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Early Release Day

Teachers Have Opportunity for Collaboration on Early Release Day

December 13 was an Early Release Day, which provided an opportunity for teachers and instructional assistants to meet, collaborate and discuss methods and programs to improve student academic achievement. The tightly structured school day presents a challenge for teachers to plan together on a regular basis. Creating more common planning time, Early Release Days are an investment in the success of our students.

school board

Highlights of the December 11 Board of Education Meeting

District Superintendent Nick Brown provided an update on the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. He said that the project is now in the design development phase. More information will be brought to the Board at the January 22 meeting. He said the presentation to the Village of Vernon Hills went smoothly. There is initial support from the Cook Memorial Library District, Village and Park District for creating an access drive to the kindergarten school from Phillip Road, which would address traffic concerns, but details are still being worked out.

Administration is working on the 2018-2019 school calendar. The goal is to closely mirror the Vernon Hills High School and other local high school calendars so that families with children in the District and in high school can generally follow the same break/holiday schedules. The Board will take action on the calendar in January.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, provided a recap of a presentation by Elizabeth Hennessy from Raymond James on the District’s outstanding debt, which took place at the November 27 Board of Education meeting. He reviewed the 10-year, 15-year and 20-year options. Administration recommends the 10-year option, which has the least amount of interest and fees, and would generate $1.4 million. Funds could be put toward capital improvements and/or equipment. The topic will be discussed again in June with a possible refunding in October of 2018.

Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, and Hawthorn’s elementary school principals, Bill Fredricksen, Kathryn Waggoner, Dr. Jill Martin, Dr. James Tohme, and Dr. Victoria Kieffer, gave a presentation on student achievement at the elementary school level. Overall, Hawthorn’s elementary schools continue to outperform the state on PARCC, but LEP, IEP and low-income students continue to struggle in reading and math achievement. The principals discussed several action steps for improvement, which included:

• Focus on study of culturally responsive instructional practices, inclusion, personalized learning and goal setting
• Guaranteed Viable Curriculum—common summative and formative performance assessments
• Social Emotional Learning
• Support from the Regional Office of Education and surrounding districts
• Full day kindergarten for all
• Early Release Days for professional development
• Added technology at all grades
• Professional Learning Community development

Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP)

Board President Sonali Patil led the group in a discussion on prioritized needs and outreach. DLR Group Principal Jason Lembke was present to answer questions. Board members discussed what EFMP projects needed to be prioritized in the event the school pursues another referendum. There was general agreement that the middle schools should be a focal point, as these schools are out of space and will receive no relief from the building of the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. In terms of outreach, Board members discussed the need for more community engagement if a future referendum campaign is launched.

During the Business Meeting, the Board approved administration’s recommendation to maintain the student fees for the 2018-2019 school year at the current 2017-2018 level, with the exception of the lunch meals. Lunch meals will increase by 10 cents from $2.80 to $2.90 in accordance with guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” provision.


Students Listen to the Beat of a Different Drum

Sixth-grade students in Ms. Klein’s music class at Middle School South learned to play African Djembe drums. They created drum rhythms for each of their names and composed a piece made up of the rhythms of their names.


Trench Warfare

Students Learn About Trench Warfare

As the alarm bell sounded, you could hear the students yelling “Gas! Gas! Gas!” as the students in Mr. McKenzie and Ms. Balmes’ eighth-grade social studies classes learned about life in the trenches during World War I. The students were filled with high anticipation as they entered a mock Trench Warfare Simulation. Some students, armed with their homemade gas masks, were very prepared after reading selections of the book “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Remarque. They learned about the turmoil endured by the soldiers and left class that day with a greater appreciation for those who served our nation during that time.


Hawthorn and VHHS Students Make Great Music Together

Three hundred and thirty-three students from Hawthorn Middle School North, Hawthorn Middle School South and Vernon Hills High School spent the day on Wednesday, November 1, rehearsing for the evening Orchestra Festival at Vernon Hills High School. They performed  together in a mass orchestra, playing Themes from Romeo and Juliet, Donegal Fiddles, Allegro Con Brio from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, and Capriol Suite.

This is an annual Festival comprised of seventh and eighth-grade students from Hawthorn, and ninth through twelfth grade students from Vernon Hills High School performing side-by-side. This year’s guest conductor was Brian Groner, the conductor of the Fox Valley Orchestra and the Birch Creek Music Festival.


Plenty of Team Spirt at “Hustle” Despite Cancellation

Despite the last minute cancellation of the PTO’s 2017 Hawthorn Hustle due to bad weather, there was still plenty of team spirt and goodwill in Century Park on Saturday morning. All those who came enjoyed music, refreshments and a raffle. Among the crowd was Elementary South’s SOAR team. Many thanks to the Hawthorn PTO volunteers for all the work they put into this event, which raised funds for Hawthorn’s schools.



School Board

Highlights of the October 9 Board of Education Meeting

The October 9 Board of Education meeting featured a presentation on the design concept for the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. Elementary South Principal Dr. Jill Martin and kindergarten teachers talked about the history of Hawthorn’s growth and reviewed the input teachers provided for the design of the new school.

DLR Group Principal Jason Lembke said he followed the teachers’ recommendations, incorporating collaboration, innovation, spaces for students to be social, and flexibility into the building’s design. He mentioned that design team members had toured the Barrington Early Learning Center, Washington School in Mundelein, and the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville to look at a variety of design options.

Lembke said that after looking at different design possibilities, the team selected a concept called “The Flower” as the best choice for Hawthorn. The flower scheme is comprised of “petals” featuring classrooms with operable partitions that provide extensive flexibility. The interior of each petal includes four classrooms, a Maker space (that could also serve as an additional classroom), two small group spaces and a dedicated pull-out space for things such as special education.

Two petals are proposed for the first floor of the new facility, which will be located on the northeast side of the Sullivan Center. That floor will also include a multi-purpose room (cafeteria), art studio, an administrative area, that also will serve as a storm shelter, and a sensory room with external access. The second floor will feature two petals, an active play space, and a staff collaboration space.

Thomas McGrath with LAMP Incorporated discussed the budget. The cost of the project is projected at $12,121,289, with a road site allowance of $150,000. He said the project could go out to bid as early as next March and construction could start as early as June.

Superintendent Nick Brown discussed the approval process. He said that a presentation would be made to the Park District on October 10.  The Park District, the Village and Regional Office of Education will all need to approve the project. Permits will need to be obtained from the County.  Wetland credits also need to be purchased. The formal recommendation for schematic design approval will be made at the October 23 meeting.

Mr. Brown also provided an update on student placement for the Cuneo Farms development. Regarding which schools the children from this new subdivision will attend, he recommended Elementary North and Middle School North as best suited to accommodate this new population. Final action will be made at the next board meeting.

Due to time constraints, a discussion on public comments collected in the survey about the Educational Facilities Master Plan was tabled until the next meeting.

In her president’s report, Sonali Patil mentioned that October is National Principals Month.  She thanked Hawthorn’s principals for all the work they do.


Teacher Institute Day

Teachers Are Learners on Teacher Institute Day

While students took a day off on Teacher Institute Day (Oct. 6), teachers took time out of their regular routines to focus on learning. They spent the day exchanging ideas and learning new techniques to help ensure that every Hawthorn student has the best experience in our schools.

STEAM project

STEAM Project Involves Aliens and Airplanes

Aliens and airplanes played major roles in a STEAM project implemented in Ms. Howell’s sixth grade IMS class at Middle School South. Students worked together in teams to build paper airplanes that could fly 20 feet while carrying two (paper) aliens. They needed to stay within a specific budget (10 credits) to purchase materials to build their airplanes. The students had great fun testing the distance their airplanes could fly.