Superintendent's Message, 2.9.2016

It’s only February–way too soon, unfortunately, for Chicagoans to be anticipating opening the windows in our homes and other pleasures of the warm months that will come to us eventually. I can’t help but look forward to summer, though, because it will also bring some exciting changes for the 2016-17 school year that I’m eager to share with you….

What’s happening at Willow Grove?
First, let’s talk about changes coming with our new 2016-17 full-day kindergarten. From the comprehensive curriculum to building additions and updates, KCSD96 is focused on preparing our youngest 21st-century students to succeed. We will be adding a cafeteria and reconfiguring classroom and playground spaces and parking/drop-off areas–work necessary to accommodate our full-day kindergarten program.

Construction in areas of the building now used for student instruction will begin as soon as the current school year ends in June. There will be no public access permitted to the building throughout the summer. Jump-Start Kindergarten summer programs will meet at Ivy Hall School for this reason.

We’re pleased that pre-registration for the 2016-17 school year has begun strong, with over 135 kindergartners pre-registered so far. Please tell families in your neighborhood whose children will be 5 years old by Sept. 1 that it’s time to pre-register. Those who do so by Feb. 19 will receive a free–and cute!–Willow Grove T-shirt for their kindergartner.

Mrs. Jennifer Smith, Kildeer principal since Aug. 2011, will assume her new responsibilities as Willow Grove principal in Aug. 2016. In June, we will offer our best wishes and fond farewell to Dr. Barb Cirigliano–principal since Willow Grove Kindergarten Center opened in 1999–who will retire and begin a new chapter in her life at the end of the current school year.

4th and 5th Graders Go 1:1!
August 2016 will also bring changes that will surely please our older elementary students. Beginning with the start of the 2016-2017 school year, our 4th and 5th graders will be issued iPads they will take home and bring to school daily–just as our middle school students do.

At their meeting last week, the Board of Education approved 1:1 implementation for Grades 4 and 5. While each KCSD96 student in Grades 1–8 currently has all-day access to technology during the school day, the Board’s decision to expand 1:1 implementation to allow 4th- and 5th-grade students to take home their iPads is based on input received from teachers, instructional coaches, and students. The 4th and 5th graders work on their iPads at school, but cannot continue or complete writing or other homework assignments at home because they don’t have access to their school iPads. In addition, more and more of their curricular resources are digital.

Parents of returning students will see this change reflected in the 2016-17 online registration form you’ll be sent via an email link on April 1. Just as it does for KCSD96 middle school students, the required registration fee for Grade 4 and for Grade 5 for the 2016-17 school year will include the added technology fee ($50). This fee covers the cost of the initial iPad case and insurance in the event of theft, loss, or accidental damage. The iPads for 4th and 5th graders will not include the Apps Store.

New administrative appointment!
The Board of Education has appointed Kathryn Sheridan Director of Language and Early Literacy beginning July 1, 2016.

Mrs. Sheridan currently is Country Meadows principal–a position she’s held since August 2010. In her new role, Mrs. Sheridan will oversee District programming targeting the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) and biliterate students, as well as facilitate early literacy efforts. She also will address professional development in her areas of responsibility, the mentoring of new principals, and the coordination of community outreach activities.

She is highly qualified, meeting state requirements for the position, and brings significant relevant classroom and administrative experience to her new role. We are thrilled to have her join the District-level leadership team.

New elementary principals beginning Aug. 2016 for Country Meadows and Kildeer
The search for highly qualified, committed candidates to succeed Country Meadows Principal Kathryn Sheridan and Kildeer Principal Jennifer Smith is well underway.

We received applications from more than 80 educators eager to join our professional learning community and to work with our students, teachers, and families. KCSD96 follows a comprehensive multi-layered process to interview and select principals. I look forward soon to introducing the individuals chosen.

The 2016-2017 phone directory will be digital
This fall the District will not print a phone directory for parents to buy. Instead, telephone directory information such as students’ and parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses will be accessible online with a link the District will make available to all KCSD96 families.

Parents will have the option on the 2016-17 registration form to indicate that they want to be included in or excluded from the online directory.

The directory will be easy to access from your cell phone. In addition, it will be available to District families at no charge. Perhaps most compelling of all, though, is that it will be available soon after the school year begins, rather than waiting until late fall to receive a printed copy. The option to print remains, as well, for families who choose to download and print the pdf file.

Board of Education invites applicants
Finally, with the passing of Board of Education member Lauren Gordon last week, our District suffered a deep loss. Board President Marc Tepper reminds us that Mrs. Gordon’s legacy is the reminder to challenge ourselves as a school district of leaders to look continually for new ways to grow and excel. The Board invites community members to apply for the vacancy created by Mrs. Gordon’s passing.

The Board will interview selected candidates in early March and appoint an individual to fill the vacancy. A special election must be held in April 2017, however, to fill the position for the 2-year balance of the term. Applications must be submitted (letter of interest and resume hand delivered) by noon CST Feb. 25, 2016.


Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent