Superintendent's Welcome

Dear District 181 Community,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the District 181 website. Below is a message sent to families, staff, and Key Communicators at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

“The end is never the end. It's always the beginning of something.” - Author Kate Lord Brown

Today [June 8], our students left school for the last time in 2016-17. It is a moment to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. It is a time to congratulate our students for all they have learned and all the ways they have grown - not only in their learning, but also in their journey as special and unique individuals. This is an opportunity to say thank you to the outstanding teachers, staff, and administrators in District 181 and to the exceptionally supportive and engaged network of families and residents in our community. Together, we are helping to prepare nearly 4,000 young people for bright futures indeed.

As one chapter ends and another begins, below I have highlighted some of our successes from the past year and previewed exciting work on the horizon for D181 in 2017-18. (You can also download this information as a PDF.) As you will see, we truly do have much to proud of in District 181 and exciting changes coming in the year ahead. Thank you for your partnership in providing a truly premier educational experience for our students.

I wish you and your family a safe and happy summer!


Strategic Planning

  • This was the first year of Strategic Plan implementation. The Strategic Plan has truly become a living document, a roadmap to bring our Vision and Mission to life. We will continue to evaluate our work in year one and prepare for implementation efforts coming up in year two.
  • We bid a fond farewell to Board members Gary Clarin, Mridu Garg, and Jill Vorobiev in May, and we seated newly elected members Margaret Kleber, Nathan Lucht, and Meeta Patel, M.D. Together with Jennifer Burns, Leslie Gray, Rich Giltner, and Marty Turek, the Board of Education continues to provide outstanding leadership for the District.
  • We are appreciative to the Board members, community members, and staff who supported Board Committee work this year in Academic Success, Finance, and Facilities. These groups were instrumental in providing input and recommendations throughout 2016-17.

Academic Success

  • Our Principals led a new process for creating this year's School Improvement Plans (SIPs). Teachers were actively involved in reviewing data, setting goals, refining their practices, and evaluating their efforts to support student growth in academics and social-emotional learning. Principals will be presenting reports on their SIPs at the June 12 Board meeting.
  • The Department of Learning created new systems and structures to engage teachers, staff, and administrators in all content areas, including creation of the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Advisory Council as a representative group of teachers, along with individual Subject Specific Teams. Every group made incredible progress, building a strong foundation for that success to continue in the coming year.
  • This has also been a busy year in special education. We have a new 504 Procedural Manual, improved grant spending, realigned services, implemented new curriculum, and provided high quality professional development. There is a variety of new special education focused content on our website, and this year included several parent learning opportunities related to special education topics. We have transitioned our online IEP system, reintegrated students previously placed out-of-District, and collaborated closely with Hinsdale Township High School District 86, among many other successes this year.
  • Our middle school Encore/Exploratory teachers have reimagined and reinvented their courses to more strongly incorporate 21st century skills and current Illinois Learning Standards, provide greater challenge and rigor, and create new opportunities for student engagement. They researched the offerings of benchmark districts, participated in discussions with District 86, and collaborated to build a new set of classes. What is now called the Fine, Performing, and Applied Arts and Sciences courses will be launched this fall. Digital Media students will use Final Cut Pro to create high quality video productions. Advanced Culinary students will broadcast their cooking demonstrations like something right out of The Food Network. What was Applied Tech will now be STEM Connections using the FUSE Program developed by Northwestern University. Those are just some of the offerings, along with outstanding music, theater, and apparel opportunities.
  • As highlighted in a message from principals on Wednesday, we will implement the new Digital Learning Environment Plan in 2017-18, bringing a strategic and comprehensive technology roll-out to all District 181 schools, including a consistent 1:1 device-to-student ratio in Grades 3-8 and a shared-device environment in Grades K-2.
  • Two new systems are coming to D181 in 2017-18: Skyward will replace Infinite Campus as our Student Information System, and Canvas will be our first Learning Management System. Together, these will be powerful tools used to improve and enhance operations, communications, data management and access, and our instructional practices.
  • Students will engage in a variety of academic and enrichment courses through our Summer Learning Program that begins next week, and students who qualified for the all-new Summer Bridge Program will have the opportunity to advance in their mathematics placement.
  • In the fall, we celebrated together as Monroe was named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School, a true honor that brings great pride to our entire District. Incredibly, six of our nine schools have earned this recognition.

Organizational Excellence

  • In May, we hosted Board and staff events to extend best wishes to our 2016 retirees: Barb Bertani, William Brooks, Jerra Haggar, Terry Melbourn, Guadelupe Moreno, Kathleen Arciero, Steve Tabisz, Lois Pasquale, Edie Sharkey, Susie Lebensorger, Pam Flood, Mary Ann Parenti, Christine Kustusch, Rachel Condon, Kathy Mitchell, and Jose Sevilla.
  • District 181 continues to attract exceptional, high quality educators. We have already begun to successfully fill open vacancies for the coming year. In August, we will host a New Teacher and Staff Orientation to welcome these new team members to the District. As shared in messages over the last few weeks, we are welcoming several new administrators at the District Office, as well as Brandon Todd as Principal of The Lane.
  • This week, CHMS Principal Griffin Sonntag announced his resignation from the District. Mr. Sonntag is an exceptional principal, dedicated to his colleagues and committed to doing what is best for students. He has demonstrated outstanding instructional leadership and through personal example, Mr. Sonntag has also helped bring to CHMS a passion for giving back to others and educating the whole child. This will certainly be a significant loss to CHMS and to District 181, but we wish him the very best in his future endeavors. I will be engaging the CHMS staff and parents in the work to find a leader who will be a great fit for the CHMS community.
  • Our Human Resources Department is transitioning to a paperless hiring process. They have also implemented a video interview as part of our hiring procedures for a number of positions. Such tools not only create greater efficiencies, but also help us identify top caliber employees to join our talented staff.
  • Over the summer, the HR Office will take the lead on staffing, monitoring enrollment, and managing class sizes.

Culture of Community

  • We would be remiss if we did not begin our Culture of Community update by thanking our PTOs and D181 Foundation. These partners have brought families and the community together in support of our schools. Thinking about events like Young Writers Night and initiatives such as partnering with teachers to create maker spaces in our schools, it is clear their commitments have been deeply meaningful, providing above and beyond contributions to our schools.
  • Our Safety & Crisis Committee has created the District's first multi-year strategic plan specifically for safety improvements in partnership with members of our local Police Departments and Fire Departments. Much more information will be coming in the fall about enhancements we are making for more secure buildings, including improved procedures, new tools, and increased staff training.
  • This year's Community Speaker Series featured a lineup of nationally known presenters who brought attention to concepts including mindful parenting, mental health and successful learners, and the impact of devices and digital content on our relationships with our children and ourselves. We are grateful to the team of community members who coordinated those events and to D86 for jointly funding this important program.
  • We are in the final stages of developing a D181 mobile app, bringing the best of our content into a format more aligned to how today's users access information. We will also be exploring new ways of sharing news with you, including a focus on making our District e-newsletters more mobile friendly.
  • This summer, a team of colleagues will be working with the Communications Department to consider how we can better support teachers and staff in using social media to connect with families, with each other, and with peers across the globe.
  • New requirements have been announced related to ADA compliance for websites. Our D181 web team has already begun to proactively ensure our website meets these new requirements well before they take effect in 2018.

Operational Integrity

  • Of course one of the most visible changes coming this summer and throughout 2017-18 is the construction of a new Hinsdale Middle School. You can count on our website as a source for the most up-to-date information on the timeline, budget, and progress. We will be sharing photos, posting reports, and providing other resources to engage you in this exciting process.
  • The Board Facilities Committee made great strides in development of a ten-year Facilities Master Plan. Over the summer and throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will continue that work.
  • We currently have the 2016-17 amended budget on public display, to be brought for Board approval on June 26 following a public hearing. We have begun development of a multi-year budget, beyond just 2017-18. Having this tool in place will assist in our long-term planning and better reflect the commitments in our Strategic Plan.


Dr. Don White

picture of Superintnedent Dr. Don White

Dr. Don White

Office of the Superintendent

Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent
Jean Duggan

Community Resources

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