May 2016
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Superintendent's  Message: 
Early Learning Programs
Nearly one million children enter kindergarten unprepared to succeed.  Low-income children, English language learners and children with disabilities are all more likely to enter kindergarten without the foundational skills required to be successful.  Children who enter kindergarten unprepared often struggle to keep up academically in class, are frequently placed in special education programs, are labeled as having behavioral problems and are more likely to require costly support services throughout their elementary school years. [1]

Targeted early learning programs level the playing field for kindergarten readiness.  They provide at-risk students, students with disabilities and English language learners the environment necessary to build the essential skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.  And these targeted programs work.  Studies have found children who participate in early learning are half as likely to be placed in special education programs, 29% more likely to graduate from high school, four times more likely to earn college degrees and be employed and significantly less likely to rely on public assistance as adults. [2]

Some researchers dispute the positive impacts of universal early learning programs.  The jury may still be out on the effectiveness of pre-k for all programs.  But targeted early learning programs focusing on specific students with specific needs have been proven to be both effective in preparing students for kindergarten and a smart invest for schools by reducing the cost of expensive support services in later grades.

At Palos 118, we are proud of our Early Childhood and Pre-Kindergarten programs.  These targeted programs serve our youngest most vulnerable learners under the outstanding leadership of our early learning team - Ms. Lee Harwig, Mrs. Jill Rafter, and Ms. Stephanie Daley.  For the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with this exceptional group of educators on ways our school district can make strategic investments to strengthen these important programs.  We also enlisted the help of Dr. Rebecca Pruitt, Director of Early Childhood Education at Lewis University to provide expert advice on best practices.  In June, our annual report will focus exclusively on these programs and recommended future investments.  I'm excited about our recommendations and I know our school community will be too.

As we prepare to end another school year, I want to take a moment to thank our students, staff, administrators, parents, community and school board for another great year.  I look forward to seeing you at the remainder of our May events in the coming weeks.

Dr. Anthony M. Scarsella,
Superintendent of Schools

[1] Meyer, M. (2016). Early learning changes the course. The Illinois School Board Journal, 84(2), 6-10.
[2] Meyer, M. (2016). Early learning changes the course. The Illinois School Board Journal, 84(2), 6-10.

First Annual Capstone Days Bring Great Ideas to Community Leaders

On April 27, 27 student teams from the Palos South 8th Grade Capstone Program wrapped up a year-long study and presented their solutions to three problems that currently exist within the Palos community. The topics pertained to economic development (revitalizing Harlem Avenue), energy conservation (reducing the cost and consumption of energy at Palos South), and environmental concerns (controlling the overpopulation of deer in Cook County), as the eighth grade students used innovative, real-world research techniques to become "experts for the day" in these fields. A panel of independent judges listened to each presentation to determine if the solutions were clearly explained, viable, and grounded in research.

To culminate the event, the top 3 presentations from each category were invited to speak in front of students, parents, experts in the field, and community leaders on May 11. It was a well-attended event that provided real-world experiences for our students. Solutions such as building multi-use real estate developments, installing solar panels on our schools, or safely baiting and relocating deer to less populated areas are all examples of the creative and practical solutions to real-world problems.  The top Capstone team will be announced and recognized at this Friday's at the upcoming Honors Assembly. 

The Capstone Program is designed on the premise that students can do amazing things, if just given the opportunity. Using the problem based learning methodology (PBL), teachers act as facilitators as students work in small groups to conduct their own research, locate resources, and collaborate with team members to solve real-world problems. To provide an example of what our students can accomplish, two teams working on the energy conservation problem were able to write and secure a competitive grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for $7,000 to install a single solar panel at Palos South. Albeit this will not significantly reduce electricity costs at the middle school, it opens the door to future studies and possibilities for many years to follow.

I commend all of the students who voluntarily participated in this year's Capstone Program, the teachers who facilitated their learning experiences (Mrs. Schramm, Mrs. Kmiecik, Mr. Mancilla, and Mrs. McDonough), and the experts who worked with our students for the betterment of the community. Together, we will continue to prepare the leaders of tomorrow by finding solutions to the problems of today.  
Palos West 

Young Authors Contest Winners
2016 Spelling Bee Winners

2016 President's Education Award Winners for Academic Fitness

2016 President's Education Award Winners for Academic Fitness
The Board of Education honored Palos West's academic excellence at their monthly meeting May 17. Visit the Recognition link for the complete list of the Young Authors Contest, Spelling Bee, Presidential Education Award winners, Newbery Bowl, Math Bowl. and other winners as well.
Person You Should Know
Justin Veihman
Palos 118 Chief School 
Business Official
Justin Veihman became Chief School Official of Palos 118 in 2014, . In this role he assists the superintendent in the daily operations of the district. He acts as the District's Chief Financial Officer with the goal of managing, planning and assuring financial integrity for the district by providing the necessary financial, accounting and record-keeping services to facilitate the best possible educational program.

Mr. Veihman received a M.Ed in School Business Administration through Northern Illinois University. He also holds a Professional Educator's License with a School Business endorsement through the Illinois State Board of Education.  He earned his MBA in Finance/Marketing at DePaul's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, and his B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The business office oversees all facility issues in the district, including water quality. Lately, this topic has been getting much attention in the media. As a precaution, the drinking water in each of our three schools was tested by Suburban Laboratories, Inc from Geneva, IL. These tests included testing for elevated levels of nitrates, metals including lead and arsenic, and volatile organic compounds such as E. Coli.  Mr. Veihman was pleased to report that test results from drinking fountain samples taken from all three schools confirm that water is safe to drink according to all EPA standards.

Parents of incoming kindergarteners and new students are encouraged to start the registration process as soon as possible.

Registration for returning students is open. Please complete the process before June 3, 2016. At the conclusion of the registration process, you can pay the 2016-17 fees on the WebStore. There is a $25 savings per student if all fees are paid in full by June 3, 2016. Returning registration must be completed for EACH STUDENT enrolled.

Palos 118 schools participate in annual
Tech 2016 technology demonstration at state capitol
Palos West students and Ms. Hotzfield present at Tech 2016.
Palos 118 schools were among approximately 95 schools statewide that took part in the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) annual TECH 2016 event on May 10 at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield.
Students demonstrated to the public, elected members of the Illinois State Senate, and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in the classrooms to improve student achievement.  Computer workstations were set up in the Capitol Building Rotunda so students could show how technology has helped them improve their schoolwork. "Tech 2016 was a wonderful opportunity for students to demonstrate how they incorporate technology into their classrooms," said Ms. Deborah Balayti, Palos 118's Director of Instructional Technology. "They enthusiastically explained their projects, and I was proud our schools took an active role in such a memorable event."
Representing Palos East was teacher Ms. Kristi House and fifth graders Luke Kalcheim, Lorelei Jager, and Nina Pietila.  They presented "Project Based Learning Using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), addressing the problem of Chicagoland's decreased population of endangered species. Using internet research and online presentation formats like Prezi and Google Docs to promote student collaboration and enhance instruction, students developed solutions and ways to share them with the general public.
Fourth graders  Nicholas Diliberto, Rebecca Lacina, Miguel Segovia with their teacher Ms. Toni Hotzfield from Palos West presented "Tinkering with Time." They demonstrated how their class incorporates a Makerspace - a collaborative learning environment where students share materials and learn new skills - in their classroom on a daily basis.
Representing Palos South was Mrs. Deb Buyan, Mrs. Ann Marie Ruprect, and sixth graders Karol Para and Karsyn Williams. Karol demonstrated app smashing; embedding several apps into a Prezi presentation, and Karsyn demonstrated Stop Motion and Moovly online animation software.
TECH 2016's purpose is to raise awareness of the critical role technology plays in preparing students to succeed in today's world, and to show the need for increased funding for classroom technology.  TECH 2016 is a not-for-profit initiative presented by ICE, and is supported by education and business organizations. 

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