Healthy Habits from Sutherland Wellness Committee

By Kristin Boza 

Sutherland Elementary School, 10015 S. Leavitt St., initiated a parent-driven wellness committee that began to explore how to enhance recess time and improve school lunches. Now, the committee has taken on additional actions to ensure students are learning how to incorporate a variety of wellness activities in their daily lives. 

“Last year, our parents took the lead on Wellness Committee actions and set up a meeting between the Aramark/CPS food service and our parents and concerned staff members; what emerged was a commitment by Aramark and CPS to work with our school to provide fresher, more appetizing and nutritious options for our children,” said Sutherland Principal Meg Burns. “We have piloted several new alternatives that includes less warmed-over foods and more fresh vegetables and plant proteins. Due to their efforts, our entire lunch program has been transformed.” 

The committee found their purpose and decided to continue their efforts to support Sutherland students in being well, which included fundraising for recess equipment and partnering with the Windy City Rollers roller derby team to provide recess equipment bags for each classroom, and heightening awareness about food allergies.  

“Our PE teacher, Coach Muir, has been extremely supportive of our Wellness Committee and is working with them on developing a program of ‘old school’ recess activities. Coach Muir also works with our students to remain active and engaging each other in productive, fun, and safe playground games, while also utilizing our school-wide tools of Calm Classroom and yoga instruction to help support physical and mental fitness for all of our children,” Burns said. “We are also growing our wellness programs beyond physical wellness and working with staff to provide after school yoga, learning garden activities, and outdoor education.” 

The Wellness Committee is also engaging parents in quarterly workshops designed to inform and support healthy practices. They are also building a strong social emotional wellness program that includes yoga “detention” in place of standard detention. “This is unique to Sutherland, although CPS is definitely advocating for alternatives to standard discipline and punishments,” Burns said. “We have taken the lead in developing our own very comprehensive program.” 

When children are active and engaged in physical and emotional well-being, they will perform better in school, cause less disruptions, and have fun with their friends while building positive relationships. 

Healthy Tips from the Sutherland Wellness Committee
Snacks. Healthy snacks are important for a child’s growth. Apples and pretzels are great alternatives to cookies, candy, pop, or sugary drinks. 

Fitness. Setting fitness goals gives children something to work toward. Sutherland students are working on fitness goals in gym class that set benchmarks for strength and respiratory fitness. Push-ups, sit-ups, flexibility and running endurance tests give students an idea of where they stand and what they need to do to get stronger and more effective. 

Follow the Kid’s Heart Challenge Guidelines: Have children follow the “5 for Life” guidelines: 1. Exercise for 60 minutes a day. 2 Drink water instead of pop. 3. Control sodium intake. 4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. 5. No smoking or vaping. 

Measurable Results and Montessor

By Dave Power 
Marketing Manager and COMS Alumnus 

The families of potential students at Council Oak Montessori School often wonder about the same things.  

A Montessori education sounds nice. They want their children to enjoy school and to have autonomy in the classroom, but how can they be sure Montessori will provide that? How does Council Oak measure results without tests or grades? 

It is true that Montessori students enjoy a high level of freedom. This is the case because there is a strong base and clear structure that goes into managing a Montessori classroom, and it begins with the Montessori curriculum. 

In the office of COMS head of school Lila Jokanovic, visitors see an entire bookshelf of three-ring binders. These binders contain the scope and sequence of the Montessori curriculum from early childhood (3 years of age) through Middle Schoolcarefully detailing each concept and skill children will engage with during their time at Council Oak.  

Classroom teachers are continually assessing the progress of each student as they internalize the various concepts that have been presented to them. COMS teachers are certified through one of the two major Montessori associations (AMS or AMI). Through that training they become experts in presenting Montessori materials, develop strong skills of observation, and attain tools of formative assessment to help get a more rounded idea of how a child is doing.  

COMS Children’s House students (ages 3 to 6 years) are likely able to name and identify the continents by the middle of the year. By the time they move to the Lower Elementary classroom (6 to 9 yearolds), they have an understanding of the map of the United States and begin studying biomes.  

The COMS curriculum is designed so each student can progress at their own pace, but there are general milestones. Before reaching Lower Elementary, students who have spent three years with COMS will likely be reading. They also have a basic introduction to operations and the decimal system in mathematics.  

On top of these traditional academic skills, Montessori students gain practical life skills such as sewing, ironing, and conflict resolution. In fact, a large part of Montessori curriculum is acquiring skills that go beyond traditional markers of education. 

When people ask about measurable results in Montessori, COMS teachers certainly have a lot to point to. However, the curriculum goes beyond that. There is a difference between memorizing the times table and developing an intuitive understanding of multiplication. 

COMS measures progress and produces exemplary academic results. What goes beyond that – the deep understanding, intrinsic motivation, problem solving, and social development – that is what sets Montessori apart. 

Vanderpoel School Library Rejuvenated 

By Kristin Boza 

Many adults attribute their success to their elementary school library. Having a room dedicated to reading and research is important for students. With numerous CPS budget cuts over the years, many public schools lost their school libraries and librarians. Students at Vanderpoel Humanities Academy, 9510 S. Prospect, began a quest that resulted in the entire community coming together to revitalize their school library. 

Kim DonsonVanderpoel alum and former Vanderpoel librarian, is entering her 25th year at the school, now as the Student Affairs Administrator. After graduating from college and completing her student teaching at Vanderpoel, she was offered a spot as the librarian. About five years ago, the library was closed and the space was used for computer classes. Donson was concerned about the students not only losing out on their school library, but also the lessons she taught as an extension of what they learned in the classroom. 

“School libraries are so much more than grabbing a book off the shelf,” Donson said. “Librarians teach students how to research and find books, as well as provide a valuable hour of instruction for the students.” 

The journey to the revitalized library began when a few Vanderpoel alumnae, one of whom participated in the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps, formed Black & Well, an organization designed to integrate wellness into the black community in Chicago. The women held a contest for Vanderpoel students to come up with an idea and develop an implementation plan that would benefit their school, with the winner earning $500 to put the plan into motion.  

One group of 7th graders wanted to start up the school library again. Although their project didn’t win the contest, their proposal gained the attention of Carla Herr, president of the GFWC Beverly Hills Junior Woman’s Club. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs, of which the Beverly Hills Junior Woman’s Club is a part, has a history of creating public libraries dating back to the 1930s; based on that history, Herr knew this project would be a great fit for her club. 

“I contacted the school and offered our services. We started sharing our book drive on social media in July and ultimately delivered nearly 3,000 books to Vanderpoel,” Herr said. “Once we started collecting, we cleaned each book and sorted them by grade level and author. Kim [Donson] even worked weekends to accommodate our deliveries to make this a reality, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it if not for her energy and enthusiasm. We were also able to furnish a reading nook with beanbag chairs, a rug, some throw pillows, a rocking chair and some additional bookcases.” 

“I love and appreciate Carla and her team and all the work they’ve done,” Donson said. “Our students completely organized the library, shelving books and cleaning up the space. The best part was hearing a student say, ‘The library is good for someone like me who has a hard time reading; it’s good to come in here so I can practice.’ That’s what it’s all about and libraries are so important for our students.” 

The donations from the Beverly Hills Juniors Club went beyond what Donson expected, and the library has been transformed into a beautiful, usable space. Currently, Donson teaches six classes with the hope to have a class for every kindergarten through 8th grade class next year. 

“We are a really small club, but we try to pick projects that are impactful,” Herr said. “Many of our members are former educators and they know that reading is a wonderful way to experience things without ever leaving your home.” 

Herr and the Beverly Hills Juniors are continuing to collect books; to schedule a pick-up, email 

New Clissold Principal 

By Krinstin Boza 

JaMonica Marion was named the new principal at Clissold Elementary School, 2350 W. 110th Pl, in September. A graduate of Mount Greenwood Elementary School and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS), Marion brings a depth of experience with students of all ages to encourage the Clissold Cougars to climb higher. 

Marion’s career began at CHSAS, where she taught in the careers and leadership department and also served as a college and career coach, ultimately working her way up to become the Agriculture Department Chair. Her strength in curriculum development and relationshipbuilding led to her students being afforded opportunities to make connections with universities and agriculture industry companies. 

Seeking additional administrative opportunities, Marion moved on to a Resident Principal position at Matthew Gallistel Language Academy, where she focused her efforts on increasing attendance and working closely with the bilingual advisory committee and parent advisory committee with the goal of providing parents with the resources to support their children outside of the school building.  

As she settles into her new role as Clissold principal, Marion is also set on completing a Doctorate in Education through National Louis University, focusing her dissertation on the high school drop-out crisis and finding ways to enhance the opportunities of external organizations to provide wraparound services to students in need. Marion holds two masters degrees, one in technology education and the other in educational leadership, in addition to numerous endorsements in general science, language arts, computer science, technology and agricultural science. 

Hard work and discipline are instilled in Marion’s personality, and she hopes to inspire Clissold students to put forth the same effort. “I spent the majority of my career at Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences, and I got to know the kids and the community; I understand the supports that kids need to make successful transitions to the next part of their life” Marion said. “I’m able to talk to parents and students about why what they do now in elementary school matters for high school, college and the workforce. Our kids will be successful because I know what is needed from them in high school — I’m bringing that idea down to the elementary school level so that they are fully equipped with the skill sets they need to push their trajectory even further.” 

In the short-term, Marion seeks to ensure that communication with parents is paramount. “I want parents to understand what their students are achieving and learning in the classroom, and more importantly, how parents can continue that learning at home,” Marion said. “I also will communicate with the community through my Coffee and Snack with a Principal program. We are a neighborhood school, so I want to be able to share the good things that are going on in our school with the community.” 

Partnering with local businesses is also a priority, as a way to develop relationships to support the students’ learning as they take what is happening in the classroom and apply it to the real world. All of these tactics will be used to create a strong foundation to ultimately increase student enrollment and increase retention. 

“The most exciting part of being Clissold’s principal is coming into a school with strong family involvement. Everyone is willing to jump in and help, and many have reached out to me to ask what I need and how they can support me,” Marion said. “It’s great to see so many parents involved in helping our students achieve success.” 

School News

MPHS Vendor Fair 

Strengthening the Ties That Bind: A Community Affair will be held Sun., Mar. 10, 12 to 4 p.m., Morgan Park High School, 1744 W. Pryor. The event will feature a variety of vendors and organizations offering items for purchase such as food, clothes, jewelry and art. Shop to support the neighborhood high school.   


St. Cajetan Warriors for St. Baldrick’s 

St. Cajetan School, 2447 W, 112th St., is Braving the Shave and Taking the Stage for the 5th Annual St. Baldrick’s event, Sat., Mar. 9, 5 to 9 p.m. in the gym. The Irish Fest will feature entertainment by local Irish Dance schools. All money raised through the St. Baldrick’s site goes directly toward pediatric cancer research, as the school and parish continue to remember and honor Liam Bonner, Elliot McGann and Beau Dowling. Sign up or donate: 


Kellogg School Awarded Bee Grant  

Whole Kids Foundation with the Bee Cause Project has awarded Kellogg School, 9241 S. Leavitt, a $1500 Bee Grant to develop a pollinator garden at the school by adding two bee hives 

Kellogg School has been growing crops of student gardeners for a few years now, and the grant will add a new and fascinating component to outdoor education. The program was introduced at a meeting in February when a bee keeper from South Side Occupational came out to educate the school community about bees and pollination. 

The Whole Kids Foundation was founded by Whole Foods MarketThe Bee Grant provides support for elementary schools to install educational bee hives that enable students to observe bees up close and learn about the role bees play in as pollinators in the food system. 


MPHS Class of 1979 40th Reunion 

The Morgan Park High School Class of 1979 will hold a reunion Fri., Aug. 17, 7 p.m., Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, 5200 W. 127th St., Alsip. Reunion events also include a catered picnic Sat., Aug. 18, 11 a.m., in picnic grove rubio 02, Midlothian. Tickets are  $100 per person and cover banquet, picnic, t-shirt and souvenir.  Purchase tickets on PayPal (login or send certified check or money order to MPHS 40th Reunion, P.O. Box 437332, Chicago, IL 60643. Include maiden name, number of attendees, t-shirt sizes, phone number and address. Payment deadline is July 15Questions872-216-5877. 


MPA Students Are Tops in National Geographic Bee 

Morgan Park Academy students Alexander Hendel, a 5th-grader and Lauren Fifer, a 6th-grader, both from Beverly/Morgan Park, and Riya Kapoor, an 8th-grader from Frankfort, were the top three finishers, respectively, in the National Geographic Bee in January.  

Hendel edged Fifer in the final round, after a long tie, by knowing that the Red Sea connects to the Gulf of Aden via the Bab el-Mandeb, a strait between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

As school champion, Hendel will take an online test to see if he qualifies to compete at the state level. 

Interested in learning more about academic and extracurricular opportunities at MPA? Visit for these events: The Wonder Years: Middle School Advantage, Wed., Mar. 6, 6:30 p.m.; Lower School Spotlight, Thurs., Mar. 14, 6 p.m.; Early Education Night, Thurs., Mar. 21, 6 p.m., and the Spring Arts Showcase, Thurs., Apr. 11, 6 p.m. MPA is located at 2153 W. 111th St. For info or to register, visit or call 773-881-6700.  


Mother McAuley High School Named Participant in Amazon Future Engineer Program 

Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School has been named a participating school in the Amazon Future Engineer program, which will encourage students to explore computer science to help advance the number of women pursuing careers in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) – countering gender disparity within these fields. McAuley is the largest all-girls’ Catholic high school in Chicago, and currently is one of only five all-girls’ private schools nationwide to be named part of the program.   

Through the Future Engineer program, McAuley will receive free resources for its Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course. Faculty directing the course will be given free professional development during the 2019-2020 school year. For students, cloud-based resources will be available to help them prepare for the AP exam.  Further extending the benefits, students who successfully complete AP Computer Science with a grade point average of 3.0 or better and decide to continue their studies in college are eligible for a $10,000 scholarship through Amazon. These same students will then qualify for an internship at Amazon during their freshman and sophomore years in college, providing they meet other requirements of the program.  

“Resources and programs are essential to direct and foster girls interest in STEM,” said Eileen O’Reilly, principal of Mother McAuley. “Mother McAuley was founded on the premise of empowering women, and this exciting partnership with Amazon supports our efforts to help our students develop skills and talents that will benefit their own education and career aspirations, while narrowing the gap between the number of women and men in STEM professions.” 

According to Amazon, women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in the subject in college, and the Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that 58 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing.  

Nurturing girls’ interest in STEM fields of study is imperative, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future,” said Kim Turnbull, chair of the McAuley science department. “The Amazon Future Engineer program augments our STEM pipeline and is a fantastic complement to current courses and clubs like Engineering Principles, Computer Science Essentials and Art and Emerging Technology, and Girls Who Code.”  

Mother McAuley has long emphasized the importance of experiential learning opportunities. Advancements in the school’s curriculum and facilities have fueled interest in a variety of career disciplines, from education to STEM. The Little School program – now in its 37th year – allows senior students to earn college credit and work onsite at local grade schools to gain firsthand experience as educators. Introduction to Business, and Introduction to Nursing, are college-level courses taught by university professors through a partnership with Saint Xavier University (SXU), with the latter exposing students to the SXU simulation lab. In 2012, McAuley opened two, new, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, state-of-the-art Chemistry labs. Launched in 2018, the Professional ABCs (Advice Beyond the Classroom) Club introduces students to discussions, field trips and mentoring to cultivate critical networking and leadership skills.