D211 Post: Three Former Superintendents Visit District 211

Superintendents

From left to right: Dr. Richard Kolze, Dr. Nancy Robb, Dr. Dan Cates, and Dr. Gerald Chapman.

Township High School District 211 prides itself on providing students with the highest quality education and opportunities. Building a strong reputation did not happen overnight. It is the product and impact of each staff member under the leadership of the superintendent that led to the District’s success and reputation.

To celebrate the District 211 legacy, Superintendent of Schools Dan Cates recently invited three local former superintendents to visit the school district and discuss their time in District 211.

Collectively, the four superintendents have more than 100 years of experience served in District 211, with more than 40 combined years served as superintendent. Dr. Richard Kolze began working in District 211 in 1957 and served as superintendent from 1970 – 1990. Dr. Gerald Chapman started in District 211 in 1965 and served as superintendent from 1990 – 2001. Dr. Nancy Robb began her District 211 career in 1980 and served as superintendent from 2009 – 2014. Dr. Cates entered District 211 in 1992 and has served as superintendent since 2014.

While each superintendent’s tenure contributed different initiatives within the District’s evolution, they shared a common thread – providing the highest quality opportunities possible for students and the community. Each superintendent similarly described the charge and responsibility of upholding the legacy built by each of their predecessors and the importance of fulfilling the trust provided to the District by community members.

“Trust is something that I hold as a priceless commodity,” said Dr. Cates during a round-table discussion. “We have always provided extraordinary opportunities and there is always that next level to achieve. Early on in my career, I sensed we are always pushing for the next best thing. Innovation and expansion to more opportunities were just inherent.”

When discussing the fondest memories of their time in District 211, all the superintendents reminisced about the students and people they encountered each day on the job. Dr. Robb shared a story during her time as principal at Palatine High School. “After 9/11, students came to me because they wanted to make a flag that would be as large as the football field, so when planes started to fly again it could be seen. We had a flag ceremony and invited the community, students, and staff. The power of students working together in a very difficult situation, and making something good come from it, I will never forget.”

Each superintendent had a connection to the community and to each other. Dr. Kolze mentioned how a former instructor of his led him to be an educator, and former District 211 Superintendent Gerald A. McElroy helped push him to success. Dr. Chapman credited Dr. Kolze’s positive influence for his success as a developing administrator, ultimately leading to the role of superintendent. Dr. Robb mentioned that Dr. Kolze also hired her for her first administrative position and Dr. Chapman encouraged her to consider being superintendent. Following the same cycle, Dr. Cates expressed gratitude to Dr. Chapman and Dr. Robb for hiring him and setting him on the path to becoming superintendent. “When you get older you don’t think about thanking the people who did so much for you,” said Dr. Kolze. “I am here because someone helped me to college, McElroy pulled me along the way. You shouldn’t miss those opportunities to thank people who helped you along the way.”

As the District continues planning for the future and prepares students to be college and career ready, Dr. Cates and the former superintendents see great opportunities in store. “Every generation and every decade provide a different need,” Dr. Chapman said. “The most difficult thing is to recognize what those needs are going to be, and how we are going to be at the forefront of it. We have a great track record of that and keep exceeding. That didn’t happen by accident. We want to have a strong academic program and a strong athletic program. Both of those are good for kids.”

Their work to better the community doesn’t stop within District 211. Outside of the District and in retirement, these superintendents have worked in service of their communities. Throughout each of their careers, all four superintendents resided within District 211 boundaries, and still do. Additionally, all have served in community organizations, some of which include the Palatine Rotary Club, Excel Beyond 211, Community Consolidated School District 15, William Rainey Harper College, and the Palatine Chamber of Commerce. Strong community connections help strengthen District 211 and its programs. “We are fortunate that the community has been very supportive of District 211,” said Dr. Robb. “Fundamental to all of that is we have a great staff. You have to hire well to have the staff that’s able to carry things out. I believe the staff has worked as a team and everyone has worked together to provide additional educational opportunities for our students.”

 




D211 Post: Introduction to Grading Improvements

District 211 logoA message from Superintendent Dan Cates …

(reprinted from the July/August 2017 Superintendent’s Newsletter)

 

 

Just for a moment, consider what you believe a report card grade should represent. Most of us can likely agree that a grade serves to communicate a student’s performance within a given course. Though grading might initially seem uncomplicated and straightforward, opinions differ widely about characteristics that should or should not factor into a final grade. Complexities associated with grading continue to merit extensive interest and study in countless articles, books, and professional seminars.

Input gathered during the community engagement sessions led us to thoroughly review our grading practices. Throughout the last school year, many people worked extensively to identify how we could improve and ensure the meaningfulness, consistency, accuracy, and timeliness of our grades. Each semester, we issue approximately 360,000 final grades, totaling about 720,000 official grades per year. Individual grades for daily homework, quizzes, and tests all factor into these final semester grades, bringing the total number of grades assigned each year easily into the many millions.

We must ensure that students and parents can understand a student’s performance through the grades we assign. Earlier this summer, I sent a message encouraging you to watch for upcoming communications about our grading improvements and in this column, I will briefly introduce some of the improvements we will implement in the upcoming school year.

 

Consistent Grade Reporting System

Recognizing that each student’s teachers might use a different reporting system in the electronic gradebook – for example, some use points or percentages while other use letter grades – all teachers in the same school will use the same grade reporting system. This consistency will make it easier for parents and students to read and understand the grade information found in Infinite Campus.

 

Timing of Grades

Rather than assigning grades every nine weeks, we will now issue an in-progress grade report stating the student’s current letter grade status in each course at the 6-week and 12-week points of each semester. We will no longer have the 9-week quarter grades or the 4½-week mid-term progress reports. Eighty percent of the final semester course grade will be based on performance throughout the 18-week semester. As in the past, 20% of the final grade will be based on the semester exam. This semester grading system is similar to the typical collegiate grading system.

 

Improved Progress Comments

Teachers recently created improved performance comments for the 6- and 12-week in-progress grade reports and semester report cards so the statements are more meaningful to students and parents. The improved progress comments describe academic behaviors as well as communication skills, attitude, work ethic, timeliness, problem solving skills, teamwork, and flexibility demonstrated in the classroom. These “soft skills” are frequently required in employment settings and are helpful habits and skills to practice during high school.

 

Course Syllabus

Each teacher will provide every student with an informative course syllabus that conveys the expectations and requirements of the course.

 

We all get better when we work together. To help ensure that every student and parent fully understands the improvements in our grading practices, you will continue to receive information through additional communications leading up to the start of the school year.




Message from the Superintendent – Safety first and always

(reprinted from the March/April 2017 Superintendent’s Newsletter)
 
Every day, 12,000 teenagers enter our care and their safety is our first responsibility and priority. We can best accomplish this duty by working together and sharing information.  I want to highlight key factors to assist our shared partnership and priority surrounding the safety of our students and staff members.
 
Contact School Personnel: The best way to prevent potential danger is to contact a school staff member as soon as a concern may arise.  We have administrators, counselors, teachers and police officers in our schools who will respond to any report of potential harm or past action.  We strongly encourage and depend on students, parents and staff members to express their concerns directly.
 
Anonymous Tip-Line: Each student’s iPad and all our websites include an easy link for anyone to report any concern.  Information submitted on the tip-line goes immediately to multiple school personnel who can initiate a response or investigation.
 
Impact of Social Media: Communication in today’s world is everywhere, and its distribution is simultaneous to large numbers of people.  Unknowingly, people sometimes post inaccurate information about an alleged incident that may or may not have occurred.  Posting inaccurate information can have an overall negative effect by creating unnecessary fear or misdirecting our efforts to investigate or intervene.  Before posting anything that you do not know to be certain, we encourage you to contact our school personnel directly or to submit your concerns on the tip-line.
 
Safety Drills: We conduct safety drills to prepare students and staff members to respond safely to a variety of scenarios.  In addition to multiple fire drills and a bus evacuation drill, today’s world also requires us to conduct “lockdown drills.”  Two times each year, local police departments assist us in training students and staff members how to respond to a perpetrator intent on causing harm inside our school buildings.  In close collaboration with the police, we continually review and improve best practices following each drill.
 
Controlled Entry: We limit access to our school buildings to a single entryway during the school day.  Each visitor, vendor and contractor entering our schools is reviewed via a state-wide database.  We appreciate your patience and understanding associated with this check-in procedure.
 
Our schools are wonderful, supportive environments encouraging truly extraordinary opportunities.  To help assure safety for all, we will always be stronger when we work together.
 
Daniel E. Cates
Superintendent



I Want a Cold Day

Students from Schaumburg High School have teamed up with the High School District 211 superintendent of schools to create a music video that can warm up anyone’s day.

Set to the music of Backstreet Boys, a student-made music video aims to provide information about the District’s severe cold weather guidelines. It describes conditions in which school would be canceled due to severe cold weather.

SHS senior Emma Robie and junior David Kessler performed vocals with District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates. Additional student actors included juniors Olivia Donofrio, Cameron Kidd, and senior Colin McGonagle. Senior Austin Anzelmo edited the final video and Science teacher Chad Elwell was the director. Senior Shannon Rees, sophomore Danny Monzon, senior Elliott Ross and the SHS Songwriting Club helped write the lyrics. Jeremy Slayton and the Schaumburg Township District Library assisted with the video production.

“I definitely think this video will be helpful because I know people who don’t know what the policy is,” David said. Emma added, “I know people thought it was just the temperature that determined whether we have a cold day or not, but it can also be a is a wind chill warning.”

The Severe Cold Response Plan at District 211 states that schools will be closed under the condition of a wind chill warning. A wind chill warning is typically issued when the wind chill will be -30 degrees Fahrenheit or colder or the actual air temperature is -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the event of a wind chill advisory, which is issued when conditions do not meet the wind chill warning criteria but still cause significant inconvenience, is not grounds for school cancellation. District 211 does implement Severe Cold Action during a wind chill advisory, which is typically issued when the wind chill is -20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

To create the Severe Cold Weather Guidelines, District 211 consulted Paul Sirvatka, professor of meteorology, forecasting, weather analysis, climatology, atmospheric sciences, and severe and unusual weather at the College of DuPage. Additionally, Dr. Alexander Means, the chief resident from the University of Chicago’s Department of Dermatology, was consulted.

Students said the best part about making the video, which took roughly four hours to record and film, was spending time with their friends and meeting the superintendent.

“The filming was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed meeting Dr. Cates,” Emma said. “He is a pretty cool guy.”

 

 




Message from the Superintendent – A Look At Grading

(A reprint of the Superintendent’s Message from the January/February Superintendent’s Newsletter)
 
As we begin the second semester, I wish each of you a Happy New Year in 2017.  We continue to develop numerous important initiatives in District 211 and I want to focus awareness on our work in the area of grading.  Along with this newsletter, parents and students received a report card conveying the final grades earned for every course completed during the first semester.  Grades are central to much of what we do as educators and it is essential that we continually review, improve and communicate our practices in partnership with students and parents.
 
Regardless of one’s age or role, everyone has received grades of some kind and – knowingly or unknowingly – most people have a conception about what they think a grade should represent.  Grades are easily recognized for their universal nature, but grades are not always well understood for the complexity in their underlying assumptions or for the varying means and methods available to communicate an appraisal of student performance. 
 
Last year through our community engagement sessions, we gathered input from students, parents and school personnel about grading.  A committee of teachers and school leaders also met throughout the past year to examine potential grading improvements.  Drawing upon this comprehensive feedback, throughout the first semester faculty members and school leaders conducted extensive reviews of our grading practices, including: our grading scales, the electronic gradebook, the timing of grades, homework completion, final exams, mid-term reports, missing assignments, our critical learning standards and others. 
 
Diligent work among our educators to identify potential grading improvements will continue in the coming months.  A top priority for the upcoming semester is the articulation of recommended grading practices which will set the course for professional development among our educators, students and parents to ensure an understanding of the rationale guiding our improvements and how the implementation of our grading improvements will benefit students. 
 
Thousands of professional articles, books and conference seminars center on the topic of grading.  Within the professional field of education, opinions, beliefs and conclusions about grading often differ, and I have found these differences to exist in just about every conversation with any group of teachers, parents and students.  Our pursuit of continuous improvement includes our grading practices and though differing ideas will likely remain, communicating a clear understanding of our recommended grading improvements will benefit all of us in our work together.
 
Daniel E. Cates
Superintendent



District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates Discusses Schaumburg Property

Article Published in the Daily Herald

By Daniel Cates,

Township High School District 211 Superintendent

 

d211propertyEarlier this year, the Township High School District 211 community engaged in multiple forums to exchange information about the District’s strengths, challenges and future direction. Drawing upon thousands of responses, the Board of Education drafted a Strategic Plan articulating District 211’s priorities and course for the coming years.

As public school personnel, we recognize the responsibility and privilege of caring for our communities’ greatest assets – our students. We also have a duty to optimize all resources entrusted to the District.

Among District 211’s assets is a 60-acre parcel of undeveloped land surrounded by established residential neighborhoods on the eastern side of Schaumburg within the James B. Conant High School attendance area. The parcel was purchased in two transactions in the event that the land might be needed to serve as the site of an additional high school. The first portion of 40 acres was purchased in 1966 and a second section of 20 acres was acquired in 1971. Through prudent planning and efficient use of existing resources, an additional high school has not been needed.

One component of District 211’s 2016 Strategic Plan is to determine how the District can maximize the benefit from this land. Board of Education Vice President Robert LeFevre best characterized the District’s parcel of land in Schaumburg as a non-performing asset. Our responsibility is to maximize the effectiveness of our resources and we are seeking ideas about how use of this land may provide long-lasting benefit.

We want to hear from our community members. From now until November 30, the District is inviting ideas about potential uses of the land through a questionnaire available on the District 211 website at http://adc.d211.org/land-use-questionnaire/. From the list of ideas collected, we will begin reviewing their potential impact and benefits.

Through our community engagement initiative, we affirmed many attributes of our local communities and the value of our local school districts. We look forward to receiving many creative ideas that will further benefit our students and communities long into the future.

 




Journalist, PHS Alumna Carol Marin Inspires D211 Administrators at Leadership Workshop

carolmarin2Carol Marin, an esteemed print and television journalist and 1966 alumna of Palatine High School, visited District 211 to kickoff the 2016 administrators Leadership Workshop by sharing inspirational stories from both her time as a student as well as a teacher.  Marin discussed the impact teachers had on her life by recognizing her potential to be an honors student. Her experience moved her to become a high school teacher at Dundee High School for two years where she could also try to encourage students to maximize their full potential.

Carol Marin visits District 211 during the 2016 Leadership Workshop.

Marin discussed the impact teachers had on her life by recognizing her potential to be an honors student.

During the leadership workshop, Marin led District 211 administrators in an exercise that encouraged them to recall moments they were impacted by a teacher or mentor, as well as share stories about students that had breakthroughs within the classroom.

Marin has worked for many major media outlets, including NBC 5 and as a CBS 2 news anchor and reporter in Chicago, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, and current host of WTTW Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight” news program twice a week. She is a winner of two Peabody Awards, two national Emmy Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards, and has been inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy.

Carol Marin poses with District 211 Superintendent of Schools Dan Cates.

Carol Marin poses with District 211 Superintendent of Schools Dan Cates.

Marin was recently named co-director of the new Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence at DePaul University and will resume her teaching career with investigative reporting classes starting this fall.