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Our Schools: Continuing to excel at District 54

Morris district remains committed to ‘inspiring excellence’

EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the last in a week-long series of columns written by Morris school leaders looking back on the just-completed school year. In previous months, similar series of articles focused on other topics pertinent to local education.

The vision of District 54 is ‘Inspiring Excellence in Every Child Every Day.” Throughout the school year, the teachers, administrators and support staff are dedicated to carrying out this vision. As we wrap up another school year and send the students home for the summer, we can assure you we are committed to inspiring excellence. 

Beyond assurance, we welcome your feedback. This year the board of education surveyed our parents, staff and community members via an electronic survey tool. The executive summary of this safe and supportive schools survey is available on our district website at

High points of the survey included that parents/guardians believe District 54 schools are safe, well maintained and have adults who really care about students. Additionally, the data show that parents/guardians are well informed about school activities and about their children’s progress in school.

The survey indicated the board should explore a gifted program, a science/technology club and an intramural program.

Shabbona Middle School welcomed a new building principal and activities director/assistant principal. Mr. Wilkinson comes to us in his 19th year of education and fifth year as a building administrator.

He hosted several town hall meetings to increase communication with parents. He piloted an automated communication tool at Shabbona this year. The pilot was so successful that we will be implementing a similar system district wide this fall. The data from the safe and supportive schools survey indicated that 95 percent of participants strongly agreed or agreed the district keeps them well informed about school activities.  

Activities Director Mr. MacLaughlin entered his third year as a building administrator and his ninth year in education. He served as the Illinois Valley Conference vice president this year and will assume the presidency next school year.

The seventh-grade boy’s basketball team made it to the state tournament. The cheerleaders finished fourth in their state tournament. A Shabbona wrestler qualified for the state wrestling tournament. The track team sent 26 students to the IESA state track meet.

Mr. MacLaughlin also coordinated an all-sports athletic banquet with over 100 athletes covering three seasons and over 300 total participants.

Shabbona continues its tradition of excellent ISAT scores with “meets & exceeds” math scores as follows: sixth grade at 88 percent, seventh grade at 91 percent, and eighth grade at 92 percent; reading scores as follows: sixth grade at 90 percent, seventh grade at 78 percent, and eighth grade at 85 percent. The composite Shabbona score was at 87.2 percent, while the state average was 82 percent.

The Shabbona Honor Society and the Student Council each participated in community service activities and charitable fundraising activities. Shabbona Honor Society focuses on the five principles of scholarship, leadership, service, character and citizenship. The Shabbona newspaper club published the ‘Shout Out’ in partnership with the Morris Daily Herald so the entire community could enjoy the newsletter.

Shabbona had three staff members retire this year. We all wish Mrs. Lynn Kohlhagan, Mrs. Marcia Wilson and Mrs. Marilyn Gabel the best in their retirements.

White Oak welcomed first-year principal Mr. Chris Maier. He is very kid-centered and technologically savvy. He continues to implement more technology.

There have been SMART boards installed in each grade level’s multi-purpose rooms, SMART tables in the K-2 multi-purpose rooms, mobile iPad and iPod carts, a new 35-count student computer lab, and an interventionist computer lab.

Mr. Maier hosted the first fine arts and talent show, which featured the artistic talents of all the students and showcased various talents, including singing, dancing and tumbling of third through fifth graders.

He led the “clotheslines across campus” initiative last fall, with a goal of sharing gently used clothing with those in need. During the winter holiday season, rather than a gift exchange, each grade level shopped for a deserving family with the assistance of local organizations.

White Oak was tested in third, fourth and fifth grades. The scores in third grade were 78 percent in reading and 91 percent in math; in fourth grade, 78 percent in reading and 86 percent in math; and in fifth grade, 82 percent in reading and 90 percent in math.

Next school year, under Mr. Maier’s direction, a brand new comprehensive literacy curriculum that is aligned with the National Common Core will be implemented in kindergarten through fifth grade. The goal is to increase our reading test scores to match the math test scores.

One teacher from each grade level will be piloting a digitized math curriculum that is aligned with the National Common Core. Each of those classrooms will have a SMART board and 1:1 access to devices for their students.

White Oak wishes the best to Mr. John Bednarcik in his retirement.

Most importantly, our students continue to excel.  Academically and emotionally the students are thriving. Through our anti-bullying campaign at both buildings, the students are taught age-appropriate lessons about bullying. Our goal is to eradicate bullying in our schools.

All of our successes are made possible and supported by our board of education members.  Be sure and thank them the next time you see Carol Narvick, Jim Ringer, Heidi Pfaff, Scot Hastings, Dave Obrochta, Caroline Cummings and Lou Klusak. These seven men and women volunteer countless hours to ensure that our district is delivering and providing the best educational experience possible.

Through the constant demands of doing more with less, we are still able to excel. We had another great year at District 54. I would personally like to thank our staff for their dedication to the kids of the district; for their constant effort to go above and beyond; and their commitment to inspiring excellence in every child every day. THANK YOU!

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