D11 Insights

September 2021

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Superintendent's Mission Matters Message

The 2021-2022 school year is off to a start, and I am glad we are prioritizing keeping our students in person as much as possible. This is no easy task, believe me, but we know from our experiences last year, forced remote instruction is less than ideal for students and it is going to take the help of our entire community to maintain health and safety protocols so that we are not battling guidance surrounding unnecessary quarantines. I thank each of you in advance for your efforts to help us keep schools open.


Starting September 15, we are bringing awareness to our learning communities by recognizing National Hispanic American Heritage Month. With approximately 35 percent of our students and families being from various Latinx communities, and in accordance with our school board's Hispanic Heritage Month Resolution, we want to ensure that we bring diverse perspectives into our classrooms that may not generally be captured in adopted curricula. You may also view the D11 Equity website at www.d11.org/equity to view all the work the District has taken to date and how to be involved in the equity and inclusion work moving forward. We are proud of our community’s diversity and appreciate the perspectives gained from all.


We are also in peak open house season at our schools, and I invite each of you to connect with your neighborhood school (even if you do not have students in our district) to gain an understanding of school performance goals. We know that strong schools equate to strong communities and your perspectives are invaluable to ensuring our students are getting everything they need to be successful. If you do have students in our district, please be sure to connect with the School Accountability Committee (SAC) at your student’s respective school site. We have an overarching Unified Improvement Plan for the District, identifying key academic improvement areas, along with strategies, to ensure we are thriving as a school district. If you want more information on getting involved, please consider joining our District Accountability Committee (DAC) that helps guide our key academic performance indicators.


I am looking forward to the year ahead, and I know we will have our share of challenges. Please know that we are doing everything we can for a safe and successful year of learning together!

Yours in partnership,

Michael J. Thomas

It's Open House Season!

Mitchell High School JROTC Honors Patriot Day

D11 New Administrator Highlight: Brian Cortez, Chief of Business/Operational Services

A new segment in the D11 Insights this school year will highlight new district and school administrators. This month, we sat down with Mr. Brian Cortez, who joined D11 in July as the Chief of Business/Operational Services. Mr. Cortez joins us from a neighboring school district, where he provided budget and financial leadership. We asked Mr. Cortez the following questions so we could get to know him better. Here is how he responded:


1. What is your all-time favorite school supply? A compass – not because I really used it for anything educational in class. It was mostly used as a toy/distraction. How many circles can you possibly draw during class? What potential trouble can you get into with that pointed end?

2. What was your all-time favorite lunch item? Friday was the day that I did not bring my lunch, and that was because it was pizza day. But on the days that I brought my lunch, Fruit Roll-Ups were my favorite. Not sure there was actually any real fruit in those things.

3. What character was on your first lunchbox? I think the first one was the Dukes of Hazzard. Clearly, it was a different era.

4. Who was the person from your school days who had an impact on you and why? I remember the first principal from elementary school, Mr. Drazich. He encouraged me to be confident. I remember one time I told him that I wanted to be president one day, and he said that I could do it if I set my mind to it. I also started collecting coins when I was really young, and he gave me some coins from different places he had visited. Again, it was a different era.

5. What's the class lesson you always remember? I remember working on the multiplication tables. Our class was really competitive, so I worked very hard to learn them with my dad outside of class. Then in class, we would recite them when our teacher called on us.

6. Tell us your why -- what keeps you going on tough days? I’m motivated by the thought of doing the best that I possibly can to fund schools. I spent a lot of my career working in public accounting and for large corporations. In those roles, I never felt that much satisfaction helping wealthy people and company executives save money on their income taxes. In my current role, I love thinking about the potential impact that my work can do to maximize education through the creative use of every dollar the district receives. I’ve always felt that public education is the great equalizer for students, so having the ability to help manage the finances of a school district is very meaningful for me.

7. What is your favorite quote? “All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.” – Anna Quindlen

8. What theme song would you want played as you entered work each day? Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Garry Berry Stadium Has a Brand-New Look!

The city's oldest and most nostalgic stadium recently got a huge and much needed facelift, thanks in part to you, our generous voters! On August 27, D11 Board of Education members, district leaders, and special guests were invited to cut the ribbon during the Grand Re-Opening of Garry Berry Stadium. Built in 1959, the stadium received a new state-of-the-art video scoreboard, updated sound system, a new track, drainage system upgrades, and new ADA-compliant parking. But the thing most people will notice, is the new silver field with the D11 logo in the center.


“It’s a risk,” says Chris Noll, D11 Athletic Director. “We knew it was a risk and we wanted to stand out. We wanted people to notice and I think that’s what has happened now. We have had a lot of people in the last week and a half to two weeks want to come by and check out the silver. They think it doesn’t make sense, but now that they’ve seen it, they’ve fallen in love with it.”


Funding for the renovations came from the District 11 general fund, and the 2017 voter-approved Mill Levy Override. Watch the following video to see the August 27th Ribbon Cutting Ceremony!

Garry Berry Ribbon cutting - 8-27-2021