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Local News

Joliet D-86 superintendent holds first community chat session

Visitors gather at Forest Park Community Center to ask questions, give comments

JOLIET – The new Joliet Public Schools District 86 superintendent held the first of several chat sessions Tuesday to answer questions and hear comments from the community.

It’s part of Superintendent Theresa Rouse’s effort to increase community and parental involvement in the Joliet elementary and junior high schools. Her first superintendent chat was held at the Forest Park Community Center.

Rouse explained to several visitors the theme for the district this year: building capacity for H.O.P.E., or humor, optimism, perspective and expectation.

“We’re not perfect. We have a ways to go. But we’re going to not spin in the past. We’re going to step to the future,” Rouse said.

Joining her were several parents, Forest Park Community Center Executive Director and Joliet Councilwoman Bettye Gavin, District 86 board member Gwendolyn Ulmer and Joliet Councilwoman Jan Quillman.

Some of the topics discussed were the importance of reading, increased parental involvement, anti-bullying efforts and curriculum. 

Gavin asked Rouse about what those involved in early learning for children can do to help with their transition to the schools. Forest Park Community Center prepares 3- to-5-year-olds for kindergarten. 

Rouse said exposure to as much rich vocabulary as possible is key, along with school-going skills such as using scissors, recognizing letters and play.

“The No. 1 piece is reading – as many words as we can get into their world possible,” Rouse said.

Debra Upshaw, Joliet chapter president of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, talked about children’s needs with reading at grade level and how her organization has given out thousands of books to help.

But one issue was knowing how to assess children’s reading growth, she said.

Rouse said the district’s goal is to get students at grade-level reading by third grade and the district will need time to achieve it.

“Sustainable change takes at least 3 to 5 years. All research supports that. So what I’m asking for is patience but also assistance. And that’s all of us working together – all of us really linking arms,” Rouse said.

Many at the chat session were happy Rouse was making an effort to visit the schools within District 86 and be in the community.

Stanley Moffett said his son was able to be successful in school because of Moffett’s involvement.

“The parents need to be more involved and by you putting your face out there, that might open up the heart of the parents because they need to be involved,” Moffett said.

Rouse told visitors about a program piloting this year at two elementary schools that gives parents resources to help their children with schoolwork at home. She said she hopes it will be districtwide in the future. 

After some questions about bullying and social-emotional needs, Rouse said the district has an anonymous tip line for students to report bullying and the CHAMPS program.

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NEXT CHAT SESSIONS

• 4 to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at Dirksen Junior High School, 203 S. Midland Ave.

• 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 18 at the Joliet Public Library, 150 N. Ottawa St.

• 5 to 6 p.m. April 26 at Hufford Junior High School, 1125 N. Larkin Ave.

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