Superintendent Message, 10.8.2015

I truly enjoy the work I do as Superintendent of District 96 schools–especially when I see that actions we take as a District now will benefit children significantly not only today, but far into the future.

• Changes for Willow Grove School
At their meeting on Tues., Oct. 6, our Board of Education took action on two important and related proposals: the Willow Grove Project Proposal and the Full-Day Kindergarten Proposal.
Board of Education members unanimously approved both proposals, supporting changes necessary to best equip our youngest students to succeed and thrive.

The Willow Grove Project entails extensive renovation to the Willow Grove Kindergarten & Early Childhood Center on 777 Checker Drive in Buffalo Grove, where all kindergartners and early childhood students living within District 96 boundaries attend. Working with architects and engineers, the Board requested information about changes necessary to allow Willow Grove to accommodate a full-day program–which, in its current configuration, is not possible. Essential changes in brief include the addition of two classrooms, a cafeteria/kitchen, and playground space; renovation of other classrooms; environmental-soil remediation; and site improvements, among others.

The Full-Day Kindergarten Proposal was closely intertwined, of course, with the feasibility of making changes to the Willow Grove building to accommodate the expected increase in student population and the associated services for meeting students’ needs, as well as the requirement for a cafeteria. Exploring other in-District options led to the expert recommendation that renovating Willow Grove is the most cost-effective and strategic way to house a full-day kindergarten program.

• Board Approves Full-Day Kindergarten for 2016-17 School Year!
This District’s solid academic foundation is built on making decisions driven by data and on best practice.  The undisputed need for the full-day kindergarten program is the finding of a multilayered study that the District began in November 2012 at a Board of Education planning session with our administrators. Likewise, research supports that children’s early development brings not only academic benefits, but also social/emotional and language/communication growth that are the framework for learning. We are confident that offering full-day kindergarten is right for District 96.

An implementation team will begin to develop recommendations addressing the many details that accompany a project of this magnitude. Planning and accomplishing all the work necessary so that District 96 can open the doors of its renovated Willow Grove School to its first-ever full-day kindergartners for the upcoming 2016-17 school year will be an exciting challenge. But it’s a challenge that we are excited to take on and capable of meeting because it defines our mission.

I’ll share more information as the school year continues and details are decided. Be assured that the District is planning carefully to ensure that construction is timed so it will not disturb or adversely affect our current 2015-16 Willow Grove students. The first of the projects will occur in the east wing of the building during Winter Break. The extensive construction will begin immediately after kindergarten students and staff finish the 2015-16 school year.
• Middle school tracks opened

Today was a landmark day in District 96 as we hosted track ribbon-cuttings for Twin Groves and for Woodlawn Middle School students, parents, teachers, and staff. Local dignitaries joined our administrators and Board of Education in celebrating these state-of-the-art running surfaces from which hundreds of District 96 middle schoolers who do and will participate in track and cross country will benefit.

Board President Marc Tepper in his remarks reminded the audiences that these tracks are much more than a prescribed distance of rubber-coated running surface–they are a place for all our students to discover that their PE classes and extracurricular opportunities are life-long lessons for healthful living. And for a young runner eager to challenge himself or herself personally, they offer unlimited potential for growth, persistence, and pride.

Indeed, the addition of these tracks is another action we’ve taken as a District that we are certain is the right thing to do for our students today and to come.
Finally, it is with great pleasure that I claim bragging rights for some District 96 stakeholders being recognized by the state on Oct. 17 in Bloomington/Normal for their exceptional commitment. They are, indeed, still more reasons our community can take justifiable pride!

• Distinguished recognition for District 96 staff
The Illinois State Board of Education has announced the recipients of the 41st-annual Those Who Excel recognition. Their peers nominated these District 96 educators and support staff for their extraordinary devotion and contributions to the field. Their commitment to helping all children learn distinguishes them and District 96 is proud to recognize:

Lynette Fowler-Katsoulis, Willow Grove Special Education Aide

Bob Gauthier, Board of Education member 2003–2015, retired

Melissa Kumin, Twin Groves Middle School Spanish teacher

Elizabeth Zorn, Country Meadows Elementary school psychologist

District 96 Technology Team

Amanda Rickel, Kildeer Countryside Elementary School Grade 3 teacher

Greg Grana, Woodlawn Middle School principal

I hope the school year has begun well for you and your student(s). I urge you to continue to take advantage of the learning opportunities we’ve scheduled for you as parents–our teachers and staff are eager to share this information. Please mark your calendars:
• Math Nights for Parents
(NOTE: each grade-level parent program begins at 6 p.m. and is held at Ivy Hall School in the PE gym)
KDG: Wed., Oct. 21
Grades 1 & 2: Wed., Oct. 28
Grades 3 & 4: Tues., Oct. 27
Grade 5: Mon., Nov. 2

• Tech University for D96 Parents: Technically Speaking
Tues., Nov. 3, 7 p.m., at Twin Groves Middle School Gym

Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools