“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. Chinese Proverb
How would you describe your learning environment when you were in school? My classrooms had dusty chalkboards, rows of desks facing in the same direction, and stuffy air quality. The demand is now for a more effective learning environment. Ways that we learn, collaborate, and communicate have changed significantly. How we currently educate our students is based on extensive research regarding how students learn best.
Improving the Learning Environment
We have used five strategies to transform our classrooms to positively impact learning and teaching.
1. Flexibility. Students learn in a variety of ways. At times many activities will occur simultaneously and each student’s use of technology enriches learning. Students work together while other times they will work by themselves. Furniture is now designed to accommodate flexible configurations.
2. Air Quality. Fresh air that is provided at the appropriate temperature enables students and faculty to be more attentive and perform better. Our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems were improved in two phases in 2006 and 2012. As a result, the air quality and energy savings have greatly improved. The maintenance staff uses the mechanical management system to remotely monitor air temperatures and air flow throughout each school at any time. Also, sections of roofs were replaced this summer at both schools to ensure water does not leak into the buildings.
3. Visual Quality. Research shows that proper lighting improves student achievement. All of our lighting fixtures have been replaced with more effective and more energy efficient devices. The upgrades were partially funded by energy savings grants. Classrooms, gyms and hall walls have been freshly painted with appropriate colors to project a cheerful and bright atmosphere.
4. Acoustics. Most of the upgraded heating and cooling units are located on the roofs rather than in the classrooms, which reduces background noise. The Benjamin Middle School learning media center’s acoustics are being improved this summer by adding sound-deadening treatments. Each teaching technology station has speakers to enhance the sound volume in the classrooms.
5. Safety. A secure and safe environment is paramount to productive teaching and learning. Measures, such as surveillance cameras, door access cards, the Raptor visitor check-in system, ALICE safety training, safety drills, and door securing devices illustrate this top priority.
Shared Services And Collaboration
Benjamin District 25, Winfield District 34, West Chicago Elementary District 33 and Community High School District 94 continue to increase the collaboration and sharing of services to better serve our students and use our financial resources more efficiently. The 33 strategies that have been developed may be found on our website by clicking on the link located on the left-hand side of the Home Page.
These efforts correlate with the 2009 Consolidation Feasibility Study that complimented the partner schools for their students’ achievement, sustaining fund balances, and having well-maintained schools. Shared services’ strategies were recommended by the 2012 Classrooms First Commission, chaired by former Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.
Furthermore, this year Governor Rauner formed the Local Government And Unfunded Mandate Task Force chaired by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti with the objective to prevent waste and use tax dollars more efficiently. I hope the task force’s work will further the shared services recommendations made by 2012 Classrooms First Commission.
Start Of The School Year
One classroom teacher and four special areas teachers retired or resigned this past school year. Only two of the positions have been filled due to more efficient special area scheduling, adjustment for the declining enrollment, and reduction of costs. The average class size of 21.5 students will be similar to last year. The two new teachers are outstanding, and we are excited to welcome them to the Benjamin District 25 team!
The accomplishments of our students are highlighted in an article our Summer 2015 newsletter, “Benjamin Students Set For Academic Success.” Their success can be attributed to motivated students, a dedicated school board, committed teachers, and supportive parents and community. I am honored and proud to serve as the superintendent of such an outstanding school district!
Philip M. Ehrhardt, Ed.D.