With a theme of ‘look back, look around and look forward,’ School District 91 Superintendent Randolph Tinder addressed his faculty and staff on May 19, bringing them up to date on the changes schools have gone through since he began teaching and on his vision for the future before he retires at the end of the 2007 school year.

“I think [the school district] is healthy, vibrant and moving forward,” Tinder told his staff during his end-of-year State of the District address. “We are becoming a unit in that I don’t see us as four grade schools; I see us as one grade school with four locations, with a Middle School where they all come together.”

Tinder spoke optimistically about the future, telling his staff that if they were all in education for the right reasons, then all the children would benefit.

He began addressing his young staff by pointing out all the changes that have occurred since he first took up the chalk and eraser in August 1971.

“Most of you, quite a few, were not even born when I began my rookie year as a teacher in Oblong High School,” said Tinder, who began working in the small community of 1,300 people in Crawford County, teaching Latin, health and physical education. “What we didn’t have was computers, cell phones, the Internet; what we did have was dittos, chalkboards, with real chalk, and film strips.”

In August 1978, when he began working as a principal at Assumption Junior/Senior High School, in a town of 1,200 people, Tinder said he encountered his first computer”with 4Ks of Random Access Memory (RAM).

In July 2000, when he began working at District 91, things were very different: computers were fast becoming a staple of education, cell phones were proving a double edged sword and learning centers were replacing traditional teaching formats.

Those weren’t the only changes; Tinder said he found “a veteran staff in the process of moving on” at District 91.

Today, in 2005, Tinder said he sees quite a different place.

“A majority of the staff is new,” he said, pointing out that less than half the staff was in the district before he arrived. “That change alone is enough to create a new culture.

“There are new additions to every school, except the Middle School, no more trailers, air conditioning everywhere, a tremendous technological infrastructure is in place, there are changes in the Board of Education, all-day kindergarten for our schools [will be] a reality in April, money issues are better and it was done without making any layoffs or real cuts,” Tinder said before an approving crowd.

The changes are all part of Tinder’s vision for the district and they are not yet complete.

In fact, for the years ahead, Tinder said the district will be working on a new report card system, more electronic information sharing amongst the staff and no construction. In addition, the district, he said, would be dealing with an increasingly more diverse student body and more mobility within the district.

He also told his staff to expect changes to the Middle School/Field Stevenson office area, as well as a move towards healthier children in the schools.

“I am looking ahead to you,” he told the teachers, “who are beginning teachers, to become veterans.”

During the address, Tinder also gave out his end-of-year staff awards, including the attendance award, given to the teacher who was at work every day, except for professional development absences.

Close calls were given to Jen Blank and Dave Weinstein, but the overall winners, and most devoted attendees it seems, were Adam Porth, Lynn Yopchick and Anne Rack.

In the high expectations category, jokingly referred to as the “King of Extra Duty Contract” award, the overall winner was Mike Bakula.

The largest category of winners was in the “above and beyond” category, where Tinder said he was honoring the quiet leaders, who lead by example.

The winners were Gina Hernandez, for Grant-White Elementary School; Andrea Allison, for Garfield Elementary School; Kathy Dunaway, for Field-Stevenson Elementary School; Jen Westol, for Betsy Ross Elementary School; and Steve Drent, for the Forest Park Middle School.