Superintendent's Message

Looking Ahead by Looking Back

Certainly, it is good to have good news in this new year about the COVID19 pandemic. Educators are receiving vaccinations through Silver Cross Hospital and the efforts of Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, the Will County Regional Office of Education, and Will County Public Health. Also, COVID cases and hospitalizations are reaching a pandemic low. This holds a great deal of promise for the rest of the school year. And it holds even more promise for the school year ahead.

Of course, we do not want to get too far ahead of ourselves as we look into the future, but there are lessons we have learned in this pandemic from achievements that have taken place in spite of COVID19. 

Recently, I presented to our Board of Education on student achievement in the entire 2020 year. Most of this academic year unfolded in the shadow of this pandemic. We have spent a great deal of time trying to detect learning loss on the part of our students. And yet, the results we had to report demonstrate success and gains in many areas. The Class of 2021 did not slip on their performance on the SAT college admissions test. Overall and across all academic departments, students earned more A’s and B’s than ever before. Similarly, the percent of F grades in courses reached lows we have not seen in four or five years. What happened? What can we learn from this success? One of the key elements to our COVID response was setting aside time in our schedule -- whether in-person, hybrid or remote -- for teachers and students to work one-on-one. We believe that this has been a key to success for so many students regardless of the type of classes they take or the year in school they are. This type of personalized education for students has helped us overcome the challenges of the pandemic and make a large high school system smaller. It inspires us to think about how setting time aside in this way for students and teachers might be a more permanent part of the daily schedule we offer students. Already we are hoping to return to more normal school operations in August 2021 and considering how we can structure our school week to give time for teachers and students to meet outside of class.

Physical Education might conjure up for parents and guardians some stereotypical notions. Gym uniforms. Dodgeball. Running laps. Our Physical Education department was profiled twice in February on Fox32 for its innovative approach to wellness and mindfulness during the pandemic. This has been a stressful, isolating, and challenging time for high school students. Our Physical Education Department responded by partnering with the non-for-profit organization KidsMatter, Harvard University, and Massachusetts General Hospital to implement a curriculum that emphasized the skills and habits necessary to persevere through the social and emotional challenges of this time. We are aware that these skills and habits are timeless. They can match any challenge that our students will face in their lives. Stress and attention to mental health will not end for students when this pandemic ends. Much like our interest in embedding time for teachers and students to meet personally in our weekly school schedule, we also see this innovative approach to Physical Education as a success we can replicate in the future. We also see it as empowering our students to navigate the challenges they are experiencing daily.

There is a social media meme making its rounds that has the caption: “Don’t waste this crisis!” It references the urgency of paying attention to the creativity, innovation, and success during this pandemic more than the loss, frustration, and challenge. As we look forward to our future as a high school district, personalizing education and equipping students with the skills and practices to manage their lives are two areas where we have grown, created, and can continue. We do not intend to waste this crisis.

Dr. Robert McBride, Jr.

Superintendent

 

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