Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith presented an inspiring Feb. 22 keynote address at the Every Student Succeeds Act/No Child Left Behind Conference the Sheraton Chicago Hotel for hundreds of teachers and administrators, which highlighted how Illinois schools and districts need to provide an excellent education for all students — even those who traditionally have been excluded due to lack of resources.
And while Smith didn’t mention Kane County’s Juvenile Justice Center’s education program specifically in his speech, there might not be a better example of excellence-for-all in the state of Illinois.
In fact, Kane County Juvenile Justice Center educators were invited to present at the Chicago-based conference this year to explain their unique teaching and learning experience at the JJC. On average, the facility has 45 students including those from DuPage, Kendall, McHenry and DeKalb who are being detained at the JJC. All students receive 300 minutes of instruction with a certified content-area teacher every day, which also includes a 50 minute class focusing on health, wellness and social-emotional learning and cognitive behavior training. The program guarantees that students in juvenile detention continue to be educated and make a successful transition back into their public school program.
The JJC’s Education Division is one of many programs managed by the Kane County Regional Office of Education and was created by an agreement between the St. Charles School District, the 16th Circuit Court Chief Judge’s Office and the Kane County ROE.
“Dr. Smith’s presentation perfectly ties in with the JJC’s mission statement, that each student is a valuable, unique individual who is worthy of the best possible education and has the potential for success,” explained JJC Principal Ivar Spalis. “Our program offers the curriculum that prepares students for college and careers by teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and social-emotional learning competencies, like every other school program.”
At the Feb. 22, 2016, ESEA/NCLB Conference, Spalis introduced the program’s underlying theme, which was based on Jim Collins’ book, From Good to Great. Although the book was geared toward best practices in business, two main principles were highlighted as the mantra for continuing success of the JJC: the who and the what. Defining these components are essential for success within an organization, especially when tasked to adapt to the unique needs of students.
With the “right people on the bus,” even when confronted with an obstacle, the educators at the JJC are prepared to work together and remain determined. The second necessity noted in Collins’ book is that of a humble staff, yet one that embodies the courage and drive to put the organization first.
The Kane County’s JJC’s staff is comprised of six teachers and a principal: Rich Grenda, special educator coordinator/data analyist, Dr. Pat La Bouff, language arts instructor, Jimmy Pawola, history instructor, Zachary Steffes, math instructor, Rachel Kurkowski, biology instructor, Steffanie Weil, a paraprofessional, and Spalis. Each of the instructors presented on their subject-area at the conference.
The Kane County JJC leaders also highlighted their experience with scheduling, curriculum mapping, lesson planning, professional development, technology in the classrooms, assessments, and student credit and transcripts.
About the Kane County Regional Office of Education
Led by Regional Superintendent of Schools Patricia Dal Santo, The Kane County ROE is located in Geneva and serves nine school districts. From teacher licensure assistance to professional development, the ROE’s mission is to advocate for education, provide leadership and perform regulatory functions. Learn more about the ROE’s offerings on Facebook, Twitter and by signing up for the semimonthly newsletter.