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Special Announcements and Resources:
The Peoria Public School Board of Education is considering significant changes to our students’ high school experience designed to achieve the first Pillar of the District Strategic Plan, Our Path to 2020.
Pillar 1 of Our Path to 2020:
High Standards, Rigorous College and Career Curricula, and Engaged and Relevant Experiences
The Philosophy of the Peoria Public Schools High School Graduation Plan, a proposal presented at the March 20th Board of Education meeting, is to provide each student with educational and career options that will allow them to graduate and pursue their future endeavors without the pressure of performing relative to peers.
We hope to achieve this goal by offering educational and career options according to each student’s interests; rigorous educational experiences; providing interventions; reducing graduation credits, and providing flexibility in scheduling and awarding of credits.
Dr. Thom Simpson and Mrs. Cheryl Sanfilip, retired Peoria Public School administrators who last year volunteered to spearhead the District’s campaign to increase attendance rates, have led a committee of principals, counselors, district staff and community volunteers over the course of the last two years conducting research on high school graduation rates. The committee reviewed the district’s graduation rate as it relates to class rank, credits required to graduate and flexibility options. The recommendations presented for consideration by the school board are anticipated to be voted on at the April 3rd meeting and are the result of the committee’s research.
Eliminating class rank as a measurement of academic success is the first recommendation. High schools throughout the country are increasingly dropping the use of class rank in favor of the Latin system: cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. In central Illinois, school district including Morton High School and McLean County Unit 5 have eliminated the use of class rank. The trend is even stronger in the Chicago area, with schools districts including New Trier, Hinsdale and Evanston Township High School converting to the Latin system.
Using class rank as a gauge sorts students on performance relative to peers, often creating unnecessary stress for students and parents and more importantly, steering them off course from selecting classes that align with their interests and future goals. Students may choose classes simply to pursue a weighted grade rather than pursue personal interests and aspirations.
Research shows that students who take Advanced Placement (AP) classes are more likely to be successful in college, regardless of the grade earned in the class, so using class rank may actually be a barrier to success for some students. Students who are capable of rigorous or weighted classes may avoid taking them for fear of damaging their class rank.
Finally, over the past two decades, college admissions officers have moved to considering grades, SAT/ACT scores, application essays and interest over class rank in admission decisions. These criteria are better aligned with how the student is expected to perform at the college level more so than comparing them to a group of peers that attend their high school.
The school board also will consider expanding the range of graduation credits required from a minimum of 26, to a range of 24 - 28. Required graduation credits were increased in 2011 from 22 to 26. The increase eliminated the option of a study hall during a seven-period day and reduced the ability of high school staff to provide interventions during the school day. From 2010 to 2016, the District’s graduation rate fell from 90 percent to 69 percent.
Reducing the number of required credits can provide students an extra period during the day for tutoring, enrichment opportunities, interventions, electives or even internship opportunities.
In Illinois, school districts have the option to increase the number of credits required for core and elective courses once minimum Illinois State Board of Education requirements are met. Among Illinois high school districts that the committee reviewed, most required credits ranging from 20 to 24.
The third recommendation the board will consider involves providing more flexibility in educational and career options for high school students. Some ways to provide flexibility might include flexible start times; options for early graduation; waivers for physical education requirements; advanced placement opportunity labs; increased intervention options, and tutoring.
While these changes may seem dramatic, they are backed by solid and persuasive data, and reflect trends that high schools throughout the country are following to meet the needs of students in coming decades. I believe these changes will help the Peoria Public Schools increase its graduation rate and help our students graduate with tools and skills required to be successful and productive citizens.
For more information, go to www.peoriapublicschools/registration
In 2015, Anne Wheaton, CDC epidemiologist said in a statement, “Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance. Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
I encourage you to read about the proposed change and take the survey. Visit our website to find the link and participate in our current opportunity for feedback! The survey closes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 26th.
Like many Peoria citizens, I have been following the Most Beautiful City Hall national competition and hoping that as of Friday, March 10, The Peoria City Hall will be voted the winner.
Among its many beautiful and aesthetically pleasing attributes, the Peoria City Hall regularly houses rotating displays of the artwork of Peoria Public School student artists. This month, display cases on the third and fourth floors feature artwork by Von Steuben Middle School and Lincoln K-8 students and watercolor and acrylic paintings by Richwoods High School students hang in the third floor hallway. Please take the time to visit city hall and view the work of these talented young people.
The creative artistry of Peoria Public School students also is on display this month just two blocks from City Hall at the Peoria Public Library Main Street location. The second floor gallery in the library currently houses the Peoria Public Schools Budding Artists exhibition, featuring works by students from every Peoria Public School, from pre-kindergarten through high school. The Budding Artist exhibition opened on March 2 and will continue through March 28.
Fine arts also will be the focus of next week’s Parent University, on Thursday, March 16, 5 to 8 p.m. at the Peoria Public Library Main branch. This month’s Parent University is hosted by Roosevelt Magnet School and Peoria High School and highlights the Peoria Public Schools’ exemplary and expanding fine arts programming. Each floor of the library will feature performances by choral groups, dance troupes, orchestras, bands and drama performances.
As you may recall, in spring 2016 our District began a focused effort to strengthen fine arts programming at all grade levels. This effort included recruiting additional students for arts programs at Roosevelt Magnet School and for the Preparatory School for the Arts (PSA) at Peoria High School and a successful drive for donations of gently-used musical instruments. The results of our renewed focus on music, drama, dance and the visual arts will be on display at Parent University on March 16. Please join us!
In other news, I am excited to announce that Richwoods High School alum and Chicago Bears cornerback and special teams player Sherrick McManis will be presenting the Peoria Public Schools with a $25,000 grant on Friday, March 10 at 2:10 p.m. at Richwoods High School.
The former RHS football player and state champion long jumper will present the grant on behalf of the NFL Foundation to the athletic directors, coaches and players of all three Peoria Public Schools’ high school football programs. Each football program will receive $8,333 to be used for athletic training services, including concussion equipment and prevention training.
The NFL Foundation’s Club Matching Certified Athletic Trainer Grant matches dollars donated by the Chicago Bears organization for athletic training services provided by Athletico. The Peoria Public Schools has partnered with Athletico for four years.
The state-of-the-art equipment and training provided by NFL Foundation, the Chicago Bears and Athletico is vital for keeping Peoria Public Schools student-athletes injury-free.
Peoria Public School students demonstrate their artistry with the medium of food at several venues this month.
Culinary Arts students from Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) competed in the Illinois Central College (ICC) Culinary Institute High School Chopped Competition the weekend of February 24 and 25. At the ICC state-of-the-art facility, the three-member WCTC team competed against teams from Dunlap High School, East Peoria Community High School, Midland High School and Pekin Community High School District 303.
In each round, teams were given identical mystery baskets with ingredients to create portions of an entrée. Teams were given five minutes to research, brainstorm and create their recipe and 30 minutes to prepare the recipe.
The WCTC team won the first round on Friday afternoon and continued to the final round on Saturday, losing to East Peoria Community High School.
WCTC Culinary Arts juniors and seniors face an even more rigorous challenge this weekend at the 16th Annual Sysco Illinois ProStart Invitational, held at McCormick Place in Chicago. Each school sends two teams: a restaurant management team and a culinary team. Two WCTC sophomores also are attending the ProStart competition to begin preparing for next year.
The two teams have been preparing for the ProStart event since November, meeting 2-3 days after school each week.
For the restaurant management competition, the five-member management team must:
For the culinary competition, each of the five-member culinary team must:
The main event of culinary competition requires each team to prepare a three-course meal within one hour using only two stovetop burners. Teams are barred from using electrical appliances such as blenders or food processors.
The ProStart competition is judged by professional chefs and restaurant owners, some representing prestigious Michelin-star establishments. ProStart gives our students an unparalleled opportunity to network with leaders in the restaurant industry and learn about post-secondary educational opportunities in the culinary field.
The cooking continues the weekend of March 11 when nine 5th grade students will gather at Lincoln K-8 to compete in the Sodexo Future Chefs competition. Healthy Comfort Food is the theme for the 2017 Sodexo Future Chefs competition. Each fifth-grade Future Chef is paired with a mentor-student from the Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) Culinary Arts program.
The Future Chefs Challenge which is going onto its seventh year, encourages children to make healthy food choices and to show their creativity in the kitchen. This year, students from 256 school districts will be joining over 2,500 other students representing over 1,000 Sodexo-served school sites in 29 states nationally in this fun and educational challenge.
The skills of WCTC Culinary Arts students are available to the public each Thursday for lunch. In recognition of Pulaski Day on Monday, March 6, students created a special menu to salute their very own Officer “Ski,” otherwise known as School Resource Officer Jim Skibinski.
Appetizer: Diner’s Choice: Placki Ziemniaczane, a potato pancake topped with sour cream, chives and fried Polish sausage bits -- or Warrior Way Cafe house salad with ranch dressing.
Entrée: Gulasz, a tomato and roasted red pepper Eastern European pork goulash served over rice pilaf.
Dessert: A traditional Polish sweet treat – Kolackes – Jam-filled rolled cookie
For reservations, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Tuesday. Cost for lunch, which includes an appetizer, entree, side dish and dessert is $5. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is available for dine-in or carry-out. The Warrior Way Cafe is open each Thursday that school is in session.
Please join us for lunch and delight in the outstanding culinary skills of these Peoria Public School students.
The summer months are a mixed blessing for educators, students and their families. The lazy, relaxed, warm days we anticipate during the winter can quickly become a time of boredom for children and a source of stress for families seeking a safe, reliable and affordable environment for students. Educators, meanwhile, use valuable instructional time when school begins in August reviewing material children have forgotten since spring.
Beginning this summer, the Peoria Public Schools will offer summer school to all students. The Monday- Thursday full-day program will include breakfast and lunch. Morning hours will focus on academic instruction and afternoon hours will be devoted to physical fitness and fine arts activities including soccer, dance, art, golf, tennis, field trips and guest speakers. Students must participate in the morning sessions to participate in the afternoon sessions. The summer school day will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.
Kindergarten through 2nd grade students can choose to enroll in morning reading instruction during June and morning math instruction during July or they can enroll in both sessions.
Third through 8th grade students will focus on science workshops and individualized online instruction during the morning hours. This program runs from June 5 through July 27.
In addition, an accelerated algebra I program will be offered to 20 students currently in 7th grade. These students will work on algebra I concepts with both personal and online instruction. This program will be limited to 20 students.
As in past summers, English Language Learners (ELL) students in grades 1 – 8 will gather at Glen Oak Community Learning Center. Locations for the other programs are still being finalized.
Taking advantage of the Summer School options can make a vast difference in a child’s academic progress during the school year. I encourage families to visit www.peoriapublicschools.org/summerschool for details and to register online.
Last week our students’ progress reports were sent home, signaling the halfway point of the third quarter. The third quarter will end on March 10 and Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday evening, March 23 and Friday morning, March 24.
Each Peoria Public School building will be hosting an Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Drive during the March Parent-Teacher conference.
The Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Drive is chaired by Lindbergh Middle School special education teacher Christine Hickman and Mike Plunkett, former Peoria Public School principal and the recipient of a donor heart.
During Parent-Teacher conferences, each school will have 3-5 laptop or iPad stations available to register as an organ donor as well as volunteers to assist.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, over 119,000 men, women and children in the United States are currently on the national transplant list. Another person is added to the list every 10 minutes and 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Almost 2,000 on the organ donation waiting list are children under age 18 and almost 70,000 of those on the waiting list are ethnic minorities. One donor can provide up to eight lifesaving organs but only three in every 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation. Almost 82 percent of patients on the organ waiting list are in need of a kidney. Eleven percent need a liver transplant and 3.2 percent need a heart transplant.
While 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, only 48 percent are actually registered as organ donors. Events such as Parent-Teacher conferences are an excellent opportunity to encourage people to register as tissue and organ donors.
Hickman has been personally touched by this issue through Plunkett, a family member who will need a kidney and a former student who died before receiving a donor kidney.
Peoria Public School families will be receiving more information each week about Organ and Tissue Donation. We welcome members of the public to stop at a Peoria Public School during Parent-Teacher Conference to take advantage of this opportunity to register.
Greater Peoria Works is a free online job-posting tool designed to connect students with internship and job shadowing opportunities. By participating in Greater Peoria Works, business can:
The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council offers seminars to introduce the program to employers on the fourth Tuesday of each month, 10 - 11 a.m., 101 SW Water St. Employers can bring mobile devices to walk through the program during the presentation.
The Peoria Public Schools and Richwoods High School are proud of the rich diversity of the students we serve. We endeavor to host events which introduce students to that diversity such as this morning’s event described in the Journal Star. We are proud that Richwoods High School students embraced this learning opportunity.
Next Wednesday, February 8 at 6 p.m., the Richwoods High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Diplommae students will host their annual International Night, another occasion to highlight our diversity.
Students throughout the Peoria Public Schools will be hosting events celebrating Black History Month. This year, Richwoods High School’s Black History Month event is being planned and coordinated by members of the school’s Minority Academic Advancement Project (MAAP).
The Peoria Public Schools facilities improvement plans will take another step forward after the February 6 Board of Education meeting. Our team is finalizing a five-year timeline and budget for improvements. Each of our 27 school will be impacted. Beginning in April 2017 and continuing through 2021, our physical facilities will receive much-needed improvement thanks to voters approving the County Facility Sales Tax in November.
The renovations will make a vast difference in the environmental quality our children and staff members spend their days. The largest expenditures will be for HVAC and roofing improvements. Improvements in energy-efficient lighting, building automation, windows and exterior doors are an investment which will reduce energy spending over the long term.
Much like we have been working on with limited funding in recent years, we will continue to ensure the safety of students and staff with security and technology upgrades. (http://tinyurl.com/jxgqq3t) At Von Steuben Middle School, a parent drop-off lane will keep children safer and relieve congestion.
Some improvements will be more visible than others. Our STEM- and healthcare-driven economy demand state-of-the-art science lab facilities and Manual Academy and Richwoods High School labs will each receive a $500,000 upgrade. Peoria High received new science labs just a couple of years ago.
Also, as Richwoods High School students and families can attest, the auditorium seats are well-past their prime after several decades of fall plays, spring musicals, student assemblies and annual talent shows. We plan to have new seats installed in time for the 2017 fall play.
Over the next five years, Peoria Public Schools facilities improvements will create hundreds of local construction jobs. On Monday, the Board of Education will finalize the projects and timelines that will be funded. We continue to be grateful to the voters of Peoria County for approving the school facilities sales tax in November and are committed to being wise and transparent stewards of taxpayer investment while creating the optimal learning environment for our children. As we get started on projects in a couple of months, we plan to work with the Chamber of Commerce to actively track the projects and monitor our expenses and job creation numbers. Check our website or the Chamber’s website for additional information in the next couple of months.
On Monday, I led Illinois Secretary of Education Susan Purvis, her colleague Sara Shaw, managing director of K-12 strategy, and State Senator Chuck Weaver on a tour of five Peoria Public Schools. The tour aimed to show some ways our District is meeting the diverse needs of our students.
Our first stop was Knoxville Center for Student Success (KCSS). As KCSS Principal Eric Thomas and I noted at KCSS’ December graduation ceremony, the school’s success illustrates that where education is concerned, one size does not fit all.
KCSS serves 128 high school students. These students face unusual and daunting life challenges, making success at their traditional high school elusive. Many are parents and have other family responsibilities and jobs. Some have fallen behind academically due to behavior issues, illness or family hardship. Some simply have been unable to negotiate the large class sizes and relative anonymity of the District’s larger high schools.
Through small class sizes, a nine-period school day, high teacher-student ratio and a combination of compassion, humor, discipline and tough love, KCSS staff give students a high level of personal attention and support to achieve graduation. The school has a no-cell-phone policy and conversation and behavior is carefully monitored. Fewer distractions allow students to earn missing credits at a rapid pace through traditional classroom and individual computer work.
This semester KCSS has extended its hours to help students earn high school credits. Previously, the school day ended at 2:30 p.m. Now, students can arrive as late as lunchtime and stay until 5:45 p.m. or can arrive at the customary 7:30 a.m. start and work through the longer school day. The three extra hours allow students with scheduling conflicts due to employment and childcare issues to work toward earning their high school diploma. This year eight KCSS students also are enrolled in Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) programs, enabling them to graduate from high school with employment skills they can use immediately.
Extended school hours are another example of the services KCSS staff provides its unique student population. At times, staff members have helped homeless students find emergency housing, clothing and food vouchers. Students can receive individual counseling, small-group counseling, anger management and parenting classes to help them overcome obstacles to graduation. Community organizations including the Tri-county Urban League, fraternities, sororities and churches, provide tutoring, life skills training, college readiness and employment services. In fact, Senator Weaver who accompanied this week’s tour is familiar with KCSS. Weaver and his wife, Laurie, have taught cooking classes to the school’s students.
KCSS is a prime example of how the Peoria Public Schools are providing a world-class education for every student.