Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year

It is my pleasure to welcome parents and students to the 2016-2017 school year! I have lived in District 30 for over a decade, and—as a former District 30 parent myself—I consider it a privilege to serve this district and our communities. We have an invested Board of Education, talented administrators and staff, and outstanding students.

District 30 exists to create a community that craves learning, fosters resiliency, and cares deeply for every child. These formative years through District 30 position our children on a path to success. It is evident to me that our talented staff and our supportive parents collectively honor childhood while fostering intellectual, physical, and social-emotional growth for each child. These reflections come from District 30’s Echo, which was created to capture our essence as we updated District 30’s strategic plan last year.

When it comes to learning, nothing eclipses our focus on student-centered learning. I applaud our Board of Education for collaboratively creating strategic objectives and two powerful goals that focus on the areas we believe are most important right now, student-centered instruction and facilities that support our educational practices and emerging programs.

  • Our instructional goal will target job-embedded staff development fostering strong instructional practices, alignment work to the Next Generation Science Standards, and provide continued emphasis on instructional strategies in reading and writing.
  • Our facility goal will engage stakeholders to create a Master Facilities Plan that will carry District 30 into the future. We will collectively identify and prioritize building needs that will include supporting projected enrollments, providing flexible areas that allow for meaningful collaboration, and expanding our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational programming. Although Maple’s 1950 building offers the greatest urgency, we will also be considering long-term needs at Wescott and Willowbrook.

The 2016-2017 school year promises to be an incredible year! On behalf of the entire District 30 Board of Education and staff, I extend a warm welcome to all within our District 30 Family.  We are committed to providing the best possible educational experience for all students attending Maple, Wescott, and Willowbrook Schools. I invite each of you to remain connected and involved in your child’s education and to follow my Superintendent’s Blog. Together we will see our children achieve, succeed, and grow!

 

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The District 30 Echo

The District 30 Echo was created this year to capture the essence of District 30 and to drive strategic decision making as we move forward; we want these attributes to echo through and across our district. Enjoy our echo below, which is followed by a brief summary of the process we used this year to renew our strategic plan.

The District 30 Echo

District 30 exists to create a community that craves learning, fosters resiliency, and cares deeply for every child.

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We honor childhood and foster intellectual, physical, and social-emotional growth.

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We value:

  • Lifelong learning
  • Relationships and collegiality
  • Child-centric practices

We will succeed by:

  • Employing strong financial planning
  • Ensuring the highest quality staff through induction and development
  • Implementing rigorous and coherent academic programs

 

Strategic Plan Renewal

The District 30 Pillars have anchored District 30’s strategic planning efforts for several years. 

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Our leadership team’s work renewing our strategic plan began by carefully updating these pillars by adding specific objectives for each, revising our strategic elements and adding performance indicators to each. This work illuminated the fact that our district was not in need of a shift in our strategic direction but instead, could benefit from increased clarity and focus.

To that end, we created the District 30 Echo. I began the year by hosting over 140 meetings with District 30 stakeholders. As our leadership team renewed our strategic plan, we intentionally incorporated the input from the summer meetings and integrated powerful ideas from our School Improvement Teams at Wescott and Willowbrook, the Leadership Team at Maple, and our Board of Education. I have quickly grown to respect our board, administrative team, our staff, our parents and our students. From every angle, District 30 is special, and we believe our Echo captures factors that differentiate our school district.

I am thankful for all of the support and care I have received during my first year as the superintendent of District 30, and I look forward to the year ahead.

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Growth Mindset & Grit

As a parent and educator, I constantly reflect on the challenges and joys of parenting. My children are nearly 26 and 23. As my wife Kathy and I have watched our children grow through the different phases of life, we have become conscious of the different roles through which we have transitioned as parents. When our children were babies and toddlers, they relied on us for virtually everything. A three-hour trip required the planning and packing of a three day excursion today. In the primary years we oversaw our children’s growth, friends, and life. We were on call at all hours. When our children then hit middle school our children continued to develop independence as we took on the role of managers, helping schedule their life and act as their chauffeur. We continue to manage through gradual release through their high school years as they developed the skills and independence to transition to college. For us, college flew by and we are now in the envious role of being consultants for our young adults.

As I reflect on our own children’s growth from children to adults, we had many goals as parents. We loved them and cared for them throughout their youth, and we kept them safe with clear boundaries through their middle school and high school years. We made sure they received outstanding educations in our wonderful school systems, and we sought a lot of advice along the way. Of all of our charges as parents, one of the most important was their development of their own growth mindset and agency. Both are interrelated and needed for success in our rapidly changing, competitive world.

The related term permeating the literature today is grit. In her Ted Talk, Angela Lee Duckworth defined grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” In her talk, she asked the question, “How do we build grit in our kids?” Angela summarized that her research has illuminated the importance of grit in success. It overshadows talent, looks, family income, and many other studied factors. Although we continue to collectively learn how to build grit in our kids, one factor Angela identified is one in which I have deep belief. It is the concept of building a growth mindset, a term coined by Stanford’s Carol Dwek. In fact, I would recommend that every educator and parent read Dr. Dwek’s book, Mindset. Dr. Dwek’s research provides us with insights into ways we can collectively build growth mindsets; she shares actions we can take to help children internalize the concept that our ability to learn and succeed are not fixed, but instead connected to our effort.

District 30 continues to benefit from our own growth mindset. One powerful example includes the job-embedded professional development being deepened through our Lab Classroom model. Seventeen teachers participated last week in our first official round of lab classroom visits. Our consultant, Ellin Keene, also worked with our lead teachers at Willowbrook on Thursday, and at Wescott today. I was excited to be able to join in this important work for one of the days. After Ellin and one of our talented lead teachers coplanned a lesson, discussed the components of the lesson with a focus on literacy developing strategies along with the big-picture reasons for each.

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It was fascinating to see very talented teachers deepen their understanding of these important strategies along with their ability to clearly share reasons for each with their students. We also had a wonderful discussion contrasting when to provide direct support to students and when and how to allow students to develop agency. This is a great example of the power of job-embedded professional development, and it continues the very important conversation around how do we build grit in our students.

This is indeed an important conversation worth continuing across District 30 within our classrooms and homes. An article in Forbes Magazine article from 2013 entitled 5 Characteristics of Grit – How Many Do You Have?, Margarete Perlis summarizes that grit’s five characteristics include:

  1. Courage
  2. Conscientiousness: Achievement Oriented vs. Dependable
  3. Long-Term Goals and Endurance: Follow Through
  4. Resilience: Optimism, Confidence, and Creativity
  5. Excellence vs. Perfection

As educators and parents, we can intentionally build these characteristics. As importantly, we should be aware of our well-intended actions that may be getting in the way. These important characteristics are certainly developed by accepting challenges (sports, challenging tasks, etc.) at which our children do not immediately succeed. We can help create the understanding of the difference between not succeeding and failure. Often, the things worth doing don’t come easily; they require sustained effort.

How do we learn to persevere? It is by persevering through loss, defeat, challenges, etc. At times, the best thing we can do is encourage sustained effort by our children instead of stepping in to solve problems, which robs them of the opportunity to grow and unintentionally sends the message that we don’t think they can succeed without us.

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Optimistic Because of the District 30 Family

I value our strong partnerships, the capabilities of our staff, the commitment of our Board of Education and Leadership Team, and I absolutely adore our wonderful students. This year is my twenty-seventh in the amazing field of education. I have loved every step of my journey, and joining District 30 continues to exceed my expectations at every turn. Investment, kindness and care with a clear focus on what is best for our kids permeates this district.

Today’s District 30 Sing exemplified our collective commitment to our culture as we came together as one family. Our students were respectful, and they shared their talents in a packed Maple Gym. It was truly amazing!

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As we reflect on 2015, including some of the recent world events, I hope you remain filled with incredible optimism for the future. I can’t help but reflect on President John F. Kennedy’s quote:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

Simply put, the strong education we partner to provide matters. Our clear belief across District 30 in actively engaging students in their learning as we intentionally develop character and perseverance is obvious and inspiring.

I have quickly felt connected with the District 30 Family, and absolutely know that I am lucky to serve you as your superintendent. On behalf of our Administrative Team and our Board of Education, thank you for your support of, involvement in, and partnership with District 30. We wish you and our students a relaxing and rejuvenating break that includes meaningful memories with those you love.

I look forward to an outstanding 2016 with District 30!

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Skills & Investment

Make no mistake, the primary and middle school years arm our students with skills and habits of mind that place them on a trajectory that will carry them through high school, college and into a career. This is exactly why we work to fulfill the educational needs of all children while recognizing the individuality of each child.

The reality is that today, the skills and habits of mind needed include the hard skills like reading, writing, mathematics, problem solving, and critical thinking. They also include agility in learning as applied to rapidly evolving tools like technology, and the skills of collaboration, communication, and creativity.

I had the pleasure of visiting classes at Willowbrook on Wednesday, October 28th. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing reading and writing workshop in action in first, third, and fifth grade. I also participated in our kindergarten specials that integrate music learning with movement in amazing ways.

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These powerful collaboration efforts were also evident in the evening’s Fifth Grade Musical led by music teacher Mr. Barker, physical education teacher Mr. Goss, and art teacher Ms. Sendaydiego. This entire production was put together by our students. What a wonderful example of our students applying and developing their creativity! I applaud the efforts and accomplishments of our staff and students.

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The closer one gets to the learning occurring across our district, the clearer it is that we are on the right track. It is what our kids do that matters, guided by skilled adults who are clear on their objectives. Our students are being asked to read and write about fiction and non-fiction, are being challenged to explain their thinking, and to creatively utilize technology. I continue to be inspired to see the learning progression across our grades, to see firsthand the skills being developed, and the thinking being realized. At every turn, our students amaze me!

Collaboration, communication, and creativity were also alive and well in the many Halloween activities across our district on Friday, October 30th. We held parades, haunted houses, and the Monster Mash at Wescott.

 

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Older students helped younger students with games at Wescott; Maple students designed and ran an amazing haunted house; and the parades and classroom parties held by our staff and parents were engaging. Our children benefit from the comprehensive educational experience in District 30 that is accomplished through a strong partnership between our talented educators and our invested parents.

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Passion and Improvement

On Friday, October 23, 2015 Wescott and Willowbrook welcomed visiting author Pam Muñoz Ryan, who recently released her new book Echo. She shared her journey of becoming an author, highlighted how she spends her days as an author, and reflected on inspirations for many of her books.

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As she reviewed the six years she spent working on her latest book, she projected a heavily marked up page from her editor and pointed out, “I am not a writer. I am a rewriter.” What a wonderful lesson for our kids and for us.

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As she reflected on her own learning, she told our students, “I wish I could go back to school today. Education has improved so much, as kids today get the chance to authentically write, journal, and hear visiting authors.”

Listening to her wisdom, I couldn’t help but walk away with two messages about passion and improvement.

Find Our Passion:

In her journey, she found her passion, which motivated her through the challenges presented by six years of work for one book.

Consider, author Greg McKeown’s three key questions for a successful life in his book essentialism:

  1. What deeply inspires me?
  2. What are my talents?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

Pam Muñoz Ryan was a wonderful example of someone who has answered these questions well. What answers will our kids define as they progress through their educations and lives?

Attaining Excellence Requires Revision and Improvement:

Excellence in anything, like clear and rich writing, requires revision and improvement. I attended elementary, middle and high school in the seventies and eighties. The focus was rote memorization, skill development that included writing for the teacher only, and listening passively. In my twenty-seven years in education, I absolutely agree with Pam Muñoz Ryan that education has improved. Today’s students are given the opportunity to be active learners, who are asked to understand, explain and connect.

Education today must address the seven survival skills defined by acclaimed author and Harvard Education Fellow Tony Wagner:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

These were highlighted by Mr. Andy Kohl, our Director of Educational Technology at our Board Meeting on Thursday, October 22, 2015. Mr. Kohl reminded us all that these are not skills that we can begin developing in a student’s junior year in college. These are skills that are essential in every phase of education.

Thursday’s District 30 Board Meeting also included several other examples of our district’s continuous efforts to improve:

  • Hirsch shared the results of our Teacher Assistant Task Force, which codified protocols and training for individuals in these valuable aide positions
  • Robyn Kogan advocated for the addition of a Civic Action Project for 6th graders that provides a service learning opportunity
  • Our Social Emotional Committee & Guided Studies Team shared the changes that have resulted from their summer curriculum projects that improve these already effective programs
  • Our administrative team reviewed our significant first-quarter progress on this year’s Board Goals

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District 30 embraces the concept of continuous improvement. Our collective efforts strengthen our ability to fulfill the educational needs of all children while recognizing the individuality of each child. In addition, our focus on the intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth of ALL students arms them with skills they need to thrive in today’s world as they explore and ultimately define their won passions.

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Parenting Toward Independence

We are partners in raising our children to be quality, independent adults. Since I began teaching in Glenview in the mid-1990s, I have been amazed at the quality of our students. Of course, this is no accident. A favorite saying of mine is that in our communities, parent is a verb.

Character Counts! Week

Our ongoing focus on the whole child through efforts like Character Counts! certainly influences our kids. At District 30’s October 15th Board Meeting, our Board again unanimously approved a proclamation in support of Character Counts! Week, which will be from Monday, October 19th through Friday, October 23rd. I applaud the focus on the Character Counts! Pillars:

Pillars

Character Counts! Week focuses on these pillars and includes Canned Food Drives at each school. Our efforts combine with District 34 and OLPH to create the single largest donation to the Northfield Food Pantry, which serves over 700 families in need from within our communities.

Ongoing Growth as Parents

This week also included author Julie Lythcott Haims sharing insights from her book How to Raise an Adult at Glenbrook North High School last Wednesday, October 14th. Ms. Haims’ presentation through the Family Action Network was outstanding and worth watching.

Her core message for parenting. She emphasized, “Our job is to build confidence, competence, and ultimately independence.” Ms. Haims shared a compelling argument that our parenting responsibility is inhibited by our well-meaning over-involved parenting. She used the example of teaching our children to walk across the street to highlight the need for us to teach life skills by:

  • Doing it for them
  • Doing it with them
  • Watching them do it
  • Let them do it on their own

She shared that childhood is supposed to be opportunity after opportunity for our kids to gain more and more skills toward building independence. A time to take chances, fail, and learn to do and think for themselves. She believes that over-involved parenting stunts our children’s growth. They depend on their parents to do the planning, implementing, figuring out, problem solving, handling, etc. They cope, but depend on parents.

Ironically, she shared compelling evidence that over parenting deprives kids of life skills and leads to higher rates of anxiety and depression. In essence, we deprive them of the ability to form self-efficacy, and the understanding that one’s own actions, lead to outcomes.

We certainly don’t begin our parenting journey by giving our sons and daughters independence. They need our guidance and parameters in place as they learn the skills needed to be successful adults. However, I completely agree with Ms. Haims, “Our job is to put ourselves out of a job and raise our offspring to be able to do for themselves, and think for themselves, and feel for themselves.” As we partner in parenting, we collectively need to arm our kids with the confidence that comes from learning from their failures, overcoming challenges and achieving independence.

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Loving District 30’s Family

The District 30 Family was one of the top themes that emerged from over 130 meetings that I had with staff and members of our PTOs. I was lucky to attend several events this week that illuminated the caring hearts and joy across District 30; we truly are a family!

On Tuesday, our Student Council Induction Ceremony at Maple School for officers and representatives included officer reflections on each of the Character Counts! pillars.

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In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in The Wescott Walk (Facebook Link), which raised over $10,000! It was a great day as our students donated shoes and walked all day long! Our parent volunteers continued to demonstrate amazing commitment, and our students learned another valuable lesson about service.

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At Friday’s Wescott  Assembly, a packed gym of excited, and well-behaved students:

  • Celebrated raising over $10,000 at their walk
  • Reflected on gathering a record-setting number of shoes for children in Africa,
  • Recognized Brad Walters, of Advanced Disposal who Ms. Latek has noticed helping her aging neighbor by kindly returning their garbage can,
  • Expelled the Cub’s curses, and
  • Ended with the Wescott Song!

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Along those lines, the Willowbrook Front Office provided great karma to the Cubs as they lead the entire school in Go Cubs Go to kick off the school day. They used the opportunity to gather donations for the Lew Blond run from staff who chose to wear blue jeans with their Cubs attire for the day!

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Parent-teacher conferences also connect us in important ways. This significant investment of time by our teachers and parents provides valuable information to our parents as our teachers gain important insights into all of the students in our care. As I visited each school during conferences, I encountered parents and teachers who echoed these sentiments.

I was particularly inspired by the reflections of one parent. During a conversation, she shared with me, “My child is not just surviving these years. She is thriving!” She reflected on the growth she sees daily in her daughter along with the sincere care she feels each and every day at school. And there it is in a nutshell. As we focus on each child in our care, our collective efforts are to help each child thrive. The Family Action Network (FAN) will host a meeting at GBN on Wednesday, October 14th at which author Julie Lythcott-Haims will reflect on her book How to Raise an Adult. I am certain that this will be the topic for next week’s Blog Post. Please attend if you can, and stay tuned.

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Growth Mindset Across District 30

Our Growth Mindset remains a staple of District 30. This is true for our students, staff and parents.  The last week in October contains an opportunity for our parents and community from which we can all benefit entitled Raising Digital Natives, which will be put on by Devorah Heitner. This important program on Monday, October 26th and Tuesday, October 27th will provide our parents and our educators with insights on equipping their children with tools to successfully leverage the power of technology while maintaining healthy habits.

This week included several examples of growth worthy of our reflection.

Student Growth Through Courage

On Tuesday, September 29th I was honored to attend Maple’s Student Council Speech Assembly. Our sponsors, Ms. Lynn Reimer and Ms. Betsy Johnson did a wonderful job organizing the assembly. From the posting of the flag through the end of the speeches, our student body was respectful and attentive.

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I was especially proud of our students who had the courage to stand before their peers and deliver their speeches with composure and character. Each speech was unique, interesting and well done! More Student Council Speech pictures are available on our Facebook Page.

Faculty Growth Systems Through The Learning Lab & Professional Development

Our profession, like many others, has learned that sustained system-wide growth requires job-embedded opportunities for coaching and support. To that end, four of our faculty members worked with a gifted educational consultant, Ellin Keen, this week. Participating teachers included Ms. Heidi Fletcher and Ms. Jody Madden from Willowbrook, and Ms. Ashley Grosshuesch and Ms. Samantha Lipkin from Wescott.

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Their collaborative work centered around creating a leaning lab, designed to generate a platform for collaborative exploration and learning. It is a valuable component in the arsenal that creates an embedded system for continuous professional growth.

Furthering our continuous growth, district teachers spent the afternoon with Shelly Taylor in a workshop entitled Enhancing Instruction through Talented Planning. Our staff worked with their colleagues to analyze current instructional practices focusing on formative assessment, and foster student ownership for their own learning.

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One of our Student Council speeches included one of my favorite quotes by Jerry Rice, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” I was touched by the vulnerability and courage demonstrated through all three of these events, and can’t help but believe that they are examples of what makes our district special, and that they are living examples of Jerry Rice’s quote.

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Character Counts in District 30

Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 was recently listed as the best school district in Illinois (http://public-schools.startclass.com/stories/5508/best-school-districts-in-every-state#42-Illinois), in an article titled, “Best School Districts in Every State,” (http://public-schools.startclass.com/stories/5508/best-school-districts-in-every-state) by Nick Selbe withFindTheBest.com (September 8, 2015).

There are many school “ratings” out there and none comprehensively capture all of what makes great schools great. As I continue to plug into District 30, I am honestly inspired each and every time I am lucky enough to be in our schools and classrooms. Simply put, we have great students surrounded by talented and committed adults.

There are two aspects of District 30 that I believe are worth highlighting. First, our district continues to embrace the idea that it is what students do that matters. Classroom visits illuminate engaged students and actively learning that empower our students to grow socially and academically as they make connections. This is the essence of our workshop model in the K-5 curriculum and the principles reflected throughout our curriculum and instruction.

Second, we maintain a focus on the “whole child” with particular focus on the pillars of Character Counts.

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My week was filled with several examples:

  • Friends supporting each other after school at Maple;
  • Our 8th Grade Girl’s Volleyball team, which fell short of victory against Springman this week, but showed class as they shook hands and gave hugs to friends on the opposing team after the game;
  • Our Wescott Greeting Lines that welcome students and positively kick off each school day; and
  • Our Willowbrook Friday Flag Raising Ceremony, which included several Character Awards: Ms. Weingarten’s 5th grade class all of whom have literally provided a “helping arm” through the week to help their teacher, along with Mia and Kyle who were recognized for their positive actions during the week.

As we head into the end of September, I am thankful for another inspiring week. Thank you District 30!

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