Getting to know new administrations

Abbe Murphy, Print Editor-in-Chief

As the new principal, do you have any big initiatives underway for this school year?

One of the things I’m doing is a blog called ‘Learning alongside them’. I had my first example of it with Mr. Melie’s fifth period English II class in the library. I’ve been invited to over 20 classes and I will go into as many of them as I can, be a student and struggle along with the students and then write about my experience so that people can see what’s happening in classes.
What aspects of your old position do you feel will be useful as principal?
My focus is curriculum and instruction and it’s what I’m passionate about. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten and since the first day I walked into school. As a principal, I think I can model good instruction and also learning and that’s what I’m trying to do with my blog.
What are your thoughts on ‘Steal like an Artist’ and how it’s being incorporated into the school?
I was involved from the beginning and I will tell you I had some hesitation. I like having choices and building life-long readers and with one book, well, students don’t have any choice then. But, as we started to talk about the benefits, I was sold pretty quickly with the idea that it would build a community. Then, once we chose the book, I was completely sold because I think it applies to everybody … I think the book sends some good messages about not having to be a genius to be creative, you just have to try and put yourself out there and you’re likely to fail.

Principal Janice Schwarze


What drew you to District 99?
I live in Dupage County and it was nice to return to this area because District 99 and the Maine School District have a long history of sharing. I had been here to present about Google Apps for Education and on Chromebooks and a bunch of our teachers went up to Maine to see how 1:1 worked there …. When I saw the opening come, I knew a lot about Downers Grove, not just from growing up in the area but also professionally, from the trading of ideas for years.
Are there any goals or long-term initiatives this year for the District?
The nice part about a new superintendent coming in is it gives the whole organization an opportunity to reflect on what’s working and how to get better as a district because I have to figure that out. So, this year really is a lot of self reflection and self evaluation of whether what we are doing now matches where we want to go as a district.
A position like superintendent doesn’t usually have much connection with the student body. What are you doing to try and connect with students?
One of the things I’ve changed this year as superintendent is doing a video communication to all the staff rather than in print. I end that video each week with some shout outs from students to staff members that have made a positive impact on them … Finding those clips and being dedicated to finding those clips every week is a seed that requires me to go out in the halls and talk to kids.

Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele