From the Superintendent
Each and everyday you see miracles in your classroom, maybe not as big as the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time since 1945, but those small moments of unexpected joy that happen when a student masters a difficult concept or a young student grasps new learning. You have a front row seat not only to see these amazing feats, but as a teacher, a support staff, or an administrator, you are the reason that students grow and thrive in their learning. November and December are months in which we cherish family, and as the Superintendent, I cherish the school family I have the pleasure to work alongside each day. Thank you for all that you do. I am your biggest cheerleader.
Change is constant force in our field of education. One such change is the move by the Illinois State Board of Education to give the SAT to all students who are juniors this year rather than the ACT as we have in the past. Students may still take both assessments, but the SAT will be utilized for high school accountability purposes and be given during the school day, which will provide every student with a score to use for college entrance now or in their future.
Our high school administrators are working to prepare to give the redesigned SAT on April 5, 2017. The College Board, provider of the SAT, has gone a step further and partnered with Khan Academy to bring free test preparation, thus closing an opportunity gap for students who may not have been able to purchase or attend an expensive preparation program. Our high schools have done a noble job getting each student set up with a Khan account and access to a diagnostic exam that will help support their learning as well as help them practice over time. There is also a free, easy to download application called Daily Practice for the New SAT, which quickly scores short assessments for feedback. Khan Academy also provides videos, positive reinforcement, test taking strategies as well as SAT designed questions. I recently heard a College Board representative say that their organization directly supports Khan SAT prep because they helped design its content.
The window to complete the 5Essentials Survey for students, staff and families will open on November 15, 2016 and will continue through January 16, 2017. Students in grades 6-12 will take the survey during the school day, which takes about 25 minutes to complete. All certificated staff in all schools will take a survey, which takes that same amount of time and will be planned by administration so that we can maximize participation. Families will have online access to the survey through a link on the website or will be provided access at the school during a family event. The family survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. The purpose of the 5Essentials Survey is to measure five areas that research shows leads to high levels of achievement in students. These measures are effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environments and ambitious instruction. This survey aligns well with the work that we are doing to support a Culture for Learning in our schools. In addition, the Department of Teaching and Learning has been providing professional development around learning supports and engaged, well-planned lessons where feedback to students is frequently provided.
Lastly, during the months of November and December, a team consisting of District personnel, members of the Board of Education and community representatives will be evaluating proposals to conduct a facilities study of our existing school buildings. Every 10 years we are required by school code to conduct a Health Life Safety Survey (HLS). This survey is nearing completion, and we issued an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for professional service firms to help us study our facilities and the results of that HLS Survey. The goal is to help dream our next phase of building projects to support 21st century learning in District 186. This will involve stakeholder input, needs for energy efficient practices, as well as a study of space and aging infrastructure concerns that we all know exist. This survey is not about the actual work or design of schools, but about helping us create a vision as we move forward. For example, in the past, facilities studies helped us envision new Matheny-Withrow and Enos schools, see a need for increased air-conditioning installation as well as a dream for a state-of-the-art Early Learning Center. All of these and more have been accomplished. The Chamber of Commerce and the Q5 Strategic Leadership Council made the recommendation in their final report as part of the 2016 Business Perceptions Survey of District 186 to conduct a comprehensive facilities study as an important next step in understanding how to improve our schools so that they are 21st century learning facilities. The vision that will be created through this study will allow us to see our preferred future so that we can take steps to get there.
Technology plan update
Students and teachers have started this school year fresh with new technology. Since introducing a five-year technology plan last spring, every teacher has received a new MacBook, and 931 Chromebooks, 1,486 iPads and 345 MacBooks have been purchased for student use. District 186 now has 152 1:1 iPad classrooms and 30 1:1 Chromebook classrooms. The plan also allows for refresh of older devices throughout the District as they become obsolete.
Technology integration will be a focus of professional development over the course of the plan, and work is also underway to ensure wireless access points in every learning space across District 186 schools.
Lanphier inducts record number to National Honor Society
Lanphier High School inducted its largest ever National Honor Society class, with 120 students this year, up from 70 last year. A 4.0 GPA is required. Watch the Newschannel 20 story here.
District 186 high school students shadow Hanson engineers
photo credit: Hanson Professional Services, Inc.
26 high school students from Lanphier, Southeast and Springfield learned from engineers at Hanson Professional Services Inc. thanks to a new program called Shadow Hanson.
Students spent half a day at Hanson's corporate headquarters in Springfield on Oct. 12. They explored science and math and learned about career possibilities in engineering. The day culminated in activity-based problem solving exercises.
"We are fortunate to have partners in the business community that are opening their doors to our students," said Superintendent Jennifer Gill. "This experience at Hanson will help students make connections from the classroom to the real world and illuminate a possible career path for them. We're grateful to Hanson for creating an opportunity that helps students visualize their futures."
"We are pleased to provide this opportunity to students in our community that have an interest in pursuing STEM-related careers," said Kevin Seals, Hanson's chief environmental scientist. Seals is coordinating the Shadow Hanson program with Mina Biggs, Hanson's vice president of human resources. "Many of our employees were inspired to become engineers and scientists from similar mentoring programs that they were exposed to during their schooling years," he said.
Another group of students will have the chance to participate in Shadow Hanson in February.
Author, alum visits Washington Middle School
District 186 alumnus and author of the adventure novel "The League and the Lantern" Brian Wells visited Washington Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 4. He spoke to the 7th grade class about his career and book, which correlate with the second quarter theme of perseverance.
Wells attended Pleasant Hill Elementary and Washington Middle School and graduated from Lanphier High School in 1983. He went on to graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1987. He has had a successful career as a television and entertainment industry executive, bringing to life award-winning network television movies that have been enjoyed by millions and applauded by family organizations across the U.S. The book series came from his own family's struggle to find quality entertainment options.
"The League and the Lantern" begins when a dangerous organization invades Jake Herndon's seventh-grade sleepover. He escapes along with two classmates, Lucy and TJ, only to face a 48-hour fight for survival on the streets of Chicago. The kids unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War and discover an incredible secret about Jake's family. Along the way they learn unexpected lessons about courage, family and friendship.
In addition to the positive themes of the book, Wells has included 140 of the top vocabulary words that middle school students need for success, and has invisibly woven them into the story. Also, for every book sold, another is donated to a child through organizations including Springfield's Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Board member Johnson honored as 'Unsung Hero'
Ms. Judith Johnson, longest-serving member of the Board of Education, was honored as an Unsung African American Hero on Thursday, October 27, by the Springfield & Central Illinois African American History Museum at its 5th Annual Gala. Ms. Johnson was celebrated and honored for giving her time and energy to make this community a better place to live. We commend Ms. Johnson for her contributions to Springfield, and especially for her dedication to serving District 186.
Feitshans adds Project Fit America thanks to St. John's
HSHS St. John's Hospital officials joined District 186 administrators, teachers and students to celebrate the launch of Project Fit America (PFA) at Feitshans Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
The celebration included a ribbon cutting and students demonstrating exercises at the school's new outdoor fitness along with Superintendent Jennifer Gill, Mayor Langfelder, the Junior Blues and mascot Gilly, the University of Illinois Springfield mascot Orion and all the students in the school.
"At St. John's Hospital, we're passionate about improving wellness in the communities we serve, and we especially want to do our part in the fight against childhood obesity," said Kimberly Luz, director of community outreach. "We're thrilled to partner with Feitshans Elementary to empower these children and their families to learn healthy habits and enjoy healthier lives."
All Feitshans students have been taught how to use the outdoor equipment and how the activity benefits their bodies, said physical education teacher Chad Deatherage. The PFA curriculum, including indoor and outdoor activity, addresses fitness areas such as upper body strength, coordination, flexibility and more. Deatherage noted the initiative goes beyond traditional fitness and is also is helping them build social skills, character and leadership skills.
St. John's Hospital piloted PFA initiative in 2013 at Matheny-Withrow Elementary. The students love the program and teachers report a noticeable increase in their eagerness to participate. This is not your average gym class. The activities are both fun and intense.
The donation funded by St. John's Hospital provides the PFA program to the school that includes: state-of-the-art fitness equipment specifically designed to address the deficit areas where children fail fitness tests; indoor fitness equipment; installation of the equipment, a dynamic curriculum with games, activities and challenges for kids with the PFA outdoor & indoor equipment; the program also teaches character development, sportsmanship, team work and leadership skills. The academic emphasis is to create physically educated children and to empower them to take personal responsibility of their health with enthusiasm. PFA also provides support to the schools for two years along with on-site training with each PE Teacher.
Multiple schools receive PBIS distinction
28 schools were recognized for their implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for the 2015-16 school year. PBIS is a system of proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. Schools that applied for recognition received one of four levels of distinction, platinum, gold, silver and bronze. The recognition is as follows:
Black Hawk Elementary
Grant Middle School
Hazel Dell Elementary
Lincoln Magnet School
Southern View Elementary
Franklin Middle School
Harvard Park Elementary
Jefferson Middle School
Lanphier High School
Springfield Learning Academy
Washington Middle School
PBIS is one component to District 186's Braided Behavior Support Systems (BBSS) that aims to improve behavior and academic outcomes for all students. Other components of BBSS include Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST), Restorative Practices and Social and Emotional Learning.
Hundreds of students experience Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit
The Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience for hundreds of District 186 students to learn about the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces and their crews during World War II, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, with an exhibit in September at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
Fifth grade students from Addams, Black Hawk, Butler, Enos, Hazel Dell, Lee, Matheny-Withrow and Southern View, as well as eighth graders from Grant, Iles, Jefferson, and Lincoln Magnet participated in field trips on Sept. 14-16 to view the Triumph Over Adversity: Rise Above exhibit. Students visited the exhibit at the airport and went to the museum located at 1440 Monument Avenue.
The goal of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron, the presenter of the exhibit, is to teach the six guiding principles of the Tuskegee Airmen, aim high, believe in yourself, never quit, be ready to go, use your brain, and expect to win. The exhibit illustrates how the Tuskegee Airmen overcame obstacles of segregation in the military and lack of flying experience through their courage, hard work and dedication.