National School Choice Week

Having fun with the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

Having fun with some of the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

What better way to liven up a gray and wintry day than by sharing lunch and enthusiasm with some of our local students? Last week I was invited to come visit the Montessori School of Long Grove, as a special visitor during National School Choice week. I had loads of fun getting to know the kids and even got to meet Shelly, the classroom turtle. As a bonus I was given a warm yellow scarf to remember the event, in fact we all did, as shown in the picture above. It was a pleasure sharing pizza and veggies with my charming lunchtime companions!

The children had many interesting questions about my job, and wanted to know about some current events like the discussions on how best to renovate our covered bridge. Since the school is located only a hop, skip, and a jump from the bridge, the Montessori students are very familiar with it and sometimes take walks in the warmer weather using it to cross over Buffalo Creek to the park. They wanted to know how they could get involved, if they wrote letters or made posters would the elected officials pay attention? I assured them that even our youngest residents have important voices! Not all the kids had the same opinions on what should be done (just like the grown-ups!) and we talked about how in a democracy, everyone doesn’t always agree but we respectfully listen to one another and then decide what the majority thinks is best. Who knows, maybe one day some of these Montessori students will be serving our town, our state, or our country as an elected official themselves? From what I saw last week, they are off to a great start!

Woodlawn Blue Ribbon Celebration

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School's recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School’s recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

I had so much fun today visiting Woodlawn Middle School–nothing beats the energy of a gym full of 6th, 7th and 8th Graders on the verge of a holiday vacation! I was asked to participate in an assembly celebrating their recent recognition of a prestigious national award. Below is the text of my speech:

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

“Good afternoon! One of the best parts of my job as Village President is getting to recognize others for their successes; by giving out awards, congratulations, or praise. Today I couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be a part of the Woodlawn Middle School community, here to celebrate the distinction of earning the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Congratulations!

Having top-notch schools is an attribute that is highly valued by the residents of Long Grove. I know this for a fact. One year ago, in a village-wide survey we asked our residents to rate various aspects of our quality of life. Being “a place for high quality education” was ranked number one, with 93% responding that our schools are excellent or good. Clearly, having high-performing schools is important to our community.

I also know through first-hand experience that excellent schools matter, and that Woodlawn is terrific, because I am the parent of three Woodlawn graduates. I remember being here the first day Woodlawn opened to welcome students back in 1999, as my daughter was in the very first class of 6th Graders. I’ve logged in many hours over the years volunteering for special lunch, dessert day, lighted schoolhouse, school store…you name it…in addition to attending countless parent-teacher conferences. What I have seen, over and over, is the diligent, committed, and caring way the administration, faculty, and staff dedicate themselves to making sure all of our children are given the tools to succeed, not only here at Woodlawn, but later, in life.

As a representative of the citizens of the Village of Long Grove, it is with great honor that I celebrate with you today as you receive this award. Thank you for making your community proud!”

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

Primrose Promise

Primrose School of Long Grove Director Sarah Simon and Franchise Owner Rich Wierzchon joined me at the March 15, 2016 Rotary Club meeting.

Primrose School of Long Grove Director Sarah Simon and Franchise Owner Rich Wierzchon joined me at the March 15, 2016 Rotary Club meeting.

One of several new businesses currently under construction in our village is Primrose School of Long Grove. Located on Old McHenry Road just north of Route 22, Primrose will offer educational child care for infants & toddlers, and preschool, kindergarten, and after school programs. In anticipation of welcoming their first students later this summer, Director Sarah Simon and Owner Rich Wierzchon attended the recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer, and Hawthorn Woods to give an informative program.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Sarah and Rich previously, so I already felt I had a basic knowledge of the new school. But I was impressed to learn more about the Primrose Promise. Using expertise and passion, this company is determined to make a difference in children’s lives; not just those who attend our Long Grove school but for some of America’s children at greatest risk. The Primrose program incorporates a strong character development component. Through fun activities like arts, games, and role playing, the children learn values such as honesty, compassion, respect, and good judgement. They participate in community-minded programs such as Save the Children sponsorship and a local “adopt-a-grandparent” partnership. One of the values that I particularly like is the Primrose commitment to giving without expectation. In today’s world, it is especially important to learn that serving and caring for others is what we do as good citizens, without expecting something in return. Children, families, staff and owners join together to support local charities and the Primrose Children’s Foundation, a non-profit that partners with national charities such as Reach Out and Read.

Rich Wierzchon told us a moving story about the motivation for him and his wife Jenny to start this particular business at this particular time. Jenny is an experienced teacher who followed in the footsteps of her mother, a life-long educator. The entire family believes strongly in the character-based education Primrose will provide, and the opening of this school is being done in part to honor the legacy of Jenny’s Mom, who recently passed away.

I believe Primrose School will fit right in to compliment the high-quality education already available in our community. We will all look forward to the completion of construction in the months ahead and welcoming another new business to our Village. And I promise to come visit our little philanthropists and citizens of tomorrow!

Cat in the Hat Cuteness

Sharing my love of reading with the students at Green Bay Early Childhood Center.

Sharing my love of reading with the students at Green Bay Early Childhood Center.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday this week, schools across America have been visited by red & white striped hat-wearing volunteers sharing their love of literacy. Today I had the delight of donning such a hat and reading to a preschool class at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago. And let me just say, this early morning dose of cuteness was much more invigorating than a triple shot latte!

My involvement with this particular school comes as a by-product of being a member of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. WLC has recently partnered with Green Bay Early Childhood Center to fund a community resource center that will be used to help get as many kids as possible ready to start kindergarten with the necessary skills. This morning our “crew of crazy chapeaux” had a tour of the school and the space we are helping to create which will be shared by Head Start families as well as residents of the local school district. By dedicating time and money now to improve early childhood education in some of the most at-risk areas of Lake County, we are making a significant investment in our workforce and families of tomorrow.

When I was a child my favorite Dr. Seuss book was “Green Eggs and Ham.” When my kids were little, the title they asked me to read over, and over, and over was “Fox in Socks,” mainly to see if they could catch me up in the tongue-twisters! Today I had the pleasure of reading “Dr. Seuss’s A, B, C’s” to an adorable group of energetic 3 and 4 year old students, who could not have been more fun.

David Brooks of the New York Times has noted, “By age 5, it is possible to predict with depressing accuracy who will complete high school and college and who will not.” By recognizing this need and addressing it head-on in the last 10 years, WLC and United Way of Lake County has seen a dramatic improvement of kindergarten readiness in Waukegan from 6 percent to 48 percent! That “Cat in the Hat” is more than just a sly comedic character; he is providing a spark that can lead toward improved literacy and a brighter future for all of our children.

"Crew of Crazy Chapeaux" aka members of the Women's Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County.

Volunteer readers and members of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County.

Track and Field of Dreams

At the ribbon cutting for the new running tract at Woodlawn School (L to R) Lake County Board Representative Sidney Mathias, Me, Buffalo Grove President Beverly Sussman.

At the ribbon cutting for the new running track at Woodlawn School (L to R) Lake County Board Representative Sidney Mathias, Me, Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman.

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of a Midwestern winter, and springtime is still a couple of months away despite whatever the groundhog recently predicted. So with this blog post I am going to remind you that warmer weather is coming, and with it will be the start of track season. And this year, our local teams at both Woodlawn and Twin Groves middle schools will have beautiful new running tracks on which to perfect their sport. Previously, students had to practice on grass fields with hand-painted lines, but about a year and a half ago School District #96 was able to finally work construction of proper tracks into the capital projects budget. What were once rough practice fields have now been transformed with a paved foundation topped by a rubber surface, sporting permanently painted lanes. The work was accomplished in the summer and early fall of 2015, and I was honored to participate with other local elected officials in the official ribbon-cutting ceremonies at both schools this past October 8th.

Gazing out my window on this dark winter morning, I am dreaming of the days soon to come when I can get back out on the walking path in the spring sunshine. I imagine there are also students at Woodlawn today gazing out the windows at their new athletic field, with the same cabin-fever thoughts as me. Hang on kids, because warmer days are sure to come and when they do, these beautiful improved tracks are ready and waiting!

Lunchtime at Montessori

Spending time with students of the Montessori School of Long Grove.

Spending time with students of the Montessori School of Long Grove

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to have lunch with the teachers and students at the Montessori School of Long Grove. They were celebrating “Schools of Choice” week, and to commemorate we were each given a buttery yellow fleece scarf, shown in the pictures here. While we all enjoyed a nutritious lunch of pizza, carrots, oranges and cinnamon bread, I talked to the kids about our community and what it is like being Village President. I particularly enjoyed answering their questions, my favorite one being, “Do you find your job luxurious or kind of stressful?” My answer:¬† sometimes a little of each, even on the same day! The students presented me with three illustrated and laminated posters that they had created, showcasing the positive attributes of their school and our village. I hung one up in our Village Board meeting room, another at the downtown Information Center, and the third can be found on the bulletin board at Reed-Turner Nature Center. It was great fun going back to school and spending some time interacting and getting to know some of our youngest residents and potential leaders of the future. Thanks to our Montessori students, for putting a smile on my face for the rest of the day!

Wrapping up the visit with Lyn Pearson, Montessori School of Long Grove Administrator.

Wrapping up the visit with Lyn Pearson, Montessori School of Long Grove Administrator.

Breaking Ground and Broken Earth

At the ground breaking ceremony this past Saturday for the new Primrose School in Long Grove.

At the ground breaking ceremony this past Saturday for the new Primrose School in Long Grove.

This weekend I was excited to take part in two celebrations of new beginnings. A ground breaking ceremony was held for the new Primrose School of Long Grove, to be built at the corner of Rt. 22 and Old McHenry Road, just north of Smokin T’s BBQ. Business owner Jennifer Wierzchon and her family were on hand to mark the occasion and I can testify that the kids had a blast digging and ground truly was broken! Some worms were even unearthed to join the festivities. Primrose School will be a welcome addition to our community and it will offer high-quality early childhood education, overlooking a beautiful natural setting. In our recent community-wide survey residents responded that the quality of education in Long Grove was the feature that most attracted them to our community, followed by the abundance of open space. Primrose School is poised to offer both of these attributes to our young families who have already chosen Long Grove as a great place to raise their children, and to those yet to come in the future. I wish them the best of success!

Following this happy event, I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at Broken Earth Winery on Robert Parker Coffin Road at the upper level of the Mill Pond Shoppes. Owned by the Forsythe family, this beautiful wine bar offers a California wine tasting experience featuring their own wines originating from the family-owned vineyards in Paso Robles, California. Broken Earth is actually celebrating their one year anniversary, having opened last October but continuing to expand over the past year to add more seating both indoors and out. I can admit to being a regular “taster” of their wines, and this local gathering spot has become a favorite place to relax at the end of a long week. After the ceremonial ribbon was cut, we all raised our glasses in a toast to another year of prosperity and growth in our historic downtown!

 

At the ribbon cutting celebrating the one year anniversary of Broken Earth Winery.

At the ribbon cutting celebrating the one year anniversary of Broken Earth Winery.