April 2017
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Adapting to Change

I am writing this month's column just moments after walking out of a very energizing discussion about the state of our school district with your children's fourth grade teachers.  One of the many things that make Palos 118 a great school district is our ability as a learning community to have professional open and honest discussions about our areas of strength, and our areas of needed improvement.  At these meetings, we share ideas freely and without judgment; always keeping in mind the decisions we make as professional educators will affect the nearly 2,000 students we educate daily.  As superintendent, it is an invigorating way to start the day.  Thank you to Ms. Hotzfield, Ms. Didier, Ms. Gibbons, Ms. Schweer, Mr. Pritchard, Ms. Sarbiewski, Ms. Nolan, Ms. Fanello, Ms. Feely, Ms. House, and Ms. Heilicser.   

One of the topics we discussed is our science curriculum. It got me thinking about how school districts are similar to living organisms in that they adapt over time in response to their ever-changing environments.  According to National Geographic, an adaptation can be structural - meaning a physical change, or behavioral - meaning a change in the way an organism acts.  You can see both physical and behavioral adaptations happening in our school district right now.  At Palos West, the construction of the new Early Childhood Addition is a perfect example of a physical adaptation.  With the new addition, we are adapting to the growing importance of supporting our youngest, most vulnerable learners before they reach kindergarten.  Other physical adaptations that will take shape this summer is the installation of a new more reliable phone system and the launch of our new website.  These adaptations are essential to improving communication between our school district and the families we serve.  We are fortunate that our community continues to provide the funding necessary to support these essential adaptations.

Behavioral adaptations also abound.  Most notably, we continue to focus on providing a full curriculum for all, and supporting programs that help students develop the skills necessary to be successful in tomorrow's workforce.  At our elementary schools nearly all of our students now receive the benefit of science and social studies instruction in the general education environment, and an equal opportunity to develop a passion for these very important and engaging subjects.  Over at the middle school, we are changing the way we prepare students for future success by focusing on 21st century learning skills.  For the third consecutive year, more than half of our incoming eighth grade students will voluntarily participate in Palos South's Capstone Program.  Capstone focuses on essential 21st century skills including critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.  This program continues to grow and adapt over time thanks to our Capstone Program Coordinator Judy Schramm and our Capstone Facilitators Jeremy Mancilla, Katie McDonough and Brittney Kmiecik.  In the near future, I will be sharing with you some very exciting news about national recognition this program has received!   

An old adage states "change is the only constant in life."  As a school district, we must continually adapt to the constant change around us to ensure each new class of students has the skill set necessary to be successful, productive, well-rounded members of society.  This is no easy task but rest assured that your school district is working hard every day to do just that.  Enjoy the rising temperatures, the blooming flowers, and the many spring activities happening in our schools.  I hope to see you at one of those activities in the near future!
Dr. Anthony M. Scarsella,
Superintendent of Schools
Groundbreaking for Early Learning Addition Takes Place at Palos West
Board President John Faustino, Superintendent Dr. Anthony Scarsella, Member Terry Heafey, Vice President Mari Jo Calacci, Member Pam Paris, Secretary Katie Thomason, Member Catherine Maier, and Member Nadine Scodro officially break ground on the new addition at Palos West.
Palos School District 118 held their official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Early Learning Addition to be completed by January 2018. Click here for a slideshow of the ceremony.
The Early Learning Addition was made possible due to the passage of a referendum passed in November, 2016. "We are forever grateful for our community's support in providing the funding necessary to build this addition and we look forward to watching generations of early learners benefit from the community's generosity." said Superintendent Dr. Anthony Scarsella.
The celebration was held in the media center, and remarks were made by Palos 118 Board of Education President John Faustino and Secretary Katie Thomason. Attendees were treated to entertainment by the Palos West Choir directed by Mrs. Danielle Wetle, and a song from the early childhood and pre-kindergarten morning students. Due to inclement weather, ceremonial photos were taken indoors.
To ensure the district continues to meet the needs of their early learners while their new home is built, all pre-kindergarten and early childhood classrooms will be temporarily relocated to Palos East Elementary School for the first half of next school year. Pre-kindergarten and early childhood students will attend Palos East starting in August 2017 through the completion of the addition. Their goal is to have students move into their new classrooms at Palos West when they return from winter break in January 2018. 
More information regarding the project can be found at www.prek118.org
Parents of incoming kindergarteners can begin the registration process by going to our website.

Registration for returning students  
Complete the process by June 2 to receive a $25 savings per student if all fees are paid in full. Return
ing registration must be completed for each student enrolled.
Palos West Recognition
Palos Spelling Bee classroom and building winners.
Grade level Young Authors Contest winners.

Presidential Academic Fitness Award winners. P
lease visit the Recognition page for a complete list of Palos West Presidential Academic Fitness award winners and other district accolades.
Palos West Celebration of Cultures
Over 250 guests attended Palos West's annual "Celebration of Cultures" on Tuesday, March 28.  Mrs. Martinez's Accelerated Learning Program (ALPS) students and Mrs. Wojta's English Language Learner (ELL) students proudly represented their heritage and cultures with projects and displays from 19 countries around the world.  Students incorporated the arts into their projects and displays with artwork, artifacts, music, dance, literature, traditional games, clothing, language, food samples, and other items of ethnicity.  
"We were excited to host this event to build a better understanding of and appreciation for each other, and to celebrate the diversity of the many cultures represented within our school community," said Mrs. Martinez.  This year's event had special performances of ethnic dances and songs performed by the following Palos West students:  Eabha O'Boyle-Carr performed an Irish dance, Nayan Bhojraj played "Minuet in C" by Bach on the cello, and Colleen Kelly played the Irish song, "Rising of the Moon" on the piano.  In addition, a Polish Highlander group directed by Palos West mom Mrs. Bobak performed songs and dances.  To cap off the entertainment, Palos South students Libby Gibbons and Brenna Engel shared their Irish enthusiasm by performing traditional Irish dances. 
"In our global world, it is important to build an understanding and an appreciation for each other," explained Mrs. Wojta. "We are fortunate to have such a diverse community." 

Palos East's Celebration of Cultures took place last evening and will be featured in next month's econnect.

Pictured above: Nicholas, Anthony, and Michael Diliberto represent Italy at Celebration of Cultures.

Second Semester
CAPSTONE Presentation Days 

Learn what our students have discovered. All are welcome at Palos South beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the following days:

May 9: 
Second Semester Presentations
May 22: 
Finalist Presentations
curriculumcorner1:1 Digital Initiative
Whether you are working, playing, or connecting with others, odds are that you are using digital tools throughout many parts of your day. Many of today's top educational leaders recognize the importance of incorporating digital tools in the classroom, and the more access students have to technology, the sooner they will develop proficiencies for 21st century skills.

Next school year, we will be expanding our 1:1 digital initiative to include all students in both 7th and 8th grade at Palos South. They will have access to their own Windows enabled tablet both throughout the school day and at home. Teachers will be able to post assignments and additional learning resources through Schoology, our Learning Management System, allowing students and parents to track homework, communicate with teachers, and collaborate with classmates.

To help parents and students with the transition to 1:1, the District 118 Technology Team will be hosting orientation sessions beginning in August so that students and parents can get a jump-start on using their devices and the Schoology Learning Management System prior to the start of the new school year.

The Technology Team looks forward to working with parents and students as we prepare our learners for success in the digital era. Parents should look for more information and preferred orientation registration dates, which will be coming out later this school year via email.

District 118         Palos South         Palos East         Palos West