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Mead to receive national recognition from Special Olympics

Mead Junior High School, a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, will receive national banner recognition for meeting national standards of excellence in the areas of inclusion, advocacy and respect. The banner presentation will take place during an assembly at Mead at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20.

Mead is one of only four schools in Illinois and 132 nationwide to attain National Banner designation. More than 400 schools in Illinois and more than 6,000 across the country participate in Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools programming.

A Unified Champion School receiving national banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence developed by a national panel of leaders from Special Olympics and the education community. The primary activities within these standards include Special Olympics Unified Sports (where students with and without disabilities train and compete as teammates), inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.

“Mead Junior High is an exceptional school that fosters acceptance for all students and encourages appreciation for unique individual differences,” said Mead Club Unify sponsor Rebecca Dombro, who submitted Mead’s application for recognition. “The staff and students alike demonstrate continuous efforts to promote inclusion, advocacy and respect. The remarkable support instilled by this building is something that every member of our school community should take great pride in, for it is truly gives our students a sense of belonging and purpose.”

Mead offers unified sports through the school and through District 54 Special Olympics, ensures whole-school engagement by hosting Respect Week in the spring, and fosters inclusive youth leadership through participation in the statewide Youth Activation Summit and the school’s Club Unify. The club promotes inclusion awareness through a variety of activities including public service announcements on Mead TV, an assembly featuring students with and without disabilities, and a respect campaign for students and parents. Five current and former Mead students who were members of the statewide Youth Activation Committee will present during the assembly on November 20.

“Mead Junior High has been a model for inclusion for students with disabilities in District 54,” District 54 Special Olympics Specialist Kelly O’Reilly said. “Students and staff alike strive to make sure everyone is included in everything they do from clubs to sports to leadership opportunities. No one is turned away. I know how proud they are of this recognition and I know they will continue to be leaders in the Inclusion Revolution.”

Junior Journalist Update from Eisenhower – By Sadkiha V.

We. Are. Here. For. You. These are the words that ring throughout the hallways of Eisenhower Junior High. Our guidance team, made up of Ms. Bhatia, Ms. Goolish, Ms. Gunsteen, Ms. Hemzacek, Ms. Patel and Ms. Perez are here every day of the week to support students who need it and even those who don’t. On October 10 Eisenhower students were invited to see Mr. Kirk Smalley talk about Stand For The Silent and the effects of bullying. According to the Stand for the Silent website, SFTS is a program that “addresses the issue of school bullying with an engaging, factual, and emotional methodology.”

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Ms. Gunsteen on what she and the other counselors do here at school.

SV: What do you do if a student comes up and asks for help?

Ms. Gunsteen: We here at the guidance department are listeners. We listen to the student and try to come up with ideas and solutions depending on their problem.

SV: What did you think of the “Stand for the Silent” assembly we had on Friday?

Ms. Gunsteen: I thought it was very important, difficult, and made us all reflect on bullying. We don’t pause to think of others and the assembly really made everyone focused on the topic. I just think everyone was really engrossed during the assembly. What did you think about it?

SV: I think the assembly was needed. A lot of my classmates and my friends didn’t take bullying seriously before. Now they do. What do you encourage students to do when in a situation where someone is mistreating them?

Ms. Gunsteen: Come talk to us. Staff take bullying very seriously. Counselors and teachers can connect with students to solve problems.

SV:  What do you think of bullies and their motives to bully?

Ms. Gunsteen: Sometimes, they don’t even know that they’re hurting someone’s feelings. A lot of times bullies are insecure and have been bullied themselves.

SV: When Mr. Smalley asked us if they had ever been bullied before, almost the whole school raised their hands. However, when he asked us if we were the bullies, almost no hands were up. What do you have to say to that?

Ms. Gunsteen: A lot of people don’t want to admit that they are bullies. A few people did admit and I really appreciate them doing so. It was very brave of them. But there are way more bullies than that in our school.

SV: Oh yeah, definitely.

Ms. Gunsteen: But I still think the assembly went great. When we sent out our survey, a lot of people responded and said that they wanted to have a talk with one of us, and I think it was important that they did that because we got to know what had been bothering them.

It was wonderful meeting with Ms. Gunsteen! Like she said, “We are here for you and you are not alone!”

Dooley School receives JCCC Japanese Language Education Grant

Dooley School staff with a JCCC Foundation representativeThe Japanese Dual Language program at Dooley Elementary School recently received a $3,000 Japanese Language Education Grant from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC) Foundation.

The JCCC Foundation honored District 54 representatives and presented the grants during its annual JCCC Foundation Grant ceremony this month in Chicago. The grant will be used to purchase materials to enhance the Japanese Dual Language program at Dooley School.

The JCCC Foundation’s Japanese Language Education Grant supports schools and nonprofit organizations in the Chicago area that provide Japanese language and culture education to students.

Click here to visit our Language and Culture page for more information about Dual Language and Immersion programs in District 54.

Board Brief from the Board Meeting of Nov. 1, 2018

Discussion – Social-Emotional Learning Update:
This fall District 54 implemented a new social-emotional learning curriculum in early childhood through eighth-grade classes designed by a District 54 task force. The weekly units include lessons on fairness, honesty, relationships, school culture and more. The task force also created home-school connections, communications sent by the principals so families can continue discussing the topics at home. The SEL Task Force will reconvene in February to reflect on and refine the new curriculum.

The District 54 Student Ambassadors also began meeting this fall. These student groups, from the junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie middle level, attended a full-day leadership training and are now taking the lead on facilitating assemblies and providing a student voice at their schools.

Discussion – Innovate 54 Update:
District 54 hosted its second Innovate 54 sessions on Oct. 23 and 24 to discuss best practices in the use of instructional technology as a tool to accelerate student learning. Participants also were able to test Zspace augmented reality devices, virtual reality devices, interactive touch monitors and iPads.

In the afternoon, school teams examined the concept of “future ready” learning environments to encourage creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. Two classrooms at each school will be configured with “future ready” furniture over winter break, providing us the opportunity to discuss how this furniture works to support our instructional goals.

The District 54 administrative team participated in a STEM Leadership session this month, facilitated by Discovery Education, to learn more about the importance of STEM-based education and how to best support teachers with integrating it into instruction. All Innovate 54 members will also received STEM Leader Corps training.

Discussion – State and District Assessment Results:
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) mandates school districts to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) to students in grades 3 to 8 to evaluate student proficiency in English/language arts and math. ISBE has determined that students scoring a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale have demonstrated proficiency. The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) is an alternative assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities. In 2018, District 54 had 65 percent of students meet proficiency targets in English/language arts and 57 percent meet targets in math (compared to 37 percent and 32 percent respectively for the state of Illinois).

ACCESS is an English language proficiency assessment administered to English-learner students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2018, 676 students exited the District 54 bilingual program based on their scores on the ACCESS test.

The Illinois State Report Cards were released on Oct. 31 with new indicators of success. Schools are no longer judged simply on proficiency scores, but also on academic growth, progress of English learners, chronic absenteeism and the percentage of students participating in a climate survey. Based on these indicators, schools are designated as exemplary, commendable, underperforming and lowest-performing. Schools in the two lowest designations will complete a Work Plan for School Improvement and receive support through IL-EMPOWER.

ISBE has selected a new vendor to provide the literacy and math assessments in 2019. The new assessment would be similar to the PARCC assessment in terms of rigor and alignment to Illinois Learning Standards. However, the goal is for the new assessment to be computer-adaptive by the year 2021.

Public Comment:
A Schaumburg resident thanked his former teachers and principal, and also thanked current District 54 employees who have supported his daughter at Collins and Frost.

Consent Agenda:  The School Board approved the following items on the Consent Agenda.

  • The minutes of the regular board meeting on Thursday, October 18, 2018
  • Resignations, leaves and employment of personnel
  • Checks dated October 26, 2018
  • The Blue Cross Blue Shield self-funded HMO & PPO Medical Insurance Rates for the calendar year 2019
  • The Delta Dental and Vision Service Program insurance rates for the calendar year 2019
  • Workplace Solutions as the provider for the District’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • A resolution electing exemption from certain provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
  • Awarding a contract for window replacement at Enders-Salk Elementary School during the summer of 2019
  • The proclamation in recognition of American Education Week 2018 and International Education Week 2018, both being celebrated November 12-16, 2018

New Business: 

  • The Board had the first reading of revisions to Policy 2:150 – Board Committees, Revised.

Announcements:

  • The Board thanked Goebbert’s Pumpkin Farm for donating more than 500 pumpkins to Lakeview Elementary School.
  • School Board members were excited to participate in JumpStart’s Read for the Record by reading to Early Learning Center and kindergarten students.
  • Board Member Ken Van Dyke earned his first level Master Board Member status and members Barb Hengels, Charlotte Kegarise and Mary Kay Prusnick maintained their Master Board Member status.

Adjournment:
The Board adjourned at 8:13 p.m. to closed session for appointment/employment matters.

Student Ambassadors will lead to make a difference

“We want to make people’s impossibles into I’m Possibles,” a District 54 student said.

“It’s about making sure everyone knows that teachers and other students care,” another student responded.

A third student shared that they want to have a voice. This is the main reason for the creation of the new District 54 Student Ambassador program.

District 54’s Professional Learning Center was abuzz with animated conversation one day this fall as students discussed a question posed to them by District 54 Instructional Coach Ming Shelby.

Three Student Ambassadors talk

Three Keller Student Ambassadors work together.

The question: What should the district’s new Student Ambassador program look like?

The answers came from the Student Ambassadors themselves, students from all District 54 junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie School who were gathered for a full-day training to kick off the program.

“As part of our commitment to supporting whole child academic and social-emotional success, we are focusing on better addressing the needs of our adolescent students,” Superintendent Andy DuRoss said. “Research tells us that the best path to minimizing bullying and motivating adolescents is teaching and empowering the students to lead this work.”

This year our junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie middle level students will have six area of focus, which will be supported with guest speakers, assemblies and student-led initiatives. These are

  • Be Your Best Self in September,
  • Bully Prevention Month in October,
  • Kindness in November/December,
  • Digital Citizenship in January/February,
  • Happiness Month in March and
  • Change for the Betterment of Mankind – Celebrating Service in April/May.
Addams Student Ambassadors

Addams Student Ambassadors brainstorm ideas.

The Student Ambassadors will be leading and championing this work. Their current focus is planning activities around kindness for November and December.

In January all of the Student Ambassadors will meet again to report on the work they have done.

Learning to lead

Principals selected Student Ambassadors for their school who possess leadership qualities and are influential among their peers, and the first workshop was structured to empower the Student Ambassadors to use their voices to lead.

“We know our adolescent students have unique needs when it comes to social-emotional learning,” said Dr. Erin Knoll, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “They are so connected to each other that they sometimes influence each other more than adults do, so we asked ourselves how do we make their message powerful? How do we build student leaders?”

The students were eager to collaborate on their vision for the Student Ambassador program during the training, which became the basis for the group’s mission statement:

I promise that I will faithfully execute the position of Student Ambassador and be a positive leader who gives my personal best and works with others to help and support everyone. I promise to be open to new ideas, be accepting of others, and stay true to myself and my school in order to provide service to all.

“They had some great ideas for how they wanted the program to look,” Shelby said. “How do we make a great school greater? How do you make everyone feel safe, that they belong, and that they’re supported? This is the core of our social-emotional learning curriculum.”

Mead Student Ambassadors discuss the program.

Mead Student Ambassadors discuss the program.

The students reflected on their personal characteristics, ranking on a scale from 1 to 10 where they are in various areas related to communication and relationships and personal and social emotional skills. The areas include friendliness/openness with others, looking for the good in people and situations, collaborating with others, and personal integrity/honesty. The goal is for students to grow in these areas throughout the year as they focus on being positive role models for their peers.

“We learned how to become leaders in our class more than we already are,” said Shiven, a Lincoln Prairie Student Ambassador.

“The training showed there is always a positive side to everything, and that many of us are similar in many ways – it was about expanding our learning for ourselves and our community,” Patty, another Lincoln Prairie Student Ambassador, said.

One powerful exercise during the training demonstrated how fear keeps people in comfort zones instead of “learning zones.” Shelby donned a paper tunic with the word FIMAGE – fear of image – written on it and tore pieces off to illustrate what happens to our fear when we take the leap and join a new club, ask a question in class, or do something else that we are afraid might affect how people see us. Shelby carefully folded the small piece of paper that remained, and students gasped in surprise as she held it up to reveal a heart with the word ME in the center.

Lincoln Prairie Student Ambassadors at the training

Lincoln Prairie Student Ambassadors talk at their table during the training.

Other activities at the training included a review of key character qualities including integrity, commitment and ownership, as well as a school culture survey. Students reflected on the current culture of their school, what the ideal culture of their school would be and how they could welcome all voices to best represent their school.

“I’m excited to be a person who can help students improve themselves, but also improve as a community, and I’m excited to help lead that out,” said Isabella, a Lincoln Prairie Student Ambassador.

Nyla, an Eisenhower Student Ambassador, said she is looking forward to helping make decisions that will impact her peers.

Frost Student Ambassadors

The Frost Student Ambassadors work together during the training.

“We know what our peers are thinking, so we can collaborate and make things better for them,” she said. “As one we might be small, but being a part of this made me feel we can make a difference and we each have a voice.”

Students said they enjoyed getting together with their junior high peers from around District 54 to collaborate rather than compete. They also said they appreciated the opportunity to hear what is happening at other schools.

Coming together

The Student Ambassadors, school leadership and Student Ambassador facilitators at each school meet monthly to determine what their group wants to accomplish at their school and how to carry forward what they learned at their training.

Eisenhower Student Ambassadors during training

The Eisenhower Student Ambassadors get to work at the training.

“I’m excited to get involved in the school environment around me, and to know that my opinion matters — that I have a voice and my voice matters,” said Rylee, a Student Ambassador at Eisenhower Junior High. “I can help other students with my voice.”

For example, at their October meeting, Eisenhower Student Ambassadors discussed ways to spread kindness and happiness at their school. They decided to wear blue, the color that represents bullying prevention, to the school’s Stand for the Silent anti-bullying assembly (each school held an assembly with Kirk Smalley and Stand for the Silent in October). The Eisenhower Student Ambassadors also created a bulletin board to promote anti-bullying and came up with an anti-bullying song, changing the lyrics to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

Because you know I’m all about that kindness, ‘bout that kindness, no bullies. I’m all about that kindness ‘bout that kindness no bullies, no bullies.

Yeah it’s pretty clear bullies ain’t cool but I can show ya, show ya, what you’re supposed to do, ‘cause I got that happiness all the teachers like and all the right niceness in all the right places.

Eisenhower Principal Heather Wilson said she is always looking for student perspectives, and the Student Ambassador program is an excellent way to facilitate that.

“We want our kids to know we are listening, and that their voices matter,” Wilson said. “These students are connected to so many Eisenhower groups, and they will lead out this culture of caring and compassion within our school.”

Click here to watch a video spotlighting the new Student Ambassador program in District 54!

Schaumburg Parent University to present Mindful Meditation

As part of our ongoing focus on student wellness, we invite parents and their children to join us in learning how to use the power of something super simple – your breath – to improve concentration, reduce stress, improve quality of sleep and help you handle your response (both emotional and physical) to outside circumstances and situations. Spending as little as 2-5 minutes meditating each day provides you with clarity and peace of mind to handle whatever your day has planned for you. Guiding children to harness their inner strength to reset themselves through just a few breaths gives them a tool to call on anytime they encounter a situation that causes stress. Please bring your own yoga mat or a towel to sit on during meditation. This event will take place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on November 14 at the District 54 Professional Learning Center, 522 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg.

Register by contacting Meg Kwak at 847-357-6586 or spu@nullsd54.org. Please leave your name, contact information, number of participants, number of children needing childcare (free) and your child’s school.

District 54 seeks community members for Budget Review Committee

School District 54 is looking for community members who would be interested in serving on the Budget Review Committee. The committee will begin meeting in January 2019, so that the administration can present a tentative budget to the School Board before the 2019-20 school year begins.

The Budget Review Committee, consisting of board members, staff and community members, meets for the purpose of obtaining input on the acquisition and allocation of resources.

Member Responsibilities

  • Attend meetings on January 17 and May 2, 2019 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Participate in discussions on school finance.

Click here to obtain an application for the Budget Review Committee or more information. If you have the need to speak to someone, please contact Ric King, assistant superintendent of business operations, at (847) 357-5039 or RicKing@nullsd54.org.

Applications are due to the Rafferty Administration Center, 524 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg, IL 60194, by December 14, 2018.

Junior Journalist Update from Lincoln Prairie – By Sophia S.

For their first article of the school year, we asked our Junior Journalists to submit a personal reflection on what 54 Promise means to them.

“A promise must never be broken” is a quote credited to Alexander Hamilton. District 54 has promised to commit to Ensuring Student Success, and has done everything in its power to keep this promise. However, I believe that the rest is up to the students.

The meaning of this promise, to me, is that I am given all the materials and opportunities to improve myself as a student and a person. The teachers here at Lincoln Prairie help me to achieve my academic goals. The staff creates a welcoming, safe environment, where students can be themselves and establish connections with their peers. However, there is more to actually being successful as a student than simply using what is provided. All of these things are great on their own, but if we begin to rely solely on what has been offered to us rather than using it to take responsibility for our own learning, then our success may not be guaranteed.  Students must be willing to put in the time and effort needed to thrive in the school environment.

There are many resources at our disposal to use in order to flourish in the classroom.  These vary from study sessions with teachers, to getting that extra 20 minutes to work in class. Personally, I feel like the Lincoln Prairie staff is really considerate about our schedules outside of school, and provide us with the extra time when we need to complete assignments. Many middle level students participate in after-school activities. Whether it be for a sport or an instrument, sometimes you aren’t able to get work done at home without losing precious hours of sleep. In those moments, having those 20 minutes during study hall or the rest of class to finish an assignment is super helpful. Doing homework isn’t the only use of study hall, though. The teachers also spend this time offering their assistance to any student that needs it. If you don’t understand a  question on the math homework, or need some help understanding what you need to write for an upcoming report, this is the perfect time to ask for guidance. Many teachers also offer before-school sessions for young scholars to ask questions. I have attended one of these meetings in order to study for a math test. I received a lot of help on topics that I didn’t fully grasp yet, and I felt much more prepared for the exam.

Another fantastic tool given to us is Gmail (no need to send me a royalty check Google, this one’s on me). With this app, we are able to communicate with both our teachers and peers. This app presents alternative opportunities, such as allowing students the chance to talk with their classmates who don’t own phones and ask for help on schoolwork. Teachers are also available to answer homework questions during after-school or before-school hours. Students are held more accountable for their learning, and gain responsibility in doing so. On the topic of Google Apps, Google Classroom is another incredible resource at our disposal. All of my teachers post upcoming assignments that are due and extra resources to help us complete them. These posts are really beneficial because they make it easier for students to complete their work well and on time.

To switch gears from the academic opportunities, there are also many wonderful sports offered at Lincoln Prairie. These can be really beneficial to students because they allow us to meet new people and be a part of a team: something bigger than ourselves. When we are able to set aside our differences and work together as a group , we grow as people. Communication is an ability that is improved with competitive sports. In order to be an active team member, you have to communicate and relate to your coaches and teammates. Learning to engage with people is an important tool used in everyday life, and achieving this standard assists in the success of a student.

Another important point of discussion is the support of the staff. The teachers often say  that they have high expectations for me and all my fellow students. It isn’t a bad thing, I promise! When I say that, I basically mean that they believe in us and know that we can do better. By offering constructive criticism and pushing us, teachers help students reach their full academic potential. Lincoln Prairie teachers really have students’ interests at heart and know how to help us better understand lessons and topics we learn in class. It’s these relationships that we have with our teachers that help them understand what kind of learners we are individually. Opportunities to share ideas in a supportive and safe environment help to challenge me and help me grow intellectually. The same goes for all of my other classmates.

All these reasons are proof that the staff at Lincoln Prairie do everything in their power to ensure our success as students, teammates and just people in general. With the support of our teachers and each other, we are able to become better versions of ourselves. To become citizens that can contribute positively to our environments. To become healthy, successful young adults.

Superintendent’s Message: Innovate 54 teams prepare kids for the future

Innovation, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is quite simply “the introduction of something new.”

However, when we talk about innovation in School District 54, we are talking about so much more.

In our ongoing efforts in District 54 to ensure student success, one of the areas we are focused on in our 54 Promise Strategic Plan is “Cultivating Innovation in Learning Space and Instructional Design.”

But what does this mean? It means that we are trying new strategies. However, we are not abandoning practices that have been successful. For example, we will still have staff working in professional learning communities to plan lessons and collaborate to best serve each student. We will continue to have acceleration time because we know that’s what is best for our students.

It is essential that students master the foundational skills taught to them in core subjects, such as math and literacy. However, it is not enough. There are areas for growth, given that we are preparing children today for future success in jobs that don’t yet exist.

District 54 is committed to looking toward that future. We invited teams of teachers – Innovate 54 teams – from each school to begin the process of redefining our schools.  Core components of that redesign include learning partnerships, deep learning tasks and technology as an accelerator.

Learning partnerships address the relationships between students and staff. In a partnership, a teacher isn’t standing in the front of the room lecturing students. Instead, teachers become facilitators and guides as students complete learning tasks.

With deep learning tasks student learning goals focus on both the content of the curriculum as well as the students’ interests and aspirations. Instead of just consuming information from the teacher, students will be creating, growing and seeking new knowledge. Through project-based learning they will explore real-world challenges and create projects that address solutions to those problems. The skills they will learn through that active exploration include communication, collaboration, creativity, critical-thinking and problem-solving – skills that will be valuable no matter what their future holds.

When we talk about innovation, many people immediately think about technology. However, it has long been our stance in District 54 to implement technology only when it serves as the right tool to advance learning. Used correctly, technology allows for individualized learning and promotes creativity with user-friendly tools for video, music, visual arts, and so much more.

What will the future of education look like in District 54? I can’t tell you exactly.

What I can promise you today is that we will not make changes for the sake of change. We will not abandon strategies that have served our students well.

We will continue to focus on ensuring the academic success and social-emotional well-being of the 15,000 students in our care and the future students of District 54.

Our Innovate 54 teams will reconvene at the end of October to continue exploring what are the right changes we need to make to prepare our students for the future. It is an exciting time to work in District 54.

District 54 will help to break world record for reading

On Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, School District 54 will once again join Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, a national campaign designed to break the world record for the largest shared reading experience ever, while also working to break the cycle of illiteracy.

With the opening of the District 54 Early Learning Center in the fall of 2014 and the implementation of full-day kindergarten for all students in 2016, the district has put a profound focus on ensuring students are provided a strong educational foundation from their first experiences in school.

This year, all early childhood and kindergarten classes across District 54 will participate by having their teachers or other guests read the children’s book Maybe Something Beautiful by authors F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.

“We know that literacy proficiency is crucial to achieving our mission of ensuring student success,” Superintendent Andy DuRoss said. “We are pleased to partner with Jumpstart to emphasize the importance of early literacy.”

District 54 thanks the school board members, mayors and Schaumburg Township District library representatives who are visiting our schools to read the book to students.

The 2018 campaign is designed to encourage young people, their families and educators to read. The day’s activities are designed to generate public awareness about the importance of early literacy for long-term academic achievement.