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posted: 3/1/2017 12:45 PM

Improving District 94 'climate' to boost student performance

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  • Douglas Domeracki

    Douglas Domeracki

 
By Douglas Domeracki
Inside District 94

In the midst of planning for the 2017-2018 school year, I am reminded of the Roman god Janus.

This symbol of change and transitions, the progress of past to future, is indicative of our planning process in Community High School District 94. As we continue the work of providing our students with a comprehensive 21st-century education, I would like to share some accomplishments this school year, and share future plans our board of education has initiated for next school year.

Last year, we began a focus on improving school climate. School climate is a critical component of any school that wants to tap into the full potential of students.

There are many research studies to indicate that a positive climate marked by connectedness, empathy and support encourages students to challenge themselves and explore academic opportunities in the school.

To that end, we have been working this year to codify that concept at West Chicago. As a school, we have rallied around the concept of making West Chicago a connected community that demonstrates compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement and resilience by developing ethically responsible students.

Faculty, staff and students have all been engaged in this conversation at various levels, including faculty meetings, ROAR, and student council. The most recent example occurred when 145 students and 15 adults came together to make a global impact by volunteering at a not-for-profit worldwide food distributor.

This school year, we have been taking a fresh look at our programming to be sure we are evolving to meet the instructional needs of 21st-century learners.

New courses for 2017-2018 include AP Computer Science Principles, Technical Mechanics, Environmental Science and Forensic Science. Providing our students with authentic learning experiences that make connections to the real world is a priority.

Now in our second year of incorporating Chromebooks as a student learning tool, students and teachers have used the devices to support learning and assist with student organization. The Chromebook has become an essential tool in the classroom.

In the future, students and teachers can expect the world of educational technology to keep evolving with new technology and apps being developed, and teachers finding creative ways of using the technology.

As an example, teachers are creating Digital Breakouts, in which students must use critical thinking, problem solving, troubleshooting and collaboration to solve digital problems.

This technology does not eliminate the need for textbooks, however. While many publishers provide textbooks in both printed and electronic formats, not all textbooks are best used electronically. Some are simply not available electronically.

The board of education recently approved the adoption of the following textbooks for the 2017-2018 school year: Technical Drawing with Engineering Graphics (15th edition), Industrial Mechanics, Child Development, Early Stages Through Age 12, Krugman's Economics for AP (2nd edition), Street Law (9th edition), Criminal Justice in America (5th edition), The Practice of Statistics (5th edition), Forensic Science: An Introduction (3rd edition), MyCrimeLab, and Environmental Science: Your World, Your Turn.

While looking at school climate, technology, courses and textbooks for the future, we must also focus attention on our aging facilities -- the original building was built more than 90 years ago; sections of the building were built in 1955, 1965 and 1978.

The bond debt from the 1999 classroom addition will be paid off in late 2017. Based on a survey conducted in December, community members encouraged our board of education to move forward with a $37.5 million bond referendum that will be on the April 4 ballot.

Citing the need to preserve and protect the community's investment in our high school buildings, the survey shows support to replace roofs, windows, lighting and plumbing systems, where needed, and make security improvements that ensure student and staff safety. More information can be found at www.d94.org/referendum.

Learning from the past to make changes for the future is what the Roman god Janus represents, and it is what we do to provide the best educational opportunities for the students entrusted to us.

• Douglas Domeracki is superintendent of Community High School District 94 in West Chicago. His column appears in Neighbor monthly during the school year.

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