Superintendent's Message, 11.12.20

Powering Up and Celebrating Our Board of Education

Perseverance through leadership

How fitting a theme the Illinois Association of School Boards has selected to recognize school board members! In Illinois, Nov. 15 is designated School Board Members Day.

As we negotiate seemingly unending challenges in 2020, I deeply appreciate our Board of Education more than ever for their insightful leadership and guidance. 

 Perseverance through LeadershipOur Board is exceptional. District 96 is the only school district in Lake County with all seven board members recognized in the Master Board Member program, reflecting their dedication to ongoing professional development. Marc Tepper (Board president), Renee Klass (Board vice president), Mike Burns (Board secretary), and members Dina Manka, Jim Strezewski, Meg Woodman, and Cynthia Zarkowsky are volunteers whose service to our community cannot be quantified in meeting hours. Our community is exceedingly fortunate to have these individuals–each wholly committed to the education and well-being of our students and staff–making informed and considered decisions on our behalf. 

I’ve seen their vision and encouragement during my 12-year tenure as superintendent serve to further establish District 96 as a destination for families prioritizing their children’s education. Indeed, with these leaders’ support we are a highly regarded learning community preparing all students to excel. And particularly during this calendar year, my respect and appreciation for our Board of Education is even greater as all members prove themselves to be collaborative partners in uncertain and difficult times, as well.

Powering Up

It is truly timely, then, that we are recognizing our Board of Education this month as we celebrate the completion of a significant project they helped conceive and have steadfastly supported for the past four years. This work is an excellent example of the deliberate and comprehensive long-term view our Board members take in doing what’s best for our learning community, not only today but in years to come.

The path to completion was not simple. Conversations began four years ago–in November 2016; Board of Education approval followed in Dec. 2017; and construction began in March 2020 to make this project a reality. We celebrate that full energization of the District 96 Solar Complex has occurred. 

The solar panels–3068 in all–are ground mounted on three acres and will meet 92 percent of the electrical demand for the Country Meadows/Woodlawn campus. (Country Meadows/Woodlawn schools account for 28 percent of electrical costs district wide.)

The total cost to the District for this system was approximately $3.7 million. In 16 years the system will have paid for itself and will earn the District over $1.5 million Solar Renewable Energy Credits over twenty years and over $250,000 in ComEd rebates. Likewise, locked-in energy rates will facilitate financial planning and serve to increase operational funds.

In addition to modeling energy stewardship and serving to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the solar complex includes onsite learning tools that will be incorporated into our STEM curriculum. 

Inviting learning community involvement in still another way, 100 solar panels bear our students’ artwork. They were guided by art teachers Liv Grossman (Country Meadows) and Jeremy Martin (Woodlawn) in creating beautiful images of wildlife indigenous to Illinois prairies. 

The students (listed with their current grade level) who created artwork for solar panels include: Sarah Akinfala (4), Kayla Becker (9), Isabel Bottcher (9), Bella Cherry (9), Justin George (5), Jasmin Hanif (9), Dison Holmes (7), Sai Kanderi (4), Sehyun (Aiden) Kim (9), Susanna Korybowski (8), Ellie Kroc (7), Devshree Kumar (6), Annalise Lee (6), Danna Li (7), Yan Liu (7), Jennifer Martinez (7), Hunter Mason (9), Eeshan Matada Deepak (4), Nandini Mazumder (8), Catly Nguyen (4), Kimly Nguyen (6), Elizabeth Rhee (2), Anika Saha (8), Rosabelle Shi (4), Ashlyn Simon (7), Keira Thompson (5), Alice Topunov (7), Liliana Tzintzun (9), Jinyuan Wu (7), Stephanie Wu (7), Bryanna Zhang (5), and Lylian Zhu (7).

I invite you to take a minute for this aerial view of the District’s solar complex on the Country Meadows/Woodlawn campus:

--Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools