Guest Editorial: A letter to the Kaneland School District community

By on May 31, 2012

by Dr. Jeff Schuler
Kaneland Superintendent of Schools

As we approach the end of another very successful school year, I wanted to take a few moments to thank everyone for helping us make significant progress this year toward our mission of graduating all Kaneland students college, career and community ready. This truly was a very successful school year marked by significant growth and accomplishment in each of the key areas of our Vision 2014 Strategic Plan.

The area of teaching and learning, clearly the focus of our strategic plan, saw monumental gains. In June, the Board of Education will review learning data from the EPAS testing sequence. EPAS is the series of assessments leading to ACT that measure college readiness. Student scores in 7th through 10th grade saw significant gains in the number of Kaneland students meeting college readiness benchmarks. Additionally, Kaneland students performing in the top two score ranges increased significantly while the number of students scoring in the lower ranges remains remarkably low. This distribution would suggest that Kaneland schools are working hard to advance learning for all students rather than only focus on how many students hit a single cut score.

Student achievement data at the elementary level points to a similar trend. Local reading and math achievement data shows large percentages of students performing at or above grade level. Through the model of flexible grouping there has been an increase in instruction at each student’s learning level and increased collaboration among all staff. Students in need of intervention are receiving that support through targeted intervention programs, demonstrating an achievement distribution similar to that at the 6-12 level.

Other achievements in the Teaching and Learning area include revised core curriculum maps aligned to the Common Core Standards, new K-5 report cards aligned to the Common Core Standards, the purchase of new curriculum materials in targeted areas to support the newly aligned curriculum maps, a new Extended Day Kindergarten option shared and ready for 2012-13 implementation, a very successful 21st century skills technology pilot, a new eight-period schedule at Kaneland High School in place for 2012-2013 school year, higher participation levels in challenging Advanced Placement classes at Kaneland High School, and a coordinated effort to accelerate more students through a rigorous math sequence at Harter Middle School.

Next school year our school calendar will include three additional student attendance days, and the instructional day at the middle and high school has been extended by fifteen minutes. We will also provide staff and students with additional technology to support the 21st century instructional strategies identified through the pilot.

In the Support Services area of our strategic plan, we fully implemented a positive behavior support system at all elementary schools. Flexible grouping strategies were utilized to support core classroom instruction and more effectively differentiate instruction based on student needs. Our exceptional Response to Intervention Program was expanded to include and target some pilot interventions at Kaneland High School.

In the spring our College and Career Center opened at Kaneland High School, and will service students and families through the use of the Naviance Program.

Kaneland High School and Harter Middle School extra-curricular programs had exceptional years. Our students accomplished incredible feats on the stage, at our athletic venues, through our service clubs, at academic competitions, and in our performing arts programs.

Human Resource accomplishments include the establishment of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement in early spring, well in advance of the close of the current agreement. All Kaneland buildings were fully staffed prior to the start of the school year with appropriately certified and highly qualified professionals. Kaneland continued to offer a high quality professional development program for our staff through the effective use of institute days, school improvement days, and collaborative planning times. Collaborative professional learning time will be in place next school year at all three levels due to the new eight-period schedule at Kaneland High School.

Key accomplishments in the area of Staff and Community Relations include enhancements to our electronic communications efforts. Kaneland recently released a survey on this topic intended to provide feedback that will support the summer enhancements to Konnect, our website, and a mobile Konnect application planned for release in the fall.

Kaneland hosted many new parent evenings including a sixth grade step-up night, elementary parent curriculum preview night, substance abuse prevention night, ACT night, and extended day kindergarten night.

Next school year will be the first time we offer an extended day kindergarten program. We improved the online payment system, making it easier for parents to use the web store to make transactions.

Finally, this school year we released the document titled Six Keys to College Readiness to help parents and students monitor individual progress toward our goal of college and career readiness.

All of the accomplishments highlighted in this letter were accomplished with a balanced budget. Given the financial uncertainty of the State of Illinois, sound financial management is essential. Kaneland established a fund balance policy this year that has allowed us to weather the financial uncertainties without any short-term borrowing. For the third consecutive year, difficult financial decisions were made to reduce the budget to keep expenditures in line with revenues. Audit reports reflect sound financial and operational management.

There will continue to be financial challenges for all Illinois School Districts in the next couple of years. Kaneland will not be immune to those challenges, but is prepared to respond thanks to the agile management of our finances.

I would like to thank all stakeholders for the work you have done in support of our mission statement. Achieving the progress we have as a school district would not be possible without the support of a quality staff, motivated and capable students, strong leadership, and a very supportive community. The commitment to a quality education in Kaneland makes the achievement of our goals possible.

As we near graduation, please take a moment to congratulate the Kaneland Class of 2012. We thank you for helping to make us everything that we are as a school district and wish you well in everything that you will become as graduates of Kaneland High School. I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer.