From the Desk of Superintendent Rusty Ragon

From the Desk of Superintendent Rusty Ragon

Press Release

Manhattan SD #114

November 2014

From the desk of Superintendent Rusty Ragon:

We have one more week of school before the Winter Break. I am in the process of writing a “Happy Holidays’ letter that I will publish on the website as well as send out to our staff and families. My wife Camille and I have been blessed immeasurably in our lives, and coming to Manhattan is one of the greatest blessings we have received. The holidays remind us all to take a moment to reflect on all of the good things in our lives and take note of each and every one of them. While greeting the little ones at Wilson Creek on most mornings, they serve as my reminder, what a blessing it has been for Camille and I to come to Manhattan and for me to serve as your Superintendent. This is something I shall never take for granted.

Over the past month, there have been many “Good News” items coming from all three buildings within the district as well;

  • We have had workshops or conferences attended related to Fundations, a Wilson Reading Program, iPad app trainings shared, and also administration attending many conferences related to Student Growth. Tara Schoppe and Lisa Reh, our school psychologists attended a legal workshop related to 504s and brought back great ideas and discussion related to 504s, their creation and implementation. The ideas they shared have resulted in our 504 paperwork being updated and more comprehensive. Our school social workers (3) and Leann Browne, Wilson Creek SI teacher are attending a workshop, tomorrow Dec. 5th on Motivating and Managing hard to reach, uninterested, and disruptive students. Because our social workers are often the " go to" people sought out by staff to assist in aiding students with these behaviors or creating behavior plans for these same students, it was offered to them. The 3 of them being able to attend a conference together, collaborate and discuss what is presented are a fantastic opportunity for all of them. Leann asked to attend a conference with similar topics being covered and was excited to attend this one along with the social workers. I cannot wait to hear what they have to bring back to the district and share with staff!
  • Preschool screenings in November were successful and again resulted in us being able to identify some of our youngest learners and identify their areas of possible need related to preschool expectations etc. We have referred 3 students total for Early Childhood evaluations and had the same number referred for speech and language evaluations. The next screening will take place on Jan 23rd, 2015.
  • Three students were recognized at our last School Pride Assembly for demonstrating the Character Counts trait of caring. Our social worker, Mrs. Rych, presented awards to Kindergartener, Genna Cogan, 1st grader, Isaac Welsh, and 2nd grader, Makenna Zitkus. The students' teachers spoke about each child and their parents were invited to attend the assembly.
  • On November 18th, our Technology Committee held a "Tech Chat," led by Michele Walker, for all instructional staff. The team shared resources, tips, and demonstrated use of equipment, apps, and web-based instructional resources. The team continues to support teachers as they maintain and implement classroom technology.
  • Science Committee members Karen Wingfield, Lucinda Neighbors, and Stacy Tomasiewicz reported great learning experiences at Lincoln-Way West for the NGSS Workshop with the Lincoln-Way feeder districts. They met with our Science/Social Studies committee to share their experiences and have appreciated the opportunity to meet with our own district K-8 Science Committee. They are eager to return for the 2nd day at Lincoln-Way West on December 8th.
  • On November 20th, Stephanie Chamberlin, Kelly Davis, Kendra Reszel, Mary McHugh and Kristen Cassidy traveled to Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary to visit the 1st grade classroom of Dr. Maria Walther. Dr. Walther is a published author, former Illinois Reading Educator of the Year, and 1st grade teacher. Mrs. Chamberlin and Mrs. Davis saw her present last March at the IRC Conference and added themselves to a waiting list. She got in touch and they were able to spend a full day in the classroom with her and her students. They have reported back to the rest of the Reading Committee and plan to host a morning of sharing for all staff before Winter Break. Teachers appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Renaissance STAR assessments at our training on October 31st. As a formative assessment, understanding the opportunity provided by the data is critical for teachers. We are confident that that more we work with the reports and data, the more we will be able to do with it to improve instruction and increase achievement.
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences went smoothly and were well attended. Thanks to the efforts of Mary Ellen Tolbert, parents completed a newly designed survey to provide feedback about their conferences. Feedback was positive, encouraging, and will be shared with staff to improve and maintain effective conference practices.
  • The 3rd grade music program was once again a great venue for parents and families. Thank you to Mrs. Pacheco for all the hard work and preparation. During the morning performance, Jack MacFarlane’s Great-Great Grandmother was present and was turning 100 years old on November 25th. The whole audience sang happy birthday.
  • The Anna McDonald Student Council will invite local senior citizens for a fun afternoon of Minute to Win it games. The Student Council members at Anna McDonald School look forward to the opportunity to work together and share an afternoon of laughter across the generations.

Date: December 17th Time: 3:30-4:15 Place: Anna McDonald School

  • The Student Council will also visit Silver Cross Hospital on December 18th to do some Holiday caroling.
  • Monday, December 15th to read her first and second book and discuss writing and self-publishing.
  • Jade Phillips -
  • A Snow Fairy in the Windy City
  • A Snow Fairy & The North Pole Pirates
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences went very well. Special thanks to the PTO for providing a wonderful Dinner for the Monday evening session.
  • The MJHS craft club hosted "Senior Citizen Craft Day" in partnership with the Manhattan Park District on December 4. Senior citizens arrived at MJHS before 12:00 noon and created Christmas ornaments with student members of the craft club. Thanks to Mrs. Nass for her coordination efforts.
  • The annual "Giving Tree" fundraiser is continuing through December 5. All funds raised will go toward buying presents for needy children in the Manhattan Area. The Student Council is sponsored by Jan Nass and Andrea Kozlowicz.
  • The holiday edition of "Demon Pride" in under construction and will be ready before winter break. The newsletter features works written and created solely by MJHS students.
  • The newly formed Blue Crew is a group of volunteer students that volunteer their time to promote positive school pride and spirit at various school and community events. December 13, the group will travel to Abe Lincoln Cemetery to place wreaths on the gravesites. Furthermore, members have garnered staff and student support to investigate getting a mascot for home athletic events.
  • The annual Winter Concert featuring the musical talents of the Concert and Symphonic Bands, Madrigal - Lady Demon - Mixed Choirs, and the Chamber and Concert Orchestras was held on Thursday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the gym. An abbreviated, encore presentation for students was held on Friday, December 13 at approximately 8:10 a.m. A special thanks to Mrs. Pacheco and Mrs. Pedziwater for their commitment and hard work. Also a special thanks to the parents for their support of the incredible Performing Arts Program at Manhattan SD 114. Lastly, “Thank You” to all the students who have dedicated themselves to making the music program at MSD 114 the finest in the area!
  • Girls basketball ended last week. 7th grade girls missed advancing to the second round of regional play with a heartbreaking loss on a last second shot. The 8th Grade girls won the first round of regionals, but lost to Kelvin Grove, missing sectionals with a score of 41-38.
  • I wish to thank the Board of Education for approving a new technology lease with Apple. The previous lease expires this year and has provided our students with some great technology. The new lease will be for the same amount, thus not increasing our expenditures, but providing a significant amount of devices, both iPads and laptops for our students at all three buildings. We will also be upgrading our network this summer, providing for a wireless network that is capable of handling all the new devices, at all of our locations. We are moving closer and closer to having a district provided iPad or computer available for all of our students. However, we are making certain the staff are fully trained and able to make the best use of the technology in engaging and instructing our students. All of the staff at Manhattan SD 114 are very excited.
  • The 2015-16 School Calendar has been approved by the Board. Parents and community members can find the school calendar by clicking on the link that has been added to the district homepage.
  • We continue to move forward with the partial restructuring of the current bonds. In working with First Midstate, we have scheduled a January meeting in order to conduct the bond issuance. The bond issuance will be held during the regular meeting of the Board of Education in January. I do not anticipate any surprises at this point that would alter this timeline, however, if anything changes between now and then, I will certainly keep you appraised. By restructuring the debt payments, it will allow the district to maintain the level of instruction, services, and programs that are vital to our student’s education, during a time of decreased State funding of public education.
  • The district enrollment continues to hold increase slightly. The total enrollment is currently 1370, up 1 additional student from last month. The increase is 15 students higher than the beginning of last year. Looking ahead to next year, if the new Kindergarten class is 150 students, then the district enrollment could climb as high as another 15-20 students. This does not account for any new families moving into the district. A large portion of the increase would be due to the smallest class in the district (8th grade) graduating and being replaced by 150 new students. MSD114 could reach 1400 students in 2015-16. Keeping this in mind, the Board of Education and I will begin discussing preliminary plans for a future school building. The process of a new school building is something that takes a good deal of planning, State approval for special bonding, and the approval of the local community and its voters. I will certainly be writing more on this subject in the coming months.

We are very proud of the accomplishments of our students at Manhattan School District #114. They work very hard in the classroom, on the practice fields and courts, in the music programs, and in giving back to the communities in the form of service. To be sure our students are successful, we have an incredible staff made up of dedicated Principals, Teachers, and Support Personnel, who commit themselves to helping our students on a daily basis. I am very proud to be able to work along side each and every one of them, and to be able to work with a Board of Education that strongly support our schools.


Rusty Ragon

Your Superintendent of Schools