Welcome from the Superintendent
Superintendent's Entry Plan
Dr. Denise Herrmann July 2021
Our mission is to develop graduates who are DARING, where students explore and discover personal journeys to meaningful post-secondary pursuits.
I am proud to be the new superintendent of Community High School District 128. My educational philosophy and professional experiences are well aligned with the D128 Mission Statement: to develop graduates who are DARING - where students explore and discover personal journeys to meaningful post-secondary pursuits. We are:
Great school leaders implement change successfully. World-class school leaders sustain change beyond their tenure. My legacy of system improvement has influenced generations of students, teachers, and future leaders. I can identify improvement initiatives that I implemented five or ten years ago that have survived changes in principals, central office leadership, and school boards. From project-based learning, integrated coursework, and inclusive practices - to performance-based hiring protocols, transparent budgeting, and empowering teacher leadership, I have made a lasting, positive impact on the school systems I served.
Throughout my tenure as an education leader I have demonstrated a strong commitment to serve ALL students well – particularly those traditionally underserved in our high schools. Although our school-wide achievement data was extraordinarily high, we still had significant achievement gaps for our students of color, low socio-economic status, and with disabilities. The changes we made were systemic, not cosmetic, and continued to help us close the achievement gap:
- Coordinated the District’s action plan in response to Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Resolution Agreement regarding Bullying and Harassment of students based on race, skin color, ethnicity, and religion, including: cultural competency training for all staff, cultural awareness classroom lessons, students forums and focus groups, administrator investigation training, revision of policies and procedures, and creation of FUSD Equity Team.
- Accountability for ALL Students - Developed and maintained district Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) through effective parent engagement, responsible allocation of resources, and successful implementation of interventions.
My desire to return to the Midwest was prompted by both personal and professional reasons. During the stay-at-home period of COVID-19, I realized that life is too short to be separated from your family and life-long friends and that it’s OK to listen to your heart and come home. I returned to Illinois in July 2020 and am now thrilled to be serving as the superintendent in D128, where I can make a positive difference as I enter the last decade of my career.
I am a systems thinker. I have identified dysfunctional aspects of workflow, procedures, structures and systems; realigned them to fit current educational realities/goals; and then developed plans to implement the new changes.
- Restructured the roles/duties of the administrative team to refocus time and energy on student learning, instructional leadership, and curriculum development
- Redesigned the student services department to form teams, comprised of dean, counselors, social worker, psychologist, and nurse, who collaborate to provide wrap around services to students
- Reboot of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) framework including: enhanced teacher collaboration, common planning time, regular examination of assessment data, and additional support students who struggle
I work to ensure that each interaction I have with students, staff, and parents is highly respectful and demonstrates genuine warmth, caring, and sensitivity to people’s individual needs. I frequently visit classrooms, attend athletic and theatre events, and host parent coffees. I am able to interact professionally and tactfully with staff, students, and parents. For example, following the death of three students by suicide, my district called upon my facilitation and communication skills to lead several parent/community forums. This work required me to mediate emotionally charged conversations and to use carefully crafted paraphrases and questions to help people to see others’ points of view. It was essential for me to be an active participant in the dialogue that led to the healing of our school community.
While in Wisconsin, I started a partnership with the United Way of Dane County and The Urban League of Madison to determine effective ways to help disconnected youth reconnect to school and graduate. This experience allowed me to work with non-educators from across the county to seek innovative solutions to the challenging problem of why students disengage from high school.
I look forward to this opportunity to listen, learn and partner with you.
Denise Herrmann, Ed.D
Goals and Structure
- Learn as much as possible about D128 in order to understand its strengths, challenges, and areas for growth.
- Establish a strong working relationship with each member of the School Board and build a cohesive governance team with a common, united purpose.
- Nurture strong, positive, and collaborative relationships with the leadership team and with each of the district’s professional employee groups.
- Learn about the values, norms, and expectations of our community to best serve our students.
- Establish common goals, align resources and develop a strategic plan of action to ensure all students are college- and career-ready and achievement gaps are closed.
The transition activities outlined in this plan are designed to enable me to quickly and effectively listen to and learn from a wide range of people involved directly and indirectly in public education.
Phase 1 - Transition
This phase will consist of activities designed to support a smooth transition from the previous superintendent to the new superintendent.
- Engage in one-on-meetings with Board members and cabinet leaders to build relationships and broaden perspective
- Schedule a visit to every school site to meet and get to know each principal
- Partner with previous superintendent and central office team to ensure a smooth handoff of ongoing projects and issues
- Conduct a retreat with executive cabinet to understand D128 culture and discuss leadership team structures and practices
- Hold first Board retreat to discuss communication protocols, roles and responsibilities, norms of behavior and interaction, expectations for first year, and agenda setting
- Review all critical documents, including organizational chart, employee handbooks, policy and procedures
- Meet and build relationships with key leaders in the community identified by the Board and staff
- Review key district financial materials, budget, and current construction projects
- Establish social media presence (@D128Herrmann) to enhance communication between superintendent and stakeholder groups.
Phase 2 - Listen & Learn
This is an important phase to listen and learn from students, teachers, principals, staff, parents, and community members about the strengths, challenges, and areas for growth for D128 schools.
Key Questions for Listen & Learn Sessions
- What should Dr. Herrmann know about the community?
- What are the strengths of D128?
- What are the challenges facing D128?
- What are some of the opportunities that the D128 needs to explore further or develop?
- Ensure all necessary plans and preparations are in place for an outstanding opening of schools; establish protocols for assessing effectiveness of opening days activities
- Reach out to leadership from collective bargaining groups to establish regular meetings and communication protocols
- Meet with leaders of local media outlets and education reporters to establish a framework for collaboration that is open, honest, transparent and accurate.
- Conduct meetings with legal firms to review any current legal proceedings
- Schedule meetings with the established student leadership organizations for initial listening and learning sessions. Establish routine meetings and communications with these organizations.
- Schedule before- and after-school superintendent coffees for initial listening and learning sessions with parents and community
- Schedule a visit to each school for initial listening and learning sessions with teachers, staff and students (“Subs with the Superintendent”)
- Begin the process of visiting classrooms at each site to see teaching and learning in action
- Meet with superintendents of K-8 partner districts to learn about middle-high school transition programs
- Meet with community leaders in the greater Libertyville/Vernon Hills Area
Phase 3 - Analyze & Plan
I will use the data that is gathered during the listening and learning phase to develop a summary report and presentation. The summary information will serve as a resource to help inform the school board and district leadership on the district’s goals, strategic focus areas, and planning.
- Analyze student achievement data (Dashboard and other sources)
- Share/receive feedback on draft at District leadership team meeting
- Integrate summary information into the Strategic Planning process