Superintendent's Message, 5.17.19

Board MembersI have District 96 highlights and outcomes to share with you….

Board Members Seated

At their meeting on Apr. 23, the District 96 Board of Education seated newly elected Board of Education members for a four-year term. Dina Manka, appointed in June 2018, and Meg Woodman, appointed in Apr. 2016, were elected. Incumbent Mike Burns–appointed in 2014 and elected in 2015–was re-elected. 

We welcome each member back to the Board table and recognize and applaud their selfless commitment to the success and well-being of our students and faculty. 

District Values–Developing Deeper Understanding 

I hope you’ll take time for this brief video of our recent Community Forum–an evening culminating work begun over two years ago by students and staff, parents, community members, administrators, and Board of Education members.

The focus of the work has been thoughtful reflection on and discussion of our District values–written over a decade ago by our Board of Education and District leadership. That is, in the richly diverse community we’ve become, how are our values understood and applied today? 

On Apr. 9, a multi-stakeholder group came to consensus on COLLECTIVE COMMITMENTS that describe the behaviors that will lead to the fulfillment of our vision. 

In summary:
Learning has no boundaries is understood to mean that we value and address diverse learning styles and needs, taking risks and addressing barriers, and encouraging one another to persevere as lifelong learners committed to a continuous cycle of improvement.

Model for others what we expect from others is understood to mean we will learn and teach in a collaborative, highly professional and safe environment embracing and respecting the uniqueness of individuals.

Best practice, not first practice is understood to describe commitment to continuous improvement and innovation, requiring respectful challenge and productive rigor and embracing learning by taking risks and reflecting on and learning from experts in the field and our own mistakes.

Every child, Every school, Every day is understood to mean equity, compassion, and striving to meet the individual and unique needs of each student, with every school community member’s contributions reflected in our environment and our work together.

Celebrate success is understood to mean that we honor and value growth and accomplishments big and small and see each accomplishment as a contribution to our success as a whole.

Indeed, the community-wide commitment to our students’ success is apparent and powerful and compelling. Once again, I thank you for the privilege of serving as superintendent in School District 96.

ThoughtExchange: Answer One Question

You’ll recall that in March I sent a Superintendent Message inviting the community to take part in a ThoughtExchange to answer a single specific question. 

This online tool allows participants to give their answer and to rate their agreement with the answers submitted by others in the District 96 community. In this specific exchange, participants rated over 600 ideas more than 12,000 times, answering this question: As a parent, what does being a premier school district mean to you?

The results of this exchange reflect a range of community preferences. Over time, some ideas began to “float to the top” as more and more participants closely rated their agreement with some of the ideas shared. 

I invite you to VIEW THE THOUGHTEXCHANGE RESULTS and see how this tool serves to convey community voice. 

In the new school year ahead, I will use ThoughtExchange to push out other questions for you to answer and rate your agreement with others’ answers. Be assured that we value your participation and the contributions you continue to make to building and maintaining a strong home/school connection in our District. 

A District Celebration: IL-EMPOWER

IL-EMPOWER is a school-led system of peer support in Illinois. Based on a specific school’s needs, IL-EMPOWER schools, districts, and partners work collaboratively to foster changes in practice and improve results for underperforming schools.

Among the 35 eligible Exemplary and Commendable Illinois Schools who submitted applications to become partners, thirteen statewide have been named IL-EMPOWER Peer Learning Partners. 

I’m extremely proud to say that six of those thirteen are District 96 schools, including Country Meadows, Ivy Hall, Kildeer, and Prairie Elementary Schools and Twin Groves and Woodlawn Middle Schools. (With its early learning center organization, Willow Grove is not eligible at this time to participate in this peer-to-peer learning program.) 

The Illinois State Board of Education used several specific criteria in selecting the IL-EMPOWER Learning Partner schools, including historical and sustained success in school improvement, a strong strategic plan for peer support, and current school achievement measured against indicators within the Illinois Every Student Succeeds Act Support and Accountability Plan.

This school year will soon be finished. We look forward to celebrating our 8th-Grade Graduating Class of 2019 on May 28 even as we wonder how our time together could pass so quickly! 

Our students leave for summer break with so many takeaways to celebrate–academic and social/emotional growth, increased confidence, new friends and interests, raised awareness, and experience as developing leaders. Before plunging ahead into summer activities, I invite you to ask your child about positive takeaways from this school year that he or she recognizes. An opportunity for some interesting conversation–at the dinner table, or when stuck in summer road construction traffic!

--Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools