Communicate 58
Latest news from Downers Grove Grade School District 58
Vol. 6 Issue 4
Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014
Halloween fun in District 58!


The cold weather didn't deter District 58 kids from donning their creative Halloween costumes and celebrating on Friday, Oct. 31, including these Whittier students pictured above! View photos of the Halloween festivities in our photo gallery here!

District excels on state assessments

District 58 students once again showed their academic strength on this year's Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), scoring well above state average on all tests and demonstrating higher than average growth. They achieved the same successes as last year, despite the increased rigor of this year's exam.

"Last year, only 20 percent of the ISAT met Common Core Standards. This year, the entire test met the higher standards of the Common Core," said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Matt Rich. "While the test gets more and more challenging, our students continue to meet and exceed expectations. This means our students are performing better and better each year, and are growing in response to even greater expectations in academic rigor and 21st Century Learning."

Overall, 77 percent of District 58 students met or exceeded this year's more rigorous

ISAT exam. Statewide, 59 percent of students met or exceeded the standards. The report cards also included a growth analysis, which shows how much schools and districts help their students learn. District 58 outpaced the state average by 5 points in Reading and 4 points in Math.

Students also excelled on other district-administered assessments, including the

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and the curriculum-based measurements of AIMSweb. District 58 also performed exceptionally well on the new 5Essentials Survey, which predicts school success based on performance in five essential categories.


"I am very happy to see District 58 once again excelling on all exams," said Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli. "These assessments tell one piece of District 58's success story. District 58's journey of learning and discovery encompasses excellence in all areas, including academics, social-emotional skills, digital citizenship and the fine arts, and this is just one small snapshot of our students' daily successes and accomplishments throughout our district."


The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released District 58's ISAT scores, as well as school report cards, on Friday, Oct. 31. 


View the detailed results and report cards at The district's report cards are also available for review directly on our website at 


Learn more about District 58's exceptional results here.

Featured video:
Applied technology at Herrick blasts off


Applied technology blasts off at Herrick
Herrick teacher Mr. Collin Konny inspires his students to take interest in science, technology, engineering and math. This October, his classes built - and tested - their own paper rockets. This video shows what happens!

A group of eighth graders circled around applied technology teacher Mr. Collin Konny with a look of curiosity mixed with some skepticism. Could Mr. Konny really launch a paper rocket using a bike pump and a sprinkler valve? The short answer: yes.

"Boom!" went the rocket, as it launched more than four stories into the air. "Whoa!!!!" yelled the students, as several chased after it.

Mr. Konny teaches science, social studies and applied technology at Herrick Middle School. District 58's applied technology classes give students the unique opportunity to interactively learn science, technology, engineering and math skills, also called STEM skills. The class gives students hands-on assignments, hoping to inspire a lifelong interest in a STEM field.


"I like to build things because I love technology," said student Anaya Rowe.

This October, Mr. Konny's class applied lessons in drag, gravity and thrust to build their own paper rockets.

On a drizzly afternoon, the group returned outside to test their paper rockets.  The rockets came in all colors, shapes and sizes. One particularly creative rocket even resembled a bat! Some rockets traveled far and others flew high. And, the bat rocket was fun to watch.

No matter how far their rockets flew, the experiment helped everyone in Mr. Konny's class learn a little bit more about applied technology and even got many students interested in learning more.

"I think I'd like to take a class like this in high school," said student Mia Marconi.

"Yeah, that'd be fun," student Lily Nowka agreed.


View more photos from Mr. Konny's applied technology class here.

New children's book captures 
1950s-era Downers Grove
Book's author and father visit District 58

Author Kristin Levine and her father, Tom Walker, pose with a copy of Levine's novel, "Paper Cowboy." The book is loosely-based on Walker's childhood in Downers Grove.

When Puffer LRC Director Gwen Box first read "Paper Cowboy," she could easily imagine the book's setting; the neighborhood, parks and theater all seemed so real.

But, that's because it was very real.

Kristin Levine's newly-published children's novel, "Paper Cowboy," takes place in 1950s-era Downers Grove. The book is loosely based on Levine's father's childhood. He grew up mere blocks from Box's north Downers Grove home, near Fairview and Ogden.

Last week, Levine and her father, Tom Walker, visited several District 58 schools. Levine talked about writing inspirations, her books and yesteryear Downers Grove.

"It was exciting to meet Kristin and hear her story," Box said. "It was extra special knowing that her book took place in Downers Grove. It was so cool to read it and recognize the places that the characters visited."

"Paper Cowboy" tells the story of Tommy, a 12-year-old bully who lives in a poor part of town and takes over his sister's paper route after she's badly burned in an accident. The things he notices on the paper route lead him to suspect a neighbor of Communism.

While the Communism part of the story is fiction, the "real" Tom Walker was a bit of a bully as a child, and he did take over his sister's paper route when she was injured.  
"I'm honored that my daughter would write about me. My childhood was not all happy; there was some dysfunction in my family. And I'm embarrassed that I was a bully," Walker said. "But, like a good, old movie, the book has a moral, and I think it offers a lot of life lessons that kids can learn from."

Walker said he hopes the book will teach kids compassion and discourage them from being bullies - or a bully's sidekick.

"A bully needs an audience, so I hope kids will think twice before encouraging a bully," he said."

While Walker's childhood in Downers Grove was rough, he said it was still enlightening.

"Downers Grove in the 1950s was a rich time for kids. We had a lot of freedom. We used to play by ourselves in the forest preserve (Lyman Woods) and skated at Prince Pond. I even fell through the ice once!" he said. "There was a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities in my neighborhood, which was great to have growing up. Downers Grove was an idyllic place to live."

Click here to view more photos from their visit. 


Want to learn more about Levine's visit? Read her Q&A session with District 58 kids here.

Parents invited to digital citizenship workshop Nov. 17

Parents of fifth-through-eighth graders are invited to a middle school digital citizenship workshop on Monday, Nov. 17 from 7-8 p.m. at Herrick Middle School, 4435 Middaugh Ave.

This free event, called " Add a description Digital Citizenship: Making Safe, Respectful and Responsible Choices in a 'Digital World,'" will help parents better understand current digital trends among middle-schoolers and highlight ways parents can better monitor their child's digital activity. The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 sponsors the event.


While the event is free, there is a 300-person capacity and registration is required. Visit to register.


The event will feature guest speaker Melissa Hemzacek, MSW, an Internet safety specialist in the Illinois Attorney General's Office - High Tech Crimes Bureau.


Topics to be discussed include:


* Personal responsibility

* Netiquette

* Taking, posting, and/or tagging photos of others

* Inappropriate images

* Cyberbullying and the bystander


Following her presentation, Hemzacek will hold a Q&A session with parents.


For more information on digital citizenship, please visit or

School spotlight
Partners in Art spurs creativity at Hillcrest


Sixth graders created art in the style of Gustav Klimt during their October Partners in Art session.
The artists painted intricate golden and silver swirls; images evoking the Roaring Twenties. The gilded designs held a certain uniqueness, clouded with symbolism. Some drawings told a story of sorts, others were more abstract. One element united all of the artists' work: they drew inspiration from Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss."

The artists behind these unique drawings were none other than Hillcrest sixth graders, participating in the first Partners in Art session of the school year.

Partners in Art is a special Hillcrest PTA art appreciation program that started 15 years ago, though it's evolved tremendously since then. Six times each year, parent volunteers introduce a new artist to each grade. They briefly present on the artist's life, work and inspirations, and then invite the students to create their own artwork in the featured artist's style.

"The kids will learn about 42 different artists by the time they leave Hillcrest," said Partners in Art Co-Chair Gina Stark. "And all of our featured artists have artwork displayed at the Art Institute."
A sixth grader does a nice job creating intricate patterns in her artwork.
Stark added that they sometimes take fifth-graders on a docent-led field trip to the Art Institute, so they can see their favorite artists' work in person.

"The docents are always very impressed with the depth of knowledge our kids have about the artists," Stark said.

On this particular day, Stark is helping the sixth graders learn about Gustav Klimt and kindergartners discover Vincent Van Gogh.

"Van Gogh is a good introductory artist for the little ones, while Klimt delves into more complex, emotional aesthetics, which the older students can comprehend," Stark said.
Gina Stark, co-chair of Partners in Art, helps kindergartners with their Van Gogh-inspired paintings.
She added that Partners in Art complements Hillcrest's biweekly traditional art classes. When possible, the program's topic connects with something students are learning. Think Pablo Picasso and geometry. Greek urns and Greek history.

Throughout their years, the students study an incredible variety of styles, mediums and stories: Frank Lloyd Wright to surrealism; Monet and impressionism; folk art; Native American art; Ansel Adams and photography; Andy Warhol.

Today, the kids are working hard to emulate Klimt's 1908 masterpiece, "The Kiss," a unique image that used oil and gold leaf on canvas.

"Klimt used lots of patterns, geometric swirls and symbolism," said the program's other co-chair, Maria Brummel. "We tried to keep our presentation on Klimt short to give the kids more time to create. They learn more by creating in the style of the artist."
A kindergarten girl shows off her sunflower painting.

As the sixth graders put the finishing touches on their designs, many shared their excitement for the Partners in Art program. Words like, "awesome," "so much fun," and "I love art!" filled the classroom.

Meanwhile, down the hall, a new crop of artists-to-be participated in their first Partners in Art program. Hillcrest kindergartners viewed a Prezi presentation on Vincent Van Gogh and then began their own renditions of his painting, "Sunflowers."

Daniella Emanuele, mother of a kindergartner, is a first-time Partners in Art volunteer.

"I'm really impressed," she said. "The Van Gogh presentation got them asking questions and thinking about art. It was nice!"

Stark said the Partners in Art program wouldn't be possible without the support of Hillcrest School and District 58.

"It's a beautiful partnership," she commented.

View more photos from Partners in Art!


Third year in a row! Puffer fifth-grader Gabriella Frank recognized for charity


Gabriella Frank has received numerous recognitions for her charity project, which collects and donates books and school supplies to low-income children in Jamaica.


The Kohls' Kids Who Care program selected Gabriella Frank, a fifth grade Puffer student, as the local winner of its Kids Who Care scholarship contest. This is the third consecutive year Gabriella received this honor. 


Gabriella is known for her empathy and dedication to service. In first grade, she started a program that collects and donates books and school supplies to low-income schools in the Caribbean. 

"This summer, she donated her 750th book to the Sandals Foundation for the local low-income early childhood schools," said Heather Frank, Gabriella's mother. "She has donated over 1,000 miscellaneous school supplies, consisting of pens, pencils, markers, crayons and folders."

To show appreciation, Jamaica's Minister of Education wrote a thank you letter to Gabriella, and the Jamaican Observer newspaper once featured Gabriella's project on the front page.

Gabriella holds up some of the books she's recently collected through her charity.

Gabriella asks friends and family members to donate gently used paperback books. Her home has a holding area for books and supplies.

"I shop school supply sales in the summer with my mom," Gabriella said. "I use my own money to buy supplies."

A family vacation to Jamaica inspired Gabriella to start her charitable project. 

"I first learned about the need for books and supplies in Jamaica when I visited a preschool during a family trip. The students had to share pencils, and the classrooms didn't have much," she said.

Gabriella has since visited Jamaica three times and Turks & Caicos three times, each trip arriving in a vehicle packed with books and school supplies to donate.

"I am motivated to do charity projects because I like helping people," Gabriella said. "I think they are important because people in need, need things to help survive and to learn skills."

This past summer, Gabriella was also named a top 10 national finalist in the Auntie Anne's Mini Acts Mighty Impact contest.

In addition to the school supply and book program, Gabriella is active in several local charity projects. Each month, she tries to donate either 100 items or $100 worth of items to local organizations, including the West Suburban Humane Society, Sharing Connections and a local food pantry.

In her free time, Gabriella enjoys trampolining/tumbling, playing the violin and traveling with family.

Want to donate books or supplies to Gabriella's charity project? Email Megan Hewitt, community relations coordinator, at to get connected. 

Whittier students Addie and Cole meet President Obama near Air Force One

Whittier students Addie and Cole Potter had the incredible opportunity to meet and shake hands with President Barack Obama on the Air Force One landing last week. Addie, third grade, and Cole, kindergarten, enjoyed meeting the president in person!


"The manager of the cross country/track team at the University of Minnesota while I was there is now in charge of a lot of President Obama's events. So he got us into the Air Force One landing and greeting," said Corrine Potter, Addie and Cole's mother. "We got lucky in getting a front row spot and that he took the time to personally greetus! It was amazing!"



Congratulations Herrick seventh grade boys' cross country team!

Herrick's seventh grade boys' cross country team won the conference championship. This is the first time they've achieved this since 2001 (before some of the boys were even born!) Congratulations!

Check out District 58's Photos and Stories Web page later this week for a recap on both Herrick and O'Neill's cross country seasons.
Scholastic, Newell Rubbermaid donate Reading Oasis to El Sierra

Reading Nook El Sierra
Scholastic and Newell Rubbermaid built the new El Sierra Reading Oasis in one day! This video shows highlights of the process. The final oasis features more than 1,200 books in a comfortable setting!

El Sierra students and staff gathered in the gym on the morning of Oct. 28 for a special announcement -- Scholastic and Newell Rubbermaid are donating a Reading Oasis to their school! 

"The El Sierra Reading Oasis will feature more than 1,200 books, complete with book shelves, a stereo listening center and more," said Sharon Looby, field service rep with Scholastic. "The Oasis will provide a comfortable setting for kids to enjoy a book."

Scholastic and Newell Rubbermaid worked hard all day Oct. 28 to complete construction on the Reading Oasis.

During the assembly, Principal Jason Lynde asked the kids if they liked to read, and nearly every hand went up! Ms. Megan DuPass then shared why reading is fun and important, quoting many favorite children's authors, such as Roald Dahl and Diane Duane. Other El Sierra teachers then joined in and shared why they're happy they can read.

Thank you, Scholastic and Newell Rubbermaid, for your generosity!

New STEM DuPage website highlights O'Neill



The DuPage Regional Office of Education just launched  STEM DuPage, a new website that promotes the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and math. Visit their new website  and you might see some familiar faces - O'Neill Middle School is the featured school! 


Grove Preschool explores nature at Green Earth Institute

GroveFieldTrip2 District 58 preschoolers got a taste of life on a farm this October - literally. The kids took a field trip to the Green Earth Institute in Naperville, where they learned about farming and sampled vegetables directly from the field.

"The children were able to eat broccoli out of the field, taste mint, even chocolate mint!!!" said Nancy Hildreth, a Grove early childhood teacher. "Each child planted chives and put it in a bag that they decorate."


The Green Earth Institute is an organic farm with vegetable farm fields, butterfly gardens, children's vegetable gardens, woods, wetlands and prairies. While not your traditional farm - there are no animals here! - the farm offers a unique nature education experience for kids.


"We were wondering how the children and parents would react to a farm without a cow or a pig, but the reviews were excellent," Hildreth said.  


Learn more about the Green Earth Institute at


View more photos from the field trip.

Morton Arboretum selects Herrick for its pilot field trip program









Photo credit: Stacey Probert via Twitter

The Morton Arboretum selected Herrick Middle School to participate in its new pilot field trip program.


Herrick science teacher Jill Henry's seventh graders analyzed the arboretum's aquatic ecosystem to determine if it was healthy.


"We were the first group to go on the field trip, and I worked closely with the arboretum to align the field trip with what we were learning in class," Henry said. "The field trip integrated the Next Generation Science Standards, which are the new Illinois learning standards in science."


Students worked in the arboretum's lab testing water quality for pH, dissolved oxygen, phosphates and nitrates. They also used microscopes attached to their iPad camera to photograph macroinvertebrates in the water. After analyzing the data, the students concluded that the ecosystem was healthy.


Henry said the students enjoyed the opportunity to study the arboretum's ecosystem.


"One student told me, 'I now appreciate the aquatic ecosystem more by going on this field trip,'" Henry said.

Board news: Curriculum Workshop report

Board of Education members enjoyed an opportunity to learn about Downers Grove Grade School District 58's school successes, curriculum achievements, school improvement plans, assessments and more during a Curriculum Workshop held Monday, Oct. 27 at Longfellow Center.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Matt Rich began the workshop citing some of the District's recent curriculum and instruction enhancements, including the enhanced resources for Math and English Language Arts curricula, its new kindergarten/first grade biliteracy program and its digital citizenship curriculum focus, among many others.

"We continue to review a variety of programs in our district. We are proud to be initiating our Middle School Gifted Language Arts, new elementary Gifted program and K-1 Biliteracy program this year along with many enhancements to our instructional resources district-wide," Dr. Rich said.


Add a description
Board members and administrators listen to Carrie Murphy, Puffer kindergarten teacher, explain the KIDS assessment instructions.

Dr. Rich introduced the Board to two new state-required assessments: the Kindergarten Individual Developmental Survey (KIDS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessment.

Board members and district administrators gathered in the Longfellow Center's 21st Century Classroom to take a mock KIDS assessment. Henry Puffer kindergarten teacher Carrie Murphy evaluated the group on their pattern, sorting and literacy skills. The KIDS assessment requires teachers to assess kindergartners on about 50 skill areas.

Also new this school year, the PARCC will replace the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Unlike the ISAT, the PARCC will be administered electronically. Board members were invited to take a short practice PARCC exam to familiarize themselves with the new format.

"Taking mini KIDS and PARCC assessments gave us a glimpse into what our students and teachers experience during testing," said Board President Sallie Lupescu. "We appreciated the hands-on opportunity to learn more about these new assessments."

The Board invited the District's five instructional coaches to share their experiences coaching, collaborating and consulting with teachers throughout District 58.  Their services throughout the district help to provide ongoing professional development and growth opportunities for the district's teachers.

Next, Board members and district administrators rotated among groups of principals and teachers, getting a more detailed look at individual school's recent successes, school improvement plans and professional development. Several principals shared common success story themes: recent Social and Emotional Learning efforts; differentiated and individualized learning for students; cross-grade level learning; teacher collaboration; and common planning time. The Board of Education members also learned about teacher-led professional development including the SAMRi Teacher Camp and Twitter Thursday.

"I love sharing and celebrating the ongoing improvement efforts of our schools, principals and staff.  Building Leadership Teams across the district have not only established goals for their schools, but have already made considerable progress toward accomplishing these goals," said Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli. "I'm very proud of the their dedication to District 58 students."

Perhaps the most talked about recent success was the teacher workday on Monday, Oct. 13. While the kids were off for Columbus Day, teachers were hard at work in their schools planning, collaborating and brainstorming ideas to continue challenging students and reaching for even greater successes within their classrooms. Several principals noticed how teachers used the day to plan and implement innovative classroom ideas -- ideas they previously lacked the time to initiate.

"Teachers aren't going to try something if they're not confident it will be worthwhile with kids," said Pierce Downer Principal Justin Sisul. "I saw many teachers turn their ideas into something tangible in their classroom, thanks to that teacher workday. This wasn't surprising to me, but affirming. If we give our professionals this work time, they'll turn it into something great."  

These ideas and plans were already being put into action in the days that immediately followed Columbus Day.  

Dr. Rich concluded the Curriculum Workshop providing an overview of the District's progress on its Rising Star Continuous Improvement Plan, including updates on Federal Title 1 and Title 2 grants.

To view Dr. Rich's entire Curriculum Workshop presentation, please visit

Community e-flyers
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  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 Community Relations Coordinator Megan Hewitt at or 630-719-5805. 
In this issue
Halloween fun in District 58!
District excels on state assessments
Featured video: Applied technology at Herrick blasts off
New children's book captures 1950s-era Downers Grove
Parents invited to digital citizenship workshop Nov. 17
Partners in Art spurs creativity at Hillcrest
Third year in a row! Puffer fifth-grader Gabriella Frank recognized for charity
Whittier students Addie and Cole meet President Obama near Air Force One
Congratulations Herrick seventh grade boys' cross country team!
Scholastic, Newell Rubbermaid donate Reading Oasis to El Sierra
New STEM DuPage website highlights O'Neill
Grove Preschool explores nature at Green Earth Institute
Morton Arboretum selects Herrick for its pilot field trip program.
Board news: Curriculum Workshop
Community e-flyers
District 58 on social media

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Looking ahead

Monday, Nov. 10

- No school
- Teacher Institute Day
- Board of Education meeting, 7 p.m., at Longfellow

Tuesday, Nov. 11
- No school
- Veterans Day

Wednesday, Nov. 12
- Technology Support Session, 6:30 p.m., Longfellow
- Learning, Assessment & Reporting Overview, 7:30 p.m., Longfellow

Thursday, Nov. 13
- BOE Coffee with staff at O'Neill, 7:30 a.m., O'Neill

Monday, Nov. 17
- Digital Citizenship Workshop, 7 p.m., Herrick

Nov. 19-20
- Parent-teacher conferences

View the entire 2014-2015 calendar.

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