Volume 16, Issue 9 | Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024

About the cover photos: Left, Fairmount students in Ms. Armbrust's class create Grant Wood paintings during Art Appreciation. At right, Kingsley 2nd graders present topic ideas during writing workshop.

Throughout this publication, you will see the following color-coded dots beside each article. The dots represent which strategic goal the article addresses:

• Focusing on Learning • Connecting the Community • Securing the Future

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District 58 calendar 

Thursday, Feb. 1

Parent Teacher Conferences

Wednesday, Feb. 7

Parent Teacher Conferences

Friday, Feb. 9

7 a.m. Board Financial Advisory Committee Meeting at O'Neill

Sat. Feb. 10

District 58 Solo and Ensemble Festival

Thursday, Feb. 15

5-6:30 p.m. Grove Preschool Open House

Monday, Feb. 12

7 p.m.: Board of Education Meeting at Village of Downers Grove

Monday, Feb. 19

President's Day: No School (District and school offices are closed)

Saturday, Feb. 24

8 a.m. - 3 p.m. The Reading Games

Monday, Feb. 26

3:45 p.m. Board District Leadership Team at O'Neill

Monday, Feb. 26

7 p.m. Board of Education Curriculum Workshop at Village of Downers Grove

Monday, Feb. 26

District 58 Festival of Music

Thursday, Feb. 29

End of Trimester

Click here to view the 2023-24 calendar.

A message from Dr. Russell

Dear District 58 Families,

I hope this message finds you well. I want to express my gratitude for your understanding and patience as we initiated another E-Learning Day for our students. I applaud our staff who organized and planned another meaningful day of learning. I understand that it posed a significant challenge for parents to navigate another day of remote learning. While we typically strive to declare a "day off" the night before, the recent ice storm left us with no such option. We maintain constant communication with the National Weather Service, county and local authorities, DuPage County school superintendents, and our buildings and grounds personnel. Many local side roads, parking lots, and walkways were impassable, and our maintenance team observed that salting was ineffective on our grounds. In prioritizing the safety of our staff and students, we made the decision to cancel in-person learning. I sincerely hope that the challenging weather is behind us in the Chicagoland area. 

This past weekend, I witnessed 300 enthusiastic students with a passion and excitement for learning at the District 58 Science Fair. Their experiments were hands-on and reflected deep learning and understanding of the scientific process. The day was made possible through the dedicated support of families and the 100+ volunteers, including 35 high school students from DGN and DGS. Thank you for your commitment to our educational community! I also would like to thank the District 58 administrative team for all of their hard work behind the scenes. The team was led by Zac Craft (Highland Principal), Michelle Rzepka (Hillcrest Principal), Jason Lynde (El Sierra Principal), Dr. Leland Wagner (Pierce Downer Principal) and Liz Ehrhart (Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction).

As we cross the halfway mark of the year, I also want to touch on how we are working with our students regarding expectations. District 58 is committed to fostering school environments that promote everyone being respectful, responsible and safe. Each school has incorporated expectations as part of its school improvement plan. The principals and staff have spent a great deal of time working with all students on what it means to be respectful, responsible and safe. This includes meeting with students several times throughout the school year (including after Winter Break). Families also play a big part in ensuring that our schools are safe places to learn and grow. We thank you for this partnership and respectfully ask that all families speak with their students about what is appropriate for school and what is not. Also, please continue to monitor your child’s use of social media. In line with our commitment to providing a safe environment for all, we encourage the principle of "see something, say something." We want our students to be active participants in maintaining a positive and respectful community. If they witness any behavior that makes them uncomfortable or raises concern, we urge them to speak up and share their observations.

Additionally, any student can make an anonymous report via Safe2Help. Our philosophy is not just about reporting issues but also about fostering a sense of responsibility and empathy among our students. We aim to create a school culture where open communication and relationships are valued, ensuring the well-being and success of each student.

Finally, with seven weeks left of winter, the district is preparing to break ground on middle school construction for the referendum projects over spring break. The first group of elementary schools will start in the summer of 2024. Anticipating extended lead times, the Board of Education approved two large bids for major equipment purchases this fall and winter. Over winter break, contractors prepped the middle schools for the work by abating asbestos. With an extremely short window of time for construction (spring break and summer) this buys us a little more time for the work. 

Thank you for your partnership. I am incredibly honored to serve as your superintendent and am excited about this project. 


Dr. Kevin B. Russell


PHOTO GALLERY: Ingenuity, inventiveness and IA at District 58 Science Fair

More photos are posted in the Photo Gallery.

For 42 years, District 58 has encouraged students to explore the world of science and conduct their own experiments. And, every year, at the District 58 Science Fair the experiments become more creative. “The fair showcased a remarkable display of inventiveness, with experiments ranging from homemade volcanoes to thoughtful discoveries for everyday problems,” said Michelle Rzepka, Hillcrest principal. The Fair was organized by Rzpeka, Highland Principal Zac Craft, Pierce Downer Principal Dr. Leland Wagner, El Sierra Principal Jason Lynde and Assistant Superintendent Liz Ehrhart. 

"I continue to be impressed with the projects that students create each year,” said Lynde, pointing out that this year students tackled projects that investigated Artificial Intelligence (AI)." 

The fair is a staple in District 58. This year, 300 students in grades 1-6 participated, creating 200 different projects. Volunteer judges – one educator and one with a science background – judged each project on a nine-point rubric. They looked at whether students conducted trials, could give an oral presentation and draw reasonable conclusions. 

“It was such joy seeing science come to life,” said Ehrhart. The fair fosters a sense of unity among students, staff, families, volunteers and the community. Oftentimes, the family works on a project together. “It’s such a success because it creates a platform to share enthusiasm around science, inquiry, and hands-on learning,” said Wagner.

“I am grateful that our students in District 58 can have this enriching experience and it is all thanks to the volunteers who make this event possible,” said Highland Principal Craft. “It was truly a team effort,” said Ehrhart.

Education Foundation awards more than $25,000 in grants to support District 58 instruction

The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 is awarding 34 grants to District 58 teachers totaling more than $25,000 through its annual Teacher Grants Program. The Foundation has awarded more than $100,000 in grants over the last five years that stimulate teaching and learning. 

“The quality of the grant applications was impressive,” said Foundation Board Grant Chair Anne Healy. “The Foundation is proud to support students and spur learning through these innovative grants,” she said.


Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell expressed his gratitude to the Education Foundation for their ongoing backing of District 58. He highlighted that this year's grant award has again increased compared to the previous year. “This opens up even more possibilities for teachers to provide unique learning experiences for our students,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the impact these grants have in our classrooms!”

Congratulations to this year’s teacher grant recipients:

  1. Kristina Cardinal, 3rd grade teacher, Belle Aire, Kindness Club
  2. Gianna Smith, kindergarten teacher, El Sierra, Purposeful Play Please!
  3. Nicole Ferroli, Stephanie Potter, Bernie Homel, reading teachers, O’Neill, Enhancing Classroom Libraries to Include the MOST Wanted Student Texts!
  4. Rachel Katoll, resource program; Katelyn Morgan, math teacher; Kayla Kinder, reading teacher, O’Neill; Flexible Seating
  5. Elizabeth Stroud, teacher librarian, Fairmount, Culturally Diverse Books
  6. Janet Hecht, music teacher, O’Neill, World Music Drumming
  7. Natalie Notardonato, EL teacher, Lester, English Language Vocabulary Development
  8. Susan Dillon, Preschool Coordinator; One Book, One PreSchool
  9. Megan DuPass, reading specialist, El Sierra; Flyleaf materials
  10. Stacie Hamilton, 2nd-3rd grade RISE teacher, Indian Trail; STEM Materials for Special Education Students
  11. Colleen Brejcha, KC Chick, 6th grade teachers, Fairmount; Can I Believe My Eyes: Cow Eye Dissection
  12. Janet Peters, reading specialist, Indian Trail; Science of Reading and the Power of Decodable Text Year 2
  13. Megan DuPass, reading specialist and Mary Loversky, teacher librarian, El Sierra; Ramped-Up Read Alouds
  14. Michelle Schmidt, occupational therapist and Melissa Eckdahl, resource teacher, Kingsley; Vertical Learning
  15. Monica Eilers, 5th Grade Teacher, Pierce Downer; Flexible Seating for All
  16. Katie Hurckes, interventionist, Indian Trail, Family Math Night
  17. Sabrina Breault, 1st grade teacher and Beth Kamano, reading specialist, Pierce Downer; Decodable Library - Books ALL Students Can Read
  18. Kendra Meyers and Kelly Wyatt, 1st grade teachers, El Sierra; Letter/Sound Cards for Systematic Phonics Instruction
  19. Christina Forzley, teacher librarian, Lester, Lester Library Flexible Seating
  20. Mary Loversky, teacher librarian, El Sierra, Nonfiction for Beginner Readers
  21. Michele Crowley, EL teacher, Highland; Thematic Stories and Felt Boards for English Learners
  22. Alison Glennon, reading specialist, Fairmount, Decodable Books
  23. Theresa Farrell, band teacher, Herrick, Belle Aire, Henry Puffer; Record and Reflect: Creating a Meaningful Student-Led Cycle of Feedback in Band
  24. Kate Blackburn, speech-language pathologist, Kingsley; Interactive Whiteboard Table
  25. Melissa Swallows, 3rd grade teacher and Alison Glennon, reading specialist, Fairmount; Decoding with Decodable Readers
  26. Chelsea Borchers, teacher librarian, Indian Trail; Bits Box Kits
  27. Leslie Hesterman, teacher librarian, Hillcrest, We Are Still Here: Exploring Native American Culture and History
  28. Alecia Probst, Indian Trail and Kendall Buege, Henry Puffer, both preschool teachers; Gross Motor Equipment
  29. Matt Leiser, 2nd grade teacher, Lester; Fostering Creativity: A Transformative Tool for Digital Learning
  30. Katie Porter, resource teacher, Whittier, Multi-Sensory Tools for Students with Dyslexia
  31. Tracey Ratner, principal, Indian Trail; Showcase our Students and Staff!
  32. Brittany Sanfillippo, 3rd grade teacher, Highland; Standing Desks for a Flexible Classroom Environment
  33. Jamie Krier, teacher librarian, Kingsley; Forward Facing Picture Book Displays
  34. Christina Gamboa, resource teacher/interventionist, El Sierra; Fostering Engagement with Reading and Math
  35. Patricia Miller, 6th grade teacher, Whittier, Classroom Library Overhaul

Illinois House Speaker Welch visits Henry Puffer

Illinois Speaker of the House, Emanuel Chris Welch talked to 4th graders at Henry Puffer School recently about his work, different levels of government and how a bill becomes law.

Students then asked him questions, like what was his favorite law that he helped write (it was one about teaching cursive in Illinois schools), do you like your job and what presidents have you met?

His visit tied into one of their reading units. Speaker Welch then asked students their opinion on a recent bill and asked them to defend their opinion. Speaker Welch, who is a frequent visit to Puffer, will be interviewed on the Henry Puffer Podcast Club Feb. 1, which can be found on Spotify and Apple.

Here is the final installment of our feature highlighting student artists and their art. Each student tells a little bit about their art and how it came to be.

Grove Children’s Preschool will host Open House on Feb. 15

Preschool applications for the 2024-25 school year will open Feb. 21

Parents and guardians are invited to an open house to learn more about the District’s gold-rated Grove Children’s Preschool program. The Open House will be Thursday, Feb. 15 from 5-6:30 p.m. at Henry Puffer School, 2220 Haddow Ave. Parents and guardians may tour the preschool, meet the staff, hear an overview of the program, and ask questions throughout the open house.

Grove Children’s Preschool tuition applications for the 2024-25 school year will open online at www.dg58.org/preschool on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 8 a.m. First-priority preschool applications are due Monday, March 11.

Grove Children’s Preschool is located at Henry Puffer School and Indian Trail School (6235 Stonewall Ave.) in Downers Grove. Students attend school five days per week during either a morning or an afternoon session.

Here is what community members and parents said about the Grove Preschool program when it earned a Gold Rating from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). It is the highest honor that a preschool can receive.

  • We knew it when we found the right preschool! Total gold stars - all of the staff!”
  • “This is a phenomenal group of educators! Their role sets the tone for the parents and the kiddos when starting their school experience!”

Read more about the Grove Preschool and registration

Calling all kindergartners for 2024-25

Do you have a child who will attend kindergarten next school year? Or do you have a friend or neighbor whose child will? Here are some steps to prepare!

  • Call your child's future school in District 53 to let them know your child will be attending kindergarten next year. They can add you to any school-specific kindergarten contact lists. Click here to determine which school your child will attend
  • Attend Kindergarten Roundup. Dates will be announced soon!
  • Visit our Kindergarten Resource webpage for information on school boundary maps, kindergarten registration, immunization requirements, kindergarten curriculum and much more!
  • Consider the Dual Language Program. Incoming kindergarteners can apply to participate in District 58's two-way Dual Language Program. The program is open to both native English and Spanish speakers and is located at El Sierra School. Click here to learn more about the program and here to complete a Kindergarten Dual Language Interest Form.

Health Requirements for 2024-25

It’s not too early to get ready for school year 2024-25. For students in preschool, kindergarten and grades 2 and 6 and those new to the District, there are some health requirements. Please click here to see the most up-to-date school health examinations and immunizations required by Illinois School Code and the Illinois Department of Public Health. If you have any questions regarding health requirements for your student, please reach out to a member of our school nursing team. Health Letter - Spring 2024


Parent-Teacher Conferences Sign-Ups

Sign ups for winter 2024 parent-teacher conference will close Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. Families sign up using the PowerPTC system. View conference signup instructions here. (para Español: Registro para las reuniones de padres y maestros).

Conferences will be held:

Preschool - 6th grade

Feb. 1, 2024: 4:45 - 8 p.m.

Feb. 7, 2024: 4:45 - 8 p.m.

Middle School

Feb. 1, 2024: 4:50 - 8 p.m. 

Feb. 7, 2024: 4:50 - 8 p.m.

If you still have questions, please complete a District 58 Technology Help Desk ticket at dg58.org/help. If you miss the deadline and would like a conference, please contact your school.

Two years of calendars approved: 2024-25 and 2025-26

The Board approved two years of school calendars in preparation for construction and also to meet the planning needs of parents. Click on the images below to view the calendars:

2024-25 calendar

2025-26 calendar


Board of Education news

Board Meeting Jan. 8

  • The Board of Education held its regular business meeting on Monday, Jan. 8 at the Downers Grove Village Hall. Read the Board Briefs.

Looking Ahead

  • Friday, Feb. 9, 7 a.m. - Financial Advisory Committee Meeting, O’Neill
  • Monday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. – Regular Board Meeting – Downers Grove Village Hall

2023-24 Board of Education calendar


Thank you to our Helping Hands!

Thank you to the individuals who volunteered to be part of our Helping Hands, a District 58 group that answers our last-minute call for students in need. Your swift help in providing some of our students with snow boots, snow pants and other winter wear is very much appreciated.

Parent workshops by Glenbard Parent Series

7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2024

کامیاب والدین کی کلیدیں۔ / Keys to Successful Parenting

Presented in Urdu and Hindi, “Keys to Successful Parenting” with Mehak Hafeez. Zoom link available at GlenbardGPS.org

Noon and 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, 2024

Beautiful Boy: Everything a Father Learned from His Son'ts Addiction; David Sheff with Jessica Lahey. Zoom link available at GlenbardGPS.org

7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1

Black History Month Event – All Children Must Thrive: Nurturing Connection and Belonging; Tyrone Howard, Ph.D. Zoom link available at GlenbardGPS.org

Programs are free and open to the public. No registration is required. Click here to see the 2023-24 schedule. 

Flu Vaccines, Health resources for uninsured or underinsured

Community e-flyers

District 58 includes relevant e-flyers in the Communicate 58 newsletter and online. Learn more.

Downers Grove Grade School District 58

2300 Warrenville Road, Suite 200NE, Downers Grove, IL 60515

Community Relations Office: 630-719-5805 I [email protected] | www.dg58.org


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