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Welcome Back Message 2022-23

Superintendent Tammy Prentiss headshot.

Dear District 86 Community,

I want to welcome you to the start of the 2022-23 school year. At this time last year, I spoke to you about the promise and potential that were on the horizon for our schools. My optimism and excitement have only grown stronger as we embark on a journey that is focused on helping our students and each other learn, grow and lead. However, in order for this journey to be successful, there are several things we must keep in mind and commit ourselves to along the way. 

Celebrate the past, but focus on the future. There are countless accomplishments and accolades that make up our district’s proud tradition of excellence. However, it is the hard work of our students, the dedication of our faculty and staff, and the steadfast support of our families and community that define the true greatness of our schools. These attributes serve as a bridge between our storied past and preferred future. In this future, we will continue to revere and embrace our traditions while simultaneously finding more ways for every student to contribute to them.

With this in mind, we are implementing an earned honors credit pilot that will provide the 750 students who are taking part in it the chance to experience honors-level rigor, demonstrate sophisticated skills acquisition and enjoy access to more curricular choices outside of traditional, stand-alone honors courses. We are exploring ways to increase the opportunities that exist for students to lend their voice to and help lead the work of the district. We are also developing a portrait of a graduate that will feature the qualities and characteristics we want our students to possess when they leave our district. 

We will keep you updated on the status of these efforts, as well as ways you can support them.

Be open to change and the possibilities it may bring. Our district was built on a strong academic foundation that provides students with a well-rounded education and prepares them for whatever path they choose to take following high school. That focus and those goals have not changed. Making sure our students leave our district with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their ideal future is still our primary objective. With that said, the knowledge and skills they need, much like the world in which they will need them, have evolved. Therefore, the way we educate and prepare our students must also evolve. 

It is this belief that is inspiring our work to align our curriculum and grading practices, develop and implement more inclusive and responsive instructional practices, and improve the learning environment in our schools. It is the need to evolve that is driving our efforts to increase the diversity of the courses we offer, better leverage our use of technology, dedicate more time to social and emotional growth and development, and identify ways for our students, particularly our students of color, to see more of themselves in their learning. And it is our desire to strengthen our foundation that is fueling our pursuit of proven strategies and solutions that will enable every student we serve to collaborate, create and connect with an ever-changing world.

Support the people who are leading the work. As I connected with our new and returning employees prior to the start of the school year, I was reminded of how talented our team is here in District 86. Our teachers, support staff, and administrators are highly skilled, highly qualified, and passionately committed to education. They also care deeply about our students, our schools and our community. 

Given everything they do for us, it is my sincere hope that we will all continue to treat our employees with respect; trust in the knowledge, experience, and expertise of our teachers, department chairs and administrators; and celebrate the critical role our support staff plays in ensuring that our district is run efficiently and effectively on a day-to-day basis. 

Continue to engage in sound fiscal practices. Last year, District 86 received a pair of awards from the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International—a Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting and a Meritorious Budget Award—that reflect our district’s “high standards for financial reporting and transparency" and "commitment to sound fiscal management and budgetary policies."

I am sharing this information for a couple reasons. The first is to highlight the outstanding work of our business office. The second is to assure you that we will continue to engage in sound fiscal practices that meet the current needs of our schools and promote the long-term financial sustainability of our district. 

We, like many of our fellow districts across the country, are navigating the challenges created by the rise in inflation and supply chain issues. However, we have and will continue to taking the necessary steps (e.g., using value engineering to help control the costs of our remaining construction projects, executing new natural gas and electricity contracts in response to the current conditions in the energy market, etc.) to strike a balance between meeting the needs of our students and staff and fulfilling our responsibilities as fiscal stewards for the community. 

Amplify the voices of more families and community members. One of our areas of emphasis this year is to find ways to get more people involved in advancing the work of our district. We have already made progress toward achieving this goal by increasing the number of current and future parents/guardians who serve on our Parent-Teacher Advisory Committee, and organizing Community Conversations that will provide our stakeholders with the chance to learn about and discuss topics such as curriculum alignment, schedules, multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), early release Wednesdays and our portrait of a graduate. We will also be administering a survey again this fall that parents/guardians can use to offer feedback about our schools.  

I realize that many of our families are being pulled in a number of different directions and don’t always have the time to get involved in activities or serve on committees. For those of you who may be interested in volunteering, I encourage you to contact your child’s building principal to discuss options that might fit your schedule and/or other commitments. For those of you whose plates are simply too full, I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities, like our fall survey, that will enable you to advocate for your child and help us better meet the needs of all students. 

In closing, I encourage those of you who have questions or need information about the district or the work we are doing to contact us directly. I know that social media offers a platform and space for people to come together to discuss issues, share concerns or connect over similar experiences. However, when having conversations or making decisions about your child’s education, it is always best to start with teachers, counselors, deans, building leadership and district administration. We are available to assist you in any way that we can, and are committed to making this year positive, productive and fulfilling for your family from the first day of school to the last.

I want to welcome you once again to another exciting year in District 86, and thank you for your continued support of our schools and the students we serve.


Tammy Prentiss