Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Report to the Board of Education - December 19, 2017

Equity In Action:
As we wrap up First Semester, we are pleased with the commitment our entire staff is making to engage with issues of racial equity, bias, and the impact that racism has on our students and coworkers. Every employee in the district has been participating in monthly building-based professional development to support and challenge each other to reduce inequities for our students.

The Administrative Team has been reviewing the initial performance reports about Restorative Practices. We are excited about both the successes and opportunities for growth. We plan to have Elaine Shpungin from Conflict 180 present her findings to the BOE in February.

We have a strong team of leaders working on a systematic plan for recruiting and retaining faculty and staff of color. The team is implementing a variety of strategies as we enter 2018 to ensure that we continue to increase the diversity of our employees.

The 2017-2018 Truancy Alternative and Optional Educational Program (TAOEP) grant has been approved by ISBE, and we are excited to have a team of Student Engagement Advocates and Clinicians, hired and already working in the schools, getting to know the students and observing the culture and climate of the buildings.

In order to comply with the Learn with Dignity Act (PA 100-0163), we are purchasing and installing feminine hygiene products dispensers for all of the girls restrooms at UMS and UHS. The feminine hygiene products will be available after winter break at no cost to students. We have always offered this service through our office or school nurse, but now the dispensers will be available to students in the restrooms.

Excellence In Action:
Ten UHS music students have been selected to participate in the ILMEA All-State Festival in Peoria in January, 2018. This represents the largest number of UHS students to receive such an honor in the past 10 years. We are very proud of the students and their accomplishments: Eliza Abbamonte (Trumpet); Lukas Gollings (Bass Trombone); Ksenya Kouzminova (Flute); Max Zhang (Violin); Payton Borich (Trumpet); Ellie D’ Andria (Trombone); Sarah Stelzer (Flute); Alora Rent (Soprano); Rebecca Owen (String/Electric Bass); Tiana Steele (Composition). #TigerPride

A team of educators and administrators from UECS are writing a proposal for the Early Childhood Expansion Grant, which, if funded, could expand services to CU Early and UECS students.

USD116 is piloting the “second cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. School districts participating in the pilot will replace select high school graduation course requirements with a competency-based system of the district’s design. Competency-based teaching and learning structures students’ educational experience around the individual student’s knowledge and interests, rather than seat time. In competency-based learning, students play the active role in determining the course of their education. Students advance as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge.”

Engagement in Action
The district is participating in the IL 5 Essentials Survey, which measures five key areas of school culture including, ambitious instruction, effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, and supportive environment. The survey will be open until January 31, and teachers and families will receive an email reminder with the link after Winter Break.

The USD116 Family Advisory Committee held its first meeting on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center. The group discussed the family survey that was completed during Fall Parent Teacher Conferences and worked on planning a Parent Academy for Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - November 20, 2017

Ms. Renee Renfro, Retired Social Worker and substitute teacher, passed away on November 8, 2017.  She served thousands of students and families as a social worker at King Elementary School and an active member of the community.

Mr. J.C. Caroline, Retired P.E. Teacher, and NFL Chicago Bear, passed away on Friday, November 17, 2017.  Mr. Caroline was a P.E. Teacher and Coach at Urbana Middle School.  He was inducted into the College Football of Hall of Fame in 1980, and was a standout running back for the University of Illinois.  

Technology Update:
In the past two weeks, USD116 has been the target of two separate malware attacks.  These attacks have been very serious in terms of our ability to conduct our basic functions, like attendance, grading, and reporting data.  At this time, we do not have any evidence or reason to believe that any of our staff or student data was compromised or removed from our control. Student and staff data security is very important, and we will continue to prioritize data security as we move forward.  
Our Technology Team has been working with two outside vendors to move the Skyward system to a cloud-based platform, which will provide security, stability, consistency, and redundancy.  

Skyward Student, Finance, and Human Resources programs were turned on for internal use yesterday.  We are slowly expanding access as we ensure that appropriate safety precautions are put in place.  

Staff Presentations:
Dr. Scott Woods, Urbana Middle School Principal, presented a paper, “ Access to Middle Grades Programming: Examining Relationships between Middle School Concept and Schools’ Racial/Ethnic Demographics” at the University Council for Educational Administration Conference on Saturday, November 18, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.

Mr. Matt Stark, Mr. Travis Courson, Ms. Erin Ludwick, Mr. Eric Morrow, and Ms. Elaine Shpungin presented “Restorative Practices That Work” at the Leading by Learning IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference on Saturday, November 18, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

CUSF Grant Announcements:
On Monday, November 20th, the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) Prize Patrol will deliver over-sized checks totaling more than $37,000 to 93 teachers in Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana School District #116 Schools. The grant awards, which support 66 new projects benefiting 15,385 students, are part of CUSF’s ongoing efforts to foster creativity and elevate excellence in our local public schools.

Two projects bring teachers and students together across the Champaign and Urbana districts. A proposal titled “Mathematics Escape Room” promotes critical and logical thinking skills in a fun, unconventional way. Students will work together to solve a series of puzzles and unlock a box using clues, hints and strategy. Math teachers from Central, Centennial and Urbana High Schools will work together to bring an escape room into their classrooms as an interactive way for students to learn or review material.

The second cross-district proposal titled “Inter-city Strings in Concert with Friends” will increase the number of stringed instruments in Champaign and Urbana public schools so every student who wishes to learn a string instrument will have the opportunity to join strings class. Beth McDonald at Booker T. Washington Elementary and Tamra Gingold at Urbana High School will collaborate with other strings teachers across the districts, as well as, the Community Center for the Arts to plan a high school music composition competition and concert.

A complete list of funded projects can be found at:

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to thank everyone in Urbana School District #116 for all you do to support our students, families, friends, and colleagues.  I hope everyone has a safe and restful Thanksgiving.  

I want to thank all of the technology and administrative clerical people who have been working hard to get Skyward back online and transferred to the new, safer environment.  I appreciate how much stress the server/technology issues have caused over this entire school year, and I am optimistic about the direction we are moving.  

I am also very thankful that we live in a community that supports public education. The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation distributed over $37,000 in extra large checks to foster creativity and elevate excellence in our local public schools.  Congratulations to the teachers who received grants, and thank you for putting in the extra effort to support your students! 

I am also thankful, humbled, and honored to work with such an amazing group of educational leaders.  Everyone from my Administrative Team to participants in our Leadership for Racial Equity professional development demonstrate their commitment to growth, change, and positive outcomes for our students.  Thank you!

Urbana High School is preparing to host its 46th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the community on Thursday (5-7PM).  Our students, teachers, and community volunteers will be hosting a free dinner for members of our community.  Many thanks to the UHS Student Senate and the teacher sponsors for giving back to the community.  

It is an honor to work in a district and community that values education, children, and community as much as Urbana.  Enjoy the time off.  Relax, recharge, and refuel!

Happy Thanksgiving!