Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30, 2015

Continuing the 5 Questions
How do you build leadership in your school?

In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, he talks about getting the right people on the bus, and then getting the right people into the rights SEATS on the bus. This paints a clear picture in my mind, and when I think about the diverse talents our people possess, creating this "seating chart" becomes a welcome challenge.

Since we have more leaders than formal leadership positions in our school, I try to provide opportunities for people to contribute in other ways. At any given time, there are committees, presentations, and other professional development opportunities that I use to develop leadership skills. It can be easy to tap into the same people all the time, but I try to avoid this scenario, if possible. I try to select people for these opportunities based on their strengths, or even to help someone improve a perceived area for growth.

I also find that if I afford committees some autonomy to pursue outcomes as they see fit, there is higher engagement and often a better product. My wife has heard me say, “You can tell me WHAT I’m supposed to do, but I’d rather you not tell me HOW I’m supposed to do it.” (I won’t tell you how often she has to tell me what to do. You’re probably also wondering just how inefficiently I load the dishwasher/fold clothes/etc. These details are best left untold!) I try to adhere to this philosophy at work--we can shape the vision together, but I want people to put their own stamp on the work we are doing.

What about the students? I have to admit, this is an area that I haven’t explored at great length yet. Again, we have the formal leadership positions available for them to pursue, but there is a tremendous amount of talent and potential walking around these halls! One thing I have tried to do as principal is to help our students build Fremd into a place they can take pride in. If they feel pride in their school, they are more likely to get involved in maintaining that source of pride--and this kind of work is truly rewarding.

Highlights and Successes
  • Congratulations to Coach Jerry Moon and the Fremd Chess Team on finishing their MSL season undefeated again this year with a 14-0 record (10-0 record during the regular season and a 4-0 record at the conference tournament).  
  • The following students won individual medals for finishing in the top 3 in the MSL on their respective boards:  Board 1: Nathan Xu (undefeated); Board 2: Ian Freeman; Board 3: Derek Cheng; Board 4: Owais Suhale (undefeated); Board 5: Matt Kennedy (undefeated); Board 6: Ryan Groch (undefeated); and Board 7: Tim Moran
  • Congratulations to Directors Matt Moore, Jeremy Figlewicz and Sam Simpson and the Fremd Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Lab Band for their performances at the 38th annual “Northshore Jazz Festival” (Glenbrook South HS).  The Jazz Ensemble (directed by Matt Moore) was awarded straight “Division 1/Superior” ratings by three collegiate judges in the top band division.  The Jazz Lab Band (directed by Jeremy Figlewicz and Sam Simpson) was also awarded a “Division 1/Superior” rating in the second band division.   
  • Congratulations to Coach Kristen Newby and the Boys Swim Team on their 2nd place finish at the Glenbrook South Art Van Aman Invite.  Award winners include:   1st place 200 Medley Relay (Joey Carlisle, Austin Yurasek, Danny Konishi, Nick Nevins); 3rd place 200 IM -Joey Carlisle;  2nd and 3rd place 50 Freestyle (tied with each other) Austin Yurasek and Nick Nevins;  3rd place 100 Butterfly - Danny Konishi; 3rd place 100 Freestyle - Roshan Rajan;  2nd place 200 Free Relay (Roshan Rajan, Austin Yurasek, Kenny Benjamin, Nick Nevins); and  3rd place 100 Backstroke - Joey Carlisle.
  • Congratulations to the following Varsity Debaters for winning awards at the Carl Sandburg High School Debate Tournament: Public Forum--Zachary Jordan and Ishan Taparia (1st Place), Lincoln-Douglas--Jessica Lu (3rd Place), Angie Peng (4th Place). Speaker awards were also earned by Sresht Iyer, John Komoll, Jessica Lu, and Angie Peng.

Upcoming Home Activities and Varsity Events

January 30
Boys Swimming & Diving Senior Night vs. CHS - 4:30 p.m.
Girls Basketball Senior Night vs. SHS - 7:30 p.m.
Wrestling vs. MSL conference @ HEHS - 5:00 p.m.
Girls Gymnastics vs. MSL Conference @ Hersey - 6:00 p.m.
January 31
Girls Bowling vs. MSL conference @ Arlington Lanes - 8:30 a.m.
Cheerleading Sectionals @ RMHS - 9:00 a.m.
Wrestling vs. MSL conference @ HEHS - 11:30 a.m.
Boys Basketball @ Carmel - 7:00 p.m.
February 3
Girls Basketball @ HEHS - 7:30 p.m.
Girls Gymnastics vs. IHSA Regional - 6:00 p.m.
February 5-6
Orchesis Dance Show - Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.
February 6
Cheerleading @ State - Bloomington
Girls Basketball vs. Palatine - 6:00 p.m.
Boys Basketball vs. Palatine - 7:30 p.m.

For a more complete list, please visit our Athletics Page.

Staff Spotlight

Name:  Brian Harlan

Position: Assistant Principal

Years at Fremd:  This is currently my second year at FHS.

Life Before Fremd:  Prior to Fremd I worked in the district teaching science (Geology, Astronomy, Earth Science, and Physical Science) at Hoffman Estates High School for 6 years.  I also served as Dean of Students at HEHS during the 2012-2013 school year.
I grew up in Marengo, Illinois, and attended Marengo High School.  I received an M.S. in Geology from University of Illinois and moved on to attain an M.S. in Geology from Northern Illinois University as well as a teaching certificate.  In 2012 I completed an M.A. in Educational Leadership.

Hobbies/Interests:  Most of time is spent running around with my two sons (1 ½ and 3 ½) who seem to have endless energy.  When it is warm out you can find us around the local parks as much as possible.
I am currently enrolled in another Master’s program through NIU working towards my M.S. in School Business Management which takes up most of any other time I have.  When I do get free time I enjoy fishing, golfing, and most of all, spending time with my wife.

Insider Tip for Parents:  Coming from a small high school I am amazed at all of the course offerings that Fremd has to offer.  Encourage your students to take advantage of all the great academic opportunities.   I’m always amazed at the number of students over the course of my career that have come back and informed me they changed career paths because of a specific class or teacher they had in high school.

Ask the Principal
Q: In recent newsletters, I’ve read that the PARCC exams are replacing the Prairie State Achievement Exam, which included the ACT. Does this mean that colleges will also replace the ACT with the PARCC exams?

A: Right now, colleges and universities have no designs to replace the ACT or SAT as their enrollment exams. Because the exams are so new, we are all waiting to see what kind of information the exams can give us. This year, we will still be offering a free ACT to all juniors on March 3. District 211 plans to continue to offer the ACT to juniors, but we are awaiting further planning information from the Illinois State Board of Education like cost and possible dates.

Are you curious about something at Fremd but have never asked? Email me at If your question is pertinent to a wider audience, I will include it in the next blog post.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23, 2015

Now We’re Cooking!
Since my last blog post, I have received emails from several parents with comments or questions, many of which were in response to my posts about our use of technology. Other questions were in response to current events, either at Fremd or in surrounding districts. These questions, and my corresponding answers, will serve as the “headline story” this week.

Q1: I see that Barrington High School is beginning to examine the start time for the regular school day. Has there been any discussion about this at Fremd High School or District 211?

Here is a link to a recent article from the Daily Herald about Barrington’s interest in examining a later start time. District 211 officials are aware of what is happening in Barrington, but we haven’t had any formal discussions about this topic. As the article points out, there is a balance between what is best for teens and their need for sleep and other factors, such as additional costs for transportation. Barrington High School predicts that added bus routes would cost at least $1.5 million per year. District 211’s transportation costs would also increase, though I don’t know how much.

Q2: What about final exams? Can’t we at least change the starting times for final exams to allow my student to take their tests with a solid night of sleep under his/her belt?

This is an interesting idea. But if we shift the starting time at Fremd, we would also have to shift the starting time at PHS since we share bus routes. Doing so may require us to provide a lunch for students, which is an added cost. It also breaks students out of their usual routine, which may create other unintended problems.

Q3: Speaking of testing, how much testing is too much? I feel like my student is constantly taking tests in some of her classes.

The end of the semester can be rough. Teachers are trying to finish up the course content while assessing the students’ preparation for the final exam. We have ongoing conversations about how to gather this evidence in formats that won’t stress out students and that will afford optimum learning time in class. As with any other concern you may have, I suggest that you begin this conversation with the teacher to share with them what life looks like through your student’s eyes.

Q4: I appreciate that you are using iPads to improve instruction, but can’t we disable the games? They are a major distraction to my student!

We evaluate this possibility from time to time. It would make everyone’s lives much easier to allow only educational apps. There are several reasons why we have chosen not to limit the students’ access to games. Toward the top of this list is the desire to educate students about using the devices appropriately. Informally, teachers speak to students about appropriate use. Formally, we offer many educational opportunities through guest speakers, staff presentations, and our student-run Digital Democracy Committee. High school is the time for students to learn these skills, before they try to navigate the freedom and independence that college affords them.

And if you’d like to discuss this topic in more detail, please plan to attend our...

Parent Technology Academy: Learning to Love Social Media.  Wednesday, January 28, 7:00 – 8:00 PM, Fremd Media Center.  Join us for an interactive discussion on how students use social media and the role of parents in helping students manage technology.  Technology Coordinator Keith Sorensen, Assistant Principal Craig Kersemeier, and a panel of Fremd students will review the most common social media services, discuss ideas for establishing family expectations, and brainstorm tips for talking with students about social media.  Afterwards we’ll stick around to answer questions regarding technology at FHS.  We’ll also provide tech assistance – all devices welcome!  We hope you’ll come be part of the conversation!

Highlights and Successes
  • Congratulations to the Boys’ Swimming Free Relay Team on their 3rd place finish at Hinsdale South College Events.  The relay members are Austin Yurasek, Roshan Rajan, Nick Nevins and Alex Nicholas.
  • Congratulations to the following Varsity Speech Team award winners at the Glenbard West Topper Tourney:  Emma Davies, 1st place Informative Speaking, 5th place Radio Speaking; Abby Cohen, finalist Original Comedy; and Alex Bazil, finalist Impromptu Speaking.
  • Congratulations to the following Varsity Debaters who won Chamber awards at the Deerfield Congressional Debate Tournament: Anusha Thotakura (1st Place), Leonard Lee (2nd Place), and Kamalesh Srikanth (2nd Place).

Upcoming Home Activities and Varsity Events

January 23
Varsity Wrestling Senior Night vs. Barrington - 6:00 p.m.

Boys Swimming & Diving @ PHS - 4:30 p.m.

Girls Basketball @ Barrington - 7:30 p.m.
January 24
Boys Swimming & Diving @ Glenbrook N
Art Van Aman Invite-Diving - 9:00 a.m.
Art Van Aman Invite-Swimming - 1:00 p.m.

Wrestling vs Libertyville/Cary Grove @ Cary Grove - 9:00 a.m.

Girls Bowling vs. Leyden Invite @ Stardust Lanes-9:00 a.m.

Boys Basketball vs. Conant - 6:00 p.m.
January 26
Girls Bowling vs. HEHS @ Arlington Lanes - 4:30 p.m.

Girls Basketball vs. Conant - 7:30 p.m.
January 27
Late Start Day - 8:50 a.m.

Parent Principal Network - 7:00 p.m. in Media Center
January 28
Girls Bowling vs. SHS @ Arlington Lanes- 4:30 p.m.

Parent Technology Academy - 7:00 p.m. in Media Center
January 30
Boys Swimming & Diving Senior Night vs. CHS - 4:30 p.m.

Girls Basketball Senior Night vs. SHS - 7:30 p.m.

For a more complete list, please visit our Athletics Page.

Staff Spotlight

Name: Kim Glaser
Position: Assistant Principal
Years at Fremd: This is my third year at Fremd.
Life Before Fremd: Before coming to Fremd, I taught English for six years at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. I also coached Neuqua softball, directed several NVHS theatre productions, and served as an advisor to Fremd’s Viking Logue. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and did my master’s degree work with Olivet Nazarene University. I grew up in Naperville and attended Neuqua Valley High School.
Hobbies/Interests: I have two young boys so many of my hobbies revolve around their interests—soccer, t-ball, and Transformers to name a few. I also enjoy reading, working out, trying out new restaurants with my husband and friends, and catching up on my DVR recordings when I have the time.
Insider Tip for Parents: Encourage your student to move outside his or her comfort zone when it comes to taking opportunities in high school. Fremd has a wide variety of clubs, activities, and events that can enhance your student’s high school experience. In addition to teachers and counselors, your student’s administrator is another resource who can help him or her make positive connections to our school.  

Ask the Principal

Are you curious about something at Fremd but have never asked? Email me at If your question is pertinent to a wider audience, I will include it in the next blog post.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 16, 2015

Continuing the 5 Questions
What are you hoping teaching and learning looks like in your school and how do you communicate that vision?

In our recent newsletters--from me and the District--you have learned that we are continually trying to increase the importance of teaching our Critical Learning Standards (CLSs). As the name implies, these standards serve as the bedrock of every course. In theory, if a student earns a grade of “A,” he/she is able to demonstrate mastery of most/all of the CLSs.

It is my hope that teachers are focusing their instruction and assessments on the Critical Learning Standards. (Coincidentally, this was our professional development focus for today’s Institute Day sessions.) In other words, all assignments have meaning and relevance as students work toward mastering concepts and skills.

When instruction focuses on the CLSs, students know what they are supposed to learn and why they need to learn it. They are involved in monitoring their own learning progress and they are able to communicate where they stand relative to the standard.

We are not far off of this vision. In most departments, there are just a few minor adjustments that teachers can make to ensure that these elements are included in their instruction. Our teachers seem eager to implement some of their new learning because they see how this style of teaching can benefit our students. This certainly makes the change process much smoother.

iPad Pros and Cons
Last week, I discussed how iPads influenced students’ productivity on our snow/cold days. As promised, here is a more balanced perspective of the benefits and challenges of our 1:1 iPad Program. This information, gathered anecdotally from students, teachers, parents, is only meant to provide a snapshot of our experiences so far.

All course materials can be found in one place
Games/social media apps create potential for distracted learners
Schoology and Notability improve the organization of course materials
Completing homework electronically can be more cumbersome than paper/pencil
Information at your fingertips
Lesson success hinges on WiFi reliability
Multimedia tools provide for more instructional delivery options, more ways to demonstrate knowledge/proficiency
The devices create challenges for parents as they set boundaries for use at home
Communication with the teacher can happen 24/7
Some students have trouble reading for long periods on the iPad
Students/classes have access to experts in the field via social media
Not all teachers use the same technology
Reading, writing and collaboration have increased
Not all teachers use the technology. Period.
Assessment of student learning can happen: (1) more frequently, (2) more quickly, and (3) with higher engagement through gaming/quiz apps

If you have observed other benefits or challenges, I would love to hear about them!

Upcoming Home Activities and Varsity Events

January 16
Teacher Institute -  No School

Boys Varsity Swimming and Diving vs. Schaumburg - 4:30 p.m.

Girls Varsity Basketball vs. HEHS - 7:30 p.m.

Wrestling @ HEHS - 6:00 p.m.
January 17
Varsity Cheer @ Grayslake North - 9:00 a.m.

Wrestling @ Round Lake Triple Dual - 9:00 a.m.

Boys Swimming & Diving Titan Relays @ Glenbrook South 12:00 p.m.

Girls Varsity Gymnastics vs. Fremd Invite - 1:00 p.m.

Boys Varsity Basketball vs.HEHS - 6:00 p.m.
January 19
Martin Luther King Day - No School
January 20
Opening Day 2nd Semester

Floral Design Showcase - 7:00 p.m. Auditorium
January 21
Girls Bowling vs. Conant @ Arlington Lanes-4:45 p.m.

Varsity Cheer MSL Championship @ Elk Grove-6:00 p.m.
January 22
Girls Bowling vs. Barrington @ Arlington Lanes- 4:30 p.m.

Girls Gymnastics vs. CHS/Wheeling @ Conant-6:00 p.m.

College Planning Seminar - 7:00 p.m. Auditorium
January 23
Varsity Wrestling Senior Night vs. Barrington - 6:00 p.m.
January 27
Late Start Day - 8:50 a.m.
January 30
Boys Swimming & Diving Senior Night vs. CHS - 4:30 p.m.

Girls Basketball Senior Night vs. SHS - 7:30 p.m.

For a more complete list, please visit our Athletics Page.

Staff Spotlight
Craig Kersemeier
Assistant Principal
Years at Fremd:
This is my first!
Life Before Fremd:
I was across town at Palatine High School for the last 20 years (had to do some shopping to restock my wardrobe with green for this year . . .).  Over the years I taught English and Spanish, coached track, wrestling, and football, and served as dean, English department chair, and assistant principal.  Before starting at PHS I earned BAs in English and Spanish Literature at Stanford University and an MA in education.  I also ran track and spent a semester in Madrid, Spain. I grew up in Mt. Prospect and graduated from Hersey High School.
I’ve got 4 kids (ages 12, 9, 6, and 3) so my hobbies the last few years have been watching Sesame Street, hanging out at local parks, coaching youth sports, going on family bike rides, and attending elementary school concerts and events.  When I get the chance, I love to read, play guitar, travel (we love camping), and take my wife out to dinner.
Insider Tip for Parents:
One of my favorite quotes about parenting is, “Before I got married, I had three theories about raising children and no children.  Now, I have three children and no theories.”  I’m continually humbled and amazed by students, and my own kids, and am right there with you doing my best to understand them, appreciate their individual strengths and weaknesses, and help them make it to adulthood in one piece.

Ask the Principal
Are you curious about something at Fremd but have never asked? Email me at If your question is pertinent to a wider audience, I will include it in the next blog post.