D219 Schools Staff Honored for Making a Difference
D219 staff members and other employees who work in the district’s schools were in the spotlight at the March 9 Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education meeting, when the board and administration extended gratitude for the work those hundreds of people have been doing during remote learning and to make schools ready to bring students back.
“Traditionally, our monthly “Those Who Make A Difference” recognition goes to a student or staff member who is making a positive impact on our school community,” said Antwan Babakhani, Assistant Principal of Student Services at Niles West High School. “This month, we wanted to give thanks to everyone who has contributed to the successful reopening of schools. Our students, teachers and staff, parents, and administration are thrilled to welcome back students into the building. It has been an amazing undertaking to get to this point over the past year.
“We often compare our remote learning schedule and hybrid schedule to creating a new school from scratch,” Babakhani said. “Almost every process, protocol and policy that we used last year had to be redefined, recreated, or completely redone. It has been a taxing process for all of us involved, but this is the work we are willing to do for the benefit of our students.
“So to recognize ‘those who make a difference’ means to recognize the many people who worked tirelessly to get to this point, and still continue to problem-solve and rethink how our organization functions as we continuously prepare for the unknown.
“Students — thank you for doing an amazing job during remote learning,” Babakhani said. “We know there were some rough moments, but you have truly shined and demonstrated resilience throughout this whole pandemic.
“Faculty, staff, admin — thank you for recreating your jobs and reimagining what learning can look like. Thank you for working in conditions without boundaries. And thank you for keeping our students at the center of your passion.”
Niles North Principal James Edwards offered “Special thanks to our Union leadership for working with administration to problem solve with us on extremely complex issues and wading with us through uncharted waters during the ongoing pandemic and its implications on teaching and learning.
“Our Athletics and Student Activities teams created opportunities for students to practice, meet, and compete,” Edwards said. “Their COVID protocols over the summer served as a paradigm for how we approached hybrid learning.
“Technology Department — we applaud the tireless hours you put in to prepare classrooms, develop the safe check-in process, and for continually supporting teachers and staff with new technology and programs while helping our Curriculum & Technology (C&T) coaches focus on instructional technology and best practices.
Edwards thanked “our Dean teams, who created new disciplinary and attendance processes during remote learning and have begun to rethink disciplinary practices in D219.
“Our safety teams have stood ready to serve with book distribution, drive-by events, learned our new check-in processes and rebooted relationships with students in hybrid learning.
“Thanks to our student and related service teams and health office staff for providing continued support to students and families during a tumultuous time, focusing on social-emotional needs and the overall health of our students,” Edwards said.
“Buildings & Grounds and custodial staff — without the commitment of these teams, we would not be ready for the safe return of our students and staff while simultaneously keeping our buildings operational, especially during the tough stretch of February weather.
“Transportation — these teammates have seen to it that our hybrid learners are safely transported to school while ensuring that bus capacity limits and mask wearing are part of our new transportation normal.
Edwards cited “Bridges and Niles Central — we must never forget the work of our colleagues at both these schools, who continually have supported our students in both remote and hybrid learning. In the case of Bridges, opening up a new school during a pandemic is quite a feat.
“To our District Office teammates who have given their unyielding support to the work in the buildings, as we planned how to best support our students and staff.
“Quest Food Services — distributing food to all families in need throughout the whole pandemic.
“To our Board members who have worked side by side with us, both in supporting our return to school plans and watching out for the health and safety of all the members of our school community.
“Parents, guardians and caretakers — for supporting your students learning from home for so many months. and being gracious to our teachers and exercising patience throughout this time,” Edwards said.
“And finally to our district equity leaders for continuing to push for equitable and anti-racist practices and policies that best serve our BIPOC students and staff.”
“We could not have been successful without the work of everyone in the D219 family and we have truly ALL been in this together,” Edwards said.
“We thank you all!”
IT’s Manderico, Ardisana, Veneris Make a Difference
D219 Superintendent Steven Isoye gave a special shout out to three members of the district’s Information Technology team at the March 9 Board of Education meeting when he presented the Those Who Make a Difference Award to Benju Manderico, Richard Ardisana and Chris Veneris.
Isoye recognized “three people who do so much for all of us behind the scenes and who may not get the credit they deserve, because they are so quiet and also so humble”: the D219 Programming & Data team of Manderico, Ardisana and Veneris.
“Many years ago, the D219 Technology programming team developed a system we call Swiper. This has been a valuable tool for monitoring & recording student attendance in areas such as the Cafeteria, Library, Study Halls and other resource areas,” Isoye said.
“Fast forward to the fall of 2020, as we began to discuss student return to the buildings,” Isoey said. “Our IT team examined a variety of options, including some fairly expensive commercially available systems. Another option was to expand the existing Swiper programming to include temperature scanning and also verify our students against a self-certification survey for that day. We decided to move forward with the in-house method.
“So over holiday break, the SwiperSafe module was born! We ordered new ID scanners, and the programming and testing continued through the snowy winter. Then on March 1st, SwiperSafe” was launched as hundreds of students safely entered our buildings for hybrid learning. At any point in time, a student’s record can be reviewed in Infinite Campus to determine that they:
#1) completed the daily survey
#2) entered the school building with a safe temperature.
“The admin team can also use this data to assist with operational decisions, such as room usage, room assignment and student participation.
“We would like to thank Benju Manderico, Richard Ardisana and Chris Veneris for their hard work and attention to detail as they brought this new tool to life,” Isoye said. “As you can imagine, there was a great deal of work involved for the inaugural week — providing tech support, security staff training & troubleshooting.
“And not only did they engineer an efficient and effective system, but they also saved the district untold dollars, as they were able to design it in-house. Thank you, gentlemen!”