Monday, September 25, 2023

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New school year begins in new TF North auditorium, led by new Interim Superintendent

Board, faculty, and staff prepare for incoming students at District 215 Institute Day

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (August 17, 2023) – Teachers and staff who entered the TF North auditorium on Thursday morning with mugs of coffee were stopped at the door. “No food or drink,” they were reminded. The seating, carpeting, and flooring is all new in the remodeled space, and District 215 is eager to protect it as long as possible. Even without their coffee, staff who entered expressed delight at the updated facility and the reunion with district colleagues.

Thursday’s gathering — Institute Day — was the district’s first opportunity to use the new auditorium. The annual meeting marks the official start of a new school year for faculty, though students won’t be joining them until Monday.

Newly updated auditorium

New seats, new flooring, new ceiling beams, new lighting, a new sound system, new stage lights — these were the most noticeable enhancements that TF North Principal Brian Rucinski pointed out. The auditorium has always been a multi-use room, hosting band concerts, choir concerts, assemblies, and performances by TF North’s award-winning drama program. Since construction started nearly two years ago, the school has been unable to use the space at all. “That was hard,” said Rucinski. “It’s been tough not having this space, but it’s worth it now.”

Faculty and staff began filling the auditorium, sans coffee, before 8 a.m., enjoying the theater-style seating while catching up with each other. The number of seats remains at 869, just as in the old auditorium. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Canned lights and wooden ceiling beams were installed in the new auditorium, and new stage lights (seen at lower left) can be directed at the stage from a platform on each wall. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Both the lighting and the sound system in the new auditorium have been upgraded to state-of-the art status. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
At 8:15 a.m., TF North Principal Brian Rucinski welcomed his colleagues to the District 215 Institute Day, and to the newly remodeled TF North auditorium. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Newly designated leadership

John Robinzine took the podium at 8:20 a.m. and welcomed faculty and staff to the 2023–2024 school year, thanking them for their commitment. He addressed he crowd purposefully, “It gives me great pleasure and humility to serve as your Interim Superintendent for this school year.”

“A lot happened overnight,” Robinzine continued, acknowledging the abrupt departure of Dr. Sophia Jones-Redmond, who served as Superintendent from May 2020 until her sudden resignation in May of this year. “Things happened very fast. I’m still pinching myself — I didn’t expect to be in this position at this point in time.”

“But of course I’m going to do the best I can to serve you and serve the schools of this district,” he said.

Robinzine has been in District 215 for 23 years, most recently as Assistant Superintendent of Career Development and as Principal of the Center for Academics and Technology.

“I didn’t expect to be in this position at this point in time,” Interim Superintendent John Robinzine told staff and teachers at Institute Day. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“We’re going to be ok,” he assured his colleagues. “I’m very confident in the team that I have and the district-level teams that I have. I’m looking at the team of people that I have right in front of me — ” he paused. “We’re gonna be alright, ok?”

Although Robinzine did not have a transition period with Dr. Jones-Redmond before stepping into the Superintendent role, he had already finished his superintendent endorsement program three years ago and has the necessary credentials for the role. He is also in the final stage of completing his dissertation for a doctorate in educational leadership. In addition to those official qualifications, he cites his experience as a teacher, principal, director, and assistant superintendent as invaluable “seasoning” for leading the district. [Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Robinzine’s academic qualifications. We apologize for the error.]

Information presentations

President Rich Dust represented the District 215 School Board and expressed their support throughout the upcoming school year. “The main thing is, we want to work with everybody,” he said. “We want to work with the administration, want to work with the teachers, the staff, students. We want to help.” He encouraged district members to reach out to the board and keep them connected to daily life at the schools.

A series of short presentations from District 215 personnel followed, including:

  • Confirmation from Finance Director Teresa Bishop about the payroll schedule
  • Reminders from IT Director Paul Wakefield about keeping staff and student data safe
  • A mini pep rally by Becky Szuba around this year’s theme, #LevelUp215
  • Instructions from Human Resources Director April Jerger about benefits and insurance, and acknowledgement of new staff and new positions for existing staff
  • A report from Facilities Director Tim Stephan on updates that are due to be finished by Monday when students arrive
Interim Superintendent John Robinzine is ready for a new school year. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Interim Superintendent Robinzine returned to the podium to close out the introductory session and direct participants to the next items on the schedule. The rest of Institute Day was spent in department meetings, training modules, and class prep.

District 215 comprises TF South High School in Lansing, TF North High School in Calumet City, TF Center for Academics and Technology in Calumet City, and TF Center for Alternative Learning in Calumet City.

The District 215 Committee of the Whole meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. and regular Board meetings are generally held on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. Meetings are held at the TF Center for Academics & Technology, located at 1605 Wentworth Avenue, Calumet City, Illinois.

levees meeting
District 215 Board meetings are held at Thornton Fractional Center for Academics and Technology, 1605 Wentworth Avenue, Calumet City, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


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