Contact: Tom Hernandez

Director of Communications

  (630) 513-2593

April 12, 2005

Education Partners, good afternoon:

A brief catch-up, with much more news coming later this week…

Superintendent’s Community Message for April 2005

We all appreciate a little affirmation every now and then.

The satisfaction of knowing that we’re moving in the right direction is a welcome gift whenever it comes.

I received that gift recently and gladly share it with our students, staff and families of District 303, for our mutual efforts to improve teaching and learning for all of our students.

Highly regarded education professionals spoke at a recent conference about the state of public education, what’s right, what can be done better, and how to achieve the excellence that we seek for all of our students.

Some talked about the importance of using data to inform and drive improved teaching and learning; recognizing and respecting changing demographics created by growth; aligning what is written, taught and tested; engaging students in learning; teachers designing work that interests students; the need for increased accountability; and the value of ongoing, consistent professional development.

Others emphasized focusing on achievement among all students – the basic, essential, but often ignored concept that all students can learn, and that our job as educators, parents and community members is to do whatever it takes to help them in that crucial endeavor.

And still others addressed the idea of strategic planning and goal setting; the importance of meaningful partnerships between student and the adults who guide their learning; and creating systemic sustainability by engaged district leadership, staff and students.

Suddenly, reflecting on this wave of inspiration and ideology, it occurred to me: District 303 is already doing all of this in one way or another.

If these ideas truly embody the best thinking on how to take public education from “good” to “great,” then District 303 is ahead of the curve.

Certainly we’re not where we can and must be if we are going to be the “lighthouse” for public education. But we’re further along in our continuous journey toward improvement than many other school districts.

All credit for this goes to the entire District 303 community which has come together to set a course for the future with a commitment I’ve rarely seen in my 35 years in education.

In about nine months, we have created a clear, powerful vision, set specific goals, and implemented meaningful accountability measures that codify our pledge to help each individual student achieve academically and grow personally.

We have increased our use of data to guide our teaching and learning so that we can focus on individual students’ needs.

We have pledged to create a safe and secure school system where everyone – from the superintendent to the classroom teacher, the bus driver to the janitor, the parent to the smallest kindergartener – is valued, welcomed and supported.

And we are focusing on what I call my “Three ‘R’s’” – rigor, relevance and relationships. We’re challenging students to do their best (rigor), through meaningful teaching and learning (relevance), supported by teachers who truly care about what they do, and who they are doing it for (relationships).

Yes, I realized, happily, that District 303 is on the right path.

Still one more thought expressed during the conference intrigues me: the idea of educators as “rainmakers.” Rainmakers are people able to achieve excellence in business or politics or, back to the term’s mythological roots, people able to produce rain through magic or ritual.

In either context rainmakers are esteemed for their ability to create “flowers” in the desert, whether it’s in Arizona, or the desert of business or politics.

If our children are to achieve and grow as we want and they deserve, then we – the adults responsible for helping them become who they will be – must be rainmakers.

If we act as “rainmakers,” seeding District 303’s clouds so that all of our students can benefit from the resources, compassion and support that our community has to give, we’ll get “flowers” more beautiful than anything we’ve ever seen.

Talk about affirmation!

Dr. Barbara F. Erwin
Community Unit School District 303
Superintendent of Schools