Communicate 58
Latest news from Downers Grove Grade School District 58
Vol. 5, Issue 14
April 17, 2014
Distinguished Service Awards recognize staff for excellence
Nearly 300 District 58 staff, students and parents attended the Education Foundation's Distinguished Service Awards ceremony at Ashyana Banquets April 10, where nearly 50 staff members were recognized for going above and beyond in their service to students.
"The contributions of each nominee has had a lasting impact on District 58, and most importantly, on the children who come through the doors of the schools each and every day," said Foundation Past President Marc Hausmann, who emceed the event.  


Two award recipients were announced: Highland sixth grade teacher Cheryl Varys in the category of classroom teacher, and Pierce Downer resource teacher Megan Finnegan in the category of staff member working in a category other than classroom teacher.  

Varys (left) has taught fifth and/or sixth grade at Highland since 1991. She was nominated by multiple parents and a colleague for her dedication to providing challenges, encouragement, and support for her students both in the classroom and as student council co-sponsor, as well as for her enthusiasm, kindness, patience and good humor.

Finnegan (right) has worked as a resource teacher at Pierce Downer School since 2006. A student shared that he is able to succeed in school thanks to Finnegan, who helps him learn in the ways that work best for him and makes him feel safe and good about himself. The student's mother called Finnegan not only a phenomenal teacher, but also a blessing for their family.

Each nominee received a Distinguished Service Award plaque and mug, both donated by Maclyn Group/Scot Press, and the winners also received a grant for their building and a personal Visa gift card donated by Community Bank of Downers Grove. Ashyana donated the venue and the food for the event.  

Last day of school set for 2013-14  


On April 14, the District 58 School Board voted to set Wednesday, June 11 as the last student attendance day for the 2013-14 school year. Four emergency days were used during the 2013-14 school year, and more attendance days were scheduled than required.


Promotion exercises at Herrick and O'Neill will take place Tuesday, June 10. 


The Board also voted to establish Thursday, June 12 as a certified staff member work day.  


The Board approved the calendar for the 2014-15 school year at its March 10 meeting. Click here to view the full calendar for 2014-15. 

O'Neill Middle School science teacher chosen as
Golden Apple Award finalist

O'Neill Middle School seventh grade science teacher Dr. Meg Van Dyke is one of just two DuPage County teachers to be named a 2014 finalist for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. A total of 32 finalists were selected from a pool of 620 nominations and 272 applicants representing fourth through eighth grade teachers throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.


The finalists will participate in a final round of review and observations prior to the selection and announcement of the 10 award recipients. A Celebration of Excellence in honor of the 32 finalists will be held April 19 at the Chicago O'Hare Marriott.  


"I was surprised, delighted and humbled to find out I had been nominated for the Golden Apple Award. It is a truly an honor to be considered for this distinction, and to see teachers recognized for their dedication to this profession is heartwarming," Dr. Van Dyke said. "I am excited to learn how this opportunity can positively impact my future teaching in Illinois in the coming years, and I look forward to collaborating with such an esteemed and dedicated group of educators in the future."


Matt Neustadt appointed new Herrick Middle School principal

Matt Neustadt has been appointed the new principal at Herrick Middle School. His appointment was approved by the Board of Education April 14. Neustadt has served as assistant principal at Herrick for three years, and was a math teacher at O'Neill Middle School for nine years prior to that.

Neustadt, a Downers Grove resident and the proud father of two boys, replaces Jason Lynde, who was appointed the new principal at El Sierra School for 2014-15 to replace retiring El Sierra Principal Lucille Carney.

"I am a proud product of District 58 and I am thrilled to now have the opportunity to serve as principal of the middle school where I once attended as a child," Neustadt said. "Building lasting and positive relationships with students and their families is something that I look forward to continuing while serving as the principal of Herrick. I am a firm believer that the principal of a successful school is visible, active, and honest, and this is exactly how I plan to lead Herrick Middle School."
Neustadt completed his undergraduate degree at National Louis University with a major in elementary education, and he has a master's degree in educational leadership from Northern Illinois University.

"We are so privileged to have Matt on our team and assuming this new role for us at Herrick," said District 58 Superintendent Kari Cremascoli, Ph.D.

May 6 parent group meeting will focus on executive functioning skills

Families also invited to May 13 meet and greet  


The next meeting of the District 58 Special Services Parent Group, scheduled for Tuesday, May 6, will feature a presentation about executive functioning skills. Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experiences with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Many students with special needs experience challenges in these areas.

The meeting will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. May 6 at Indian Trail School, 6235 Stonewall Ave., Downers Grove. The speakers will be Indian Trail principal Robin Bruebach, Indian Trail resource teacher Cindy Gates, and Indian Trail sixth grade teacher Janice Conboy. Pizza and pop will be served at 5:15 p.m. Please RSVP to Cindy Gilbert at (630) 719-5824 or


Meet the incoming

Assistant Superintendent for Special Services


Families and staff also are invited to a meet and greet with District 58's incoming Assistant Superintendent for Special Services, Jessica Stewart.   


The meet and greet will take place Tuesday, May 13, in the LRC at Indian Trail School, 6235 Stonewall Ave. She will meet with staff from 3:30-4:15 p.m., and families from 4:30-5:15 p.m. All are welcome to attend. 

Summer school registration open


Enrollment for District 58's Learning in the Summer 2014 program is now open. Regular education summer school classes will take place Monday through Friday, June 16-July 3 from 8:15-11:15 a.m. at Indian Trail School, 6235 Stonewall Ave. Band and orchestra classes will take place from 8 a.m. until noon at O'Neill Middle School, 635 59th St. 


Parents and guardians can register their children and pay for regular education classes online at District 58 parents received an e-mail April 11 containing the registration password. If you need password assistance, please contact Jennie Waldorf at


The program is open to all students enrolled in public, private or parochial school that will be entering kindergarten through eighth grade and reside in the District 58 attendance area. Grade level will be for the 2014-15 school year, with the exception of band and orchestra which is the current year's grade level. Transportation is not provided. 


In addition to math, reading, art, band and orchestra, District 58 also will be offering a Digital Game Design class for third through eighth grade, which will be offered the weeks of July 7 and July 14, running Monday through Thursday. Parents also will be able to register their children online for this year's Chinese Immersion Summer Language program, open to incoming fourth through eighth grade students.


Click here for detailed class descriptions.


The registration deadline is Friday, May 23, and early registration is encouraged. Enrollment will be handled on a first-come first-served basis, and space is limited. Class may be canceled due to insufficient enrollment. In addition to the online registration, hard copies of the registration forms still will be available at each District 58 school. For more information, contact summer school secretary Diane Glowicki at or (630) 719-5850.

Special concert spotlights District 58, District 99 music and arts collaboration

District 58 students played a very special part in this year's annual Community Outreach Concert presented by the Downers Grove North High School Fine Arts Department. The concert, which was performed March 21 and March 27 for students from District 99's feeder schools, was themed around the connections between music and visual art.  


Click here to view the entire concert! The District 58/99 collaboration portion begins at around 50 minutes into the concert.


The grand finale featured the result of a months-long collaboration between District 58 and District 99, an animation project coordinated by District 58 visual arts teacher Jon Belonio.


Downers North Fine Arts Chair Brayer Teague shared with Belonio the track to one of the songs they were working on: "The Cowboys," by John Williams. Belonio played the song for his students, and they used iPad apps such as Brushes and iPad Art Studio to create pieces of art that tied in with the theme.


Once the students had submitted their pieces via e-mail, Belonio wove many of them together into a short film that was projected on a large screen above the stage as the band performed "The Cowboys." Belonio introduced the piece and shared how District 58 students had contributed the artwork. The idea, he said, was to create something similar to Walt Disney's "Fantasia," where the animation accompanies the music. 


"The combination of art and music is a natural fit. So, to have my District 58 students' artwork included with the music of Downers Grove North is exciting! My cartooning ability, together with the artistic talent of my students, plus the live music of Downers Grove North, comes to life and that is a beautiful thing," Belonio wrote.


Another highlight of the concert was a live Skype with Michael Salvatori, the award-winning composer of the soundtracks for numerous video games, including "Halo."

Around the District

Puffer student council to host first-ever Community Art Fair


The Henry Puffer student council will host the school's first-ever Community Art Fair from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at Puffer, 2220 Haddow Ave. The Fair will benefit two charitable organizations, and everyone is invited to attend.


The entire school has been contributing milk jug lids for a large-scale mural since December, and the student council began assembling the mural earlier this month. Art teacher Sarah David sketched the design, and the students added the multi-colored lids with help from student council sponsor Katie Hurckes. The mural will be auctioned off during the art fair. Additionally, each student created pendants that will be on sale at the Fair, along with pieces by the photography and cartooning clubs.


Anyone who is unable to attend but would like to submit a bid for the mural or purchase a pendant or piece of art can e-mail Hurckes at


All funds raised at the Fair will be split between the West Suburban Humane Society and the World Wildlife Fund. 

Kingsley seeking alumni to write letters to teachers


As part of Kingsley School's 50th anniversary celebration, the Teacher Appreciation Week planning committee is seeking thank-you notes from former students to surprise current teachers. If you, one of your children or someone you know attended Kingsley, or perhaps was taught by one of the current teachers when they were at a different school, please consider telling them how much they meant to you! A complete list of Kingsley teachers, staff and administrators can be found at 
Please mail your note to arrive at Kingsley School, 6509 Powell St., Downers Grove, IL, 60516, by April 23, in time for the celebration the week of May 5. Please write: ATTN PTA TWA on the envelope.   


OMS staff share favorite book selections

In honor of World Read Aloud Day, O'Neill Middle School hosted a special assembly March 26 in which staff read aloud passages from books they enjoy.  


Selections came from books such as "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "Ship Breaker," and Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli shared a passage from "Dream Big."  


Click here for more photos from the morning! 

Hillcrest students try their hand at improv 


On March 11, the fourth-grade classes at Hillcrest School participated in various improvisational games led by the dynamic Yale Exit Players, seniors at Yale University who have studied improvisation and take their show "on the road" once a year. Some of the main goals of improv are to help the students validate and negotiate the ideas of others and to be less critical of (and to trust) their own spontaneous ideas. The students were definitely pushed outside of their comfort zone but had fun responding with some very creative solutions to the problems posed! The program was funded by the Hillcrest PTA.


Improvisation activities have incredible value for stimulating problem-solving and enriching the learning environment: Not only do they squelch the critical voices and move "one upsmanship" in a more positive direction, they also encourage the kinds of cooperation needed by students to work productively in groups (ie. literature circles, etc.). The Players also pointed out that these kinds of activities build the necessary creative skills that will be needed by the work force in the 21st century. Many companies in Chicago are now sending their employees to improvisation workshops at the Second City or Improv Olympic to boost creativity and increase receptivity (and thereby decrease negativity) to the ideas of others.


Click here to check out more photos from the day! 


Pierce Downer students design roller coasters 


First through sixth grade students got a chance to try some hands-on engineering at Pierce Downer School on March 25.  Students learned some basics of physics and were given an opportunity to design their own roller coaster.  After creating a design, students were given a six-foot length of 1/2" foam pipe insulation, a marble, a cup and a roll of scotch tape. They were allowed to build their roller coaster anywhere in the room, using any props they wanted.  The goal was to make a coaster with one loop that would land the marble in the cup. All the teams were successful making coasters of different designs and heights.  Once many students finished, they had the opportunity to add pieces or components to the coaster to make it more sophisticated.     


Click here for more photos from the activity!   


Fairmount, Whittier, Highland choirs 'Get in the Game'


The choirs at Fairmount, Whittier and Highland schools recently presented "Get in the Game."  


In the musical, students are nervous because they are getting a new gym teacher and are worried that the gym teacher might think they are not very good at some of the sports. The students learn that it doesn't matter how good you are; what matters is showing respect for the game, yourself, and others, and doing your best is one of the ways to show respect.

Click here for more photos! 
 District 58 artists, educators honored by Junior Woman's Club

Several Herrick and O'Neill students earned awards in the Downers Grove Junior Woman's Club's 2014 Junior High Art Contest, which is open to all seventh and eighth grade students in Downers Grove. In addition, the Club recently honored two District 58 staff members with 2014 Outstanding Teacher Awards. Each year the award recognizes teachers in Downers Grove area schools who are truly special and remarkable in the field of education.   


Junior High Art Contest winners


Work by District 58 students was selected as follows:

  • Best in Show: 7th Grader Brin Driscoll of Herrick Middle School for "Fall Day in the Mountains"
  • 1st Place: 8th Grader Hollis Kerr of Herrick Middle School for "Owl"
  • 2nd Place: 7th Grader Taylor Fingerhut of Herrick Middle School for "Red Roof"
  • Honorable Mentions: 7th Grader Margarita Kuzmanova of O'Neill for "International" and 7th Grader Ellie Maher of Herrick Middle School for "Bike Ride to Gilbert Park

All artists were honored March 25 at the Lincoln Center with friends and family present. Collectively, the winners received $250 on behalf of the Community Bank of Downers Grove and the Downers Grove Junior Woman's Club.

                           Outstanding Teacher Awards


Connor Hopkins, a sixth grader at Pierce Downer School, nominated his teacher, Megan Finnegan (left, with Connor).  


According to Connor, "When I can't understand a new idea, she finds a different book or worksheet so I can learn it. We talk about my problems and fix them so I can have fun in school. She helps me feel better when I have a bad day because she is so nice. I feel proud of myself because I am learning thanks to Ms. Finnegan." 


Maxwell Churma, a second grader at Indian Trail School, nominated his teacher, Karen Ryan. Maxwell says, "Mrs. Ryan is the best teacher ever. Because she is kind caring and I love her. And I enjoy doing math with her. My wish is that all kids could have a teacher like Mrs. Ryan. I will always remember her."


"We are proud to honor these extremely talented teachers who are passionate about education and have positively impacted students in our local schools," said Junior Woman's Club President Joanne Vought. "Part of our Club's mission is to support education, and we were impressed by all the applications from students and the incredible things they said about the teachers here in the community."


Finnegan and Ryan were honored with the Outstanding Teacher Award on March 25 at The Lincoln Center. Students read excerpts from their Outstanding Teacher Award submissions during the ceremony.

Indianapolis classroom benefits from Hillcrest teacher's recognition 


Hillcrest reading specialist Christine LaPointe's recent recognition as a Chicago Blackhawks Top-Shelf Teacher ended up benefiting a classroom garden in Indianapolis.   


LaPointe was selected as the Top-Shelf Teacher for the Chicago Blackhawks' March 21 game versus the Carolina Hurricanes. She was nominated by a parent, and her name was drawn for the award.  


In addition to receiving free tickets to the game, a Blackhawks jersey and recognition during the game, LaPointe also was awarded a $100 gift card to, a website that matches up potential donors with schools in need of funds for projects and purchases. Teachers post project requests on the site, and donors can give any amount to a project that interests them.  


"I chose a classroom in Indianapolis that wants to start a garden because many of the students live in a high poverty community and some students have never seen a garden before," LaPointe said.


According to information on the Top-Shelf Teacher program, "the Chicago Blackhawks and University of Phoenix are working together to recognize and award hard-working teachers that strive to make a positive impact in and around their classrooms."

Board News


Spotlight on our Schools:  

1:1 Program Considerations and Future Expansion 



Dr. Matt Rich, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and James Eichmiller, Director of Innovative Technology and Learning, provided an update on the District's highly successful 1:1 pilot and shared a proposal for expanding the program.


At least two grade levels at each elementary building, a total of approximately 1,500 students, are taking part in the 1:1 pilot program in which they are provided with a device to use throughout the day and take home in the evenings. The District has experienced positive gains in all measures, including student collaboration, ownership and engagement; staff flexibility and choice in meeting learning and curriculum objectives; and student growth from fall to winter on the Measures of Academic Progress tests.


The expansion proposal would increase the number of K-7 students participating in the 1:1 tablet program to 3,600, with an emphasis on the participation of third through seventh grade students. Within the plan, all current grade levels participating at each building, as well as all current participating students, would continue with the program next year. For example, if the third grade at Highland participated in the 1:1 program this year, those third-graders would continue with their devices next year in fourth grade and the incoming third-graders would receive devices next year as well. Additionally, teachers from other grade levels not already scheduled to participate in the 1:1 program next year through this roll-up plan will be able to apply to participate next year through the challenge-by-choice application. If implemented, the expansion proposal will next year provide enough tablet and laptop devices in each school for all students within any of the District 58 schools to be fully 1:1 at any given time, allowing all students and staff access to digital resources.


The proposal also calls for the continuation of the District's highly successful Learning Lab program. The Learning Lab program provides a device for one unit of study to all students in a class that is not participating in the 1:1 program for the year. This allows teachers and students to experience and practice with the 1:1 workflow and teaching/learning within a 1:1 environment, Rich said.


The District is able to continue funding the 1:1 program without expanding the technology/curriculum budgets. The plan calls for purchasing 450 additional devices (about $180,000) out of the remaining 2013-14 budget, and purchasing another 1,650 devices (about $660,000) out of the 2014-15 budget. An additional 1,000 devices ($400,000) would be needed in order to complete the 1:1 program district-wide and provide a device to all K-8 District 58 students.  


Board members said they appreciated all of the information that has been provided to them throughout the 1:1 pilot. Staff will conduct a follow-up survey this spring with the 1:1 students, teachers and parents, and hopes to receive Board approval in May to proceed with the expansion proposal. Professional development opportunities for staff will continue, including real-time, ongoing experiences with the District's instructional coaches. Staff also is looking at hosting parent education opportunities this summer.


Superintendent's Report


Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli welcomed James Eichmiller as Director of Innovative Technology and Learning. She reported that the District has launched online registration, which is much easier than the previous paper registration format. Last week she attended the Education Foundation's annual Distinguished Service Awards, at which a record number of deserving staff were recognized and Highland's Cheryl Varys and Pierce Downer's Megan Finnegan were recognized as the winners. She also reported that Kingsley's Marla Gilbert has been named the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association's Teacher of the Year. Cremascoli also reported that facility improvement work completed over spring break went well. Work has begun on the early replacement of the fire alarm at Herrick, and a fire drill conducted after spring break went smoothly. Lastly, she reported that several items are on the agenda for this evening related to summer facilities work.


The Board of Education also:

  • Was led in the flag salute by representatives from Lester School's student council, who also reported on the organization's activities   
  • Heard the Middle School Scheduling Committee's recommendations for 2014-15, which include adjusting staffing levels to better balance class sizes, reorganizing students to allow for greater flexibility in scheduling, and continuing to monitor the structure to best support individual student needs  
  • Awarded the bid for HVAC life safety work at seven schools including alternates 1 and 2 to Troop Contracting, Inc., for the cost of $1,311,300
  • Awarded the bid for flooring life safety work at Herrick, Highland and Whittier to Vortex Enterprises for the cost of $340,000
  • Approved the one-year contract extension for special education transportation with Septran, Inc., for the 2014-15 school year with a rate increase of 1.7%
  • Authorized District 58's participation in various state and federal grant programs for 2014-15
  • Approved a room rental agreement between District 58 and School Association for Special Education in DuPage County (SASED)
  • Adopted revisions to Policy 5100.2 regarding health, eye and dental examination, immunization, and exclusion of students
  • Adopted revisions to Policy 5111 regarding student promotion
  • Approved an agreement between District 58 and the Village of Downers Grove for repairs and/or maintenance for public improvements (asphalt repairs), subject to review and approval by District 58's attorney
E-flyer logo
Community e-flyers

New community e-flyers have been posted for viewing on the District 58 e-flyer page. Click here to visit the page, or click the links below to view individual flyers.


American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Downers Grove and Woodridge  


Boy Scout Troop 57 annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser -- event April 26  


Chicago Flyers regional track and field/cross country registration  


Center for Talent Development Summer Program   


Chicago TOPSoccer for children with disabilities -- players and volunteers needed    


District 99 summer wrestling camps

Downers Grove Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry Taste of 630 -- event May 1 


Downers Grove Historical Society Founders Day 2014 -- May 3-4 


Downers Grove Junior Woman's Club Spring Spree Shop for Charity to benefit Noah's Hope -- event April 24  


Downers Grove North princess/pirate party -- event May 17  


Downers Grove South seeks distinguished alumni  


Downers Grove South Lacrosse Youth Day -- event May 3   


Downers Grove South presents The Pajama Game -- May 1-4  


Downers Grove Swim and Racquet Club membership information 


Downers Grove Township Community Coalition for Prevention Town Hall discussion: Parties to Prom -- event April 22 


DuPage Children's Museum April events and activities 


Education Foundation of District 58 in partnership with Tivoli Theatre presents Big Head Todd -- event April 25   


El Sierra School rummage sale and spring craft/vendor show -- event May 10 


Foto Houze shop and share/discount days to benefit Education Foundation 


Grove Children's Preschool registration open -- guide to application   


Indian Boundary YMCA school-age after-school program 


Joga Bonito Soccer Club Downers Grove try-out information   


Maple Hill Pool and Recreation summer sign-up event -- April 27  

  District 58 logo
The mission of District 58, in partnership with parents and community, is to challenge and engage each child by providing quality educational programs and support services in a safe, nurturing, and child-centered environment in order to prepare all students to be lifelong learners and contributing members of a global society.  
Communicate 58 is designed to share timely, relevant information about District 58 with parents, community members, and others who are interested in how we are living out our mission. If you have any questions/comments regarding Communicate 58, or have an article/photo idea for the publication, please contact Communications Coordinator Jennifer Waldorf at or (630) 719-5805. 

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Upcoming events
April 18

Good Friday -- no school

April 22

Policy Committee meeting, 7 a.m., ASC

North side fourth grade and chamber strings concert, 7 p.m., Herrick

South side elementary band concert, 7 p.m., O'Neill

April 23

Downers Grove Children's Choir spring concert, 7 p.m., Herrick

April 24

Elementary school open houses

April 25

Fairmount kindergarten roundup, 9 a.m.

Highland kindergarten roundup, 9 a.m.

Entertainment for Education -- an evening with Big Head Todd in partnership with Tivoli Theatre, 8 p.m.

April 28

Board of Education workshop, tentative 2014-15 budget, 7 p.m., Longfellow

North side elementary band concert, 7 p.m., Herrick

April 29

Herrick chamber strings concert, 7 p.m., Herrick

O'Neill chamber strings and fourth grade concert, 7 p.m., O'Neill

May 1

Half-day student attendance day  
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