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He spoke with passion and pride, highlighting the many great things happening with Rock Island-Milan schools.

Yet in his final State of the Schools presentation, Dr. Michael Oberhaus said there is still work to be done to take the district to the next level.

Oberhaus, retiring in 2019 after a 30-year career with Rock Island-Milan schools — the last eight as its superintendent — said he stands by — and believes in — the district's slogan, "Together, We Rock Education.''

He implored the joint meeting of Rock Island Rotary and the Rock Island Kiwanis Club, to show young people in the community that people like them can do great things.

"It's not just what happens in the classroom," Oberhaus said, in what was a spirited and passionate embrace of the two civic organizations gathered at the Quad-City Botanical Center in Rock Island. "It takes all of us to focus on the success of young people. We know collectively that every student in our community can have success.''

For 35 minutes, with an engaged audience, Oberhaus outlined ways the district is working to improve the playing field for Rock Island students.

He lauded the Rock Island High School graduating class of 2018, some 371 strong, for earning a whopping $3 million in post-high school scholarships.

He shared the success of the high school marching band and its competition victories and the school's chamber choir being one of only two choirs in Illinois to perform at the state musical conference.

He spoke proudly of a pair of recognized entrepreneurial programs, junior high math competition winners and the success of numerous athletes a season ago, including the school's state champion softball team.

Oberhaus also brought to light the 38 Charles O. Austin Scholars, students who have maintained a 3.5-higher grade point average in their first six semesters of high school.

"There is a lot to be proud of," he said. "And we are proud. We are much more than somewhere to be 6½ hours a day for 176 days a year. But we can be better and we are working to be better."

Taking his enthusiasm a notch higher, Oberhaus outlined the district's strategic plan, which he says continues to gain strength.

Facilities and safety remain a priority. In addition to improvements at Ridgewood and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools, Oberhaus says all schools now have secured entryways.

"The 1-cent sales tax has been a real boost," he said. "And making sure each and every student is safe and secure is a priority."

An area of concern district leaders and staff continue to address is attendance, shooting for every student to have five or fewer absences in a school year. Improved student achievement is a district priority and it begins with young people — at all levels — on hand and engaged each day.

"We realize there are external and environmental issues that contribute to this, to students not being in school," Oberhaus said. "So we are expanding our circle to help kids get to school and to school on time. This is an important step to increasing student achievement."

The district, Oberhaus said, continues to work in building respectful relationships, to realize it is everybody's school district.

"It is so important to come together and have respect one another," he said, noting the hope is to have a family liaison in every school in the district. We want to empower students and families in our district to be involved."

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Night City Editor