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.

Soccer Teams Win Conference Titles

Both of Marie Murphy School’s co-ed varsity and junior varsity soccer teams were undefeated this year during the recent North Shore Independence Conference games, each with a record of seven wins and no losses.  Four other teams competing in the conference came from Sunset Ridge, Wilmette, Christian Heritage Academy and Glencoe.  Chad Henley, who served as coach for the two teams, said, “It was an outstanding season for both teams, and I congratulate the players for a job well done.”

The 17 members of the co-ed varsity soccer team include:  Michael Altman, Shayle Arenson, Gregory Chan, Christy Chang, Kyler Coghlan, Max Elghanian, CV Hixon, Sam Lim, Jonathan Lopez, Scott Parra, Sam Petrakis, Mathew Polakow, Jacob Price, Claire Snitovsky, Ethan Wirth, David Yan and Victoria Zibart.  The team had an undefeated season record of nine wins and no losses when non-conference games are included.

The 15 members of the co-ed junior varsity soccer team include:  Arif Ahmad, Paul Farcasanu, Adrian Ille, Andrew Kikos, Matt Kim, Joe Lim, Jackie Manchester, Michael Neuhaus, Louis Shaw, Phillip Shaw, Danielle Sirivat, Abe Sun, Jessica Werner, Tony Xu and Marina Zambrano.  The team ended with a season record of eight wins and one loss when non-conference games are included.

Science Olympiad Team Wins 2nd Place at Nationals

By winning second place in the middle school division at the State Science Olympiad Tournament in Champaign, Illinois, in April, the 15-member varsity team from Marie Murphy School qualified to compete in the national tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 21, where the team also placed second in the nation – the varsity team’s highest ever national finish.  Last year, Marie Murphy School finished fifth at the nationals.   Of the fifty-nine other teams from around the country that competed this year at the nationals, the Marie Murphy School varsity team came in only 14 points behind the first-place team from Ohio.  This year’s second-place finish is quite impressive, considering that there are over 6,000 middle school Science Olympiad teams in the country, and most of the other schools competing in the national tournament were much larger than Marie Murphy.

The most medals Marie Murphy School’s varsity team won at previous national competitions were in six events.  This year, the team broke their record and medaled in seven events, and every eighth-grader won at least one medal.  The medals were awarded for first to sixth place, and individual medalists at this year’s national competition included the following varsity team members and their events:  First-place winners Michael Rivkin and Solena Rizzato for Awesome Aquifer, Vivian Jou and Jason Lee for Bottle Rocket, and Alexander Chen and Rene Chen for Can’t Judge a Powder; second-place winners Rene Chen, Stephanie Chen and Josh Park for Experimental Design; third-place winners Vivian Jou and Solena Rizzato for Meteorology; fourth-place winners Alexander Chen and Aiyappa Kodendera for Storm the Castle; and sixth-place winners Sahar Bhai and Leah Rivkin for Crimebusters.  Marie Murphy School’s varsity team members include Sahar Bhai, Alexander Chen, Rene Chen, Stephanie Chen, Vivian Jou, Aiyappa Kodendera, Jason Lee, Lauren Newmark, Josh Park, Leah Rivkin, Michael Rivkin, Solena Rizzato, Jonah Wolfe, Clara Yam and David Yan.

Also attending this year’s national competition was the 14-member junior varsity team, of which four members competed in two events:  David Pollak and Daniel Belknap for Mag Lev, and Regina Madanguit and Andrea Wei for Wright Stuff Capacitor.  The ten other junior varsity members include Paul Farcasanu, Katherine Ho, Youngjin Kim, Jamie Knippen, Samantha Mori, Ethan Wirth, Tony Xu, Carissa Yang, Samantha Yang and Chelsea Ye.

The four coaches, who continue to inspire the very best from their students, include Mr. James Gravagna, Mr. Darren Persino, Mr. Peter Ogden and Ms. Shannon Wright.  Mr. Gravagana said, “Our team’s success at the nationals this year is really owed to our eighth-grade students.  After finishing second at state, they not only committed to work harder themselves, but they inspired and pushed the rest of the team to do better, as well.”  This year’s parent volunteer coaches included Mr. John Chen, Mr. Herng-Jeng Jou, Mr. Changappa Kodendera, Ms. Hui-Chen Li, Dr. Anne Nagle, Dr. Geraldine Newmark and Mr. Rory Wolfe.

Marie Murphy School Principal Dr. Deanna Reed said, “This is one of the most outstanding team achievements I have personally witnessed in my middle school career, and it is truly a climaxing chapter in Avoca’s long history of academic excellence.  Everyone in the school applauds the team’s collective accomplishments over the course of the season, and we also commend our outstanding coaches and parents for their essential contributions of leadership and time to the program.”  Inspired by Marie Murphy School’s efforts to stimulate interest in science among children at a young age and pave the way for future scientists, Lundbeck Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Deerfield, made a $5,000 contribution for a second year in a row to support the students’ trip to the national competition.  This is an exciting example of a school/business partnership.

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.

Science Olympiad Team Qualifies To Compete at National Tournament

For the sixth time in the last seven years, the Marie Murphy School Science Olympiad team has once again qualified to compete in the National Science Olympiad Tournament.  The Marie Murphy School team placed first in seven of twenty-three events and brought home more medals than any other team at the recent state competition held at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. They will now move on to compete in the national tournament on Saturday, May 21, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Faculty coaches are Mr. James Gravagna, Mr. Darren Persino, Mr. Peter Ogden and Ms. Shannon Wright.  Parent volunteer coaches are Dr. Anne Nagle, Mrs. Geraldine Newmark, Mr. Rory Wolfe, Mr. Herng-Jeng Jou, Ms. Hui-Chen Li and Mr. Changappa Kodendera.  Mr. Persino said, “We are very proud of how our students rose to the occasion in competition and continued the team’s level of sustained excellence in representing their team and their school.” 

First place medal winners include: Awesome Aquifer – Solena Rizzato and Michael Rivkin; Crimebusters – Sahar Bhai and Leah Rivkin; Experimental Design – Rene Chen, Stephanie Chen and Josh Park; Fossils – Alexander Chen and Clara Yam; Meteorology – Vivian Jou and Solena Rizzato; Optics – Alexander Chen and Rene Chen; and Storm the Castle – Alexander Chen and Aiyappa Kodendera. 

Third place medal winners include:  Dynamic Planet – Michael Rivkin and David Yan; Microbe Mission – Sahar Bhai and Vivian Jou; and Towers – Jason Lee and Clara Yam. 

Fourth place medal winners include:  Anatomy – Sahar Bhai and Lauren Newmark; Disease Detectives – Vivian Jou and Aiyappa Kodendera; and Road Scholar – Leah Rivkin and Solena Rizzato. 

Fifth place medal winners include:  Junkyard Challenge – Michael Rivkin and Jonah Wolfe; and Ornithology – Rene Chen and Josh Park.

Marie Murphy Students to Perform in Spring Play

Marie Murphy School students will be performing in a spring play entitled “There’s a Ghost in My Locker” by Christopher Burruto.  The play will be held on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the school’s multi-purpose room.  The plot of the play involves a boy who is locked in his locker overnight by the school bullies, and a ghost appears in his locker, granting him three wishes.  Cast members include Ariana Cohen, Margarita Costas, Terry Demyanyk, Elias Esquivel, Preston Fulks, Katie Hughes, Sophia Kingwill, Areesh Lalani, Sheharyar Lalani, Regina Madanguit, Peter Merikoski, Kelly Milan, Kevin Parra, Kameron Valdivia, Tamara Villalon, Christie Wechsler, Cassandra Yu and Victoria Zibart.  Staff members include:  Karah Roche, director; Kim Kozak, technical director; Jeanine Salm, costume director; and Katie Hughes, student assistant director.  The public is welcome and admission is free.

“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.