As we prepare to turn the calendar to 2020, it marks the end of our first semester at Morris Community High School. The middle of the school year provides a good opportunity to reflect on our successes and our challenges.
Seventeen of our students have been named Illinois State Scholars on the basis of their academic achievement and standardized test performance. Thirty-six students earned Academic All-Conference recognition in the Interstate 8 Conference.
Our athletic and academic teams and other groups have won many awards so far, including numerous first- and second-place finishes. The well-rounded, highly involved nature of our students continues to be one of the many strengths of our school. Our dedicated teachers, advisers and coaches devote many hours to helping our kids achieve in everything from music and speech to math and sports.
In February, we will begin working on a new strategic plan for the district. This important process involves reviewing and potentially recreating our vision and mission. We will also examine our values, which will guide us to the creation of goals for the future. The strategic planning team includes about two dozen students, parents, teachers, board members, and administrators.
This will be my first time participating in strategic planning as a superintendent. I look forward to it because it is important to maintain a perspective of the big picture. It is easy to get focused on one project or idea without acknowledging its impact on other areas.
One critical aspect of school improvement is being receptive to stakeholder feedback. Each year, we invite our students, parents, and teachers to participate in the 5Essentials survey to gain insight into our strengths and our areas for improvement. If you are a parent of a Morris Community High School student, please take some time to complete the survey by visiting: survey.5-essentials.org/illinois/ and clicking on the parent link.
We receive survey responses in summary form, so individual identities are not known. At least 20% of parents must participate for us to receive the results. Of course, I would like the response rate to be much higher than that. The more responses we receive, the more representative the feedback will be. I appreciate your time in completing this survey.
We will begin our second semester with a joint professional development day on Jan. 6 that brings Nettle Creek, Saratoga, and Morris Elementary District 54 teachers together with our High School District 101 teachers.
Speaker, author and science teacher Monica Genta will be our keynote speaker and provide two additional breakout sessions. Our local educators will provide more than 40 other breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including teaching strategies, use of technology, subject-specific topics, and wellness. This event is a great opportunity for all of our K-12 teachers to come together and learn from each other’s expertise.
The new calendar year is also a good time to renew your connections with teachers. Life gets busy, and parent-teacher communication is typically less frequent in the second semester than it was in the first. However, parents should always feel welcome and encouraged to contact your children’s teachers with questions or concerns. The first few weeks of the semester really set the tone for the class.
As soon as the second semester gets underway, we begin focusing on the next school year by registering students for classes. I encourage our students to look at the big picture when they make their course selections for next year. They may have no idea what career path they intend to pursue, but that is perfectly fine. They can still develop a great plan of courses that will serve them well with their post-high school plans. Most importantly, their course requests greatly influence our staffing decisions as we look to provide the best possible overall schedule.
On behalf of all of us at MCHS, I wish you an enjoyable and peaceful holiday season and an even better 2020!
• Dr. Craig R. Ortiz is the superintendent of Morris Community High School District 101