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Peoria Public Schools superintendent sees 'growth' in 2022 Illinois Report Card

Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, says the 2022 Illinois Report Card shows growth and progress for the district, but there's still more to do.
Collin Schopp
Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, says the 2022 Illinois Report Card shows growth and progress for the district, but there's still more to do.

Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat is “pleased with the progress and growth” represented in the 2021-2022 Illinois report card.

Among the improvements cited in the report card, the graduation rate is up 10% from five years ago and half of the 24 schools in the district received the second-highest designation of “commendable.” You can find a more in-depth breakdown of the report card datahere.

“I will say we do have a lot of work to do,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “But I’m very pleased with my board and the entire Peoria Public Schools community.”

She attributed the increase in commendable schools to dedicated staff, improved rigorous curriculum and new and ongoing equity programs that equip students for success. Three of the schools that received “commendable” designations — Franklin Primary School, Harold B. Dawson Middle School and Manual High School — were at the lowest designation “comprehensive” on the last state report card.

“I think the lesson there is, you know, despite the challenges that some of our schools experience based on being in areas that are not fully vested, they’ve done very, very well,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “And so, as I always say, despite the odds we can persevere.”

The district did have seven schools that still received the lowest “comprehensive” designation, while two schools received the highest “exemplary” rating. Desmoulin-Kherat said taking an in-depth school specific approach and maintaining conversations with principals helps the district serve schools with very different levels of need.

“I spoke with two principals, one was targeted (the second lowest designation) and one was comprehensive,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “And talked about, let’s talk about your plan to get out of that designation back to commendable, because actually that school was commendable and they dropped twice.”

There are issues that are district-wide, though. One is the graduation rate, which has been steadily improving. Desmoulin-Kherat said the increase is due to a variety of programs.

“We’ve done a lot since I’ve been here. I mean, maybe 10 to 15 alternative programs,” she said. “And so we meet kids where they are. We have weekend schools, they can come to school on Saturday, Sunday. Evening school, they can do online school. We send folks home to get them, we provide support for them.”

Another program the school has that Desmoulin-Kherat said is important to raising the report card outcomes is the Wraparound Center, which is located in the Trewyn School and started in 2018. It helps students and parents get connected with services and resources from community agencies. This can cover anything from rental assistance, to food pantries to therapy.

“It was an experiment,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “And it’s, it has been very successful, I would say, saving a lot of lives.”

One other issue on the report card that services like those at the Wraparound Center can help with is chronic absenteeism — missing 10% of school days without a reason — that is a persistent issue in Peoria and across the state. Desmoulin-Kherat said the school district is working toward a goal of 95% attendance for every child in the district.

“There are weekly celebrations, there’s encouragement,” she said. “There are a number of strategies and celebratory things. Letters go out as well as phone calls and home visits.” Each school also has a specialized attendance plan and an attendance committee, she said.

Some other initiatives that Desmoulin-Kherat points to as promising for the future of Peoria Public Schools is the Parent Advocate program that has hired around 50 parents to assist around the district, and the designation of the district as a J-1 Visa Sponsor, which means international teachers from countries like Jamaica, Nigeria and Cameroon will be able to teach for several years in the district.

“Students and families are working hard, and the staff, they’re working hard,” she said. “Making progress and we’re kicking through these adverse conditions. We’re not using that as an excuse, we’re not using COVID as an excuse. Then, just plugging away until the very end with success.”

You can find the full data of the 2021-2022 Illinois Report Card here.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.