Peoria Public Schools

Peoria Public Schools

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 Meet Our Superintendent

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Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat
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Location: Administration Building
 Phone: (309) 672-6768
Fax: (309) 672-6708
Superintendent's Blog
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  • Social Emotional Learning and Growth Mindset

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 1/18/2017 4:00:00 PM

    In buildings throughout the Peoria Public Schools, hallway bulletin boards illustrate our focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), the second pillar of the strategic plan.  The bulletin boards show opposite approaches to problems and challenges: a fixed mindset approach and a growth mindset approach. Each day, children pass the boards comparing sayings like: “This is too hard.” vs. “This may take some time and effort.” and “I will never be as smart as ________________.” vs. “I’m going to figure out what he/she does and try it.”

    The more optimistic and empowered statements demonstrate a growth mindset – a key component of developing healthy social emotional responses to life. The bulletin boards are just one way principals and staff members are developing a positive growth mindset culture within each school. Staff members have other creative ways to promote positive SEL in their schools and classrooms.

    For example, Kellar Primary School interventionist Lisa Gifford and principal Ken Turner instituted a monthly school-wide read to target specific fixed-mindset behaviors in students and transform those to growth-mindset behaviors. Gifford chooses each month’s read-aloud book from a list of books that illustrate growth-mindset attributes including making mistakes, resilience, persistence and hard work. The picture books are chosen based on Kellar data showing that some behaviors such as bullying, disrespect and being off-task typically occur at predictable times of the year.

    Some of the books used this year are Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.

    When each month’s book is selected, Gifford provides teachers with a digital copy and resources. She also creates an interactive display of that month’s books in the school foyer, which students use as a pre- or post-reading activity. Each teacher develops classroom activities appropriate for their students based on the month’s book. On the day of the school-wide read, Mr. Turner introduces the book during morning announcements. By having all students in the school read the same book on the same day, followed by activities tailored to the book’s lesson helps the children internalize the positive message. Gifford reports that students enjoy viewing the different grade level projects and activities. Data is showing that promoting a growth mindset on a school-wide basis is helping decrease problematic behavior.

    Another component of Social Emotional Learning, as defined by the Illinois State Board of Education SEL Learning Standards is: Using social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships. Thomas Jefferson Primary School teacher Jane Bielenberg, with help from a Peoria Public Schools Foundation classroom grant, has developed Buehler Buddies, a program to enable her first grade students to develop friendships with residents of Buehler Home, located next to the school. Once each month, Bielenberg’s students walk to Buehler to visit with residents. The children and older adults play games, read books together, make crafts and, for their holiday visit, sang carols. The visits have become a special occasion for students and Buehler Home residents.

    Efforts like these throughout the Peoria Public Schools, focusing on Social Emotional Learning and developing a positive growth-mindset, are building healthy and emotionally resilient children.

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  • High School Offerings Continue to Grow

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 1/11/2017 4:00:00 PM

    High School course registration is beginning for the 2017-2018 school year! It’s valuable for all staff to understand what is being offered at the high school level so that conversations with students at any grade level can be meaningful in providing informed guidance about their future.


    As a District, we continue to work to create programs for our students which will result in strong employment skills and well-paying jobs in the short term, plus continued opportunities for life-long learning and advancement in the long term.


    We are particularly excited to add a two-year Law Enforcement program at Woodruff Career and Technical Center.  The program consists of nine dual credit courses taught by Illinois Central College (ICC) adjunct faculty who also work in law enforcement.  Beginning with the class of 2019, currently in their sophomore year, graduating students in the Law Enforcement program will need only six additional credit hours to receive their law enforcement certificate from ICC, and may then continue to work toward a transfer degree.  Classes in the program introduce the criminal justice system, police operations and emergency medical responder.


    The Law Enforcement Program joins the diverse offerings of career and technical programs at WCTC: barbering, hair braiding, cosmetology, construction, auto body, culinary arts, health occupations and emergency services (EMT/Fire Science).


    Pathways To Your Future, the high school curriculum guide is now being distributed to rising 9th through 12th grade students.  The guides enable counselors, students and families develop a high school course plan following one of 16 Career Clusters.  Students have many tools provided by the Peoria Public Schools and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council to determine their interests and devise a plan to succeed.  Using the internet-based Career Cruising career exploration and planning tool, students and parents complete an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) which includes high school coursework and out-of-classroom learning opportunities such as mentoring and job shadowing related to the student’s interests.  Each student’s ILP is updated annually and parents can monitor their student’s progress through the Career Cruising Parent Portal. 


    Peoria Public School high school students and their families have several choices to get a step-ahead in earning college credits which can result in significant savings in college tuition.  Students can earn college credit through Advanced Placement (AP) classes and through ICC Early College Credit (formerly dual credit) classes.  The Early College Credit program allows Peoria Public School juniors and seniors to take classes at the ICC East Peoria or North campuses to both earn college credit and participate in an experience that increases the likelihood they will be successful when they attend college because they are already accustomed to the pace and expectations of college work. 

    Rising high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and their families, can learn more about these opportunities at next week’s Parent University on Thursday, January 19 at ICC North Campus starting at 5:00 p.m., and at the three high school curriculum fairs on January 24, 25 and 26. All students and their families are strongly encouraged to attend prior to registering for their 2017-2018 classes. Online course registration will conclude at the end of the month.


    It is no secret that students are more enthused, engaged and motivated to succeed when they see relevance in what they are learning.  I believe that when students and their families can clearly envision a path from high school coursework to an obtainable, sustainable and fulfilling future, our attendance and graduation rates rise along with the success of our greater community.

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  • Students prep for SAT; test replaces ACT/PARCC

    Posted by BARBARA DREW at 12/21/2016 10:00:00 AM

    In April 2017, all Illinois students classified as 11th grade students in the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year will take the SAT or the DLM test.  The SAT is now required by the state for a high school diploma. The DLM is a requirement for 11th grade students if it is part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

    In previous years, students have been required to take the PARCC and/or ACT assessments to complete Illinois requirements for a high school diploma.  Going forward, the SAT replaces the PARCC and ACT for grade 11 students. Peoria Public School teachers, counselors and interventionists are ensuring that current 2016-2017 juniors are aware of the change and are well-prepared to take the SAT.  

    The SAT and ACT are similar.  Each test requires about the same amount of time to complete.  Each has an optional essay portion.  Both the SAT and ACT have a reading passage, but the ACT has a science section which measures critical-thinking skills rather than specific science knowledge.  One math section of the SAT prohibits the use of calculators, while calculators are permitted on all ACT math questions.  The SAT has been revised to align with the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS) and therefore should be more aligned to classroom instruction.

    Our teachers are building SAT test prep exercises into their daily lesson plans.  Teachers are incorporating more writing in courses, using variations of SAT essay prompts. Student writing is evaluated using the SAT Essay Scoring Rubric.  Science teachers practice algebraic equations, graphs and charts, nonfiction text analysis, data analysis, anticipation guides, lab reports and compare/contrast problems. Social studies teachers are helping students master extended response, source-based writing, argumentative claims with supporting details, source content and connections, and graphic organizers. Mathematics teachers are doing problems of the day from College Board and that students are modeling their responses to meet the rigor of expectations.

    After school and/or Saturday study tables will begin at each high school starting with the second semester. The study tables will give students the chance for targeted support. A Saturday practice exam will be offered courtesy of Kaplan Test Prep.

    Students also can take advantage of free online sources are available to prepare including:


    If your student is a classified as a senior by Peoria Public School standards at the end of the first semester, they will not be required to take the SAT test. If your child plans to attend a two- or four-year institution after high school they may be required to take either the ACT or the SAT as part of the school’s application process. 

    High school students and their parents with questions about the SAT/DLM can speak to their child’s counselor or school interventionist.

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  • Increasing opportunities, rigor, for more high school students

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 12/14/2016 10:00:00 AM

    As Peoria Public School students and parents prepare for high school curriculum fairs in January, our high school counselors, teachers and administrators are undergoing a paradigm shift which may bring exciting changes to the futures of our students. 


    Recently high school staff members began working with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a method developed by a Seattle-based non-profit which helps schools increase the number of students enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes.  Through students surveys, EOS identifies high school sophomores and juniors who are capable of AP/IB coursework but, for various reasons, do not enroll. By gathering in-depth data on individual students’ academic records, socioeconomic background, and extracurricular activities, and helping school personnel provide one-on-one guidance, EOS helps schools increase the number of students successfully completing AP/IB classes. 


    Why is this important? AP/IB classes give students the rigor and challenge they would find in college classes, making them far better prepared once they attend college. According to EOS, students who take AP/IB classes in high school are 30 to 40 percent more likely to graduate from college than students who do not. And while 76 percent of high school sophomores aspire to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, only 33 percent of 25-29 year-olds actually earn a college degree.


    According to EOS representative Dr. Tracy Conrad, high school students are most often urged to enroll in AP/IB classes by parents and counselors based on grade point average and test scores. Statistically, students from white and Asian backgrounds whose parents are college graduates are far more likely to enroll in AP/IB classes while students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students of color and students whose parents did not attend college are far less likely to attempt AP/IB classes, even if their test scores and grades qualify them to enroll.


    Research shows that underrepresented students give a variety of reasons for avoiding AP/IB classes, but schools should look below the surface of those reasons. For example, a student who believes the classes are too much work may be afraid of failing or falling behind on outside family responsibilities. EOS asks students to identify a trusted adult – a teacher or school counselor – who can help the student examine possible fallacies in their reasons for avoiding AP/IB classes and help them choose appropriate AP/IB classes.


    Enrolling underrepresented students in more challenging classes can produce long-term positive results, says Conrad. By giving students a chance to “play college” while in high school, we give them a distinct advantage when they enter college with realistic expectations of the work required at the post-secondary level.

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  • New Work-Based Learning Opportunity Exposing H.S. Students to Trades

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 12/7/2016 10:00:00 AM

    WBL1 When the Knolls neighborhood in Peoria needed to replace benches in a boulevard area they reached out to Michael Brix’ construction trades students at Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC).  Brix and the students unveiled their handiwork this week at the corner of North Street and Hawthorne Ave in The Knolls.  Brix, who designs custom furniture during his non-teaching hours, designed the two cedar benches which students constructed and finished.  The Knolls Neighborhood Association paid the cost of materials and made a donation to the school.  Projects such as this help WCTC students build strong skills for future employment. 


    This year, for the first time, Peoria Public School high schoolWBL2 juniors and seniors are participating in the Peoria Education Region for Employment and Career Training (P.E.R.F.E.C.T.) work-based learning program.  Through work-based learning, students representing Richwoods High School, Peoria High School and Manual Academy spend each afternoon training at one of ten labor union halls, as well as completing classroom-based units on topics including Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) regulations, construction math, blueprint reading and interviewing skills. 


    Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) Construction Trades teacher Michael Brix teaches the class and works with Chris Kimball of P.E.R.F.E.C.T. and Kevin Connor of Tri-County Construction Labor-Management Council (TRICON) to coordinate the site visits.


    Some Peoria Public School students in the work-based learning class have already studied construction trades at WCTC but the WCTC classes are not a pre-requisite.  The biggest obstacle for many students in enrolling in work-based learning is the block of time required.  The class is an elective requiring three class periods, so juniors and seniors must be on track to completing graduation requirements to have the time available during their junior and senior years.


    The class gives students a close-up look and hands-on experience in trades such as bricklaying, carpentry, HVAC, sheet metal, operating engineering, plumbing, cement masonry and more. The exposure to trade union apprenticeship and journeyman career-tracks can lead students to solid employment opportunities and well-paying jobs before many of their high school peers have graduated from college. Most union trades offer apprenticeships to high school graduates which consist of about six class hours a week and work with a contractor at 70 percent of union rate or $15 per hour.  Apprenticeships generally last two to four years, at which time the worker becomes a journeyman earning union wages. Depending on the union, apprentices sometimes also earn an associate degree. 


    As always, collaboration builds strength. Work-based learning blends the Peoria Public Schools, the Peoria County Regional Office of Education and TRICON and its member trade unions to give our students another solid option for their future. 

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  • Thanks to Parent Shannon Rule for Thoughtful Letter to Editor

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 11/22/2016 4:00:00 PM

    This week, I want to share with you a letter published recently in the Journal Star, written by Peoria Public Schools parent Shannon Rule. I was unaware that Ms. Rule submitted the letter until I read it, but am so glad for her willingness to be an advocate for our district. She makes some very thoughtful and encouraging observations. We are grateful for the many parents and community members who support the students and staff of the Peoria Public Schools. You can find the letter on the PJStar website. You can access the Illinois School Report Card here.



    When the PARCC results were provided in the Sunday, Nov. 6 paper, I examined the results. To my surprise, the only high schools included were the three in Peoria Public Schools. Curious, I visited the Illinois Report Card website.


    After years of witnessing the systemic bias against Peoria Public Schools by the Journal Star, Peoria City Council, real estate agents, and other parents, I believe central Illinois' other high schools were left out because Richwoods outperformed most. This does not fit the narrative.


    The only school above Richwoods — Morton High School — has a mere fraction of the low-income students found at Richwoods. Research has shown repeatedly the increased challenge of helping low-income students succeed. Many schools with a far smaller low income level had lower scores than Richwoods, including Dunlap, the perpetually lauded area school district. Richwoods is also the most diverse of the schools, which makes this accomplishment even more impressive.


    I do not point this out to disparage the other schools. I recognize the test is difficult. I agree a school can’t be judged by a single test. But that is how Peoria Public Schools have been judged, and I would like to change the narrative.


    Please stop misrepresenting these schools as undesirable, suggesting the grass is greener on the other side. Yes, many Peoria schools have difficulties, but they also have exceedingly high levels of low-income students. No one in the country has found a solution to this overwhelming disadvantage.


    I am proud to be a Richwoods parent. My kids love their school, feel safe there, work together with a diverse population, and are receiving a top-notch education. I could say the same about other schools in the district. It’s time to give Peoria Public Schools more credit.


    Shannon Rule


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  • AppsCo Launches at Richwoods High School

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 11/15/2016 4:00:00 PM

    I am very excited this week about an initiative launched this week by the Peoria Public Schools in partnership with the City of Peoria, local businesses and Junior Achievement of Central Illinois. 


    The brainchild of Junction City’s Alexis Khazzam, AppsCo – which stands for
    A Peoria Public Schools Company -- will be a fully-functioning, revenue-producing company designed to bring a cutting-edge mobile marketing tool to central Illinois retailers and businesses. The mobile app will provide Peoria businesses with a customizable marketing tool to build their brand, engage customers and increase sales by offering notifications, coupons, geo-fencing and loyalty programs. Unlike typical entrepreneurial ventures, however, AppsCo will be entirely staffed by Richwoods High School students, giving them a chance to earn income, and revenue produced by the company will return to the Peoria Public Schools. 


    In January, approximately 30 Richwoods High School sophomores and juniors will begin taking a seven-week entrepreneurial course provided by Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.  The course will be an extra-curricular activity, meeting once each week for about 90 minutes.  All of the students involved are volunteers. 


    At the culmination of the course, students may choose to continue as the staff of AppsCo, under the guidance and mentorship of some of Peoria’s leading business people. AppsCo., led by RHS social studies teacher Tom Hayes, serving as AppsCo. Chief Executive Officer, will have a typical corporate structure with a CEO group, sales, legal, public relations, advertising and IT/software development.  Students will be offered the opportunity to work in the company and earn commission by selling AppsCo. mobile advertising. 


    The initiative is dedicated to increasing student participation, Peoria Public Schools economic sustainability and community support for the district. It will give students real-world business training, work experience, the chance to network with business leaders, and even the opportunity to earn income. AppsCo will serve the city of Peoria and our region not only by cultivating our students’ employment skills, but perhaps more importantly by building a sense of ownership in our community.  This connection to our community will keep them here as they mature, complete their education, become tax payers and raise their own families. 


    Eventually, AppsCo. may be built into the high school curriculum and opportunities extended to Manual Academy and Peoria High School students.


    AppsCo. is a wonderful example of the type of collaboration that will propel the Peoria Public Schools to a high-achieving school district. In addition to Khazzam and Junction City, many community leaders and businesses have stepped forward to serve on the AppsCo. Board of Directors and to mentor the students including representatives of CGN & Associates, Unity Point Health, KP Solutions and Miller, Hall & Triggs.

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  • What is "Productive Struggle?"

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 11/9/2016 12:00:00 PM

    On behalf of the Peoria Public Schools Board of Education, staff, students and families, I wish to extend my sincerest thanks to the voters of Peoria County for supporting the Peoria County School Facility Sales Tax.   Your investment will be returned in the form of safer and stronger schools and the creation of local jobs. I am excited to be able to move forward with much needed projects at each of our 27 schools and complete them as outlined in our proposed plan within the next five years. It is an important step in our continued effort to raise student achievement, recruit families and staff and provide an environment that supports learning.


    Speaking of student achievement and learning opportunities, we know that preparing students for their future isn’t about earning A’s and high GPAs. It is about preparing students for the workforce. 


    Educators refer to the process and work of learning as productive struggle. Learning to ride a bike is a good illustration. It takes hard work and practice.  Although we can give help and support initially, eventually the rider must pump the pedals and maintain balance on their own. 


    Productive struggle gives students opportunities to problem-solve and collaborate by analyzing and using knowledge to create new solutions to problems or by applying that knowledge for deeper and more meaningful learning. Productive struggle is not intended to create frustration. Rather, it requires students to confront a challenging task with no immediately apparent solution by using higher levels of thinking or cognitive-demand and multiple learning strategies.  (NCTM and Peterson, B., 2016). Tasks should be related to the unit of study and should be focused on sense-making.  Cognitive demand goes hand-in-hand with more student autonomy, meaning that students learn independently rather than through direct, step-by-step guidance from the teacher.


    Giving students opportunities for productive struggle engenders higher level thinking and a sense of accomplishment.  Students retain learning more deeply and longer, and develop perseverance. This type of thinking works for any paths students may choose to take.


    The work of the teacher is to provide students with thinking tools students they can then use to solve new problems or in varying scenarios.


    The concepts of rigor and productive struggle are grounded in growth mindset theory and research. Having a growth mindset moves students from focusing on letter grades to developing abilities. It is about the process of learning rather than the attainment of knowledge. This moves away from thinking that students must have a natural ability in school or certain content areas. Growth mindset instead focuses on effort and the process of learning.


    Growth mindset translates into students who graduate more prepared and employable for the work they plan to do as adults.

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  • ISBE Releases State Report Card

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 11/2/2016 4:00:00 PM

    This week the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the results of the 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), along with other school-district data in the 2016 Illinois report card.  I believe it is important to study the report card data holistically to have an accurate perception of the Peoria Public Schools progress and challenges. 


    It would be misleading to compare the Peoria Public Schools to other districts in the tri-county region.  Two-thirds to three-quarters of Peoria Public School students come from homes of poverty, defined as less than $25,000 annually for a family of four.  We cannot be compared to Dunlap or Morton or East Peoria because accompanying this poverty rate is a wide-range of deeper troubles and needs that must be addressed before learning can take place. 


    Our strategic plan takes direct aim at these challenges through the implementation of the Office of Social/Emotional Support; through our efforts toward building family engagement, and on building a highly-qualified, effective staff with the resources to help students and their families. 


    Community dialogue on the socio-economic and racial disparities which impede our students’ success is also required.  For example, on November 3, Illinois Central College Dean of Social Sciences and Public Services Marwin J. Spiller facilitated a town hall forum on Race, Inequality and Policing.  The impetus for the event was a recent study by the website 24-7 Wall Street, judging Peoria as the worst city in the nation for African-Americans to live, based on factors including poverty rates, median income, unemployment, incarceration rates and educational attainment rates.  As Spiller points out, the forum highlighted the urgent need to address economic disparities, criminal justice reform and differential access to quality education and safe neighborhoods. I hope this conversation is the first of many among Peorians.


    Similarly, Alignment Peoria exists to synthesize our community’s resources and provide resources to propel our students forward.  Also this week, Katherine A. Coyle, a longtime Peorian with extensive experience building collaborative programs among public, private and not-for-profit sectors was named the first executive director of Alignment Peoria.  I believe Katherine’s background is uniquely suited to the Alignment model and we are excited to begin this important work.


    We are building a foundation to transform the Peoria Public Schools to a high-performing district.  We have much work to do. Working together as a community, we will make our vision a reality and give our students the resources to be high-achieving, successful and to give back to our community.

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  • Adopt-A-School Program Celebrates New Partners

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 10/26/2016

    Reenergizing the Peoria Public Schools Adopt-A-School program has been one of our District’s goals for the past year.  The Adopt-A-School program, coordinated by the Peoria Public Schools Foundation, is a vital component of our District’s success.  Adopt-A-School manager, Sarah Oakford, has spent the past six months recruiting an Advisory Board, recruiting new Adopt-A-School partners, training new Adopt-A-School volunteers and solidifying long-time partners. 


    For example, at this week’s Peoria Public Schools Board of Education meeting, we recognized three partners who have worked with Trewyn K-6 School: HSS, Corn Stock Theatre and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra.  In addition, we welcomed a relatively new Trewyn partner, Grace’s Tables Ministries.  Trewyn K-6 partnerships are a wonderful illustration of the many forms of Adopt-A-School partnerships can take.  HHS coordinates the school’s Saturday morning tutoring programs, which draws approximately two dozen students each Saturday.  HHS donates clothing for students and coordinates an ongoing program to bring international awareness to Trewyn students.  Through Corn Stock Theatre and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Trewyn students are exposed to rich, vibrant cultural resources, participating as audience members, meeting artists and musicians face-to-face, performing in theatrical productions and attending summer theater camp.  Now, through Grace’s Table Ministries, Trewyn students and their families planted and harvested a vegetable garden, providing fresh produce for Trewyn families during the past summer and fall and Trewyn students attended a multi-week summer camp. 


    The Peoria Federation of Support Staff 6099 was also recognized as a new adopter on Monday night. Members are assisting Richwoods High School, Franklin Primary and Jamieson, by building and stocking a student amenities closet. District support staff have purchased supplies such as deodorant, toothbrushes, and other hygiene products to keep at the school for students to use, as needed. The group is considering adopting the district at-large.


    Adopt-A-School partnerships take many forms within the Peoria Public Schools.  Oakford and her team of volunteers, including former Peoria Public School administrator Michael Illuzzi, work to identify potential partners.  Their goal is to pair each school with a business partner, a civic organization partner and a church partner.  Adopt-A-School partnerships can supply a wide range of gifts to our schools.  For example:

    • financial assistance in the form of in-kind supply donations, uniforms, food and personal hygiene products.
    • In-kind consultancy for school-management issues.
    • one-on-one tutoring for children.
    • business facility tours for students.
    • business internships for students and school faculty.


    Each Adopt-A-School partnership is uniquely tailored for the needs of the school and the resources of the partner. 


    We encourage and welcome all members of the Peoria community to share your gifts with Peoria students.  These gifts will keep giving for many, many years to come. 

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