School Improvement Plan

I presented this year’s school improvement plan at our PTO’s “Second Cup of Coffee” meeting this morning.  Thank you to the parents in attendance.  I appreciate their thoughtful questions and the subsequent discussion.  We have a supportive and talented parent community!  The home-school partnership is a critical factor in the success of our students.

Willowbrook 2017-18 School Improvement Plan Goals

  1. Grow our literacy studio to provide differentiated instruction that aligns with the Common Core State Standards.
  2. Refine math workshop model to provide differentiated instruction that aligns with the Common Core Standards.
  3. Build capacity for play-based learning experiences.
  4. At Willowbrook School, 55% or more of the students will meet their individual growth targets on the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress Assessment in reading.

Willowbrook students continue to demonstrate significant academic growth.  I believe this is largely due to our teachers’ commitment to ongoing professional learning.  We are committed to a cycle of continuous improvement.  Our teachers continually access feedback from their peers, coaches, and supervisors.

For more information, parents are welcome to visit the Illinois Report Card website.


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Operation Gratitude

We are holding our Veterans Day Assembly on Friday, November 10.  The 5th grade Spirit Committee will be leading this assembly.  They will introduce Operation Gratitude.  Students are encouraged to write thank you letters to veterans and active duty service men & woman over the next week.  The front office will collect letters and mail them to Operation Gratitude on Friday, November 17.

Operation Gratitude’s mission is to lift the spirits the military and first responder communities. This organization began in 2003 and volunteers have shipped more than 1,800,000 care packages.  Below are some commonly asked questions that our Spirit Committee will address at the assembly.

Q: How should I start my letter?
A: We suggest that you start with “Dear Hero”, “Dear Patriot”, “Dear Brave One”, “Dear Service Member”, “Dear Veteran”, or create a greeting of your own.

Q: What should my letter say, and how long should it be?
A: Two paragraphs or more would be nice. One or more paragraphs that express thanks for their service, dedication, sacrifice, hard work, and/or time away from home. And one or more paragraphs about yourself, your school, interesting stories, etc. Please do not include the date or year.

Q: Can I write letters specifically intended for Veterans?
A: Yes. Please open your letter with “Dear Veteran” and refer to their past service.

Q: Can I write letters specifically intended for New Military Recruits?
A: Yes. You can start your letter with a greeting like “Dear New Recruit,” and thank them for joining the military and for their commitment to our country.

Q: Does my letter need to be handwritten?
A: No. Typed letters are fine, but we prefer you hand sign each letter.

Q: Can I write about my family members who served in the military?
A: Yes, as long as it is a positive story, and not about sad events. We ask that your letter be uplifting and serve to put a smile on the recipient’s face!

Q: Can I use colorful construction paper for my children to write letters?
A: Yes. As long as you stay within the paper size limit of 8 ½” x 11”.

Q: Will the troops write back?
A: Possibly. But, you will need to send them your first name, grade level, and the Willowbrook School address if you would like to receive a reply.

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GaGa Ball Rules

We are grateful for the Willowbrook Parent Teacher Organization’s recent gift of a GaGa Ball Pit.  This is a wonderful addition to our outdoor playscape.  Mr. Goss and Mr. Barker produced a short video with the rules of the game.  We shared this at today’s flag raising.  Enjoy!

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Character Counts! Poster and Video Contest Winners

The Character Counts! in Glenview Committee recognized winners of the annual poster and video contest tonight at the Glenview Village Board of Trustees meeting.  The committee received around 500 poster entries and 60 video entries from 12 different schools.  Monetary awards were presented by the Kiwanis Club of Glenview-Northbrook.

Dylan Racke took 3rd place in the poster contest and Ethan Chiang took 1st place in the video contest.  Former Willowbrook students, Sloane Shabelman and Samantha Gregerman, took 1st place in the middle school video contest.

The student art work and videos highlighted the 6 pillars of character: Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.  This contest demonstrates the creativity and character of the students in our community.  In District 30, character counts every day.

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2017 Kids Care Food Drive

October 16 marks the start of Character Counts! Week.  The students of District 30, District 34, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help are coming together once again to collect food items for the Northfield Township Food Pantry.  Visit and for more information.

Items of great need are: coffee, tea, juice boxes, rice, dry pinto beans, diapers, paper products, pancake mix, syrup, pasta sauce, macaroni & cheese, instant mashed potatoes, peanut butter, jelly, cereal, canned spaghetti, ravioli, chili, and corned beef hash. (Please check expiration dates).

Drop boxes will be located in our front foyer.  Daily collection tallies will be announced by grade level.  Our 5th grade Spirit Committee and parent sponsors, Mrs. Erin Sommer & Mrs. Jane Xu, will help us count food items and count financial donations.

Although a typical donation consists of non-perishable food, financial donations are extremely valuable for food banks. Financial donations enable food banks to buy perishables to round out healthy meals for families.  Financial donations create flexibility since they allow food banks to buy in bulk and stock up on most-needed items in cases where donations of a particular food group are scarce.

For every dollar you send in, we count it as 5 cans of food.  Checks must be made out to  Northfield Township Food Pantry.  Please put any monetary donations in a sealed envelope labeled Northfield Food Pantry and have your child give the donation to his or her classroom teacher.

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Donation Drive for Nueva Ponce de Leon School

Willowbrook School is showing that character counts by collecting donations for a school in Puerto Rico that was severely affected by Hurricane Maria.  We are holding a a school & art supply drive for the week of October 10.

At this Friday’s Flag Raising, two Willowbrook students with family in Puerto Rico gave a short presentation about Hurricane Maria’s impact and next week’s donation drive.  They shared a video introducing Nueva Ponce de Leon School.

Nueva Ponce de Leon School is located in Barrio Juan Domingo, a very poor community in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Some of the school’s buildings were completely destroyed, including the art room and the building that housed the high school.  Twelve families in the community lost their homes.  The school, which is the true center of the community, is working to care for the children and affected families as the community rebuilds.  All donations will benefit the school via Juan Domingo en Accion, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  You can find more information by visiting

Willowbrook students are invited to bring in monetary donations, school and art supplies next week.  These may include pends, pencils, colored construction paper, crayons, markers, paint and brushes.

We will have collection boxes in the front school entrance.  Monetary donations can be brought in a marked envelope and handed to the classroom teacher or front desk.  If you wish to write a check, you can make it out Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 with a memo notation of Puerto Rico.  We will share our collection totals in a future issue of “What’s Up Willowbrook”.

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Play Packs

As you may know, Willowbrook’s school-wide theme is around PLAY this year.  We believe that play is essential for learning.  This is an opportunity for more holistic learning experiences – to find natural ways to include play in our day-to-day work with children.  This is another opportunity to build social-emotional skills.  Finally, we hope to strengthen our school community with multi-age grouping.

Play Packs were launched today.  The entire school was grouped into 17 packs of 20 to 21 students.  Each Play Pack had 3 staff leaders/facilitators.  A steering committee created the lessons plans, borrowing aspects from the Responsive Classroom meeting structure (greeting, activity, share, reflection).

We plan to bring these Play Packs back together again on future half days.  I expect these play gatherings will forge new social networks and increase the social capital of all our students.  Just as the Whole-Scale Change innovater Kathie Dannemiller posits – Smaller groups work best when they are maximally diverse.  The Willowbrook Play Packs can serve as a microcosm of the larger school.  Our structured and unstructured play in these diverse small groups gives us the opportunity to put down our individual interests and care for the well-being of the entire school.


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Authentic citizenship

I thought I would share a thought on community and citizenship that came to me this week while preparing for today’s Flag Raising ceremony.  As you may know, staff and students will recommend a student for a Character Counts! Award on occasion.  That student is called up to the podium at flag raising and their behavior is shared.  This is a long-standing practice or tradition at Willowbrook School.  We have many deserving students and staff who demonstrate strong character every single day!

I recently re-read Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging.  In his book, Block describes authentic citizenship as “holding ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger community and to choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others” (p.55).  He goes on to introduce something called the Inversion of Cause (p. 65) in which our beliefs or thinking about who is in charge shift, causing the power base to shift.  This shift of thinking is profound.

  • What if our citizens created leaders?
  • What if an audience creates the performance?
  • What if children created their parents?
  • What if students created their teachers… their principal?

I believe the students and families in our Willowbrook community have created better teachers and principals.  We can become a more rich, diverse, and kind school community by actively looking for the gifts and diverse experiences within our student body.  There are so many to find and enjoy.

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National Day of Service and Remembrance

Today is a special day in America.  Our students may have noticed the American flag flying at half-mast this morning.  We honored September 11 with an assembly focused on community service.  First responder spouses and family members were invited to serve as flag raisers.  Our honored guests included:

  • Battalion Chief David Schweihs of the Northbrook Fire Department
  • Firefighter Paramedic Peter Goss of the Highland Park Fire Department
  • Detective John Madden of the Chicago Police Department
  • Sergeant Landon Girard of the Wilmette Police Department
  • Officer Dustin Kauth of the Des Plaines Police Department
  • Officer Dan Marsh of the Glenview Police Department

These guests are examples of people in our community who have dedicated their lives to helping others.  Their service can inspire us all.  They deserve our respect and gratitude.

The spirit of service and community exists at Willowbrook School and in District 30 all of the time.  On September 11, we are reminded of our responsibility to help others in need.  I am sure the recent natural disasters in Houston and Florida are on all of our minds.

Our assembly concluded with singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and a moment of silence.  “Let Freedom Ring!”

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Character Counts! Poster (and Video) Contest

The CHARACTER COUNTS! in Glenview Committee has announced their Annual Poster (and Video) Contest for 2017.  A sheet with contest information, rules and entry form will go home in backpacks today.

This year, the Poster Contest is for students in grades K-4.  Students in grade 5 are invited to participate in the Video Context.  In addition to the Six Pillars, students also have the opportunity to choose to illustrate how the Jackman Park Bear – turning 100 years old this year – contributes to good character in Glenview.

The contest is supported by the Kiwanis Club of Glenview-Northbrook and monetary awards in the amount of $75 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place will be presented to the prize winners in the grades K-2 category and the grades 3-4 category at the Village of Glenview Board of Trustees meeting on October 17, 2017.

Information about the Poster Contest may also be found on the Character Counts website at and information about the Jackman Park Bear may be found at

Willowbrook school is setting a deadline of Friday, September 22 for all contest entries.

District 30 had several contest winners last year.  We look forward to see what our Wildcats create this year!

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