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One section of District 65’s 2020 Achievement Report – a qualitative section – celebrated accomplishments of students, educators and principals and contributions by the community during the 2019-2020 school year. The report included the following activities and achievements.
Celebrating the Students
• Dewey Doers is a Service and Leadership team led by Dewey School fifth-graders and facilitated by parents, caregivers, and educators. With a focus on service to others and the needs of the school, the Dewey Doers led a Food Drive to benefit Hillside Food Pantry and Family Focus and a Diaper Drive to benefit Bundled Blessings. The Dewey MLK Day of Service benefited Connections for the Homeless, and the students created “Thankful Cups” and gave them to local firefighters and police officers at Thanksgiving.
• Lincoln School launched its second year of “Lincoln Pods,” a program in which each student meets monthly with an adult and students from each grade level in a small group. In these Pods, fourth and fifth graders took on leadership roles such as escorting younger students to meetings and co-facilitating sharing circles.
• All three of Lincolnwood School’s Problem Solvers teams advanced to the State finals, scoring second-, third-, and fifth-place. Team 1 advanced to the Virtual International Competition and came in 14th in the world
• At Oakton School, 15 fifth-grade students from all three strands (General Education, African Centered Curriculum, and Two Way Immersion) united to spearhead adopting and implementing Oakton’s Robust Green Initiative for all students and staff in the building. In addition, this group of student-leaders contacted various local community agencies to determine how they could volunteer and donate food and supplies to people in the community that may need them.
• Orrington School has a thriving Schoolwide Buddies program. This program is for students in all classrooms, and supports older students in being mentors for younger students. Orrington also began student affinity groups for 5th graders for white and Black students.
• In February, 380 Walker School students in kindergarten through fifth grades participated in the World of Walker concert. The performance featured songs in Hindi, Tagalog, Hebrew, Korean, Spanish, and English, along with other cultural traditions. Also in February, Walker students participated in a Jump Rope Club during the month of February (National Heart Month). Students set goals to jump for one to three minutes without fail. More than 30 Walker students in second through fifth grades were able to achieve three-minute club status.
• Washington School hosted a One Book, One School event where the entire student body and many members from the community read and discussed “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o.
• King Arts students were invited to participate in a national Lego Robotics showcase. The Garden Windz team of six students in grades K-2 presented their Lego city and custom robot at the event. King Arts had four robotics teams and hosted one of the area’s largest robotics expos in December. Students and staff at King Arts designed and created a fabric mural that includes something created by every person in the school community. The mural, with the theme of Literacy and Arts, was funded by a grant from Foundation 65 and included guidance from the artist Maggie Weiss. Films by four King Arts students were featured in the 2020 Evanston Experimental Film Showcase.
• Each homeroom at Chute Middle School was given a prominent Black leader from the past or present, the contributions and legacy of whom they would celebrate. All sixth through eighth grader students worked collaboratively with their homeroom class to research the leader and plan and create an entry for a school-wide door-decorating celebration.
• Haven Middle School students created a Young Author’s Poetry website in Spring 2020, sharing their creativity. Haven’s Boys Cross Country Team took first place in the 3A Class Sectionals and won fourth place at the Illinois Elementary School Association State Championship series in Bloomington. Of 3,000 runners who competed in the State series, two Haven students were among the top 10 fastest runners within the State.
• Nichols Middle School students in the Climate Club completed a gardening project where they planted species native to this region around the Nichols building. Eight sixth-grade leaders from Nichols participated in the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Student Leadership Day. The event focused on “Taking a Stand” and issues of social justice.
• Students and families at JEH Early Childhood Center participated in the Parents and Children Together programs that are part of the District’s partnership with the Evanston Public Library. These workshops provide opportunities for parents and children to engage in literacy and STEM-based activities. Students and Families also participated in interactive music programming with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra.
• At Rice Children’s Center, students led a student mentoring program focused on the 5 Cs – Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, and Compassion. The seven pairs of student mentors and mentees met once a week and participated in activities which built social/emotional competencies, problem solving skills, strengthened relationships, and reflection and intentions for growth.
In the spring, District 65 sixth-graders tackled Evanston’s most pressing environmental issues in their science classes. Students choose a focal issue from the City of Evanston’s Climate Action & Resilience Plan and worked with partnership organizations to follow the engineering design process to address the local impact, investigate root causes, prototype and test their ideas, and create presentation videos to showcase their projects.
• Orrington School has completed full school wide adoption of the Zones of Regulation model for all grades. This supports students in all grades to develop their self-regulation and social emotional wellbeing.
• JEH Early Childhood educators completed their first year of implementation of the three-year strategic plan aimed at improving student kindergarten readiness through five strategic goals. The work in year one focused on increasing teacher collaboration, a collective commitment to data-informed decision-making, and a deep study of integrated curriculum which allows students to engage in relevant, meaningful activities that can be connected to real life.
• At Bessie Rhodes School, Michael Boyle, general music teacher, worked with first- and fourth- grade students to perform African folk and Chicago blues songs that inspired greatness in the music industry. Band director John Carrol directed the middle school jazz band students in performing songs from jazz pioneer Count Basie and 70’s hit-makers Sister Sledge. The culminating showcase was a “An Ode to Hip Hop: Bridging the Past with the Present.” This 2019-2020 Black History Month program was made possible by a grant and support from Foundation 65.
• Carolyn Mattox, Dewey School’s art teacher, teamed with fifth-grade teachers to create learning opportunities about activism – the strategies activists use to impact the world and how activism relates to art. The fifth-grade students had the opportunity to meet and work with Ben Blount, an Evanston community member and activist, artist, educator, and printer. With his support, each class created its own informative or persuasive activism message and learned how to select type size and color to go with their message.
• Willard School music teacher Arturo Feurte was a Finalist for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mr. Fuerte is a general music teacher at Willard and also supports 23 student rock bands composed of fourth- and fifth-grade students.
• Books of Belonging was introduced at Walker School by librarian Edie Hertel to provide books to first grade students, with a focus on increasing children’s literacy skills and their awareness of the diversity of races, cultures, and identities of Walker students and families. Thanks to the support of Donors Choose and school funds, students received four titles for their personal library throughout the school year.
• All certified staff members at Oakton School took part in a year-long unified book study on Robin Diangelo’s book “White Fragility.” This was a part of their school’s professional learning plan to improve equitable access to instruction to all of the schools’ students of color.
• Orrington School started a Family Eagle Equity group. This group of teachers and parents focuses on examining school policies, practices and protocols to ensure equitable outcomes for all students.
• Willard School’s fifth grade teacher Jason Betts is an accomplished artist and photographer. His work was recognized and displayed at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, from January-March. His work featured works ranging from portraits to cityscapes and includes a series from the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.
• Washington School hosted three family forums titled “Brave Spaces, Diverse Voices.” These events focused on issues of equity and were planned by the principal advisory team which is comprised of students, educators, and caregivers.
• Jennifer Dao, a math teacher at Nichols Middle School, co-facilitated the Nepantla Summer Cohort, leading mathematics educators across the nation in anti-racist work with a focus on navigating racism in math education.
• Learn-a-bration, conceived of by fifth-grade teacher ShaRita Alexander presents unique experiences to guide inquiry into the contributions of Black people in American society. Guided by Ms. Alexander and Tracy Hubbard, Library Media Specialist with support of the Black History Month committee, all Bessie Rhodes students were immersed in a five week journey, “An Ode to Hip Hop”. In partnership with various Evanston-based organizations, students embraced Black and Latinx culture through interactive storytelling, the art of making beats, evolution of dance, discovering DJing, and the art of drumming.
Orrington School Principal Jessica Plaza at Orrington earned a doctorate in Educational Administration in June 2020.
• Lincoln School Principal Michelle Cooney and Assistant Principal Luke Larmee launched community-building events within grade levels by hosting grade-level potlucks. Each potluck highlighted a local restaurant and invited families to come together with a goal of making new connections across grades.
• Jill Anderson, Principal of Park School, and the educators at Park expanded the use of the Communication Matrix and Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment Program (VB-MAPP) for all students in order to leverage this benchmarking tool for increasing student communication skills. This builds on the success of their Spring 2019 pilot of the VB-MAPP. In only three months’ time, they saw 3% growth in students’ “requesting and obtaining” skills.
• Kingsley School’s principal David Davis worked with the district FACE team to create a program to deliver groceries to 25 families every week throughout the summer. These were bagged and included non-perishables, meat, dairy, and household cleaning supplies.
• Dr. Michael Allen, Principal of Oakton School, was named the 2020 Elementary Principal of the Year (North Cook Region) by the Illinois Principals Association. The prestigious award recognizes elementary school principals who have demonstrated a positive impact on their students and learning community.
• Dawes School, in partnership with the Evanston Arts Council, created a school-wide art mural with collaboration from students, families, staff, and community partners. On the final day of collaboration, all stakeholders involved placed their individual handprints on the mural as a sign of their ongoing support for Dawes.
With support of school PTAs across District 65, the PTA Equity Project (PEP) was instrumental in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and raised over $500,000 in aid for families. The foundational belief of the PTA Equity Project is that all students and families in the district should have equitable access to the important enrichment and community-building opportunities that PTAs provide, regardless of the school they attend.
• Dr. Sharon Sprague, Director of Early Childhood Programs at the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center, partnered with the Evanston Early Childhood Council and Evanston Cradle to Career to develop collaborative and cohesive partnerships throughout the community that foster high quality early childhood experiences for Evanston’s youngest learners.
• The D65 Family Engagement team partnered with Oakton Community College to create a parent interpreter program. Through the program an initial cohort of nine parent volunteers were trained to provide families with interpretation supports. This program creates more opportunities for teacher and family engagement. As an action research Sprout project, Nichol’s educators Teresa Cabrera, Ana Salinas and Rocio Murrilo with the support of Mr. Harries advocated for Spanish/English interpreter assistance during their conferences hoping to create a more equitable experience for families during parent/teacher conferences.
• Since fall 2019, the Lincolnwood School CARES team has been working collaboratively to support resource sharing. The team includes the Lincolnwood PTA, Lincolnwood Family Liaison, and Lincolnwood CARES team. Their committee work has grown from a small emergency fund to a strong network of support that aids with improved access to school supplies and items that help fulfill basic needs for families.
• Washington School established a new partnership between the PTA, Principal Advisory Team, and educators. This team, the Washington Community Action Coalition, supports family engagement, community equity education, and effective two-way communication across the school and community.
• Through a Foundation 65 grant, Perspectives: Powerful Women, Powerful Stories, Nichols School hosted two authors who came and spoke to students. K.A. Holt presented to all 6th graders and Guadalupe Garcia McCall presented to all seventh-graders.
• Oakton School’s PTA hosted an entire official meeting in Spanish, in which all English-speakers utilized translation devices in order to take part in the meeting. The goal was to stand in solidarity with their bilingual community in an effort to specifically lift up and celebrate bi-literacy as a strength as well as for English speakers to understand what many native Spanish-speakers endure regularly in our society.
• Lincoln School worked together with Books and Breakfast for the 2019-2020 school year. This collaboration supported 30 students in grades K-5. Books and Breakfast worked together with students, families, educators and school leadership to support academic success and provide a nutritious breakfast to Lincoln students in the program.
• Dewey School hosted the school’s first Culture Fair that was planned by the Staff Culture Committee and PTA, There were family-sponsored tables representing various cultures and games, dances, and lots of entertainment! Per one parent’s email: “It was beautiful to see so many Dewey families come together and get to know each other on a more personal level. This event showed them (her boys) not only that their friends come from so many different backgrounds but that our school is also committed to supporting and celebrating these differences.”
• Dawes School went “green” for breakfast and lunch by establishing composting as a school wide expectation, including earning a grant to build a full, permanent composting station. Students learned how to care for the environment while also deepening their understanding of how we can use composting for sustainability.
• During the Citywide Cardboard Carnival, students worked to design and build their own arcade games using cardboard engineering skills and the coding of circuit boards to run motors and sensors. More than 30 District 65 middle school students showcased their 24 arcade games for 100 elementary students to play at the first Cardboard Carnival held at the Evanston Public Library. This collaborative event was done in partnership with District 65’s EvanSTEM project, Evanston Public Library, Family Focus and Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.