Educational Finance, the State of Illinois and Avoca

As you are most likely aware, the state of Illinois went a full two years without a budget, before passing one last summer. Also mired in that quagmire was a great debate regarding the funding of education. At the beginning of this school year, the state legislature approved a new formula for funding education in the state of Illinois called the Evidence Based Funding model. The most comprehensive information regarding this model can be found on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website at

The impact on Avoca will be minimal this year. For the 2017-2018 school year, the state has shared that at a minimum all Illinois school districts will receive the same amount of money from the state as they did during the 2016-2017 school year. They refer to that as a “hold harmless” clause. Going forward, we do not know how this new funding formula will affect Avoca. It is a topic that many school districts are grappling with at this time.

The Evidence Based Funding model takes into consideration a minimum adequacy target, a district’s student characteristics (such as low income, English learner and special education), a regional factor (think of this as a cost of living multiplier), and the local community’s ability to contribute. We have received preliminary information from the state regarding how the formula will be implemented, but at this time do not know exactly what this will look like for Avoca. The state has asked for a few months to figure all of this out themselves, and we will update you as we learn more.

Recently, Avoca community members received the Annual Review/Back to School Edition of the Vision (linked here), our community newsletter. On page 4 there is an article titled Financial Review, which shares information about the district’s revenues and expenditures for 2016-2017, the budget expectations for 2017-2018 and exhibits that visually communicate our revenue sources, expenditures and reserve level. I encourage you to take some time to read that article.

As you will see in that article, at this time, Avoca’s expenditures are outpacing our revenues causing us to dip into our reserves to make up the difference. While we are currently investigating ways to minimize our expenses and increase revenues, we do project a pattern of deficit spending in order to continue to meet the educational needs of all of our students.

2016-2017 Performance Indicator Report

The Performance Indicator Report has its origins in Avoca’s 2007 Strategic Plan. At that time, we were using Jim Collins’ book Good to Great as our strategic plan framework. The original printing of Good to Great didn’t address municipalities, but a few years later Collins wrote Good to Great and the Social Sectors, a monograph to accompany Good to Great, to address that void.

In Good to Great and the Social Sectors, it was reported that the Cleveland Orchestra used the following three goals as measures of organizational success:

  • Superior performance
  • Distinctive Impact, and
  • Lasting Endurance

Borrowing from that model, Avoca has used the following tools listed below as some of our measures of performance since 2007. The links below will take you to the 2016-2017 reports that were shared with the Board of Education at the September BOE meeting. I hope you enjoy celebrating these accomplishments with us:

Though our current strategic plan uses the Baldrige Educational Excellence and Professional Learning Communities criteria as its framework, these performance indicators are still representative measures of how we perform as a district.

Northfield Housing Development & Avoca Center Update

I would like to briefly address a couple of topics that will directly impact the Avoca School District in the future. More detailed information can be found by clicking on the links below.

Early last August our friends at Sunset Ridge School District in Northfield informed us of a 34 Unit Townhome Development that was being proposed in the Northfield section of our school district. Each unit boasts at least three bedrooms and one “flex” room. For more details on the development, click on this link to Northfield’s website. This development would add at least 102 bedrooms to our school district. While we welcome everyone in our school district, we have petitioned the Village of Northfield to impose a fee on the builder to help address the impact on the school district. To see my letter to the Village of Northfield Board and their Plan and Zoning Commission click this link. It explains our concern in detail. Stay tuned for more news on this topic.

Another important topic for the district is the future of Avoca Center. While Avoca’s Board of Education continues to weigh all of its options, you should be aware of the fact that they have decided not to spend the funds to renovate the building, and our lease with our current tenants concludes at the end of this calendar year. For much more detailed information regarding the future of Avoca Center, options and potential partnerships, click here.

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