Superintendent's Corner 😎🏫😎

Avoca District 37

In this (belated) issue...

  • Black History Month
  • Exciting Partnerships - Summer School
  • Strategic Spotlight - SEL
  • Important Issues Before the Board

Black History Month

Black History Month is American history and that is both a reason to embrace that Black history being brought to life when it was previously ignored or not even studied and a reason to understand why it is different than what has been taught in the past. Recently Google posted a video that might seem superficial at first glance, but it recognizes where people "live" today, i.e. the internet, and the power that searching for something meaningful can bring to our understanding of what is history. If you have not taken a look, see the video by clicking here.

Exciting Partnership - Summer School

If you did not already notice in a principal post, we are partnering with District 39 for Summer School this year in a way that will provide more opportunities for our students. Summer Learning is a primary way to prevent a "summer slide" and boost cognitive activity. In the past, Avoca provided Extended School Year (ESY) for specific students with IEPs and also provided support courses for other IEP students - all in District 39 facilities.

This summer, our ESY and IEP students receiving support will be able to do so by enrolling in District 39 offerings. This is advantageous because District 39's size means it is more likely to have offerings that meet our students' diverse needs, which can be hard when our enrollment numbers are small. Additionally, any student can sign up for a District 39 summer school offering. If summer school is the right support for your student's learning, their teacher will reach out to you, or you should not hesitate to contact the teacher.

Thanks to Dr. Cremascoli and her staff in District 39 for working with us to meet student needs. District 39 information about its summer school will be sent out in the first half of February.

Strategic Spotlight - SEL

The Collaborative for Academic & Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the premier national organization that develops materials and professional training on embedding SEL in schools. In different ways, Avoca West and Marie Murphy have been focusing on SEL this year and each of our District Institutes this year has focused on understanding our own SEL competencies as adults.

An exciting development for next school year will be that all New Trier Trier Township districts together are partnering with CASEL for staff training and professional learning. This will support recommendations from our Continuum of Services evaluation process and lay the groundwork for making a real impact in the classroom. Ultimately, SEL is not separate from and does not substitute for academic learning. Rather, SEL becomes an intentional and explicit part of what our teachers work on with students every day when engaging with the academic curriculum.

Speaking of SEL - Digital Citizenship & Parenting

Last week District 39 hosted a documentary film viewing (LIKE) and follow up Q & A about teens and social media. On February 12 is another event in this township-wide series. Come hear about Project B3 at Marie Murphy and how students are leading the way to healthier, safer, digital behavior. You can also gain insights you might not have had and tips you can use at home. Consistent with promoting SEL skills around self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills, this program supports healthy proactive behavior on your part and the part of our students. (February 12 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 in the Porto Community Room at Marie Murphy.)

Important Issues Before the Board - Redux

In the last issue, I alerted you to important issues coming before the Board. I would like to update you on these here:

  • Continuum of Services Evaluation - On January 23rd, the Administration made its first presentation to the Board summarizing the evaluation of our Continuum of Services, broadly identifying areas of strength and areas of growth. You can see that slide deck here. On February 6, the Administration will put forward our first set of draft recommendations. These are extensive but not refined. After Board feedback on Thursday, the Administration will refine them further before putting them into action, which will be a multi-year process.
  • Student Fees - February 6th will be the first time the Board discusses all the student fees for the 2020-21 school year. At the January 23rd meeting the Board reviewed data from the Transportation Fee survey (click here) and discussed an identical fee for all bus riders, regardless of distance from school. This fee and others will be proposed on February 6. Board action is scheduled for February 20th. While not all fees can cover 50% of the associated costs, this is the goal as we try to close the annual operating deficit facing. Any family eligible for lunch fee waivers will have these fees waived. Additionally, there is a sliding scale for fee waivers based on income that will be posted and widely communicated. Finally, for most extra-curricular activity fees, applications can be made for the Viking Fund to pay those fees. (If you have any questions, please email Kathi Meinzer at for details.)
  • FY20 Budget - While the February 6th and February 20th Board meetings will review fees, which generate revenue to offset expenses, at the February 20th meeting, the Administration will submit for the first time a series of items that would reduce expenses. These are not yet recommendations. Rather, they are a host of potential program reductions with associated expenditure reductions or they are simple budgetary line item reductions. After receiving feedback from the Board regarding these items, potential recommendations will be made in March and April. As the specifics of these items are determined, those details will be communicated so you can share your thoughts and concerns with the Board.