Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

February 19, 2009

DeKalb High School planners to hear ideas
from local ‘stakeholders’ on successful graduates

DeKalb, Ill. — More than 250 members of the DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 and Northern Illinois University neighborhoods have been invited to help create the definition of a successful DeKalb High School graduate.

Leaders of the planning group for the new DeKalb High School, scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, will lead an evening of brainstorming discussions Tuesday, Feb. 24. High school students, parents, District 428 administrators and employees, community leaders, business owners and NIU faculty and staff will participate.

By the end of the night, they will have agreed upon the elements of a vision of student success that takes into account 21st century expectations and a globally competitive marketplace. This vision will inform the planning of an educational program to secure DeKalb’s economic, social and cultural future.

“We want to hear the voices of what we expect will be a wide-ranging group of stakeholders in the NIU and District 428 communities,” said Dr. Lindsey Hall, principal of DeKalb High School. “We hope to gather people’s honest thoughts and opinions about the competencies our graduates should possess in order to be productive, global citizens. What are their characteristics? What are their traits, their qualities and their skills?”

“It’s not just what faculty think. It’s not just what administrators think. We need everyone in the community talking about what it means to have a diploma from DeKalb High School,” added Earl “Gip” Seaver, vice provost at NIU. “It needs to be the people who are employing them, and it needs to be the faculty who will be teaching them if they go into higher education: ‘These are the kinds of knowledge and skills they need to have to be qualified for Kishwaukee College or NIU – or to work for me.’ ”

The evening will open with words from District 428 Superintendent James Briscoe and NIU President John Peters.

Facilitators from NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies will set the guidelines for brainstorming and break the participants into small groups; those groups will adjourn to smaller rooms to produce components of DeKalb’s 21st century definition of student success.

About an hour later, all participants will reconvene to report their results and to articulate the initial statement of consensus.

“It is important for our stakeholders to have the opportunity to express their thoughts about the direction of secondary education in the 21st century,” said Becky McCabe, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in District 428. “We look forward to formulating a consensus statement that is a reflection of our community needs and expectations.”

The new 400,000-square-foot DeKalb High School will sit on 76 acres on Dresser Road west of Katz Park. Its capacity of 2,500 immediately solves the overcrowding problem at the current high school, where enrollment tops 1,700 in a school built for 1,430.

A team of top administrators, teachers and NIU faculty and staff will spend the next three years developing a unique partnership for world-class student achievement rooted in rigorous curriculum, superior preparation of pre-service teachers, excellence in professional learning and joint research and co-teaching by faculty from NIU and DeKalb High School. The vision produced at the Feb. 24 forum will serve as an important source of guidance as the partnership unfolds.

NIU’s pre-service teachers will have a “designated area” to take classes in the building; some DHS faculty will teach in NIU classrooms alongside professors who train teachers.

“This whole partnership is about trying to really take advantage of mutual opportunities and to leverage each other’s strengths,” said Chris McCord, dean of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It’s an opportunity to improve the school district. It’s an opportunity to improve the way we prepare teachers. It’s an opportunity to strengthen our community by simply bringing the university and the school district closer.”

The greatest opportunity awaits DeKalb High School students.

“Part of the mission statement of the partnership talks about DeKalb High School students receiving a world-class education, and we’re doing a good job of that already,” Hall said. “We have a high number who emerge not only with a high school diploma but emerge ready to move on after high school, furthering their education in some way. That does not mean every student is going to a two- or four-year college, but it’s growing more and more apparent that skills are needed through a post-high school training of some type.”

For more information about the community forum, or to volunteer to participate, contact Russ Fletcher at (815) 754-2283.

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