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Keira Schmidt
Keira Schmidt

Keira Schmidt is a freshman at Palatine High School. She likes many types of photography. Keira loves to play volleyball and hangs out with friends.

State Superintendent visits PHS

Superintendent Tony Sanders praises unique programs and hard work of teachers
Illinois State Superintendent Tony Sanders and District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small listen to the testimonies of Project Excel students at a lunch prepared by PHS culinary students.

State Superintendent Tony Sanders visited Palatine High School yesterday, touring various classrooms and speaking with students and teachers.

Sanders began his day by stopping by the manufacturing room, where students programmed machines and demonstrated inputting code to create precision cuts of metal. Students then presented Sanders with a laser-engraved image of Palatine’s mascot, Pirate Pete. 

“I think it gives students a great opportunity to either go directly into the workforce or move on to college and advance their careers. I think it’s an amazing opportunity being offered at Palatine,” Sanders said. 

Next, on a visit to the business incubator room, Business Education Chair Cliff Watanuki introduced the community members known as “Community Champions,” mentors, who support students’ growth and business education.

Sanders speaks with Business Community Champions Eric Wasowicz and Griff Ehrenstrom. (Siomara Valdez)

Community Champion Griff Ehrenstrom explained that business education at Palatine allows students to learn entrepreneurship skills and develop skills in their future careers while also learning practical lessons about working with others in the various fields of business. 

Sanders also heard investor pitches from two student groups, Clean Sweep and Arctic Pole, which aimed to tackle bothersome issues like sand being stuck to your body at the beach and ice cubes being too much of a hassle in a water bottle.
“The skills the students are learning are beyond just coming up with a business idea,” Sanders said. They learn skills about marketing, sales pitches and patenting their work, which are skills that “translate across any number of education fields that the student might want to go into.”

Later on, Sanders visited the Rhetoric of Music class, where senior Natalie Steiger taught students a lesson on 2000s alternative music. As she played the songs, they took notes on the lyrics, tempo and instrumentation and shared ideas about the meaning behind the music. 

Senior Natalie Steiger co-teaches a Rhetoric of Music class focusing on 2000’s alternative music. (Siomara Valdez)

“What I really loved about that class was the content,” Sanders said. “I’ve never been to a high school that offers that type of course for their students to take. If they offered it when I was in high school, I would have totally bought in.”

Next, Sanders commented on the learning approach of students in culinary classes making pasta.

“They’re learning with each pass of that [pasta] machine,” Sanders said. “They’re learning more about how to actually keep their hand under as it comes out and to watch them learn that just doing the hands-on work is the key piece of career technical education.”

Culinary students practice making pasta. “What I found most interesting was the learning by trial and error,” Sanders said. (Siomara Valdez)

As the state superintendent, Sanders analyzes the needs and curriculums of districts across the state of Illinois. With District 211 being one of the largest in the state, they have much greater access to resources than other smaller districts. Sanders believes that the way for other schools to adopt unique programs like Palatine is for the school to have the willingness to change and the willingness to do that type of work. 

“Clearly, what you see here at Palatine High School is the willingness of the faculty and administration to develop unique courses of study for the students that engage them and connect them with their teachers in a way that other schools might not do,” Sanders said. “Sitting here talking with the Project Excel students today, they all had the same common theme in their comments: that every faculty member is here for the kids every day, and they show it every day.”

Sanders is also taking major steps to rethink the statewide support system for schools to ensure that each school district has some level of continuous schooling where students are learning at comprehension level or higher. Many problems need to be tackled, like building an accountability system to incentivize change across the state, which Sanders claims he will be spending the next couple of years working on. 


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About the Contributors
Karim Melek
Karim Melek, News Editor
Karim is a sophomore at Palatine High School and along with being the News editor at Cutlass, Melek is involved in many activities such as Water Polo, Debate, and Model UN. Melek enjoys traveling and was a part of the 2023 German Exchange trip. His favorite hobbies include playing video games, reading about history, and spending time with friends and family. Melek is also an avid coin collector. He hopes to study international relations and political science in the future.
Siomara Valdez
Siomara Valdez, Sports & Photography Editor

Siomara Valdez is a senior at Palatine High School. Valdez is very passionate about photography as it is a hobby of theirs. Valdez went out of their comfort zone to take on new opportunities in photography becoming the color guard photographer for the season. Valdez is a big fan of the band Foo Fighters and wants to one day photograph at one of their concerts. They got recruited into Cutlass at Chipotle and went to the meetings in hopes to improve their photography. After high school, Valdez wants to pursue mass communications as their career and continue photojournalism at Winona State University.

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