School District 197 Superintendent Blog
Welcome to my blog! The purpose of the blog is to provide an avenue for communication with parents and community members. I will be sharing our progress in implementing the District Strategic Framework. Periodically I will also post photos and share news of special events that I attend in our schools.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What's new in District 197?

Dear Friends and Families of School District 197,

The school year has officially begun, and I am pleased to begin a new form of communication with you.  This is my first foray into blogging, and it is admittedly a bit of a stretch for me.  I don't Twitter, I don't have a Facebook page, and I am not what I'd call a techie.  But I am eager to dialogue with you.  I look forward to using this online communication tool as an avenue for us to do so.  

The main question I get asked this time of year is, "What's new in District 197?"  There are many things that I could list, but a few rise to the top in my book.

First, as a district, we are "focused forward," thus the name of my blog. As many of you know, we have updated our District Strategic Framework.  With the Framework securely in place, we are clear about where we are going, and our direction is forward-thinking.  But the Framework is only a destination.  We must have a strategy for accomplishing the goals that have been selected.  Consequently, my staff and I are working on a comprehensive implementation plan that is scheduled to be finalized in November. Once completed, we will update our District Balanced Scorecard, which we will use to measure our annual progress towards meeting the goals. 

Second, we are implementing a new Continuous Improvement Planning (CIP) model in all schools and in all departments.  The CIP will ensure we are results-oriented and using data to guide, monitor, and measure our success.  Nested within the CIP is a new collaborative team model for teachers.  Collaborative teams are comprised of teachers who generally teach the same subject or perhaps teach the same students.  The model is powerful because it focuses on whether students are learning.   

A third area has to do with finding a permanent home for our growing early learning program while experiencing enrollment growth in the district.  Last year the District conducted a facility study that told us we are growing well beyond what was projected even a few years ago.  The study provided the school board with three potential ways to address our space needs.  Of the three, one option was selected for further study.  A Facilities Task Force has since been formed to flesh out the details.  The option includes creating two early learning centers, one in each of our two middle schools, and moving 5th graders back to the elementary schools.  It is important to stress that this is still a conceptual idea, and no final decisions have been made. You can follow the work of the task force by visiting our website.  Recommendations are due to the school board by November.

We'll continue to communicate with you about this important work.  If the school board chooses to move forward with the option, it will likely require a small bond referendum to cover capital costs, and some changes in school boundaries would also be likely.  Again, these are ideas that are in need of further analysis.  We are also using this time to explore other facility needs, such as safety and security, and we know that our capital projects levy, which we use to fund technology in the district, is set to expire in fiscal year 2015.  With the growth in the integration of technology in our classrooms, the expansion of blended learning, and the use of technology to assess our students and individualize instruction, our need for the capital projects levy has never been greater.  Sometime in 2014 we will need to go to you, our voters, to ask for a renewal.

As you can see, we've much to accomplish this year, and I've never been more excited to be a school administrator.  While schools face many challenges, the possibilities truly are endless.  School District 197 is poised to become a leading educational choice.  We know more about teaching and learning than we've ever known, and we need to give ourselves license to innovate and create a new educational model suited to the times.

We have a tremendous set of assets that are lined up just waiting for us.  You are among those assets, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with you - our parents and our community. We invite you to go on the journey with us this year.  Stay engaged, and check out my blog whenever you have a chance.  


Nancy Allen-Mastro
Superintendent, School District 197  

I try to get out into our schools as much as possible. On Thursday I had a wonderful time reading to a group of eager kindergarten students at Garlough Environmental Magnet School (GEMS).

"...a better education today is one that prepares a student to understand a book that has not yet been written, to master a job that has not yet been created, or conceive a product that does not yet exist." Friedman and Mandelbaum, That Used to Be Us