PEL Document

The Partnership for Excellence in Learning Document

Revised 11/19/98 

Back to PEL Page

 District U-46 Mission

The Mission of School District U-46 is to provide an education that nurtures and challenges all students to maximize their individual potential to become responsible, productive, and contributing members of our community, and society.

District U-46 Vision

School District U-46 will provide an education that successfully meets the needs of a large and diverse student population and effectively prepares each child for the future.  Success will result from a sense of ownership by all partners in the education process – students, parents, staff, and all other community members.  All will be committed to operating a highly respected school district that has a shared sense of purpose, effective communication, trust, good will, fiscal responsibility, and pride.  Continual improvement will be achieved through clear direction with an eye toward the future and the committed efforts of all.


In August of 1996, a unique, district-wide event took place to introduce all U-46 employees to the philosophy and ideas of systemic change.  Patrick Dolan’s presentation opened many minds to the need for change and renewed many others’ beliefs about how the district should be restructured for the betterment of all involved and, ultimately, for the improvement of student achievement.

During that same month, the Partnership Council was formed.  Representing every stakeholder in the District -- school board, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, students and the business and community at large -- the Partnership Council has been working to set up processes that will facilitate, encourage, and create opportunities for change.

This report is the culmination of many hours of work by the Partnership Council over the past year.  In the spring of 1997, the evolving change process was formally named Partnership for Excellence in Learning.
The goal of this collaborative effort is to provide the best possible learning environment so that each student receives the best education that we can offer.

The focus is on the learning of students to fulfill the District’s Mission and Vision Statements.
The foundation of the process is collaborative efforts by and among our staff, the school board, and our community members.
The intended result is positive, system-wide change that is sustained and ongoing.
Throughout 1996-97, some opportunities for change were seized; others were missed.  Efforts to date have focused on the district-level structure and a process to support shared decision-making throughout the district.  With the completion of this work, efforts will now shift to involving individual sites in the change process.

This packet is your invitation to join in the restructuring efforts at the site level. Staff and community members should carefully consider the enclosed information in order to determine the state of readiness at their individual sites.

 Table of Contents

I.     The Need for Change    
II.    The Goal of Change
III.   Site-Based Decision-Making  

Site Exceptions
IV.   Support for Sites
V.    Site Selection and Implementation
VI.   Conclusion
VII.  Appendices
Partnership Council Members
Site Exceptions
Training Components
I.  Need for Change

Partnership for Excellence in Learning is about change -- change in our relationships within the district and between the district and community; change in the way we approach educating students; change in the way students perceive learning; change in who is responsible and accountable for education, and, ultimately, change in performance of our students.

The world is changing more rapidly than our organizations. American organizations that were performing well during the majority of the twentieth century are finding themselves operating in a radically new environment facing different expectations and requirements. Organizations are now being forced to redesign themselves to ensure their prosperity in the new global order. School organizations are no exception, and educational change is serious business.

Educators must not only help with change, but, also, help lead it.  The ability of our schools to contribute to a thriving economy that provides jobs, opportunities, and the basis for a satisfactory standard of living for the citizenry is at stake. Society’s stake in the improvement of education includes preparing citizens to participate in their community, in our democracy, and in the economy of an increasingly complex society.

The modern history of educational reform has witnessed many attempts at change.  There was the Great Society legislation of the 60’s and 70’s addressing the needs of the “disadvantaged.”   This forced changes to provide equal opportunities for quality education.  These attempts made the assumption that education was working for some of the students.  Then with the release of the report A Nation At Risk, a “standards movement” evolved mandating higher graduation requirements, school improvement planning processes, and, at the national level, the establishment of goals for education.

These recent attempts at reform failed to question the basic structures of the system of education.  The structure finds its roots in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s where it addressed the educational needs of the industrial age.  In this more ordered and less demanding time, it made sense to seek efficiencies of a uniform model of education with many centralized rules and services.  Today, in the information age, with its rapid pace of change, the formation of a global economy, and the exponential advances in technology, such uniformity is inadequate and ineffective.

There are many external pressures that demand substantive changes in the ways schools structure the learning environment, deliver educational services, govern themselves, and are held accountable:

Demands from powerful constituencies—in particular, parents and community groups, legislators, business and labor groups—for more input and control over the schooling process and tougher accountability measures,
Strong agreement among these constituencies that the current educational structure is not working well for an increasing number of students,
The inability of massive bureaucracies—with their characteristic centralized policies, common work rules, and top-down decision making structures—to respond effectively to the widely varying needs of local schools and communities,
The rapidly changing nature of work and the workplace, and the perception that schools are not keeping pace with the current demands of society, and
Growing competition for public school dollars and students from advocates of school choice, vouchers, and privatization.

The Partnership Council recognizes these and other indicators as a need for change in U-46. To adapt, we must create a system structure that will be flexible.  Site-based decision-making provides such a system and is being established deliberately to place greater authority and responsibility, for educational decisions within the school itself.

It is now up to you and your colleagues to determine what changes you will make at your site.  What can your school community do that will improve student performance and learning at your site?  What innovations or experimentation would you like to try to reach the goal of improving student learning?

Return to Beginning
II.  The Goal of Change

There is one primary goal of change—to improve student learning and performance through this restructuring process.

Many steps will be required to reach this goal.  Systemic changes must be in place along with changes in the culture and climate of the district, including the development of trust among all stakeholders.

The Partnership Council exists to support the change process and has adopted the following purpose statement:

 The role of the Partnership Council is to provide leadership for the stakeholders in facilitating positive system-wide change and to foster, through trusting relationships, a shared decision-making process.

The Partnership Council will encourage the stakeholders to utilize their strengths, backgrounds, and experiences to provide the best learning environment and meet the needs of a rapidly changing, diverse society.

On April 5, 1997, the Board of Education, administration, and the employee group leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the process known as Partnership for Excellence in Learning.  They defined the goals of site-based decision-making as follows:

providing better collaboration in quality educational services;
placing the decision-making closer to the teaching and learning;
creating an environment that can listen better and respond more quickly to the needs of the students and parents; and
improving the work environment of administrators, teachers and support personnel, which is ultimately the learning environment for children.
Agreeing to this reaffirmation were employee group leaders from AESA, DUEA, DUTU, ESSO, ETA and SEIU Local 1; members of the Board of Education, and Superintendent Marvin E. Edwards.

The Partnership Council has focused on site-based decision-making as the major strategy to reach the ultimate goal of improved learning.  Changes in the decision-making structure will free those energies now devoted to dealing with structure and allow unimpeded concentration on instructional issues.  Each site must develop, through the collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders, its own goals for improving student performance at the site.

 Return to Beginning
III. Site-Based Decision-Making

Site-Based Decision-Making is an effective approach to redesign organizational structures by giving local site participants -- school board, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, students and the business and community at large -- the power to improve their site. By moving decisions to those responsible for implementation, local stakeholders are empowered to do something about site performance.  Site-based decision-making takes a long time to implement, and it is important to keep the focus on educational issues rather than the control of power during the improvement process.

The following beliefs are driving the shared decision-making process:

Broad-based participation is valuable.
Better decisions result from group input.
Consensus decision-making works.
Consensus decision-making represents a departure from the traditional “majority rule” that is the cornerstone of most group decisions.  Consensus seeking is a system by which a group can come to agreement or make decisions in such a way that there are no losers, or that those in the minority don’t feel like losers.  The decision may not be everyone’s first choice, but everyone has been heard and everyone can live with the decision.  In short, consensus is a decision in which all members of a group can agree on the result.

Since implementing a site-based decision-making process involves restructuring management, it is logical that the new management processes must be mastered before programmatic changes can occur.  Both management and programmatic structures must be in place before changes in student performance can be expected.

For local stakeholders to use power to improve education, the design of the organization must change in many ways to support the informed and skilled application of this power, and to provide incentives for people to make fundamental changes in how they enact their roles. Site-based decision-making must include the development of an organizational design that supports and values high levels of involvement throughout the organization.  It must also have a simultaneous focus on fundamental change in the educational program that supports new approaches to teaching and learning. Thus, site-based decision-making must be viewed as a tool for improving performance and must be used in combination with ambitious curriculum and instructional reforms.

Primary decision-making authority in sites implementing site-based decision-making is formally delegated to a site council.  Each site council will have representation of all stakeholders.  Initially the team will consist of no less than two members of each stakeholder group.  The future makeup of councils will be a local school decision.
The objective of the site-based decision-making process is to empower the site council to develop creative methods for improving the site's programs and services, dealing with problems, and realizing the school district's mission.

This council will collaborate for the improvement of instruction by identifying problems, setting goals, formulating local school policy, shaping direction, monitoring programs, advising on implementation practices, and evaluating whether goals have been achieved. The council will be given freedom to select needs on which to focus and to create, implement, and evaluate action plans to address its objectives.

Other existing site decision-making teams, such as School/Department Committees, department or grade teams, cross-departmental committees, and the general faculty, also exist within sites and will not be supplanted by site councils.  These teams and the site council should establish interdependence using cooperative problem solving. In many cases, the site council will coordinate improvement efforts throughout the site.


It is important to be clear from the outset that site-based decision-making will not replace the school board, the superintendent, the building principal, other administrators, unions and collective bargaining agreements, nor the existing School/Department Committees. Site-based decision-making does not change the legal governance system of schools.  School boards retain legal authority for the school district, and superintendents and principals retain their responsibilities for what takes place in their district or schools.

The site councils must understand that there are certain parameters under which they must work.  With this understanding, sites will not venture into an area, only to later discover they will not be permitted to implement an action.

The parameters that site councils must work within are:

federal laws & regulations
state laws & regulations
school board policy and regulations
collective bargaining agreements and memorandums
See Parameters Report
 Site Exceptions

Most issues that a site council will address or decisions that it will want to implement will be well within the parameters.  Occasionally, while developing creative approaches for a specific improvement, a site council may encounter one of the parameters.  Genuine innovations that could result in significant improvements in student or stakeholder performance should not be discarded  because of a parameter, particularly, locally created parameters. Alternative methods to the parameter should be explored, but if a good alternative isn’t acceptable,  the site council will be encouraged to ask the Partnership Council about "pushing" the parameter.

The Partnership Council has established a site exception (waiver) process to help to remove barriers that may be identified by a site council in the pursuit of improvement.

Sites seeking exceptions to existing policies, procedures and/or contract agreements will need to demonstrate the need for the request.  This should include the benefit that would be achieved, how the collaborative decision was reached, and research and support by others who may have tried this approach.  Sites should also provide evidence that sufficient resources are available to sustain the decision and how and when the effectiveness of the decision will be evaluated.

Site councils must understand that any exceptions granted will be site-specific.  Exceptions will need to be reviewed and renewed with the Partnership Council each year.

See Site Exception (Waivers) Report

Site Exception should show evidence of site readiness, potential impacts on stakeholders, and complete rationale for inititative
    Site Council should select presentation team to present request to the Partnerhsip Council.
Suggestions and/or requests for additional information may be requested.
                    UNIONS                BOARD OF EDUCATION                  SUPERINTENDENTS STAFF
If the site exception is denied, an explanation of the denial will be made to the Site Council.  Site Councils may choose to address and resubmitt issues identified in the explanation.
Return to Beginning
IV. Support for Sites
 Sites that formally participate in the Partnership for Excellence in Learning process will receive support from the Partnership Council.  This support may be in the form of training, resources, site facilitators, ideas, professional development or any other means requested by the site which the council can provide.
 Sites formally participating in the process will have access to training designed to help the site begin its conversion to site-based decision-making, including assistance on working within the process.  Each site will be offered a team trained to work with the site council members to initiate site-based decision-making within the site.
 The Partnership Council will provide ongoing support for sites involved in the process.  Support could include vehicles of communication, a resource of information, and a means of sharing of ideas throughout the district.
 See Training Components

  V. Site Selection and Implementation
 As indicated in the introduction, not all sites are ready to begin this process, nor can we accommodate every site at this time. Some sites are already doing a lot of collaborative decision-making and involving as many stakeholders as possible in improvement programs within their sites.  Sites do not have to be formally recognized to begin the process.  In fact, those who are not part of the first phase of sites are encouraged to begin looking into the process and monitoring the progress of others.
 If more sites volunteer than can be accommodated, a process will be set up, and communicated to those sites, on additional selection criteria.  In either case, the Partnership Council will be looking for a report from the site showing readiness and consensus from stakeholder groups.  Readiness will simply mean readiness for training.  Sites may or may not have particular projects in mind.
 Once a site has been recognized as a formal site in the process, the Partnership Council will anticipate periodic reviews from the site on what it is doing, what has worked well for them, what has not worked well, and what additional support may be needed.  This information will be extremely valuable so that the Partnership Council can share information and ideas with all sites.

 Return to Beginning

 VI. Conclusion

This is only the beginning—a process to create a better learning environment and more opportunities for improving education.  Decentralized decision-making is only a first step toward improving student achievement.  Site-based decision-making needs to be augmented with curriculum and instructional review, revision, and renewal through the creation of instructional guidance systems and professional development programs.

Each site is unique in its staff, students, parents and community.  Once sites have the power to make more decisions, it will be up to the site to use this new power to improve student learning and performance.  Each of us has had dreams of experimentation or innovation that will improve our work environment and student performance.  The opportunity is NOW.

 Return to Beginning

Partnership Council and Steering Committee Members

Dave Alexander, Elgin Teachers’ Association *
Dawnice Alexander, Food & Nutrition Services
Larry Ascough, School/Community Relations*
Rodney Ball, Warehouse
Yvonne Bilger, Food & Nutrition Services
Rita Blankenship, Elementary Principal
Lauren Caprio, Student Advisory Council
Karen Carney, Board of Education*
Bill DuBois, Elgin Teachers Association
Judy Dutton
Marvin Edwards, Superintendent of Schools*
John Edwards, Educational Support Services
Hobart Elliott, Plant Operations
Marge Fostiak, Elementary Principal
Barbara Gonzalez, Bilingual Representative
Barb Gregory, District U-46 Transportation Union*
Lindsey Harris, Transportation Department
Mary Heggen, Parent Group Network
David Hintz, Elgin Teachers Association
Rick Hoy, High School Principal*
Karen Iacullo, Parent Group Network
Robert Jensen, Elgin Teachers Association*
Thomasine Johnson, African American Advisory Council
Phone Khoxayo, Asian Advisory Council

Steve Klein, Administrator
Janet Korman, Board of Education*
Pat Kressin, Realty Advisory Council
Richard Majka, Supt. Staff Representative*
Andrew Martin, Transportation Administrator
David Mathews, Community Representative*
Scott McBride, District U-46 Educational Assistants
Judi McConnell, District U-46 Secretarial Assoc.
Edgar Mendoza, Student Advisory Council
Jeff Middleton, Illinois Education Association*
Andrew Patete, Administrator
Karen Piech, District U-46 Secretarial Association*
Chantelle Porter, Student Advisory Council
Jim Renz, Senior Advisory Council
Lee Ann Schmidt, Business Community
Karen Schock, Elgin Teachers Association
Florence Sisler, Food & Nutrition Services
David Smiley, Middle School Principal
Donna Smith, Parent Group Network
Tom Stiglic, Elementary Principal
Greg Stone, Educational Support Services*
Beatrix Tasouac, Food & Nutrition Services
Linda Turnquist, District U-46 Transportation Union
Gus Vaughan, Elementary Principal
Judy Walsh, District U-46 Educational Assistants*
Irene Wedemeyer, Elgin Teachers Association
* Indicates Steering Committee Member

 Return to Beginning


One method that will be used throughout District U-46 to encourage creativity and experimentation to improve student performance is a shift from the central decision-making process currently in place to site-based planning and shared decision-making.  This shift will put decision-making closest to all stakeholders responsible for implementation.  Each site will, consequently, have the opportunity to develop strategies to fit the needs and desires of the individuals being served at the site and its surrounding community.

It is important to be clear from the outset that site-based decision-making will not replace the school board, the superintendent, the building principal, unions and collective bargaining agreements, nor the existing School/Department Committees.  Site-based decision-making does not change the legal governance system.  School boards retain legal authority for the school district, and superintendents and principals retain their responsibilities for what takes place in their district or schools.

The parameters that site councils must work within are:

federal laws and regulations
state laws and regulations
school board policy and regulations
collective bargaining agreements and memorandums
As schools enter into the process, they will be invited and encouraged to research and experiment with ways to improve learning, communication, and growth among the stakeholders.

Under a system of site-based decision-making, some decisions will continue to be made at the district level, while many decisions will be shifted to the sites.  The following are only a few examples of decisions that will be made at the district level:

determining the district’s budget and raising revenues,
establishing educational objectives for students at each grade level,
establishing school boundaries and planning for adding or closing schools,
monitoring schools to ensure that all students have equal opportunity for a quality education, and
collective bargaining.
The following are only a few examples of decisions that can be made at the site level:
determining school priorities, based on an assessment of the educational needs of the students,
determining staffing patterns to best meet the educational needs of the students,
developing and evaluating programs to meet the needs of students in the school,
selecting instructional materials most appropriate to the needs of the students in the school, and
determining in-service needs and planning for professional growth opportunities.
Primary decision-making authority in schools implementing site-based planning and decision-making is formally delegated to a site council.  Each site council will have representation of all stakeholders.  Initially the team will consist of no less than two members of each stakeholder group.  The future makeup of councils will be based on a local school decision.

Clear, honest communication among all stakeholders is essential in determining how and by whom decisions can be made, and how to “push” the parameters.

 Return to Beginning

Step I - Development of Initiative by Site Councils
Site Councils should be established that represent all the stakeholders in the district.  Educational initiatives that may impact one of the stakeholder groups should be subjected to the waiver review process.  The Site Council is responsible for the preparation of the waiver proposal and appropriate forms.  The proposal should clearly state the purpose, show potential impacts on stakeholders and student learning, demonstrate staff readiness, and show alignment with the school and district mission statements, and strategic plan.

Step II - Presentation to Partnership Council
The waiver proposal is presented to the Partnership Council.  The Partnership Council will give feedback, make suggestions, ask for calrifications, and/or request addtional information.  If accepted, the proposal is forwarded to the three anchors.

Step III - Presentation to Anchors
The waiver proposal should be presented by representatives of the Site Council to the three major stakeholder groups for a consideration of impact on contracts, administrative procedure, board policy, school code, or general concerns.  Parties to contracts must agree on contract waivers.  The Board of Education and the Administration must agree to administrator policy waivers.  Anchors will advise the School Board on recommended changes with respect to School Board policy.  If a waiver is denied, explanations will be made to the Site Council.

Step IV - Presentation to the School Board

Formal recommendation for the waiver proposal is made to the School Board.

 Return to Beginning


The committee is recommending that the training to be offered to the sites be based on the School Leadership Team (SLT) Program offered by the CEC.  To accopmplish this, it is recommended that forty people be trained as trainers by CEC in the complete thirty hour program to work in teams of four with the various sites.  The cadre of trainers should be comprised of ten people each from District:  administration, teachers, educational support personnel, and community people.  This training of trainers should be completed by early fall on a varied schedule of release and volunteer time.

Concurrent to this training, the committee recommends that the Superintendent and his staff be given a thorough overview of the SLT Program by CEC trainers.  Some of these staff people would then assist CEC trainers in training all of the other administrators.  It is suggested that the principals be trained together as a group prior to site training in order to provide them with greater expertise in the process.  This should help them in assuring more effective communication between the site, the central administration, and the community when the site actually goes through the process.

After the beginning of the 1997-98 school year, the cadre of forty trainers would be available to the sites that have volunteered to begin the formal process of Partnership for Excellence in Learning (PEL).  Training at the sites could vary from eight to thirty hours depending on the needs of the site.  Everyone should be offered training at his/her worksite if possible.  Those employees not placed at a single site should be trained in groups of common departments or positions.  The training will need to be done on a combination of release and volunteer time.

It is further recommended that before the end of the 1996-97 school year, information packets be sent to all employees and made available to all community and business groups containing information on the PEL process, its implementation plan, as well as the details of the parameters, the waiver process, and the training support that will be available.  This information should be supplemented by several area meetings throughout the District conducted by representatives of the Partnership Council sometime before the sites are asked to volunteer to begin PEL.

 Return to Beginning

Elementary Schools

Ridge Circle
Spring Trail
Sycamore Trails

Middle Schools


High Schools

Gifford Street

Central Staff

Food Services


Barb Gregory Transportation
PHONE:  847-888-5000 EXT 5095 FAX:  847-888-9793
OPENMAIL:  b gregory/tr

Steve Klein, Administration
PHONE:  847-888-5000 EXT 5357 FAX:  847-608-2778
OPENMAIL:  s klein/gi

Deni Mathews, Community Member
PHONE:  630-289-4625   FAX:  630-289-4625

Deb Schmalholz, Teacher Coordinator for Professional Growth
PHONE:  847-888-5000 EXT 5032 FAX:  847-608-4162
OPENMAIL:  d schmalholz/pg

Karen Schock, Lords Park School
PHONE:  847-888-5360   FAX:  847-608-2750
OPENMAIL:  k schock/lp

John Tuin, Huff School
PHONE:  847-888-5285   FAX:  847-608-2747
OPENMAIL:  j tuin/hu

Nancy Brandes, Professional Growth Office
PHONE:  847-888-5000 EXT 5031 FAX:  847-608-4162
OPENMAIL:  n brandes/pg

PEL TRAINING RESOURCE ROOM is now located at Central, 355 E. Chicago Street, Elgin (First Floor, Professional Growth Center) where training teams may meet and training materials are available for check-out (contact Nancy regarding either.)

Consortium for Educational Change (CEC)
and the School Leadership Team (SLT) Program

The Consortium for Educational Change is a network of Illinois school districts and professional organizations focused on enhancing student learning by bringing together school employees, board members, parents, and community to create educational organzations that collaborate and learn from practice.  The Consortium is unique due to the full participation of these same constituencies in all its planning functions and its scheduled activities.

One of CEC’s major functions is providing professional development opportunities for district and school teams through its “Emerging Curriculum.”  Along with various Covey Leadership Institute and W. Patrick Dolan programs, CEC has developed an organizational development program for school leadership teams.

SLT is  a professional development program that prepares school team members as change facilitators.  It allows teams to reflect on their experiences with change efforts and to learn and practice facilitation skills and strategies.  Participants in the school teams should include at least the principal and teacher leaders, with support staff, parents, and students added if possible.  While presented below in five full day segments, the 30 hour program can easily be presented in other combinations of hours and sessions.

It is possible to conduct a trainer of trainers model, with the trainees attending first as a member of a school leadership team.

 Return to Beginning


 I.   Introduction
 II.  The nature of change

 A.  The facilitator/change agent
 B.  Metaphors and lessons about change
 C.  The change formula:  N+V+A ? C/P
 D.  Need for change/dissatisfaction
 E.  The Concerns Based Adoption Model
 F.  Schlechty model of individual reaction to change
 III.  Third person teaching
 IV.  Facilitator strategies/issues

 I.  Team building

 A.  Why build teams?
 B.  Qualities of effective teams
 C.  Team Effectiveness Critique instrument
 D.  Tuchman’s stages of team development
 II.  Trust as a foundation for team building
 A.  Covey’s view of trust
 B.  Key tools for trust building
 C.  The one-on-one conversation/deep listening
 III.  Facilitator strategies/issues

 I.   What gets restructured in schools?  - Content of Change
 II.  Complex systems analysis - W. Patrick Dolan

 A.  Assessment of districts or schools
 B.  Scaffolding
   1.  District Leadership Teams
   2.  School Leadership Teams
    a. Functions
    b. Keys to success
 III.  Facilitator strategies/issues

 I.  Conflict resolution

 A.  Conflict resolution process
 B.  Conflict management types
 C.  Facilitator as conflict manager
 II.  Decision making
 A.  Pros and cons of types of decisions
 B.  Locus of decision making authority
 C.  Glickman - covenants and contracts for schools
 D.  Consensus decision making-theory and practice
 E.  Observation of group processes
 III.  Problem identification, analysis, and strategies
 IV.  Facilitator strategies/issues


 I.  Review of ASLT curriculum and facilitation strategies
 II.  Addtional facilitator tools
 III.  Preparation and practice of facilitation
 IV.  Team synergy
 V.  Facilitator strategies/issues

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