Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 reported that it held the first State of the District Dinner (SODD) at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School (OLHMS) to better connect with the broader community in an inviting, dialogue-rich environment. This event was designed to provide a more direct outreach opportunity to expand face-to-face, two-way engagement with all partners and members of the community. The event provided a fun, unique audience experience through participation and lively conversations focused on making the district strategic plan “come alive”.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Enderle welcomed well over 230 guests including 30 local community organizations and established the overall tone for the evening by sharing some of the district distinctions. Participants interacted with over 120 students who served as greeters, coat checkers, band and choir performers, group guides, video interviewers and as participants in the classroom vignettes.
Community feedback was the overarching theme of the evening which began with “red carpet” welcome and interviews, a photo booth, refreshments and musical entertainment by the OLHMS jazz ensemble. A delightful pasta dinner was provided and the formal presentation began with the OLHMS choir and community Sunrise Singers performing the national anthem.
Richard Mason, D123 board president, thanked the crowd and introduced fellow board members. Brian Nichols, D123 board member, went on the share how a similar event at Leroy County Schools in mid-state Illinois inspired the District 123 SODD event.
Larry Fetchko, Community Liaison Officer, lead a community partnering panel which included Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury, former Johnson Phelps VFW commander Daniel Johnson, Advocate Children’s Hospital Public Relations Director Nancy Mabbott, Regional Kiwanis Official Mary Meike, PTA Council President Kate Kazeneski and Make-A-Wish Illinois Coordinator Ashley White. All panel members relayed a series of inspiring partnering initiatives that benefit the broader community and provide valuable student enrichment opportunities.
State of the District attendees experienced a unique theatre-in-the-round classroom which depicted some of differences between a traditional classroom and a “21st Century” collaborative learning environment. Teachers and students demonstrated the differences in the mock classrooms through live simulated lessons. Open discussions and sharing engaged the entire audience throughout the simulation.
Group discussions in a hands–on working session provided attendees an opportunity to record their thoughts and perspectives directly on butcher paper located at each table. The moderator led the attendees through a series of questions intended to solicit feedback and perceptions about the district mission and vision. Audience members also participated in a series of learning activities within the “Spark Space.” The OLHMS “Spark Space” is an area of OLHMS that serves to engage students in hands on exploration and creation activities in the areas of robotics, 3D printing, art innovation, circuitry, building and design.
Members of the traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and millennial generations joined John Neff Director of Client Solutions at Moraine Valley Community College, and were provided a thought provoking interactive presentation on both the similarities and differences between different age groups.
Each unique session encouraged audience participation and as participants exited each session were met with a “Feedback” board requesting post-it comments of points of agreement, disagreement and any unanswered questions.
Attendees also parted with some take home items and photo booth pictures while providing valuable feedback in some final student-lead video interviews. Audience members had a final survey waiting in their email inbox after they left the dinner.
Response has been overwhelmingly positive and 98% of survey responders indicated they would be interested in attending the event again next year which has already been scheduled for March 10, 2017. District 123 would like to thank the entire Oak Lawn – Hometown community for all the participation, support and valuable feedback!