Three new staff members

Highlights of the July 23 Board of Education Meeting

New Hires

The Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of hiring three new staff to fill key positions. These new staff members are Alma Tamayo, coordinator of special services, Allison Stein, director of teaching and learning, and Jennifer Haack, Ed.D., principal of Townline Elementary.

Alma Tamayo is no stranger to Hawthorn. She served as a dual language special education teacher at Hawthorn’s School of Dual Language from 2015 to present, as a first-grade dual language teacher at the same school from 2014 to 2015, and as a bilingual/ELL teacher at Hawthorn’s Elementary South from 2013 to 2014.

Allison Stein formerly served for eight years as the principal at McCracken Middle School in Skokie, Illinois. Prior to that she served in the roles of principal and associate principal at several schools, including Edgewood Middle School and Indian Trail Elementary School in Highland Park, Illinois.

Jennifer Haack, Ed.D., most recently served as associate principal of Fremont Elementary and Intermediate Schools in Mundelein from 2013 to present. Prior to that she served as the associate principal of Fremont Elementary School from 2011 to 2013 and as a fourth-grade teacher at Woodland School District 50 in Gurnee from 2001 to 2011.

Board Approves Two Referendum Questions for November 

A. 2018 Educational Facilities Master Plan

Over the past year, the board held a series of community engagement meetings to receive community feedback on how the district could resolve the space constraints its schools are presently experiencing. The board selected one option out of several options based on feedback from the community and guidance from professionals. The option includes renovations and additions to all buildings, the construction of a kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center, and STEM centers in the middle schools, but no library renovations.  The board unanimously approved a resolution asking for voter approval to issue $48,700,000 School Building Bonds to fund this option. The resolution will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot.

B. Increasing the Limiting Rate

The addition of the kindergarten building and other building expansions will lead to an increase in the district’s operational costs. To cover these costs, an additional $1.3 million is necessary, which would result in a $.10 tax rate increase. The tax increase on a home valued at $350,000 would be $111. The board unanimously approved a resolution asking for voter approval to increase the limiting rate for the district by an additional amount equal to 0.10 percent above the limiting rate for school purposes for levy year 2017 and establishing the same at 3.332646% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property for levy year 2018. The resolution will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot.

Cost Cutting Measures

Facilities Manager Mike Christensen spoke about the district’s cost cutting measures. He said the district is researching moving to solar power in the near future as a way to reduce costs. He said the cost savings at Elementary North alone would be approximately $1.1 million. He said that he is reviewing and dissecting maintenance contracts, and has found opportunities to save $130,000. He also reviewed several changes, such as hiring far less summer workers, not using outside contractors, and using one procurement company instead of multiple vendors, that have led to significant savings.

President’s Report
Board Vice President Jayson Tran thanked Wendy Peterson, administrative assistant to the superintendent, for her years of service at Hawthorn, as she is leaving the district.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Joseph Porto discussed the organization of a communications campaign to educate the public about the referendum questions. He mentioned that the Residency Event in August would be a good time to launch the campaign.




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Regular Session and Closed Committee of the Whole Meetings, January 22

A Regular Session of the Board of Education and Closed Committee of the Whole Meeting have been scheduled for Monday, January 22.  The Regular Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Committee of the Whole meeting will take place at the conclusion of the session. The meetings will take place at the District Office, 841 West End Court, Vernon Hills, IL. 60061.

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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.

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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.



School Board Meeting

Highlights of the November 13 Board of Education Meeting

The meeting began with a presentation on preschool programming by Renee Ullberg, Director of Special Services, Carol Bennett, Principal of the Lincoln Early Learning Center, and several of the school’s teachers.  They provided an overview of what the Early Childhood and Preschool programming entails. They also provided a colorful visual presentation of what a typical day looks like at the Center.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, introduced the new Facilities Manager Michael Christensen.  He will start on December 4.  He replaces James Staples who is retiring after 38 years of service with the District.

Mr. Singh presented a brief summary of the 2017 Tax Levy. He said the prior year’s total extension was $49,212,457. The levy for this year is $51,722,542. The projected estimated extension is $50,965,094. After a public hearing, in which no members of the public made comments, the Board approved the 2017 Tax Levy during the Business Meeting.

The renewal of Lakeside Transportation’s contract for student busing was also discussed. It was agreed that Hawthorn will go out to bid this year since Lakeside Transportation is asking for a significant increase in payment. Hawthorn partners with districts 70 and 128 for busing. It will work collaboratively with these districts to go out for bid in mid-January.

The Board discussed placement options for the students moving into several new subdivisions, including the Residences of Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms. The District’s administration had recommended that students from the Cuneo project attend Elementary North and Middle School North, and that students from Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms attend Aspen and Middle School South.  During the Business Meeting, the Board approved the administration’s recommendations.

Another topic of discussion was the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. The Board had already approved the schematic design for the building. Board members will be presenting the design to the Village of Vernon Hills on November 28. Traffic is a main concern. Superintendent Nick Brown will be meeting with library and village officials on this issue in the near future. Looking ahead, Board President Sonali Patil said the center will be able to accommodate the continuously growing kindergarten enrollment until 2025/26. Space has been allocated for an additional section to be constructed when the building runs out of space.

The Board discussed next steps regarding the Educational Facilities Master Plan.  President Patil said that while the previous referendum failed, the need is still there. The kindergarten center will provide some temporary relief to the elementary schools, but no relief to the middle schools. She said the EFMP survey results indicated that some of the reasons the previous referendum failed were because community members believed the asking price was too high and that separate STEM centers were unnecessary. The next date to put a referendum on the ballot is March 2018. The deadline to submit the referendum question is January 2, 2018. Board members agreed that those dates did not allow enough time to educate the public about the District’s plans. The Board agreed that the November 2018 election would be a better time to put a referendum on the ballot than March 2018.


School Board

The Next Regular Session of the Board of Education is November 13

A Regular Session of the Board of Education will take place on Monday, November 13, at 7 p.m. at the District Office, 841 West End Court in Vernon Hills.

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Highlights of the September 25 Board of Education Meeting

A highlight of the September 25 meeting was a presentation by Victoria Kieffer, Ph.D., Principal of Townline Elementary, Samuel Smart, a fifth-grade teacher at Townline Elementary, and eleven students on their participation last year in the Science Olympiad. Townline students received numerous awards, including four first place awards, for their participation in 2016 and 2017.  The students briefly described their projects and spoke about what they learned through teamwork. Townline Elementary was one of only 12 schools in Illinois piloting the Science Olympiad for children in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.  The competition tests students’ knowledge of geology, chemistry, biology, weather, physics and aerodynamics.

Superintendent Nick Brown provided an update on the building of the new kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. He said that the group designated to develop the Center’s design has been busily reviewing ideas and concepts. Teachers have provided input. The group is now confirming a concept that will be brought to the Board on October 9.  Mr. Brown is also meeting with the Village to discuss possible traffic patterns. In the future, meetings will be arranged to present the design to the Park District as well as the Village.

Last year, the Board of Education approved the expansion of the dual language program into the middle schools beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Mr. Brown provided an update on this new initiative.  He reported that the District is planning for the program to include a Spanish literacy course and content instruction in Spanish through social studies and science courses. The District is looking for staff to teach the new courses.

Board members gave a presentation on the results of the Educational Facilities Master Plan survey. They reported that 537 people took the survey, and thanked all those who participated. A sampling of the results is as follows:

  • 78 percent of the participants were satisfied with the quality of the District’s schools.
  • 74 percent of the survey participants voted in the April 2017 election.
  • 32 percent of those who voted in the election supported the school referendum while 46 percent did not support the school referendum.
  • 87 percent considered themselves aware of the District’s enrollment trends.
  • 84 percent said they were familiar with the development of the kindergarten building at the Park District’s Sullivan Center.
  • 85 percent said they were familiar with the issues surrounding the District’s facilities and the April 2017 election.
  • 36 percent felt there was enough space in existing Hawthorn facilities to accommodate student growth, while sixty-four percent felt there was not enough space.
  • 49 percent felt that Hawthorn’s facilities were sufficiently updated and modernized.
  • 66 percent felt STEM Center additions are important for student success.
  • 48 percent felt that early childhood/Pre-K services should be relocated from Lincoln Center to Elementary North.
  • 49 percent indicated that additional classrooms should be the top priority of the school district.

The Board discussed how best to present the comments that participants provided in the surveys. The comments have been organized into 13 or 14 categories. The Board agreed to present the first seven categories at the October 9 Board meeting and the final categories will be presented at the October 23 meeting.

In his Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Brown congratulated several students for their achievements. He said that Lexi Schulman, a seventh grader at Middle School North, placed third at the IESA State Golf tournament on September 16 at the Kellogg Golf Club in Peoria. Annie Zbylut, a third grader at Elementary South, was selected as Artsonia’s PreK-third grade “Artist of the Week” for September 17 – 23. During the contest Annie received 2,392 votes from website visitors. Anirudh Adiraju (a Middle School South eighth grader), Jingjing “Amy” Wang (a Middle School South Eighth grader), Charles Collier (a Middle School South sixth grader) and Phyllis Wang (a Middle School South graduate now at Stevenson High School) were honored at a ceremony held by Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. The students had received exceptionally high scores on either the ACT or SAT. In particular, Anirudh had achieved third place for seventh grade students in Reading in the ACT.

Additionally, Mr. Brown said that the School of Dual Language was among the Regional Office of Education’s list of top ten small elementary schools with the best regular attendance, and Elementary South and Middle School North were on the list of top ten large elementary schools with the best regular attendance.

Board of Education President Sonali Patil mentioned that the District is still accepting donations for families affected by Hurricane Harvey.  The drive will run through September 29.



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Highlights of the August 14 Board of Education Meeting

Among the topics discussed at the August 14 Board of Education meeting was the new Cuneo development. Preparations are moving forward for the construction of 128 new homes on 53 acres on the Cuneo/Loyola Mansion and Gardens property located at 1350 Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills. The Board will determine which district schools the students from this development will attend. Superintendent Nick Brown reminded the Board that the district has tried not to split neighborhoods in the past, but separating the students would limit the impact on any one school. Mr. Brown will talk with the developer about the number of children expected to move into the development. He and the Board will also be looking at space availability once the kindergarten classes move from the elementary schools to the Sullivan Center. The Board is expected to make their decision by mid- to late October.

Director of Finance and Business Operations Abe Singh provided a presentation on the 2017/18 tentative budget. The projected revenue is $73,793,884, while expenses are estimated at $86,526,861. He discussed an increase in expenses compared with last year’s budget, which is due to an increase in instructional spending (up 5.5%), a new lease agreement for the Dell Chromebooks, an increase in curriculum needs, and other things.  $12 million has been allocated for the construction of the Kindergarten Center at the Sullivan Center. A public hearing on the tentative budget took place during the business meeting in which the Board received no public comments. The budget is scheduled to be adopted on September 11.

Mr. Brown provided an update on enrollment numbers. The district still anticipates that an additional 60 children will register for the new school year.  District Office staff members are calling families who did not attend the Residency Event. Mr. Brown is seeing slight increases in enrollment numbers across the district schools. A fourth-grade classroom is being added to Aspen due to increased enrollment numbers.

In her report, Board President Sonali Patil thanked staff for organizing the Residency Event, which she said went smoothly. She also reminded district residents to take a 10-minute survey that will help the district gauge community perceptions about its schools.  The deadline to take the survey is August 31.

Hawthorn Wants to Hear From You

Hawthorn School District 73 is holding a series of “Bagels with the Board” meetings for the public to discuss their perceptions about the District and its facilities planning efforts with Board of Education members. Please join us at one of the following sessions:

Tuesday, August 15, 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Village of Vernon Hills, 290 Evergreen Drive in Vernon Hills
Tuesday, August 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Sullivan Center, 635 N. Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills
Wednesday, August 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Victory Centre, 97 W. Phillip Road in Vernon Hills

Also, please take a 10-minute survey. Presionar aqui para tomar el estudio.