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On April 22, parents will be receiving an email from ECRA Group inviting them to take part in a survey for the District 146 Strategic Plan. It is very important for all parents to complete the survey so their values and beliefs can be taken into account as the District creates its Strategic Plan.

In 2014, the District began our first strategic plan journey. The outcome was a plan that guided us through years of improvement. I wanted to share some of the enhancements that were ushered in because of the efforts in 2013.

Addressing the Whole-Child
District 146 prides itself on teaching the whole-child. We focus not only on academics, but help shape upstanding, well-rounded, and effective citizens. At the elementary level, classroom teachers incorporate social/emotional curriculum into their everyday classes in collaboration with school counseling teams and social workers. Central students begin each day with an advisory class that focuses on social, emotional, and academic goals. They also take part in Encore classes that teach real-life skills tied to classes they enjoy like band, FACS, or art.

Full-Day Kindergarten
Full-day kindergarten is a reality today in part due to the 2014 Strategic Plan. We are already seeing the benefits of our full-day, play and discovery-based program. Teachers and families have commented on the growth and advantages of their students and are pleased with the results.

Enhanced Curriculum
The District has developed and adopted more rigorous curricula for kindergarten through grade 8 that align with the Illinois Learning Standards. Essential skills for students at all grade levels have also been identified and are being utilized by staff to drive instruction.

Time and Resources for Staff Collaboration
Collaboration between our staff is important as they share data, techniques, ideas, and information. Our staff has opportunities each week to meet in teams. Each year, some District staff attend a Professional Learning Community (PLC) conference that expands upon the best ways for our teachers to collaborate. 

The District’s Strategic Dashboard is currently built upon the Strategic Plan created in 2014. You can see more strategies we use to meet the Strategic Plan goals by visiting the Dashboard

Again, please take the time to complete the survey once you receive an email invitation from ECRA Group. It will only take about 15 minutes to complete, but will help the District for years to come. I really appreciate your time and commitment to District 146’s continuous improvement.
Posted by superintendent  On Apr 17, 2019 at 11:57 AM
  

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “If you see something, say something.” The phrase was developed by the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to help citizens be active in keeping our schools and neighborhoods safe.

With recent events close to home, the phrase takes on a special meaning. I feel like it is an appropriate time to send a reminder to students, families, staff, and community members to follow this advice. If you see something, say something.

When reporting suspicious activity, whether it be to 911, a school official, or police officer, always remember to be as specific as possible when describing what you observed. If possible, include:

  • Who or What you saw
  • When you saw it
  • Where it occurred
  • Why you feel it is suspicious

Please explain the importance of this concept with your children. Our students may be the first to hear or see something, and should always feel comfortable reporting anything suspicious to their teacher, principal, or other school staff. 

At times, it may seem like raising the alarm is an overreaction. However, we would much rather be safe than sorry and there is no harm in a false alarm. Please join me and everyone at District 146 in keeping our schools safe. Always remember: If you see something, say something.

Posted by superintendent  On Feb 19, 2019 at 11:05 AM
  

As you may know, we have begun the process of updating the District’s Strategic Plan. The current plan was launched in 2014 and has driven our improvement over the last four years. We are very proud of the progress we have made on our goals. You can see our progress, along with some fast facts about the District, on the District’s Strategic Dashboard.

We are very excited to update the plan to identify our new goals for the future, which will be developed using feedback from our stakeholders. We have already conducted focus groups of parents, students, staff members, community leaders, and Board members. On Tuesday, January 15, a parent town hall meeting will be held in the Fulton Cafeteria at 6 p.m. If you are available, I encourage you to attend and share your input. Surveys will also be sent to make certain we gather information from all of the District’s stakeholders.

The inclusive, research-based strategic planning process assures our decisions are based on data rather than intuition. Most importantly, it helps us create the future of our schools in the image our stakeholders desire.

We have once again partnered with the ECRA Group to develop our new strategic plan. ECRA Group is a leader in educational assessment, research, analytics, and strategic planning, and assisted the District with our original Strategic Plan.

I will keep you all updated on the strategic planning process, and look forward to sharing the finished result with you later this year.

Posted by superintendent  On Jan 14, 2019 at 10:31 AM
  
Even with the cold weather and early snow, construction crews at our elementary schools have continued their progress on the additions and improvements to our elementary buildings. As you know, the construction will add additional space for new full-day kindergarten program. 

All additions will be ready for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. It has been exciting to watch the new structures rise up and begin to take shape after several years of planning. Even from the outside, the new rooms and spaces are beginning to take shape. 

The District and school websites have pages dedicated to the construction. You can click here for detailed updates on the construction projects. 

This year is the first for our full-day kindergarten program. Students are thriving in the play-based, discovery-centered kindergarten classrooms and are actively questioning and seeking answers through investigation. 

Each classroom is an interactive place for our students to learn. The curiosity corner, math area, and construction area are used by students to spur questions; count, add, and subtract using various objects and techniques; and to compare the height and length of their creations, for example.

As always, our students are very excited for story time. After their teacher reads to them, they are guided in a discussion about their favorite characters, or how the story made them feel. They are also encouraged to become authors and write stories about themselves and their learning.

For more information on our full-day, discovery-based kindergarten program, including teacher and parent interviews, please click here

Once completed, our buildings will have enough space to accommodate the full day kindergarten program without putting a strain on the space necessary for other classes and resources. The new facilities will help the District continue to offer Learning for All.
Posted by superintendent  On Dec 14, 2018 at 11:38 AM
  
As you know, many government offices, banks, and schools will be closed on Monday, November 12 in observance of Veterans Day. However, District 146 schools will be in session.

We see the Veterans Day holiday as an opportunity to teach our students why we have a day to honor Veterans. The intention is for students to interpret Veterans Day as a time for reflection and thanks rather than a day off of school.

Throughout the day, our students and staff reflect on the sacrifices made by Veterans and current service members. Each school will be doing something special on that Monday. Some will have ceremonies, some will display a Missing Man Table, and some will have in-class discussions. All schools, however, will stress the importance of thanking our Veterans.

Each year, Central Middle School invites Veterans who are family members of students and staff to a ceremony at the school. All CMS students attend the ceremony. The band and chorus perform, students hand out small tokens of appreciation, and a guest speaker reminds us why we are there. 

I invite you to view the Veterans Day Ceremony as we stream it live at facebook.com/CMSTwisters. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, November 12. A video of the ceremony will remain on the Facebook page afterwards. We hope you can join our students and staff as we honor our Veterans.
Posted by superintendent  On Nov 06, 2018 at 3:30 PM
  
This post corrects and offers additional information on the designations written about in the previous post, "Telling Our Story."

In my last post, I mentioned Central Middle School was designated by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as Underperforming. This designation came as a result of PARCC scores for two student subgroups.

Just today, I received word from ISBE that after further review, Central will not be designated as Underperforming, but as Commendable. As a matter of fact, Central, Fierke, Fulton, and Memorial are have all been designated as Commendable. I am also excited to announce that Kruse has been designated as Exemplary. Schools designated as Exemplary are in the top 10-percent of all schools in Illinois. 

As stated in my previous post, the District values more than just PARCC scores and data from the Illinois State Report Card. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look at the District’s new Dashboard to see first-hand how our schools strive to educate the whole child.

When we first heard that Central would be designated as underperforming, we began working on an improvement process that targeted the two subgroups identified by ISBE. Be assured that we will continue this work to achieve high levels of learning for all students in District 146. 
Posted by superintendent  On Oct 31, 2018 at 11:09 AM
  
Later this month, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will be releasing the 2018 School Report Cards. The School Report Cards offer information on topics like standardized test scores, demographics, and finances.

Along with the impending release of the School Report Cards, ISBE has notified the District that Central Middle School has been designated as “underperforming with targeted support.” This designation comes as a result of PARCC test scores for two student subgroups at Central: English Learning students and Students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP). We are excited for the opportunity to utilize ISBE resources and continue our improvement. 

The underperforming designation provides us with additional funding from the state that help our improvement plan. The District has already begun working on the improvement process internally.

There is no doubt the information provided in the School Report Cards is useful, but the District values more than just PARCC scores. The information we value tells the story of District 146 and demonstrates how our schools enrich the education and lives of each student. We are excited to tell you that story through a new public dashboard.

On our dashboard you will find information about our social/emotional curriculum that helps shape the whole child. Also included is data on our English Language Learner students and our inclusive teaching styles, which highlight the District’s pride in our diversity. We also highlight our award-winning students, clubs, programs, and departments.

Screenshot of Dashboard

You can find the District’s dashboard by clicking here. I invite you to look over the data, strategies, and objectives we provide. There are many links to documents, videos, and photos embedded within the dashboard that illustrate our story in ways the State Report Card cannot. The Dashboard is a living tool that will continue to evolve as we update it with new data, ideas, and strategies for success. I hope you find the information as valuable as we do. If you have any comments after viewing the information, I would love to hear from you. 
Posted by superintendent  On Oct 19, 2018 at 10:39 AM
  
Last spring, I met with the District’s PTA/PTO officers and other parents to discuss school safety. We talked about many of the measures we have in place in our schools to maintain a safe learning environment. The parents who attended the breakfast were appreciative of our efforts, and also offered great feedback. 

One suggestion was to better communicate our common terms to our families, particularly when it comes to lockdowns. Here are the most frequent terms we use to categorize and communicate emergencies within the buildings.

Lockout 
A lockout is declared when there is a potential external threat to the buildings, students, or staff. In this case, we deny any entry into the school, but normal activities within the school continue as planned. A lockout may be declared if there was a local robbery close to one of our buildings, or the like. 

Hold-in-Place/Soft Lockdown
Terminology may vary by building depending on local first-responder and building Incident Response Team preferences.
These terms refer to situations that require students and staff to remain in their classrooms, but normal in-class activities continue. Soft lockdowns may be called if an ambulance is called to the school for an adult or student. To allow easy passage, students and staff must remain in their classrooms.

Lockdown/Hard Lockdown 
Terminology may vary by building depending on local first-responder and building Incident Response Team preferences.
A lockdown/Hard Lockdown is declared during a situation that potentially threatens the safety of students or staff. During a lockdown, everyone must remain in place and be prepared to engage in an emergency plan. Police are called for assistance during a lockdown.

These terms are also available on the District website. You can click here to review this webpage.

Keeping our children safe and maintaining a safe learning environment is always our first priority. As our greatest partners, we encourage you to monitor social media accounts, report strangers on campus, and inform us of any threats or concerns about school safety. Together, we can keep our schools safe.

Have a great year!
Posted by superintendent  On Sep 24, 2018 at 12:01 PM
  

At the beginning of the school year, I invited you to take part in a survey regarding a potential Parent University program. I wanted to gather information on possible topics and the best time and place to host these events. We had a wonderful response, and I want to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey. 

In addition to the topics we offered, many thoughtful suggestions and comments were submitted in the survey. This affirms that our families crave involvement in their children’s education. After reviewing the survey results, I am surprised at how evenly the responses are distributed. There are so many topics that families want to learn more about.

With the survey results in mind, our administration team and I have been working on the best way to make this information and interaction available to our families. Through our work and discussions, our thinking has evolved in terms of Parent University “classes.” Instead, we think it will be more beneficial to add a parent component to the things we already do as a District.

At both a district and school level, we have since hosted events that encourage parent engagement and education. Some events are being tested at certain buildings prior to being offered at others. These events and activities include:

  • Breakfast with the Superintendent with discussions regarding the upcoming full-day kindergarten program. 
  • English classes for parents who have a first language other than English.
  • Reading and Math Enrichment Nights showcasing what and how students are learning, and encouraging parents to take part in the process.
  • Side-by-Sides that invite parents into classrooms to experience part of their child’s school day.
  • Ready for Kindergarten parent classes for those who have children from birth to five years old.
  • Student-led conferences with parents and teachers to set individual, class, and family goals.

Next year, a parent component will be included in each School Improvement Plan. The District will continue to host events like Breakfast with the Superintendent and other town-hall-style meetings where parents can learn about specific topics and ask the administration questions. 

Ultimately, the richest relationships we can foster are those between the parent, student, and teacher. The District is committed to continuing our efforts to involve, engage, and educate parents, and we look forward to improving this partnership.

Posted by superintendent  On May 03, 2018 at 11:25 AM
  

Last month, I invited families and community members to breakfast to talk about full-day kindergarten and the construction tied to it. Here is a summary of the information presented at the breakfast.

All four of our elementary schools will have additional space constructed. The projects at Fulton and Memorial are smaller and will go to bid in March. The projects at Kruse and Fierke are scheduled go to bid in April or May.

Space being added to each building to accommodate full-day kindergarten includes:

  • Fulton: Two kindergarten classrooms with restrooms, a music room with storage, and outdoor storage for playground materials. 
  • Memorial: A new kitchen and cafeteria, additional resource space, and a PE office. 
  • Kruse: Four kindergarten classrooms with restrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria, and additional resource space. 
  • Fierke: Three kindergarten classrooms with restrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria, and additional resource space. 

Construction will be complete for the 2019-2020 school year. The District has been working on plans to temporarily house the full-day kindergarten program for the 2018-2019 school year

Please click here for answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the full-day kindergarten program.   

The District appreciates the support and encouragement of our families as we build a brighter future for our students. Please feel free to contact me at superintendent@district146.org with any questions or concerns. 

Posted by superintendent  On Feb 23, 2018 at 8:05 AM
  
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