What a busy summer we have had preparing for the incoming class of students. Our summer professional development was designed to support the instructional priorities of differentiation, inclusion, and technology. Building projects to improve schools and classrooms also were part of our efforts to prepare for the coming school year. We also designed summer enrichment programs to engage students in meaningful learning activities.

One of our exciting summer institutes prepared teachers for developing more powerful writing instruction using non-fiction texts. Other workshops helped create more effective teaching in reading comprehension. Seventh and eighth grade English Language Arts teachers developed differentiated lesson plans with novels used for classroom instruction. Third grade teachers collaborated on strategies that enable students to focus on important concepts, including main idea and author’s purpose, as a way to enhance literary understandings. These are among our continuing efforts to improve reading/language arts instruction.

Similarly, training was offered to support teachers as they enrich and differentiate in-class mathematics instruction. Many teachers attended workshops to improve their skills and better understand how to use the technologies that enrich District 65’s classrooms. And, social studies teachers collaborated to create units around essential questions about social systems, historical and current events. These activities support ways that will challenge students in creative and meaningful ways this school year.

Enrichment activities and camps provided exciting technology and science experiences for students this summer. The Students & Science using Technology to find Solutions (SSTS) project with the Evanston Ecology Center, Army Corps of Engineers, and District 65’s Science and Technology departments provided participants with an enriched summer experience. Under the tutelage of engineers and teachers, students experienced field and lab study to develop hypotheses to answer questions about the environmental impact of residential and commercial properties upon plant, animal and insect life on NorthShore Channel.

At our third summer filmmaking camp, middle students studied filmmaking and learned to use cinematography, dialogue and musical scores to produce original films. These sessions and our technology boot camps give middle school students an opportunity to prepare for the technology-enriched environment they will experience in the fall.

In addition to the activities mentioned above, a new student information system was tested. This system offers features to enhance our abilities to maintain student data in a more efficient way and includes a parent portal for more convenient and effective home school connections through email communication and secure, online access to student grades. I believe that this new development will help us offer improved and ongoing communications with our families.

This school year we launch our five-year strategic plan with core values, goals, strategies and activities designed to ensure the accomplishment of the district’s mission statement as we prepare each student to experience success. Our priority is to make sure that all of our students develop as thoughtful, caring, and resourceful individuals who understand themselves, others and the world around them; and that they are considerate and respectful in their relationships with self and others.

Keeping children motivated to learn is important. In the fall, returning families will see changes in our library curriculum as we transform libraries into integrated media centers. Students will be challenged to use texts and advanced technologies as they develop a deeper understanding about the importance, need, and use of authentic research and how to report on their findings.

Our renewed emphasis on science instruction will be evident. Teacher training and the investment in new equipment such as the Vernier Lab Quest and Probes and electronic microscopes for our middle school labs support our vision and help satisfy children’s curiosity about learning science as they develop deeper understandings about their world.

Mathematics refinements continue, particularly in the areas of early childhood and middle school instruction. And, of course, we continue our focus on reading/language arts and writing because we know that literacy is the key to all other academic success.

As we implement the early childhood Instructional Improvement Initiative, families in pre-K and kindergarten will see the benefit of inclusive service delivery in a literacy enrichened environment. This inclusion model means that fewer students will receive educational services away from general education classrooms and peers, and our instructional programs support ensure that we meet a broader range of academic readiness and needs within the classroom

The strategic plan acknowledges family involvement in a child’s education as a value-added component. This year, our schools will institute parent advisory teams to complement the traditional support of PTA’s, tutoring, and similar volunteer efforts that are so much needed and appreciated.

Our last decade was marked by a trend of improved student achievement, instructional improvement initiatives and bold-stroke programs and services to help ensure the success of all students. I believe that you will see this and more in the classrooms and schools of our district this school year.