Superintendent's Column

Unique Accomplishments for an Exceptional District

I  just attended our Music Department’s annual honors recital, where our top student-musicians performed for our school after completing a competitive audition. I am always amazed at the talents of our young people. While other districts may be cutting back on fine arts education, our district is committed to giving these artists the opportunities and resources they need to continue to grow their skills. 

There are plenty of other things to be proud about these days at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. As you can read below, our school was recently granted IB World School status by the International Baccalaureate Organization. This designation culminates a rigorous, multi-year application process, led by our principal, curriculum director, department chairs and teachers who spent countless hours in training and curriculum development to make this happen. Practically speaking, this new status means that juniors in our Gifted Academy will begin taking IB classes this coming fall, offering them a greater academic challenge and the ability to stand out when applying to highly competitive colleges. The bigger picture shows that it should be a great draw for the community, as no other public high school in Chicago’s suburbs can claim IB World status. 

The outstanding practices of our Board of Education, our Business Manager Ken Parchem and staff have allowed H-F to complete another remarkable achievement this spring: our district received a AAA bond rating by Standard & Poor’s. It is the first time the district was awarded this rating in its 54 years, placing it among the most elite school districts in the nation, based upon our financial profile. This rating allows the district to get the lowest competitive interest rates for bond financing, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. To achieve the top rating, the district worked for years towards strong financial planning, being good stewards of taxpayers’ money and having fiscal discipline.

Don’t only take my word for how exceptional our school district is: come out and experience H-F for yourself this spring. Consult the community calendar on page 3, and attend at least one must-see event this month. There are two unique events coming soon — our May 8th Viking Broadcasting Center Open House and our May 19th Sculpture Installation — and plenty of classic H-F events to choose from, such as our annual Red & White Choral Concert on May 21 and the Orchestra Senior Conductors’ Concert on May 23.

Viking Connection, Spring 2013

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A Season of Gratitude

I  hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. This time of year reminds us of how grateful we should always be for the people and things in our life. I am most grateful for our wonderful school district and our phenomenal community. Our school district strives to expect the best of its students and is able to do so through the support of the greater H-F community. Our community’s dedication to excellent educational opportunities for its young people is certainly something for which we can all be grateful.
  I hope you can take a moment during the holidays this season to enjoy this edition of The Viking Connection and get caught up on the many wonderful activities and programs that have taken place — and are currently under way — at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
  In this issue you will find a number of outstanding stories that we are pleased to bring to you. Few school districts are as proud of their students and staff as we are here at Homewood-Flossmoor. In October, while attending the Headmasters Association’s annual conference in Boston, I had the pleasure to meet with several of our recent H-F graduates who are now attending Harvard University and Harvard Law School. It was inspiring to see how far their Homewood-Flossmoor education has taken them already. You can read more about our Boston alumni reception on page 6.
  Also in October, I had the pleasure of co-chairing the College Board’s National Forum, where more than 2,000 educators from across the country met to discuss the most pressing issues and best practices related to equity and access to education at universities, community colleges and Kindergarten-Grade 12 schooling. H-F administrators and staff continue to show their leadership in the field of teaching and learning as presenters nationally and throughout the Midwest. On page 3 of this issue, you will find a list of the administrators and staff who have recently been in the national and regional spotlight for education.
  Early in November, we hosted a visiting team from the International Baccalaureate® organization. Homewood-Flossmoor High School is currently an IB Diploma Programme® Candidate School. As you can see, we continue to provide tailored programming for each of our students at all levels. On page 5, you will read about several of the impressive academic programs that we have recently made available to our students.
  I hope that you will have a wonderful holiday season and that your new year will be off to a bright start.
      

— Viking Connection, Winter 2012/13

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Strategic Facilities Planning Offers Vision for the Future

 

After the hottest summer on record, our students and staff are back in classes for the school year. As we bid summer farewell, we are always excited about the possibilities that a new school year brings. 
  Nearly 10 years ago, we began to implement our strategic facilities plan, 
designed to replace aging facilities and make capital improvements where needed. Since then, a number of key renovations have occurred at a combined cost of nearly $20 million: 
  • Renovation of the Mall Auditorium
  • Refitting piping and renovation of restrooms in G Building
  • Addition of state-of-the-art science labs to the South and North Buildings
  • A working greenhouse was built, replacing the original greenhouse
  • Original 50-year-old boilers were replaced in the South Building
  • H-F Stadium driveway and student-access paths received complete makeovers
  • H-F Stadium also received new turf, track, lights and expanded seating
  • District offices were redesigned
  • Viking TV & Radio stations were rebuilt in E Building
  These are but a few of the many facility improvements we have made in recent years. Our Board of Education and administrators are committed to providing the best possible opportunities and resources available to students, staff, parents and the greater H-F community that we possibly can, while remaining fiscally responsible.
  As the facilities and infrastructure at our 53-year-old school district age and become outdated, we will continue to make capital improvements within our means to meet the expectations required of providing a first-class educational experience at Homewood-Flossmoor. Since 2005, H-F has annually received the highest financial profile score of "financial recognition" from the Illinois State Board of Education and was awarded a perfect 4.0 score in 2012. In addition, we have attained a AA+ rating from Standard & Poors. We remain committed to keeping our district fiscally sound now and well into the future; we accept the charge and responsibility of maintaining these accomplished ratings. 
  The district has been preparing for the past several years to implement the next phase of its strategic facilities plan, focused on the North Building. Highlights of the project include renovating the North Building’s main entrance, making it more user accessible and ADA compliant; and rebuilding the H-F Fieldhouse. This heavily used facility will be expanded to allow for additional and more convenient programming opportunities for our students and athletes for the next 50 years. Look for more details on this project in future issues of the Viking Connection, and, more immediately, on our website: 
www.hfhighschool.org.       
 
                           — Viking Connection, Fall 2012
 
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Communication is Key: New Website to Launch in Fall

   This school year was again a great success. Thank you for your support as parents and the community for helping us continue our strong tradition of excellence. As a result of our collective efforts, H-F was again ranked one of the best public schools in the nation by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. Our student-achievement indicators — such as graduation rate, students attending highly selective colleges, Advanced Placement (A.P.) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programming, and ACT — continue to climb to new heights. Our latest ACT composite score (2011) was 21.5, one of our best in recent years. I would like to thank all of our students whose individual and group accomplishments have represented our district well in the classroom. Several more of our academic accomplishments are covered in this issue of the Viking Connection.

  Our Fine Arts students continued to provide our community and the state with a level of performance rarely seen outside of the professional arena. Our Contest Play – Dream of the Burning Boy — finished 2nd in State and Group Interpretation performance – Mother Hicks — finished 3rd. On page 3, you can read more about an H-F theatre alumnus, Charlie Lubeck, who was recently featured on Oxygen’s The Glee Project.

  Our students participating in activities and on athletic fields placed nationally and at the state level. In Illinois, we had five conference champions, four regional championship teams, two sectional champs and our football team reached the Elite 8. We also had two Special Olympics Basketball teams that earned 1st and 2nd place awards at the State Championship! On the national and international scene, our Debate, Economics and DECA teams scored big; please see pages 4 and 5 for details.

  One of our challenges, however, is getting this good news out to you in our community on a consistent basis. This fall we will be launching a new website at our current URL — www.hfhighschool.org — designed to serve that purpose. The site will include interactive features, including RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, which will allow you to subscribe to the information that interests you most via email alerts. An internet-based content-management system will allow our staff to easily and frequently update news, photos and events. A custom mobile site will allow you to view H-F news on the go via your smart phone, iPod or tablet. Please log on this fall to stay informed!


  Finally, I’d like to invite our alumni back this summer for a complimentary social gathering on Thursday, July 19, at Flossmoor Country Club. Join us to reconnect; please see complete details on page 6. Have a great summer!
 

 — Viking Connection, Summer 2012

 

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Heading in the Right Direction

  Later this spring our seniors will soon become our 52nd class of graduates. I am confident that after more than five decades Homewood-Flossmoor is still headed in the right direction, as these students have successfully prepared themselves for college and/or the workforce. In this newsletter, you will read about students, faculty and alumni who have become guiding lights for others to follow as they embark on their own personal journey to success. Though the road is sometime froth with obstacles and potholes, we are confident that our past experience has prepared us with the necessary tools to navigate and traverse the challenges facing education today.

  Case in point: in spite of the state of Illinois’ financial situation, District 233’s finances continue to be solid. In fact, Homewood-Flossmoor received its first perfect 4.0 financial rating by the Illinois Department of Education last month. This means that our district continues to be fiscally responsible, and is able to maintain itself with support provided by our local community, something to which many Illinois school districts aspire.

  It also means we are able to serve our students at the highest level possible with talented teachers, support systems and state-of-the-art facilities. As other school districts are forced to cut back, H-F is able to keep improving to meet the high expectations of our community. Therefore, we constantly look for ways within our means to continue to make improvements academically by hiring and maintaining the highest-quality staff possible. We are committed to ensuring our students and staff have the facilities and resources required of a nationally recognized high school.    

  Where our academics really shine is when our students leave us to become successful college students and adults. Incredibly, H-F will have four alumni enrolled at Harvard University next year: Julia Carvalho, Manuel Morone, Raven Fisher and Ciara Atkins. As you may know, admission to Harvard is unbelievably competitive: more than 34,000 students apply annually for approximately 2,000 undergraduate openings. Recently, our curriculum has expanded with the addition of International Baccalaureate programing. Thus, not only are we preparing our students for the rigors of this century, but we are also preparing them for working and living in a global society.

  Finally, thank you to our 2012 retirees, who have helped to guide thousands of our students throughout the years: Stacey Rubin, Joe Skowronski, Dr. Michael Rogers, Bruce Bergren, Rich Lucchetti, Mike Mikos, John Schwaller, Rosanne Nohava, Lynda Sinnokrak and Pam Stupp. You can read more about them and their H-F experiences in this newsletter.

— Viking Connection, Spring 2012

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Measuring Our Success Beyond the Numbers

   We live in an era of high-stakes testing, where some believe that you are defined solely by your performance on one test. While there are media outlets that may continue to rank schools based on a single indicator without doing further research, we believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When you look at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in its totality, we want you to understand what others may not take time to see: the complete educational package we afford students through academics, athletics, activities, fine arts and a highly trained, professional staff. Measuring success using high-stakes exams in addition to these components define a comprehensive, highly successful high school. How do we measure our success? We look at several elements:

  • Our increasing ACT scores (the highest in the past decade)
  • Our five-year positive trend on the H-F ECRA (our internal standardized assessment)
  • Our increasing number of students performing at grade level
  • Our high number of college-ready seniors and our high graduation rate
  • Our alumni who attend highly selective universities all over the country and who make an impact all over the world
  • Our great number of honor-roll students
  • Our award-winning creative and academic programs
  • Our excellent, dedicated staff
  • Our impressive number of quality sports & activities

  Most importantly, while they are here, our students experience more academic growth than state and national averages. We are successfully using data to help identify programs and courses that are beneficial to each and every Viking. From enrichment programs for academically talented students to mentoring programs and free tutoring opportunities for students at every level, we serve all students well. Our students are growing as much as — if not more than — any other time in our school’s history.

  There is no one element to our success. Academic excellence is achieved by a combination of resources, support and hard work from everyone involved. Most importantly, it is fueled by a common goal of always “Expecting the Best.”

— Viking Connection, Winter 2011/12