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Staff » Superintendent's Message 2023-2024

Superintendent's Message 2023-2024

December 1, 2023
The Key to Success
Everyone has great ideas. How do some people successfully implement them? Are they lucky? Organized? Super smart? Many factors lead to success, but I believe there's one that rises above the rest - how much you want it.
Sometimes, the odds are against our success. Our friends and family might not approve of our efforts. Often, there are dead ends, scary situations, and risks. However, highly motivated people soldier through these obstacles and work until success is attained. I have seen it with winning state championships, establishing successful businesses, and solving difficult problems. If we want to accomplish great things in our amazing district, we have to be highly motivated and committed to the process. The great things in RIMSD 41 are the result of motivated stakeholders.  
Let’s add to the greatness!
November 17, 2023
School Board Members Day
November 15 marks the annual statewide observance of School Board Members Day in Illinois. This day offers our community an opportunity to show support for our board of education and their commitment to making our school district one of the finest in the area.
Our school board members serve as unpaid volunteers for the benefit of the students and community residents. They provide a local voice for the community, a vision for the district, and a pathway to success for our students.
We are blessed to have thoughtful and dedicated servants working on our behalf. The board’s leadership is a source of pride for our local citizens and we honor each member.
Thank you Rock Island-Milan School Board Members! Together we are making a difference for every student of this district.  #ThankABoardMember
picture of board of education
Board of Education - (Back row, from L to R) Nicole Cisne Durbin, Tracy Pugh, Jason Roessler, Terell Williams
(Front row, from L to R) Gary Rowe, Margie Mejia-Caraballo, Mike Matherly
November 10, 2023
Preparing Our Students for College
These past few weeks I've gotten to learn more about AVID and what support it provides our students. 
For those who aren't familiar, AVID principles provide the support students need for college and career success. The strategies involve Collaboration, inquiry, and organization.  AVID helps teachers shift from delivering content to facilitating learning, resulting in an inquiry-based, student-centered classroom. The goal is for the students to think critically, collaborate, and set high expectations to confidently conquer the challenges that await them.
Currently, AVID is offered at the high school, both junior highs and Frances Willard Elementary School. This year we've added another school. Earl Hanson now offers AVID too.  
Some of our schools have been hosting some fun events to help families learn more about the AVID program. Frances Willard hosted an "Avid Afternoon" this week where parents could learn more about some of the AVID strategies. I had the opportunity to visit the AVID Showcase at Washington Jr. High. The seventh and eighth-grade students invested a lot of time and energy in preparing stations that explained AVID principles and some ways those principles can be applied to their lives.  
I learned a few things from their presentations and I was energized afterward! We have awesome students and staff in our school district!
frances Willard staff sit at table explaining AVID program
November 3, 2023
Selfless Acts
One of the things I've been proud to witness since starting as Interim Superintendent is all the community service our district does. I was amazed to learn about the Rocky Resource Room and all that it provides to our students and their families, as well as all the projects our students do to benefit local organizations. Many of our schools find charities to donate to. Recently, Rock Island Academy student council helped SAL Community Services collect diapers for their diaper drive. Rock Island Academy collected 664 diapers!
The high school is wrapping up its Student Hunger Drive Campaign. It's held several fundraising efforts including the Hot Shakes Challenge. I applaud our staff for being good examples to our students. They were willing to take some heat for a good cause. If you haven't donated, please consider donating to Rocky's Student Hunger Drive Campaign online
The bottom line is it's important to teach our students the importance of giving back. You never know how it will be paid it forward later in life. 

 Have a great weekend everyone. 

RIA Diaper Drive
Rock Island Academy Student Council hosted a diaper drive.
October 27, 2023
October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
This month-long event seeks to prevent childhood bullying and promote kindness. Every day, thousands of children experience bullying at school, after school in their neighborhoods, and even when they are at home through social media and texts.
Rock Island-Milan School District is committed to creating and maintaining a safe educational environment free from bullying, harassment, and discrimination. If the issue of bullying arises, the school counselors and administration work together to stop the behavior and provide counseling and support to those who are involved.  School officials also communicate with parents/guardians of affected students, and continue to monitor incidents to ensure the bullying has ceased. 
Students should report to an adult any bullying or harassing activity whether they are a victim, witness, or bystander. No one deserves to be bullied and all students deserve to be safe. RIMSD adopted Safe2Help for students' mental health and threat tips. In the absence of a trusted adult, students can use Safe2Help Illinois to share concerns about themselves or others in a confidential environment. One of the most common reports received by Safe2Help Illinois is bullying. 
More information about bullying can be found online at
October 20, 2023
Thank a Principal


School principals play an integral role in the education and growth of children in elementary, middle, and secondary schools.  Principals, along with assistant principals and deans, deserve to be recognized for their work, commitment, and importance.  The week of October 15, 2023, is proclaimed to be Principals Week and October 20, 2023, is Principals Day.

The job for these courageous individuals is demanding, rewarding, unpredictable, exhausting yet exhilarating. They wouldn’t have it any other way. I see them lead with optimism, humility, vision, and perseverance.

I encourage all of the stakeholders to celebrate by sending personal notes or emails, putting up decorations, providing snacks, presenting a gift, or just publicly acknowledging them. Thank you, Rock Island-Milan principals, assistant principals, and deans for your deep commitment to doing what is best for the students. You have a positive influence on young people, staff members, and communities and we appreciate it!

September 29, 2023
Rest, Relax, and enjoy
As an interim, I bring an outside set of eyes to the district. I can tell you what I have seen from all of you in this first quarter is impressive. What have I seen? I see staff that takes initiative, staff that cares deeply about what they are doing, and has a tremendous amount of talent and expertise. Staff that works hard every day to make sure the needs of our students are met. Whether you work directly with students or not everyone's role is vital to the success of this district.
Your work does not go unnoticed. Working in Education is not always easy, there are many challenging days but every day you wake up and decide to show up. For that I thank you. I ask that all of you leave your worries, stresses, etc. behind as you head out the doors today and head into fall break with a clear mind and focus on recharging yourself. Whether it's going on a trip or doing absolutely nothing, take the rest you need so we can come back and start the second quarter off strong. 
Rest, relax, and enjoy, there's no doubt, you deserve it. 
September 22, 2023
Community Support
Today, our community showed its commitment to the educational lives of our students by participating in a nationwide event called Million Father March. Fathers Incorporated is the event’s founding organization. Annually, Rock Island Academy takes part in this event. 
Dads, uncles, grandfathers, coaches, first responders, veterans, football players, clergy, men’s groups, and school district staff members lined the sidewalk in front of Rock Island Academy to welcome the students as they arrived at school. The men gave the students fist bumps, high fives, and words of encouragement. The looks on the students' faces were priceless!
It really is true that fathers and caregivers have a profound impact when they participate in a child’s academic life. More than 100 volunteers showed up. It was great to see the large turnout. I would like to give a special shout-out to the Alleman football team who showed up to participate.
What an amazing community we have!
Milllon Father March
September 15, 2023
Homecoming Spirit
This is our annual Homecoming Week in the Rock Island-Milan School District! Students, staff, alumni, families, and community members are strutting their school spirit and enjoying friendships. Our Homecoming week is filled with festivities like dress-up days, a parade, the coronation of the Homecoming King and Queen, and a high school dance. 
Homecoming celebrations have a long tradition in high schools and colleges that dates back to the 19th century. The high point of Homecoming Week is an exciting football game played on Friday night.  This year, the opponent is Newman Central Catholic from Sterling, Illinois. The excellent Rocky marching band and the talented cheerleaders make the evening even better! Volunteers from our booster organization will have plenty of food on hand for the hungry fans. Come out and support your Rocks this evening! 
spirit week collage
September 8, 2023
State of the Schools Address
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of presenting a State of the District Report to the members of the Rock Island Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs. This is an annual event that takes place at the Botanical Center. The report includes program updates, an overview of demographics, and information about the status of our facilities, progress on the strategic plan, and changes taking place.  Here are a few highlights.

The district enrollment increased 101 students this year to 6,161. There were 357 graduates in the class of 2023. We continue to be one of the most diverse school districts in the state, currently ranking #2. We have 800 students eligible for English Language Learner services. Over 30 languages are spoken in the district. We are having an equity audit done to understand the root causes behind gaps in student achievement. The results will be used to make decisions about where to invest efforts and resources.

The district’s strategic plan has three priorities:  1) respectful relationships, 2) equity & opportunity for success, and 3) enhancing and improving operations.  MAP assessments are given 3 times a year to determine where students are academically and to monitor progress.  We continue to focus on college and career readiness. We have seven high school students participating in paid internships in the areas of welding and nursing.

There were many facility improvements in the past year.  FOB access replaced key access in nine schools this past year. There were 103 additional security cameras installed throughout the district. Fifty-thousand square feet of roofing was replaced this summer. Construction of a new administration center, warehouse, and production kitchen was completed this summer. Parking lots and hard-surface playgrounds were replaced. New fire alarms and HVAC systems were installed. The Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation provided more than $205,000 in PRIME grants this summer. The district received a $3.8 million federal grant to address the social-emotional needs of students.  
There are so many more things that could be mentioned.  Overall, the district is stable and working hard to improve in every aspect. Looking forward to what this school year holds!
Keep up the great work!
State of the schools
September 1, 2023
Celebrating Labor Day

There is a lot of excitement throughout the district today because of the approaching Labor Day weekend. Culturally, it is considered the unofficial end to summer. Some are looking forward to all the Labor Day sales while others are looking forward to festivities like parades, parties, and picnics. There is little doubt the students are relishing a day off from school.  A lot of recreation and amusement goes on during Labor Day weekend, but let’s make sure we take time to recognize the real meaning behind the holiday.  

Congress passed the Labor Day Act in 1894, and President Cleveland signed it into law shortly thereafter. Labor Day was designed to be an annual celebration on the first Monday in September. The objective is to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Their contributions have built America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being. American labor has raised the nation’s standard of living and has reinforced our traditional ideals of democracy. This weekend, let’s celebrate our great nation and the workers who made it great.
August 25, 2023
How are the Children Grant
Members of the Masai tribe in Africa have a tradition of greeting each other with the phrase, “Casserian Engeri.”  It means, “And how are the children?” This focus on the next generation conveys the idea that the well-being of children determines the future strength and success of their society. This concept permeates the purposes of a $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that was recently awarded to the Rock Island-Milan School District.

The five-year funding is being used to create a project-based curriculum focused on improving social and emotional wellness, mental health, inclusion, and equity.  Activities will include self-reflection and storytelling through filmmaking.  Each of the 25 curriculum lessons focuses on an SEL/equity topic. The staff provides coaching and technical assistance.

An independent evaluation of the program’s effectiveness will be conducted by a company called Empirical Education. The long-term goal is to use the information learned in Rock Island-Milan and expand it to other districts throughout the nation.  

This is just one exciting example of an innovative and research-based learning opportunity that can be found in our fine school district. We are Rocks!
rihs staff being trained
Pictured- Rock Island High School staff learning how to use
the equipment students will use for the grant.
August 18, 2023
A Winning Attitude
The excitement of athletic competition comes with the start of a new school year. Many students have been honing their athletic skills for years and they are now able to showcase them to the fans who eagerly support them. Tonight is the Red/Gold Scrimmage game. Come out support your Rocks and get a first look at the 2023-2024 football team! It’s important to support our students outside of the classroom as well. I know it means a lot when student-athletes look up in the stands and see their teachers, principals, support staff, etc. cheering them on. The Rock Island-Milan community has always shown tremendous support and school spirit for the athletes.
As we begin the new school year, let’s pledge ourselves to maintain a healthy perspective on competition and respect for referees.  We might not always agree with how a rule is interpreted, but we can be well-mannered and sustain a good attitude.  A reputation of positivity and good sportsmanship spreads, and it attracts officials to work in our competitions. 
We also want to make sure we’re carrying that good attitude into the classroom. It’s important to teach our students about a winning attitude. Teaching our students to know what they want and what’s needed to get it. Teaching them about maintaining focus on what they want even when things don’t go as planned and taking responsibility when they do not get the results they want. And when they don’t get the results they want, being able to change their approach is key too.
This year has the promise of many victories!  Go, Rocks!
Rock Island High School Football team
2023 Rock Island Rocks 
August 11, 2023
Working to Enhance Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Rock Island-Milan School District’s mission is to prepare all students for individual success by providing a safe and inclusive quality education within a multicultural community.  Since 2016, the district has been on an equity journey to more fully and deeply understand students and families from diverse backgrounds and to identify best practices that will meet the needs of the RIMSD students.

Last winter, the district hired American Institutes for Research to conduct a district equity audit. The purpose of the audit was to develop an understanding of the root causes behind the gaps in student achievement in order to make informed decisions about where to invest their equity efforts and resources to ensure that all students can achieve high standards.

In the coming weeks, on site focus groups will be assembled to have discussions about the equity topic. Students, parents, staff, and community members will be asked to participate. In mid-October, a large group of 35-40 people will work with five facilitators to process data and put it in a format that is streamlined and easy to understand. A final report that will include findings and suggestions will be presented to the Board of Education by the end of November. The district is actively working to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging throughout the district.  
Together, we can equip our students to reach their maximum potential!
August 4, 2023
We are stronger when we all work together!

Hello Rock Island-Milan students, staff, and community! I am looking forward to serving as your interim superintendent during the fall semester. Over the past four weeks, I have encountered hope and promise everywhere I go in the district. Everyone oozes optimism, excitement, and friendliness.  

Area contractors have been working diligently to complete various construction projects throughout the district. The projects include new roofs, new HVAC systems, building renovations, new pavement for parking lots and playgrounds, new fire alarms, and many needed repairs. We appreciate your patience as some of the projects will not be completed before school begins. I assure you the results are worth all of the noise, dust, mess, and delays.

Education is a people industry comprised of students, staff, families, and community members. We are stronger when we all work together to provide an excellent education for each and every student. An amazing opportunity is here, so let’s dig in and show the world that we are getting it done with One Team, One Goal, One RIMSD!
District Administrators
2023-2024 District Administrators at Ready to Rocks