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D219 Statement Re. Asian Hate Crimes 3.17.21

This letter is being sent to D219 families in response to the hate crimes in Georgia yesterday.

Dear Members of our District 219 School Community, 

Our Asian community has seen and experienced an increase in hate crimes since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last night, an incident occurred in which eight people were killed in Georgia. According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed that four of the eight people were women of Korean descent. Six were women of Asian descent.  While investigations are ongoing, this act of unspeakable violence is being categorized as a hate crime. 

Hate has no home in District 219. We fully denounce any type of violence in our community and our extended community. Our hearts go out to all the victims’ families and friends of yesterday’s violence. Our district is a global village and we have students from all over the world. Right now, our Asian community and our students are grieving and hurt by the most recent hate crime in Georgia. When an incident like this occurs, the trauma is felt throughout the country, especially in schools. It is our responsibility as a community to come together and heal. 

Our district is committed to being anti-racist. This means that we need to act through our systems and structures to show our support. We will ensure that our students have the opportunity to process the trauma in a safe environment with licensed professionals. We will have multiple avenues: affinity spaces, counseling support and adult connections throughout our schools — teachers, deans, staff, coaches, directors and more.

Any student who needs support should contact their counselor. Students can schedule a meeting with their counselor, whether the meeting takes place in person or remotely.

Every adult in our building has a connection to students and this is when we can heal through the power of community. Furthermore, we will ensure that our faculty and staff who are impacted by the trauma also have the space and support to process the most recent hate crimes. 

The stress of a pandemic is already a significant burden, but now we also have to deal with unspeakable hate yet again. As the late John Lewis aptly characterized:  “We are one people with one family. We all live in the same house… and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”

As a district, it is our moral imperative to: 1) keep our students and staff safe; 2) educate our students; and 3) graduate them into a world knowing the difference between right and wrong. 

Hate has no home in District 219. 


Dr. Steven Isoye
Superintendent of Schools

Dr.Karen Ritter
Niles West Principal

Dr. James Edwards
Niles North Principal

Merrick Garland

Merrick Garland (NW 1970) Is Confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General

Merrick GarlandThe Niles West High School community and Niles Township High School District 219 are celebrating the confirmation of Niles West alumnus Merrick Garland to the position of U.S. Attorney General. The United States  Senate voted on March 10 to approve President Joseph Biden’s nomination of Judge Garland to head up the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We are honored and thrilled that one of our Niles West alumni is now ascending to the highest level of public service by becoming our U.S. Attorney General,” said Niles West Principal Karen Ritter. “What a great message to our students and our community that a Niles West grad is now the chief lawyer of the federal government and will serve as the principal advisor to the president of the United States on all legal matters.”

Garland is currently a Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He graduated from Niles Niles West High School in 1970; at that time, he was living in Lincolnwood.

Garland has remained an active supporter of his hometown schools. He addressed the Niles West graduating Class of 2016 at its commencement ceremony, the first time the school had a distinguished guest speaker at a graduation ceremony. (He was inducted into the school’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame the same day, May 29.)

Garland returned to Lincolnwood in September of 2018, when he delivered the keynote address at Lincoln Hall Middle School, during Lincolnwood School District 74’s kickoff event for its 75th anniversary. Garland, who graduated from Lincoln Hall in 1966, spoke about how his education in the school district set a foundation for his later success.

“The Lincolnwood schools gave me the preparation I needed to succeed in high school,” Garland said at the anniversary event. “I am proud of the education I received and I am proud of my community. It was not just a great education. It was how it reinforced my sense of community.” 

Niles West’s Assistant Principal of Operations Steve Parnther is gratified that today’s students can look to role models like Garland to see that their pathways from Niles West can take them to the highest levels of success.

Parnther, himself a Niles West graduate (Class of 2007), was interviewed by ABC Channel 7’s Ravi Baichwal on February 22. (You can watch the piece here; the segment with Parnther filmed at Niles West begins at about 1:46.)

“We are always encouraging our students to find their passion even amidst the adversity they may come across,” Parnther said. “Having someone like Judge Garland, a West alum, shows what is possible and he is an inspiration. We’re very fortunate to have prominent alumni who are public servants, professional athletes and entrepreneurs. It is uplifting anytime our students can see themselves in alumni who have lived out their passion.”

Those Who Make A Difference Awards Given to D219 Schools’ Staff and IT’s Manderico, Ardisana, Veneris

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!”

North Business Logo

Niles North DECA Achieves #NextLevel Honors at Conference

The Niles North High School DECA chapter competed in the Virtual IL-Career Development Conference throughout the months of January and February.  The Grand Awards Ceremony was broadcast virtually on March 6, 2021.  Over 1,500 students competed this year, which makes it the largest competitive conference in Illinois DECA history.  DECA attracts individuals to productive careers in entrepreneurship, marketing, management, hospitality, finance, business administration, and sales and merchandising.  There are over 3,700 members in Illinois DECA.  

This year’s national campaign of DECA “#NextLevel” was exactly what this conference has been for the Niles North DECA Chapter!  Even though Niles North had been remote during the entire competitive season, 35 students took their learning to the #NextLevel by competing in either various interactive role play or written project events.  These students are truly exceptional and should be congratulated on a successful competitive season.

Of the 35 competitors, 32 earned Top 10 Medals, 17 earned a bid to DECA International Career Development Conference, 6 are State Champions, and 2 earned Individual IFME Scholarships/Awards.  In addition to this, 19 seniors were selected as IFME Honor Award recipients, the most of any chapter in the State of Illinois.  The number of ICDC qualifiers is a school record for Niles North DECA and we couldn’t be prouder of these students for achieving so much by overcoming so many obstacles!  

Niles North DECA has served as a co-curricular organization which serves students as an integral part of the classroom instructional program in the Business Education Department for the past 43 years.  Niles North DECA chapter activities contribute substantially to the primary purpose of school to develop well-educated citizens who have self-confidence, self-esteem, leadership ability, and an understanding of the American Free Enterprise System. Niles North DECA is sponsored by Jean Attig, Kara Mielke, and Nick Pahl.

Niles North DECA would like to thank the D219 Board of Education, Dr. Steven Isoye (D219 Superintendent), Dr. James Edwards (NNHS Principal), Mr. Chris Powell (ECSB Director), Ms. Alyssa Bednarz (ECSB Administrative Assistant), Mrs. Lisa Edelson (Education to Careers Coordinator), and the many D219 administration/faculty/staff for their continued support of this program.  

Here are the highlights of this year’s accomplishments by the Niles North DECA Chapter:

  • The Niles North DECA Chapter earned THREE Chapter Awards at the conference
    • Community Service Campaign — THRIVE LEVEL (only 3 in the state)
    • Promotional Campaign — THRIVE LEVEL (only 3 in the state)
    • IConnect Gold Status — Alicia Fabella and Hafsa Feroz (Coordinators)
  • Romesa Amiwala recognized as an IFME $1,000 Scholarship Winner
  • Kamran Khan recognized as the IFME Frank Vignola Award Winner

The following students are International Career Development Conference qualifiers:

Romesa Amiwala, Project Management Career Development, First Place; Kamran Khan, Project Management Career Development, First Place; Hassam Uddin, Project management Career Development, First Place; Alicia Fabella, Project Management Business Solutions, First Place; Manu Deva, Project Management Business Solutions, First Place; Simran Mithani, Project Management Sales Project, First Place; Bushra Ahmed, Project Management Financial Literacy, Third Place; Hafsa Feroz, Project Management Financial Literacy, Third Place; Sutton Schwartz, Project Management Financial Literacy, Third Place; Ayan Das, Business Services Operations Research, Third Place; Marija Planinic, Business Services Operations Research, Third Place; Yash Sharma, Business Services Operations Research Third Place; Ethan Burstin, Independent Business Plan, Third Place; Malav Patel, Independent Business Plan, Third Place; Steven Reed, Independent Business Plan, Third Place; Lindsey Saxe, Hotel and Lodging Management, Third Place; and Meera Sahrawat, Principles of Finance, Fourth Place.

Top Ten Finishers:  Noora Mekhaeel, Apparel and Accessories Marketing Series, Nosheen Ahmed, Buying and Merchandising Team Decision Making, Prachi Patel, Buying and Merchandising Team Decision Making, Mohammad Makda, Entrepreneurship Series, Samuel Abraham, Financial Services Team Decision making, Gabe Vargas, Financial Services Team Decision Making, Zaina Anarwala, Innovation Plan, Misha Gandhi, Innovation Plan, Rachel Jacob, Innovation Plan, Aamir Abjani, International Business Plan, Dane Nitoi, International Business Plan, Isar Saxena, International Business Plan, Farah Tawfik, Principles of Marketing, Aby James, Start-Up Business Plan Event and Julia Rivera, Start-Up Business Plan Event.

Excellence/Competency-Based Honors:  Nosheen Ahmed, Cluster Test and Role Play; Mohammad Makda, Role Play; Salman Mehdi, Role Play; Noora Mekhaeel, Role Play; Prachi Patel, Role Play; Meera Sahrawat, Cluster Test and Role Play; Lindsey Saxe, Cluster Test and Role Play; and Farah Tafik, Role Play.

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D219 Board Approves Three-Year Rollover of Collective Bargaining Agreement with Union

The Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education at its February 23 meeting approved a three-year rollover of the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the Niles Township Federation of Teachers and Support Staff (NTFTSS), Local 1274. The rollover was ratified by the NTFTSS membership earlier this school year.

The rollover will keep in place almost all of the terms of the existing contract, which expires on June 30, 2021. The rollover contract will thus be in effect for the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

The union and district agreed to new contract terms that include:

  • For teachers and certified staff, 2.75% new money for each of the three years.

  • Each support staff member will receive a raise of 2.75% each of the three years.

  • The salary schedule cell used to determine stipends, summer work and other extras will be moved from MA-5 to MA45-3.

    “The Board of Education is glad that we have been able to work so collaboratively with our Union to agree on this rollover,” said D219 Board President David Ko. “At a time of so much stress and so many challenges in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is a relief to know that we at least will have certainty in our working and learning environment thanks to ongoing stable working conditions.”

John Bias page in BHM illustrated book

Black History Month: Illustrations of Black Faculty and Staff

Niles North High School has continued its yearly tradition of honoring Black Faculty and Staff through art. This year’s vision was to compile a Portrait Illustration Book despite the many restrictions of the  remote learning environment. Please follow the link below to flip through the virtual pages! Each spread of the book features a staff or faculty member on the left side and a message or quote of their choice on the right side.  
These portraits were illustrated by Student, Alumni, and Staff Artists by incorporating their own artmaking styles with the energy of the chosen quotes into the final portraits. 
Thank you to everyone involved in this collaboration and we hope you enjoy the following works of art.


Equations graphic

North Students Continue in International Math Competition

Two teams from Niles North will be represented in the second round of the High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling (HiMCM) for the second year in a row. Students will be competing for a chance to represent the United States at the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IM2C) later this spring. HiMCM is a math competition where students from across the United States and around the world work in teams of 4 to select, research, construct, and represent a mathematical model to solve a real-world problem. 

A total of 779 teams competed in November 2020, and papers were udged into one of five categories: Outstanding (top 1%), Finalist (top 8%), Meritorious (top 20%), Honorable Mention (top 50%) and Successful Participant.

Each team selected a problem they would address, and then worked for up to two weeks to write a 20-page paper describing their mathematical model and results. Both North teams chose the following problem: Problem A      Problem: The Best Summer Job

Although it’s only November, you need to start planning for your 2021 summer job. You have a variety of choices this year and want to determine your “best” choice. You pose this problem for your team of math friends:

We have many opportunities for a summer job. Some allow us to work from home virtually/electronically, some are a walk or bike ride away, and others require us to drive or take a train. Each job offers differing numbers of hours each week and the hourly rates also vary. Some involve physical activity, or at least not sitting at a desk (e.g. cashier at a store, lifeguarding, or wait staff at a restaurant), while others are mostly sedentary and perhaps use analytical and organizational skills (e.g. data analysis, office administration, or research).

Let’s develop a model that will evaluate the choices we have for our summer jobs and help us all find the “best” job. While we certainly want to earn and save some money, we also want to have time for recreation activities (e.g. exercise, outings, and social time with friends). Let’s make our model one that will be helpful for all high school students to think about and analyze their summer job options.

The team of Maddie Burroughs, Lisa Duan, Kalliope Kobotis and Ana Vuckovic earned Finalist and will advance to IM2C this spring. 

The team of Dominick Bogdan, Kyle Kenmotsu, Liam Perrault and Hassam Uddin earned Meritorious and they also will advance to IM2C.

Emma Kalchick

West Artists Receive 53 Regional Awards at Competition

Niles West High School artists received 53 Regional awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, an organization that identifies teens with exceptional literary and artistic talent. The competition, founded in 1923, is the nation’s longest-running, largest, most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers in the visual and literary arts. Notable past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates.

The Awards are an important opportunity for students to be recognized for their creative talents. Teens in grades 7 through 12 can apply in almost 30 categories of art and writing for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published. Nearly 70,000 students are recognized on the regional level:  students who received Gold Keys advance to national adjudication.


Gold Key winners have achieved the highest level of recognition on the regional level. Their work is sent to compete on a national level for scholarships. Results will be announced in March. Gold Key award winners represent the top 5% to 7% of all entries.

Work by Mujeeb AnsariAnsari ArtworkWork by SocratesHwangSocrates Hwany
Art by JessicaPalmer

Jessica Palmer

Art by Emma Kalchik

Emma Kalchick

Photography, Design, and Digital Art Categories:

Anya Ruffino, Emma Kalchik (2), Evelyn Herbert, Jerry Mendheim, Jessica Palmer, Mujeeb Ansari, Nora Graham, Socrate Hwang (2), 


Anna Maris

Mixed Media:

Seher Tayabee


Silver Key winners demonstrate a high level of achievement. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of all regional submissions earn Silver Key Awards.

Photography, Design, and Digital Art Categories:

Abrar Alsaad, Alexa Mazilu, Amar Vojnikovic, Ben Kelly, Emma Beavers, Hannah Joseph, Jerry Mendheim, Nora Graham, Sage Lijewall, Amie Pearl Soliva (2)

Drawing & Illustration:

Avery Luthardt (2)

Mixed Media Category:

Anna Maris

Sculpture & Ceramics:

Althea Bibat


The Honorable Mention Award recognizes students with artistic potential. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all regional submissions receive these awards.

Photography, Design, and Digital Art Categories:

Andrea Bora, Anna Maris, Daniel Chis, Enna Kim, Evanthia Hatzopoulos (3), Evelyn Herbert (2), Luka Gebhardt (2), Maria Tudose (2), Oliver Albazi (2), Shaina Maitino(2), Tam Luu, Trevor Bell

Drawing & Illustration Category:

Amie Pearl Soliva (2), Avery Luthardt

Sculpture & Ceramics:

Danielle Boudakh, Dharma Delahanty, Nyamsuren Narantsogt

Valorant Graphic

West esports Teams Win Awards at State

D219 debuted esports teams during the 2020-21 school year, and Niles West received 4th and 5th places in the state tournament.

Valorant Varsity Team: They made it to the state playoffs and placed 4th in the state. They played against 19 schools in the state esports association. The students on this team include Syed Ghazi, Dylan Scott, Peter Siegler, Elias Azami, Xavier Budimir, and David Acosta. 

Valorant JV Team: They qualified to the state playoffs and tied for 5th place in the state. They competed  against 17 schools in the state esports association. The students on this team include Sameer Kajani, Will Rousseau, Adam Chen, Daniel Nissan, Nathan Alas, and Dylan Nguyen.

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate: Shane Tran and Jonathan Lou achieved 4th and 5th place in the state, respectively. They played against 221 other players in the state esports association. Amir Abdella and Elijah Kim also made it to the state playoffs but did not place in the top.

Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. It is defined as “electronic sports (esports) a form of competition facilitated through computer gaming. Most commonly, esports takes the form of organized, multiplayer online video game competitions.” It is on the verge of becoming an officially Illinois High School Association activity, and Niles West and Niles North are some of the early schools to adopt an Esports program. 

There are six video games to participate in (Varsity and Junior Varsity levels):  Overwatch, Rocket League, League of Legends, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Valorant, and Fortnite. Schools compete in tournaments with other schools in the region and state. Tournaments are organized through the North American Scholastic Sports Federation (NASEF). There are substantial college recruiting and scholarship opportunities available to high school esports athletes who do well in tournaments.

Niles West science teacher Ali Sayed-Ahmad is the esports Team Coach for West.