January 6, 2014

Dear Laraway and Oak Valley Families:

Happy New Year to the families and friends of the Laraway School district!  As we return to school after the long winter break our teachers and staff are ready to hit the ground running and deliver some quality instruction to your children.  We have spent much of the last year and a half dedicated to examining the new Common Core State Standards and working to put these standards into practice in the classroom.  Our staff has focused on developing new curriculum maps for all of our subject areas so that we have a clear vision as a district of exactly what we are teaching, when we are teaching it and why we are teaching.  Our ultimate goal as a staff is to be a partner with you and your child in the education process.  Redesign of our curriculum maps is just one of the first steps that we are taking to improve upon what we are doing here at Laraway and Oak Valley School.

When our students return to school this week we will begin the month of January with a PBIS kickoff.  PBIS is the behavioral model that we follow here at Laraway and Oak Valley School.  Our students are constantly reminded to follow the expectations of being Respectful to Self, Others, Learning and Environment.  We will hold an assembly at both schools during the first week of January to give our students a gentle reminder about our behavioral expectations.  Look for your child to come home with a Matrix of Expectations during the first week of January.  This matrix sets out expectations throughout the school and in turn with be posted throughout both buildings as a visual reminder to students.  We continue to stress the importance of treating each other respectfully and our staff works daily on issues pertaining to peer conflict and student to student bullying.   The role of the school Social Worker this year has been important to this very important concern in all schools throughout the nation.

In addition to focusing on our students’ emotional and social well being we continue to stress school safety.  We have made and continue to make safety upgrades to our camera system, our main office security at both Laraway and Oak Valley Schools.  As you may know, we now require all visitors to our schools to provide a photo I.D. when entering our school as well as when you are picking up a student early from school.  Our Hall Pass system allows us to ensure that anyone in our school is not in any way a threat to our students and staff.  We are also in the process of upgrading our camera systems in both buildings and securing the main office at Oak Valley.  Please excuse our construction if you visit us at Oak Valley and rest assured that any changes made to how you check in and check out your child from school are to ensure the safety and security of all our students and staff.

Knowing that we are in a safe school setting allows our teachers and staff to educate your child and focus on the academic side of our roles.  We have made some strides this year but we have a long way to go to make you proud of our academic achievements.  The changes that we have made in order to hold both our students and staff accountable for student academic success are beginning to become part of what we do each day.  This has been a change for some students and at times we do have children that struggle with our expectations.  However, we have supports in place to help our struggling students.  My continuing request of the Laraway community is that you are our partner in education.  The classroom expectations need to expand into the family rooms of your homes.

The success of our students, your children, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces, is balanced on whether or not we have a community as dedicated to student success as much as we are here at Laraway and Oak Valley School.  Our community partnerships are growing and that is good news.  Our Parent – Teacher (PTO) organization is up and running and under the leadership of some strong community members I have faith that the PTO will do great things.  They already organized a very successful fundraiser that earned more than $9,000 for our school district.  Thank you to those that participated in the fundraiser, it was a great success! 

With all of the positive things going on in the Laraway community it goes without saying that there are many people working very hard; none less than our students.  The students will return back to school this week and head into the most intensive three month period of the school year.  Our English Language Learners will be assessed later this month on the ACCESS tests, all students K – 8 will take their second round of the MAP testing beginning the week of January 13th, our Primary aged students will be progress monitored using the AIMSweb testing and all students 3 – 8 grade will take the ISAT assessment in March.  Our 8th grade students will begin registration for High School this month, that mailing was sent home from the Joliet School District at the end of December.  And finally, students in 3rd – 8th grade will this year participate in the IOWA Assessment of Basic Skills as an additional assessment data point to help us to get a better picture of our students as learners.  Our student – athletes continue to work to be successful on the court and successful in the classroom.  Boys’ basketball is currently in season and they are off to a strong start.  Girls’ volleyball season is beginning and our 4th and 5th grade girls and boys are participating in the YMCA basketball league.  Our 13 clubs and activities are going strong and will continue through the end of the school year.  We have another round of Parent – Teacher Conferences coming on February 6th and February 7th.  Our hope is that the turn-out is as successful as it was in November.  Please know that you do not have to wait until February to discuss your child’s academic progress.  If you have questions or concern, please call your child’s teacher.  If you are not already signed up to view your child’s grades online (4th – 8th grade) please contact the main office at Laraway School and provide your e-mail address.  We will be happy to give you access to your child’s grades online.

Finally, it goes without saying that this is a wonderful district with great kids and families.  Please know that as busy as we all are here on a day to day basis my door is always open.  If you have questions, concerns, suggestions for improvement or would simply like to introduce yourself please feel free to stop in and say hello.  In my second year in this position I am learning more and more about our students and families.  I know that you, like me, want what is best for your child.  Communication between the school and the home is the key to a great school experience for the students.

Happy New Year and may your family be blessed with good health and happiness in 2014.



Mrs. Paula Sereleas