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.

Avoca Center Community Open House

Avoca Center Community Open House

Wednesday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Avoca Center Gymnasium

3013 Illinois Rd. Wilmette

After years of trying to maintain Avoca Center’s original infrastructure, circa 1957, the Board of Education finds itself at a crossroad. With steam boilers that are well past their useful life and plumbing and electrical systems that struggle to support the needs of our current tenants, the Avoca School Board is faced with an important imminent decision. Do we renovate the facility at a cost of approximately $6.7 million for the purpose of retaining it as a viable rental property or do we sell the building and the parcel of land it sits upon to a developer for the construction of single-family homes?

The Avoca School District is hosting a community open house to share information about the site, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both options. After the presentation, attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback and tour the facility. For more information visit

We encourage you to attend!

Communication and Engagement Committee

Thank you to everyone who applied to serve on Avoca’s Communication and Engagement Committee! At this time we have more than enough parents, community members and staff to have a well-rounded, representative group of volunteers.

Committee members will be contacted soon regarding the logistics of the project and our first meeting.

Communication and Engagement Committee

As one component of our new strategic plan, the district is establishing a Communication & Engagement Committee for the purpose of keeping our community informed and involved with all things Avoca. We are hopeful that we can attract a representative group of volunteers from our community to participate on this important committee.

This committee will study our current reality as it relates to the topics of communication and engagement, investigate best practices, gather constituent preferences and develop recommendations for the district. We will meet approximately eight times starting in November with project completion targeted for the end of the school term. Meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and last approximately 2 hours.

If you are interested in supporting Avoca by joining this group, please complete the very short Communication and Engagement Committee Application.

If you are interested, but would prefer to complete the form manually, please call Suzie Harris, the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, at (847) 728-4128.

News From the Superintendent’s Office

It’s hard to believe that we are already finishing up our fourth full week of school! This has been an exciting and busy time.

We have just finished formatting the Back to School Edition of The Vision and will have it off to the printer shortly. Once the final copy is proofed, we will send a hardcopy to every Avoca mailing address and post it to our website. Hardcopies will be available in both school offices, as well.

At this time, planning and organizational groundwork is being laid for Avoca’s Communication & Engagement Committee. This committee has been developed in part to address Strategic Plan Goal 4: establish, trust, respect, engagement, and satisfaction among our families and communities. Look for the article on the back cover of The Vision for information about how to join this important committee.

As the year goes on, look to this blog for information regarding our efforts to address our strategic plan goals.

Off to College

On September 1st I will be dropping off my oldest son Jeff at the airport to catch a flight to Boston. A vocalist and Music Business Management major at Berklee College of Music, Jeff is beginning his junior year. The moment that he is out of the car and on the curb at O’hare, my wife and I will be heading north to meet our youngest son, Chase, at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. A freshman who is multi-interested (Isn’t that a nice spin on “undecided?”), he is excited for the opportunity to explore the variety of options that await him.

I don’t typically write personal blog posts, but at the moment the thought of leaving both of my children hundreds of miles away is all that is on my mind. Not that they won’t be OK. I have great kids with level heads, who I know are prepared for this next step.

What ties this all back to my role as an educator is my deep appreciation and admiration for all of the teachers, coaches, counselors, social workers, principals, and mentors who have influenced my boys over the years. On behalf of my wife, Jeff and Chase, I respectfully thank them all.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Welcome back!

It was great to see so many excited smiling people at both of the schools this morning! There is a level of energy and excitement in the schools today that has been missing for the last few months. It’s good to have everyone back!

An important change that came out of the four month strategic planning process was a slight change to the district mission statement. The committee still felt compelled by “maximizing the unique potential of each student,” but chose to remove the phrase “we serve.”

Over the next several years there will continue to be strong efforts made towards facilitating student ownership of and student responsibility for their own learning. The Strategic Planning Committee felt that the phrase “we serve” directed the district mission towards adults and missed the potential of children to impact their education.

The Strategic Planning Committee identified five goals as the “critical few” that will have the greatest impact on our organization over the next five years. They are:

  1. Provide a rigorous, comprehensive, personalized education to ensure success for all students at Avoca District 37 and beyond.
  2. Support Professional Learning Communities to ensure coherence, collaboration, innovation, and accountability.
  3. Establish data-driven systems to facilitate ownership, growth, and continuous improvement.
  4. Establish trust, respect, engagement, and satisfaction among our families and communities.
  5. Responsibly manage district resources including people, time, and money to achieve our mission, vision, and goals.

Planning teams will identify strategies for accomplishing these goals and tasks for addressing each strategy. This is an exciting time for Avoca!

A Few End of Year Thoughts

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for your continued support of this very special school district! Avoca is a throwback of sorts in our ability to hold on to so many programs that other school districts have had to cut out or cut back for either financial reasons or in order to focus more on academics.

With daily P.E., an instrumental program that starts at 1st grade, a master schedule that allows for in depth inquiry into technology, drama, science, writing and the arts, and a truly outstanding academic program, it is no wonder that our students love coming to school every day! Those things are not possible without the avid support of our parents and community. Please know that your cooperation and collaboration are greatly appreciated!

On Tuesday evening, we said goodbye to another great group of kids as they crossed the Marie Murphy stage in their long red gowns, diplomas in hand. I very clearly remember these kids from their years at Avoca West, and I appreciate those students who joined this cohort once they arrived at Marie Murphy. The 8th grade graduation theme was “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” Powerful, universal advice! I have linked my graduation speech here, if you are interested in reading it.

I also shared a few thoughts for all of the students on the opening page of the 2016 yearbook. I expect that most people flipped right past it to look for pictures of themselves and friends! Who reads a yearbook from the front anyway?

The last paragraph of what I wrote is about making sure that your summer goals and dreams have all been realized by the time we return to school in the fall. Here is a link to my yearbook blurb. I bolded and italicized the paragraph I am referring to here. I encourage you all to have a wonderful summer full of activities and adventures and to come back to school exhausted from a summer well done!