Parents as Partners

January, 2020

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Dear District 15 Community,

The start of a new year is always an optimistic time, but the start of a new decade is even more so here in District 15! I know I’m energized to continue the work we have underway across the District to improve student achievement and to repair and maintain our facilities. But I’m also exploring new ways to strengthen our partnership with you, our parents, as well as local residents. That’s why I’m delighted to announce that after a more than 20-year hiatus, we will be printing and mailing a publication to each and every household within our 33-square mile boundary, which covers all or part of seven municipalities. Look for a mailing from District 15 this spring. I promise it will be both informative and inspiring.

Next steps forward on facilities

As you know, we have been hard at work with our Board of Education to get a full view of the extensive Health Life Safety repair and maintenance projects required for our 20 schools; to review financing options to complete this work; and to evaluate various boundary scenarios that may impact decisions about what is needed at each school. Preliminary scenarios have incorporated a variety of elements, including full-day kindergarten, adjustments in program locations, a more streamlined feeder pattern, and a possible middle school (6-8) option.

Although these ideas have evolved and been refined, the Board of Education at its recent meeting decided that it would be helpful to hear from RSP Associates -- a school organizational planning company -- in February to see how they could provide more targeted guidance to evaluate these scenarios. The goal will be helping us get to a point of decision making on how to address both capacity issues and facility needs across our 20 schools. We will continue to update you as the longer term facility conversation progresses.

Flexible seating for Learning Resource Centers is one-five Foundation’s new goal

Funding everything from sensory rooms to LEGO Robotics leagues in our schools, the one-five Foundation and its donors have been incredibly generous to our District over the years. For 2020, they are reaching even higher to outfit every LRC with flexible seating. They’ve established the lofty goal of raising close to $200,000 for this effort, which truly will impact every child in our District!

I’m delighted to note that District 15 will be adding flexible seating in Gray M. Sanborn’s LRC this year to guide the planning and overall vision. Once Sanborn’s LRC is complete, we will be able to showcase the space for potential donors and community members to see the impact that flexible seating has on student learning and engagement.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of any size via the one-five Foundation’s website. The annual 50/50 Raffle (formerly the 529 Raffle) benefitting the one-five Foundation will also begin February 1. Stay tuned for communication regarding the raffle!

Student Achievement report guides planning for coming school year

The annual Student Achievement report reviewed with the Board of Education in January shows that District 15 has areas of substantial strength as overall, our students exceed the state performance levels in both English/Language Arts and Math. Student growth in these areas is strong and falls within the state expectation range. But the report also identifies areas that are opportunities for growth and improvement. These include, for example, reducing the achievement gap between students with various demographic factors and comparison peers across the state, and increasing the participation in some of our specialized programs, such as gifted, out-of-level math, and junior high algebra, by students in some of our demographic groups.

As we look ahead to 2020-21, we are using the data in this report -- which is also aligned with our District 15 Strategic Roadmap as well as the federal Every Student Succeeds Act -- to guide our priorities for allocating existing staffing and resources and to make requests for additional support where needed. We will be presenting our first recommendations to the Board at the March meeting.

My goal as your new Superintendent is to ensure that we are not just perpetuating the status quo, but rather we are investing resources strategically on initiatives that we know can move the needle on student achievement and to meet the social emotional needs of our 12,000 learners. It is a multi-year effort certainly, but one well worth undertaking as we look to accelerate improvements across District 15.

Walk and Talks at our schools

Although it was a short month, I enjoyed the opportunity to visit several of our schools and always love being with students and staff as they learn and grow!

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I’d like to end by saying: #IHEARTD15!!!

Your partner in education,

Dr. Laurie Heinz

Superintendent of Schools