Urbana School District


Yearly Archives: 2014

“Heroes and Dreamers”

April 15th, 2014

Ken Paxton, speech and language therapist, posed a question to some Leal 3rd and 4th graders.  Who are your heroes and what were their dreams?  The students’ answers provided a rich mosaic of people from all walks of life.  The project became more than just a one-time, class assignment.  These heroes became the basis of the student’s visual art, writing, dance, and rhetoric. The process the teachers and students went through and their work will become a documentary that Mr. Paxton and his group of students, teachers, and community support have put together with the help of a City of Urbana Arts Grant.

The film project called “Heroes and Dreamers” will document the students’ work over several related-projects.  The students in Greg Ballweg’s 3rd grade Spanish-speaking class room and Molly Headtke’s 4th grade English-speaking class room were reading “What Was the March on Washington?” by Kathleen Krull.  With the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” speech approaching, the students studied not only the speech, but the events that lead up to the event and other people who were involved.  Dr. King’s speech provided the jumping off point for the numerous projects.  The concept what heroism is and who is a hero, the characteristics of a hero was discussed and that led to the question of who are the students’ heroes.  These classroom discussions were also taken home by the students and they engaged their families in similar conversations.  These discussions led to a diversity in choices of the students’ heroes.  These lessons were also used in Maggie Kinnamon’s dance class, providing another creative outlet for the curriculum and lessons.

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Thomas Paine Elementary students honor volunteer’s dream with donation

March 31st, 2014

The character trait of the month was compassion. The students, staff, and community at Thomas Paine Elementary showed that trait in action all in the name of two beloved volunteers that embody what it means to be compassionate.

For their 2014 Community Service Project, the school choose to raise money to donate to an elementary school in Senegal, one that their volunteer Mung Nguyen had dreamed about helping.  Mr. Nguyen is a special volunteer at Thomas Paine (more on his story below) and when they heard about his dream of helping the other school, it made sense for Thomas Paine students to make that dream come true.  Sare Aladji Elementary’s wish list, comprised of basic supplies like pencils, notebooks, even soccer balls, as well as a donkey and cart to delivery the items, was given to Thomas Paine so the students understood what they were raising the money for.  With the help, encouragement and organization of Kay Grabow, Angie Armstrong, and Principal Cooper, the students set out to raise $1,600.

The students purchased the rights to wear a hat on one day, or pajamas on another.  Several students brought in their allowance money and donated it.  One student not only donated her allowance to this project, but then had her hair cut and donated it to Locks of Love.  The giving was infectious, the whole Thomas Paine community responded.

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Bryan Lake shares his memories from Washington, D.C. awards trip

March 17th, 2014

Urbana School District #116 Instructional Coach Bryan Lake recently returned from a visit to Washington, D.C., where he was honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.  He received the award for his teaching of kindergarten science at King Elementary.  Bryan provided us with the essay below, telling us the story of his visit to the White House and how he met fellow Illinoisan, President Barack Obama.  The White House also blogged about the visit and that story can be found here.

I was in Washington, D.C. from March 1-5 to participate, along with the math and science awardee from each state, in workshops, events, activities and ceremonies surrounding the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The whole trip was amazing!  The group didn’t let a little snow, which closed some government offices on our first day, shut down our experience.  We spent time in the White House and at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  We shared experiences with NOAA, NASA, and NSF researchers and scientists (among others).  We met with the president of NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), who demonstrated Number Talks, a new math teaching strategy which many of us have been using here in Urbana all year.  It was exciting to know our district is on the cutting edge!

It was absolutely thrilling to connect with the science winners from the other states and hear their stories.  One 4th grade teacher in Oklahoma is working diligently to change the fact that students, at least formally, don’t receive any science education until they get to her!  Some of the teachers are currently wrestling with their states’ decisions to edit evolution out of the new science standards, but everyone had innovative ideas and strategies and curricula to celebrate and share.  Definitely built a wonderful new network for support and continued sharing! Read the rest of this story »

All District Centralized Registration Dates for 2014-2015

February 26th, 2014

The dates have been set for Urbana School District’s Centralized Registration for the 2014-15 school year.

The dates and times are:

  • Tuesday, July 29th – 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 30th – 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 31st – 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Centralized registration is an all-in-one registration event held at Urbana Middle School, 1201 S. Vine St, for Urbana schools, including Early Childhood, all elementary schools (including incoming Kindergarteners), middle, and high school.

For more information, please visit our Centralized Registration page.


Registro escolar para todas las escuelas del distrito incluyendo el centro de enseñanza temprana, todas las primarias (incluyendo clases de Kinder), secundaria y preparatoria.

Los padres podrán entregar los exámenes médicos requeridos para sus estudiantes en grados Kinder, sexto, y noveno.  Este examen debe estar en el record antes del primer día de escuela.

Se requieren también  exámenes dentales para Kinder, segundo y sexto grado. Exámenes de la vista solo para Kinder. Los padres pueden entregar todos estos exámenes durante el registro centralizado.

  • Martes 29 de Julio  – 10:00 a.m. a 3:00 p.m.
  • Miércoles 30 de Julio – 3:00 p.m. a 7:00 p.m.
  • Jueves  31 de Julio – 9:00 a.m. a 1:00 p.m.

King Elementary celebrates sculpture dedication

February 21st, 2014

King Elementary School was honored recently by the installation of a sculpture through the Urbana Public Arts Commission in King Park.  Artist Preston Jackson of Peoria was commissioned to create a sculpture in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his work in the Civil Rights Movement.  The sculpture was placed in King Park by Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.

Prior to the installation, USD Elementary Fine Arts teachers, Cara Maurizi (music) and Sarah Tavis (art) presented ideas to celebrate its dedication and these events were approved by the Arts commission in October, 2013.  Both teachers created lessons that began in the fall and culminated in a celebration on January 24, 2014. Students at King school started learning about civil rights in their classrooms as well as in Fine Arts classes.  Studies included guitars, protest songs, quilt squares and sculptures.  All King students then participated in a program that included music and artwork from the civil rights movement.  As part of the study, several special guests came to King school, including Scott Schwartz and Marten Stromberg, who helped teach songs, Ryan Groff who helped the students learn guitar and Gladys Pope who gave a moving speech about what it was like to live during the civil rights era.  It was a moving assembly and great tribute to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. Read the rest of this story »

UMS NAAPID Activities

February 19th, 2014

On Monday, February 10, 2014, schools across the Urbana #116 school district celebrated National African American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID). At Urbana Middle School, parents were invited to special student presentations, meetings with administrators and staff, and lunch with their students.  Events occurred through-out the day into early evening.

Below is a gallery of pictures from the UMS events. Read the rest of this story »

African American Read-In

February 13th, 2014

African American Read-In
African American Authors, Playwrights, & Poets
Come on Out, Grab a Book, and READ-In! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
65 E Market View Drive · Champaign, IL
2:00 pm

In an effort to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month, Barnes & Noble and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) would like to invite you to participate in this community-based African American Read-In.

The African American Read-In will feature works written by African American authors and playwrights who reside in Central Illinois, and recitations of selected pieces composed by African American poets. Audience members will also have an opportunity to share poetry.

Featured speakers, poets, and presentations will be provided by:

Dr. Donald D. Owen, Superintendent – Urbana School District #116; Dr. Mila Thomas-Fuller, NCTE Deputy Executive Director; Dr. Judy Wiegand, Superintendent – Champaign Unit 4; Mr. Michael J. LaDue, Champaign City Council Member, District 2; Tristan J. Banks, Poet and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumnus; British D’Ni Nanton, Poet and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student; Franklin Knight Steppers; and students from the Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana School District #116.

Featured guest authors include: Dr. Nicole Anderson Cobb and Dr. Nancy Tolson

This year NCTE and the Black Caucus of NCTE will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the National African American Read-In. To find out how you can organize or host a read-in, please visithttp://www.ncte.org/action/aari.

See you Saturday!
Come on Out, Grab a Book, and READ-In!
Refreshments will be served.
Special Thanks to Barnes & Noble Bookstore

Tips to prevent frostbite and hypothermia

February 10th, 2014

snowysidewalk For a reminder of the USD #116 emergency closing procedures, please visit: Winter Weather Reminders and Closing Procedures.





It’s Cold Outside!

Any one, including children, are susceptible to frostbite if not adequately dressed for the weather. Frostbite is possible when an area of the skin feels, pain and numbness while playing in the snow or outdoors. The face, ears wrists, hands and feet are all parts of the body most affected by frostbite. Frostbitten skin is cool to the touch, whitish and stiff and may feel more numb than painful.

Winter is a great time for students to get fresh air and play outdoors; however there are times when caution is needed.


Shivering is the movement of muscles to generate warmth when the body is getting too cold. If someone is shivering despite increased activity, it is time to go inside. Otherwise, body temperature will start to fall.

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Dr. Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Endowed Chair Award nominations

February 6th, 2014

The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation is currently accepting nominations for the Dr. Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Endowed Chair Award.  Deadline for nominations are Friday, April 4, 2014.

Dr. Amberg was the Superintendent for the Urbana #116 School district, starting in 1992. The endowed chair was created in 2003 to “honor Dr. Amberg’s leadership and dedication to children and educators throughout his career.”

This award is for tenured, full-time classroom teachers in USD #116. Nominations may be submitted by 1. self, 2. peer, 3. student, 4. former student, 5. parent, 6. supervisor, or 7. administrator.

Nomination form and more information can be found here.

Winter reminder for neighbors to keep their sidewalks shoveled!

February 6th, 2014

Photo credit: TJ Blakeman

Photo credit: TJ Blakeman

The weather is feeling a bit more wintery this season. With snow making its appearance this season, C-U Safe Route to School Project (C-U SRTS) wants to remind all our neighbors that our students walk to school in all weather. So, please do the right thing and shovel your sidewalks to keep them free of snow and ice. The kids will appreciate it!

Walking to and from school is good for the environment and for students’ physical well-being. In 1969 48% of students walked or biked to school (Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey). Today only 13% of students walk or bike to school (2009 NHTS travel diary data). The C-U SRTS Project aims to increase the number of students walking and biking to school by raising awareness, educating the community and improving the safety around our schools.

Clear sidewalks make it safer and easier for students traveling to and from school. C-U SRTS Project is pleased to offer the Snow Removal Encouragement Program again this year.  This program provides schools with educational materials to encourage and recognize neighbors who remove snow from sidewalks and driveways. This is a very positive message campaign, thanking people for shoveling through the use of yard signs, postcards and flyers. Schools or volunteer organizations distribute materials and manage the program.

Read the rest of this story »

*Update – Bryan Lake Honored with Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

January 28th, 2014

*Update – In December 2013, Mr. Lake was honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, representing Illinois for science.  On January 21, the USD #116 Board of Education recognized Mr. Lake for his achievement. The story below was published when in September, 2012 when he was chosen has one of  the Illinois state-level science finalist. Mr. Lake is currently an Instructional Coach for USD #116. More information about this honor and the prestigious Presidential Award can be found here at whitehouse.gov.

“Kindergarteners make the best scientists. They observe everything, and they’re full of curiosity and wonder,” said Bryan Lake, Kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary school.  With the help of these little scientists, Lake put into practice a learning program that earned him a selection as an Illinois state-level science finalist for 2012 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Program. He is one of two teachers from Illinois that were selected for this program and is in the running for the national award, to be announced in late spring of 2013.

Bryan Lake and students during life-cycle of the butterfly lesson

Lake was notified earlier this summer of his place as a state-level finalist.  This was another step in a long journey that started when King Principal, Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, nominated Lake in October 2011.  Putting together the application gave Lake the opportunity to think about the program he created.  “I’ve done the National Board Certification, so this process is very similar to that,” said Lake.  “[The process] allowed me to draw the big picture of what the expectations are for the science curriculum, but also ask myself why I do what I do, why do it this way, what do the children at this level need.”   Once he was notified on the nomination, he also needed to put it out of his mind; school was about to start and with it, a new class of potential scientists were about to walk through his door. Read the rest of this story »

USD #116 Kindergarten Connection / Distrito Escolar de Urbana # 116 CONEXION AL KINDERGARTEN

January 15th, 2014

  • When: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
  • Where: Urbana Civic Center located on 104 E. Water Street
  • Time: 11:00 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.

Each family attending the Kindergarten Connection will receive a “fun bag” full of activities and materials to take home to your child. Staff from each of the neighborhood elementary schools will be available to guide you and answer questions throughout the process.

Students do not need to attend unless your child speaks another language other than English at home. If so, please bring him/her with you to the Kindergarten Connection for an English as a Second Language Screening.

2014 Kindergarten Connection flyer

  • Cuando: Martes 8 de abril, 2014
  • Donde: Urbana Civic Center localizado en 104 E. Water Street
  • Hora: 11:00 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.

Cada familia que asista a la Conexión al Kindergarten recibirá una “bolsa de diversión” llena de actividades y materiales para llevar a casa. Personal de cada una de las escuelas primarias estará disponible para guiarle y responder a sus preguntas durante el proceso.

Los estudiantes no necesitan asistir a menos que su hijo(a) hable otro idioma que no sea Inglés en casa. Si es así, por favor tráigalo a él o ella con usted a la Conexión al Kindergarten para una evaluación de Inglés como Segundo Idioma.

2014 folleto Conexión con el Kindergarten

Executive Director Search – CU Schools Foundation

January 15th, 2014

The CU Schools Foundation is conducting a search for an Executive Director.  More information can be found on their website:  cuschoolsfoundation.org.


The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) is seeking a dynamic Executive Director to build on our celebrated past and take it to the next level.  Now in its 25th year, CUSF is committed to supporting student achievement in public schools through innovative programs, teacher project grants and district support through locally-raised dollars.  To date more than $1,400,000 has been invested in education through CUSF impacting thousands of students.

The Executive Director will have experience in non-profit management, fund development, marketing and public relations, administration, volunteer and paid staff management and community engagement. He or she will share the organization’s commitment to excellence in public education and the mission and goals of the Foundation.  Leadership, interpersonal, motivational and visioning skills as well as the ability to engage with donors, program partners and school staff are important attributes.  Experience in senior level management and a Bachelor’s Degree are required. A Master’s Degree is preferred. For a detailed job description visit our website, cuschoolsfoundation.org.

We’re looking for someone with a passion for student achievement and enthusiasm for building on our current success.

Applicants should send a letter of interest and resume to:

Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation
Attn: Nan Picchietti
P.O. Box 1166
Champaign, IL 61824-1166

Sports Physicals at the Urbana School Health Center

January 15th, 2014

DSC_0527On Monday, January 27th, from 8 am to 3:30 pm, the School-Based Health Center located at Urbana High School will be designating the entire day to completing sports physicals.  UHS student-athletes who need an updated physical for the upcoming spring season can sign up for an appointment in UHS main office.  The cost of the physicals will be $20 and payments will need to be made at the time of the appointment.

No classes for Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014

January 6th, 2014


Due to the Winter Weather Conditions, ALL Urbana Schools and programs will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, January 7, 2014 for students.

All 12-Month employees should report to work. All maintenance, custodial and grounds personnel should report to work. Central Office, UMS and UHS offices will be open.

The Board of Education meeting will take place as scheduled on Tuesday evening.

Please check local news stations and your email for updates and additional information about this weather alert.

Be warm and safe.

Thank you,


Soy Don Owen, Superintendente del Distrito Escolar de Urbana.

Debido a las condiciones del tiempo del invierno, todas las escuelas de Urbana están cerradas mañana (el martes) Por favor, vea las noticias locales para más información.



USD #116 Schools are closed Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

January 5th, 2014


This is Don Owen, Superintendent for Urbana School District #116.  Due to the winter weather conditions, all Urbana Schools will be closed tomorrow, Monday, January 6, 2014.  Please check local news stations for more information.

Thank you,

Soy Don Owen, Superintendente del Distrito Escolar de Urbana.  Debido a las condiciones del tiempo del invierno, todas las escuelas de Urbana están cerradas mañana (el lunes)  Por favor, vea las noticias locales para más información.


Winter Weather Reminders & Closing Procedures

January 3rd, 2014

Reminder about severe weather closing procedures

If weather conditions become severe, due to snow, ice, heat, wind-chill, etc., parents are advised to check any of the locations listed below for busing information, early dismissals and school closings. Decisions are based on the safety of the students.

Prior to School Opening

The decision to close USD #116 schools for an entire day will be made by school officials as soon as reasonably possible.  As soon as the decision is made, a notice will go out to media outlets, posted on the USD web site and other official USD social media accounts, as well as a Skylert notice (voice, text, or email messages) to all parents who have signed up for the emergency notifications.  Please note, if the decision is made to close the school for the entire day, Before School and After School care will be closed as well.

During School Time

In the event that severe weather develops during the school day, school officials will be in direct contact with Civil Defense authorities. School dismissal will be at the regular time, unless we are advised otherwise. Parents should be alert to the development of severe weather conditions and should listen to local television and radio stations to determine if there will be an early school dismissal.  Please note, if school is dismissed early, After School care will not take place.  Most after school or evening activities will be cancelled as well.  Specific event cancellation will be released to the media as well.

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Urbana School District 116
205 N. Race Street - P.O. Box 3039
Urbana, Illinois 61803-3039 U.S.A.
217-384-3600 (voice)
217-337-4973 (fax)