The Winnetka Public Schools, February 2023
Regular Board Meeting
Emily Rose, President, called the meeting to order.
Dr. Kelly Tess, Superintendent, and Mr. Dan Waters, Vice President, made the following statement to open the meeting.
Dr. Tess said,
“I want to begin by sharing a statement regarding a situation that has been brought to our attention. While the District and Board are not able to directly respond to all community feedback that may emerge, we do take issue when false, inflammatory information is shared regarding individuals or our schools.
Last week, some members of our community received an email communication from an organized group not affiliated with the school district. This email singles out Crow Island School, asserting that books included in the grade level’s “My Family and All About Me” units include content that teaches sexual relations to children and that these books are only made available at this school. Moreover, the email claims that these books were selected by our Director of Student Services, Equity & Inclusion. Furthermore, the email asserts that the majority of the books included in this unit only feature families with same sex parents. All of these claims are false, among numerous other inaccuracies contained in the email. It unfairly targets Crow Island Kindergarten teachers and two administrators in our district. Most concerning of all is the divisive, accusatory tone that paints a picture of our classrooms, schools and district unfairly and incorrectly.
All kindergarten classrooms across our three elementary schools have been teaching the “My Family and All About Me” unit since at least 2018 when there was an update in the state social studies standards. This unit aligns with these required standards and is an opportunity for students to learn about different types of families and communities, as well as celebrate things that define them as individuals. The books referenced in this email are amidst a collection of books made available in kindergarten classrooms in all District elementary schools during the family unit and are intended to depict a variety of family dynamics, encouraging students to understand that not all families look the same. Despite this email’s claim, the truth is that none of these books have been removed from the classroom based on content, all are developmentally appropriate, and all depict a variety of family dynamics. This unit’s supplemental materials were selected as a result of curriculum committee work, and not by the Director of Student Services, Equity & Inclusion (a role which was adapted last year and represented by a new administrator since last year, well after this work was completed). While this unit was developed prior to our Strategic Plan it is aligned with our instructional goals. Similarly, this unit is aligned with the qualities supported in the District’s Portrait of a Graduate, which highlights seven traits that we seek to develop in our students over the course of their elementary experience: empathetic, effective communicator, resilient, lifelong learner, global citizen, collaborative and creative problem solver. As was stated at the September 2022 Board meeting, sexual education is isolated to the middle school grades, and all curriculum can be found posted on our website. At no time do any of our kindergarten teachers ever initiate discussion about or instruct on sexual education. We remain grateful to our dedicated teachers and administrators for the developmentally appropriate and compassionate way in which they support and create environments where all students can feel cared for in their educational experience. Our shared values of respect and kindness extend to our staff and families and community at-large; I ask that as a community we model these values to our students.”
Mr. Waters stated that,
“As always, we thank you all for the continued parent and community engagement (including the public and private comments we have received on this topic). We understand that many issues are sensitive, particularly in today’s climate and we will continue to listen to, read and contemplate every thought coming from our engaged community.
Our School Board has the utmost respect for our administration and educators. We work hand-in-hand to ensure that our students and families are seen, supported and see themselves represented in our schools and in our curriculum. While we always welcome well intentioned inquiries about our curricular approach, targeting our administration and teachers with false accusations is unacceptable.
Our Board continues to support the current curriculum that has been approved and used in the District for five years now. As always, curriculum will continue to be evaluated on planned cycles.
Again, we appreciate any and all public comment and concern. At any point, if parents or community members have questions or concerns about any school related topics, we encourage you to reach out directly to the school and administration leaders to understand the situation and the facts. Having said that, I would like to reiterate that publicly spreading misinformation about individuals, our curriculum and instruction in the District will not be tolerated by our Board.”
Highlighting Progressive Education in Action:
Skokie and Washburne students, along with teachers and building administrators, discussed how Project Based Learning has inspired their academic growth. Skokie students shared how they learned components of planning a trip such as budgeting by serving as “travel agents” for staff and parent volunteers, and Washburne students learned about the human body and setting health goals through an interactive project.
Beverages with the Board
Ms. Rose noted the return of Beverages with the Board, is an opportunity for community members to connect with Board Members on a regular basis.
March 13 from 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
April 12 from 11 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
817 Elm Street in Winnetka
Dr. Tess highlighted Winnetka Voices a recently-launched podcast by The Winnetka Public Schools. Listen to the latest episode, “Recruiting & Retaining Incredible Educators” here:
Mid-Year Annual Goal and School Improvement Report
The district administrative team, along with building administrators, shared mid-year updates on school improvement plans and district initiatives through the lens of the four District Strategic Plan goal areas:
Intellectual Engagement & Motivation to Learn
Positive Culture & Well-Being
Local & National Leader in Progressive Education & Talent Development
Financial Stewardship & Facility Improvements
Advancing the Educational Master Facility Plan
The Board was updated on the Educational Master Facility Plan. This included updates regarding the bidding process as well as Skokie Cornices, as well as the Administration’s work on engaging a quote for a structural engineer to evaluate issues related to water infiltration, as well as the plan for addressing work on the chimneys and cornices.
Preliminary 2023-2024 Staffing Plan
The staffing update this month is the first preliminary plan for the 2023-2024 school year. Staffing priorities include taking into account student enrollment, special education needs, programmatic reallocation, and financial commitments. Overall, the projected staffing implications show certified staff FTE (Full Time Equivalent) remaining the same for next year (shifting staff due to the above priorities), classified staff decreasing by 1.0 FTE, and administration decreasing by 1.0 FTE for 2023-2024. At the bottom of the memo are potential recommendations for the Board to consider.
The proposed calendar for 2023-24 was presented at the January 31, 2023 Board meeting. Since that time there have been no changes and the administration recommended the calendar as presented. As a reminder, the school year for students will start on September 5, 2023 and the last day of school for students will be June 13, 2024.
The Board approved Bid Package 2 for the summer work to be completed at Greeley and Hubbard Woods over the summers of 2023 and 2024. This includes concrete work, earthwork, site utilities and door openings.
Tile Work-Carleton Washburne Summer 2023
The Board approved tile work at Carleton Washburne during the summer of 2023. This work is being completed by Libertyville Tile & Carpet, Ltd. This is being purchased through Sourcewell, which is a cooperative that has a state contract for this work.
Village Agreement-Traffic Study
The Board approved an agreement with the Village to mount cameras on poles within the Village to determine traffic counts in the vicinity of Crow Island. This work will be completed by Ericsson Engineering in March over a few days. This will help the District determine if the current traffic patterns will be adequate for the addition to Crow Island that will be added beginning in the summer of 2024.
School Board Policies recommended for update at the January 31, 2023, meeting are provided for a 2nd read. Pending no changes, recommended updates will be adopted as part of the Consent agenda.
The Consent Agenda and Following Action Items Were Approved:
- Summer 2023 and Summer 2024 Bid Recommendations
- Tile Work - Summer 2023, Carleton Washburne School
- Village of Winnetka and Winnetka School District 36 Temporary Use Agreement
To view the entire Board Packet from the February 21, 2023 Meeting, click here.