Sharing the Light

Several years ago while preparing for a job interview, I asked a trusted friend who was a professor at the community college where I was applying for interview advice. It was, and I will quote him, “Don’t hide your light under a basket. Share your accomplishments, your challenges, and motivation for this position.” His advice can also be followed when stakeholders look for school achievements in print and electronic media. Great events, activities, and student learning takes place everyday in District 62. Students, parents, staff, and volunteers know this, but does the rest of the world know? Some times they don’t. That is unfortunate. Events, news, photos, announcements, flyers etc. are posted to the District 62 website, virtual bulletin board, and social media, sent and posted on news sites, when submissions are sent to Community Relations, wardm@d62.org. before (at least two weeks), and after (in case it can’t be covered by a reporter). Community relations is not a one-person show, its a group effort. Help the District share its light with our community. Community Relations looks forward to your submissions.

The Trailers are Gone

At the end of the school year, trailers were parked at the Terrace Elementary School lot. Residents contacted the school district wondering why they were there and how long they would be there.

First of all the trailers stored the contents of several of our schools that were in Phase II construction. Renovations and additions mean that every book, teaching resource, computer, and desk and chair must be packed and stored until teachers can get back into their classrooms. They were placed at Terrace because the seven sites under construction (inside and out) could not accommodate the trailers. Last year, they were stored at North.

Last Friday, staff were moved back into their offices classrooms. They continued their move over the weekend in preparation of the first day of school. Once all items were moved, the trailers were removed.

Next year, Orchard Place, Terrace and Iroquois will be renovated, so those trailers will resurface to provide storage during the summer.

Communicating with Intergovernmental Units

Des Plaines is served by intergovernmental units that service the public in various ways. These units strive to work together as partners, but are not supervised or managed by the other.

This is the case of the School District 62, the Park District, and the City of Des Plaines, etc. Each is autonomous from the other with separately elected officials (education board, trustees, and aldermen/women), budgets, administrators, and staff.

When residents have concerns about School District 62 activities and programs such as the master plan, school attendance, transportation, etc. the first place they should go for answers is the intergovernmental unit that can solve or clarify concerns. If it is a specific school concern, school teachers or principals are the place to start. If it is a larger concern, the school district should be contacted at 847-824-1136. Contacting the Park District or City about school concerns adds more layers to communication and may take more time to facilitate. It also prevents school district’s elected officials, the Board of Education, from understanding the thoughts and feelings of its stakeholders.

Have a District 62 question or concern? Go directly to the source. Please give the Board of Education the opportunity to serve you. Contact 847-847-8070 or wardm@d62.org

What is an in-school suspension?

An “in-school suspension” is a common intervention used to address typical student misconduct.  It is not used when students are physically or emotionally out of control, but when they engage in the type of conduct that is very typical for children, but not appropriate in the learning environment. Typical infractions that result in an in-school suspension include using inappropriate language, disrupting other students’ learning repeatedly with rowdy behavior, showing disrespect for staff, or throwing food at lunch.  Unlike a time out room, the in-school suspension area is not isolated or devoid of materials. Rather, it is similar to a classroom, in that it is monitored by a staff member and supplied with the learning materials necessary for the students to continue their class work. In-school suspension is identified as a disciplinary measure in Board of Education Policy 7:190 and the District 62 Parent/Student Handbook.

 District 62 strives to protect the learning environment for all students. During the time a student is serving an in-school suspension, students have access to curriculum and instructional materials to minimize loss of learning.

Many of our parents have responsibilities and obligations during the day. The option of in-school suspension allows parents to continue their regular schedule knowing that their children are being properly attended to at school. In-school suspension has been an effective intervention to improve student behavior in District 62.

 Parents are notified when students are assigned to in-school suspension. Additionally, a letter to the parents is generated that outlines the offense, the consequences, and the due process rights of parents.

ISATs are winding down

ISAT testing is winding down this week and classes are getting back to the regular routine. Thank you to our parents, who supported us during this time by making sure that your child was rested, fed, and prepared for this annual event. We appreciate it very much.

Don’t Hang Up! A Guide to AlertNow Messages

Last week during an AlertNow message about a soft lockdown at three D62 schools, several parents hung-up and hit redial.  It is very important when receiving an AlertNow general announcement that parents listen to the entire message and avoid hitting redial.  If the call had been an emergency, the phone lines would of been blocked from outside callers.  This does not happen for general announcements.  Normally, general announcements are scheduled for evening hours.  As all of you know, several communities close to Des Plaines were under hard lockdown due to an escaped prisoner, who was eventually captured. In an effort to keep parents informed that the District was aware of the situation, and that students were safe, we sent out the mid-afternoon call.

General announcements will reach only one phone number that you identify and your email address.  We also learned that the message was sent in several languages to some households.  Please check with your school secretary to review and revise your child’s contact and language information. AlertNow responds to the data that is sent by our data specialists.

For more information regarding AlertNow, please visit www.d62.org/news/index.html and click on the AlertNow logo located in the lower right hand corner of your monitor.

Why are five emergency days included in the school calendar?

When planning the school calendar, the district must take into consideration state laws that dictate the number of days students must attend (174), Institute Days (4), Parent-Teacher Conference Days (2) and five emergency days. Last year the District moved five emergency days to the end of the school year.  The reason for this was two-fold. First of all scattering the days throughout the week breaks up the stream of instruction.  These interruptions are not conducive to student learning and retention.  Also, the district knew that contractors would need immediate access to buildings as soon as school was over for Comprehensive Plan construction projects.  This summer, Plainfield, Terrace, and Central will undergo major toilet room renovations.  Next summer, major renovations will take place at four schools.

How D62 decides to close or cancel classes

One of the many things that parents and staff wonder about it is the decision to close school for inclement weather. It is a huge decision that is shared by the superintendents of Maine Township School District and its feeder elementary school districts.  Attached is a letter written by Dr. Jane L. Westerhold, District 62 Superintendent, describing the process.  Hope this sheds some light on a very difficult decision.

First and foremost, it is always our desire to have children in school. However, we have significant safety concerns for students and staff that we must take into consideration. Many of our children walk to school, stand out waiting for buses, or leave home in the morning after their parents have already left for work. We must think of their safety, particularly when the temperatures could be life threatening. The four Maine Township school superintendents work collaboratively to make the decision. We all have separate responsibilities and begin communicating with each other as soon as we have a forecast indicating possible inclement weather. My responsibility is in the area of road conditions. If the conditions of roads are not certain based on internal information and information from our news stations, I contact the Illinois State Police, the Des Plaines Police, the Cook Count Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments in Morton Grove, Niles, and Park Ridge. Additionally, our Director of Maintenance and Operations and his staff tour the district schools, often beginning around 4:00 a.m. We usually begin our conversations prior to 4:00 a.m. I also contact PACE since the high school district uses PACE for transportation, and our own transportation, Septran, to make sure that buses are able to run. We also need to assure that there are enough drivers for our buses. Many of the drivers do not live in Des Plaines and could have difficult commutes. Since we have many employees in the four districts, we must be concerned about their ability to make the commute in a safe and timely manner. Often, we know that if we did not close school, we would not have enough teachers to meet the needs of the children. On inclement weather days, it is difficult to find substitute teachers. The high school superintendent coordinates the process, the District 64 superintendent researches weather conditions, and the District 63 superintendent researches other conditions.

We try to make this decision as early as possible and try not to close school based on a forecast. It is always our intent to have the notification distributed by 5:30 a.m. Once the decision is made, I contact our staff members responsible for posting on our website and for facilitating the AlertNow system. District 207 contacts the Emergency Closing Center so that it will be aired on the radio and television stations, as well as providing an email alert to those of you signed up for such notification. We also must contact our parochial schools, patrols, special education services, etc. 

The decision is never taken lightly. A great deal of thought, research, and conversation goes into the process. We know that our decision never satisfies all parents or staff, but we base it on what is best for the children and employees. And I will tell you; it is at the top of the list of superintendents’ least favorite responsibility! 

I hope this clarifies the mystery. If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact me at 847-824-1170.

Have you heard?

You’re attending your child’s sporting event or shopping at the grocery store and start talking to one of the parents from your child’s school, when the phrase, “Have you heard….?” crops into the discussion. One rumor leads to another, and soon you are left wondering whether you have heard fact or fiction.   

In communications, we refer to this discussion as the rumor mill. This blog is a way of separating fact from fiction.  When you hear rumors about School District 62, post a comment.