Superintendent's Message 2018-19
January 12, 2019
We had an amazing Teaching & Learning Conference at the January Inservice Day on Monday, January 7! I know many teachers and staff walked away with ideas and new practices to improve instruction in the classroom. Thank you to our Teaching & Learning Department for organizing and executing a great day of professional development for our teachers and staff!
As I mentioned at the end of the In-service day when we were all gathered in the auditorium, I also know of RIMSD #41 team members who have been going above and beyond to provide our students with the things they need beyond the classroom. We need to share those stories! We need to give a SHOUT OUT about the great things that are going on in the Rock Island-Milan School District. Most people don't really like to pat themselves on the back - so YOU need to do it for them!
If you have great things going on in your classroom and/or building - whether it is a special learning activity, a student who is outstanding in a particular area or a fellow staff member who is making a special effort to make the school day better, let our Communications Director Holly Sparkman know. We want to find ways to tell those stories whether it's on our web site, in a newsletter or through our local media. Also, don't forget to use #thisHouseROCKS on Twitter and Facebook and/or tag our school district social media as well. Please keep in mind that we do need to have a signed media release on file for each student when photographing - you can check with your building secretary if you have any questions or need to confirm a student in your class.
THANKS TO YOU - we are doing great things in the Rock Island-Milan School District #41 and we should never lose sight that we are providing ALL students with a quality education!
Our RIHS Theatre students are at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival (IHSTF) this weekend! A very
high honor for our students! #thisHouseROCKS
high honor for our students! #thisHouseROCKS
December 14, 2018
While we are all looking ahead to the end of the semester, we are not quite there yet and need to make the final stretch just as important as the first day of school!
We continued with the important Challenge 5 Attendance initiative this year and many of you are doing a great job of keeping the message relevant: fewer absences will help keep kids on track during the school year. By paying attention to absences now, we can turn around attendance AND achievement. Think about it: All of our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won’t matter much if our kids are not in school. If our kids miss out on school, we will never narrow the achievement gap nor help them achieve grade level standards.
Paying attention early in a child’s academic career is important, too. Children in kindergarten who miss ten percent of the school year can suffer academically. And these absences don’t just impact the students missing class: it slows down instruction for other students. Chronic absences make it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach. Attendance goes hand-in-hand with building strong personal relationships. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they are showing up. Trusting relationships—whether they are with teachers, mentors, coaches or other caring adults—are critical to encouraging families and students to seek out help to overcome barriers that hinder attendance.
I hope you will find some spare moments to recognize and appreciate all that you have accomplished this year. I have been witness to much of the hard work you have undertaken to better understand student learning, to strengthen our services to students and families, and to improve our practices so we can educate for individual student success.
If we help our students succeed, it will be hard to fail them!
Rock Island Academy Student Council with Santa at the annual
Breakfast with Santa on December 8!
Breakfast with Santa on December 8!
December 7, 2018
As we enter the holiday season, I am grateful for our teachers, staff, students and families we serve every day. In addition to working in the annual Winter Programs and Concerts, you are putting in extra effort to complete the last units and lessons, finish assessments, and prepare grade reports for students. It is a hectic time, but the break is near. Thank you for all of your dedication and devotion this semester - through your perseverance, you have evidenced your professionalism and being life-long learners. Your efforts have made a positive difference!
I look forward to analyzing the compiled data from the first semester; noticing, wondering and exploring a variety of other resources to analyze practices to help inform the continuous improvement steps so that every child will achieve success. I encourage you and your school teams to conduct a similar analysis to help inform improvement actions to assist students. It is imperative that we continue to improve our policies, procedures and practices to meet the needs of our diverse learners to achieve success.
I hope you have had the opportunity to attend some of the fabulous music events occurring throughout the District. I have been to several already! The students have performed wonderfully. Thank you to the dedicated music staff and all staff members for the tireless preparation for these performances. I look forward to attending more events in the next week.
Thank you for all you do! You make a powerful difference every day!
Orchestra students Emily Jansen and Tye Gordon take a bow at the Winter Concert on Dec. 5. (photo by Jarrin Williams)
The Rock Island-Milan School District is much more than a school system.
When I visit classrooms throughout our district, I see teachers and staff working with students beyond the curriculum. Staff members collaborate with churches and community groups to provide “weekend backpacks” full of food for some of our students and their families. We have quiet angels who take care of needs – students who need jackets; girls who need Homecoming dresses; a child who needs money for a field trip; and countless other everyday needs quietly cared for by angels in our system.
I am simply, thankful.
The simple act of appreciating can exalt the every day and neutralize the negative. Even on a crummy day, a little gratitude can make us glad to be here and make us feel good inside. And when we share it, other people feel good inside as well. And you know what happens then: The feel-good-insiders send their goodwill to more people, who in turn share the feeling. I believe that helping children succeed is one of the most important things any of us can do. Thank you for keeping “every child, every day” at the forefront of your dedication to the students. Whether it is in the classroom or as a support to the classroom, each of us has the opportunity to positively impact the life of a child no matter what our work may be.
The Rock Island-Milan School District is a unique organization wherein dedicated employees work together toward the greater good—that of providing all students with a quality education.
Thank you for everything you do for our students!
November 16, 2018
November 2, 2018
Veterans Day, November 11th, is on a Sunday this year, and as it is customarily a
'No School' day for RIMSD #41, I hope that we can still spent some time and reflect on the observance. I am happy to note that I see that many schools are having activities next week in observance of Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is a day of reflection and honor. One day a year is not enough to thank veterans for the price they have paid. Still today, many continue to pay on our behalf, and it is important to take a few moments with your students to recognize veterans, whether it is in a classroom or school assembly. We care for and about the people in our community and holidays such as Veterans Day gives us a great opportunity to reach out and thank those who have served our country. Our students will grow up to be members of this community (or of another community) one day and it is important that we teach them the value of community while in the classroom and to live respectfully together and benefit from one another’s wisdom and experiences.
Thank you to all of you who served in the armed forces or continue to serve in the guard or reserves, and thank you for making a difference for every child, every day!
October 26, 2018
Second quarter has started off this week with record speed! Many learning activities are underway to help each student accomplish their dream. Every employee is a part of the continuous improvement process. You may not feel your efforts are important. However, if even one employee accepts the status quo without any effort to make improvements, the entire effort can fail.
The only way we are going to accomplish our mission of providing all students with a quality education is to continually improve in our daily work. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental - even the small enhancements can lead the way to improving teaching and learning practices. Leveraging our strengths to expand our skills and experiences will lead to higher levels of success.
Some days are harder than others, however the bottom line is the dedication we have to our students, and the knowledge that we will work together to find solutions so our students will learn at each level. We will keep improving one step at a time and we will celebrate our successes - like our Marching Band, our Athletes, Longfellow Liberal Arts and their Rain Garden Award and Edison 7th Grade student Charlie Connor. #thisHouseRocks
Lynn Keck, Laura Erickson, Berni Carmack, Karen Neder with Principal Dave Knuckey!
October 5, 2018
This week we have seen many examples of what our teachers and principals will do for our students - going above and beyond the expected to make sure they receive the educational supports our students need or to give an extra boost to an outside activity.
- Loads of Love from the Rocky Resource Room via WQAD >>
- Student Hunger Drive rewards from Principals John Frieden (Denkmann) and Jeff Whitaker (RIHS)
- Life Changer Award nomination for Liz Wayne (WJHS) >>
There are many other instances that we don't hear about. If you have a few moments, please take the time to fill out a SHOUT OUT form for your colleague who is doing above and beyond for our students and their families in RIMSD #41.
I thank you for all of your professional efforts, diligence and persistence to implement these curricula and reporting tools. As lead learners, you have evidenced life long learning and your passion for students' success. You are what makes Rock Island-Milan a great learning institution. I thank you for all of your professionalism and desire to collaborate to help every child, every day, in every way to be successful in accomplishing the dreams of our youth!
I wish you a relaxing fall inter-session! I look forward to visiting the classrooms in the second quarter to witness the high quality instruction you provide to our students every day.
While we are all looking ahead and preparing to end the quarter, we are not quite there yet... we still need to make the final stretch just as important as the first day of school.
For our second year in a row, we embarked on an important Challenge 5 Attendance initiative year and many of you are doing a great job of keeping the message relevant: fewer absences will help keep kids on track during the school year. By paying attention to absences now, we can turn around attendance AND achievement. Think about it: All of our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won’t matter much if our kids are not in school. If our kids miss out on school, we will never narrow the achievement gap nor help them achieve grade level standards.
Paying attention early in a child’s academic career is important, too. Children in kindergarten who miss ten percent of the school year can suffer academically. And these absences don’t just impact the students missing class: it slows down instruction for other students. Chronic absences make it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach.
Attendance goes hand-in-hand with building strong personal relationships. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they are showing up. Trusting relationships—whether they are with teachers, mentors, coaches or other caring adults—are critical to encouraging families and students to seek out help to overcome barriers that hinder attendance. I hope you will find some spare moments to recognize and appreciate all that you have accomplished this year.
I have been witness to much of the hard work you have undertaken to better understand student learning, to strengthen our services to students and families, and to improve our practices so we can educate for individual student success. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to provide all of our students with a quality education.
September 21, 2018
Every year, at this time of the year, we start talking about the United Way organization and the work it does to support the many organizations (including ours) in the community. Many RIMSD #41 employees give to the annual United Way of the Quad Cities campaign each year (through a one time pledge or through payroll deduction) and/or commit themselves to volunteering for one of their service areas.
The biggest question we get: What does the United Way do? The United Way focuses on supporting our community in the areas of education, health and income. It supports agencies that provide programming to help children and families to overcome hardship times and build strategies for ongoing success. This past year, United Way committed to fund out-of-school programs in Rock Island-Milan for three years with a commitment of more than $500,000. These programs are coordinated with a partnership that includes Spring Forward Learning, Martin Luther King Junior Center, Parks & Recreation, churches, etc. These programs make a difference for our students and families. As an example, a short video was produced that shares a success story from our District and highlights one of our schools >>
Last year, 117 of our RIMSD #41 team members contributed for a total contribution of $8,856.00 to the United Way campaign. Let’s improve! Let’s see if we can get ALL team members to participate and increase our contributions by 20%! As a special incentive this year, we are having a special reward to the building that reaches 100% participation.
Consider the many, many needs and give what you can to enhance the services supported by this campaign. Every dollar given will find its way to assisting someone in our local community. The needs are greater than ever.
I know we can accomplish this goal! No gift is too small. THANK YOU in advance for your consideration and giving!!
September 14, 2018
The first quarter is quickly coming to the finish line and we are preparing ourselves for the completion of report cards and setting up parent- teacher conferences. Although the preparation of the report cards may be burdensome and stressful, they provide the evidence of student success and opportunities and provides a basis for parent-teacher conferences.
The conferences provide a great opportunity to focus on one of our Strategic Plan Priorities: Building respectful relationships. The parent teacher conferences provide us a platform for effectively communicating student progress, discussing strategies to promote future success, and answering questions while engaging in a positive relationship with families.
The conferences allow you to tell parents/guardians what we expect students to know, how we know what they have learned, what we are doing to enrich instruction for those that already have mastered the skills, and what we are doing to assist those that have not yet learned the skills. Education is multi-faceted and much more than learning your ABC's and 123's - we are asking students to implement critical thinking skills and dig deeper in their learning so that they can broaden their understanding. Our current students are going to be tomorrow's nation builders and problem solvers, and we need to give them the tools they need to take our society
These discussions help to set a partnership for moving through the rest of the year. Through your professionalism these conferences are platforms for actively engaging families as partners in the learning journey of their child.
I gave my annual State of the Schools Address at the joint Rock Island Rotary and Kiwanis club meetings this week. I love the opportunity to talk to our community members about all of the positive programs we are doing for students and how hard teachers and staff are working to make sure our students needs are met. You can view a PDF of my Powerpoint Presentation (link to the right) or check out a couple of media clips and coverage of the event. KWQC >> Dispatch/Argus (John Marx) >>
Thank you for everything you do for our students - !
September 7, 2018
As we reach the middle of our first quarter of the school year, we are ramping up on student activities across the district. Whether it is in sports, music, drama or special causes, I encourage you to attend activities to show your Rocky Pride and support your students! It makes a difference to the students when you can share with them the experiences you had while attending an event for which they participated.
I am proud to say that two of our former students in the Rock Island-Milan School District are reaching new heights in their respective endeavors. Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw will be competing in the Miss America Pageant this Sunday, Sept. 9. Miss Hughes-Shaw was in our orchestra at Rock Island High School and in the preliminary pageant events this week, she performed on her violin. Former Rock Island Rock Football player and State Track champion Derrick Willies has made it on to the Cleveland Browns football roster and will be in the game this Sunday as well. I look forward to cheering them both on this weekend. Two other RIHS graduates, Haley Walker and Lauren Corwin, have launched a creative way to bring the runway to your doorway.
In the Rock Island-Milan School District, we know that the work we do today will impact future generations. We are nation builders, preparing the next generation of successful citizens to enrich our communities, the nation and the world. We must continually strive to help every student to master skills and content. To reach high levels of success we must work together. Every team member, individually and collectively, brings unique talents and experiences. We need to share our experiences, good and bad, and talents with our colleagues to help all grow professionally. This will lead to higher levels of success for you, but more importantly for our students.
I thank you for all of your professionalism and desire to collaborate to help every child, every day, in every way to be successful in accomplishing the dreams of our youth! You supported Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw and Derrick Willies when they were our students in RIMSD #41 - and there are many more students in our midst that we can encourage and empower while we have them here with us.
Together, we ROCK Education!
August 31, 2018
It’s that time of the year for the United Way’s Annual Fundraising Campaign and the Rock Island-Milan School District has been a proud partner with the United Way of the Quad Cities for many years!
Making an investment in United Way will touch the lives of many by providing for basic needs, helping adults find family-sustaining jobs and affordable housing, and encouraging the positive development of our children and youth. Even the smallest contributions change lives.
It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day routines, often forgetting about those who are most in need of a helping hand. Just keep in mind that even the smallest contributions change lives.
One of the first questions people ask is “What does the United Way of the Quad Cities do?” Plenty. In the Rock Island-Milan School District alone, the United Way has made a significant impact:
- $100,000 investment in Spring Forward’s afterschool and summer programs
- $60,000 investment in YWCA of the Quad Cities to provide wrap-around services for Early Head Start and preschool.
- $20,000 investment in YWCA of the Quad Cities’ Street Intervention Team, providing services to homeless youth in Rock Island.
- Approximately 300 Rock Island and Milan preschoolers received a free book each month through the Imagination Library program – an investment of over $7,200 each year
- Administered the Kindergarten Skills Inventory for the 6th consecutive year, collecting teachers’ assessment of what skills their new students had and had not attained.
- Held 3 Born Learning Academy sequences in Rock Island, providing low-income parents with the knowledge and resource they need to serve as their child’s first, best teacher. A total of 37 Rock Island families completed the curriculum.
- Created and supported the Challenge 5 Attendance initiative districtwide
- Day of Caring projects at Eugene Field Elementary and Washington Junior High
- Deere & Royal Neighbors reading volunteers, through our online Vello program, in 3 RIMSD classrooms
- Created 3 sites in Rock Island for the Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program, through which volunteers help low- and mid-income families complete and file their taxes.
The United Way of the QC does a lot for the students and teachers in our school district - and they can't do it without your help. I strongly urge you to consider donating to United Way, even if it is just one dollar. Every donation helps and participation is key. If you do not have the ability to donate financially, consider volunteering in one of the programs.
Together, we ROCK education and can make a difference in the lives of many! Thank you for your consideration.
August 24, 2018
Our school district cannot be successful without community support and partnerships.As children are away from the schools more than in the schools, the commitment of the community it vital. Many community agencies seek to assist RIMSD #41 in providing programs and supports to help children beyond the walls of the schools.
While the District is blessed to have so many caring organizations and individuals willing to assist us in our mission, we also have a role to play beyond the school days. We also need to be active within our Rock Island-Milan community and pay it forward for the community. I ask that you consider volunteering within the community, attend a community meeting (such as the monthly Rock Island Police Community Meeting every third Wednesday of the month), attending an event or showing up at a students game, performance or concert.
One thing I can tell you is that people DO notice when you are out and about. Such participation will build positive relationships and will evidence that you care and are committed to our students and families. This will be beneficial to your professional work and help to build a strong community spirit. Being committed to building a stronger community will benefit all of us, our families and most importantly, our children.
Thank you for being committed to education in RIMSD! Together, we ROCK education!
August 17, 2018
In the Rock Island-Milan School District, we are joined by our united interest in providing high quality learning experiences for all of the students in the district. I am equally focused on ensuring that as adults, we continue to develop ourselves as professionals, parents and community leaders so that our efforts remain relevant and positively beneficial to the students.
Being an educator today is much different than being an educator 20 years ago. Not only do teachers need to be focused on teaching curriculum, they are also in part providing social/emotional supports in the classroom. It is not easy. However, the bright side is that we have many resources and many with expertise to guide us through our school counselors, social workers and psychologists. In our district we have been working proactively through cultural competency, increased counselor support for students, implementing trauma informed practices and having Professional Development in curriculum.
It will however, take the collective commitment of all stakeholders to move the district forward by advancing student learning. I would like to invite all interested persons to join me in this effort by coming up with ways to truly make a difference in the lives of students. Each of us has a unique gift, which separates us from all other human beings. My challenge to you is to identify what your gift is and how to connect with your building peers or district administrators in order to gain a better sense of how your gift can be used to make a difference in the lives of our students. Are you a “crafty” person? Perhaps you can collaborate with others in your building and come up with a special note or card to give to a student who works hard to improve their behavior or reaches a new level in their reading. It is all about building respectful relationships - one of our priority areas in our Strategic Plan.
I have seen the passion of our entire district team in action, doing whatever it takes to provide opportunities for students to accomplish their dreams! Through your efforts we will live our purpose to educate for individual student success. Thank you for everything you do to provide our students with a quality education! Together, we ROCK education!
August 10, 2018
We have begun a new school year! This is an exciting time as students get back into the routines of attending school. These first few weeks are a critical time to begin developing relationships and high expectations for each student and reinforce our mission to provide students with a quality education.
We are the best at what we do – EDUCATE. This year, we are going to continue to ROCK education by individually and collectively providing high quality services and instruction to meet the needs of our students. We will pair that with caring, respectful relationships and support services. Together, as team members, we will passionately and professionally meet every child where they are and move them forward academically, socially and behaviorally. These are the keys to every child’s success! Together, we ROCK education!
It has been really wonderful to see everyone with the new "Together, we ROCK education" t-shirts! At the July 31 In-service at the High School, we saw examples of how RIMSD #41 staff were using the #thisHouseRocks on social media to share the positive experiences that are happening in our schools every day! Let's keep that going this year!
In our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan there are three priorities identified: Increase student achievement; build respectful relationships; and improve operations.
- Increase student achievement: This year we will continue the implementation of Eureka Math and Engage NY. Pilots and adjustments to math instruction are occurring at sixth—eighth grade, and the high school. We will be working on furthering our understanding and implementation of science across all grade levels.
- Build respectful relationships: We will continue to deepen understanding of relationships, utilizing this learning to improve student performance, instructional practices, family engagement and school culture.
- Improve operations: We will strive to hire a diverse workforce and maintain financial integrity.
Thank you for everything you do for our students! With your passion and dedication to the success of every child, this will be a great year! I look forward to visiting classrooms to witness the wonderful instruction and learning occurring throughout the Rock Island-Milan School District!
Rock Island Academy sporting the shirts on the first day! #thisHouseROCKS
Superintendent State of Schools Address 2018