Marie Murphy School Student Council Members Elected

Marie Murphy School Student Council Advisor Robert Schnurlein announced the council’s newly-elected officers and cabinet members for the 2011-2012 school year as follows:  Kelly Milan, president; Jonah Wolfe, vice president; Nick Zhou, secretary; Lauren Newmark, treasurer; and cabinet members Regina Madanguit, Sam Petrakis, Victoria Zibart and Ben Redemann.

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.

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.

Eighty-Nine Set to Graduate on June 7

Following are the names of 89 eighth graders who are scheduled to graduate on Tuesday, June 7, from Marie Murphy School:  Ayesha Abbasi, Ilya’ Aiman Ahmad, Akber Amin Ali, Sarah Balan, Carson Victoria Bashford, Sofia Ana Bazianos, Daniel Alberto Belknap, Sahir Amin Bhai, Turner Cepuritis, Alexander Wei-Tsun Chen, Rene Chen, Stephanie Wei-Shan Chen, Gabriella J. Cohen, Jack Alton Cole, Adelaide Clare Conaghan, Kathleen Rose Conaghan, Steven Dellamore, Taras Demyanyk, Caileigh Rose Dunkin, Jordie Formicola,  Preston Donald Fulks, Andrew Richard Gilbert, Marli Gitles, Rachel Goldberg, Julia Suzanne Golden, John Michael Graf, III, Danielle Erin Gurevich, Hannah Gabrielle Heredia, Simon Ethan Herman, Katie Hughes, Janel Ashley Jackson, Jessica Haejin Jeon, Vivian Jou, Nicholas Katsinis, Daniel Cole Katz, Audrey Dahsom Kim, Kelly Do Yeon Kim, Sophia Ella Kingwill, Christian W. Koules, Jonathan Walter Krauser, Areesh Lalani, Sheharyar Lalani, Alix Lauren Leviton, Jacob Matthew Manchester, Eric Anthony Marzillo, Gillian Ellen Mayster, Kathleen Shea Milan, Zain Mithani, Samantha Grace Mori, Arianna Nicole Neuhaus, Taylor Leo O’Callaghan, Chan Hong Park, Grant Jae Hyung Park, Isang Park, Joshua Chan-Hee Park, David Joseph Pollak, Sarah Elizabeth Potratz, Jordi Price, Isabelle Pyritz, David F. Raynes, Leah Gabrielle Rivkin, Solena Margaret Rizzato, George Joseph Robb, Panayiota Roumeliotis, Justin Corbin Savin, Alexandra Scekic, Brittany Lee Schroeder, Luke Sherman, Brian Shiau, Nathan Shin, Sam Ji Sik Shin, Julia Lauren Sieja, Mitchell Silverstein, Margaret Lang Sollitt, Alessio Massimo Sorano, Danielle Valerie Steinberg, Julia Claire Straaton, Aria Szalai-Raymond, Loucine Topouzian, Tamara Ann Villalon, Marissa Joy Vogelstein, Jack Wechsler, Eli Lawrence Werner, Kyle L. Wettersten, Amanda Lois Winter, David Alex Wolanin, Samantha Li-Wen Yang, Keenan John Yoseph, and Cassandra Yu.  Commencement ceremonies will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at Marie Murphy School, 2921 Illinois Road in Wilmette.

Avoca West/Marie Murphy Collaborative Writing Project

During the month of April, Avoca West Elementary School third-grade teacher Jennifer Stefan and Marie Murphy School sixth-grade teacher Andrea Bialk collaborated on a special writing assignment for their students that focused on social/emotional learning and service learning projects.  Vicki Specks, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) teacher at Avoca West, concentrated her lessons on helping the students identify similarities and differences and develop an understanding of empathy through learning about the country of Ghana.  The students also attended a presentation by Kim Zimmer, a technology teacher at Avoca West, who shared her personal teaching experiences from the summer she spent in Ghana.

All third-grade teachers, including Jennifer Stefan, Kelly Lee, Tom Erf, Stephanie Rick and Sarah Hannus partnered their students with sixth-grade buddies at Marie Murphy School to write a creative narrative story.  The third-grade students created an outline for the sixth-grade students to use as they developed their stories.  The students at both schools used google docs to write their stories, which enabled the partners to collaborate easily with each other.

When the students finished editing and revising their stories, the third-graders created the illustrations.  The final touches were made when the third-grade students took a field trip to Marie Murphy School to meet face-to-face with their writing buddies to create a title page and put their books together.

After the student-created books were finished, the students sent them along with donated supplies to students in Ghana through Kids to Kids International (KTKI); a non-profit organization that provides a program for children to send Friendship Boxes of educational supplies and student-created books to children around the world since 1991.  Ms. Stefan said, “This writing project proved to be a valuable lesson focused on collaboration among the students and also provided them with an opportunity to share with children who are less fortunate.”

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.

Avoca West 5th Grader Wins Writing Contest

Avoca West Elementary School fifth grader Ben Kolot, of Wilmette, recently won the Storyworks  “Zodiac” Contest for a paragraph he wrote about his Chinese zodiac sign, the dragon.  Ben’s teacher, Gabriel Paynter, said, “As part of our study of China for social studies, we read a play in Storyworks about Chinese zodiacs, and I had my students research their zodiac sign and write a paragraph to enter in this contest.”  An excerpt from a letter Ben received from the publisher stated, “You wrote a well-structured paragraph on your zodiac animal and did a great job explaining how your zodiac character relates to you.”  As a winner of the contest, the publisher awarded Ben a copy of Grace Lin’s book entitled “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.”  Storyworks is published by Scholastic magazine and contains stories and exercises that supplement schools’ language arts curriculums.

Avoca West Students to Participate in Tech Demonstration in Springfield

Avoca West Elementary School in Glenview is among approximately 80 schools statewide that will have student representatives participating in the annual TECH 2011 Students for the Information Age event on Thursday, May 5, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. 

TECH 2011 is a non-profit initiative presented by Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) and is supported by a broad range of education and business organizations.  The purpose of TECH 2011 is to show how Illinois is preparing students to succeed in the Information Age.  The importance of this event lies in making the public aware of the central role technology has come to play in our schools and generating support for its adequate funding.  Without the understanding and support of the public and the legislature, adequate public funding for education technology is hard to come by, and, without it, Illinois cannot remain competitive in the global economy. 

Students from the participating schools will be on hand to show the public and elected members of the Illinois State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in classrooms to improve achievement.  Computer workstations will be set up in the Capitol Building Rotunda, where the students will demonstrate how technology has helped them with their schoolwork. 

Taking part in the demonstrations are Avoca West Elementary School fourth graders Keara Bellino, of Glenview, and Cameron Rowe, of Wilmette.  They will be accompanied to Springfield by Avoca West Elementary School technology facilitators Kim Zimmer and Beth Haugeberg.  Keara and Cameron will be demonstrating how they use blogs in school to learn editing skills, publish their work to a larger audience, reflect on their schoolwork and use commenting to share ideas and feedback with the other students.

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.