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Local Column

Revealing exciting education developments – some of them

Christopher Heimerman –
Donna Larson, assistant principal at DeKalb High School and a member of the DeKalb Leadership Academy, guides her classmates on a tour Wednesday at the high school.
Christopher Heimerman – Donna Larson, assistant principal at DeKalb High School and a member of the DeKalb Leadership Academy, guides her classmates on a tour Wednesday at the high school.

I am so “that kid” – the one who won’t stop asking questions, who causes everyone to get to lunch a few minutes late because he won’t stop raising his hand.

It’s a good thing we don’t have recess in DeKalb Leadership Academy, or I fear I’d get beaten up on the regular.

For this week’s class, though, I was in rare form – like a bookworm in a library (seems like a more appropriate analogy than kid in a candy store). We visited DeKalb High School and Kishwaukee Community College. The morning session was particularly fascinating to me, as curriculum directors Vicky Tusken and Jennie Hueber discussed the changing landscape of learning standards, a topic I’ve covered ad nauseum, and about which I’m very passionate.

The major takeaway is that the district has undertaken some ambitious initiatives in reracking how kids learn, how they’re graded and, ultimately, how they’re prepared for the rest of their lives. The district is hoping to take on another exciting initiative, but is at the mercy of state funding, so for the moment I’ve made a promise to keep the details under my hat until the feasibility becomes clearer. Stay tuned.

We got a tour of the high school, which is quite state-of-the-art – as it should be, given how new it is. Nonetheless, I was blown away by several features. Did you know the high school has a black-box theater, where ensembles and productions can put on performances that are downright intimate for the audience? How many districts can say that? Very cool stuff.

We got a tour at Kish College, too, and I was impressed with several features – most notably the greenhouse and the emphasis on art in the college, not just in the gallery, but throughout campus. It’s no mystery enrollment is a tough subject right now, so seeing examples of the arts is comforting. So often, when budget decisions are made, the arts are first on the chopping block.

I also learned students soon will be able to get their associate degree from Kish exclusively online. Truthfully, I didn’t know that wasn’t already the case, so I’m pleased to know the college is keeping up with its peers.

It feels as though the arrow is pointing up at Kish College. Here’s an example: When the college adds agribusiness this fall, it will be the first time it’s added a program in 10 years, President Laurie Borowicz said.

“We’re getting there,” she enthusiastically told the class.

The Kishwaukee Education Consortium, a unique institution that helps high school students learn trades and prepare for careers after they finish their education, also is reinstating a program this fall. The details on that are embargoed, too, though.

I guess you’ll just have to hang with me. I came away from Wednesday’s class with a lot of great stuff to report. All in due time.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. Call him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email him at, or follow him on Twitter @CHeimermanDDC.

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