Winnetka, News

New Trier School Board Roundup: Leadership workshops, solar panel update, Student Voices series and change in school calendar

New Trier High School Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally updated the School Board and community on how the district’s goals for creating “culture, climate, equity and belonging” have been developing.

At the board’s regular meeting on Monday, March 18, Sally said that goal is related to the 2024-2025 annual plan, and is being driven, in part, from feedback provided by students, parents and other community members.

Administrators recently attended a full-day workshop that was led by the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership and the Bernard Zell Day School in Lake View, in addition to participating in a workshop at Wilmette’s Marie Murphy School “to discuss culturally competent leadership, which was led by Dr. Michael Allen, a bestselling author and school administrator,” Sally said.

At February’s board meeting, Sally promised that the district would work on improving its efforts at combating antisemitism after the district did not allow an additional Holocaust Remembrance Day activity.

“Our work in this area is tremendously important,” Sally said Monday. “If students and staff do not feel as if they belong or as if they matter, they will not be able to thrive here. If students do not learn about cultures and identities that are different from their own, they will not be able to thrive in their future.”

He added that the district aims to teach students to be critical thinkers and “engage in civil discourse in the classrooms and beyond.”

Sally added that updates will continue to be provided to the board and community.

“It takes time to create thoughtful and actionable plans, and I thank our community for their understanding of that fact, as well as their continued input and feedback as we move forward in this critical area.”

Solar panel installation completed

The long-awaited solar panel installation at New Trier’s Northfield campus is complete, and administrators expect solar energy to come online within the next month.

Northfield Campus Principal Paul Waechtler provided a brief update at Monday’s meeting.

“They are testing those right now, and they should be on the power grid for the campus by the end of April,” he said.

The board approved the installation of solar panels in 2022. Administrators previously said they expect the panels, which are on five of the six roofs on campus, to generate 1.2 gigawatts, or 43 percent, of the campus’s annual energy usage.

Juniors share experiences with School Board

As part of the district’s ongoing Student Voices series, four junior students spoke to board members about their individual experiences at New Trier.

The students gave board members a timeline of their New Trier experience, going from freshman year to present day, and discussed what they hope for the future. They shared the positive experiences, including student government elections, and challenging moments, like when one student had to stop an activity in favor of another one because they didn’t have time for both.

Denise Dubravec, Winnetka campus principal and assistant superintendent, said hearing from students is important in not only providing administrators a better understanding of their experience, but also improving the district’s response to concerns and issues they have.

“Their input is absolutely essential in shaping our educational decision-making processes,” she said. “It provides us with valuable insights and perspectives that guide us toward creating a more responsive and student-centered educational environment.”

The juniors were the second group of students to share their experience with the board after the seniors presented in December.

Dubravec said sophomores will speak to the board in April, while freshmen students will present in May.

Final 2024-’25 calendar approved

Board members also unanimously approved the final 2024-2025 school year calendar.

Sally said board members had already approved a previous version of the calendar, which included holidays and breaks, but this new calendar adds in professional development days for staff and parent-teacher conferences.

One notable change is that conferences, which are held virtually, will now be the week of Thanksgiving.

This year, according to the current district calendar, they were held Nov. 1 and 2.

“(The new date) aligns with all of our elementary districts, so we think that’s a benefit to the community,” Sally said.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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