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    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

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  • More Success Less Stress

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 8/18/2017 2:00:00 PM

    This week, I visited each Peoria Public School on the first day of the 2017-2018 year. It was a whirlwind tour, but a wonderful chance to thank our staff and to let our children know how much our teachers and administrators care about their success.


    At Franklin Primary School, the day began with children and parents being greeted by 100 Men.  Franklin has hosted monthly Real Men Read days, in which professional men visit school to read to the children.  The program has gained a loyal following, thanks to school librarian Lafelda Jones. 


    At Trewyn School, students are using three new beautiful classrooms which were remodeled this summer.  On Tuesday, we celebrated the exterior street work in front of Trewyn, which includes beautiful new sidewalks, planters, a speed-table on Folkers St., new curbs and lighting. 


    In the afternoon, nearly 200 Peoria citizens – business people, educators, retired educators, parents and grandparents, civic leaders – gathered at Manual Academy to cheer the students on as school was dismissed. It was an enthusiastic and heart-warming event and such a beautiful way for the community to show Manual students that we care about their success. 


    I wish to express my deep and sincere gratitude to everyone who showed up at Franklin Primary and to Manual Academy and also to the Peoria Fire Department.  Fire Department trucks and staff members were at many schools, greeting children as they arrived for their first day.


    At each school I visited, I gave students the same message: read every day for at least 30 minutes and be kind to each other.  I encouraged them to use kind, caring and loving words and to help each other and to help their teachers every day.  I know that just those two small actions can bring about monumental changes in our childrens’ lives. 


    At the end of the day, I gathered with my team of principals and assistant principals to review how our first day went.  The reports were overwhelmingly positive.  First day compliance -- now in its second year -- our summer registration hubs, the wonderful support from Heartland Health Clinics, Peoria City/County Health Department and UnityPoint In-School Health Clinics, and our Because We Care pre-first-day home visits, have combined to dramatically reduce first-day lines for registration.  For the most part, our students arrive ready to head straight to class and begin learning.  Principals also reported that we experienced very few transportation problems, thanks to our wonderful transportation team and our bus drivers. Our staff and community is focused on working together and providing our students with the best education possible!


    At our All-Staff Convocation on Monday morning, I urged the entire Peoria Public Schools staff to make this the year when we have

    #MoreSuccessLessStress. I think we are off to a great start!

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  • Bradley University education students offered unique opportunity

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 8/9/2017 4:00:00 PM

    School districts nationwide are facing teacher shortages. With the first day of school just three weeks away, Peoria Public Schools still have numerous positions to fill.  The Peoria Public Schools have held three hiring fairs since January in our ongoing effort to make sure that every classroom has a teacher. The need is particularly great in the areas of math, science, foreign languages and special education. 


    We also have established another program to alleviate teacher shortages in years to come.  In partnership with Bradley University, this program will cultivate education students to give them extra tools for classroom success.  Through the program, we will identify 40 Bradley University teacher education students in their junior year who will gather for dinner six Sundays throughout the school year to meet with me and other members of the Peoria Public School administrative team.


    The first-year pilot program will identify ten students from the initial group of 40 to student teach at Franklin Primary School, Whittier Primary School, Peoria High School and Calvin Coolidge Middle School, the four Peoria Public Schools closest to Bradley University. The Bradley students will be paired with select experienced Peoria Public School teachers who are particularly adept at achieving the standards of academic rigor we are establishing throughout the district. These student-teacher mentorship relationships will last a full school-year. 


    Following the pilot year, we hope to place all 40 student teachers in this year-long field experience.


    How does this program differ from the typical field experiences and student teaching required of all teacher education students? Through this more intensive program, we want these student teachers to be highly developed with the rigor work we are doing at the Peoria Public Schools.  They will become familiar with the Peoria Public Schools Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), our focus on developing student autonomy, productive struggle and equity practices.  We intend this program to become a hiring pipeline for the District.  We want Bradley University teacher education students to understand that participating in the Sunday Superintendent program will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. 


    Through the combination of a teacher education pathway at Woodruff Career and Technical Center, the Teacher Education pipeline at Illinois State University and the Sunday Superintendent collaborative with Bradley University, we intend to establish a sustainable base of innovative and outstanding educators for the Peoria Public Schools. 

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  • MTSS provides academic, behavioral intervention

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 8/9/2017 3:00:00 PM

    When students must struggle to cope with trauma, their ability to learn is greatly diminished. This fundamental fact is the basis of Peoria Public Schools’ focus on Social Emotional Learning.  Classroom behavior problems, high absentee rates, bullying and similar problems prevent students from achieving academically. 


    Peoria Public Schools have used Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) frameworks for many years.  RtI is required by federal and state laws to ensure that schools make decisions based on data and research.  PBIS is the behavioral component of the larger RtI process.  Peoria Public School students and parents are familiar with PBIS expectations. 


    Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is best described as an expansion of the RtI concept.  Susan Grzanich, PPS Chief Curriculum and Instruction Officer, explains “MTSS is the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) term for providing interventions both academically and behaviorally.”


    MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral and social success. MTSS encompasses a more holistic approach to supporting students’ needs.


    Our team has spent the past year refining our focus on the intent of the MTSS model.  In classrooms, teachers will provide support or enrichment, depending on individual student requirements. Intervention can mean extra help or the extra challenge of enrichment, and students will be grouped according to their needs. Student learning and behavior are monitored over time to determine if additional intervention is appropriate. “The goal of MTSS is to provide frequent and intense support to students who need more help and provide ongoing enrichment for students who demonstrate gifted or talented abilities,” says Grzanich.


    By providing and carefully monitoring support for each student’s unique social, emotional, behavioral and academic needs, our vision -- educating and graduating each student prepared and inspired to contribute to the world – becomes a reality.


    As we prepare for our first day of school on August 16, I extend a couple of invitations to the Peoria community. First, please join us on August 14th from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. at Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum for our Staff Convocation. If you haven't been to this event before, we would love to have you join us for this always-inspiring program that recognizes staff and community members with awards and sets the tone for our upcoming school year. Your presence, along with other community leaders and advocates for our district, would mean a lot to our staff! Send a note to info@psd150.org or call 672-6744 if you would like to attend.

    Also, please plan to join us on the first day of school for Manual Academy students!  We are asking for churches, nonprofits, community organizations, concerned community members, volunteer organizations and educators to come to Manual Academy at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 16. We will gather for brief remarks at the front of the school and hand out cards with words of encouragement to be given to students.  The adults will then surround the school and hand out the cards as the Manual Academy students are dismissed for the day at 1:30 p.m.  Please share this invitation so we can have as many caring adults as possible to help start the school year off right! 

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  • Back-to-School packets mailed; keep reading each day

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 7/21/2017 3:05:00 PM

    Peoria Public School students are a little more than halfway through their summer break. Back to school packets are in the mail to your home (for returning students) and should be arriving this week if they haven't already been delivered. The packets include important information such as school supply lists, health requirements (remember first day compliance is required!) and a school event calendar for your school, which can all be found at www.peoriapublicschools.org/enrollment.


    The packet also gives important information as families begin planning for the new school year. We will be starting the school on a "back to school schedule" with a one-hour early release between August 16 and September 1. Regular, full-day schedules will resume on September 5th following the Labor Day holiday. Visit the enrollment website above for more details. Also, the handbook/calendar will be mailed to all families by the end of July so that parents and guardians can use the calendar for back to school event planning.  Finally, as announced recently, I also made sure parents knew about a new initiative that will allow all K-8 students to visit the Peoria Riverfront Museum with their class once each school year for the next five years.


    We are excited for the 2017-2018 school year and cannot wait welcome our students on August 16th! However, I encourage everyone to please help remind our students to read for the remainder of their summer break. Our students participating in our Remarkable Readers program will have spent at least 14 hours reading this summer.  Remarkable Readers spend at 30 minutes reading four times a week throughout the summer.  They are keeping track of the books they read and when school resumes, they will be entered in a drawing for raffle prizes. 

    Adams Outdoor donated space for Remarkable Readers program

    Thanks to a generous donation from Adams Outdoor, billboards like the one below are appearing throughout Peoria to remind students and parents how important it is to keep reading.  Reading during summer break keeps students’ reading skills sharp so they are ready to continue learning when they return to the classroom. 


    On steamy July and August afternoons, a trip to the quiet coolness of the Peoria Public Library or a bookstore can be as refreshing as jumping in a pool.  Please remind your student to continue to read at least 30 minutes four times a week this summer.  You will see a big difference in their academic skills when school begins in August. 


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  • Mid-summer presents time for assessment and planning

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 7/21/2017 3:00:00 PM

    This week, as we passed the mid-summer mark, the Peoria Public Schools team offered an assessment of our students’ progress last year, and presented plans for changes and improvements for the coming year.


    Illinois students in grades 3 - 8 take the PARCC test. The PARCC test is aligned to Common Core standards. PPS Director of Accountability and Research Dr. Lawrence Tourijigian, presented the “unofficial” PARCC results to the Board of Education this week.  The results are considered unofficial until the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) designates the results otherwise.  Regardless, the PARCC results are helpful in assessing the progress of grade levels as a whole. 


    “We saw an increase in every grade level and every area,” Dr. Tourijigian explained. “Although a one-and-a-half or two percentage point increase may not sound like much, in a District as large as the Peoria Public Schools, it means that 100 to 120 students have made gains and their reading skills are at an appropriate grade level.”  The District’s third grade math results showed the greatest increase, rising 5 percent over 2016.


    Peoria Public School students in grades 3 through 11 also take the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test three times each year – in the fall, winter and spring. The MAP test is adaptive and student specific. It helps teachers look for growth and provides feedback to inform instruction. The MAP test also has a predictive factor to demonstrate what can be expected on the PARCC. 


    Although comparing the winter and spring MAP results, in some cases grade levels saw a slight decrease in scores which may be the result of students tiring of testing, says Dr. Tourijigian. The spring MAP assessment follows the PARCC assessment.


    The state of Illinois also tracks the percentage of 8th grade students passing algebra. For the 2016-2017 year, only Lindbergh Middle School and Washington Gifted Middle School offered Algebra to 8th grade students. At Lindbergh Middle School, 96.3 percent of the 8th grade class passed algebra and at Washington, 98.8 percent passed algebra.  “If a child takes high school algebra in the 8th grade,” says Dr. Tourijigian, “by the time they reach senior year in high school, they can take every math class, including AP calculus, which sets them up for success in the physical sciences and medical professions.”


    Another important benchmark Dr. Tourijigian shared this week is the percentage of freshmen on track to graduate in four years, meaning they have no more then one-half missing credit.  In 2016, this number was 75.65 percent.  This number rose to 80.55 percent in 2017. 


    Finally, as I have written about previously, our Equal Opportunity Schools initiative is bringing greater numbers of high school students into dual credit and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, increasing from 565 students in 2016 to 752 enrolled for 2018. 


    All of these numbers prove that we are moving in the right direction.  Ms. Grzanich, Chief Curriculum and Instruction Officer, and her team are working with teachers on monitoring for learning, a method which catches students’ needs for reinstruction, and on student autonomy, in which students do more work themselves, engaging in productive struggle, which leads to greater retention. 


    Ms. Grzanich and her team are in various stages of implementing changes in English Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum as well as working with Derrick Booth, Social and emotional Learning Director, on implementation of a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum.  Ms. Grzanich also is leading other positive changes for the coming year.  In the next few weeks, I will continue to update you on those changes. 

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  • PPS Foundation hosts 20th Annual Golf Outing

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 6/22/2017 9:20:00 AM

    The Peoria Public Schools Foundation hosts its 20th Annual Golf Outing at the Country Club of Peoria next Monday, June 26.  This popular event includes a casual lunch, 18-holes of golf, dinner at the historic clubhouse, a silent auction and hole prizes including a chance to win a new car.  


    The golf portion of the event is fully booked with a record-breaking 144 golfers.  Reservations are still available for the dinner portion of the day, featuring keynote speaker Andre Allen, Methodist College Coordinator of Student Life and Career Services, a graduate of Sterling Middle School and Richwoods High School.  Dinner guests can also bid on three Super-Sized Raffle Baskets containing gifts from dozens of local businesses.


    Funds raised each year at the Golf Outing support the Foundation’s Classroom and Field Trip Grants and student scholarships.

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  • Manual Academy Action Teams plan innovative changes

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 6/22/2017 9:10:00 AM

    In early May, a group of about 30 professionals -- Peoria Public School educators, retired educators and community and business volunteers – gathered for Action Team Leader Training specifically charged with developing a strategic plan for Manual Academy.  Former Peoria Public Schools Administrators Dr. Thom Simpson and Mrs. Cheryl Sanfilip are leading the effort.


    Manual Academy principal Elizabeth Zilkowski and I are excited about the work of the Action Teams and about watching the implementation of their plans.


    Manual Academy encompasses three separate programs: a middle school for grades 7 and 8; a 9th grade Academy to provide students a smooth transition to high school, and a high school for grades 10, 11 and 12. Manual Academy primarily serves students from the 61605 zip code.   

     Action teams develop Manual strategic plans

    The Manual Academy site planning follows a structured process beginning with the development of tactics. The tactics formed for Manual Academy are:


    • We will develop and implement a professional development plan for Manual Academy.
    • We will develop and implement a social/emotional curriculum and plan for Manual Academy.
    • We will create and foster an environment that promotes pride and a positive school culture that fosters caring, promotes safety, models respect, and honors achievement.
    • We will partner with the community to develop and implement a continuum of college and career opportunities for Manual Academy students using competency-based education.
    • We will develop and implement a 9-14 Pathways in Technology early-college high school structure at Manual Academy.
    • We will develop an Individual Learning Plans (ILP) and a process for implementation.
    • We will create and implement a marketing plan for Manual Academy and the Manual community.

    Each Action Team, consisting of four to six professionals, focuses exclusively on one tactic, brainstorming and defining specific criteria of successful implementation.  A result is only considered successful if it can be measured, observed and attained within one year. 


    One tactic that may be unfamiliar to many in Peoria is the concept of a 9 – 14 P-Tech school.  P-Tech stands for Pathways Technology Early College High School.  Citing models from New York City and Chicago, Simpson and Sanfilip describe the schools where students graduate with two diplomas: a high school diploma and an associates degree in Information Technology (IT).  The examples studied were also teamed with IBM, which provided employee volunteers as one-on-one mentors for students and, frequently, the promise of employment when students graduated.  Although, Manual Academy currently does not have a similar corporate partner, we are hopeful to replicate that model.


    Unlike traditional high school students, P-Tech students spend a significant amount of time during their upperclass years away from school participating in paid employment, attending community college classes, doing career-related volunteer work, apprenticeships or internships.


    Our Manual Academy Action Team members are motivated and, most importantly, care deeply about the success of Manual Academy students. 

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  • Professional Learning Center provides state-of-the-art facility for educators

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at 6/1/2017 5:00:00 PM


    The Peoria Public Schools strategic plan specifies that we provide job-appropriate targeted professional development for all staff, aligned to support student achievement and school effectiveness. 


    A project completed this spring by the Building and Grounds and Technology staff members makes accomplishing this goal easier, more efficient and more economical.  Over six months, what had been a cavernous furniture storage space at the back of the Peoria Public Schools Administration Building, has been transformed to a state-of-the-art, bright, open space for offices and staff training. 


    The focal point of the space is the Professional Learning Center (PLC) consisting of two professional development classrooms and an open area to support small group trainings of up to 20 people.  The larger classroom, at 2,320 square feet, accommodates 100 people and the second, at 1,624 square feet, accommodates 63 people.


    During the summer months, our PLC classrooms are in almost daily use for professional development training for principals, assistant principals, classroom teachers and other district professionals. 


    Each of the two classrooms has a large screen display connected to a document camera and a computer, with additional connections available for presenters’ laptops, iPads, MacBooks, cell phones or tablets.  The rooms include large flat-screen monitors on the side walls to ensure all attendees, even in the back, can see presentations clearly. 


    The rooms are equipped with microphones and speakers so attendees can ask questions and be easily heard by colleagues or anyone participating by phone or Skype.  The rooms have HP stream laptops available so attendees can interact during presentations and have wireless capabilities for attendees using their own device.


    Peoria Public School staff members attend professional development programs on various topics several times each month.  Prior to building the Administration Building’s PLC rooms, programs were most often held in the commons at Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC), a space with limited capacity, outdated technology and the need for several hours of custodial and technology staff work to set up and tear down.  Larger professional development activities were forced off-site. 


    Much of the technological equipment housed in the PLC was donated to the Peoria Public Schools by Methodist College when they moved to their new campus in north Peoria in 2016.  In addition, the renovation labor was entirely performed by Building and Ground staff members, saving approximately $300,000 in labor costs.  Even the WCTC Construction Trade students pitched in by beautifully refinishing a large conference table that had already been in use at the Administration building. 


    The new space also includes offices and a small conference room for the 6-members Office of Curriculum and Instruction and completely renovated restrooms. 


    In addition to using the space for Peoria Public School professional training, the District will make it available for rent to outside groups and meetings. For more information or to secure a rental agreement, call 672-6536.


    Professional Learning Center classroom      Professional Learning Center classroom 2


    Circa 1960 District map    Conference table WCTC




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  • AVID assists students toward college and congratulations to the class of 2017

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 5/17/2017 12:00:00 PM

    This weekend, 685 Peoria Public Schools students will graduate from our three high schools at ceremonies held at Bradley University’s Renaissance Coliseum. To date, Peoria Public Schools’ class of 2017 has accumulated nearly six million dollars in grants and scholarships. We have one National Merit Scholarship finalist and 44 State Scholars. Please help me in congratulating the class of 2017!


    In recent weeks I have written about Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), our effort to encourage under-represented high school students to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses; Early College or dual credit courses and the Peoria Public Schools/ICC Strong Start program, in which students attend early college courses on the Illinois Central College (ICC) campus.


    The principles of another Peoria Public Schools college-readiness program – Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) –  have been a growing piece for many Peoria Public Schools for the last several years. At the middle and high school level, AVID is an elective course which teaches study-skills methods. AVID is specifically designed to address the needs of students who will be the first in their families to attend college.


    In the AVID elective, students learn organizational skills, study skills and critical-thinking skills. They also learn soft skills required for academic success in high school and college. For example, many students struggle simply to ask for help if they do not understand a concept. In AVID, students work with peers and college tutors to overcome the hesitancy to ask for assistance and guidance. 


    I recently had a chance to speak with AVID teachers from Peoria High School, Richwoods High School and Manual Academy.  Below are some of their comments about the AVID program.


    True leaders go on journeys and take others with them.


    “The biggest improvements I have seen is the willingness of AVID students to collaborate and take on leadership roles in other areas of the school. The tutorials and collaboration strategies students learn in the AVID elective are used in courses schoolwide, and AVID students have confidence in their own ability to use those strategies. Through this increase in confidence, they are willing to share and take on roles within the school that are often uncommon in high schoolers. For example, our seniors led the AVID 8th-grade recruitment, led Preparatory School for the Arts (PSA) events, were elected student council officers, wrote for the school newspaper and were athletic leaders. They are more likely to join clubs, activities and athletics.


    The AVID students’ willingness to contribute and the self-confidence they display is particularly exceptional because these are not students that necessarily started at the top academically. Most of these students fall in the middle, and some might have been labeled as difficult. They may have needed extra support academically, socially or emotionally. AVID presents a family atmosphere that is unique. We aren’t racing to the top against each other but with each other.


    Our AVID seniors achieved their goals by overcoming obstacles. They found their way from the middle to the elite. That achievement is extraordinary. Often students are not able to overcome the fear of failure or find a place of comfort within a large group to move into elite status. Our 2017 AVID seniors were able to move into the elite.”


    Adam O’Neill, Peoria High School



    Manual Academy’s ten graduating AVID seniors are attending Illinois Central College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and Western Illinois University, studying business, nursing, business law and political science. At Manual Academy, many AVID students begin the program in the 8th grade. In their senior year, AVID students learn how to complete FAFSA, college and scholarship applications and to understand the financial aide and college loan system. They also go on college visits.


    “Over the years, I have observed the AVID students inquiry techniques and study habits develop. They know the right questions to ask, they know what to study and how. The primary change I have noticed is the improvement in their organizational skills. The students monitor their grades regularly and proactively seek ways to improve their GPA.  Students tell me that the AVID program helps them stay focused.”


    Mary Newman-Evans, Manual Academy



    “Of the 21 seniors at Richwoods High School who are graduating from AVID,  100 percent of them have been accepted to at least one four-year college or university. Our students have been accepted to Illinois State University, Kentucky, Alabama, Jackson State University and the list goes on.


    I am so proud of them and their hard work and determination. These students have taken the AVID elective for four years and I have watched them mature and grow into outstanding young adults. Not all of them have chosen to attend at four-year college, but they all know now that they have the potential to achieve great things in their futures, and I couldn’t be more proud to help them reach their academic goals. I am grateful to the Peoria Public Schools leadership and their belief in the AVID program. Without it, many of these kids may have fallen through the cracks.”


    Phil Earhart, Richwoods High School



    AVID provides another step toward realizing the Peoria Public Schools’ Vision -- educating and graduating each student prepared and inspired to contribute to the world.


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  • Kudos to RHS and Washington

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent at 5/10/2017 3:00:00 PM

    I always enjoy hearing from parents and getting feedback on their experiences. I especially enjoyed receiving this kind note today!


    Ms. Kherat,

    I would just like to say thank-you for the amazing education you and your staff have provided for my children.  My daughter is a Senior at Richwoods and doing very well.  Thank you!  

    Also, I would like to express thanks to Brett Elliot.  He has done just an amazing job this year at Richwoods.  (My daughter) has been excited and had the most fun this year with him at Richwoods.  We are lucky!  

    She is leaving 150, but I have one more at Washington, then looking forward to her time at Richwoods. Washington has also been amazing!  Thanks to Mr. Poels as well.  


    Ms. Selle

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