February 2015
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Superintendent's Message: 
Introducing New Capstone Program for Eighth Graders


When it comes to leading an accomplished school district like Palos 118, the challenge is finding ways to expand opportunities for students that complement the outstanding programs that already exists.  Since the adoption of the new Illinois Learning Standards, we've talked a lot about enhancing our curriculum to focus on the development of critical thinking skills; providing continuous opportunities to apply those skills to real world problem solving; and teaching our kids how to effectively communicate and collaborate with others to problem solve.  As a result of those discussions, it is with great excitement that I announce next year all eighth grade students will have the opportunity to take part in the Palos South Capstone.  Our new Capstone program will focus on developing those important skills discussed above as well as those skills all too often ignored in school - creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance.


Capstone will afford students the opportunity to work in small teams to select and explore a problem of local or regional significance, spending the entire year working with their team and outside experts to develop a solution to their identified problem.  Each team will be assigned a faculty advisor who will serve as a co-learner, co-planner, co-producer and co-evaluator.  At the end of the school year, our eighth grade Capstone teams will present their findings and proposed solutions using a multimedia platform to their fellow Capstone teams, faculty, parents, and community members in a celebration of their successes.

The program is built on the premise that our kids can do amazing things, if just given the opportunity to do so in an environment that champions creativity and not test scores.  Students will receive a pass/fail grade for Capstone, which will not impact their G.P.A.  Capstone is not designed to make our students' eighth grade experience overwhelming, as we are cognizant of the academic demands already placed on our eighth grade students.  In order to incorporate this program into each eighth grade student's schedule, students will be required to attend one day of Zero Hour per week.  Capstone schedules will be coordinated with Zero Hour band schedules.  Students may utilize Zero Hour bus transportation on Capstone days. 

While the framework for the Palos South Capstone has been developed, much work remains in building the final curriculum and program design. I believe it's important for parents to be involved in this process.  To that end, I'm inviting current seventh grade parents to volunteer to be members of our Capstone Steering Committee.  The committee will meet several times during the 2015-2016 school year to review the progress of the program and provide parental feedback on its strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to consider getting involved.  Space on the committee is limited.  If you are interested in serving, please email your contact information to [email protected].

Capstone also affords parents additional opportunities to get involved during the crucial middle school years.  Once our Capstone teams select a problem to spend the year exploring, they will be seeking individuals working in a field related to their problem who can assist them in understanding the problem and formulating proposed solutions.  Serving as a resource for our Capstone teams is a great way for parents to be involved.  We will be providing more information on how you can volunteer to assist our Capstone teams once next year's problems have been identified.

I'm excited about this new innovative program at Palos South.


Warmest regards,


Anthony M. Scarsella,

Superintendent of Schools


Make Up Days: 

Due to the use of three snow days this year, school will be in session on Pulaski Day, March 2.  Also, two additional days were added to the end of the school year due to the snow days on February 2 and 19.  Therefore, barring any future snow days, the last day of school will now be June 5.  There is no change to the graduation date of June 1.


Kindergarten & New Student Registration:

Parents of incoming kindergarteners are able to start the registration process by going to our website and clicking on student registration. 

One District One Book Celebration of Reading

Palos 118 students work on watercolor paintings of scenes from Silverstein's poems.

Palos West second grader Kelly Thomason demonstrates amazing coordination as she recites "It's Dark in Here" while hula-hooping.


On February 9, the annual One District One Book event was held at Palos South, celebrating Shel Silverstein's "Every Thing On It."  Over 100 students and parents came out to support the event.  Participants were able to paint with watercolors, create digital images on computers, explore iPad activities, create acrostic poems and bookmarks, do poetry karaoke, and much more.  Fun was had by all.

People You Should Know...
Palos West Student Council

Student council is unique at West, with a panel of representatives rather than the traditional four officers. With Ms. Toni Hotzfield as their advisor, they spearhead many charitable fundraisers and programs during the school year. One major initiatve that took place last month was their annual "Souper Bowl" of Caring Food Drive. Student council collected 7,000 items such as soup, mac and cheese, and ramen noodles for the Palos Township Food Pantry. Pictured above are student council panel members dressed for the food drive kick off assembly.


Student council is also involved in Earth Week each spring. They sponsor a recyclable parade and perform a reenactment of Dr. Suess' "The Lorax."


They are also heavily involved in the Red Ribbon Week drug awareness program. For this year's theme, "iTune Out Bullying and Drugs," members visited classrooms to present the history of the drug awareness week.


December was filled with collecting clothing and miscellaneous items for the Alliance for the Children, which distributes gift bags to needy families for the holidays. In May, student council will team up with wellness council for Walking West for Wellness to raise money for the American Diabetes Foundation. Other charitable drives include Pennies for Pooches and Share Your Love.


21st Century Learning

One notion that remains constant in time is that educators care about the future of each and every child and embrace the opportunity to teach and shape the next generation.  At one point in time, this appeared to be a fairly simple task, but in today's complex and rapid-changing society we must be creative and think "outside of the box."  For success in the 21st century, students will not only need to learn reading, writing, math, science, and history, but they will need to develop the necessary skills to solve real-world problems and adapt to the endless advancements in technology.  We are preparing students for jobs that are much different from the once thriving trades and the routine nine-to-five careers that we still embrace today.  With the challenges that face most school districts and communities, we have to look beyond the traditional roles that schools once played and provide opportunities that embed "on the job training" and promote critical-thinking skills that will develop the whole child.


Teachers more than ever play a vital role in helping students realize their futures by providing them with instruction that gives direction and allows them to focus on their cognitive and technological skills.  Today's students may have an abundance of technology and information at their fingertips, but can they access that information efficiently and effectively?  Do they know how to determine the differences between fact and opinion?  Can they create meaning from data or synthesize multiple points of information?  In a nut shell, do they understand the value of information if it is not presented to them for the purpose of passing a test?  Our professional staff continues to hold conversations that focus on these important questions. 


As a school district, we must recognize that students need opportunities to discover their talents and interests.  These opportunities can and do begin to develop in the core academic classes, but we have to strive to provide experiences that go beyond traditional learning.  We owe it to our students to facilitate real-world learning experiences that stimulate a child's passion for researching a topic, collaborating with others, evaluating information, and solving problems that lead to productive solutions. This being said, we will be forming a committee later this summer to review our current elective offerings in kindergarten through eighth grade.  As part of this process, we will be seeking parent and community input through a survey that will be designed to help us better prepare children for success in college and beyond.  I recognize that this is a process that will take some time, but I am confident that the results will be worth the wait.   


PARCC Testing

As a reminder, Palos School District 118 will begin administering the PARCC problem-based assessment (PBA) during the week of March 9th.  Students in grade 3-8 will be taking one test per day for a five day period.  The testing schedule is as follows:


                  March 9 - 13:  5th and 8th grade students

                  March 16 - 20:  4th and 7th grade students

                  March 23 - 27:  3rd and 6th grade students


Additional information concerning the PARCC Assessment including test format, sample test items, and notes about scoring is available online at http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/.   For more information on PARCC, you can also visit our "Exploring the Core" Parent Resource Page or view my February 4th PowerPoint presentation available on the district Quick Links.   

Palos South Wows Crowds with "Willy Wonka" Musical

Palos South students charmed sold out crowds with songs including "Candy Man," "Pure Imagination," and "Oompa Loompa" last month at Stagg High School with their performance of "Willy Wonka: The Musical" on January 23 and 24.

Headlining the cast of over 60 students were Alexandra Loya (Willy Wonka), Alexandra Mroz (Charlie Bucket), and Elora Maniatis (Grandma Joey). Palos South drama teacher Katie McDonough, directed a student cast and crew of over 90 in her seventeenth musical production. Musical direction was provided by Bill Hansen, with art direction by Randy Buvala; both teachers at Palos South.

Roald Dahl's timeless story of young Charlie Bucket's search for a golden ticket, and the world famous candy (wo)man's quest to find an heir came to life in the stage adaptation of  "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  The musical featured songs from the 1971 classic family film, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."  Production began in early September with auditions, and by January, the cast and crew were working three and four days a week bringing the musical to life.  "This was our year of singers," said McDonough, "I've never had so many kids with exceptional voices. They all worked hard to make this a success." 

McDonough said that positive experiences in drama productions at South help inspire eighth grade cast members to get involved in high school drama clubs.  Proceeds from the musicals benefit Palos South's Drama Club and go toward the purchasing rights and props for next year's drama production.  Past productions have included, "The Wizard of Oz," "High School Musical," "The Music Man," "Back to the 80's, and "Annie."

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