Superintendent's Corner

Avoca School District 37 - August 18, 2022

Inspire Curiosity, Cultivate Academic Growth, Nurture Diversity

In this AMAZING issue, read about...

  • Our Mission and Portrait of a Graduate Guide Us
  • Excitement about our first day together ... and some action items
  • Reminder about our COVID-related responses
  • Safety & Security at Avoca District 37 Schools
  • How Avoca & Marie Murphy will approach Sex & Health Education in 2022-2023

Our Mission & Portrait of a Graduate Guide Us

In my most recent post, I took some time to unpack our Mission Statement, to Inspire Curiosity, Cultivate Academic Growth, Nurture Diversity. That mission speaks to what makes up our most important work with students every day.

Our Portrait of a Graduate is a set of value statements, oriented to what skills, abilities, and dispositions we believe students should have when they graduate from our schools. If we develop these in our students, we are sure they will be successful in their life after leaving Avoca District 37.

In every post, I will briefly highlight one of the seven Portrait Characteristics. And in future posts, I look forward to celebrating students that live these values. This week, I will unpack the first characteristic, that our graduates will be

Academically Prepared:

Rigorously exploring knowledge that will help them and others thrive in the future.

Simply put, it is our job to make it possible for our students to rigorously explore both the essential concepts in core subjects like Math, Science, English Language Arts, Social Studies, AND in any important subject we expose them to in a curricular or extracurricular experience. Only exploring is not sufficient; we must help them do so rigorously. And rigor without developing the curiosity and self-direction that is required for real exploration, will not lead to important learning. Finally, this Portrait statement recognizes the role knowledge plays in helping the individual and the greater community thrive. Knowledge used for only self-centered purposes is ultimately learning that has not reached its full potential.

Helping our students be academically prepared is a hallmark of an Avoca District 37 education and one we know we can continue to enhance over time.

Excitement for the first day ... and some ACTION oriented details.

I believe we all are feeling more restored, energetic, and excited about the start of school next week compared to this time last year. Some notes to remember:

  • The first day for students is Wednesday, August 24. A full day of school (except for Kindergarten)

  • If your student is at Avoca West, you need to order lunch ahead of time this year. Please, make sure you have the new account set up. We will migrate funds from your old account. Seriously, please do not wait until the last moment to set up your new account online at by clicking here. Marie Murphy lunch will work as it did pre-pandemic through the Mealtime system. Please see your email from Ms. Beth Dever for more details.

  • Immunizations. COVID vaccinations are not required but are encouraged for those eligible aft er you have consulted with your child's physician. However, there are other legally required vaccinations that must be completed and records sent to the school nurse before the end of September. You can see the complete list of required vaccinations by clicking here. Without these being completed, your child could be excluded from attending school starting in October.

  • Bus pick up location information will come out later today, Thursday, August 18, via an email from Ms. Beth Dever. If you registered your student for the bus after July 29, then your pick up will not start until September 19. I encourage families to have their students take the bus because it eases pick-up and drop-off congestion at schools and it is typically more environmentally friendly than driving a traditional car to and from school.

  • Please stay tuned for communications from Principal Hutchison and Principal Ryan coming out Sunday, August 21 with many more school-specific details about the first day and week of school and early-in-the-year events to know about.

Reminder - COVID Reopening Plan

As I mentioned in my last post, I brought to the July and August Board of Education meetings the required plans for re-opening school related to COVID. You can find the August 11 Board meeting memo by clicking here. Almost all school operations will be typical to pre-Covid operations. Details to note are:

  • Mask wearing is optional. The District fully supports any student’s or staff member’s decision to wear or not wear a mask. The school will comply with any legislative or health department directives related to masking.
  • All students who have a positive COVID test result will be required to stay home for 5 days from the positive result.
  • All students who have COVID symptoms will be required to stay home for 5 days from the onset of symptoms unless they can document a negative test result for the school nurse and symptoms have resolved or improved and there is no fever.
  • If close contacts are identified by the COVID positive individual, those contacts are
  • recommended to get tested immediately.
  • Students or staff who believe they have been a close-contact to a COVID positive individual in school or who are otherwise symptomatic, may be offered a rapid-antigen test to be administered by the school nurse.
  • The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) may dictate more stringent measures at any time if it determines that an outbreak has occurred at a school.
  • Students will still be required to stay home if they have a fever or show other symptoms of illness that require them to stay home, per the school nurse’s typical protocols.
  • The most cautious approach means keeping students home when showing any signs of illness until students are well enough to attend and a negative COVID result is confirmed.
  • In consultation with their doctors, students and staff are otherwise recommended by State and Federal health agencies to get a COVID vaccine or booster when eligible.

Safety & Security at Avoca District 37 Schools

On August 4, my Administrative team met with local law enforcement representatives to review our plans and procedures to ensure school safety and security on a daily basis and in the context of any number of possible events.

Additionally, we identified areas for further review and possible improvement and areas where we can engage staff in additional training, especially now that most COVID mitigation is ceased.

In the coming weeks, you will see messages from the principals about relevant safety and security drills. Please pay close attention to these.

In light of the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and at the Highland Park parade, we anticipate further review, updating, and possibly additional drills this year. We appreciate your support as we work to continue to ensure our schools are safe.

Sex and Health Education in District 37 Schools

Recent Illinois law establishes a distinct set of standards to follow when providing a comprehensive health and sex education learning for students. Specifically, that law identifies 45 standards for Kindergarten through 5th grade and 43 standards for grades 6-8. Most of these standards are innocuous, uncontroversial, and many align well to our mission statement and characteristics we seek in our graduates, e.g. understanding different perspectives and experiences.

In all bluntness, at this time, because the law, its related administrative rules (non existent at this point) and guidance are not as clear as they could be and because our resources are not yet sufficient, I propose that the District does not officially elect to adhere to implementing a “comprehensive personal health and safety and sexual health and education” curriculum as defined by Illinois statute for the 2022-2023 school year.

Rather, I recommend that for the 2022-2023 school year, the Administration and staff continue to develop lessons via its teachers and in partnership with external partners which are developmentally appropriate and, when appropriate, aligned to the National Standards adopted by the State of Illinois. This would include what has been provided in the past related to:

  • Anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Puberty

  • Reproduction

And the Administration and staff together or with trusted partners will build or adopt developmentally appropriate lessons related to gender identity, combating gender and sexual orientation stereotypes, including around inclusive family structures, and state mandated topics like preventing sexual abuse and preventing teen dating violence (the last two we already cover).

Consistent with the law, for any topics listed above parents/guardians will be notified at the beginning of the year that these topics will be covered and they may option their student out of those lessons by submitting their request to do so in writing. (We will have a form.)

However, it should be noted, that in the course of more typical instruction, some topics can arise through student questions or indirect content that intersect with topics of gender identity, sexual orientation, stereotypes, reproduction, etc. In such cases, there is no requirement or expectation of prior notification, since that cannot be adequately forecast by a classroom teacher.

Furthermore, because connecting students’ learning is a hallmark of critical thinking, it could arise that a later lesson not directly connected to a previous lesson on one of the aforementioned topics (anatomy, physiology, puberty reproduction, gender identity, combating gender and sexual stereotypes, inclusive family structures) causes one of these aforementioned topics to be raised again in a new context. This happens in all types of learning contexts and is what supports critical thinking, and it often happens organically, arising from direct student questions. In such instances, teachers will not quash student discussion.

Additionally, because our current administrative and curricular resources are not adequate for us to fully comply with all of the state mandates already in place, I recommended that our administration continue to review and recommend additional resources from the state and other sources for future implementation, especially for the middle school level.

Finally, Lurie's Children Hospital will be making presentations for parents prior to any presentations it makes to students in grades 4 through 8 this year. Those presentations will take place on different topics across different dates from late September through early January. Opt Out forms for parents/guardians will be sent out prior to those taking place.

You may access my full memo to the Board of Education by clicking here.