Thank You PTC & Math Night Invite

I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who attended the PTC General Membership Meeting for helping me to tighten up the framework for the curriculum and instruction pages that are planned for the new website. It was great to get the parents’ perspective!

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to join the Avoca PTC! It is a wonderful group of volunteers who provide a lot of special experiences for our kids. You can pay your PTC dues on line and find out more about them at their website,

I invite you to attend the Math Night at Avoca West this Tuesday, September 19 starting at 6:30 p.m. Our new math program is very dynamic and interactive. It doesn’t look like the ones we had as kids, but that is a good thing, as the educational community has learned a lot about math instruction over the last 30 years! Come and learn more about what drives our program on Tuesday night.

We will be hosting another Math Night in October, which will focus more on actually doing math and learning in the style of the new program. Keep your eyes and ears open for news about that event.

Strategic Plan Update

Thank you to all of the families who came in for the two orientation days. I hope that you walked away excited about the upcoming school year!

At both of the orientation days, I shared a little bit about Avoca’s 2016-2021 Strategic Plan (linked here). To be quite honest I feel like I rushed through a lot of the presentation, as there was a lot going on both nights for parents to attend to. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

I encourage you to visit the 2016-2017 At-a-Glance page on the Strategic Plan website (linked here) to see what we accomplished last year. It’s an impressive list!

The 2017-2018 Strategic Plan Goals can be found from the Strategic Plan home page by clicking on any one of the five goals listed on the left side of the page or by clicking on the tab for the goal you are interested in.

If you hover over the tabs at the top of the page, you will see our aligned strategies drop down. Click on the drop down and you can read a little more about each one and see how we did during the 2016-2017 school year. We will keep that information up there and continue to celebrate our accomplishments for about one more week. After that we will archive that information and transition fully into the 2017-2018 goals.

Welcome Back!

We are off to a great start already here in the Avoca School District! It is so exciting to have the students and staff back in the buildings, and it was wonderful to see so many parents on these first few days!

We achieved a great deal of growth towards our strategic plan last year and are excited about the goals we have established for this one! I will be celebrating some of our successes with the Marie Murphy parents at tonight’s Parent Orientation (Thurs Aug. 31), and will give an Avoca West centered presentation next Wednesday, Sept. 6 at their Parent Orientation. For the latest information regarding the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, click on this link.

The beginning of the year is always our greatest time of transition. I thank everyone for their patience as we work out the kinks and get everything up and running as smoothly and quickly as possible. If you have any questions, concerns or confusion at this time of year, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s school or my office at (847) 728-4128. We are all here to help!

Again, welcome back and thank you for sharing your children with us! I am looking forward to another great year at Avoca!

Avoca Accomplishments, Graduation Speech & Thank you!

I am afraid that I haven’t updated this blog recently, but if you continue reading I think you will be able to see why. You will also see that I am making up for lost time! I hope you take your time to read what’s below.

Avoca Accomplishments:

The Avoca staff has truly experienced an incredible year of growth and accomplishment during the first year of the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan. Click here to link to the Strategic Plan Dashboard.

At the staff’s end of year awards dinner, I rattled off an impressive list of the their achievements, which I have included below. I know that some of these are written in “educationese,” but don’t worry if you don’t know what some of them mean, the power is in knowing how much was addressed:

  1. Avoca West has a newly approved mathematics curriculum.
  2. Math essential standards have been identified K-8.
  3. The Core, Encore and Allied Arts teachers have all identified their essential standards and have started vertically aligning their programs.
  4. The Social Studies Department at MM compared the alignment of their current curriculum against the C3 Framework for Social Studies.
  5. The MM Science Department identified, and aligned their curriculum to the Next Generation’s essential standards and developed an aligned assessment inventory.
  6. In Math and Writing classroom and department teachers made tremendous progress towards aligning our vocabulary, instructional practices and curricula, K-8.
  7. The MTSS Committee identified our current practices in Math and is currently working to improve those intervention programs.
  8. The Workload Plan Committee has drafted a new Workload Plan.
  9. The Technology Innovation Committee is wrapping up work on the Technology Strategic Plan and is already recruiting members for the 1) Refresh and Device Team, 2) the Technology and Innovation Learning Team and 3) the Website Revamp Team.
  10. All certified staff members were trained in the area of formative assessment.
  11. The Professional Development Committee planned and implemented three of the best received Teacher Institute Days that we have had in years.
  12. For the first time certified staff and the administrators who evaluate them implemented student growth in the evaluation process.
  13. The Community & Engagement Committee presented their findings and recommendations to the BOE.
  14. Avoca West launched Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  15. Avoca West’s Weekly Newsletter and the District’s Avoca Weekly e-blast were completely revamped.
  16. Since January of this year, we have had 32 Avoca specific articles or press releases published in our various local media outlets.
  17. In facilities news, the decision was made earlier this year to terminate our leases at Avoca Center.
  18. By the end of this summer, we will be ~95% done with work from our Life Safety Survey.

Not bad for year one of our 5-year strategic plan!

Graduation Speech:

Last Tuesday evening, we said goodbye to a great group of students at our 8th Grade Graduation Ceremony! Their graduation theme was How Far I’ll Go, which came from the Moana motion picture soundtrack. They are a very impressive group of students, who will be greatly missed. From How Far I’ll Go came the message for my speech to the children that they will go farther together, and I encouraged the group to continue to value, appreciate and take advantage of all of the benefits that they experience from their diversity. Click here to access the text of the speech.

Thank You:

The school year always seems to disappear before I am ready for it to end! Avoca is an amazing school community with so much to celebrate and be proud of. I would like to thank the staff for their unyielding dedication to our students! I would like to thank the community members who joined several of our committees this year, participated in focus groups, shared their thoughts at Board meetings, and supported our car washes, pancake breakfasts and other fundraisers! Parents, thank you for working in partnership with us to make Avoca one of the best school districts in the country, and for sharing your children with us! Have a happy, safe and exciting summer!

Congratulations Board of Education Members!

Board of Education elections were held on Tuesday, April 4 for the four Board of Education seats thats were up for reelection. The only incumbent running, Rick Zelinsky, will be returning for his third term on the BOE. Please help me welcome the following new BOE members: Dan Garbis, Gil Gibori and Jamie Taylor. The new BOE will be seated on Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m. during our regular BOE meeting.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the three veteran BOE members who elected not to seek another term for having given so much of their time, energy and commitment to Avoca: Jeff Greengoss (2001-2017), Rosanne Ullman (2005-2017) and Bill Bazianos (2009-2017). An Open House is being held in their honor on Thursday, April 27 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Marie Murphy School in the Porto Community Room to thank them for their years of service. All are welcome to attend.

Maximizing Student Potential Through Music & Thank You to Technology Innovation Parent Volunteers

Earlier today I had the pleasure of hearing the Avoca West and Marie Murphy Choirs perform together with the New Trier Varsity Voices. Their music is truly inspirational and belies the student’s young ages. Ms. Weismehl and Mr. Hammond do a wonderful job with our children.

I especially want to thank New Trier High School Music Department Chair, David Ladd, for not only bringing his students to Avoca to perform, but also for his overall support of our program. Avoca accounts for only 7% of New Trier High School’s student population, so for them to take the time and effort to perform with us is greatly appreciated!

This morning’s concert was streamed live and uploaded to YouTube. Click on this link to see that performance.

On another note, I want to send a big thank you to the parent volunteers who agreed to participate on the Avoca Technology Innovation Committee:

  • David Borlo
  • Lavanya Krishna
  • Jason Lavicky
  • Dorothy Rotatori
  • Steve Volkodav
  • Todd Wagner

At this time we have a full complement of parents to join Board of Education and staff members, as well as Administrators, in this important undertaking! Committee work kicks off next week and is scheduled to conclude before the end of the school year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you are optimistic about what 2017 has to offer for you and your family!

Thank you to everyone who completed the 5Essentials survey. We reached the 20% participation mark, which means the survey’s publishers will be able to generate a parent report for Avoca. If you have not yet taken the survey, but are interested you can access the 5Essentials Parent Survey here. The survey publishers will keep the window open until January 30, a little longer than they had originally stated.

At the December 15 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, the BOE acted to exercise its option to terminate our lease for Avoca Center with Arlyn Day School and One Hope United. That clause in the lease states that we must give our tenants 12 months notice before we ask them to vacate the building. Much discussion and decision-making will take place during that twelve month window. To stay abreast of the latest Avoca Center news, regularly visit

It’s Cold! Bundle up!

As we experience the first of what I am sure will be many arctic-like weather days, I wanted to remind everyone that Avoca will always do its best to keep school in session on frigid days like this. These decisions are always based on student and staff safety as they commute to and from school.

If school is canceled for any reason, we will immediately run a banner along the top of the Avoca webpage with the information you need, and an email will be sent to all parents and guardians. If the decision to close schools is made in the middle of the night, I will activate our emergency call program to start calling households around 5:00 a.m. The last task is to contact the Emergency Closing Center, which is the organization that informs our local television and radio stations. Unless you are notified otherwise through one of these channels, assume that school is in session.

Surveys, Surveys and More Surveys!

I do apologize about asking for so much of your time to participate in these surveys, but please know that the data gathered is appreciated and guides our decision-making. It is a great way for you to volunteer and support your child’s school from the warmth of your own home!

Thank you very much to all of the parents who have participated in the state mandated 5Essentials survey addressing 5 of the most critical components of school success:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction

At this time, we still need more parents to complete the survey, though we have enough responses from our teachers and students to generate a report for them.  Please demonstrate that you are part of an “involved family” by taking the 2016-2017 5Essentials Parent Survey at this link.

Earlier this week I sent you a link to a survey designed to give you an opportunity to share your viewpoint about key educational issues concerning digital learning and the use of technology to support our students. Again, thank you to those who have already participated!

If you have not yet, please take the Project Tomorrow 2016 Speak Up Survey. The data gathered will inform the work of our Technology and Innovation Committee, which will be moving forward in the new year.

5Essentials Parent Survey Window Now Open

Test scores alone do not tell the complete story of a school district, and with that in mind, the Illinois State Board of Education requires school districts across the state to participate in a learning conditions survey every other calendar year.

Middle school students are given this survey in class, and all certified staff members are also encouraged to participate. Parent feedback is also essential, so I encourage you to take the 2016-2017 5Essentials Parent Survey by clicking on this link.

The 5Essentials survey provides information about the following five critical components for school success:

  • Effective leaders
  • Collaborative teachers
  • Involved families
  • Supportive environment
  • Ambitious instruction

The survey window is currently open, but will close in mid-January. I encourage all Avoca parents and guardians to take the survey now.

After you have taken the survey yourself, please encourage other parents to do so, too. A link to the 2016-2017 5Essentials Parent Survey can be found on the Avoca home page under the Navigation heading.