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Special Session of the Board of Education Scheduled for April 30

A Special Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Middle School North gymnasium, 201 Hawthorn Parkway in Vernon Hills.

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Highlights of the February 26 Board of Education Meeting

The Middle School South sixth-grade and Middle School North eighth-grade pilot LEAP teams gave a presentation on the LEAP framework geared to make classrooms more student centered. These teachers spoke about the four components of LEAP:

  • Learner Focused: Empowers learners to understand their needs and their approach to learning
  • Learner Lead: Entrusts students to take ownership of their learning
  • Learner Demonstrated: Enables learners to progress at their own pace
  • Learner Connected: Does not confine learning to the schools and connects learning to families, educators, communities and networks

The teachers discussed how they are seeing a culture shift at the middle schools now that 1:1 personalized learning is in place. Students have more agency. They are setting their own personal goals. Homeroom teachers are regularly conferencing with students on their goals. Students choose the pace of their own learning. If students are not showing mastery of a specific lesson, they attend a lesson with the teacher the following day. Teachers are no longer at the front of the classroom, but all over the room helping students.

A video showed students talking about their experiences with personalized learning. Students spoke about how they liked learning at their own pace, and how they felt the Chromebooks were a significant asset to their learning.

Board President Sonali Patil led a discussion about the community meeting that took place on February 21. The Board members provided feedback about their discussions with community members during the break out session of the meeting. Here is some of the community feedback that the Board members shared:

  • The “Day in the Life” video communicated the space issues Hawthorn faces. One person said it was heartbreaking to see the cramped quarters the students are experiencing.
  • A number of community members want to get involved to help the District.
  • People want to hear more from the Board about the options Board members support.
  • The town hall setting for the meeting worked well.
  • Community would like to see a better tax breakout per household. People want to know specifically how a tax increase would affect them.
  • The community would like more transparency from the Board and more communication.
  • The plan proposed during the last referendum was only a band-aid approach.
  • We should get rid of all the bells and whistles and stick to the basics.
  • Show what the community will get for the money proposed for each building. Itemize everything.
  • Many members of the community did not trust the numbers presented during the last campaign.
  • The last referendum push was too rushed. Need more time to plan it out.
  • The District is comprised of different economic levels. There is a price point where people will not support a referendum because they can’t afford it. We need to find out what that price point is.
  • There is the misconception that the District is flush with cash, but is still asking the community for help.
  • There is lack of understanding about the budget and the spending per pupil.
  • Revisit adaptive reuse plan to convert an existing building into a school.

The board is planning a series of community meetings that will take place over the coming months. The next meeting will be in a town hall format. Meetings after that could focus on the presentation of specific options.

District Superintendent Nick Brown provided an update on the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. He said he is meeting in the near future with the village and park district to prepare for a zoning committee meeting that will be held later in March. He also met with the executive director of Victory Centre. He will meet with some Victory Centre residents to explain the plans and listen to their feedback.

Mr. Brown also discussed two national student walk outs scheduled for March 14 and April 20 in connection with the school shooting in Florida. He said that he wants to keep students safe but also wants to give them real life opportunities. He is concerned about the safety of the students if they go outside the buildings.  An option may be to give students a meaningful experience inside the buildings, such as bringing in legislators to meet with the students.

The Board approved an agreement between the District and Lakeside Transportation to provide busing for students. It also approved the First Student, Inc. contract extension for charter and summer scholar transportation services. The 2018-2019 Board of Education meeting calendar is still being finalized.


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Highlights of the February 12 Board of Education Meeting

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, discussed a list of proposed working capital projects. The list was prioritized with the most important projects at the top. He said that Facilities Manager Mike Christensen will go into detail about each of the projects during a presentation he will give to the Board in the near future.

The District went out to bid this year on busing services, because Lakeside, the District’s current busing service, asked for a significant payment increase.  Mr. Singh said that after the bid was posted, five firms participated in the process, but Lakeside was the only firm that submitted a bid.  He said the District’s recommendation is to contract with Lakeside transportation, as there were no other bids. The cost to the District would be $293,000. However, 75% of the transportation costs are reimbursed by the state. This recommendation will be brought before the Board for approval at the Feb. 26 board meeting.

Superintendent Nick Brown provided a brief update on the progress of the kindergarten center at the Sullivan Center. He said that the DLR Group is creating final documents.  Several meetings have taken place with the village and the library. A preferred traffic pattern for the facility has been designed and details are being worked out with the plan team.

Superintendent Brown also discussed the proposed operational cost of the kindergarten building. The current estimation is $573,800 for additional ongoing operational costs directly assigned to the proposed new building.  He said that the administrative team has taken a hard look at ways to operate efficiently to control costs.

Board President Sonali Patil led a discussion about a community meeting that has been scheduled for February 21. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the District’s space needs and receive feedback from community members on what they would like to see take place to address the issues. She said that representatives of the District’s partners, including LAMP, Inc., the DLR Group and Elizabeth Hennessy, will be present to answer questions.  Translators and childcare will be available. The meeting will be streamed live. Additional meetings will be scheduled with the goal to schedule one meeting for each school.

Board Member Robin Cleek gave an update regarding the Hawthorn Student Assistance Program meeting she attended during the third week of January. This is a student advisory committee led by Assistant Principal Megan Goldman with representatives from grades fourth through eighth in every school. She said that the meeting was uplifting, with lots of feedback about improvements made from a social emotional learning standpoint.  She said it was great to hear from students that lunch room and hall behavior had substantially improved, and that students felt comfortable about going to administrators if there was a problem.

In her President’s Report, Ms. Patil mentioned that a free seminar on parenting offered by Alexian Brothers will be offered on March 6 at Middle School North and that this year’s kindergarten registration will take place February 22 and 23 at Middle School South.

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We Want Your Advice About District 73’s Future

Please join us on Wednesday, February 21, for an Evening with the Board to discuss Hawthorn’s space needs for today and tomorrow. At the meeting, we look forward to your advice and guidance as we work together to set the course for our school district’s future. The meeting will take place at Middle School South, 600 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills at 7:00 p.m.

The school district is growing. Over the next 10 years, it is projected to welcome approximately 700 more students. By 2026, its enrollment will reach more than 5,000 students, representing a more than 30 percent increase since 2008.  Hawthorn’s facilities have either been at capacity or above capacity for the past six years. Administrators have made numerous adaptations to manage space, including adding a portable containing two classrooms at Elementary South, and conducting gym in the cafeteria and hallways of the middle schools.

Childcare will be provided.  Spanish translators will be present. If you need childcare, please register by February 19. Send an email to:



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Highlights of the January 22 Board of Education Meeting

Hawthorn Elementary North Principal Kathryn Waggoner, Director of Special Services Renee Ullberg and Melissa Phillips, Senior Manager of Children’s Services at Cook Memorial Public Library District, gave a presentation on the Nurture, Explore, Speak, Teach (NEST) program. The presentation focused on the goals of NEST, which are to find future Hawthorn students before they start school and connect them with the services they need to get the best start possible. NEST hopes to reach children who are between 1 and 3 years of age. If children aren’t reached in that time frame, it becomes increasingly difficult to address developmental issues. NEST is partnering with a number of local organizations, including WIC and Child and Family Connections, to provide the appropriate services for the children. Next steps are to schedule a series of developmental screenings. The group has also scheduled a free event on February 8 in which parents can learn how to help their children acquire early literacy skills.

Tom McGrath of LAMP, Inc., Jason Meyering of the DLR Group and Kari Van Sant of the DLR Group answered board members’ questions about the construction of the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. They talked about the project’s budget, timetable, and next steps. Later in the meeting, the board passed a motion to move forward with the development of the kindergarten building construction bid documents.

Board President Sonali Patil continued the discussion about the Educational Facilities Master Plan. She said that the building administrators had submitted prioritized lists of space issues in their buildings as requested. As a next step, she recommended organizing several community meetings. The first meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, February 21, will provide an opportunity for the community to learn and provide advice to the Board.

In her President’s Report, Ms. Patil mentioned that she had attended the last Early Release Day. She said that she observed teachers working together. She felt that the half days were beneficial to teachers and worth the time.


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Highlights of the January 8 Board of Education Meeting

Representatives of the DLR Group and LAMP Inc. presented an update on projected costs of the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. The total project cost estimate is now at $11,998,055. This estimate does not include the road work, which entails providing access to the school from Phillip Road to create a smooth traffic flow for buses and parents dropping off their children. The Cook Memorial Public Library District Board recently approved this project.

The presenters discussed possible cost cutting measures that would change the aesthetics of the building but not its functionality. These options included switching the flooring to a less expensive material and doing away with the over hangings/punched openings on the north face of the building. They also provided the option of removing the art studio/staff collaboration spaces on the second floor, which would lead to a substantial cost savings of about $500,000.

The Board discussed the pros and cons of these options. For the project to go out to bid in a timely fashion, the Board would need to finalize and approve the budget at the next meeting on January 22.

Board President Sonali Patil continued the discussion about the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP). She said that in previous discussions, all board members had agreed that the District’s schools are full and to do nothing to address this issue was not an option. The next opportunity to go out for a referendum is November of 2018. Suggestions the board members made for next steps included:

  • Review the projects in the EFMP and prioritize them
  • Ask the community for feedback on what they would like to see for their school district
  • Ask school administrators to provide updated lists of the space concerns in their buildings
  • Use social media as a tool to build awareness about the space concerns at the schools
  • Launch another community survey
  • Schedule special public meetings in February to seek community input
  • Talk with school districts that launched successful referendum campaigns

The discussion will continue at the January 22 Board meeting. School administrators will be asked to prioritize the identified projects in their buildings per the EFMP.

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Regular and Closed Committee of the Whole Sessions to Take Place Jan. 8

A Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place at 7:00 p.m. on January 8. A Closed Committee of the Whole meeting will take place at the conclusion of the Regular Session. The meetings will take place at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.

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Closed Committee of the Whole Meeting: January 5

A Closed Committee of the Whole Meeting will take place on Friday, January 5, at 5:00 p.m.  It will take place at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.

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The Next Board of Education Meeting is December 11

A Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, December 11, at 7 p.m. at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.

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Highlights of the Nov. 27 Board of Education Meeting

Elizabeth Hennessy from Raymond James provided an overview on the District’s outstanding debt. Two of the four bonds are callable in January of 2019. This includes $15,645,000 for the 2009A Series and $2,905,000 for the 2009B Series. By refunding the Series 2009A bonds, the total savings could be $1,604,250 or net present value savings of $1,391,065. By refunding the Series 2009B bonds, the total savings could be $605,520 or net present value savings of $325,664. Ms. Hennessy also provided a 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year option for additional DSEB bonds. Option I, which includes new money and refunding keeps the final maturity at 2028, which is the final maturity of the current non-referendum debt. Options II and III would result in an extension of the debt service extension base beyond the current final maturity and increase the annual payment amount by the consumer price index annually. The 10-year option would generate $1.4M, the 15-year option would generate $3.3M, and the 20-year option would generate $5.3M.  All of these options in conjunction with the refunding would result in net savings.

Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Robert Collins, Principal of Middle School North, and Robert Natale, Principal of Middle School South, gave a presentation on student achievement at the middle school level. Dr. Leali said the District focuses on a whole child approach to education. She emphasized the importance of creating a school environment in which children want to come to school. Wanting to come to school plays a significant role in student achievement.

In terms of tests, she said the District continues to outperform the state on the PARCC test. In 2017, Middle School South was at the 86th percentile and Middle School North was at the 83rd percentile for English/Language Arts and Math combined compared to public schools statewide. In addition to state tests, all students set personal goals, which are measured. Last year, 83 percent of middle school students met their goals. However, the District continues to see achievement gaps among Hispanic, low-income and Special Education students.

She spoke briefly about English Language Learners (ELL). The District traditionally transitions about 25% of ELL students out of its services. But because state standards changed, the District only transitioned 10% of ELLs out of services last year.

Both principals, Robert Natale and Robert Collins, spoke about the high rate (85 percent) of middle school students who are engaged in extracurricular activities. The “activity bus” has made it far easier for students to participate in afterschool programs. They spoke about the environments of their schools where emphasis is placed on students feeling at home.

District Superintendent Nick Brown reported on the results of a staff assessment performed by HUMANeX to help gauge the District’s climate and culture. He was pleased that the number of staff participating in the survey increased from 282 in 2015 to 433 in 2017.  He was also pleased that the percentage of staff who reported they were highly satisfied and engaged in their jobs was 75.75%. The industry standard is about 65%.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, gave a brief report on 2018-2019 student fees. The District’s recommendation is that the student fees stay the same as last year, with the small exception of the lunch meals, which would increase by 10 cents. The small increase in the lunch fee is due to the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” provision that went into effect on July 1, 2011. The provision is part of the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide the same level of support for lunches served to those students that are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches as they are for those eligible for free lunches. This disclaimer takes the price increase off the shoulders of the district. The 2018-2019 student fees will be an action item on the December 11 agenda.

Board President Sonali Patil led a discussion about the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP), the 10-year plan to address the short and long-term needs of the District. She said that the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center will provide some temporary relief for the significant space limitations experienced by the elementary schools, but it will provide no relief for the middle schools. She asked the board members for their thoughts on the District’s next steps. The board members were in agreement that space limitations were a significant problem that needed to be addressed. There was general agreement that the space limitations at the middle schools should be prioritized. The discussion will continue at the next meeting.