D219 Board Denounces Hate

D219 Board Denounces Hate

The Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education made the following statement at its November 17, 2020 meeting:

At Niles Township High School District 219, we strive to achieve and maintain an educational community free from racism, anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, harassment, discrimination based on sexual orientation or any other form of hate. We cherish our diversity and our programs designed to achieve equity for all of our students, employees and community members. We also place a high value on the security of our communications.  In this context, we were all shocked and left in disbelief to learn that on November 11, 2020, one of our teacher’s email accounts was accessed without authorization by an unknown individual and misused to send highly offensive and harassing emails to students and other members of the community. The content of the emails transmitted is beyond troubling and constitutes an affront to the  core values of our District.

We immediately secured the email account, enhanced the account security, and as a precaution, have forced a password reset for all email and network accounts utilized by our teachers, staff, and students. We promptly notified law enforcement and are cooperating with their investigation. We are also conducting an investigation of the incident with the assistance of a professional forensic firm. Please know that the District will not tolerate any acts of hate speech, racism or harassment and will pursue all measures to rectify the harm. Through the investigation, we will look for opportunities to further enhance our existing security measures. We appreciate your patience and continued trust.

As a reminder, the District will never request that its students or members provide password credentials via email. The District is recommending that all individuals who received an email during this incident not respond to or engage the sender. Questions regarding the incident can be directed to our Chief Legal Officer Ray Chung at raychu@d219.org.
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North Virtual Art Gallery

The Niles North Visual Arts Department presents the New Works Art Show 2020 in a new interactive virtual gallery. Please enter the gallery by clicking this link. Navigate through the space by using the ARROW KEYS to move your view/perspective and the WASD KEYS to move your body/position. Clicking on each artwork will show you the artist, title, and medium on the side of your screen. Enjoy the efforts of  student artists who are creating great work all semester long.

New Works Flyer

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Winter Food Drive Collection this Week

Niles West DECA and Peer Leaders are working on one last charity event before the end of the semester. From Monday, December 14 to Friday, December 18, there is going to be a Winter Food Drive taking place with drop off locations at Niles West, Clarence Culver School and Fairview Elementary School. All donations are going to the Niles Township Food Pantry, who continues to serve the community by relieving food insecurity and keeping people in need fed. If you have any food items to spare, please consider donating them. Every donation counts!

Winter Food Drive Flyer

Justin Johnson 2021 Teacher of the Year

“Lion Heart” Justin Johnson, IL Teacher of the Year, Honored at Board Meeting

Justin Johnson Teacher of the Year IL

The State of Illinois’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, Niles West Band Director Justin Johnson, was honored by his home team on December 1, 2020, when the Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education recognized him for winning the state’s top teaching honor. The honor was officially announced in late October by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala.

D219 Superintendent Steven Isoye said, “I don’t know if people appreciate the full extent of this award. Justin Johnson is now the ambassador for all of the teachers in the State of Illinois. Across the country, there is one teacher named for every state and territory. Justin is the one person who symbolizes excellence in education for our state,” and he will represent Illinois in conferences and professional development events throughout next year.

Niles West Principal Karen Ritter said, “Mr. Johnson is what is known as a ‘warm demander;’ someone who sets high expectations for himself, for our students, and for our band program, but also demonstrates a high level of care, compassion, and support for his students. As a result of that practice, Niles West has a competitive and highly regarded band program made of dedicated students who are willing to give their all and a teacher that expects nothing less.

“Mr. Johnson’s impact reaches beyond the classroom,” Ritter said. “Over the past year, Mr. Johnson has facilitated professional development and difficult conversations about race within our school community. He is a racial equity leader, and although he is not one who enjoys being in the spotlight, he knows he has this unique opportunity and platform as the Illinois Teacher of the Year to help schools normalize conversations about equity and race, so we can all create equitable school environments that are welcoming and accepting to all.”

The Illinois State Board of Education specifically recognized Johnson for being an educational leader who centers his teaching around issues of racial and social justice.

A consistent theme among the testimonials from school administrators, colleagues and students that were part of Johnson’s nomination was the fact that he proudly advocates for more equitable schools, to his students and to his peers, and he models that behavior.

NW Band w Justin Johnson

(Jazz Educators Network conference festival performance in New Orleans in January)

At the board meeting, Patti Anne Ford, Director of Fine & Applied Arts, said Johnson’s “resilience, his lion heart, his loyalty and inherent ability to push through are skills he has put to work. We need to do better and here’s why. A change agent like Justin gets a lot of push back, and when I have a strong teacher that’s receiving all that noise, that racket — I know it means they are actually changing systems.

“Mr. Johnson is a calm, cool and collective agitator,” Ford said. “You don’t see him coming, but he’s right there, and he always has been. He’s steady. He’s focused. He does not derail or bend to any oppressors. He never needs to be the loudest in the room, or have the final word, but when he does lend his voice to a room, he moves it. These courageous and honorable traits are ones we all hope for every child to find within themselves. And if they spend time with Mr. Johnson, you can be assured they will be a better human being for it.

“In preparing for this meeting,” Johnson said, “I reflected on how I got here, and it took me back to my early, early days, and this very stern conversation I had back in first grade with my teacher, Dr. Hartman. She pulled me aside in the hallway and looked me in the face, and said, ‘You’ve got potential. You’re the smartest kid in the class, and I’m not going to let you waste it. You’ve got to fix your attitude.’”

(Joan Hartman was Johnson’s first grade teacher at Ripley Elementary School in Ripley, Tennessee, which lies in the northwest corner of the state near the Mississippi River.)

“It was important to me at the time that she said that, because I didn’t know it, and she pushed me to live up to the expectation that she set for me. And she didn’t stop there. She still checks on me to this day — and this is a teacher I had when I was a first grader. She saw something in me and she pushed me. And that’s not all: she continues to check in on me.”

When Hartman heard about Johnson’s Teacher of Year Award, he said, “she sent me a handwritten letter to congratulate me. As I think back on that time, it brings me to how I want to operate as an educator. I hope to provide for other students the same thing Dr. Hartman provided for me. It wasn’t just the fact that she told me she saw potential. It was that over the course of time, she told me I had to start living up to that. And so I changed my behaviors.”

Alluding to the difficult times he experienced when he came to D219 as a Black man who talked about racial equity with students and colleagues, Johnson said he was able to struggle through thanks to “some perseverance and some resilience” that was modeled for him by his mother.

Johnson said he is grateful to work for the district but wants to do what he can and convince others to do everything they can “to make this place welcoming for everyone, to make a space that allows people to feel respected and appreciated and to feel that their work matters.”

Johnson alluded to the racial achievement gap that negatively impacts D219 and schools around the country. He said, ”I firmly believe that in our district there are a ton of Dr. Hartmans in our buildings and a ton of students who are just like (I was). I think:  what can we do to merge the two and break down some of those barriers and inspire some of those students who would otherwise be left behind or lost in the shuffle or pushed onto another path? Because that could well have been me. I could very well have been one of those students who did not go the way I did.”

Johnson said he frequently takes strength from “those words from my mom about how we always push through and we never give up. And if I can give that message to one student, two students, three students … then that’s a start.”

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Career Development for Students

On December 2 and December 9, Niles West DECA students (Sameer Kajani, Ramiz Hameed) invite you to join in on career development guest speaker sessions designed to help students find their career path.
December 2nd @ 10:45 AM: Career Development with Jeff Blumenfeld
– Build your career and learn about the various ways you can obtain your dream job!
Career Session w Jeff Blumenfeld
December 9th @ 2:45 PM: Entrepreneurship & Health Innovation with Anna Lisa Somera
– Learn about a brand new technological innovation in the medical field and how Ms.Somera has built a company around it.
Career Session Anna Lisa Somera

D219 Musicians Invited To ILMEA Festival Day

Twenty-three Niles Township High School District 219 musicians have been selected to the Illinois Music Educators Association (ILMEA) District 7 Festival. Students from the orchestra, choir and band underwent virtual auditions to qualify for the festivals. In a typical ILMEA Fall Festival Season, over 10,000 student musicians gather over the Saturdays of November to take part in the ILMEA District Festivals. Bringing students together from different schools to experience an ensemble experience under an exemplary guest conductor, these events are the foundation of ILMEA student programs. With the onset of COVID-19, however,  the ILMEA Board of Directors canceled the in-person District Festivals and have designed digital master class events to provide a high-quality musical experience for students who would have been accepted into these festivals. D219 students will participate in the Senior Level District Festival Day on November 21. 

ILMEA Fall Festival Masterclass Day Schedule

9:00-9:30am – Motivational Keynote for all student musicians

9:45-10:45am – Masterclass #1 

11:00-12:00pm – Masterclass #2 

All students will have a combined motivational keynote address and then will break out by voice part and instrument to participate in two different 60-minute master classes on the Zoom platform. To keep the size of each masterclass manageable, the students will be split into two groups in their voice part or instrument. They will attend the first session with one clinician and then change to the other clinician for the second session. All students that are selected for their District Festival will be eligible to participate.

In addition, students will also be receiving a 2020 District Festival t-shirt, and directors will receive a digital certificate to print for each student selected.  

Niles North:  Dyllan Bowering, Senior Band, Euphonium; Angelie Prem, Senior Band, Alto Sax; Jamie Acido, Senior Chorus, Soprano I, Ovinabo Banerjee, Senior Chorus, Bass I; Psalm De Vera, Senior Chorus, Alto I; Rachel Gately, Senior Chorus, Soprano II, Carolina Williams, Senior Chorus, Soprano I, Zachary Sorkin, Senior Jazz Band II, Jazz Drum Set; Matthew Small, Senior Jazz Band III, Jazz String/Electric Bass; Josh Trimberger, Senior Jazz Band III, Jazz Piano; Stefan Westerberg, Senior Orchestra, Cello; Jamie Acido, Senior Vocal Jazz I, Vocal Jazz Soprano; Roy Gantz, Senior Vocal Jazz I, Vocal Jazz Tenor; Abby Mehr, Senior Vocal Jazz II, Vocal Jazz Soprano; and Carolina Williams, Senior Vocal Jazz II, Vocal Jazz Soprano.

 Niles West:  Socrates Hwang, Senior Band, Percussion; Nathaniel Bangit, Senior Chorus, Tenor II; Oliver Biel, Senior Chorus, Bass II; Juan Crespo, Senior Chorus, Tenor II; Matthew Phillip, Senior Chorus, Tenor I; Amie Soliva, Senior Chorus, Alto II; Ian Soriano, Senior Chorus, Bass I; Joseph Cinquemani, Senior Jazz Band I, Jazz Trumpet; Socrates Hwang, Senior Jazz Band II, Jazz Vibes; Zachary Allen*, Senior Orchestra, Oboe; Joseph Cinquemani*, Senior Orchestra, Trumpet; Dylan Nguyen, Senior Orchestra, Cello; and Ian Soriano*, Senior Orchestra, French Horn. 

 *band students placed in District Orchestra through their audition