Matla Elementary students wearing matching Best Day Ever t-shirts

Hello there!  Someone told me a new month was starting…it’s December! I can’t believe we are already here and finishing our first semester. It has been an amazing first half of the year, and I thank you all for your hard work.


I want to specifically thank everyone again for taking the time to complete the HumanEx Survey. While we didn’t hit our goal of 100% participation, we achieved more than 60% for the district, which is notable for our first time through this process. I realize it does take time to complete; however, the data we received in return really does support our needs to be more targeted on our mission, ensure we recognize our staff for a job well done, and ensure that our supports align. We will have a follow-up survey in the spring for all employees. I will again ask that you take the time to complete and share your views with us. Your voice should be heard.


Aside from learning more about  the three areas where there is the most potential for growth (above), here are some highlights from across the district:

  1. Our staff is engaged in the work.
  2. Our staff takes pride in their work and where they work.
  3. Our staff wants to improve.
  4. We believe we bring quality to our work.
  5. We want to be innovative.

Our communication is getting stronger.  By the way, Mr. Black from HumanEx mentioned that the score for Communication is one of the highest he has seen. Wow!


We look forward to the meetings our HumanEx partners will have with each building to drill down further into the survey and establish action plans we can implement to continue to improve. Those meetings will take place on Dec. 9 and 22. But, as I listened to the overview of the entire district summative data, I was already thinking about where we need to spend more time and resources. I believe that one of our most valuable resources is that of our people – our human resources. Scores on the survey related to employee satisfaction landed in the middle or towards the bottom, and I think we can be more targeted. For instance:

  • We should celebrate and show gratitude at all levels. How? Not sure yet.  I would be interested in hearing suggestions.
  • We should invite more staff to be a part of goal setting for themselves, their work, the department, and the district. I believe this should happen during evaluation 1:1s, department meetings, strategic planning sessions, and school improvement work. All voices should have an opportunity to be heard.  I suggest reaching out to your supervisor to connect; I know they will also be rethinking how to do this work.
  • Professional development is key to developing our staff for improvements, promotions, and overall intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. Pipeline development is an important element, so we should be planning how we help our staff think about their next level of growth and where their future career path can take them. HR and I will continue to discuss opportunities. But, we also count on our directors and principals/assistant principals to know their staff and develop possibilities to pursue those goals. Jump in and share ideas.


In addition, Cabinet and Principals took a survey that was more targeted to my role as superintendent. This is what I heard from their responses.

  • Administrators are proud of their work and the district. They would like to work here long term.
  • Although 78% of the administrators are highly engaged and highly satisfied, there are 22% that feel a lack of connection or a sense of belonging within the climate and culture of the district.

The lowest scores (0-5) on the survey are focused on the following:

  • Value in collective success (3.61)
  • Better together mindset (3.72)
  • Promoting a professional and inclusive culture (3.83)
  • Promoting equity (3.89)
  • Quality efforts in building equity (4.0)

Some of my initial thoughts in this area include:

  • Including Principals in more activities that relate to district wide initiatives and decisions to ensure voice. For example, supporting the development and implementation of the strategic plan, district calendar, and union negotiations.
  • Providing Principals and Cabinet members more opportunities for professional development, conference attendance and presentations, and leading district presentations.
  • Providing more opportunities for one-on-one coaching and conversation between Principals and me.


The results of this survey provide us with many insights and additional opportunities to improve our outstanding team of CUSD 428 administrators and educators. I’m excited to continue this work in the coming months, keeping in mind that driving our efforts is increased learning and opportunity for our children.


Our students have thoughts on ways we can get better, too. As I visit schools, I always ask students what they think we could improve on. Guess what the number one topic is? If you said lunch, you would be correct. Students suggested:

  • Water or fruit juice instead of milk for breakfast or at lunch
  • More pasta, specifically spaghetti on the menu
  • Serving sizes should be differentiated based on the student need (portion sizes)
  • Food that is left over from serving should be given out to students, for free, first-come, first-served


Our Food Service Manager, Mike Chamness, shared some insight:

  • Juice is offered daily at all schools for breakfast. Milk is required and must be offered at breakfast and lunch. Cups for water to be filled at the water fountain are available to all; however, if a student prefers bottled water, it is a la carte (must pay for).
  • Pasta is on the menu twice in December, and food service will look into adding more pasta dishes.
  • There is a healthy serving requirement on the size of side items; students may request a half or full order of fruits and vegetables. A full reimbursable lunch includes the main entrée, one cup of fruit, one cup of vegetable, and a milk.
  • For students that may still be hungry, there are share baskets at each school. Students put unwanted items in the share baskets that other students can take free of charge.


Did you catch the recent story in the Daily Chronicle about our School Resource Officers (SROs)? I reiterate what the article detailed – our SROs are doing a phenomenal job keeping our schools safe and ensuring they are visible and available for our students. We thank the DeKalb Police Department and the dedicated officers in our schools for their partnership. You can read more on our website news page.


The winter break is always my time to reflect and plan. In approximately four weeks, we will be in the midst of that break. I hope you will share some insight or recommendations with me. Happy and Safe Break to All!


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