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Improving Kids’ Lives

From Suburban Chicago to the Dominican Republic

by Dr. Rod Berger

To say that Dr. Nick Polyak, Superintendent of Leyden Community High School District #212 in Franklin Park, Illinois, near Chicago, cares about kids and education would be an understatement. He cares so much that he recently traveled to the Dominican Republic with a group of superintendents, principals and other educators to build a new school. The mission trip was organized to provide help to the impoverished and involved intense labor efforts under extreme conditions.

I had the pleasure to talk to Nick at the recent AASA conference in New Orleans. It is clear that he is ready to move forward with fresh approaches to educating kids. It’s not about standardized tests anymore; it’s about being life ready. Although the district remains concerned with students doing well on assessments, the focus is more on making sure kids leave with credentials that allow them to start high-paying jobs at 18, if they happen to choose that path.

Nick tells a story of a student who was working part-time at a manufacturing facility while finishing school. He earned a metal working certificate by the time he graduated, and the company recently announced they are going to hire him full-time and pay for his college education to become an engineer.

The district doesn’t always have money in the budget to buy the equipment that is used by area manufacturing companies. Instead, the district partners with businesses for help to provide machines in the classroom. The result: Companies get in-school training and future employees with a working knowledge of the equipment when they graduate.

The focus is not just on manufacturing jobs, Leyden Community High School District #212 is also preparing students for technology jobs and employment in the culinary/hospitality industry. It’s clear that Nick Polyak and his district are making smart, progressive choices that are preparing kids for both life and career.

About Dr. Nick Polyak

Dr. Nick Polyak serves as the Superintendent for Leyden Community High School District #212 in Franklin Park, Illinois, near Chicago. The district contains two comprehensive high schools with approximately 3,500 students.

Under his leadership, the Leyden district was named the 2014 National Advanced Placement District of the Year from College Board. They were named the 2014 National AP District of the Year by the College Board. In addition, the district has welcomed over three thousand visitors to learn about teaching and learning in a 1:1 environment.

The district has also received the Magna Award from National School Board Association received a Digital Content and Curriculum Award from Center for Digital Innovation Polyak has received an AASA National Superintendent Certificate and is a member of the AASA Digital Consortium and Personalized Learning Consortium.

Nick earned a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Loyola University Chicago. He earned a Master’s Degree and Chief School Business Officer license from Governors State University. He earned a BA in Mathematics and Secondary Education at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Nick is the co-author of a book “The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today”. He serves as co-host of #suptchat, a National Twitter Chat for Superintendents.

Follow Dr. Nick Polyak on Twitter.

This article was originally published on Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger

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