Dist. 54 to receive seven Those Who Excel Awards

School District 54
Updated 9/4/2012 7:03 PM

District 54 is proud to announce that it submitted the following nominations for the 2012 Illinois State Board of Education's Those Who Excel Awards program and all seven will be recognized.

• Superintendent Ed Rafferty won an Award of Merit in the school administrator category.

• Kim Smith, the social worker at Hanover Highlands Elementary School in Hanover Park, won an Award of Merit in the student support personnel category.

• Mike Sroka, a crisis intervention assistant at Eisenhower Junior High School, won an Award of Merit in the educational service personnel category.

• Gary Caby, the chairman of the Schaumburg Township Elementary School Foundation, won an Award of Merit in the community volunteer category.

• Lauren Jenrette, a teacher at Enders-Salk Elementary School in Schaumburg, won an Award of Recognition in the outstanding early career educator category.

• Tricia Leong, a teacher at Frost Junior High School in Schaumburg, won an award of Recognition in the classroom teacher category.

• The Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates won an Award of Recognition in the team category.

Ed Rafferty
Superintendent Rafferty was nominated for the transformational changes he has brought to this district in the past eight years; changes that have resulted in significant gains in student learning. Rafferty brought Professional Learning Communities to District 54 and emphasized analyzing student data to support teachers in their work to improve student learning.

In 2005, Rafferty's first year as superintendent, 76 percent of District 54 students were meeting or exceeding standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in reading and 80 percent were meeting or exceeding in math. In 2012, 91.6 percent of our students are meeting or exceeding in reading and 95.3 percent are meeting or exceeding in math. In 2005, at none of our schools were 90 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading and math. In 2012, 19 schools are meeting that goal, and six schools have more than 95 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and math.

Kim Smith
Kim Smith was nominated for this award for her service as a social worker at Hanover Highlands helping families in times of need. This past year, Smith partnered with a local church to host the first ever Holiday Gift Mart -- providing 125 families with gifts for their children during the holiday season. This is just one of the partnerships Smith has developed to provide services for students such as mentoring, counseling, summer camps, food vouchers, assistance after a fire, clothing and much more.

Letters of recommendation written on behalf of Smith cite how she has supported families at home as well as students at school. At school, Smith is a major proponent of the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) program. She works closely with a group of teachers to monitor student behavior and supports classroom teachers by offering strategies for behavior management. During her involvement, Hanover Highlands has seen a drastic improvement in both the culture of the school and the community support for the school.

Mike Sroka
Mike Sroka goes above and beyond every day for the students he serves at Eisenhower. He was originally hired to work at Frost Junior High School in 2001, but moved to Eisenhower in 2008 when the autism program was relocated to that school. Change is difficult for students with autism. Sroka was the constant in the children's lives. He was outside to greet them on the first day and stayed with them until they boarded the bus at the end of the day.

Sroka was nominated not just for the work he does in the special education classroom, but for the bridges he forms between the students in that program and the general education students. For example, he helps lead Partners Club, which allows Special Olympics athletes and their peers to practice sports together and participate in a track meet each spring. The club at Eisenhower has become so popular, that the school created a sign-up sheet to accommodate all the students who wanted to join, Eisenhower Principal Kara Prusko said.

Gary Caby
Gary Caby was elected as chairman of the Schaumburg Township Elementary School Foundation in 2010 after serving as trustee for four years. Under his leadership, the Foundation has launched several new fundraisers, including the Create Excitement for Public School initiative that generates revenue for the district when people shop online through Amazon, Groupon and other sites. The additional funds raised have translated into additional grants for schools to try innovative approaches to learning and for students to participate in extracurricular activities.

Foundation Vice Chairman Elizabeth Ciesla described in her nomination letter how she met Caby at a business networking meeting and a few months later he asked her to join the Foundation: "Gary is one of the most civic-minded people I have ever worked with. "His enthusiasm and love for helping children made this an offer I could not, and would not, refuse."

Lauren Jenrette
Students in Lauren Jenrette's classes last year began each day chanting "Today is a great day! I feel great! I am full of energy and enthusiasm. My teacher knows how smart I am." These chants are part of Quantum Learning, strategies that Jenrette has embraced to create a strong classroom culture and motivate her students to be successful in school.

Students describe her as fun, but her classroom strategies are also successful. Last year 100 percent of her students met or exceeded state standards in math and 90 percent met or exceeded state standards in reading based on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. These successes were achieved by students at a school where 33 percent of the population speak limited English and 35 percent qualify for free lunch. Jenrette truly believes that all students can and will achieve at high levels, creates opportunities for students to show their mastery and works with her grade-level colleagues and others in the building to improve the interventions, literacy and positive behavior programs at Enders-Salk.

Tricia Leong
As a math teacher at Frost Junior High School, Tricia Leong works hard to make a different in the lives of her students. She aligns her lessons to Illinois learning standards, analyzes the students' assessment data, adapts her curriculum to meet the needs of all learners, and holds students accountable for their learning. However, Leong's influence is felt beyond the walls of her classroom. Although many teachers work hard to make a difference in the lives of junior high students, Leong makes a difference in all learners in the educational environment: students, colleagues, parents and new teachers.

Leong is a school leader. Last year, she served as the math department chairman, the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) Universal Team leader, a building mentor, the Professional Learning Community (PLC) team facilitator and a member of the School Leadership Team. She also leads district-wide professional development courses for teachers seeking to improve the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills of their students.

The Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates has supported Mead Junior High School and the greater District 54 community through a partnership that taught students service and led to the creation of a food pantry for the families of our 14,000 students.

The Rotary Club brought alive the motto "Service Above Self" at Mead through its active involvement in the development of two student-led clubs -- Rotary Prep and Interact. The mission of Rotary Prep is to facilitate opportunities for at-risk students to take a leadership role in the school and community and to focus on college-preparedness. Interact Club is a worldwide organization for youth interested in service and international understanding. Both clubs supported the food pantry, which supported our families in need. Rotarians supported the clubs and the pantry with monetary donations, but also with their time. They attended these student meetings, helped with club projects and inspired the students.

The Illinois State Board of Education will honor all seven District 54 representatives during its 38th annual Those Who Excel banquet on Oct. 20 in Normal.