Over the past two weeks, District 124 invited the community to participate in an “Idea Exchange” to strengthen communication between the District and its families. Participants submitted questions to Superintendent Dr. Robert Machack, and shared thoughts on how D124 excels and where it can improve. The many positive comments mirrored the completed action items in our Strategic Plan, and the areas for improvement will help pave the way for the 2020-23 Strategic Plan.
The answers to the questions posed to Dr. Machak can be found below:
Why are foreign languages (and sign language) not offered at the elementary schools?
The main reason is a lack of time. Given the length of the school day, we already face many challenges in trying to incorporate daily music, art, technology, and physical education. We have offered foreign language as an after-school club, as well as a summer enrichment offering in the past, unfortunately with not a lot of student interest.
What is D124 doing to ensure we are providing a modern, competitive curriculum at all of our schools?Over the past six years we have established a regular curriculum review cycle of all of our content areas; we have substantially overhauled our math and English Language Arts curriculums over the past three years, and are now offering STEM and hands-on learning experiences at all grade levels in science.
What is being done to improve the fact that some of our elementary schools are performing better than others?
There are several indicators of a school’s performance, as noted in the recent 5 Essentials survey administered by the state of Illinois. All of our schools show areas of strength as well as opportunities for continued growth; we target building- and District-level professional development opportunities based on these strengths and opportunities.
With the re-shaping of the Project Tree Program, what can parents of children entering second grade expect?
All second-grade students will be screened in the spring of 2020 for possible placement in the Gifted and Talented program the following school year. Students’ specific strengths/needs are being addressed through differentiation at the second-grade level.
Would the District consider rotating the way they pull children for intervention?
Principals at each school work with their teachers to find the most effective way to provide these interventions. That could look different from school to school and from year to year.
Why do we not have a counselor for the kids in the district?
The District offers a social worker (two at CMS) and a psychologist at each school.
Why are we hiring so many teachers right out of college?
The District looks to hire the best candidate available for every position.
What are your plans for the 5-10 year future, in terms of buildings and capacity?
The District continues to look for additional space, both inside the District and throughout the Village of Evergreen Park. The Board of Education completed a demographic study last winter, the results of which suggest a stable, consistent District enrollment for the next five years. Our need for additional space is based on our desire to expand program offerings for all of our students, and not necessarily student enrollment.
Why do the elementary schools not have a uniform dress code? Adopting a clothing uniform would reduce overall clothing costs for parents and guardians, and create a united atmosphere for students that would promote disciplined behavior.
While we do not have a specific code, the District handbook does provide specific guidelines regarding what is and what is not acceptable student attire.
What technology should be used at home to foster continuity (home and school) and further development?
The technology isn’t as much the issue as is the quality of the content our parents are accessing. Spending regular time with students at home working in the various apps that our teachers have recommended (i.e., Zearn, IXL, Splash Math, Raz Kids) is probably the best way to bridge the learning between school and home.
How can D124, specifically at Central Middle School, get standardizations for the teachers to follow when utilizing the Google Classroom tool? How do we get the teachers to add content, specific instructions, due dates and links to their Google Classroom sites? Also, certain time frames for entering grades in need to be given -- how can we make this happen?
Currently, we do not have a District requirement that all teachers utilize the Google Classroom tool in the same way. The consistency regarding entering student grades regularly is an area for growth, as is determining what elements (i.e., quizzes, homework discussion) should make up a student’s grade and to what extent. We know that school-to-home communications need to improve on several levels.
What are the top qualifications you’re looking for in a middle school principal?
An effective middle school principal should have a solid understanding of young adolescents and how they learn best, be a strong instructional leader and advocate for the students at the school, have the ability to communicate effectively with the various constituencies connected with the school, and be able to articulate a vision to her/his staff about the kind of school we want for our students and our community.
Why do we have three different math curriculums across the district?
The math curriculum review committee selected specific resources based on their ability to meet the needs of all of our students.
Why are we using the STAR Assessment? Is it valid and providing efficient feedback on student growth and progress?
The STAR assessment is an evidence-based, nationally normed test. It allows teachers to evaluate student growth and achievement in many of the same ways that the Measures of Academic Progress allowed us to do, while providing more efficient test administration. All of our principals have been pleased with the quality of student feedback that we have received with STAR.
I would like to know specifically what measures will be taken by administration to address discipline issues at the middle school?
The administration at all of our schools follows the guidelines and procedures established through D124 Board policy, the Illinois School Code, the State of Illinois, federal Department of Education legislation, and outlined in the District handbook.
Can we introduce e-learning days when snow days are imminent?
E-Learning days are currently being investigated by D124.