Andy DuRoss isn't aiming for returning students and their parents to instantly recognize that he's the new superintendent of Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 this year.
But he does expect they'll quickly learn that the district has updated its vision and goals for student achievement.
Having been named former Superintendent Ed Rafferty's successor-to-be almost a year ago, work on the updated mission statement has played a big part in his transitional year.
"Education is a continuous improvement project," DuRoss said. "District 54 is committed to making sure every student meets his or her potential."
Though the change of superintendents wasn't the reason for the update, it provided an ideal time to do it, DuRoss said. The mission had last been updated six years earlier -- about as long as one should go without a fresh look, he added.
Without reducing its yearslong emphasis on literacy one bit, the district is now placing math and science on the same high plane, DuRoss said.
If any proof be needed, there is now the "Engineering is Elementary" curriculum for first and second graders, "NASA Rockets" for third graders and "Lego Robotics" for fourth graders.
Then it starts to get serious.
DuRoss believes an interest and aptitude in math and science is no longer the social stigma it might have been for the children of previous generations -- it's recognized as a cornerstone of today's students' past and future lives.
Partnerships with Motorola and other neighboring technology companies have not only enabled these curriculum upgrades but clearly demonstrated to students the role such knowledge plays in their world, DuRoss said.
Though one of the district's new goals is for all 27 of its schools to perform in the top 10 percent nationally in student growth targets in reading and math, this should hardly be a shock to the system -- 19 of the schools already do so.
Earlier in his tenure with the district, DuRoss spent three years as principal of Frost Junior High School in Schaumburg -- a school which wasn't performing to its potential at the start of that period, he said.
DuRoss said he learned a lot about what it takes to make an individual school live up to districtwide expectations -- experience at least as valuable as that gained during the six years he later spent as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.
Now that he's superintendent, he recognizes better than ever the relationship between the district's expectations for every school and the individual identity of each.
For not every school is the same. They range from the Hoover Math & Science Academy to the Japanese-English dual language curriculum at Dooley Elementary.
Yet, every one of those communities shares in District 54's instructional goals as well as the state's Common Core standards which the district is embracing, DuRoss said.
"We do believe the Common Core State Standards are beneficial," he added. "The results that we get, those happen in the classroom."
DuRoss said the district's ability to focus on instructional improvements has benefitted from a strict 16-year-old policy of passing only balanced budgets. This and a regular, rigorous look at operational efficiencies have kept financial crises at bay and should continue to do so for a long time to come, DuRoss said.