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Spotlight on District 109

Air Conditioning is the headline this morning, but there were some other very interesting topics of discussion at the FDC and BOE meetings.

There were some very interesting topics of discussion at both the Facilities Development Committee (FDC) and BOE meetings last night.  The main topic, of course, was air conditioning.  Bids were received through the RFP process and it looks like the FDC will recommend a bid from a very reputable contractor that came in right around $10M.  This is right in line with what was projected.  Work could start in February and be done by the start of the next school year.  That's a very aggressive schedule but it is doable.  The Board may also consider doing the project over a two year time frame, which would ease the stress on the schools, some of which are used for summer school and camp programs.  In terms of funding, that has yet to be determined but there is a feeling that the funds are currently available in house.

The master facilities plan was also discussed at the FDC meeting and it was felt that more work needs to be done before committing to an early childhood center (ECC) which would free up space for STEM classrooms in the elementary grades.  The feeling is that STEM at the middle school level is strongly desired, and I agree.  The FDC and consultant Fanning Howey agreed that the master plan may be used as a "wish list", implementing certain pieces and leaving others for future review.  That makes sense.  We don't have enough input on whether the ECC makes sense for District 109.  This will affect families with very young children who may not even know what is being planned.  More work needs to be done to reach out to those families and the community in general.  In addition, our teachers and building administrators need to be put to work in defining the ECC and STEM curriculum, so we know exactly what we are signing up for before committing dollars to this project.

As you may remember from the contract negotiations, a joint teacher-administration panel was put in place to develop the teacher evaluation tool that will be used in the district going forward.  We were told last night that the panel has completed its work.  There will be a pilot program to test the evaluation and then it will go into affect for all teachers.  I think this is great news.  It's just another example of what can happen when teachers and administators work together and not against each other.  Hopefully this spirit will be carried forward into the next administration.

And speaking of which, the field of Superintendent candidates has been reduced from six to three via the first round of board interviews.  The next step is for the three finalists to go before a community committee before final interviews by the Board.  The community committee consists of 5 parents (including the 3 caucus endorsed board candidates), 3 administrators, and 4 teachers.  Their names can be found on the district website.  This committee is tasked with providing their thoughts on the candidates' strengths and weaknesses to the Board.  They will not make recommendations on which candidate to hire.  That decision rests solely with the Board.

Make no mistake, the Superintendent is the key piece to this District 109 puzzle.  Funding and facilities are important, of course, but the business of learning rests solely with the Superintendent.  Choosing an effective Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction is crucial.  By all accounts, the interim Assistant Supt. is doing a fantastic job implementing RTI and other curriculum initiatives.  We need to keep that ball rolling.  We need to take the strategic plan and use it effectively.  The next few years should be an exciting time to have children in District 109 and I am certainly looking forward to it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Richard H Heineman Jr December 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The "Education First" anti referendum for Dist 113 are saying that that referendum should be small (or non-existent) partially because Dist 109 is going to be spending $168 million. Can you give us some context on this claim?
John Russillo December 11, 2012 at 06:08 PM
That was one of the options presented to the district which basically included rebuilding every school from the ground up. It really was never considered.
Richard Heller December 13, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I like your blog, John. Our community has needed more information about the district and board for some time. Your blogging, along with Steve's reporting helps send reasoned messages about activities. Thank you.
barry December 14, 2012 at 04:39 AM
John....as one of the most informed regarding District 109 I urge you to consider running for a board position with Bitner and Montgomery. The support is there.
John Russillo December 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Great article about the outdated Shepard science labs. http://deerfield.suntimes.com/16936557-781/deerfield-middle-school-has-outdated-science-labs.html This just enforces the need to get to work on putting together a STEM solution for the middle schools as quickly as possible. I would favor a similar process that was used in 113, a joint parent/teacher/administration committee to explore STEM needs including physical, hardware, software, curriculum, and training requirements.

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