February 19th, 2022

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February 19th, 2022

February 19th, 2022


Dear District 57 Families,

Late Thursday night, the 4th District Appellate Court handed down their decision regarding the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued on February 4th by Judge Grischow on the Austin v. Pritzker case in which District 57 is named as a defendant. The appellate court held that: “On February 15, 2022, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) objected to and suspended IDPH’s renewal (of the emergency rules). Thus, none of the rules found by the circuit court to be null and void are currently in effect. Accordingly, for the following reasons, we dismiss the defendant’s appeal because the expiration of the emergency rules renders this appeal moot.” The court further stated: “An issue is moot where an actual controversy no longer exists between the parties or where events have occurred that make it impossible for the court to grant effective relief. Because the emergency rules voided by the TRO are no longer in effect, a controversy regarding the application of those rules no longer exists. Thus, the matter is moot.” 

The Court specifically held that school districts retain local control to make decisions relating to the pandemic: “We note the language of the TRO in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the IDPH in creating provisions addressing COVID-19.” Essentially what this means is that without the enforcement mechanism in place (the emergency rules), school districts retain the same local control that was in effect prior to the issuance of the emergency rules on September 17, 2021.

We will be maintaining masks recommended but not required for the time being. The Board of Education will hold a special Board Meeting this Thursday, February 24  at 7 P.M. at Fairview School to determine the mitigation strategies that will be implemented in District 57 moving forward.  Please know that we continue to receive consultation from our legal counsel regarding all aspects of this situation. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the pandemic, we are grateful to students and families for their patience and resilience and to our staff for their flexibility and professionalism – especially these past couple of weeks.

At Thursday night’s School Board meeting, I was pleased to report that we have continued to see a decline in COVID cases in our schools. We are very encouraged by the direction that things are going in the schools, and we hope to continue to see this progress as community transmission lessens. 

Here are a few other updates from the Board meeting:

Staffing Plan
I presented the preliminary Staffing Plan for Fiscal Year 23. At this time, we are looking to increase staffing for SOAR (Social and Academic Readiness), our most intensive special education program, as well as bring in a social worker to support SOAR at Lions Park and the larger student population at Lincoln. We also recommend that we remove from the Staffing Plan the instructional assistant positions added last year to support remote learning. We will continue to refine next year’s staffing numbers based on enrollment and other needs, and the Board will review the plan again at its March 17th meeting.

Winter Benchmarking
Dr. Kristin Vonder Haar, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, reported on our winter benchmarking. We were pleased to see growth and progress. Our student achievement continues to surpass national averages in all areas, but we have some lower scores than we would like. We will continue to address learning loss through things like tutoring, Extended School Year (summer program), and implementing additional supports for students who need them. Check out Dr. Vonder Haar’s presentation for a thorough overview of the ways we gather information about students’ academic skills. Benchmarking informs our teaching practices, and ensures we are meeting the needs of students and accelerating growth.

Technology Report
Technology director Mark Fijor gave a thorough update on the District’s many technology initiatives, including our COVID response the past year; last summer’s projects to update our capabilities; the new GoGuardian program we are using for administrators, teachers, and parents; and family outreach, such as the recent Parent Technology Information Night webinar. He also gave an overview of exciting upcoming initiatives. Our tech department is busy supporting students and staff and keeping our infrastructure, student devices, and security up to date. Please check out Mark’s complete presentation in the packet at this link.

Opportunities to Get Involved
The School Board is working to fill the vacancy left by member Kevin Bull, who has resigned from the Board due to moving out of state. Anyone who is interested in applying to take his place should fill out an application and submit a resume to Roberta Flack at [email protected] by Monday, Feb. 28. We are also looking for community members to serve on the new Citizen Finance Advisory Committee, which will help our district with the financial projection process. The committee will launch this spring and continue throughout next school year. If you would like to be considered, please fill out this interest form by Tuesday, March 15.

Documentary Screening and Panel  Discussion Next Week
On Thursday, Feb. 24, D57 PEPS will sponsor an in-person and on-demand screening of "Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety," a powerful new documentary featuring world champion swimmer Michael Phelps, experts in the field, and regular teens. We are proud to bring this timely film to families and hope you can join us for the screening at 6:30 p.m. in the Lincoln LRC, followed by a panel discussion led by D57 social workers and psychologists. The film will also be available virtually starting at 6:30 on Feb. 24 and can be viewed through March 3 -- we will send a link to register the week of the screening. The film is appropriate for age 10+.

Institute Day
As students enjoy a snowy half-day of school yesterday, the staff is engaged in an afternoon of professional development and planning. Our Instruction and Technology Coaches led our school teams in exploring “student voice and choice.” After discussing the learner profile of a D57 student and listening to what children shared about their struggles and celebrations in the classroom, our teachers collaborated on how to incorporate those ideas into their work with students. Our staff members are always striving to learn and grow, especially during these challenging times. I thank them and the administrative team for their hard work, collaboration, and creativity. 

We are off school Monday in honor of Presidents’ Day. I hope you enjoy the long weekend with your family! 
 
In the spirit of education,
 

Dr. Mary Gorr
Superintendent
 
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