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D219 Cabinet Supporting Our Black Community 4.20.21

Today, the verdict for the murder of George Floyd was released. It is important to keep these points in mind:

  • George Floyd was wrongfully murdered; this was a racial hate crime;
  • Anti-Blackness is a struggle for all people, and we must all begin to dismantle anti-Blackness if we are going to be anti-racist;
  • Check-in on the mental health of your Black students and Black Staff; this is not a celebration in any way. The Black community is mourning;
  • Take the time to listen to your students and staff; this is not an intellectual discussion. It is a human-to-human connection.

Until every Black person feels safe, supported, and valued, we are not an anti-racist organization. There’s work that needs to be done to fight for justice and racial equality.

We are calling on White people and non-Black people of color to continue to fight or begin to fight with us and acknowledge the humanity of Black people.

There is no going back; we must live daily to fight anti-Blackness. The members of our Black community deserve it.

Sincerely,

District 219 Cabinet:

Dr. Sandra Arreguín

Dr. Antwan Babakhani

Laura Bolech

Ray Chung

Bridget Connolly

Dr. Jim Edwards

Marlon Felton

Oyindamola Idowu

Tom Kim

Tim Neubauer

Steve Parnther

Dr. Karen Ritter

April Stallworth

Jim Szczepaniak

Dr. La Wanna Wells

stack of books with glasses

4/20/2021 Board of Education Meeting Postponed

April 20: Tonight’s scheduled meetings of the Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education will not take place and will be rescheduled. This includes the 6:30 p.m. Finance Committee of the Whole meeting and the 8 p.m. Special Board Meeting. The district will announce a rescheduled date in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

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D219 Board to Engage Search Firm for Next Superintendent Search

In anticipation of Superintendent Steven Isoye’s planned retirement at the end of the 2021-22 school year, the Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education has begun discussing the criteria the Board would like to use to decide which search firm to select to conduct the search for the district’s next superintendent.

Dr. Steven T. Isoye was named Superintendent of Niles Township High School District 219 in May 2016, and he began the job that July. He was originally given a three-year contract, which the Board extended for another three years in 2019, with the term ending June 30, 2022.

Before coming to D219, Dr. Isoye served as Superintendent of Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 for six years. Dr. Isoye was principal of Maine East High School in Park Ridge from 2007 to 2010; during that time, he was named 2010-2011 Illinois High School Principal of the Year by the Horace Mann/Illinois Principals Association. Since 1998, he has served on the Board of Trustees for the Illinois Math and Science Academy. In 1998, he was named the Illinois State Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

“The Board of Education appreciates the work Dr. Isoye has done over the years,” said Board President David Ko, “and we look forward to his final year being the best of them all.” 

Those Who Make A Difference Winners April 21

Those Who Make a Difference Awards for April 7, 2021

ARTISTIC VISIONS BECOME REALITY IN LATINX MURAL AT NILES NORTH, MAKE A DIFFERENCE AWARD

Latinx Mural at North

An artistic vision that became an impressive reality at Niles North was the focus of the Those Who Make a Difference Award at the April 7 D219 Board of Education meeting.

Members of the Latinx Club who created the mural were honored for their accomplishments, along with staff members who supported the effort.

The club members wanted to come up with a concept that expressed important parts of their Latinx histories and experiences. They worked with Victor Montañez, a celebrated Chicago artist, who helped them design and create a mural that will be on display for years at Niles North. It took the club about five months to envision, design and create the piece.  

The mural, which is still a work in progress, incorporates themes from different aspects of Latinx cultures, including Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), La Catrina, and the legendary La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman,” a ghost). More than 20 students came up with their own concepts and ideas for which aspects and details to feature in the final work, and they worked under the guidance of Mr. Montañez to incorporate their insights and experiences into an artistic representation. 

Celeste Ramirez, a sophomore, volunteered to go into the (closed) school to redraw the new design on the canvases. Celeste said, “It was a lot of fun to do a community project for the first time and I enjoyed interacting with the other two artists during the redraw process. Because of COVID, It was definitely not the path we imagined, but we are proud of our journey to finish the mural and what it represents for us.

“The mural is heavily influenced by the messages of Dia de los Muertos,” according to Celeste. “This holiday tackles issues of life and death, which is a fate that we will experience at the end, no matter your skin color, age, culture, nationality, race or ethnicity, or social status. While we are going through a pandemic and hardships, we can also find the light during these difficult times. Even though the pandemic has taken lives, the mural represents that death can also be a sign of renewal and impetus for change to move forward from the pandemic.”

Miriamm Martinez, a senior, commented, “As a member of the Latinx Club, I contributed to the mural by giving my thoughts on why we should add a mask to The Catrina as well as adding a fist to the mural to support Black lives, not only though the mural, but through our actions as a school community.”

Junior Paula Posadas contributed to the mural “by bringing up the idea of changing the painting,” she explained. “It first started off as a fist that you usually see used for Black Lives Matter. I didn’t really feel comfortable with it, because I felt like we were taking it from the Black community. So in the end we all came to a conclusion changing it to a Catrina. And to show our support for Black Lives, we all agreed with including a solidarity fist on its mask because we all stand together and support one another.”

In addition to Celeste, Miriam and Paula, the other students who created the mural are: 

Jatziry Ramos, Sarah Cardenas, Ireida Garcia, Karina Haro, Brenda Reyes, Aaron Garcia, Mariana Del Carpio, Vanessa Martin, Ashley Barrera, Danae Barrera, Andrea Meoño, Deisy Hinojosa, Alexa Agrelo, Sofia Olivares, Regina Saucedo, Michelle Zamora, Heena Ansari, Emily Jaimes and Lizbeth Jaimes.

Niles North Principal James Edwards thanked and recognized Latinx Club Sponsors Alejandra Arteaga and Cecilia Serrano for their leadership, along with staff members who helped with the project: La Joyce Morales, Monica Saucedo and Daisy Castillo. 

WEST’S JANAY MONCRIEF HONORED FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK,  MAKE A DIFFERENCE AWARD

Janay Moncrief

Niles West senior Janay Moncrief was recognized by the Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education at its April 7 meeting for her social justice advocacy. 

Niles West Principal Karen Ritter said, “Growing up as a biracial child, Janay had questions about her identity and learned about race at an early age from her parents, who made sure they taught her about her background. As she grew older, she became more interested in racial justice and was curious why topics of race and identity were not taught in school, because it was such a big part of her life and because she lived in such a diverse community.

“Her interest in race and identity turned into advocacy for social justice issues, particularly during the summer of 2020 when many events and protests were occurring across the nation in regards to the death of George Floyd,” Ritter said. “When Janay was not able to participate in other protests in Chicago, she felt compelled to do something, so she decided to organize her own event. In the span of a week, Janay, along with the help of some of her family members, planned, publicized, and received donations for a peaceful protest on McCormick Boulevard in Evanston, where participants lied down in the street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence to honor George Floyd. The protest grew to more than 2,500 participants who marched down McCormick Boulevard with Janay, after more and more people found out about the event on social media and some just from observation. 

“Janay Moncrief is one person, but it goes to show you what one individual can do when they are empowered and passionate about something,” Ritter said. “We should never underestimate the power of our young people. Janay thinks the most important outcome is raising awareness in our school and in our community. While the Niles West community is proud of its diversity, racism, whether explicit or implicit, is still felt in the community. Janay believes she is helping to bridge the gap by starting conversations about race and social justice and making our school and community a place where everyone feels like they belong. We are so proud of her for doing so.”

Janay will start Western Michigan University next fall as a musical theater major with a minor in communications. Currently, she is in theater, the Black Student Union, and she is the president of High Fidelity and the Choir Board. 

“She hopes to continue conversations about racial and social injustice on her university campus next year, and we are confident that she will make a difference there as she did here at Niles West,” Ritter said.

Janay said originally she wanted to attend a protest in Chicago, but her family was concerned that the event might turn violent, so she shouldn’t go.

So, “instead of throwing my hands up and saying, ‘oh, there’s nothing I can do,’ I decided to start my own protest,” Janay told the Board members and audience. “And in doing so, I have learned so much more about myself, and about our community, and learned better ways to bring us all together. I did not expect my protest to turn into something way bigger. I was expecting, maybe, some 40 kids, some that I knew and maybe some that I didn’t. Well, we started off with about 40 kids, but as the night went on, we ended up with about 2,500 participants that joined while we were walking down the street. It’s honestly been the proudest moment of my life, and I know my parents are super proud of the work I was doing at that protest.”

Since then, Janay has been invited to perform and speak at more than 15 other protests and vigils, including the Skokie Vigil for Black Lives Matter, a Students Organized Against Racism rally and the event called Combating Racism in the Northwest Suburbs. 

“I believe that continuing this path of social justice reform will allow conversations to start, whether it’s in the small Village of Skokie or in the big cities like Chicago and New York,” Janay said. 

“If I can make a difference by just starting just one protest, imagine what we could do if we all work together and use our voices to raise awareness for things that really matter,” Janay said.  “And I believe that by sharing protest and getting the word out there and educating ourselves and our friends and family, then we are able to start that change and create a difference and build a space where our fellow students and teachers and everyone feels safe being a person of color.

Janay said, “I hope if there’s one thing anyone takes from the work that I’ve done in my four years at Niles West, it’s that anyone can make a difference. It starts with you. All you have to do is speak up for what you believe in and others will follow suit.”

Winning North Robotics Team

VEX Robotics State Champions

ILLINOIS STATE TOURNAMENT:  NILES NORTH TEAM 333A THE 7 DORKS ARE STATE CHAMPIONS

Congratulations to The 7 Dorks, Niles North Team 333A, the State Tournament Champion at the Illinois VEX Robotics Competition held Saturday, April 3 at Illinois State University. The team also earned the Excellence Award.  Also, Team 333B “B^3”  competed in the state tournament and made it to the semifinals

Winning North Robotics Team

Left to Right: Jacob Copeland, Porter Shawver, Ryan Bowering, and Lukas Tichota

Niles West’s Team 321J, Short Circuit, was a Semifinalist and won the Sportsmanship Award at the state tournament. Pictured:  Mike Schuller and Lauren Hersh.

West Robotics Team 321J

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D219 Board Denounces Anti-Asian Violence

The Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education made the following statement at its special board meeting on March 23, 2021.
We, the D219 Board of Education, fully denounce hate crimes in our community and our extended community. Our hearts go out to all the victims’ families and friends impacted by the anti-Asian violence that took place in Atlanta last week. Right now, our Asian community and our students are grieving and hurt.

The Principals and Superintendent sent out an email last week detailing resources available to our Asian students and staff and it is our hope that you use those resources as much as you need them. We understand that traumatic experiences impact learning so we would like to encourage our teachers and staff to take a breath, acknowledge the trauma that exists in your spaces, and talk about what happened.

We are committed to being an anti-racist district. We understand that breathing those words into this space is one thing and your ability to believe them is quite another. D219 has so much to do in terms of follow through for so many.

Hate crimes are not new to our community members. They are, in fact, entirely too familiar. So in this time of trauma and pain, we ask for solidarity from our community for our Asian community members. To quote Samora Machel, “Solidarity is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective.” It is our responsibility as a community to be in solidarity with each other and do whatever we can to help healing happen for our students, teachers, and administrators. Hate has no home in District 219.

Evelyn Herbert winning photo

West Artists Earning National Recognition in Scholastic Contest

Niles West High School art students, Evelyn Herbert and Emma Kalchik, have earned National recognition in the 2020-2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  Evelyn and Emma have been identified by a panel of creative professionals as a few of the most talented young artists in the nation.

Evelyn’s photograph, Elodie, has earned her a National Silver Medal and Emma’s photograph, Hidden Pain, has earned her a National Gold Medal in this art competition. Evelyn and Emma’s artwork is in the top 1-3% of students recognized for their artwork at the National Level. The Awards are an important opportunity for students to be recognized for their creative talents. Learn more at artandwriting.org.

"Elodie" photo by Evelyn Herbert

Gold Medal Award - Ilhana Kisija

North Artist Ilhana Kisija Wins National Gold Medal Award and Scholarship Award

NILES NORTH NATIONAL GOLD AWARD WINNER ILHANA KISIJA

Gold Medal Award - Ilhana Kisija

Congratulations to Niles North’s Ilhana Kisija, the NATIONAL GOLD medal Scholastic Art Recipient & Winner of the New York Life Scholarship Award 

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit organization that presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, is pleased to present Ilhana Kisija with a National Gold Medal Award for her piece titled “Past Ways Say Stay”. 

More than 80,000 students submitted nearly 230,000 works of art and writing to the 2020 Scholastic Awards. Ilhana Kisija’s work was selected by some of the foremost leaders in the visual and literary arts for excellence in originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision. Only 2,000 works received a National Medal, which places Ilhana Kisija within the top 1% of all submissions!

Additionally, Ilhana’s “Past Ways Say Stay” was ALSO awarded the New York Life Scholarship Award 

The New York Life Award elevates the voice of bereaved teens and creates healing conversations around grief. It recognizes six students whose works explore grief, loss, and bereavement. The student’s submission and brief statement were evaluated by a panel of distinguished educators, creative luminaries, and industry professionals.  newyorklifefoundation.org

Latinx Mural at North

New Latinx Mural Debuts

Latinx Mural at North

The Latinx Club is so very proud of our mural. The students named it “La luz en Medio de la Oscuridad” (The Light in the Middle of the Darkness).  This project was a collaboration between 22 Niles North Latinx students, five Niles North staff members and Victor Montañez (a professional muralist).  We all worked remotely on individual 11X14” canvas pieces to create a 5.5X7 ft. (approximately) mural. It took the club five months to accomplish what is now hanging in the hallway, and it continues to be a work in progress. Students will hide dedications in the roots of the Catrina’s dress. The Catrina (Death in an elegant dress) is the protagonist of the mural because it summarizes the year we’ve all had in 2020-21:  loss. In isolation and wearing a mask, Death doesn’t discriminate. The students also included more subtle messages like the fist on the face mask to support the Black Lives Matter movement and hidden faces/shapes all over the mural. A side piece with the signatures of the participating artists will be added.

Students:   Jatziry Ramos, Sarah Cardenas, Ireida Garcia, Karina Haro, Brenda Reyes, Aaron Garcia, Mariana Del Carpio, Vanessa Martin, Ashley Barrera, Danae Barrera, Andrea Meoño, Deisy Hinojosa, Alexa Agrelo, Sofia Olivares, Celeste Ramirez, Regina Saucedo, Michelle Zamora, Miriam Martinez, Heena Ansari, Paula Posadas, Emily Jaimes and Lizbeth Jaimes. 

Staff:   Alejandra Arteaga, Cecilia Serrano, La Joyce Morales, Monica Saucedo and Daisy Castillo.