Superintendent's Message, 5.27.2016

superintendentWhat’s good about District 96?
Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that this school year flew by?

It’s no surprise, really. We got off to a running start–literally–when our amazing middle school tracks opened early in the year. It seems that neither our students nor our faculty ever slowed their pace.

This was a year in which our theme question “What’s good about District 96?” was answered again and again in so many different ways:
Apple education team representatives who visit schools nationwide to observe technology implementation were greatly impressed by what they saw in our classrooms. They described our use of technology as "a lighthouse for others in the State of Illinois” and named KCSD96 a 2015–2017 Apple Distinguished Schools Program, meeting rigorous criteria in an engaging learning environment.

Following focused and deliberate preparation, we are ready to expand 1:1 iPad implementation in 2016-2017 to include 4th and 5th graders. 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 will be equipped to continue or complete writing or other homework assignments at home and to access digital curricular resources.

Distinguished Those Who Excel recognition from the Illinois State Board of Education for KCSD96 faculty and staff was awarded to Lynette Fowler-Katsoulis, Willow Grove Special Education Aide; Melissa Kumin, Twin Groves Middle School Spanish teacher; Elizabeth Zorn, Country Meadows Elementary school psychologist; our District 96 Technology Team; Amanda Rickel, Kildeer Countryside Elementary School Grade 3 teacher; and Greg Grana, Woodlawn Middle School principal. Retired Board of Education member Bob Gauthier (2003–2015) also was honored.

Our students’ accomplishments were unprecedented. This year our Board of Education proudly welcomed children and their parents to several meetings to recognize effort and diligence. Our students made remarkable accomplishments as competitors playing, performing, and presenting in athletics, music, math, history, geography, and Science Olympiad. We sent more students to State-level competitions than ever before and are honing our reputation as dedicated and formidable competitors. We greatly value parent support for our students’ involvement in Science Olympiad, as our students’ parents are, indeed, part of the answer to “What’s good about District 96?”

We will be ready to open full-day kindergarten for the 2016-17 school year. 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 and are thrilled by the opportunities the curriculum allows for our kindergartners’ growth.

Learning is ongoing this summer for our students and faculty. The work will continue in June, July, and August for a record number of our teachers and academic coaches, engaging in grade-level curriculum writing and taking advantage of varied professional development opportunities. Likewise, in our academic summer school classes (maximum enrollment has been reached for each), students will receive focused support for learning targets. Also–new this summer–the “Read Harder” Challenge for our middle school students invites them to choose multiple books that will foster their development as readers and lifelong learners and help them appreciate reading for pleasure. Across the District, the 2015–2016 school year has included many more highlights than can be named here–each a valid and compelling addition to the ever growing list of answers to the question “What’s good about District 96?”

Woodlawn’s NEED national recognition
I want to celebrate with the KCSD96 community the national acclaim earned by Woodlawn 6th–8th graders and District 96 science teachers Nino Alvarez, Michelle Garlick, Emily Logar, Michelle Nadulek, Rick Polidoro, and Lindsey Schneider.
The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project selected KCSD96 Woodlawn Middle School as the Illinois Junior School of the Year and the National Junior School of the Year.

This recognition is for a Youth Awards Signature Project–an energy-focused project that is student-driven and multifaceted. Woodlawn students' work focused on energy engineering and design. Specifically, it addressed thermal energy transfer, energy conversion, and minimizing human environmental impact.

Last fall science teachers Mr. Alvarez and Ms. Nadulek were awarded an Energizing Student Potential (ESP) grant, sponsored by the Exelon Foundation, ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, and BP America, partnering with the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project. They brought what they learned there to KCSD96 middle school classrooms to engage students in challenges building STEM skills.

On Apr. 15, the students hosted a hands-on, STEM-focused “D96 Unplugged” Energy Fair in the Woodlawn cafeteria. At the fair, KCSD96 Country Meadows Elementary kids participated in student-created carnival-style games and demonstrations to learn about energy transformations, conservation of energy at home, and energy sources.

Middle school students were eager to showcase what they’d learned in the process of building and insulating houses to minimize thermal energy loss (6th graders), wiring those houses for LED lights powered by a battery (7th graders), and building wind turbines to generate electricity to power the thermal houses from a renewable energy source (8th graders).

The Energy Fair visitors also observed a 3-D printer in action. Using that 3-D printer, the 8th graders engineered wind turbine blades, experimenting with different blade designs to increase the energy produced.

This project captured the interest of Woodlawn students, faculty, and staff. They are justifiably proud of their learning and the recognition associated with their work.

A memorial honoring Mrs. Gordon
The passing of our devoted Board of Education member Lauren Gordon in February is a deep loss to our District. In the years her sons attended our schools, Mrs. Gordon contributed significantly as a volunteer and PTO co-president before she sought the opportunity to serve this community as a member of our Board of Education.

For that reason, I’m not at all surprised by the large number of inquiries we’ve received from District families and others wanting to donate to memorials honoring Lauren for her unwavering focus on helping every KCSD96 student grow not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

After much reflection, Board members and I have chosen to honor Mrs. Gordon by dedicating to her memory an interior courtyard at the Willow Grove Early Learning Center. The courtyard will be created as a result of the extensive remodeling and reconfiguring to be done there to accommodate the full-day kindergarten program that we are thrilled to open on Mon., Aug. 22, 2016.

The interior courtyard will be a space our youngest students are sure to enjoy. In this safe, specially equipped area, the specially equipped place  will benefit from fresh air and favorite supervised activities that will help them increase a variety of essential developmental skills.

If you would like to honor Mrs. Gordon’s memory with a donation to this courtyard memorial, please CLICK HERE to contribute online. Your contribution will go to the Willow Grove Parent/Teacher Organization (PTO) and will be specifically earmarked for the memorial courtyard. District specialists will use the funds donated to help equip the courtyard in ways that meet very specific safety requirements and reflect best practice for engaging early childhood students. If you prefer to write a check, please make it payable to the Willow Grove School PTO and write “Mrs. Gordon’s courtyard memorial” on the memo line. Please mail or deliver your check to School District 96 (Attn: Ann Kozub), 1050 Ivy Hall Lane, Buffalo Grove, IL  60089

KCSD96 Welcomes Mr. Miranda
On July 1, we’ll welcome Mr. Sam Miranda to KCSD96 as our future director of facilities and transportation. He’ll assume that role when Mr. Randall Warren–our current director–retires in June 2017.

During the upcoming 2016–17 school year Mr. Warren and Mr. Miranda will work together closely so the transition in responsibility is a smooth one for all the work related to the safe transportation of our students and capital improvements which include the ongoing maintenance and updating of each of our school buildings and their surrounding grounds.

In appreciation
I want to thank you for your kind expressions following my recognition by the Lake County Superintendents earlier this month. Nominators-fellow superintendents-made it clear they considered our District’s commitment and willingness to support, share, and collaborate with other schools and districts seeking to implement initiatives we’ve begun or refined to be a great contribution to all of Lake County. Thus, I regard this honor as recognition not for me, but for our entire KCSD96 learning community. It is another reason we can take pride in KCSD96.

Summer Hours Open to the Public
Please note that District/Business Office summer hours begin Mon., May 30, and end Fri., Aug. 5, 2016. The offices will be open to the public 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 – 11:30 a.m. Friday.

District Offices will be closed Mon., July 4, in observance of Independence Day.

Please plan to read District emails to stay informed. The next issue of E-NEWS 96 will be sent to you on July 1 with info about the school year ahead.

Summer days are busy in their own way, but I hope the weeks ahead will also allow your family to enjoy some leisure time, lazy days, and conversation together. Children grow up quickly!

Best wishes,
Julie Schmidt, Superintendent of District 96 Schools