Future Focused

imagesEvery year administration reviews enrollment data, class size and program needs throughout the district.  This fall, our principals recognized that our kindergarten classes had a number of students who were having a much more difficult time adjusting to school.  Teachers were seeing more students having a hard time following directions, paying attention and maintaining emotional control.  As a result, we took a hard look at our kindergarten program and screening data and were disheartened to learn that according to the state’s kindergarten assessment screener only 12% of Lake Villa students are developmentally prepared for kindergarten.  Sadly, Lake Villa kindergarteners scored drastically below the state average in all three areas tested.

  Self-Regulation Language/Literacy Math
State Average 49.3% 44.1% 30.3%
Lake Villa 30.2% 26.1% 15.8%

At the last school board meeting, the administration presented a possible plan to address this need.  You can view the presentation here. Lake Villa School District Instructional Program Discussion (1)

Part of this plan to improve kindergarten readiness would be to open up a preschool program at each of the elementary buildings. The research is clear on the benefits of Preschool programs.  Decades Worth of Studies: One Strong Message

Currently, we don’t have space at the elementary schools for that to happen. (At this time Pleviak is not an option because we are in year 5 of a 10-year lease.) One of the avenues in consideration is potentially moving 6th grade to Palombi.  6th grade would continue to operate as a self-contained program (meaning students would not switch classes every hour).  6th graders would have access to middle school activities, enrichment, and athletics.  If you glance thru the presentation you will see that there is enough space if we added on another lunch shift and make minor staffing adjustments.

Understandably, talk of moving 6th grade back to Palombi generates some strong emotion.  Some staff, parents and students will be for it, and others will be dead set against it.  Arguably, both sides are right.  Because this would be such a big change, we recognize the importance of getting feedback from all parties.  We will be holding focus meetings with parents and staff to answer questions, hear concerns and explore alternative ideas that arise.  We are right now only exploring the concept and opening up a discussion that based on the needs of all students throughout the district. This may or may not be the best option.  No decision or recommendation has been made – it is way too early for that.  The earliest we would consider implementing any change would be Fall of 2020.

Kindergarten-clip-art-to-downloadIn the meantime, if you have questions, concerns or ideas about how we can better meet the needs of all of our students, feel free to reach out to me – lynette.zimmer@district41.org


Please Join Us for Community Engagement!

Our board and administration are seeking community feedback on the future of our district.  Our most recent facilities assessment identified a full list of potential improvements for our schools, including urgent life safety needs, necessary improvements, and investments into 21st-century learning.

Thanks to the district’s financial diligence in paying off our bond debt, funding some or all of these projects is possible at a rate lower than our current bond rate, meaning that whatever path we take forward will result in a tax decrease for property taxpayers!

jkjh The community will determine the path forward!

Please join us at any of these upcoming collaborative discussions:


Thursday, August 23rd at 6 PM – Lake Villa District Library (1001 E Grand Avenue)             Thursday, September 6th at 6 PM – Thompson Elementary School (515 Thompson Lane)   Saturday, September 8th at 10 AM – Palombi Middle School (133 McKinley Avenue)           Tuesday, September 11th at 9 AM – Palombi Middle School (133 McKinley Avenue)

You can also learn more as well as fill out a feedback form on our district’s website: http://www.district41.org/community-engagement-2018/

Far Too Many Train Delays

ddb0e227ea2ba701606545861b2925a7.jpgI know parents and staff are frustrated and anxious when bus transportation is delayed by trains blocking major traffic arteries.  Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly frequent.  Our district’s only recourse is to send parents an electronic alert letting them know there is another train blocking traffic.  (Parents can also use Durham’s bus tracker app to see where any bus is at any given moment.)   In the meantime we have antsy children waiting on hot buses with no air conditioning or waiting at school to be picked up by buses unable to arrive on time.

images.jpgObviously, we never know how long the train actually will be immobile so it is always a coin toss on what to do next.  Should the buses reroute or would it be faster for them to stay put?  Feeling lucky?

Our Village officials and our Police Department have tried to address this problem directly with the Canadian National Railway to no avail.  Today I wrote the attached letter and emailed it to the company’s Senior Manager of Media.  I also sent copies to Senator Pam Althoff, Senator Melinda Bush, Representative Sam Yingling and the Illinois Department of Transportation.  It is critical we make our voices heard.  Our children deserve safe, predictable and timely bus transportation.   CN Rail Letter 5-11-18

Whether the train stalls are due to the longer length of trains or simply bad timing, the end result is the same: Canadian National Railway is responsible for fixing this situation.  Please take a moment and voice your concern.  The Canadian National contacts can be found here:  https://www.cn.ca/en/contact-us  (By the way, I would suggest skipping the  1-888 numbers since I only got an endless voice recording loop telling me my call was important, but apparently not important enough for a real person to pick up.)

On a positive note, Durham Transportation has been exceptionally flexible in handling the challenges caused by the delays.  We appreciate their timely communication and concern for our children.  Thank you Durham and Jan Hilliard!

Have You Heard about the Leader in Me?

leader-in-meWhat would be possible if all of our schools were filled with students who were responsible, who showed initiative, who were creative, who knew how to set goals and meet them, who got along with people of different backgrounds and cultures, and who could resolve conflicts and solve problems?

Lake Villa 41 is on track to find out!  After two years of investigation through book talks, school site visits and leadership symposiums, the staff at Lake Villa School District 41 has formally voted to become Leader in Me schools.   That is right!  All four schools are headed in this direction.   The Leader in Me is an entire school transformation model and it won’t be effective unless there is grass-roots support.  It is based on Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective People.  The Leader in Me is an approach to developing a culture of leadership in each of our schools and is based on the concept that every student can be a leader.

Leader in Me helps students learn how to become self- reliant, take initiative, plan ahead, track goals and prioritize their time.  It also helps students to better manage their emotions, be considerate of others, express their viewpoints persuasively, resolve conflicts, find solutions, value differences and live a balanced life.  This process helps students develop the skills and self-confidence they need to be successful in school and beyond.

Next steps? Administration will be recommending the board of education formally adopt Leader in Me as our Social Emotional Learning program on April 23rd.  A number of our board members have visited Leader and Me schools  are also excited about this initiative.  In early October, all staff will receive two intensive back-to-back days of training.  We will also be sending out specific information on how parents can become involved with Leader in Me.  The 7 Habits are powerful concepts that can be reinforced at home.  In the meantime, you can ask your child’s teacher or principal why they are so excited about Leader in Me.  No doubt, they will have a LOT to say!

You can learn more at http://www.theleaderinme.org/


A Look at Class Size

downloadThere appears to be some speculation recently on social media sites regarding class size at Lake Villa 41.  To that end, it is imperative that everyone has correct data regarding class size in the district.

Below is a link for a chart showing the average elementary class size for Lake Villa 41 per building since 2006/07.  (Please keep in mind this is a view from the macro-level, not the individual grade level.)

Average Elementary Class Size

Please note the following:

  • The average class size was highest in 2015/16, not this year.
  • 2015/16 was the first year Pleviak School was closed.
  • The district’s elementary enrollment has declined significantly.  We have 700 less students since 2006/07.  This is why it was a wise decision to close Pleviak.  Unfortunately, declining enrollment also means declining  state revenue since state funding is based on student enrollment.

On this link you can see the average class size of neighboring districts along with their composite 2017 PARCC scores.  Neighbor Districts  

You can see that smaller class size does not correlate with higher PARCC scores.  While this may seem counter-intuitive, it is in line with a meta-analysis research done by John Hattie which was updated in 2017. 2017 Factors Influencing Student Achievement   But as with all research, there are those that challenge findings.  You can find out more about how Hattie defends his research in a brief NPR Ed article NPREd How Learning Happens

In an ideal world, we would be able to follow the state’s suggested guidelines of setting a cap for class size at 15 students in grades K-3 and 25 students in grades 4 – 6.  Unfortunately, in case you haven’t noticed, we don’t live in an ideal world.

Here is what an ideal world would look like at Lake Villa 41.  We would need 9 more teachers at Hooper, 10 more teachers at Martin and 12 teachers more at Thompson.  For those of you who have children at these schools, you know there isn’t space at any of the schools.  Short of building a new school, we would need to take back Pleviak.  However, that would mean not only would we need to hire 31 teachers, but also a principal, lead teacher, health clerk, nurse, custodian, and 6 instructional assistants.  That would cost the district over $2M annually.  This is in addition to increasing transportation annually and the one time cost to break our lease with Round Lake for the use of Pleviak.  Oh, we also would not realize the $200,000 annually generated from leasing Pleviak.

So, where does all of this leave us?  Every year we review enrollment data to determine where we need to add or delete sections.  This review really becomes critical in the summer months as our registrations come pouring in. Last August we added two classes just before school started. Of course, we want to avoid adding teachers after school has started since it is so disruptive to students and families.

This year, recognizing that we can make much better plans when we have all our students registered early  we created Move Up Day.  On the last day of school, registered students will “move up” into their next grade’s class and meet their new teacher. Hopefully, this will encourage parents to get their registrations in now and not wait for August.  Here is the link to online registration  LV41 registration   Kids who are registered by May 4th will get to participate in Move Up Day in June.  Parents  don’t have to pay fees now, but simply have their children registered.  Please see this link for more information  Move Up Day

Right now, we are still in the process of examining numbers from online registration.  While it is early yet, we do anticipate adding classes at Martin.  This will necessitate administration creatively reallocating space to house new classes.  The rest is unknown until we get all registrations in (hopefully by May 4th).  Please parents if you haven’t done so, please register your children!

In the meantime, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, Dr. Barbour or your child’s principal.  We are all here to help.

Congratulations Dr. Sandy Keim-Bounds

img_0319We just received word that Thompson Elementary School  Principal, Dr. Keim-Bounds, has been selected as Lake County’s Elementary School Principal of the Year for 2018!!!  The board of education, the Thompson staff and all of her colleagues are extremely  proud of her commitment to Thompson School families and Lake Villa 41.

Dr. Keim-Bounds will be honored on April 18th at an Illinois Principal Associationtiger-clipart-jTxpRzLTE Recognition Breakfast for students and principals.  Congratulations Sandy, you are a true Thompson tiger!!!

Student Voices Raised

6a0192ab511dbf970d019affccc451970cAcross the nation today at 10 a.m. students protested school shootings and gun violence in wake of the most recent Florida high school tragedy.

Because of safety concerns Lake Villa 41 students were not permitted to go outside. However, students who wished to participate were encouraged to write letters to their legislators.  Their letters are being scanned directly to the representatives today. (Two examples are attached below.)  Students and staff  also observed a moment of silence for the 17 Florida victims and were asked to reach out to others with acts of kindness.

I am very proud of all of our students today who were able to voice their concern and show their passion and solidarity while remaining safely inside the school buildings.  I want to publicly thank administrators and staff for being sensitive and pro-active to our students’ needs.  Student Letter  

Student Letter 2

Working to Keep Students Safe

imagesTragically, we witnessed again last week that schools can be the scene of senseless violence.  The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida left 17 dead and 23 injured.

Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, schools have changed the way they respond to both potential threats and actual attacks. Sadly, a look back to Columbine and Sandy Hook make it clear that the traditional school lock-down procedures of sheltering in place increased fatalities because shooters had more time to injure more victims before police arrived.

downloadAs a result this year, our own district in conjunction with local police departments implemented ALICE protocols to respond to intruders.  We firmly believe that the ALICE approach allows for multiple response options depending on an intruder’s location within a building.  You can learn more here: https://www.alicetraining.com/

There is no one profile of those who cause violent deaths in school other than the fact they tend to be male.  However, the nonprofit National School Safety Center has compiled a list of behavior patterns from students who have caused violent school deaths.  These include:  violent temper, has brought a weapon to school, serious disciplinary problems, cruelty to animals, lack of family supervision, depressed or suicidal, preoccupied with weapons, few friends.

Not every young person who displays these behaviors is an imminent threat.  However, these red flags are clear indicators of someone who needs mental health intervention and support.  Please, if you know of someone who needs help, reach out to your child’s Safety_Mattersprincipal or social worker.

Listen to your children’s concerns about school safety and remind them that we have procedures in place to keep them safe.  Keeping your children safe is our priority.  Providing them with a quality education is our primary objective.

While our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families of Florida’s most recent school tragedy, Lake Villa 41 students will not be participating in the national school walk out movement. Please see the attached letter that was sent home today for more details.  Parent Letter 2-20-18


Bring the Kids to STEM Saturday

downloadOur first multi-district STEM community event is this Saturday at Grant High School.  All Lake Villa families are invited!  Feeder districts to Grant High School are teaming up with folks from Northern Illinois University to put on this free event.  Hands-on STEM stations will run from noon until 5 PM with a special demonstration from 2 – 2:45 pm in the auditorium.  Please see this flyer for further details.  Stem1 (1)   Hope to see you there!

Parent Presentation on the Teen Brain

1427400503Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important and sometimes challenging ways.  As many of you already know, living with a teenager has its share of ups and downs.   Adults often wonder why teens act as they do.  Fortunately, research over the last decade allows us insight into how brain development impacts teenage behavior. Best of all, the research can help parents trying to navigate the mysterious journey of adolescence.

I am excited to present on the Teen Brain on Thursday, February 1st from 6:30 – 8 PM at Warren Township Youth Services, 100 S. Greenleaf Street in Gurnee.  All Lake Villa 41 parents, guardians and grand parents are welcome to attend this free event.  Hope to see you there!



Demystifying the Teen Brain 2018