The District 99 Board of Education held a workshop meeting on November 2, 2015. Highlights from the meeting include:
Update on 1:1 Learning
District 99 issued a Chromebook to every student in the fall, ensuring 24x7 computer access, as well as equal access to instruction and digital content. Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Gina Ziccardi said that the vision of the program is to have students grow to be more collaborative, reflective and empowered in their work. She said the devices allow students to experience more authentic learning and to work in ways that were previously unattainable without the devices. “They now have the opportunity to take learning to the next level,” she said.
North High’s Joann Purcell, a math teacher and technology coach, and Nader Najjar, a special services teacher, highlighted several of the technology tools and applications that can now be used in the classroom. They explained that Google classroom is the cornerstone of their classes, which allows them to go paperless, store documents and collaborate with one another and with students. Google Slides, Braingenie, Go Formative, and Socrative are a few of the programs that help them see how well students are performing and learning. The tools allow them to adjust their teaching based on student performance. North High sophomore Mike Manzo appreciates the inclusion of technology in the classroom.
South High’s Cyndi Montero, a Spanish teacher, echoed the fact that Chromebooks allow her to differentiate her daily lesson plans and target students at all levels of understanding and help them be successful.
Several students shared their experiences as well. South High student Matt LaRue, a sophomore, commented that the Chromebooks are a “step forward in the learning system.” He mentioned that when he was sick, it was convenient to find the lessons online, and that the Chromebooks make it an “interactive experience for everybody.” South High senior Sam Bates said that the Chromebook has made a difference in helping her pace her workload and collaborate with others. South High junior Emma Balinski said she benefitted from Montero’s individualized plans during an extended absence.
Ziccardi explained that Instructional Technology Coordinators Jon Orech (South High) and Lisa Lichtman (North High) have been instrumental in creating meaningful professional development. All of the in-house training has been teacher-led. Through the trainings, Orech and Lichtman are cultivating best practices that will help students and teachers be successful.
Director of Technology Rod Russeau said that this year has been a “massive year of learning” for everyone in his department. The district doubled its bandwidth and along the way, has encountered both successes and challenges. He talked of the “vexing problem” early on with home Internet connectivity issues; other districts encountered similar issues, which were caused by an Internet content filtering tool. The issue has been resolved.
District 99 Board of Education President Dr. Nancy Kupka thanked everyone for the update. “It’s important to hear that this has made a difference in how you learn—you are why we’re here,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Gina Ziccardi reported data from the district’s AVID program, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID's mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success, using structured curriculum and instructional strategies.
The district is in its fourth year of AVID, and enrollment at both North High and South High has grown.
Britni Mitchell, North High’s coordinator and an English teacher, explained the how AVID students use a 3-ring binder system and have peer tutorial sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which use questioning strategies to discover answers. Jenni Wolf, South High’s AVID coordinator and a science teacher, also presented information about the college preparatory aspects of the program.
Proposed 2016-17 Calendar
Superintendent Dr. Mark McDonald presented two versions of a possible school calendar for 2016-17. One was a “traditional” calendar, which begins in late August, includes all school holidays and the first semester ends three weeks after winter break. The second calendar allows for the first semester to end prior to the winter break. Dr. McDonald said that this “early start” calendar has been shared with D99’s associated elementary districts, the Downers Grove Education Association, and the Support Staff Association for feedback and input.
The Board members discussed the calendars, and were in favor of exploring the idea of adopting the “early start” school year calendar for the 2016-17 school year.
North High parent Nihal Isaac spoke in favor of an “early start” calendar, and the benefits to students. She said it would allow students to better enjoy the winter break without the pressure of studying for final exams.
Upcoming Board Meetings:
- November 16, 2015 – Board of Education Meeting at the ASC, 7:30 p.m.
- December 7, 2015 – Board of Education Workshop at the ASC, 7 p.m.
- December 14, 2015 – Board of Education Meeting at South High, 7:30 p.m.
This publication is for information purposes only; minutes approved by the Board serve as the official meeting record.