District to Celebrate American Education Week

American Education Week will be observed in the Avoca schools during the week of November 14-18.  All classrooms will be open to parents and community members to visit and observe the teachers and students in action!  Following is the schedule of classroom visitations: Tuesday, November 15, Marie Murphy School, 2921 Illinois Road, Wilmette, classroom visitation 9:00 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.; and Wednesday, November 16, Avoca West Elementary School, 235 Beech Drive, Glenview, classroom visitation 9:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

District to Celebrate Veterans Day

Avoca School District 37 is celebrating Veterans Day on Friday, November 11, by hosting a pancake breakfast for all veterans and their families residing in the school district.  The breakfast is sponsored by the Student Council and takes place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the cafeteria at Avoca West Elementary School, 235 Beech Drive, Glenview.  This is an opportunity for the students to meet the veterans and thank them for their service to our country.  Please R.S.V.P. by Monday, November 7, to Cecilia Beneda at 847-724-6800.

Marie Murphy Community Room Renamed for Retiring Superintendent

In a gesture of honor and gratitude to the significant accomplishments achieved under the leadership of retiring Superintendent Dr. Joseph M. Porto, the Avoca Board of Education renamed the Community Room at Marie Murphy School the Joseph M. Porto Community Center.  The announcement was made as part of the formal program at a recent retirement reception for Dr. Porto on Sunday, May 1.  “The new plaque at the entrance of the room summarizes the sentiment of the entire Avoca school community,” stated President Jeffrey Greengoss from the Avoca Board of Education.  “Dr. Porto has helped to transform Avoca into one of the most innovative and high-performing districts in the area and in the nation,” Greengoss continued.  The plaque reads, “For having the vision to lead us on a journey from ‘Good to Great’ – Superintendent of Avoca – 2002-2011.”

The Community Room, as it was previously referred to, is used for a wide variety of activities, including Board of Education meetings, meetings and programs sponsored by the Avoca Parents’ and Teachers’ Council, professional development and training experiences for the Avoca faculty and even a classroom for students when learning activities need more space.  Dr. Porto was deeply moved by the significance of what the space represents.  “The room is in constant use by the students, teachers, parents, administration and school board.  It represents the partnership among all key constituents of the school community that makes Avoca the wonderful district that it is.  I am very honored that my name will be associated with this very unique partnership,” Dr. Porto reflected.

The Joseph M. Porto Community Center will remain one of the main hubs of the school and district for many years to come and is the perfect tribute to Dr. Porto’s many contributions to Avoca.

ACLU Drops Complaint Against Avoca

On May 12, the District was informed of a demand from the ACLU concerning altering the configuration of the District’s filtering software.  Through diligent work by the District’s Technology Team, information was gathered and provided to the ACLU showing that the filtering software category, which the ACLU demanded be unblocked, operates to block not only some of the sites the ACLU believes should be accessible to students, but also many sites with pornographic or sexually explicit content which would plainly be inappropriate for students – and which federal law requires school districts to block for that reason.  For this reason, the District rejected the ACLU’s demand to unblock the specific filtering category.

As a result of the research and data provided to the ACLU by the Avoca technology staff, the ACLU informed the District that the issue was resolved, and that it does not intend to pursue any action against District 37 as threatened in its prior demand letter.  Instead, the ACLU advised the District that they will work directly with the filtering software provider to address its concerns and issues.

“Chicago Magazine” Error Acknowledged: Avoca Schools Actually Rank 4th & 7th in County

Recently, Chicago Magazine published an article about the “Best Elementary Schools in Chicago and the Suburbs.”  The article included the criteria the magazine used to create its rankings and then listed the top schools in each collar county.  When Avoca did not appear on the list, the District’s first reaction was that some sort of error must have occurred.  Knowing that Avoca’s overall district ISAT scores for 2009 were top in the township and 4th in the state, and also knowing that Avoca ranked favorably in the township on the other criteria used in the rankings, an error on the part of the magazine was the only possible explanation.  The administration contacted the editor of the magazine to express its concern and to demand that he look into the matter.  After checking with his data specialist, the editor revealed that Avoca’s data was somehow “lost” during the analysis process due to a technological glitch, and Avoca’s two schools were completely left off of the rankings.  The editor apologized profusely for the error and understood how this kind of mistake could lead to misconceptions among the school community about the quality of Avoca schools.  The editor then readily agreed to rectify the error in the following manner: 

> The magazine would rerun all the data, with Avoca included this time, and determine where Avoca’s two schools rankings should be.  

> The rankings chart that is featured in the online version of the article would be revised to include the two Avoca schools. 

> In the December print edition of the magazine, a correction would be printed.  The correction will explain that Avoca was accidentally left off the original list and share what the schools’ rankings really were.  It will also encourage readers to view the corrected online rankings chart. 

When the data was rerun to include the two Avoca schools, Avoca West ranked 4th in Cook County and Marie Murphy was 7th in the county.  These rankings were much more in line with other data the District has been gathering over the past several years. 

It was important that Avoca followed up with the magazine to make these corrections.  Not only is the District proud of its two schools, but these kinds of lists can affect people’s perceptions of school quality.  Avoca has worked very diligently to make its schools beacons of excellence in the area, and it would have been very unfair to have a magazine’s error negate this effort by the Avoca school community.  While this article does not reach the entire readership of Chicago Magazine, it is a start.  Please feel free to spread the word to friends, neighbors and relatives in the area.

District #37 Signs 5-Year Contract With Teachers

The Avoca District #37 Board of Education has announced that the district has entered into a new, five-year contract with the Avoca Education Association (AEA) as the result of negotiations conducted throughout the summer.  Both the Board and AEA have voted on and approved the contract.  The agreement provides a cell increase of 2.75 percent for the term of the contract and adds one full day of classes, while leaving the structure of health benefits unchanged.

Like most districts, Avoca pays teachers on a salary schedule that specifies increases for each year of service.  This “step” increase averages approximately 3.2 percent.  For those who qualify for the step increment, the negotiated pay increase will raise total pay an average of 5.95 percent.  However, due to yearly retirements, employment mobility and other factors, the actual cost for the district will approximate 3.75 percent for each of the five years covered by the contract.

“We are pleased that this settlement falls squarely within the financial parameters developed to ensure that Avoca’s long-term fiscal stability remains strong,” comments Avoca Board of Education President Jeffrey Greengoss.  “The new contract allows for the district’s uninterrupted and sustained excellence for five years and keeps us in line with the compensation plans offered by other New Trier sender districts.”