The Total Child

Redefining Ready! Reflections from 2018 Superintendent of the Year

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Guest Post by David R. Schuler, Ph.D., Superintendent, High School District 214 (Ill.)

It has been amazing to serve as the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year. This award has not been about me or my career. It is truly a reflection of the outstanding teachers, students, and staff of High School District 214, where I have served as superintendent for the last 14 years of the 19 that I have been a public school superintendent. I absolutely love leading this District and working to influence the national dialogue about public education.

I have appreciated the opportunity this year to reflect on what it means to be the leader of not only a district but of a movement of educators across this country who are striving to redefine what it means to be ready for college, career, and life beyond high school.

More than 60 districts across the nation have joined the Redefining Ready! cohort and hundreds of educators attended the inaugural Redefining Ready! National Summit where we shared best practices and ideas to inspire innovation within our respective districts. Superintendents and districts across this country are engaging in the work to redefine and redesign the educational experience for thousands of students.

As part of our Redefining Ready! work, I am continually inspired by the stories of our students and graduates in High School District 214. Each day I hear of stories such as Zach Burke. Zach, a Prospect High School graduate, took a computer science course his freshman year that led to a passion for coding and a top award in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge. He presented his app – designed in one of our classrooms – to national tech leaders in Washington, D.C.

At Buffalo Grove High School, Jackie Molloy and Nicole Relias took courses in the business management pathway and now co-run a startup selling their product, Skunk Aid, on Amazon and in stores across Chicago. How cool is that?

An internship at a physical therapist’s office affirmed recent Wheeling High School graduate Hannah DeGraff’s decision to pursue a career in the field and provided her a behind-the-scenes look at running a healthcare business.

Rolling Meadows graduates Miranda Adelman and Raymond Liu completed courses in the visual arts pathway and interned at Harper College, while Elk Grove’s Oscar Gonzalez worked with high-tech tools in the classroom and earned an industry-level safety certification verifying his qualifications in the field.

At Hersey, Kayleigh Padar's introductory course in journalism led to a role as editor-in-chief of the school's paper and an internship writing bylined articles for the Daily Herald, our local newspaper. And Brandon Sobecki, a Vanguard graduate, spent half of his day interning in a veterinarian’s office while simultaneously earning 21 college credits through our Early College Center.

Our students are saving money in college and shortening the time to graduation by enrolling in dual credit and Advanced Placement coursework.

Tanya Sarkis, a Wheeling High School graduate now a freshman at DePaul University, took four dual credit courses during her senior year that allowed her to save about $11,000 in college tuition.

And Ivan Najera, who never planned to pursue college, participated in our Early College Center where he earned 28 transferable hours of college credit through Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy classes. Ivan is wrapping up his first semester at our local community college and will soon transfer to a four-year university to earn his bachelor’s degree.

These are just a few of the countless success stories that our staff have provided for our 12,000 students. Our students can only dream what they can see and we must provide engaging, rigorous, and relevant experiences on their educational journey.

Students today are entering a workforce where they will have multiple careers during their lifetime. We must move from focusing on motivation and inspiration, to aspiration. We must empower our students to aspire, dream big and discover their future.


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