New Communication – Talk Radio & New Podcast #Engage109

It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we’ve always mapped our path at Dell. There’s always an opportunity to make a difference.”- Michael Dell

In the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 we take communication very seriously! We use email and telephone notification systems and we also use a district “app”. In addition, our hashtag #Engage109 on Twitter allows us to tell our story in real time and with images and video and text.

Facebook for the district as well as the six schools is also still a highly used communication medium.

Of late we have been expanding our communications via interview (blog radio interviews), and we are also starting a DPS109 Podcast (which you can subscribe to on the iTunes store). We’ll share more about the Podcast in subsequent blog posts; for now we are going to issue a podcast episode at least once a month, and more frequently when district news warrants it.

With this blog post I’m sharing one of these new forms of communication, an interview with one of the District 109 parent leaders, Mrs. Patty O’Machel. Patty has taken the lead on Disability Awareness Week planning and facilitation. This pro-social series of lessons and experiences help remove the fear that some people have when encountering people with differences. Patty is a leader that you should learn more about!

Patty and I were recently interviewed with Larry Jacobs … listen below:

Blog Talk Radio Interview with Larry Jacobs on the EDUCATION IN AMERICA: FOR PARENTS AND COMMUNITY radio show.

Leadership is Key – Leading for ALL Learners – #Engage109


“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
– Henri Bergson

This year in Illinois there are 70 new superintendents and 28 superintendents new to their school districts. This reflects a reality that more than 1 in 10 Illinois school districts are experiencing a change in leadership at the CEO level this year. In Deerfield Public Schools District 109 I am proud to report that

20130815_104540I’m only the fifth superintendent of schools since the consolidation in 1978 (Drs. Caruso, McGee, Pekoe, Goier and me). I am starting my third year at the helm of this district. I enjoy a positive professional relationship with the seven non-partisan elected school board members and I consider myself quite fortunate to serve this school district. This community has benefitted from the leadership stability over the past 37 years since the two historic school districts consolidated in the area.

Often I am asked about my job, my role, and my functions as a superintendent. I am most proud of the fact that this role allows me to support leadership growth and development at the student, staff, teacher, administrator, board, community, local, state and national government levels. I am an advocate for ILlearning for ALL – this means students with labels, without labels, students in small groups and students in large groups. I support ALL programs and initiatives and special programming for ALL learners.

Over the course of the past two years our District has completed initiative after initiative and project after project in order to be leaders in innovation. Our teachers are outstanding and incredibly hard working. They have been quite flexible and supportive and accepting of the many changes that have changed their work. This year, we will “catch our breath”as we

The major findings - distilling from millions of studies on what works.
The major findings – distilling from millions of studies on what works.

implement, monitor, adjust, amend, and review. We will enjoy the benefits of the changes as we Engage, Inspire, Empower ALL children every day. We have communicated quite a bit about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We also share a lot of information about the 1:1 transformative learning environments. Those and the other initiatives are of the utmost significance and we also provide quite a few supports in support of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). We realize that our students have but one time and one opportunity to experience their particular grade level and their particular years’ worth of educational experiences. We take very seriously our charge to act in loco parentis and take care of the emotional, social, academic, and “other” educational experiences for our students. Beyond standardized accountability measures, it is incumbent upon us to serve the “whole child.”

Examples of Social Emotional Programming in DPS109

The following “laundry list” shows the many SEL initiatives across the District:

  • Botvin Life Skills 5th grade pilot at South Park (4th & 5th grade planned for 2015-16)
  • Text-A-Tip – anonymous tip line 224HELP (community partnership)
  • Community the Anti-Drug community coalition
  • The Leader in Me at Kipling
  • Check in/Check out
  • Second Step curriculum
  • Implement school wide SEL/Behavior program
    • Includes 4 PAWS assemblies
    • Includes a parent/student PAWS contract
    • Includes daily announcements by 5th graders who share the weekly PAWS principle
    • Includes incentive programs for students
  • Implement school wide SEL/Behavior program
    • Penguin Principles
    • Held several “behavior boosters” throughout the year to reinforce the program
    • Used daily announcement to reinforce behavior expectations and Penguin Principles
  • Provide ongoing and as needed social work/counseling to individual students and groups of students
  • Students completed a social/emotional survey
    • Staff responded to student needs by addressing group and individual concerns
  • Principal held several Town Hall meetings with 4th/5th grade students to address social concerns innovationwith topics ranging from bullying, to cyber safety, use and misuse of social media and general friendship issues
  • All elementary schools held an assembly on sexual abuse
  • Assemblies on bullying
  • Create opportunities for student leadership – e.g student council, student mentors, student ambassadors who introduce assemblies and special events and who meet and greet parents and guests for various programs
  • Buddy programs to support the social needs of students with disabilities and opportunities for teaching about diversity and empathy for peers
  • Dev Heitner programming for 5th graders
  • Develop individualized behavior plans based on assessed student needs
  • Health curriculum in middle school P.E. courses
  • SEL RTI programming 
  • Cultural/World studies in 7th grade social studies
  • Peer mediation group at MS
  • Student Council, Student Advisory Committee, and Philanthropy Club
  • Digital citizenship/sexting presentation led by principal
  • Mentor/Problem Solving teams of teachers to connect with students for either Check in/Check out and/or further problem solving students needs
  • Positive Behavior presentation to address the definition of bullying and how we address/prevent bullying at Caruso (we also addressed how we investigate bullying)
  • A positive behavior matrix for the entire school with specific behavior expectations for all areas of the school (classroom, hallway, lunchroom etc.) and will pilot a positive behavior incentive program for the 6th grade class in the fall
  • Social/emotional team comprised of teachers, student support staff and admin to discuss how to create a system of social/emotional growth that includes Tier 1 data collection, Tier 1 interventions as well as a school-wide approach to support positive student behavior
  • We created the Bluejay way handbook that highlights expected behaviors and presented these expectations to each grade level.
  • Middle School Facilitation Committee recommends that the 6th grade MS teachers address specificleadquote social emotional needs the first few weeks of school and 8th grade MS teachers address specific social emotional needs the second semester of their 8th grade year
  • Deerfield Vertical Alignment committee recommends that 8th grade students complete a pre and post survey that addresses social emotional topics such as stress. In addition, the committee presented to the board the 9th grade survey regarding not only social emotional topics, but also academic preparation for Deerfield High School
  • PBIS-like system of encouraging and supporting positive behaviors and supports with a special emphasis on being helpful, responsible, respectful, and safe.