The District 99 Board of Education held a meeting on September 19, 2016. Highlights include:
Learning Time for Teachers
What happens during “late arrival” days? Every other Wednesday at District 99, the first period bell rings at 10 a.m. rather than the usual 8 a.m. While students are away, teachers take full advantage of the two hours, meeting with one another and learning new techniques to improve their teaching.
- North High Principal Janice Schwarze explained that “late arrival,” a practice started in 2008, includes time for teachers to work together in small groups known as a “Professional Learning Community” (PLC). During this time, teachers share and study student data and develop best practices with one another. Teachers also devote time to professional development, choosing from a menu of topics to hone both their teaching and technology skills.
- North High math teachers Emily Beer and Joann Purcell shared that during their PLC sessions, they have challenged themselves to think beyond the traditional “right vs. wrong” view of math assessments. By thinking more critically about the purpose of assessments, they now place more focus on the process and approach students use to solve problems. They also developed a grading rubric to ensure consistency across all teachers. The shift has led to more creativity and learning—for both students and teachers.
- Science teachers Keith Dvorkin (North High) and Steve Zownorega (South High) echoed the benefits of having time to meet with their colleagues. They value the chance to share new ideas with one another, to create consistency with grading and to support one another with feedback.
- Georgia Hash, associate principal at South High, surveyed the teachers last year and found that 70% liked the balance of PLC and professional development time.
Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele stressed the importance of the time to the team; he referred to education expert Douglas Reeves, who says that teaching is the only performing art where you spend more time performing than practicing, so more time to "practice" is beneficial. Board member Deborah Boyle also praised the practice, saying that it “speaks highly of our district that we offer it, and it retains a lot of teachers, too.”
2016-17 Budget Approved
D99 Controller Mark Staehlin reviewed the 2016-17 tentative budget, noting revenues, expenses, non-operating fund balances and long-term debt. He also presented the district’s five year projection, which will help to shape the development of future budgets. The Board commended the district’s cost cutting measures that were instituted last year in an effort to help build reserve levels and acknowledged the sacrifices made by all employee groups in order to help add stability to the District. After a public hearing, the Board unanimously approved the budget.