such, and to appreciate the global perspective that our diversity makes possible.

We are our best selves when we come together as a community focusing our resources, support, and talent to make our students’ education exceptional and authentic. Indeed, the fact that that is a priority we all share is something to celebrate as we challenge ourselves to model for others what we expect from others–another District value in action. And when we stumble along the way we don’t minimize or move on...we dialogue and grow together.

I hope the holidays ahead bring you opportunities for fun family times together. Like you, I’m looking forward to those! My daughter has reached an age where she is actively listening and forming opinions, so our family time together these days inevitably includes interesting conversation about her observations. Discussing together the value our family places on respecting everyone–and what that looks like and does NOT look like–seems a great way to start the new year! I am asking that you, as parents, partner with us and have the same conversations with your kids as we work together to all become our best selves.

I wish you and your family pleasant, peaceful holidays with time to enjoy being together!
-- Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent 

I hope you’ll CLICK HERE and follow the specific step-by-step instructions to create and get started using Twitter. Then follow D96 tweets by going to and typing #Inspire96 in the Twitter search bar. Welcome to District 96 classrooms!








Superintendent's Message, 11.3.2016

Posted Thursday, November 03, 2016

The time I spend in District 96 classrooms with our students and faculty confirms daily that our mission to help every child succeed to his or her maximum potential is, indeed, truly on track. A collaborative, can-do attitude is evident in all our schools, as is the understanding that learning to highest levels is both challenging and rewarding. Our kids and faculty have reason to be proud.

Celebrating AGAIN!
As a District 96 community, we have another reason to celebrate–for a second time! In September, the U.S. education secretary announced the 279 public schools earning distinguished 2016 National Blue Ribbon recognition. Woodlawn Middle School–previously recognized in 2009–is among them, earning this recognition for a second time.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program highlights public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or make significant improvements in closing the achievement gap. Woodlawn is recognized as an exemplary high-performing school–among the state's elite as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. SEE THE 2016 NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON MIDDLE SCHOOLS LIST

Formal recognition of 2016 Blue Ribbon schools will occur Nov. 7–8 in Washington, D.C. Planning is underway for our own school-wide celebration at Woodlawn, to take place Mon., Nov. 21.

Moving from good schools to great schools
Following KCSD96 tradition, our faculty and staff began this school year together with an Opening Institute to reflect on the work ahead. We’re honored that Dr. Rick DuFour–former principal and superintendent of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL–was willing to share a personalized message by video for our staff. Dr. DuFour spent 19 years serving Stevenson High School students, which included nurturing a Professional Learning Community that moved SHS from good to great. I want to share that journey with our District 96 parent community. I hope you’ll take time for THIS VIDEO.

Willow Grove Learning Center rededication
We celebrated full-day kindergarten in District 96 with a ribbon-cutting and rededication of the Willow Grove Early Learning Center on Oct. 18. Families, faculty, and local dignitaries enjoyed touring this colorful, inviting school and their first look at the bright and beautiful new cafeteria.


An opportunity brings change for 2017–18
It is with mixed feelings that I share the news with our staff and parent community that Director of Educational Services Heather Friziellie has accepted the position of superintendent for Fox Lake School District 114, effective July 1, 2017.

We celebrate with Heather this opportunity for which she has so thoroughly and diligently prepared. And we wish her success–confident that she brings a level of energy, knowledge, and professionalism to the role that her new colleagues will immediately appreciate and value.

At the same time, we acknowledge that we will truly miss her.

Since she came to KCSD96 in August 2006 from Naperville District 203, she has served as Kildeer Elementary principal (2006–2011), Twin Groves Middle School principal (2011–2013), and director of educational services (2013 – present). Heather’s breadth of experience from her varied roles make her an invaluable resource and mentor for many.

Follow us on Twitter
Finally, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter - #Inspire96  - where you’ll find great daily examples (many including photos or brief videos) of ways our teachers and your students are engaged in learning. They’re proud of their work–and we are, too. If you don't already have one, create your account and check us out!

Warm regards,
Julie Schmidt, Superintendent of Schools


Superintendent's Message, 9.7.2016

Posted Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Summer flew and we’re back to school. We’ve made a great start! I hope you’ll take a few moments to read my Superintendent Messages throughout the year, with information, news, and celebrations I’m eager to share with you.

Is that your phone ringing?
In the next few weeks, some of you will receive a phone call from School District 96. If you are among the parents called, I hope you’ll take time to answer (the caller ID phone number will appear as 877-586-9559) and accept the invitation to participate in our anonymous Parent Satisfaction Phone Survey. We want your candid opinion about your experiences.

Who will be contacted? A random sample of parents who have one or more District 96 students in their household has been selected by an independent research firm using a computerized system to be contacted. The Board of Education and administrators worked together to write the survey questions that will allow us to measure your satisfaction with a variety of District programs and services and to compare your responses with results from previous years’ surveys.

How long will the survey take? Answering the phone interviewer’s survey questions will take approximately 10 minutes.

When will calls be made? If called, can participation occur at a more convenient time? Calls will begin on or after Wed., Sept. 14, and will be made Monday–Friday, 5:30–9:00 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Sunday Noon - 8 p.m. Calls will continue until interviewers have completed a sufficient number of interviews for a statistically representative sample. If there is no answer, the interviewer will leave voice mail, including a number parents may call.

Participant selection for our Parent Satisfaction Phone Survey is random and all responses are completely anonymous. I sincerely hope that if you are called you will choose to participate in this process of engaging parents that District 96 has used for over 20 years. The Board of Education and District administrators highly value your feedback and consider it carefully in planning strategically to best serve our students and our learning community. I will report results from the survey in a future Superintendent Message.

Updated learning environments welcome District 96 students
Over 200 full-day kindergartners are engaged in learning at our newly renovated Willow Grove Early Learning Center – a bright, colorful, welcoming environment thoughtfully designed to accommodate our youngest students. Work on the cafeteria continues and is expected to be completed by mid-October. In the meantime, our kindergartners are enjoying eating their lunches at new tables in an area of the gym. We look forward to the school rededication on Tues., Oct. 18. At that time we’ll also dedicate the interior courtyard in the Willow Grove Learning Center in memory of our former Board of Education member Lauren Gordon–a tribute appropriate to one so devoted to meeting the social/emotional as well as academic learning needs of every child.

Our students in grades 6–8 at Twin Groves and Woodlawn also have newly updated classrooms in their schools. Districtwide, nine renovated middle school science classrooms now feature work surfaces, lighting, furniture, and flooring that reflect best practice in design and function. Students and their teachers use state-of-the-art technology as they hypothesize, conduct experiments, and compare and discuss conclusions. District 96 students are equipped, indeed, to succeed!

Join in a fun District 96 tradition
Of the many great traditions we have in District 96, one I particularly enjoy is the District 96 Dash–a 5k walk/run for families and faculty. This is the morning our community comes together annually for fun fitness and to benefit those in our own District. It’s organized by all seven of our Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) working collaboratively–a districtwide event for students of all ages and their parents.

Whether you run or walk the course from the Twin Groves Middle School parking lot through nearby residential neighborhoods, you’ll be glad you took the time for fun and fresh air with family and friends. This year participants will end their run/walk in photo-finish style on the new track. Students in Dash-participating families also can choose to join in their grade-level Mini Dash at 9:45 a.m., included at no additional cost.

The 6th-Annual D96 Dash is Sun., Sept. 25. Check-in at the Twin Groves Middle School parking lot (2600 N. Buffalo Grove Rd.) starts at 7:45 a.m. and the warm-up starts at 8:15 a.m. The 5k Run/Walk Dash steps off at 8:30 a.m. REGISTER NOW – I look forward to seeing you there!

Learning and teaching in School District 96–where every day we observe our students, faculty, and staff being innovative, solving problems, developing as leaders, and persevering–mean we have lots of inspiring highlights to share.

We began the school year by introducing #Inspire96 and inviting our staff to share the good work we’re doing. #Inspire96 Tweetable moments feature daily teaching and learning triumphs, celebrations, proud moments, and focused work.

We hope you’ll follow #Inspire96 on Twitter and join us in using social media to highlight the many positive ways our District 96 students are learning and excelling. This gives community members an exciting “real-time” peek into what is happening in our classrooms every day.

In fact, I’m in our schools and classrooms almost every day and am truly awed by what I see. I invite you to ask your children to talk to you about what they’re enjoying learning–I’m sure you’ll hear some outstanding #Inspire96 Tweetable moments!

Best wishes for a great year of learning and growing,
Julie Schmidt, Superintendent, District 96 Schools